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Senior Column: What’s my name?

I have no idea how to pronounce my name. My mother says that I am “Ra-day”; my dad says that I am “Ra-they,” and this confuses me. But, there is a deeper significance to this mispronunciation.

I was named after a Hindu Goddess: Radha, also known as Radhe (however you pronounce it). My parents originated from different parts of India. My mum’s family is from Gujarat, and my dad’s family is from Sindh, which means their pronunciations of names and words differ. When they named me, they did not realize that they pronounced the Goddess’ name differently.

This was a problem when I was younger. I would correct my friends and teachers contradictory without realizing I was doing so. I didn’t even notice that I had two distinct pronunciations of my name until one of my friends tried correcting a teacher. When they both turned to me for an answer, I just stared blankly in reply.

It was at this moment I had a revelation, or an identity crisis, depending on how you see it. With my two different pronunciations came two different personalities. Both sides of my family, Gujarati and Sindhi, have different ideals. When embodying the Gujarati “Ra-day,” I fulfill the studious and high achieving stereotype. On the other hand, when I am the Sindhi “Ra-they,” I personify a sociable and ambitious character. To be clear, neither stereotype is more advantageous. I am still trying to find a balance between the two.

An example of the disparity exists in my conversations with my grandparents. My grandparents on my mother’s side will ask about my academics: what classes I am taking, how I have done on my exams, and whether I am staying focused on my grades. In contrast, my grandparents on my father’s side will ask about more social activities: how tennis is going, what tournaments or events I am participating in, what country club I am playing at.

I began to realize that I would tell the people around me different pronunciations, depending on how I wanted to be perceived in that moment.

When I confronted my parents about their pronunciation impasse, they reminded me that I am more than just a name. I identify myself by what I am passionate about, by my values and morals and even by my faults. Whether I am “Ra-they” or “Ra-day,” I still encompass these attributes. It is not that I do not care about what I am called, but that I know that people know me by far more than just a title. I have more than my name to define myself. I am named after a Goddess whose most well-known strength is her love. Similarly, I love each name and the traits that come with them.

Originally published the November 2017 print issue

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