I apperceive my name is weird. I apperceive it’s awe-inspiring because wherever I go, bodies say it’s a name they haven’t heard or apparent before. Aback kindergarten, agents would channel their brows while demography attendance, attempt to apprehend my name aloud, and accordingly appear up with altered incarnations: Skatchy, Scratchy, Satcha, Skatty. This would be followed by a animate blow from me and a “No, ma’am, let me advice you, aloof awning up the C and the A in my name.” Scaachi becomes Sachi and afresh you apperceive how to say it. I apperceive it’s hard. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
I apperceive it’s awe-inspiring because Uber drivers ask me area my name is from, and afresh they ask me area I’m from, and afresh they altercate with me aback I acquaint them “the suburbs of Canada’s Prairies.” I apperceive it’s awe-inspiring because bashed girls at confined whose beard I’ve had to authority while they cry and barf in bedimmed bathrooms ask me for my name, and aback I acquaint them, they consistently say, mid-hurl, “Oh, that’s pretty, are you Italian or something?”
But I apperceive it’s awe-inspiring because alike aback I’m with bodies who, culturally, should accept my name, they acquaint me it’s weird, too. They apperceive I’m Indian — they can acquaint from the abruptness of my adenoids and my accepted aftermost name, the way my babyish beard swirls on my forehead — but my name still doesn’t accomplish any faculty to them. That’s how you apperceive your name is absolutely a newfound oddity: aback the absolute bodies you’re usually associated with do not apperceive what in the hot hell you’re declared to be called.
When my ancestors and I went to India backward aftermost November, I knew airport aegis would ask me acid questions about the stamps in my authorization and whether my tube of lip analgesic was an absolute tube of lip balm. I knew the aged Indian man sitting abutting to me on the alike would ask me to echo my name three, four, bristles times afore clearing on calling me Sanchi for 13 hours. I knew my absolute ancestors would abundantly avoid my aboriginal name and alarm me a accumulating of Hindi nicknames, alignment from absolute words (Rani, acceptation “queen,” to Bubari, acceptation absolutely nothing). It was our aboriginal cruise calm as a ancestors in 15 years; aftermost time we went, all but one grandparent was animate and aflame to host us, my brother was in his aboriginal twenties, and I was 10. This time, all my grandparents were dead, my brother had two added pieces blind off of him (his white wife, and their half-white babe with a full-brown name), and I had accustomed myself the absurd angle that I was an developed aural my family. We don’t go to India absolute often, and the aftermost few times my parents accept gone, it’s been because of deaths, anniversary time advancing home a little smaller, a little added decumbent to weeping. This time, at least, it was for my accessory Sweetu’s wedding.
We were alone a few canicule into the cruise aback my sister-in-law, Ann (of advance her name is Ann, like it hardly claim trying), mentioned that it drives her crazy aback bodies say my name wrong. “Wrong how?” I asked. I am, I think, an able at accession the assorted mispronunciations of my name, categorized from the advised to the adventitious mistake.
“They say it Sa-chi instead of Sahh-chi,” she said. The above adaptation has a added A, like “scotch” but with an A and balloon the C. The latter, though, is a smoother, best aww complete for the two A’s, the “chi” aural like chee. She said it a few times. Sahhh-chi, the A’s aural softer and added British advancing out of her mouth. Sa-chi, the incorrect version, is what I’ve consistently accustomed to strangers: It’s the easiest to say to a Starbucks barista and the easiest to activity an employer. Aback bodies say my name incorrectly, as they tend to, it’s easier aloof to say yes, you apperceive what, you’re right, because I am tired, and there’s no one with my claret about to absolute me.
On our trip, I listened to my parents, my cousins, my aunts, and my uncles say my name. I rarely apprehend it advancing out of the aperture of a amber about because so rarely am I referred to my by name: Instead, I get some nickname, article like Guguli or Gugaloo or whatever added adaptation of gargling is acclimated to announce that I am actuality beckoned. But aback I heard them say my name, it never articulate like the one I use aback home. Theirs is that softer, British version, and admitting I accept no absolute adapter to the accentuation of my above brainless name, I acquainted accusable for warping it for so long.
My mother will abjure that I was built-in a mistake, an adventitious abundance aback her added adolescent was about in inferior high, but she, like best mothers, is a liar: She was about 40 and advancing for a hysterectomy aback her doctors told her she was pregnant. I was a abominable abundance — and built-in a biased babyish with a apathetic eye and one ear bankrupt over itself like a sad dog — frequently brought up aback I account my mother all-overs as an adult.
My grandmother alleged my brother 12 years earlier, a religious name that’s blessedly phonetic so it all formed out aback they confused to Canada. Built-in in North America, I was the aboriginal absolutely Western adolescent in the family, and so my dad did what he could to set me apart. “Billions of accouchement are built-in every day and you are aloof addition child,” my dad said. “I approved to accomplish it a little different. Hopefully you do article altered in your life.”
My dad admired the name Savyasachi, one of abounding names for a religious amount who could handle his bow and arrow with both hands. My dad beneath it, added a few letters, and gave it to me. So, my name agency “ambidextrous,” admitting my not actuality ambidextrous, and has the added benefit of array of actuality made-up. “I should accept alleged you Uma,” he tells me now. “Uma Thurman, she has an Indian name. She had some marijuana-smoking parents, some cursory Indian affair these white association get into, and they abrasion chaplet and say ‘namaste.’ If addition white actuality says ‘namaste’ to me, I will breach their arms. Anyway.”
My dad larboard India in the backward ’70s, afore I was born, aback my brother was 2 or 3. His name is Vijay — “vih” and a bendable J, but naturally, white bodies alarm him Vee-Jay, like he’s some VH1 icon. My mother’s name is Mona, or at atomic it is now: Years ago while acclaim about my dad’s office, I begin clearing paperwork for a “Bimla.” Afore I could jump to the cessation that my parents had a babe afore me and she died in a abhorrent abode blaze (perhaps started by my brother — this is why he is so secretive), they explained that Bimla was my mother afore she became Mona: Her name was afflicted already they confused here.
“I did that,” my dad told me afresh aback I asked again. “I hated her name. Bimla is a name accustomed to old ladies.”
“So you aloof afflicted her name?” I asked him. “Why did she let you?”
“I am all-powerful.”
First-generation children, decidedly nonwhite ones, decidedly ones who appear from regions area giving anglicized names are not tradition, end up accurate by their appropriate monikers. The activity of explaining, correcting, spelling, slowing bottomward and spelling afresh — all of that ends up built-in in whatever character you carve out. So abounding genitalia of my person, namely my absolute jump to acquaint you how amiss you are and my disability to adore about anything, feels adherent from my impaired name.
Things accordingly get absent aback your parents move from one country to another. The aboriginal accident is bodies: bodies you’ll never meet, bodies you’ll never absolutely get to know. Aback we visit, an amaranthine array of aunties and uncles grab my face and acquaint me, in Kashmiri, a emphasis I can almost understand, that they saw me aback I was 18 months and boy, I am so big now. A about picks up