A whole lot actually. Today at one of my sons weekly baby gatherings a newbie fresh faced mom to a cute little baby boy walked in. He looked maybe about six months or so and she didn’t look one bit tired. “Ugh.” I thought to myself. “One of those.”
Anyway, when I asked her what her son’s name was (the usual mom small talk way to break the ice) she replied “Lucas.” I expected her to ask what my sons name was but instead she said “Mohammed, right?”
She must’ve heard me or one of the other moms calling him Mahaan. But in her memory bank of ethnic names only likened it to sounding like Mohammed. So that’s what she turned it into.
There’s nothing wrong with making a mistake. But there is something wrong with not bothering to correct oneself when I said “No, it’s Mahaan.”
Oh okay “Mohaam. Close enough.”
I decided at this point I could either tear into her lecturing her about diversity, the dangers of grouping all us “brown folk” together, and how it’s just plain rude to not bothering listening properly when someone is telling you you’re mispronouncing their child’s name. Or that I could just let it go and carry on singing about mary and her little lamb. I chose the latter.
I remember the three week long period in which Mahaan was nameless. I didn’t take the task of naming such a perfect little being lightly.
I wanted it to represent a strong, confident, and proud individual. I also knew I wanted his name to be representative of his roots. This was extremely important to me. I wasn’t going to be naming my Indo-Canadian child Xander or Michael.
So during this time of debate over his name (which got narrowed down by my in-laws to having to had begin with the letter M due to a temple proceeding which happened the day we brought him home from the hospital) a lot of people said but why do you want such a traditional name?
We live in Canada. He’s going to be raised with English as his first language. Plus, how the heck is anyone going to correctly pronounce the name Mahaan?
To that I responded well, although this is where he’s born and raised, what gives him the colour of his skin, hair, and eyelashes is the land from which we originate. It’s important for him to carry a piece of that. And I think it’s a character building trait to be able to clearly and confidently correct your name if someone doesn’t quite get it right.
When I was growing up during roll-call the teacher on call would almost ALWAYS without fail drop the last “a” on my name. They had heard of Amrit before, but not Amrita. So that “A” became invisible to them and there you have it I wasn’t Amrita anymore.
I wasn’t significant enough to have my name correctly pronounced.
I wasn’t as proud of my cultural background as I am now so instead of correcting them I internally chastised my parents for not making me a Amy or Amber.
I recall vowing to change my name to one of those two as soon as I was of legal age.
I’m glad I grew out of this scared conformative way of thinking.
No shade to those who do go with more western sounding names with their eastern children (I’ve met both a wee little Punjabi Xander and Michael in recent days). But this just wasn’t going to fly for me, and neither is anyone not bothering to say my son’s name in the proper manner.
So what are your thoughts? Am I too conservative with my views? Need I change with the times and have a easily pronounced name that blends in beautifully with all the other kids who will be able to say the name correct but surely pause for a moment as to why they don’t LOOK like they match their name.
Trust me, no matter how hard we try or how deep the desire to assimilate. There will always be a line in the sand. There will always be a majority and a minority. So why not just own the label and turn it into something to be proud of?