I’m terribly ashamed to admit that almost all of you saw through, with spectacular ease, my April Fool joke about discontinuing this column. Even those who ended up sending me mails with a plea to not give up writing, also seemed to be trying to humour me - letting out a stifled laugh while making a serious face, asking me not to leave. Koi izzat hi nahi hai meri dhamki ki, I tell you. Anyway, I’m here, a la Raj Kapoor’s Jeena yahan marna yahan style, and we are yet again trying to seek calmness in this world full of idiots like you and me.
Today’s topic is courtesy Shakti — who is an amazingly good humoured girl, for someone with a name that reminds most people of an on-screen rapist. Shakti wants me to write about people who are saddled with gender-bender i.e girls who have boy-names and guys who have typically girlie names. Around two years back in this column, I had briefly touched upon the stress of having an odd-sounding name. But it didn’t seem like something that could put people into a state of depression.
‘Oh yes, it can,’ says my colleague Chirag — a girl who says she’s spent her entire life living an ‘identity crisis’. ‘People call up and ask me to hand over the phone to Mr Chirag. When I say it’s my name, they sound surprised, mostly amused,’ she says, and casually shows me her desk, full of letters addressed to her name shown as the male gender. Now that I sit back and think about it, I’ve known so many such people in my life. I’m sure so did you. My geography teacher in school, a beautiful woman, was called Vinod. And an ex-colleague — a rather burly bearded guy — Madhu. In fact come to think of it, there was a phase during my work life that my colleagues in a certain project had these first names — Saroj, Kamla, Indu and Madhu. They were all guys. Oh yeah, there was one girl colleague — her name was Jasvinder. Quite a bit of our time used to go into explaining this odd nomenclature to people who would call up and insist that their perception of what the gender ought to be is stronger than reality. Reality is harsh for some people, my friends. In certain communities, like the Sikhs, girls and boys do get the same names. The differentiator earlier would be the middle name of ‘Singh’ or ‘Kaur’, but a lot of younger generation has dropped the middle name, happily adding to the gender confusion. I know of families where both husband and wife are called Ravinder. And if their determination is strong enough, that’s the name of the kid too. Anyway, if you or someone you know, suffers from the gender-bender stress, here’s food for thought…1 People will always assume. Let them: Some people get very angry if mistakenly addressed as the opposite gender. While it is indeed irritating to be having to explain all your life that your parents had a rather quirky sense of humour, it never helps to lose your cool. In fact, having the ability to laugh about it will endear you to most people and they’ll not mock you. A friend’s mom whose name is Prem, always used to introduce herself as ‘Prem, thankfully not Chopra’ and people would instantly warm up to her.
2 See the positives: Remember that an unusual name helps you stand
out in the sea of people with predictable names. Does any of you recall a time when every other boy was Rahul and every second girl, Pooja or Ritu. I never had less than three Poojas in my class, throughout my student life. And oh, the nicknames made situations hilarious, because they were the worst in gender bending. There was a point when all four of my close girl friends were called Sonu, at home. And then I got married to a guy, who, along with all his close guy friends, was also called Sonu. My marriage was perhaps the largest congregation of Sonus in the world. You just had to shout out the name, and half the guests would leave their plates and come rushing, in Saris and Suits alike. So if, my friend, you have an unusual name, it may not be a bad thing after all. People would remember you. Explaining the genesis of your name could be a good conversation starter for those who are otherwise short of things to talk about, at social gatherings. You may just begin to enjoy the attention.
3 Finally, if despite all the gyan I just tried to give you, you still can’t stand your name, go ahead and change it. Koi patthar pe lakeer hai? It’s easier than you think. Check out a newspaper and it’s full of those classified ads where people announce a change in name. If you’re leading your life in misery while hating your name, but don’t change it because your great-great grandfather’s last great wish was to name his grandchild Om Prakash even though it turned out to be a girl, I’m truly sorry for you. Dadaji toh already chale gaye, aur tum chale jaaoge, cribbing all your life. And even on your tombstone, somebody will write ‘Mr’, by mistake. Do one of these — either make peace with your name and begin to love it, or change it. There are anyway so many problems in life, it’s the worst to be fretting all the time about why the Citibank operator called you Ms Cheenu Gupta when you are Mr Cheenu Gupta. Why the hell are you Cheenu in the first place?
Well, whatever. Sonal Kalra is forever thankful to danseuse Sonal Mansingh for becoming famous so that people got to know that ‘Sonal’ is a female name. Otherwise she would have changed it to…hmm…Cheenu. Mail your thoughts to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/sonalkalra13. Follow her on Twitter @sonalkalra.