Most of us like our names and I certainly do. I am grateful that my parents called me creation (Rachna). Many Hindu names have lovely meaning till Indian parents of my generation got lured into naming their kids Ahana, Arahan and what not. But when it comes to my husband, his Punjabi father went the traditional way, in naming his son.

My husband, Gurdev’s name is as traditionally Punjabi as they come. Must be the nostalgia which my father-in-law felt, but he surely must have not envisaged all the sticky situations that would arise due to this, as his son spent his growing years in Hyderabad. Now, we Indians have a peculiar habit. We have an autocorrect in our heads. No Sir, you possibly can’t know how to pronounce or spell your name. So here, let me do it for you, you silly person! So 8 out of 10 times, his name becomes Gurudev (godman) for people. Maybe they see the shining halo on him of a godman!

Then there was this time he remembers when for a train journey to Chennai, his name was spelled as Gurupaad Swamy. Some railway clerk drawing up a list said, “Let this boy have a region-appropriate name. Who cares what his real name is!” His teachers in school were very amused by the Singh in his middle name. He was called Singhu nee burra Tingu and some such things.

The other day, he got a call from one of the bank representatives who asked for Gurwa Deva. I kid you not! Man, how the two of us laughed. I mean how completely creative.

A lot of his friends call him Guru which is quite fine and better than the other abominations.

This trait is such a nuisance that even in identity documents and papers, people just go ahead and modify his name’s spelling and of course, the pronunciation is always flawed by default. You know it also hurts because his email address is often spelt incorrectly because yes, the autocorrect is at work. So much so that now we spell out the email id and impress upon the people 2-3 times that the spelling is g u r d e v not g u r u d e v.

Surprisingly his foreign colleagues always speak and write his name correctly. It could be because all Hindu names are anyway Zulu to them, and their autocorrect has nothing fed in them. That reminds me how a few times I have received emails addressed to a certain rajma. I know I like rajma (kidney beans) too but am yet not ready to change my name to that. Yes, you got that right. Must be some autocorrect.

Living in the South with a very typical North Indian name can make for some really amusing memories that are guaranteed to give you the laughs when you remember them later.

Have you guys faced funny incidents when it comes to your name?

14 Thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. haha…well, they have changed my name to Nabanitha but that has been the extent of that. Though in Bengali, the pronounciation should be Nobonita but even I have grown up pronouncing it Nabanita having lived in Shillong, so I don’t mind. Ofcourse, there is a whole other story to my nickname which is Bubli. I will tell you the stories related to that when we meet 😀

  2. Ah, tell me about it!

    I’ve been called Ashmi, Rashmi, Aashna (I know, how come this?), (Aashma) & some Muslim friends in kindergarten even called me Asma because apparently they found my name hard to pronounce & then even justified that I didn’t ‘look’ like a ‘typical Hindu’. Honestly, nothing startled me more than this comment I heard about myself in childhood. A few South Indian teachers kept calling me Ashwin (that’s when all children would leer at my ‘boy cut’ hair!)

    Not very surprisingly, it’s the same with my daughter too where people assume that her name’s something else which has the first 2 letters same as the actual one. So they go on to curate any name which starts with ‘A’.

    Plus, I’ve always had a thing for names with nice & well-known meanings (& preferably not those of gods & goddesses) instead of cluelessly foraging into enormous lists on Google. Meh!

    Actually, my spelling has been an entire mess unknowingly created by my uncle (since my dad wasn’t in India when I was born) & he was the only person who seemed the next right person to register my birth. And for reasons unknown, he thought the ‘v’ was more appropriate instead of the ‘w’.

    Well, I had the chance to change my spelling before I submitted my marriage affidavit, but by then, I had made peace with this ‘rare’ spelling of the most ‘common’ name, thus deeming it my uniqueness too!

  3. I enjoyed the hilarious post on pronouncing the names.I felt North Indian names are simple to tell unlike the many long winding South Indian names..

  4. I totally get your predicament, Rachna. All my life I’ve had to remind people not just how to spell my name but also how to pronounce it the right way. Strangely, in England and Mauritius, nobody ever mispronounced or mispelt it ever. This is a predicament I regularly face here in India with my fellow Indians. Not just me but my husband and son also have to face it. Esha becomes Isha, Ayesha, Asha and Eshma…the list of permutations and combinations can be quite endless and rather amusing. So, is it with my son Arjyo who inevitably becomes Aryan or Arjan or even Arjun and my husband Jaydeep ….well, he is Jagadeep, Jagdeep, Jayadeepa, Jayadeva, and what not. Leaves us in splits always, as we muse on all the possible distortions our names suffer as a result! Kya karein…we accept it and move on!!! 😀

  5. These spelling changes get us in all kinds of trouble, specially when it comes to documents and certificates. Every region tries to spell it according to their own, not even caring to correct it. I actually find your husband’s name unique. Don’t know anyone by that name.
    I simply did away with traditional name for my baby. There was no point in keeping a thoughtful fancy name when it would never be pronounced or spelled correctly. My husband and I have gone through our share. ?

  6. Haha I so get you. And you are right, it’s usually the Indians who take liberties with auto-correcting names to make it appropriate for them (?!). The foreigners, who are possibly struggling with all names equally, stick to the actual name (there is the accent, but that cannot be helped).

    Though I have to say when the foreigners find a close approximation of the Indian name, they will ignore the Indian name and stick to their version. For instance, my son Dhruv is Drew to them, and Shantala is somehow Shauntel to them. They get my husband’s name right, but only because he goes by the shortened version – Puru.

    His full name is usually butchered by his Indian colleagues at work. Purushottam is turned into Purushottaman. I mean the name is already long, why make it longer?!

  7. I am not even going to get into the names that my actual name have been morphed into by people.

  8. Vishal Bheeroo on December 14, 2019 at 4:32 pm said:

    I get that totally Rachna and so many times people messed with my name for my Indian parents had a second name for my birth certificate. Not spelling it and hate that name that ends with Singh. The Singh is not the problem but rather the starting making me a Brahman. So, you get my pain. I enjoyed reading this post and how true about names.

  9. Rickie Khosla on December 15, 2019 at 10:15 am said:

    Frankly, Gurdev’s name will be prone to wrong spellings even in the North!

  10. Tell me about it. I do not use a surname and the people in Maharashtra and other northern states, just don’t get it. I have to tell the name, repeat it and look at what they are typing into their screens. Many times, my father-in-law’s name is added as surname to my name as my husband uses it as his last name. I am not even entering it as such in any forms or telling them about it. Yet, I am fed up.

  11. Uff that’s somewhat of a pet peeve. Even though my name is easy enough only because it isn’t too common, I get all kinds of versions. Oh and my sister’s is truly complicated. She’s so used to having it mispronounced that she doesn’t even bother to correct it.
    Gurdev is an unusual name. I’ve never heard it before. And I too firmly believe in having meaningful names.

Do not leave without commenting. I love a good conversation :).

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