Friday, July 22, 2005

Death of a name

Well, it had to happen someday. Day after freaking day, it was becoming apparent to me that I could not continue living in America under the name my parents gave me. It was causing me too much grief, testing my patience too many times and raising my blood pressure to such levels that vultures would start circling above me in anticipation. Every time I visited an eating joint, everytime I ordered pizza, everytime I had to make reservations for anything, people were having problems putting my name down on paper. Hell, even the Indian waiters in Indian restaurants, appeared to not be able to comprehend my name. While in Rome, do as Romans do, I guess?

And, so I had practically given up actually saying my name. Even to me, as to most of America, I had become a bunch of letters. And what is most frustrating is that my name is not even that hard to spell. I can only imagine what a "Chandrashekhar" or a "Hrishikesh" or a "Deviprasad" might be going through. But not my name. Anyone with enough intelligence to tie his own shoelaces should be able to convert my phonetic name into a bunch of letters on his own. But no, Americans, I guess strive for perfection. They need to know that they are spelling my name exactly as it should be, it doesn't matter even if I don't give a rats ass if they muck it up as long as they don't ask me to spell it out each and every goddamned time.

So, today, after spelling it out for the ninety millionth time for the ninety millionth teenaged girl standing behind the cash register, I finally had it. I asked my American colleague, who was right beside me what my new name should be. His immediate reply was "Joe". Yeah, I thought Joe should be simple enough. No ambiguities and containing only a single syllable. America should be able to handle that right? But, a couple of thoughts later, I realized that Joe was too Americanized. An Indian answering to the name "Joe" would not be very convincing. It would be like admitting to America that Joe was not really my name and that America had succeeded in defeating me, breaking me down mentally, forcing me to take a new identity. No, Joe wouldn't do. My pride wouldn't allow me to. But then I had a brainstorm. How about Jay? Jay was as easy, also contained only a single syllable and Jay was Indian sounding too. Jay contained the best of both worlds. And there seemed to be that certain undefinable something that gave "Jay" a high-flying maverick aura. Yes, it had to be Jay.

And so, today I go home, shed my tired, old, Indian name and lay it down to rest. It has worked hard for me, served me well and now it is time for it to retire and pass on the torch. It will still work for me part-time, when I'm filling out applications, or when they are beating it out of me during interrogation. But to America, now, I will no longer be known as a bunch of letters. I will be Jay. I will once again be complete.


Patrix said...

I hope you don't mind if they replace J with G :)

gawker said...

Man, I dont care what the hell they call me as long as I dont have to spell it out for them.

Patrix said...

Amen to that :)They have massacred my name so much that now I just prefer to be a letter.

Anonymous said...

You can chose to be called whatever you please but I don't think it calls for drastic measures really. Whatever your Indian name is, it is only a name afterall. Pizza guys in the US may not have large enough a vocabulary or may not be able to pronounce anything that is not in English, that just reflects the fact they don't know of anything outside their borders. If East Asians can pronounce American names or try to, Americans should be able to pronounce Asian names too. If you have to spell it out, its fine, it will make it easier the next time they hear an Indian name. The next time you are in China, would you change your name to something more Chinese to suit them better?

Anonymous said...

You are not alone. Here's what I do. I tell my name (simpe Indian name) and when it is repeated back to me, I nod to whatever they say and let them spell it the way they wish, 10% of the time it is correct :-D, sometimes they want me to spell it for them though.

I have toyed with the idea of giving a different name each time I visit an eating joint, just for kicks! I was thinking Maya, Mira, Lara, Carina, Rita, Anita..(Somewhat Indian, could-be American names :-D) Never did it for lack of adventure spirit, I guess.

This could make a good Seinfeld episode (HA HA!!)

Pearl said...

I can relate. It's dumbfounding that with a theoretical 100% literacy rate that people can't take dictation or even a reasonable guess on a series of letters. When I married I jumped out of my birth name because it was always misspelled, but found my new family name is no better. Perhaps I should have gone with my second choice. Who could misspell Brown? Well, braun I guess as it was spelled in some old census records but stilll....gotta wonder.