Friday, April 24, 2009

What's in a name?

Yesterday, I introduced myself to a colleague as ‘Kavitha Murali’. And, I was shocked to note that teeny weeny bit of hesitation in me before I introduced myself so. That was when it hit me quite hard. Let me go back in time a bit to set the context before I explain what hit me hard.

Back in school and college, the concept of a second name was practically non existent. That’s ‘cos, for most of us Tams, our second name happens to be our father’s name and we have always been known by our initial followed by our names. For instance, I was always known as M. Kavitha. Unless and until there were two people with the same name and the same initial in a particular class, the expansion of the initial was never required.

This underwent a sea change when I joined B School, where everyone seemed to be having a last name which was not their father’s name but their family name, or some such thing. I started being known and addressed as ‘Kavitha Murali’. Or rather, I started being known as ‘Kavitha Murali’. I have ever since been addressed as ‘Kavitha Murli’ or ‘Kavitha Muraali’. I used to correct the pronunciation initially, but gave up very soon. Now, what does one do with people like
S who wantedly address me as Muraali. Sigh!

Anyways, coming back to the issue at hand, I know that I got accustomed to being addressed as ‘Murli’ pretty soon. What I did not realize till the call with my colleague yesterday was that
I have started introducing myself to others as ‘Murli’. And, it has been such a long time since I came across a Tam colleague that I did not recognize this. So, when I spoke to him, my sub – conscious mind automatically prompted me to say ‘Murali’, like how we write in Tam as ‘Mu’ followed by ‘Ra’ followed by ‘Li’.

I have observed this phenomenon in others before me. I have, for hours at stretch, made fun of all those ‘Narayan’s who introduce themselves as ‘Naren’ and those Chennaiites who pronounce the name of our hometown as ‘Shennai’, ‘Shenai’, or sometimes even ‘Shenoy’. Little did I know then that I would soon fall prey to such an identity theft.

One might say there is not much of a slip between the ‘R’ and the ‘Ra’. Nevertheless, I miss ‘a’ so much, it hurts!

For, after all, what’s in my name but my own identity.


Shreya said...

Muraali babe. I don't think I can ever address you as anything else.

Denzil said...

Interesting post, and if i can americanise that, it will become Kaveeta Merley. :P
Usually here, people are addressed with the last name and despite me being persistent with Denzil. Its always Jeykumar (my father) who takes the spotlight everytime. arrgh!!

Kavity said...

@ Shreya: Yeah, and sadly enough, I would find it quite weird if you call me by any other name :(

@ Denzil: LOL at 'It's always Jeykumar who takes the spotlight'! No wonder it took you 10 minutes :D

மணிகண்டன் (Manikandan K S) said...

:) Yes, I realized the drawbacks of not having a surname recently. While citing papers we academics cite the last name, and since my last name is my village and father's name, he is going to get all the credit! Not bad in one sense, considering the fact that he is the one responsible for what I am today. But if you end up being an academic, your husband will get all the credit!!

Kavity said...

@ Mani: And what makes you think I am even considering changing my surname after marriage. I entertain no such thoughts :D

vinayvasan said...

When I shifted to Chennai from Mumbai, the first day in the new school i was asked what my initial was. I had no idea wat it meant :)

மணிகண்டன் (Manikandan K S) said...


Kavity said...

@ Vinay: And then, if I am right, they must all have started calling you VVB?

@ Mani: Adhu!

Vignesh said...

Nice post! I still get irritated when my non-Indian colleagues call me Vinesh!! How can they assume that 'G' is silent in 'Vignesh'?!?!?

Kavity said...

@ Vignesh: Thanks! Yeah, I understand how frustrating it must be.
Even though my office id clearly states 'Kavitha' and my signature states 'Kavitha Murali', people address mails to me saying 'Hi Kavita'. Quite frustrating!

Denzil said...

Well, if its americans who address like that i can understand, cos they do not recognise the syllable "tha" and to them, it is as mysterious as the "zha" we use. However any North/South Indian should be able to get the "tha" right.
Also, in their defense, they (North Indians or some of them, if i shudnt generalise) tend to pronounce "tha" as "ta" even in their own names. Raj Thackeray is called Taakray , thakur is taakur ,rathod wud be ratod and so on.

Thats just my two cents ! (or paise- if thats more indianish :P :) )

Kavity said...

I can understand if people 'pronounce' my name so. y whole concern is about 'writing' it as Kavita when the right spelling is there in my email id for all to see. It is as if they refuse to spell it any other way but the way they would want to spell it.

King Vishy said...

Nice point to write abt.. Whoever came up with the phrase "whats in a name?".. Why, everything!!!

Kavity said...

@ Vishy: Thanks. Yeah, the name is not as trivial a point as Shakespeare considered it to be