…on my seventh birthday, my present was that I got to pick my name. So I spent the whole day looking at my dad’s globe for a really cool name. And so my first choice was Chad, like the country in Africa. But then my dad said that was a boy’s name, so I picked Alaska.
— Looking for Alaska by John Green
In John Green’s latest book Turtles All The Way Down too, Aza chooses her own name. Her dad says, “We want you to have your own name, a sound you could make your own… It(Aza) spans the whole alphabet, because we wanted you to know you can be anything.”
My parents have never called me by my first name. My family has not pronounced it more than a couple of times. I am not exaggerating. Even when the purohits ask during rituals, they offer my middle name.
I wrote for newspapers for four years, but my byline was a combination of my middle name and last name — Deepika Ramesh.
My first name was profusely used during my school years, by the headmistress who thought I was a lesbian, who later learned that I wasn’t, who hated my then boyfriend, and who decided that I was wasting oxygen. It was lovingly used by a conservative brahmin teacher, who placed all her trust in me and dreamed that I would become a Chartered Accountant or an engineer (Sorry. I am not sorry, miss!). It was grudgingly used by government officials.
It’s now used by telemarketers from North India, who struggle to get the right sound. My first name has now come down to just that. An opening for a cold call.
I am Sarada Deepika Ramesh.
I was named after Sarada Devi. My father had the forethought to relieve me of predicaments which are cast by spelling, so he dropped all the aitches. But nobody knows how my first name should be pronounced. I don’t know because my parents abandoned it. Hence, it’s at the mercy of strangers’s tongues which have lives of its own. I am oftentimes Sharadha. Sometimes Sharada. Very rarely Sarada. Do you see the difference? The callers from North India prefer Sarath. Yes. Thank you!
When I flash my ID at banks or airports, I feel myself walking out of my body as I utter my first name. I witness the scene; I don’t participate. I remind myself: I am not an imposter. This. Is. My. Name. And I am not smuggling drugs. Despite the affirmation, the name doesn’t seem like my belonging. I lug it along without an opportunity in the offing to let go of it or to surrender it to Lost and Found.
It can’t be lost.
Maybe, there are ways to remove it, but I won’t go that far, because I also belong to the cliche It’s-my-first-gift-from-my-parents. Ahem!
Maybe, I harbour a clandestine affection for it.
Maybe, I am just a curmudgeon who wants a new reason to whine today.
Maybe, it’s just another anagram, the first name. A nihilist’s POV helps there.
Hey! But I can’t assume names like Kim Jong Un or Voldemort all right. I can settle with a couple of a’s and s’s and r’s.
I almost hit the Publish button when I wanted to Google the name. And see what I found. 🙂
Sarada Uchiha is the protagonist of the spin-off Naruto, apparently. Japan beckons! 😉