Saturday, January 21, 2006

Living with a tough name

Pronouncing my name is not a treat - even for a masochist. If you're not from Andhra Pradesh, pronouncing my name will take a lot of perseverence. And I am not that important to be persevered about.

Back in India, I never really lived in Andhra for more than a couple of years. I had more friends who were not from andhra. So, when I inflicted them with "*@#!*(" they felt deceived. Some took the easy way out, calling me "Rap". Actually, all did, except some professors.

The problem with such a difficult last name of course was that I was treated like something of an outcast in class. Almost everyone else's name would be pronounced right: and an embarassing mistake would be committed ("*?") when it was my name that was to be spoken out loud. I was a lone outsider for most of the time in India. The Deepak Yadhavs, the Sunil Kumars and the Murali Krishnas were the "in crowd". And I would be down in a corner, alone.

Bank clerks would have a tough time trying to get my name right. So would Railway reservation clerks, Airline tickets agents, passport office clerks, post office people...... Some would listen to my name in disbelief and give the impression that they did not approve of the Andhra system of nomenclature. You would think my name was a curse in their native language. Does "Rallabandi" mean SOB in Marathi or Tamil?

Ironically, coming to America has changed all that. To the average American, "Deepak" is as tough as "Rallabandi". Since they can't ostracize the entire South Asian community here (who'll run the Silicon Valley then?), they have no option but to concede. Thus, I automatically gain acceptance. I can live with respect again. Possibly the only place outside Andhra that I can live with respect in. Come to think of it, Rallabandi means "stone-carriage" in Telugu. How much "respect" is that going to earn me in Andhra?


Radha said...

Hey, I;m with you. My name is a long one too and people are always confused on what to call me. They call me Radha in school and Malini at home. Besides these, there is another Gowri tagging along. I have now shortened it to Radha M.

Radha said...

Hey...I know how that feels. I have a long name too - I will shortne my name shortly, you know when ;-)