Recently, I moved to a different neighborhood in which there’s another girl who shares my name. It was weirdly interesting to me knowing someone with the same name as me, especially predominantly growing up in areas filled with fewer Indian people. It’s a bit ridiculous, but I was heavily used to an environment where when taking attendance everyone would pause and horridly mispronounce my name—I mean, one of my teachers flat out gave up pronouncing my name and just eerily smiles at me when she wants to call on me. The whole thing spurred into a late night thought: how much of an impact does our name even have on us?
My name means enchanting, lovely, and pure expression. It illustrates the dance performed by the Hindu Goddess Parvati that expresses happiness and is imbued with grace and abstract emotions. Even when some of my dance teachers have boldly remarked that I’m a ‘Lasya’ without any ‘Lasya’, and I laugh away my pain, I can’t imagine being named anything else. It’s an integral part of my life, whether it’s my mom yelling my name for me to come eat dinner, or me mentally scolding myself while I did something particularly idiotic.
Jarringly, the earliest memory I have of seeing my name or truly grasping that my name was indeed my name was on the first day of preschool. I was four years old and getting informed of classroom jobs like ‘door holder’ and ‘line leader. Staring wide-eyed, I wiggled my toes as my teacher called everyone’s name except mine. By then, I got so paranoid that my parents had blatantly abandoned me in the wrong place that I was very timidly tip-toeing towards my teacher and even more timidly telling her that my name was, in fact, not called. Her eyebrows creased in confusion, and she looked at the little can that had once held all the kids’ names, then back at me, and pulled out the one remaining popsicle stick that said ‘LASYA’.
I was a four-year-old who couldn’t recognize my name, but I was also a four-year-old desperate to escape an awkward situation. Therefore, as I frantically nodded in agreement and scurried away, I made a giant mental note of what the name looked like to ask my parents if I had just committed identity fraud. When my parents later reassured me that I was in the clear and hadn’t stolen someone’s identity, it occurred to me that they had said my name, but they had mispronounced it so severely that I couldn’t even tell it was me.
For a second, it made me nervous that my name, which held social and personal importance, was a name I couldn’t even recognize. And, that the so-called importance we place on it, is only as important as we choose to make it to others. For all I could think, you might move to Canada and change your name to something you made up.
Even so, I think I’ve always felt that we grow with our names, and that’s why it’s so important to us. The memories that we live with are almost directly associated with our names in a way, since it’s how we communicate with one another. To me, it becomes a partof my identity that holds twinges of memories from each little version of myself. It’s an intangible thing that can define us if we allow it to exist in the outside world, making us permanent in a unique way.
Some people might disassociate from their names and the burdens and experiences that come with them, but I think I do the exact opposite and pull it close around me and my identity. My name isn’t only who I am right now, but also who I was before, and who I hope to be moving on. It brings me comfort, because it’s a vital part of the foundation of my identity that will always remain constant and interchangeable no matter how changed the rest of me is.
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