The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Jun 21, 2007

Names and Things

Why do Indians in the West anglicise their names?

There may be two reasons. One, they don't like their names mauled and butchered by the ignoramuses among whom they live. I'm not sure I buy this argument completely. All the firangs I met asked me several times over to repeat my name, just so they could get the pronunciation right. Not that they managed to get the rolled 'l' in the last syllable just right - but they did try. Hard.

The second reason, and the one I am inclined to lean towards, is that they want to fit in, and are embarrassed by their polysyllabic names, surrounded as they are by Jims and Marks.

Consider my old buddy, Jayachandran Sethuraman. We used to call him Jayc back in IISc. Now that he is settled in Noo Yoak, he has become Jay. Likewise, Ayan Sengupta is now Neil (although he has the excuse that this was already his nickname growing up in New Delhi).

Other desis give their second-generation American (or British, or Canadian) kids names that make sense to both cultures. So you have your Vickys (for Vikram or for Victor?) and your Ash's (for Ashwin) and your Mayas.

Of course, many desis give their kids multibarrel names too. Check out Shivnarine Chanderpaul. He can't have had an easy childhood, eh? But that's not to say that these kids will go on to pronounce their names correctly as they grow up. I know a Rahul Patel who says RaHOOL, and looks askance at me when I call him RA-hool. There's a Satish Patel who says SAT-ish, instead of the proper Sut-EESH. Pillock.

I wonder if my little chap will end up mispronouncing his name. Very likely he will. The delicate mind reels.


Anonymous said...

Murali, my friend! You know what also really gets me? Patel pronounced by owners of that name with an ultra-short 'eh' sound. Though that may be our fault for spelling the 'ay' sound like we do! (Parel, Patel, Sneha, Neha,karela - you get my drift)

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