Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Yeh Tera ghar Yeh mera ghar

“ If you have to name your house, what it will be?” Her eyes were shining with excitement when this friend asked this rather unusual question one morning. I promised that I will think about it and forget it immediately. Next morning on our way to office she repeated this question. This time I thought a bit but could not find an answer immediately so ended up promising once again that I will come up with an answer. She told me she is also looking for a name for her house.
I started thinking of a name – first instinct was to remember the names I have read in books or seen in movies. For example I thought of Pemberly of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice where the famous Mr.Darcy lived .Then there was Manderley which even featured in the first line of the novel Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier "Last night I dreamt I was at Manderley again...”. There is also short and sweet –Tara for the fans of Gone with the Wind or Elsinore for fans of Shakespeare….but none of my liking .
In Indian princely states too there are famous Kothis and bungalows with names of their own. I can think of Chattar manzil and Machhi Bhawan of Lucknow and of course “Constantia”, the imposing centre-point of La Martiniere Lucknow , which was the country house of Major-General Claude Martin. I just can’t miss Yarrows- which was Jinnah’s summer house in Shimla . Talking of that, Shimla has a number of beautiful houses with equally beautiful names like Peterhoff, Woodville, Retreat etc. Once again none that can define my present abode.
In search of a name for my house I tried remembering name plates in front of beautiful houses I have seen in various cities. Most of the time it is either indicating the person who is living in the house or some remarkable feature of the house .Not many of them were creative enough to fancy me say Asha sadan or Malti kunj or may be Lake house, Palm view cottage . But why should a house have a name of its own? Why an address is not good enough? I never lived in a house which was distinguished enough to have a name of its own and yet many of them were warm, homely and comfortable…..leaving fond memories for rest of my life. So how can one decide that this house needs a name .My answer is that you need a name for everyone and everything you value. Me and sister even used to nick-name plants in our garden . Our old fridge has a name and so did our car . So why not the house. Of course there is no evidence that Neanderthals named their caves, but it seems likely that people have always named their houses. House names dating back to Babylonian and Assyrian times have been documented, and patrician Romans often gave descriptive names to their villas. The ancient German city of Trier still boasts of its House of the Three Magi, built in 1230, and Lincoln has The Jew's House, which dates to around 1150. It seems likely too that these names were given as identification marks as I assume in those days there was no numbering of houses. It may have started with Aristocrats, who had the luxury of unique houses. Houses which were large and prominent enough to have an identity of their own. Such names were often single, free-standing words: Belmont, Broadlands, or the Rosings and even Pemberly . These is also a huge number of residences given dual name with a ‘villa’ , ‘Lodge’ or ‘cottage’ suffixed to it . If you want to make it more personal you can jolly well call it “Bill and Anne’s house’ or may be name your house after your dead ancestors, family name or community. It is your house so you name it as you like it . Well, it may sounds pretentious to call a semi-detached house in the suburbs Rose Villa, but Roseville is just right . I have read in Victorian novels that people were known by the houses they work in or live at. Here is an example of creative naming and the owner makes it very clear that he /she is paying a huge house loan. I am told that giving a name to a house can dramatically affect its resale value too. In Britain they even have a survey of most common names for the houses. ( these Brits!) So I could conclude that naming your house is not as simple as it seems , it can turn a mere building into an expression of its owner's character: in short, it helps make a house a home.Coming back to my choice of names- first I thought of some fancy name like Belmont or Beaumont - means "beautiful mountain" in French or may be Spanish "Sobre las Nubes" - above the clouds (as in "Villa Sobre las Nubes") which I also find a very spiritual name for any place. "Buena Vista" is Spanish for beautiful view and not uncommon as a house name.May be Beaulieu which means "beautiful place" A white colored house can be called Casablanca - white house (also, naturally, the name of a beautiful and exotic Moroccan town; and an artistic tribute to the great film.)A red house can by same logic be named Casa Rosa and a blue one Casa Azul (which was also name of Frida Kahlo's house).
So there was choice abundant and yet no one name was appealing to me. Busy with these thoughts I was about to enter my house and saw pretty pink and white periwinkles flowing with the wind. I never planted these in front of my gate. They decided to make it their home on their own. And It was decided that this house at least should be named Periwinkle cottage . Not very creative I know but will do till I find a better one….may be you can suggest something . Of course it was decided that the name will go to whichever house I will live (a friend commented it’s like Air Force One- whichever plane president boards !) Now, if you think that I am the only one who is finding it difficult to select a good name for my house , read what Christopher Morley has to say on on Naming a House
When I a householder became
I had to give my house a name.
I thought I'd call it "Poplar Trees",
Or "Widdershins" or "Velvet Bees",
Or "Just Beneath a Star".
Or "As You Like It," "If You Please",
Or "Nicotine" or "Bread and Cheese",
"Full Moon" or "Doors Ajar."
But still I sought some subtle charm,
Some rune to guard my roof from harm
And keep the devil far;
A thought of this,
and I was saved!
I had my letter-heads engraved
"The House Where Brown Eyes Are".
[which is a fine name for a house!].

PS: The most creative however, was my friend’s choice. First she settled on Blue Jay -after her favorite bird but then changed it to ‘Sqaure one’ – She said coolly “ It is simple you know, whatever I do, wherever I go, I will come back to square one.


Richa said...

brilliant piece! you have wonderful writing skills and make opportune use of instances from literature. I love to read your posts!

Periwinkle cottage is a very cute name. And square one? too funny and creative :)

कुमार आलोक said...

आपका प्रत्येक पोस्ट हमेशा कुछ अलग सा होता है । आपने काफी किताबों का अध्ययन किया है जो आपके प्रत्येक पोस्ट में झलकता है । एक छोटे विषय को लेकर आप चलें लोकिन उसे अंत तक रोचक और गंभीर बना दिया । बहुत कुछ सीखने और जानने का मौका मिला । वैसे घरों के नाम के बारे में बात करें तो स्कूल के दिनों में बीबीसी की रेडियो सेवा सुना करता था इराक पर मित्र देशों का आक्रमण जारी था उनकी रिपोर्टिंग पर मैने एक पत्र लिखा था ..कि बीबीसी की इराक संबंधित खबरें ऐसा प्रतीत हो रहा है जैसे जार्ज बुश के घर से प्रसारित हो रही है । बीबीसी का पता है...बुश हाउस , लंदन । वैसे एक घर के लिये मेरा पसंदीदा नाम है नशेमन (घोंसला)