What’s in a name?

What’s in a name, you ask? Quite a long story, I say. 

Take my name. Geetanjali Shrivastava. I was named after the collection of poems written by Rabindranath Tagore, since my father had hoped for a girl with a sweet, melodic voice. He didn’t get that, but that’s a different story. As a name, Geetanjali is nothing extraordinary, except perhaps for the unfortunate problem, that everyone thought my name was too long. So they kept trying to shorten my name to Geeta, or the much abhorred Geetu. Neither of which I ever recognised as nicknames, causing much furor over my stubborn snobbishness. But that hasn’t been my biggest problem with my name. Don’t get me wrong. I love my name. I love that it has a literary association, that it has a certain backbone and character. But you see, my name can be spelled in many ways, and in that lies my first problem.

Geetanjali, to some people from the North of India can be Gitanjali, and in the South it can be Geethanjali. *shudder*

And Shrivastava? In the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, it is spelt Srivastava. My mother and sister-in-law were both Srivastava before marriage. I hate that spelling. But what’s worse is when people see the “a” at the end, and say “Shrivastavaaa”….you know like non-Indians and expats say Lord Ramaaa, instead of Lord Ram? It’s enough to make me grit my teeth, and start counting to hundred, lest I explode.

But the story doesn’t end there. When I got my passport made in Bombay, they added my father’s name in the field for my surname. So everywhere I went, people started writing my name as Geetanjali Randhir Shrivastava. It’s no secret that my father is my role model, and I admire and respect him immensely, but do I want his name as a part of my identity? From my passport, it went to my email ID as a student in the French and German universities, where I studied. At both universities, they assumed that Randhir was my surname, so the email ID attributed to me was geetanjali.randhir@xyz… 

I lived through all of this, since none of these emails meant much. And then the Indian government rolled out the Aadhar cards, and I thought I finally had a way to fix my name. So I went and got myself  registered as Geetanjali Shrivastava, and got my PAN card updated. But when I wanted to renew my passport, they decided that they couldn’t accept the “name mismatch.” I found myself back at the Aadhar card center, updating my name to include my father’s name. Which meant that I also had to update my bank records, because now there was a mismatch in their KYC process!

I’ve always wanted to pay tribute to my father, and acknowledge the role he has played in my silent, but strong ambitions in life. I suppose this was it. I finally accepted that I was going to be Geetanjali Randhir Shrivastava for the rest of my life. 

And I thought I was done with the whole saga. But then I came to France, and started the process of opening a company. We submitted our documents, and went to review the bylaws before filing for the company to be opened. The lawyer wanted to clarify a few things. One of them was my middle name. You see, he couldn’t understand why my middle name (Randhir) was in the same line as my surname! Was it perhaps my maiden surname? But hadn’t I said that I was no name change from my maiden name? So why did I have two surnames? I smiled behind my COVID mask, and launched into the story.

What’s in a name, you ask? A long story…a very long story, I say!

2 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. What’s in a name? Unfortunately we don’t think twice before exclaiming that it is just a word or a spelling to call us. There’s a lot..

    Try explaining to your North Indian friends that no, your name is not Akundi or Peesapati but Sunanda. Why do you place it before the name ? Err….I don’t know! Why do you write a short form? Why is it so different?

    And then..
    The task of getting your name correct in all the official documents- you can say quite an impossible task. One of the documents mentions all the possible vowel combinations, or a completely different spelling of your name that you didn’t know was possible.Or a new middle name. Tout est possible.

    What’s in a name? A lot!

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