This article is by Shabdita Pareek.
William Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name?” With all due respect, with a name like William, what does he know? I can give you a hundred reasons how a name can invite so many struggles in one’s life.
Every parent is excited to give their heir a unique name so that the world remembers them by it. Mine went a step further. They gave me a name that would send the world on a stutter-ride. Have you seen the face people make as if they’ve sniffed someone’s armpits? That’s the exact reaction I get when I tell my name.
Later when I didn’t grow up to be so bright, I understood my parents’ clever strategy to make sure that my name, if not me, never goes unnoticed.
As someone who grew up believing that I had one of the most beautiful names, it came as a rude surprise when I witnessed fellow fourth-graders struggling to utter this 8-letter-word. I suspected if my parents took inspiration from one of the tongue-twisters to name their first born. But this belief was also shattered after a bunch of enlightened class-fellows made me believe that I was, in fact, named after the super-fast train Shatabdi Express.
My 9-year-old self was so angry that soon after the school got over, I went straight to my mother and demanded an explanation for keeping me in dark for my entire life.
What began from fourth grade, continued through out. I began dreading moments when people asked for my email ID over phone. Beginning the phonetic pronunciation with ‘S for Shimla’, it would feel like an eternity to reach the other end.
From professors and teachers calling me Shobdita, assuming I came from Calcutta, to the confused HR people hesitatingly asking if they were speaking to Shaaaaabdita, I’ve had it all.
I understand that some people just don’t get it. Others, I’ve noticed, simply don’t want to.
They’d rather have their own version of my name which they believe makes more sense. A certain acquaintance once proclaimed that she was going to call me Sabhyata, because asking her to call me Shabdita every time was too much to ask and well Sabhyata (human civilisation) is so much more meaningful after all.
She even went on to suggest that I should consider changing my name.
Let me tell you that the itch to keep trying to correct people didn’t subside so easily. It took an enormous amount of frustration. Alas, I figured that if I let people have their way with my name, life would be so much simpler. So, even before they opened their mouth for a second attempt, I’d quickly interrupt and say, “Call me anything you please”. I can’t explain to you the sigh of relief I have seen on their faces. It was as if I had found a way to ensure world peace.
World peace or not, what I did get was a zillion nick names, each one tailored to suit people’s respective tastes. Shabbo, Subbu, Shabbi, Shabba, abba..dabba..jabba..
Now I’m wired in a way that my brain responds more rapidly to these names than the original one. Honestly, now when someone calls me with my full name I’m instantly alarmed because it feels like they are angry or something.
A careful study of people’s eloquence has led me to a conclusion that there are two sets of people. Those with finely sculpted tongues that could take every turn swiftly and those with a soft dollop of flesh sitting in their mouths, too lazy to turn around and vocalize complicated words.
My own grandfather used to fall in the latter. All through his life, my only wish was to hear him call me Shabdita and not Shabeedeeta, just once.
Of course, there are a few who pick it up in the first go and my first instinct is to give that gem of a person a tight hug and tell them how my faith in humanity is restored because of them.
These are like the rarest of rare occurrences, but nonetheless, enough to keep me going with the fact that the world is a better place to live in.
After spending more than two and a half decades of secretly holding grudges against people with short and sweet names, I have come to gracefully accept my fate.
To my fellow readers who are in the same boat as mine, I just have one thing to say- Go on, keep baffling the hell outta people!