Without further ado, my first official name stories of the trip:
Wayan and I find a lot of common ground in talking about his daughters. He is a very proud father and I am a big fan of kids in general, particularly of ones like Koming who like to cuddle. Because most of the kids I’ve met here are too young to be in school, most of them don’t know any English. This means our interactions are often limited and mostly consist of me giving them stickers and showing them how stickers work by putting them all over our faces. The other day, the sly Luna (Wayan’s oldest) refused to interact with me but hid behind a building in their family’s compound and conducted a kind of sticker monopoly where the other kids would get stickers from me and bring them back to Luna until she had enough to put one over each fingernail.
While doling out stickers, I asked Wayan about his daughters’ names. Like all things related to his daughters, he was happy to talk about them. I asked Wayan to write his daughters’ full names out for me. They are as follows:
Putu Ika Luna Febiana (Goes by “Luna” to me and “Luna” to her Family. Once she is in school this may change).
-PREFIX: Her name also probably has a “Ni” at the front but Wayan didn’t write it out that way. I wonder if because she’s a child, a caste title is less important at this point.
-PUTU: Putu, as you may remember, means “first.”
-IKA: The translation of Ika is unclear but I think it is another one of the “creative names” that goes along with the other two words that follow it. My communication barriers with Wayan seemed to get in the way when trying to figure this out. I think talking about something as abstract as the meaning of names in a language that is not your own is particularly challenging. Think of trying to translate the meaning of the name “Hannah” in the United States, for example. Hannah means “full of grace or mercy”, a phrase I would be unsure of how to say in any other language. Because name meanings are often abstract or spiritual, I’m finding that they are particularly difficult to translate. So, for now, the “Ika” part will remain a mystery to me.
-LUNA: Luna was given to her because as Wayan puts it, “When she was born, she was beautiful. Beautiful like the moon.”
-FEBIANA: Translated to “February” because that’s the month that she was born in.
Koming Aira Yuni Paramita (Goes by “Koming” to me and “Koming” to her Family).
-PREFIX: Her name also most likely has a “Ni at the front in formal settings, or at least, it will when she’s older.
-KOMING: Koming, as you may remember, means “third.”
-AIRA: Another mystery. I’m hoping to eventually figure out what this part means.
-YUNI: Translated to the month of June because of her birthday.
-PARAMITA: Wayan says this means “beautiful” but I’m not sure what it directly translates to.
--The order of both of these names are really interesting to me. Even though Wayan and his wife Nunik gave both their daughters names that mean “beautiful” as one of their four names (although in Luna’s case it is actually “moon or beautiful moon”) I’m curious why for Luna, it is the 3rd name of the 4, and for Koming, it is the 4th name of the 4. I’m wondering if this ordering is significant or not.
--It is also interesting to me that both of his daughters’ names have the months in which they were born in them (although again in different orders). It is interesting but perhaps unsurprising given how much of this culture seems influenced by timing.
To give an example of this, the other night I was talking with Made (the father at my homestay) about his children and he told me his son Wayan is one of two children from Ubud to win a scholarship to get financial aid at the University of Denpasar. Made also has two daughters (both still in high school) but he says they probably will not go to university. I asked why and he told me that 1) it was very important in Bali for girls to have babies and 2) neither of his daughters were as smart as his son. He elaborated to say that he thinks his son is so smart because he was born on a special day. On the day his son was born, Made could guess that he would go to university one day. Neither of his daughters were born at a time that was as auspicious under the Balinese calendar and as a result, he is not planning on them going to university.
--You may have noticed that “Koming” means third even though Wayan has two daughters. He told me that he had a son in between his daughters who died when he was three months old. Wayan told me there was “something wrong with his head.” While I cannot possibly fathom the loss that Wayan and his family experienced through losing a son, I could not help but appreciate that the Balinese naming system alone acts as a way of commemorating this baby and possibly helping them feel their grief while moving on. For the rest of their lives, in their names alone, Luna will always represent the first in her family and Koming will always be third. Their families as well as the rest of the world will always know them by those birth order names. Even though the brother that came between these two girls was only alive for three months, just through the names of his sisters, a place is always reserved for him.
Wayan said his son’s death was very bad because this baby was his a son, and (like most Balinese I’ve met) he desperately wants a son. He told me he and his wife might try to have a son eventually but not for a while because “the children make her tired.” He says she is still recovering from Koming’s birth. Wayan told me it was hard work for her to give birth to Koming because Koming was a “jumbo baby.”
More stories & more names to come.