Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rose by any other name

What is in a name?….well, if you ask me Mr. Shakespeare I’d say “A lot!” .Take a second opinion from all those unfortunate souls like me who are fated to bear the cross of an unusual name. It will be our unanimous decision that rose may smell as sweet by any other name as well but the rose will not feel good if even before smelling it ,people give you a confused look and ask “ You said Ruse or is it Rouge?” “ ummm…but what does it mean?” “ Well…how do you spell it?” “ Quite unusual ? Never heard of this name. How do you pronounce it BTW” …and other equally irritating queries .

Well, for no fault of my own…I happened to be the third daughter for my parents and in all good intention my mom named me with a unique name which rhymed with my sisters’ names .So after Apoorva and Anoorva – I was given name- Atoorva. So I become world’s first and perhaps till now only ATOORVA. Now, there is nothing wrong in the name per se. In fact I quite like it. It even carries a beautiful meaning which can be derived through a Sanskrit root – One who believes in Ahimsa (non violence) . But…and it’s a But with Capital B – no one has ever heard of this name. So when they hear it, they are not sure if it is a spelling mistake for Apoorva or not . And poor me, all my achievements and glories go waste with this name . To cite a few cases- I topped the state in 12th standard and the newspaper announced my name as Apoorva Sinha . Even my own school board , for about two months carried wrong name of the topper ( a good intention deed by the painter who CORRECTED the wrong spelling supplied by the school! ). Then I won an all India essay competition and my essay was duly credited to my eldest sister Apoorva . Even those who have heard of this name will never spell it correctly. I have seen at least 6 variations of my name in various official and unofficial correspondence. Most horrible is the Bengali version “Oturbha” – due to its inherent weakness in Bangla my name can be either AtoorBa or AtoorBHa . Both of which sound awful to my ears ..but then there is no escape . I revenge it by calling my husband Anindy rather than the right Bengali pronunciation Onindo .
And that is not all. Dangers of an unusual name may lead to a very embarrassing situation. Especially when people confuse the gender of the holder of such names. I am ok with receiving official letters addressing me as Sir or Dear Shri Sinha… I mean people generally visualize an unknown civil servant to be male and you cannot do much to such MCPs. To be fair, in a society like ours, a mistake of addressing a Ms. as Mr. is less grave and considered less insulting than the other way round …so its Ok. But how would you react if your parents receive a proposal for matrimonial alliance from a girl’s father who has picked up your name from

the Civil List of UPSC. Well, that happened twice with me…and though I have learnt to joke about it now…It was quite embarrassing when it happened. One pair of parents even landed up at our place in Lucknow only to find that the prospective groom is a 'she' . Then on another occasion organizers of one of our outstation visits put me up with a male colleague in twin sharing system for rooms . I was very upset on this till I hear they were not confused about my gender but about his. A victim of English spelling of Indian names, his name was spelled with an additional ‘a’ in the end which confused the organizers who took him for a female.
As a teenager, when I blamed my Mom for this calamity in my life, she coolly gave me a beautiful tale from the Sanskrit scriptures about the intelligent Queen Madalasa. The tales goes like that the intelligent queen Madalasa gave birth to seven sons . Her husband named first six with all high sounding names meaning Possessor of Valour, Terror for Enemies and the like. The King announced that the seventh son was to be named by the queen . The queen chose an unusual name -Alark . A word without any good/known meaning. A very unusual name for a prince. The king was very annoyed but kept his promise.As it turned out later that all elder princes were killed/died because of their own weaknesses and finally Alark the boy with an unheard/meaningless name , became a mighty king. Such was his might and glory that for centuries together a new king was given honorary title of Alark –to symbolize his virtues and glory. So the moral of the story was –you give the real meaning to your name, by living your life . But hello…which name after all? The one which is confused by one and all. One which comes with a question mark every time it is uttered.? One which sound like a mistake when spoken right! One which comes with an unsure Ms /Mr. Prefix?
These days I like to write my name as Ms. A.Sinha .This is just to ensure that there is no confusion about gender or spelling. But then it so happened that I found that e-ticket made for my today morning’s flight was in the name of Mr. Atoorva Sinha . Well, my PA called the airlines explained the situation and was assured that there will be no trouble in boarding the flight. I was advised to carry a photo Id card. So today morning at Airport check in counter when I showed the Id card and the ticket – the wise girl on the other side asked. “Is this you?” My answer in the affirmative did not satisfy her and she called her boss. He again asked if I am Atoorva Sinha . I confirmed the fact once again. He then exclaimed : “But Apoorv is a boy’s name Isn’t it?” I replied “May be, I am not Apoorv in any case.” Even while the words were passing through my lips I knew what will follow. “ohho..yes..yes….Atoo-rva….umm…what does it mean?” Wish I could say it means exactly the opposite of what I will turn into if you do not hand me the boarding pass immediately. But then…it’s my cross to carry. So I smiled, took a breathe and replied ….thus enlightened another soul about the unusual name called Atoorva.

So all you Johns and Janes out there- you do not know how lucky you are to carry a popular name. You need not spell it out over phone, You need not flash Id cards at hotels and airport… carry your achievements and your embarrassments with your own name. Never mind if you know a dozen more carrying the same name in your locality/school/office. At least your gender is not confused and your name is not mutilated by torturous spellings.
To think on a positive note, every time I face an interview I know the first question will be about my name . Also if you have a name like mine, no problem in getting a short n’ sweet email Id on even the most popular webportals. There is no confusion about the identity of the person –Aturba, Atoorbha, Othurba …call by any variation. I know- it’s for me. Let me acknowledge….at times it feels nice to be unique.


The said...

At least one more atoorva is there in this world ...

The said...

She is only one year old you are no longer unique .....

Sudipto Basu said...

Firstly, sorry Atoorva Di.. And thanks for 'enlightening' me about your name.

Actually, I was literally laughing my head off when I was going through this post-- I think your life is not without it's fair share of humour, seeing that you always have comical situations arising regarding your name! But, I won't commit this mistake again.. :)

Ankit said...

Hi Ms Atoorva,

I came across this blog while searching for meaning of 'Alark', as we are planning to name our first Son at 'Alark'.
Thanks to you and your mom for the meaning.

And thanks for enlightening about your name, and you are first 'Atoorva' I am coming across in my life.

Jerry said...

Hi Atoorva,
So I had become one in the list of numerous people adressing you as Apoorva !
Good to read through your experiences !

Kabul said...

Hi Atoorva. WHAT A BRILLIANT PIECE OF WRITING !! I think its one of your best essays. If I am not being too inquisitive, will you please tell me your mom's name? And by the way, I am a Bengali who like all other bengalis is carrying a pet-name (daak naam) "KABUL". So you can imagine...! Hi to Onindyo too.

Kartikaye Mathur said...

hi atoorva,
i have a similar problem no body has been able to spell my name correctly ever. i also wish i should have had a smaller and simpler name.
kartikaye mathur