Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Name Is.

I was this close to being named Maradona. After the Argentinean football legend. See, while I was still erm… in utero, everyone thought I was going to be a boy. And of all names in the world, my mom came up with Shawn (Sean?) Maradona. Well, if it makes things any clearer, yes, I was born in June 1986 and yes, my mother IS a Malayali Christian.

I believe that Sheryll Marion is definitely a marked improvement over Shawn Maradona. I like my name. I think it’s purty. However, I do know several people who would disagree. I also know several people who cannot pronounce or spell my name correctly. I’ve been called everything from Shreyal to Sherly to Simpson (it’s Sampson) to ... wait for it… 'Poison'. That last one was what my Electronics Circuits Professor used to call me in college. Well… at least I think it was poison. It kinda also sounded like moison. Apparently getting your PHD means that while you do learn a lot of things, you also forget how to read.

So it’s been a month since they changed my name on the office nameplate to a Poornima Goswami. At first I totally freaked. I mean what if this is the company’s passive aggressive way of saying 'Ciao'? Who's going to support my snacking addiction now?? Anyways, after ten very hyper-dramatic minutes, I found out that I wasn’t going anywhere. Phew! (Cue Sally Field’s ‘You like me! You really like me!’ speech.) Either way, it’s been a month and my name (according to my cabin door, at least) is still Poornima. On the plus side, I am growing accustomed to this particular name. Mainly because all the Poornimas I know are confident, smart, and tall, which aren’t lousy qualities to have. And the Goswami bit does make me feel just a little closer to my own latent Bengali roots (my mom’s dad was a Mukherjee). It got me thinking. What if my name was Poornima Goswami? Would I be an entirely different person? What if my name was, I don’t know, Matilda? Would I still be lousy at sports and therefore super competitive at Charades? What IS in a name anyways? Sure, Shakespeare was all ‘a rose by another name would still smell as sweet’. But what if it were named ALottaStinkyPoo? Would it still be considered the flower of ‘romance’? After all, nothing kills romance like a lotta stinky poo.

I read somewhere that in some cultures, people wait three or four years before naming their child. Apparently since a name is the ultimate expression of self, it’s prudent to wait till your kid’s personality actually ‘surfaces’ before you ‘label’ it with a well, a name. I guess those folks are just really paranoid about mistaking their Zac Efrons for Elmer Fudds. We can’t have that now, can we? It makes sense to me though. Like most Indian kids born between 1970 to 1990, I have two names – my ‘real’ name and my pet name. When I was younger, I used to think that I really was two different people. Sheryll was the calm(-er), mature(-er), and more hardworking one, while Chinky (Chinka, Chinkla, and other derivatives) was the nutty, noisy brat. Of course once I grew up, I put away all childish things (such as schizophrenia), and so Sheryll and Chinky became one massive nutty, noisy, guffawing entity.

I’m still not entirely sure what my man Shakespeare meant about names, but either way, I’ll think twice before I order a bouquet of ALottaStinkyPoo and baby’s breath.

by Sheryll