Friday, March 4, 2011

What's in a name?

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose,/ By any other name would smell as sweet."

~ William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Who would dare to refute the Bard?! But I do wish to skirt around a little with some amusing stories woven from my rather unusual name. A few days back a friend, who happens to be a classmate in my Contemporary British Fiction course, asked what my real first name is. Bemused and cold-shouldering the old feeling of unease, I told her it is the one she already knows - Mickey. Now this is not the first time when someone has asked me this peculiar question. Ever since I have been put on the frills of society and have made friends and enemies on my own, my name has always been a part of many interesting discussions.

When I was a child, I would often be cross with my parents for bestowing me with such a strange name. Moreover everyone at school had it the traditional way - the perfectly poetic bhala naa (good name) and the affectionate daaka naa (nickname). My unconventional father, to avoid this whole fuss of two names decided on just one. So there I was, a girl with the name of Walt Disney's most famous poster boy. Errr... mouse?!
Then comes the second aspect of naming - the surname. I wasn't destined to have that either. Once again my parents decided to be a little creative and went ahead with - Mickey Suman - a flashy, unique name which when roughly translated means 'Mouse Flower'! In a class packed with kids with names that carried a whiff of chaste literature and Sanskrit, I would often feel like the other, the outsider.

As I outgrew my childhood and ploughed my way through the usual lawlessness of teenage, the name theory and my rebellion, both started growing in leaps and bounds. There even came a time when I was all set to go to the court and change my name. But sadly that never happened. My predicament of those days can be best exemplified by The Namesake, a mainstay of my shaky emotions. Like Gogol finds it embarrassing when the mental health of the Russian writer (his namesake) is discussed in his literature class, I too, wouldn't enjoy the Mickey Mouse presents that my birthdays brought along. His father, Ashoke, has a heartrending tale behind this name - Nikolai Gogol is his favourite author and if it wasn't for a page flickering from The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol, Ashoke would not have been spotted by the rescue team during a major train accident. Hence, the gratitude and dedication.

Another 'how I was named' incident dates back to my graduation days, when me and my best friend Asha had been theatre-hopping to catch the latest Bollywood blockbuster. All hunky-dory and free from the claustrophobia of boring lectures, it was when we chanced upon one of Asha's school seniors, a guy. While she was introducing me, he flinched and asked, "Mickey??!" Since it was almost my twentieth year on the earth of being used to this bewilderment, I just smirked. Immediately, in a desperate attempt to undo the flinch and display his humour vein he blurted, "But you don't look like Mickey! You should be Anarkali..." Just when my pride was about to take a thrilled flight, reality shook me hard - I was still Mickey Suman! May be the only common link between Anarkali (meaning pomegranate blossom in Urdu) and my name was the floral element. Taking Anarkali's legendary beauty and Madhubala's eternal charm (the epic Mughal-e-Azam just tags along) into consideration, it might just have been a bombastic compliment. I sincerely hope it was one.

Over the years I have had so many cackles over this obsessive-compulsive tirade against my name. Like everything betters with age, I too, have gradually understood and accepted, if not loved, my name, especially the singularity of it. Also, parents and Shakespeare are always right. Well, most of the times.


  1. Remember hostel bhaina calling you Mickey Suman Swain!!!!Se aau thare dakiba aagaru tu jet speed re jaiki grnd flr re :) :)

  2. haha...anarkali it is then from now on...

  3. @ Asha, oh god that torture!! And he would do that EVERY TIME! Grrrrr....

    @ Jija, et tu? ;)

  4. He he he ... as usual, a lovely post... To be frank, previously I used to think that your daak naa was Micky and bhala naa was Suman (please dont be offended :O) bcoz Rono and Sam always referred to you as Micky... I think just a couple months back Rono clarified that no, it is Micky Suman :)... I must admit though... I think your name is unconventional and really beautiful :)!But even Anarkali sounds cool ;)!

  5. @ Suchorita, thank god Rono knew!! And don't worry, you are not the only one... almost everyone at some point or the other has thought that's my daak naa. :)
    Thank you so much for your beautiful appreciation of my name and the post as well.

  6. The first time I cheated in class was to fill in my name in the exam sheet. :) ... was in ukg.


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