Monday, May 14, 2007

Breathe In Ur Name

I saw Namesake yesterday. I had been postponing it for long as I really did not think the book was anything great. You could factor in a bias there, as barring a few, I don’t enjoy Indian writers much. But, I loved the movie (Irrfan Khan being the main reason). But again, you guys know I don’t do reviews.

I just write about things the movies make me think about.In this case its my name....

This whole khichdi over a name may seem a bit preposterous to many but I identify with it so well.

My name is Svetleena and I have been called anything but, for the last 30 odd years of my life.

I respond to anything that remotely resembles my name. When I was in school I remember I read somewhere that every individual worth his salt should be possessive about his name and react strongly to being called by anything other than the correct pronunciation. I remember stressing over this for weeks because I didn’t want to see myself as a personality bereft of self respect and if I couldn’t stand up for my own name then self or no self, the respect was gone. So I went and asked my mom why I had been named so.
Apparently I was to be called Shweta and then mom’s friend had her baby before I bounced out and got my intended name. Oh dear god thank u, I definitely, most certainly do not feel like a Shweta. So when I came, my parents just added a “leena” and I became Shwetleena. Awwwwwfffful.

Then we went to England and I started school.
They couldn’t pronounce the “sh” of my name and, Svetleena was born.
I was called by my full name at school and an extremely short “anu” at home and with family. No problems there.
As the years went by I stopped thinking about my name as separate from myself and the only time it used to hurt was when I would have to repeat it thrice before an extremely entertained audience that comprised of my then crush, Lee. Of course, Lee was unaware of my feelings for him. Otherwise he wouldn’t roll on the floor every time I said my name….grrrrrr.

We came back to India and for the first time I was made aware that I had a Russian name. Holy hell, Russian? Finally there was a story full of intrigue and exotica…wow weren’t Russian babes supposed to be gorgeous….wow….wow. My mom laughed and told me it was my paternal grand dad’s doing. He was a communist you see….So???? Well they thought it would be extremely rotten of them to give my name a masculine tone by calling me Svetlana (stalin’s daughter) so they improvised a little and made it leena.
“But mom, what about ur friend and her daughter story?” I asked, completely askance at seeing my identity being thrown around so carelessly.
“Oh that was one of the reasons, that and this both…” was my very intelligent, trauma doctor mother’s response…..heavens!

As I got out of school and started taking interviews, I realized, I had a winner here. No interviewer worth his salt could say no to the most obvious question staring in our faces. What was the meaning of my name? So while my friends fretted over how to manufacture an opening for the interview, I just worried about which story to tell. So I reworked the stories, made them interesting and leading enough and improvised as the situation demanded. I even came up with a meaning – “Shwet” means white and “leena” means immersed in, so I became immersed in white and that, my friends, became purity….just the right touch of the demure…quite difficult to achieve if u’ve interacted with me…(did I tell you that I’m writing a script…in my mind as of now)

By the way, I was still Svetleena to my college mates and Anu to my family and boyfriend.

Then I got married.
The number of people calling me anu far out numbered those calling me by my russian name. I took a break from regular college for around three years and forgot that I even had a Russian name, one that I had fought hard to give Indian origin.

Anu, I became… was easy, uni directional and fun in the beginning.

I had so much fun learning how to cook the anu way. When I used to have a fight I would show my protest the anu way or not show it (that was the anu way). And, I was happy. Now when I look back, it was so much fun learning how to be anu. And then the weeks rolled into years and I grew tired of just being anu.

I fell back on my imaginary Russian roots and rebelled.
I still remember that day. I took an auto, went to the nearest parlour I could find and chopped my hair. And, then , I started rebuilding Svetleena from scratch. Juvenile some would say but there are times when one needs an external crutch to signal the coming of a new phase. After struggling for more than a year I finally went back to school to do my MBA.
Alone, resilient and under the guidance of an extremely supportive husband. (my mom never lets me forget the last one).

And, “Svetleena” gave birth to a new avatar “svety”… what you see and get is Svety.
At the core of me, anu resides like a beautiful memory and I value her.
My commitment to her stays but, that is where it ends.

I live like Svety. I think like Svety and I hope to bring up my son the Svety way.

As sure as I am of this right now, I also know that time will turn and possibly give my name a new meaning, a different identity….

As in the movie, I also shut my eyes and try to think of the time I was actually happy, not thrilled, just happy, and its Svety all the way……


Karandeep said...

almost died reading ya.....but it was really funny, but I must say that from day 1 i pronounced your name the way it was supposed to be. what say SVETleena ????

Smiling Dolphin said...

when we were first introduced in the summer of 2003, i thought you were called sweaty, and as i recall i did happen to make you sweat a lot those days (and nights!) working on the pitch. i like svety. name and person both. enjoy!

Abhigyan said...

Very well-written..Just shows I am not alone in choosing pseudonyms and bothering about branding..

I think you have an entire surname options to explore, Choudhary, Khurana, Kunwars, what not...Or u can further shorten Svety to Vet, to discuss the cousin of a lost career opportunity.

Sweaty does sound quite gross though, terrible branding.

svety said...

ya karan i'll give u that...u got it right the first time

thnks lynn...boy did u make us sweat...but the victory tasted so sweet only because u made it so...thnk u always

and abhi, svety is because u believed...

Mausumi said...

I have met Anu on occasions, interacted with Svetleena a little more often,at formal introductions mostly ...but it's been Svety largely...your piece is like Svety coming out of her skin, but not entirely's like multiple voices trying to attain a's not like any other writing on your blog...but then it's your NAME for God's sake !!

Ipshita Chowdhury said...

Hey..a very enjoyable read..could identify a lot with it...have many such anecdotes with my name myself! I almost lost my name for 2 years at MICA!

shaswati said...

Lovely piece and extremely spontaneous. Can empathise a lot as everybody struggles with my mouthful name as well... But, I have not really lived so many names and have always rebelled at the slightest distortion of my name! So much for "namesake"...

Smiling Dolphin said...

you left a really sweet comment on my blog, am not sure i deserve it, but thanks very much anyway.

Mahogany said...

I love the alternate stories behind Svetleena. But how on earth did you come to be called Anu?

Milan said...

ab pata chala ye naam ka chakkar...bhala ho producer-e-namesake ka who inspired you to write this great piece and satiate my long curiosity...btw, i have always called you svety...:)))

Aragorn said...

u have an amazing blog!