Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ushasi by any other name, is just as sweet?

31 years ago, my mother gave me a lovely name: Ushasi. I still think it’s lovely of course, but living with a name like this has its disadvantages. In Calcutta, amongst my own people, my name was wrestled with constantly. Apart for the usual “Urvashi” or “Ushashree” mistakes, my very first poem printed in the school magazine, to my extreme dismay, was attributed to (in beautiful curly-wurly letters ) one "Mahasi Sen".

University was smoother, except for one stupid know-all senior who lectured me about how there IS no such name, and that I should let my mother know. He even told a friend of mine that he wondered at parents who give their children nonsense names. Of course he didn’t know what he was talking about, which is the case with most pompous assholes who presume to lecture others about things that don't concern them.
My name has a meaning of course, it means “Dawn”. When people ask me what it means and I say “Dawn”; it’s met by gales of laughter because they think I said “Don.”

Really the world is FULL of idiots.

Then came my move to the South. My first stop was Hyderabad for a little under two years. People at my first job, a tiny ad agency, began to call me Usha. I was NOT cool with that, but they didn’t particularly care. I didn’t feel like an Usha at all. So I made sure the moment I switched jobs and made new friends that I would be called Shashi instead. This new organization, who's famous for (among other things) their concern for employee comfort, took to ‘Shashi’ with a vengeance; and I was quite happy with my new name.

That was of course, until I got married and moved to Bangalore. My first job HERE, was a nightmarish sweat shop of a publishing company. And not surprisingly, it was “Usha” again. In fact, some Bangali and Assamese colleagues of mine freely discussed private things around me in their mother tongues, because they thought I was “Usha Singh”. When the bells ringing (for start-of-work, lunch time, and end of work) got too much for me, I brought a rifle to work. (JUST kidding—I felt like it but never did it). Not surprisingly, when I quit that sorry place and moved on to a high-end merchandising website, which I have good memories of, I was “Shashi” again.

Now that I’m in an investment bank, people swing between “Shashi” and “Ushasi”; which I’m fine with. Of course they pronounce it all wrong (like they're sneezing); but still its much better than plain Usha.

However, the curse is not entirely gone; I have been called various things over the last 3 years:
1. "Ushani"
2. "Ushasai"
3. "Usha C. Basu"
4. "Basu"
5. "U-u-u-u", and various other variations like "you there" or "Jeet's wife"(Grrr.).
6. And the best one so far, at a nearby hospital --“Ushaji”.

If I ever have a daughter, I’m calling her Tina.