That’s Not My Name
By: Majureka R
BIO: Majureka R is a first generation Tamil Sri Lankan Canadian who has lived in Toronto her whole life. She is currently obtaining her Social Service Worker – Immigrant and Refugee diploma. She hopes to learn more about the Tamil Sri Lankan women diaspora within Canada. During her spare time, she enjoys reading, drawing, watching movies and sharing memes with her friends.
During my adolescent years I never realized the importance of a name. I just saw names as something that followed us around to distinguish ourselves from a crowd. Everytime I told a person my name, they always repeated themselves while struggling to grasp the certain syllables and articulate the letters. I instantly continue with a reply of “I know, it’s hard to say I’m sorry about that”. I was always seen apologizing for their mistakes, which is absurd. I didn’t notice that every time an interaction like this happened that I had a moment of my confidence being lowered. There were many times when I questioned why I was given this name. I would wonder why couldn’t I have been given a much simpler name, a name that rolls off the tongue.
There have been many horrible experiences of how my name is butchered of its cultural significance. But one instance that comes to mind was when I was starting university and I told myself that I was going introduce myself with the actual pronunciation rather than catering to everyone’s lack of effort. I was taking a politics course and my T.A (a white man mastering in Philosophy) was doing the attendance and reached my name and looked up to see only 3 brown students that were sitting in the classroom. I spoke up and told him how to say it. I thought that this guy may actually be able to say my name because of the many other philosopher names that are not Americanized in their pronunciation that he would have learned about like Rene Descartés, Epicurus or Friedrich Nietzsche. However, I was wrong, we went back and forth with me pronouncing and him trying to say it. Eventually he was slightly annoyed and let out a sigh and said, “isn’t there an easier way to say it? Like can I just shorten it to the first 3 letters?”. I was so taken back but looked directly at him and sternly told him “No, that’s not my name”. He awkwardly tried again and moved on to the next student.
I realized after this incident that this is basically how it plays out for many people. Men, women and children immigrating or fleeing their home countries to a western country and are forced to play in the hands of power by shortening or changing their true names to fit in to this new world. My parents left Illankai (Sri Lanka), a place where their family, culture, and ancestral surroundings exist to come to the Western world and start a new life with better opportunities. Thus I was born and they gave me a Tamil name that holds so much power, beauty and life that can’t be found in Canada, but here I was complaining how I wished to be named Allison. I realized how much of my identity truly lies within my name and I’ve accepted that and just learned the art of navigating my name through specific groups/individuals. My name is not something to be abbreviated as a little nickname like you’re calling for a pet. My name is a reflection of myself, my culture, my history, my ancestry and my overall well-being.