August 18, 2008

Why are human beings SO keen on naming and classifying everything? Each one of us cannot bear “something” to be called “something else”, and sometimes whole doctoral theses are based upon identifying “something” as “that particular nothing-else-but-this-and-this-alone something”.

We begin our lives by responding to the names we have been given. (Bengalis, who are given beautiful names like Subharghya or Arnav, are given these names several months after birth, by which time they start responding to “tutul”, “khukhi”, “bolu”, and so on.) Our names are at the very core of our identities…even if we are known by different names in different circles (One of my friends is MGS, Mani, Ravi, Subbu, Subra, and Ganu! I wonder he is not schizophrenic!)

We go through life learning the names of things…rivers, continents, the objects around us…so that our names for them matches other people’s….confusion does result when names don’t match.

Recently, I posted about the difference between a “lotus” and a “water lily”…and a couple of posts later, posted a picture of a water lily, which someone promptly appreciated, saying it was a beautiful pic of a lotus!

So I am wondering…why is it so important to me that this flower (pink, water-based, sharing several attributes with the lotus) should be called a water lily? Why not let it pass when someone calls it a lotus? Why does a bird have to be a “yellow-billed blue magpie” and not a “red-billed blue magpie” (believe me, both birds are nearly identical; who knows, the red-billed magpie may just be the yellow-billed magpie wearing lipstick on a few occasions!)

If I can be “Amma” to someone, “Deepa” to someone else, “Deponti” to some, where is the question of a single identity? I am many people.

So..beyond the basic level, why this preoccupation with naming and classification?

“A rose by any other name….”..? What are your thoughts on this?