Whenever Meghalaya goes for an election, the names of its candidates never fail to catch attention. Past elections have seen candidates with names such as Hitler and Frankenstein, some of them also making it to the assembly. Frankenstein W Momin, in fact, is here this time too, contesting as the NPP candidate from Mendipathar.
This time, the list of 370 candidates — the fates of 361 will be decided Tuesday — once again highlights the imaginative names used by all three major tribal communities of the matrilineal state — the Khasis, Jaintias and Garos. If Ian Botham K Sangma is the NPP candidate from Salmanpara, then Air Marshal Diengngan is the PDF candidate from Ranikor. If there is Councillor Sing Wahlang of the PDF at Moirang, then there is Field Marshal Mawphniang of the BJP at Umroi.
Two of the candidates are Nehrus — Nehru Suting of the UDP at Pynursla, and Nehru D Sangma (Independent) at Gambegre, while a third is Mody M Sangma, an Independent candidate at Rangsakona.
Other names include Highlander Kharmalki (PDP) at Mawryngkneng, Process T Sawkmie (Cong) at Mawlai, Sounder Strong Cajee (NPP) at South Shillong, Bomber Sing Hynniewta (Ind) at Mylliem, Hispreachering Son Shylla (NPP) at Nongkrem, Hilarious Pohchen (PDP) at Nongkrem, Goodleader Son Nongsiej (PDP) at Nongstoin, Marathon Sangma (Cong) at Mendipathar, Roger Benny Sangma (Ind) at North Tura, Predecessor Rumnong (NCP) at Pynthorumkhrah, Firstborn Sn Nongtdu (Ind) at Khliehriat, and Secondson Sangma (NPP) at Chokpot.
Marbhador M Khymdeit, a professor of Khasi at North Eastern Hill University in Shillong, does not find these names as unusual as they might seem to some people outside the state. “Why should one think these names are different? Isn’t Morninstar like Dhruv in Hindi? Or Strong like Shaktiman?” he said.
“Names will surely differ from people to people, culture to culture. One should not expect the same kinds of names all over the world. What about names in the southern states? You will find English words like Beauty, Dreaming, Preparation etc being used as names by our tribal people. But what about Sundar or Swapna? Isn’t the top Assamese film actress called Prastuti?” said Jaqueline R Marak, assistant professor of Garo on NEHU’s Tura campus.
In Guwahati, internationally acclaimed hodonomist — hodonomy is the science of study of names – Sarat Phukan said there could be more than 30 reasons behind why people choose various kinds of names. “While certain names emanate from terms used for endearment in their respective languages, pet-names mostly, names are also derived from other sources like religious scriptures, contemporary episodes, popular heroes from politics, public life, sports and cinema, etc. Many a time, some communities, especially the tribal communities in the Northeast, also find names that have something or the other to do with local beliefs,” said Phukan, who was once a police officer.
In the electoral rolls, meanwhile, names include Sattelite Thabah, Rebirth Rungnga, Incharge Diengdoh, Remainder Khongsdam, Player Khongtim, Meghalaya Khontim, Eleven Ryngnga, Fourteen Rungnga, Premier Sing Khongbeh, Everyday Tangson, Sunday Diengdoh, Remote Massar, Beyond Chalam, Morality Hadia, Levertwist Mawroh and so on.
Some voters share their names with countries and places, too. The rolls include Damascus, Italy, Mysore, England, Japan, and of course Meghalaya. “Yes, there is nothing to find funny about names. You will probably find the word Symbol used as a name in Meghalaya. But then don’t parents in northern India name sons Prateek?” Phukan said.