Monthly Archives: April 2014

I have a name! And it’s a [girl’s] name too!

I have a long name; it’s long, and it’s Indian, and I live in America. Consequently, I have spent long years telling people my name, and seeing them squint as they try it out in their own heads.

Anagha Bharadwaj. Most people have so much trouble with my first name that they never bother moving to the last.

A-Na-Gha, I say slowly, phonetically. I promise, it’s not difficult – six letters, three syllables. If you’re really confused, make that ‘H’ silent, and it should all make sense.

“OH!” They exclaim, excited at having cracked this foreign code. “Like Hannukah, but not!”

I say no, not at really at all. And they squint, and they try it out, and sometimes it takes weeks for them to get it right – one of my professors took eight weeks – a full half of the semester – to pronounce my name properly.

But others don’t even try. They turn their heads sideways and ask, gingerly “Can I call you Ana?” And they look at me, slightly afraid that I’m going to fly into a rage, but mostly certain that they will get their wish, that I will say “yes, please, say whatever is comfortable for you.”

And I’m afraid I’m going to fly into a rage too. My face heats up, and alongside the humiliation of being put on the spot, of not having a name like Jen or Sarah or Emma, there is a white hot anger that my name is so unimportant that it can be changed. I feel myself start to say “yes,” start to be polite and accept their inability to say my name as inherent, and I pull the word back. I feel the words stop in my throat, held back, wanting to be set free. My gut churns as I consider having to answer to Ana – this name that is not mine that someone arbitrarily made mine because they couldn’t comprehend my real name.

Why should MY name be about YOUR comfort?

My name has a history behind it. It has a story, where they named me one thing, then another, and then my father put his foot down. I have the force of my father’s will in my name. My name has my mother’s struggle as she spent nine difficult months carrying me, only to be knocked out for the delivery due to pregnancy complications that demanded full anesthesia. The force of my mother’s love is in my name. My name is bolstered by generations of people with names like mine. My name is a wish from God. My name has meaning – ‘she who commits no sins’. My name is something I aspire to be, an intrinsic part of my identity. The force of God’s virtue and divinity is in my name.

My name is Indian, a country I was born in but never truly lived in. My name is a symbol of my heritage, history, culture, religious tradition, and family. My name is what links me to an understanding of peace and oppression, violence and freedom. My name is not arbitrary, and I will not give you the right to make it that.

I refuse to anglicize my name for your comfort. I refuse to whitewash my soul so that it might fit more easily with yours.

Why is it that you insist I use the proper words and spelling for everything else, Mrs. Sixth-Grade-English-Teacher, but you think it’s okay to alter my name without regard for meaning or identity? Do words mean so little to you?

Or is it just my identity that you’ve found to be negligible?


8 things I’ve learned (so far) while planning a Big Trip

I have been planning an extended international trip (I phrase it this way, because as of now, I STILL have no definite plans anywhere, although Australia, Europe, and Asia are all a possibility) for some time now, and I have learned some things. Some of these things are deeper than others. Some of these things probably seem like common sense. But all of them are things I’ve learned as a result of planning this trip, and every single one has brought me some level of strugs at some point or the other, so now I share them with you, hoping that they will decrease your strugs at least a little bit.

1.) Understand that your plans will never depend on just you. I mean, you can hope they will. But more than likely there are people in your life who express concern over your plans, and people at your destination to consider as well. You aren’t an island, and travel planning is a time when this becomes irritatingly clear.

2.) ┬áIf you’re going for an extended time period, plan to get rid of stuff before you go. Are you traveling for a long time? Do an overhaul of all your stuff. Figure out what you need and what you don’t need, and promptly dispose of the latter. I promise, you don’t want to come home to a place full of old decrepit crap.

3.) Be realistic. If you’ve got a budget, stick to it! If you need to save money for one adventure or the other, DO SO. Don’t half ass this. And be honest about your expectations for when you leave. If you’re trying to survive for x amount of time on y amount of money, just be real with yourself and put together a plan for how to do that.

4.) You’re still Jenny from the Block. You may be getting ready to see the world, but there’s probably still a few people at home you don’t want to forget. Get permanent addresses from people. If you know you want to keep in touch with some people, just shoot them a postcard every now and again; people love getting mail, and it’ll keep a link between you.

5.) Start making a packing list the minute you start planning. Obviously, by the time it’s actually time to pack you’ll have either a gigantic monster of a list, or, a la me, you will have about eight hundred small lists scattered about randomly. But the thing is, EVERYTHING will be on there. Put everything together, and pare it down until you have one normal sized list. With this method, you can be pretty well assured you haven’t forgotten much, and you’ll be consistently dreaming of your trip for months in advance, so hurray!

6.) Itineraries are a good idea. So are embassies. Wherever you are, register with your embassy (because once you become a foreign national, you suddenly become VERY important diplomatically speaking), and have a vague idea of where you’re going when. This will not only keep you from making unnecessary expenditures due to a ticket you didn’t realize you needed to buy, it will also be a tool to let people know where you are. Even if you ARE trying to lose the people around you, the fact is that if you’re FORREAL FORREAL LOST, you want them to be able to find you.

7.) Airline miles are important. Get a credit card that helps you generate more miles; you’ll get to see more places for very slightly less, and if you’re planning to travel quite a bit, it’s (probably) more than worth it! (Editor’s note: I haven’t done this yet. But the internet tells me to, and so I shall.)

8.) The bottom line is, there will always be someone to tell you that your destination isn’t safe. Primarily because there are very few places in the world that are a hundred percent safe, and very few of these places are worth seeing. There will always be people pooh-poohing your travel plans and pissing on your parade. Do it anyway; if this is what you want, find a way to make it happen. Find a way to be as safe as possible wherever you’re going, and give yourself permission to disappoint people every so often. Nothing is impossible. Are there places you want to see and things you want to do? Don’t let money, or life, or whatever, stop you. Just prioritize – if travel comes out on top of all else, make a commitment to that. Make it happen, and don’t let the haterz stop you from doin’ yo’ thang.

Happy Travels :)