What’s in a name? – Neety Cheemanotyourwife1214
Allow me to properly introduce myself. I am a 37-year-old Optometrist. I have been married for 9 years to a wonderful and supportive husband. I have 3 amazing kids, two girls and one boy and they range in ages from 2 to 6. To say that I have my hands full would be an understatement. I am born and raised in Toronto, Canada, although I have spent a great deal of my adult life travelling. I also thoroughly and unapologetically love watching trashy reality TV (no judgements please), and really enjoy talking about getting myself into shape, ordering an abundance of fast food, then congratulating myself on only using 2 dips for my fries, as opposed to 4…. Yes, I know what you are thinking, I should totally start a weight loss and fitness blog, right?
Umm…so I guess that just about sums me up. Wait, what is my name, you ask? Well, that my friends, is where things get a little complicated…
My name is Avneet. Avneet is only my legal name. To be honest, I think the only people who call me Avneet are my doctor, or Government officials, like when applying for a passport or something. My family calls me Neety (pronounced knee-thee, with a heavy accent on the “thee”). While growing up, all of my school friends and teachers called me Needy. At the time, I sort of accepted this, I mean I wasn’t really going to correct people as a kindergartener. And eventually, it became “me”. I was “Needy”. Nevertheless, I still had trouble repeating my name out loud. Whenever asked my name by a new teacher, or supply staff, I would often stutter. I think I would eventually mutter out something like Knee-tea. But that would undoubtedly illicit a response of “Huh? Can you say that again?” And that’s when I would just concede and say Needy. My name was Needy!
As I got older, Needy just started rolling off my tongue. I still cringed a little every time I had to say it, but I accepted it and didn’t fight it any longer. Non-Indian people would still look at me a little funny when I’d say it. I would usually have to follow my name with a short explanation: Its actually Knee-Tea, but most people say Needy. And that would be that…we would never speak of my name again.
Then one day, I met my husband. We were at a wedding reception (super cliché, I know). When he approached me, and asked me my name, I boldly and unequivocally replied Knee-Thee, pronounced with the heavy accent and all. Maybe it was all the time I had spent at the bar, maybe I wanted to reinvent myself, or maybe I felt something real and didn’t want to start things awkwardly, so I said my name. My actual name, the way it was meant to be pronounced. As our relationship progressed, and he proceeded to bring me around his friends, he would introduce me with the proper accent. This wasn’t too unorthodox considering most of his friends were Indian, so they understood the accent. But when it came to non-Indian people, he would also introduce me in the same manner. Now here is the kicker: the non-Indian people did not flinch at my name. They may have asked for him to repeat it, or practiced it a couple of times out loud, but ultimately, THEY WERE ABLE TO SAY KNEE-THEE! NEETY!
What did this all mean? Had I single handedly conjured up a personal name-identity crisis with absolutely no merit? Clearly, Neety, said how it’s meant to be said, was always attainable, I just needed to ask for it. I needed to want it. I needed to not shy away from it because it was different, instead I needed to embrace it. Neety is still very much a work in progress. I still have hiccups when introducing myself and find myself caught between my childhood-self who hated her name, and my adult self who finally realized that I should be addressed as me. This has also trickled down into how I named my children. I, alongside my husband, spent hours and hours searching for the absolute “perfect” names for them. I wanted their names to be ethnic with a tone of Indian flair, yet still be easy to pronounce without any over bearing accenting. I mean, ultimately, I feel like the names we chose for our children will not cause them any undue stress. And I am hoping they won’t come to me as adults and demand an explanation as to what I was thinking when I named them (as I did of my parents several years back).
So, with all that being said: What’s in a name? A lot. Identity, history, a connection to oneself and a connection to family. Having a personal complex with my name may have affected my life in more ways than I can realize. Who knows, maybe I would have been more forthcoming and forward in meeting new people, had I not felt a certain way on how my name might sound. Maybe I would have participated more in my University lectures, if I didn’t feel a certain way about introducing myself first. And maybe I would have been more confident in general, if I hadn’t had this constant, nagging insecurity. Am I suggesting that we all name our future children John or Jane to avoid these potential issues? Absolutely not. I am imploring all of us to embrace the beauty and uniqueness to our names and say them with pride and respect. And I wish us all to have enough courage to introduce ourselves, without watering down our pronunciations, and giving our peers, both Indian, and Non-Indian, the benefit of the doubt that they will be able to address us as our ancestors intended our names to be said.
By Neety Cheema