Kongthong, a remote Indian village nestled in the forested hillsides of the northeastern state of Meghalaya, has a unique way of imprinting each child born within its borders. Instead of a traditional naming after birth, the mother instead composes an original melody to identify her newborn.
"The composition of the melody comes from the bottom of my heart," mother-of-three Pyndaplin Shabong told AFP. "It expresses my joy and love for my baby."
These unique tunes, whistled or hummed and lasting between four to six seconds, are generally inspired by nature and natural sounds. It's a centuries-old tradition that, for the 700 residents of Kongthong, continues to stand as the preferred method of signaling each other.
"We never repeat a tune. Even when a person dies, the tune which was used to call him is not given to anybody else. And though they may seem similar, we can always distinguish one tune from another," Darmasius Rani, a village advisor of Kongthong, told The Telegraph.
You can listen to some of the songs given to children in the video above.
According to The Better India, the use of tunes as names appears to have its origins in folklore, with the belief that "if unseen spirits of the nearby forests hear someone’s name being called out, it makes the person fall ill." Practically speaking, however, because distinctive tunes reverberate and carry farther through the steep terrain than traditional names, the whistles can also tie hunting parties together over long distances.
Amusingly, the only time real names might be uttered is when a son or daughter gets into trouble.
"If my son has done something wrong, if I'm angry with him, he broke my heart, at that moment I will call him by his actual name," Rothell Khongsit, a community leader, told AFP.