Monday, 10 December 2007

What's in a name?

We have an interesting family name: Eicher.

Its a Swiss German name - linked with the oak tree (Eiche in German). Other German names are similar Bucher is linked with the birch tree (Buche in German etc).

The roots of our family tree apparently go back through the Mennonites who came to the US via Canada (great-grandad Christian was born in Ontario) to where they had settled in France (Alsace - or Elsas Lodringen as the Germans say it) and before that Switzerland. Oldest known ancestor is Jacob Eicher (1756 - 1815) who was born in 1756 and who died on 3 July 1815 in Aspach, Alsace, France. According to his records, Jacob's father Jean Eicher died on 9 July 1779. We are dealing with the time of the French revolution here and the hardy Mennonites were fleeing Europe in order to live out their faith.
But what twists and turns the Eicher name has had.

Today the two most common connotations with "Eicher" are as follows:
1) In Europe: Stephan Eicher - Swiss pop star

A talented lad who sings in many languages. German, French, English, Italian...
The one time I heard a tune of his in English... let me say that it was a strange kind of English.
Hats off to Stephan though!

I have noted that my own talented muscian brother has started to write his name as Stefan Prakash Eicher. Perhaps to put a bit of distance between our Stefan and that dopplegaenger Stephan...

2) In India: Eicher Motors
A long time ago - in 1959 to be precise - a small German tractor company set up an Indian joint venture in Harayana state. After some time the German company parted ways and fell into poor times. The Indian counterpart, however, went from strength to strength. I understand that it even bought out what remained of the German company in the late 1980s.
Today Eicher is a household name - in India at least. The Hindi translation fits the south German way "I-sher" instead of our 'Iker' (rhymes with 'hiker') that we are somehow straddled with.

We commonly see commerical vehicles with the Eicher logo on it - mainly trucks with a big EICHER written on the back - because the company has a dominant position in the light commercial vehicle sector - producing Mitsubishi based vehicles.

Enoch and Asha go to school each day in an Eicher bus similar to this one.

Interestingly enough, the Eicher company has sold its tractor division to TAFE, and is now minting its money from trucks, busses, gears, maps and the Royal Enfield motorcycle division it owns.

I once wrote to Eicher and asked if they could give us a small retainer - maybe just 1% from 1% of their profits - for using our esteemed family name. No response from the good folks at Eicher motors yet.

Today Eicher announced that they are forming a joint venture with Volvo to make trucks and other commericial vehicles in India.

Whatever the corporate behemoth this company may become, in one way it is all moot to us - since Dad is adopted we have no biological ties with the Eichers anyway.
Point is - a name is more than genelogy - we are culturally far more Eichers than any chromosomal inheritance.
Having been called "Itcher", "Itchier", "Acre", "I-kar" (income tax in Hindi) and having once heard Stefan's name being pronounced as "Stepan Evellier" on PA system at an inter-school sports meet - I know that we have an interesting name.
We even have a student dining hall at far off Taylor University on its Fort Wayne campus which is called the "Eicher Commons" to remember the involvement one branch of the family had with the then Fort Wayne Bible College and the missionary activities of the Eichers over the years.
There is an interesting account in the book of Revelation when Jesus tells the church in Pergamum (Revelation 2:17) "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it."
What will our new name be?
The Eicher name has served us well - but we will gladly trade it in for our new one which will be written on the white stone we receive.

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