It's hard to imagine anyone in the United States naming a child "unwanted" and getting away with it. (Of course we name our kids things like Moroccan and Pilot Inspektor and nobody bats an eye, but that's another story.) In India, however, the cruel practice of naming a daughter the Hindi equivalent of "unwanted" is, sadly, not uncommon.
This unfortunate name is usually bestowed upon girls by parents who would have preferred to have a boy. Male children are favored in Indian society, in part because they bring in money when they marry, whereas marrying off girls is incredibly expensive and often causes families to go into debt. There are all kinds of things wrong with this picture, but fortunately people are working to fight this gender discrimination. As one small part of that effort, a district in central India has offered these "unwanted" girls a chance to start fresh by choosing a new name for themselves. On Saturday, 285 girls, decked out in their finest clothes, participated in a renaming ceremony:
"In shedding names like ‘Nakusa' or ‘Nakushi,' which mean ‘unwanted' in Hindi, some girls chose to name themselves after Bollywood stars like ‘Aishwarya' or Hindu goddesses like ‘Savitri.' Some just wanted traditional names with happier meanings, such as ‘Vaishali' or ‘prosperous, beautiful and good.'"
Have you ever heard of anything more heartwarming? They even received flowers and certificates with their new names on them. When asked what a new identity will mean for her, a 15-year-old whose grandfather named her Nakusa, gave a simple but powerful response:
"Now in school, my classmates and friends will be calling me this new name, and that makes me very happy."
Her new name, for the record, is Ashmita, meaning "very tough" or "rock hard," which is pretty bad-ass and probably incredibly fitting.