What's in a Name?

on Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Alot. Got a name like Wasim Singh, you immediately understand he comes from a mixed background. Got a name like A. Yadav, you either strike a bond with him or secretly want to kill him because he and his generations to come will benefit from reservations. Whatever maybe your name, without having you say anything, the other person has already formed a certain opinion about you. People ask little kids and old, what does your name mean? The meaning becomes a part of your personality right away for them. Your name will immediately tell me what religion do you follow, whether you actually follow it or not.

My own name scares me now. I am sick of living in a world full of judgmental assholes who would confirm 'Do you guys actually spit in food and then serve it to your guests?' It astonishes you, surprises you, get to hear alot of new things too. As a kid, I thought I didn't know enough about my religion, but today I do not want to know about any religion. I am anyway not ultra religious, I have my own logistical thinking on every thing that is condemned in my religion or yours. Yet, this religious identity sticks with me.

I did not choose my name, I love it. I did not choose my religion, I have been brought up in a moderate environment and so I do not hate it, yet I very strongly believe in getting rid of this identity. Would changing my name and keeping it only Nabila, help? It would still remain a Persian name with only an added long thread of questions and much more severe judging.

I called a friend three weeks back, stressed, "I am going to make a big decision. This is a life changing decision, but I want to make it..... I want to change my name." I was stopped by not a logical but emotional thought - it was too silly to risk 20 years of strongly rooted relationships. True. I was still living life on my own terms, anyway. I have never been discriminated on the basis of my name. I have not been hurt or privileged either, but I am still being judged by you. Maybe when I started the post, you may have even thought I will share an anecdote of distress and discrimination. I do not have one. I am like most of you, an irregular blogger, a loving daughter, a loyal friend, a caring sister, a trustworthy partner, an avid reader, a music lover, a dreamer, YET I am being judged by you and you by me. My name says I am a Muslim and yours' says something else. For many, I am a Muslim, you a Hindu, Christian, Parsi, Pinjabi, and this probably being your foremost identity, even before your actual name, your profession, your thoughts.

I speak not for myself nor for a community I belong to (which I did not choose but was gifted at birth), but for you and me. Why should even a question as small and as 'normal' as 'So... You are a Kayastha or a Baniya?' or Shia, Sunni, Catholic, Protestant, whatever, come up?

We spend a life 'making an identity of our own' ranting about 'individualism', without realizing, we already have an identity attached by birth which is not just used to address us, fill our forms and hold ration cards, but to add tags to our 'individual' selves.

Whether you care two hoots about where the person comes from or not, you would still know where he comes from when he gives out his name to you. You can even guess the zones and states they come from -THAT is what is in a name. If only we had a nameless world - there would be no Romeo and Juliet, but there would still remain, you and me, as ourselves, as individuals in a chaotic world of no personal identities (like we are any better now..huh..).

For myself, I am ME and YOU are YOU.

Who am I for you?