May 15, 2018


[Img Src: Wikipedia]
No, this is not a post about Karnataka elections, although considering the season this is how close I might ever get to click-bait. The ads about the 'kamalada alaritu' got me thinking about names and symbols.

My grandmother's name was Kamala. For the uninitiated Kamala means Lotus. Uncharitable folks in the family would say that it was originally Kamalam and that she called herself Kamala to seem fashionable. Although very conforming in most aspects of her life, she was a free-thinking woman and the name Kamala, modernized from its traditional form, suited her. There were quite a few famous Kamala-s then. The dancer Kumari Kamala, writer Kamala Das, and Kamala Nehru among others. North Indians typically use the spelling Kamla and don't necessarily draw out the 'a' in the middle. The name seems to have died out in the last few decades. No doubt because it conjures up an image of an old woman with a big red pottu and her pallu around her head or shoulders. Only the name Mangala can beat Kamala in the old-fashioned meter.

Many writers have named their characters Kamala - Tagore in Wreck, Herman Hesse in Siddhartha. There is even a Star Trek character named Kamala [a metamorph if I remember right].

Kamala Harris the US Senator, and the Ms.Marvel character named Kamala Khan are making this name reappear in the media. I hope it catches on and becomes hep again. The senator has south Indian Hindu connections, but the origins of the name of the Pakistani American Muslim teenager has to be tied to the Arabic Kamal, meaning perfection. The Arabic Kamal sounds almost like Kemal but the Americans pronounce it as Kuh-mah-la. Sometimes it sounds like Camilla or worse Camel-ah.

Lotus is also somewhat oddly likened to feet and eyes in Indian literature. Kamalakshi, Padakamalam etc. I am guessing in the case of the eyes, it is the shape and in case of feet it is the softness.

Lotus, of course has a lot of significance in Hinduism. It is also the national flower of more than one country. It is certainly a masterstroke to have got that as a symbol for a political party. I wonder whose idea it was. Quite surprising when you think of it - that they gave the national flower as a symbol to a party.

As I write this, it does look like Kamalada alarittu [almost] in Karnataka thanks partly to operation Kamala.

May 15, 2018