Bongs their daak naam! Daak naam can be loosely translated as pet name or nickname but it’s much more than that. Almost every Bengali has two names – the dressy ‘good’ name for the outside world and a short, sweet, often funny and always meaningless daak naam or pet name that is used at home by family and close friends. For instance, Pinaki Dasgupta could be called Poltu at home or Nibedita Mukherjee’s daak naam could be Babli. Famous bongs have famous pet names, for instance, Rabindranath Tagore was called Robi and Satyajit Ray was fondly addressed as Manik da and R D Burman as Pancham da.
Daak naam or pet names are easy to pronounce, there’s something intimate and personal about them. Maybe that’s why as kids we would fiercely guard our pet names from our friends and classmates. We would resort to all kinds of tricks to learn each other’s pet names. And once someone’s pet name was revealed that would be an event. We would tease the person by calling out his pet name at the most inconvenient times – in the school bus, in the playground, in between classes, so that more kids would know the name and join the fun.
Bongs also have a knack for weird pet names. Boys are often called Jhantu, Hadan, Bhodai or Piklu at home. Girls are named Puchki, Buri, Bula or Mammam. Raja, Tutu, Bappa, Babu or Bapi for boys and Mamuni, Mamon, Bulti etc. for girls are some common pet names. The eldest son is often called Buro and the daughter Buri and the younger ones Kutti or Chutki.
Though pet names are often funny and awkward, they are enveloped in love. Sometimes lovingly a family bestows several pet names on a child. For instance, my nephew is Raghav for my parents, his Bua calls him Jeet, he is Shona for his parents and for the world he is Diptanu.
I was born 4 years after my parent’s got married in a joint family full of unmarried uncles and aunts. I was a pampered child with many names. While Mummun is my official pet name, I was fondly addressed by a different name by each member of my family. And some of these weird names have lovingly stuck to me. My mom used to call me Buggi (thankfully she has now moved to Mona). Ranga Pishi (my favourite Bua who unfortunately left us early) would call me Manku and my cousins had a field day teasing me as Monkey. Mannam, Gudum (because I was a chubby kid) were other names. Luckily Monkey is forgotten but Buggi is not. My cousins call me Buggi or Buggi Didi in public. I used to be annoyed and embarrassed earlier, but now I feel loved.
That’s something about daak naam, they are embarrassingly loving. We are reluctant to reveal them, but we will never let them go!