While the world identifies with Gogol Ganguli as he searches for his identity and even promises a possible Oscar, let me tell you, no one was so benevolent with me!
Must say, I am fortunate that my grandmother overcame the overwhelming urge to give her brand new grand daughter a complex-intonated bengalee name that would have surely twisted my Grade I teacher. For that I am thankful. Therefore I was saved from the torture of having to spell out and pronounce my name repeatedly whenever I met someone new. Except when someone asked for the meaning where in I would invariably blush and say it means ‘darling’. ‘Oh, how nice!’ my father’s German friends would comment.
School was smooth sailing as far as the name goes and in college it always managed to garner some curiosity among the male crowd since there were atleast a dozen bollywood songs that they could tease me with. This unfortunate trait continues till date.
In Delhi, my cosmopolitan DSE classmates didn’t stumble over my name and most thought the combination of my first name and last name was ‘sexy’. Therefore, I hung in cloud nine when a visiting French prof. I had a crush on back then, rolled my name on his tongue, making it sound very endearing indeed. You got to give it to the French.
Next stop, Mumbai. No problem here either. Though many were surprised to meet a bengalee with a name that was not as elaborate as Sushmita, Anindita, Anusuya, Shashwati, Suchismita or exotic like Ujjaini. Well surprise surprise. Only a friend insisted on calling me Pee-ya and he alone choked at his own joke everytime.
Finally, I was hurtled to Bangalore. Here alone began the fun.
Circa 1996. I am in the queue for my driving license at the RTO office.
What name madam? (that's how we speak here!)
Prrrriya Daay? (Damn! They have to roll that bloody ‘r’!)
Its Piya…no ‘rrrrr’
Waaatttt? (yes, that's how we speak here!)
Ohhh! Peeyaa....daru peeya? The officer sniggers, immensely proud of his hindi.
(I am counting backwards from 10-9-8-)
I get my license eventually and for the first time felt foolish about a name that I was hitherto proud of.
As I continue living here, I have gradually stopped being obsessive about correcting one and sundry about the right pronunciation and spelling. In fact, I respond to Priya more readily than I do to the original.
Only regret, thanks to globalization, my collegue Subramaniam has become Sab, my friend Anindya had become Andy, I of course remain where I began. As my mentor says, Your's is already ‘globalized’.
My grandmother, the wise old lady that she was, must have seen this coming.