The story of roughly fifty Sanjanas, how their parents decided to call them that, and the secret history of why Indians give their babies the names they do.
The Namesakes is a story about how Indians name their children, and the world of aspirations encapsulated in that seemingly simple decision. Starting with my own tale of being named ‘Sanjana’ after a model in a cola commercial, as the Indian economy liberalized in the early 90s, the essay weaves in the personal narratives of over forty such namesakes.
I found many of them thanks to a helpful viral tweet.
Historians, astrologers, advertisers, childcare entrepreneurs, and writers on film, caste, and religion all feature in the story, revealing how a phenomenon that begins in popular entertainment is influenced by India’s most fundamental divisions and inequalities.
The commercial, which launched actress Aishwarya Rai, was previously covered in short features, but The Namesakes is the first story to truly examine its cultural impact, India’s historical context around its making, and the hopes, dreams, and idiosyncrasies of naming your child in a deeply hierarchical society.
The Namesakes received over a million impressions online and 200+ shares, including from prominent journalists and media professionals. Its popularity prompted further media coverage — in a Soch! by Mohak Mangal video with over 700K views; agencyFaqs!, a go-to website for advertising and media professionals; The Capital Analyst, in a podcast about writing, and many other portals. By laying bare the lesser-known aspects of how Indian names connote socioeconomic standing, The Namesakes can educate and sensitize us, and promote work towards reducing bias and discrimination.
FiftyTwo’s ‘The Namesakes’ was produced by Supriya Nair, co-founder of All Things Small; Vikram Shah, editor; Akshaya Zachariah, illustrator; and Medha Venkat and Amal Shiyas, editors.
- 200+ Twitter shares (https://cutt.ly/8AbpMC2; https://cutt.ly/qAbp21d)
- Journalist reach of 1,039,858, Muckrack (https://cutt.ly/7ONcXEv)
- Soch! by Mohak Mangal (https://cutt.ly/YONcV1Y)
- Coverage in agencyFaqs! (https://cutt.ly/tONc9fy)
- Capital Analyst (https://cutt.ly/RONc4m7)
- Reading Room India (https://cutt.ly/EONc5Sc)
- Nancy’s Baby Names (https://cutt.ly/YAbpCLj)
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