I knew, the moment I found out I was pregnant, that I would need to think about names. A name is such a very serious thing – a reflection of oneself and one’s aspirations as well as the ability to navigate family politics – and I wanted something that would stand the baby in good stead throughout life. I knew exactly which name I wanted for a little boy. If the baby was a girl, though, I was less certain.
For various reasons, I leaned toward something Italian. For a start, my sister had taken up two of the available sensible/posh English names my family favours, which somewhat narrowed choices. Both of my stepdaughters have names ending in –a and I wanted to continue the pattern. Olivia would have been my first choice once upon a time, but it’s just too popular now. I was one of a rash of Sarahs at school- three Sarah Bs in high school alone – so I wanted something a little different.
Kanthan worked in Sardinia in the early 90s, where he picked up Italian as well as a taste for Mirto and proper Parmesan. His first daughter, Aura, was born there. My mother studied Italian at university. I grew up with Italian as part of my musical vocabulary, so I feel an affinity with the language even if I don’t speak it. An Italian name made sense. But which one? Chiara was one option I considered, as well as Fiamma.
Then Kanthan suggested the name of a character in his favourite movie, Faraway So Close, directed by Wim Wenders. Raphaela is an angel portrayed by Nastassja Kinski, who moves among and above the people of post-wall Berlin. As a lapsed film buff, I like the cinematic connotations. It’s also why her name contains a ph and one 1, when there are various spellings.
Here is Nastassja Kinski in the role of Raphaela:
As for Raphaela’s second, Tamil name, we needed to wait until after she was born. Tamil names are chosen according to times and their associated auspicious syllables, one of which was Ra.
In the list of Ras, one stood out. Ragini (pronounced RAgini with a hard g as in gift) means melody. A feminine form of Raga, if you like. My mother, husband and mother-in-law all liked it (which, if anyone knows the politics of names in families, is a massive win). There are singers and keen amateur musicians on both sides of the family, so it’s a pleasing nod to both our histories and love of music. There is a piano waiting for us at home, and I can’t wait to play it for her.
I think Raphaela Ragini has a certain ring to it. She will definitely know when she is in trouble. And she will almost certainly be unique no matter which school she attends. We’ll probably all call her Ra-Ra for short, which – given the fanfare with which she will be greeted when she finally gets to go home – will be entirely appropriate.
Welcome to the world, Raphaela Ragini. Love, your mother xxx