Tag Archives: Names

Name Changer

First of all I apologize for how this post probably rambles on. I’ve wanted to write about my name for a while, and I’m probably trying to cram in too many thoughts at once, please bear with me. Also I don’t mean to offend anyone, or pass judgments on anyone’s particular choices. Everything in here is my own opinion and highlights choices made specifically for me and my situation. My intention is not to preach to anyone, just explain the thinking behind how I got to where I am with my own name.

Also, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but just to clarify: Both my first and last names start with C. P is in the same boat, with a first and last name that start with the same letter. So I started out at “C C” and now I am “C C-P,” and P is “P P.”

I recently received our first Christmas card of the season and the envelope was addressed to “C and P” without any last name. I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit. I’m sure we will get all sorts of name variations on our holiday mail this year, because when we got married I decided to hyphenate my last name. I believe I’m the first person in my family to have done this, so I can imagine that many will be confused at what the protocol is for addressing an envelope when the wife decides to buck the trend, even though I’ve been putting “C-P” as our return address for the past two years.

From a very young age I felt strongly about my last name. Perhaps it’s because my dad has three daughters and no sons who could traditionally “carry on the family name,” and I think he always imagined that his branch of the “C’s” would end with him. Or maybe I’ve always been stubborn with an acute sense of how I perceive my identity; but anyway, I never understood why a man intrinsically got to keep his name while a woman spent part of her life as one name and the rest as another. Something about it just irked me to the core.

However, ironically, I also admit that I was equally annoyed as a child when movie stars who I knew were married didn’t somehow share a semblance of a name to publicly show their familial tie. I always felt that without some sort of name connection the family lacked a sense of unity, or wasn’t as committed to each other.

I didn’t know how to rectify this in my mind. Growing up in a fairly conservative place, I didn’t really have classmates with different naming conventions. I didn’t know what options were available to me, or that options even existed! As I said before, my family always followed the pattern of a new wife taking her husband’s name upon marriage.

Then in high school my parents began their long messy divorce. I remember feeling strange for my mom… that she was now saddled with her married “C” last name which she elected to keep as a visible sign of her connection to her kids, even though she didn’t want to be connected to my dad anymore. I’m not sure if she ever thought about it, but I certainly did… that her last name could act as a constant reminder of the husband she no longer had. By no means am I saying that I’d want to keep my name in case I’m ever divorced (heaven forbid!) so that I can retain my maiden name without much difficulty, but it was something to think about when I was at a formative age.

It also struck me that I didn’t have the same relationship with my mother’s maiden name—“M”—that I had with my own last name. Of course I always thought of the M’s as my family too, but I was never an “M” in the same sense as I was a “C” (not meaning I was closer to one family or the other, it’s just I felt more like the name “C” represented me as an individual more than the name “M” did). It saddened me to think that if I had children and didn’t pass along my name in some form, then my potential future children might have that same noncommittal feeling about my name as I have about my mother’s.

Then one of my mother’s younger sisters got married when I was a freshman in high school. She was a corporate lawyer, a high powered go-getter, someone with a strong personality who married in her thirties so she had a long life as a “M” before marriage. I was totally shocked when she took her husband’s name without batting an eye. Of anyone in my family I thought for sure she would be different, times had changed. I was almost offended, why was this strong woman deciding to change how she is identified to the world simply because she married a man?

A few years later, I was sitting next to my aunt’s daughter, a blunt eight year old, who asked me what P’s last name was. “So you will be Mrs. P after you get married?” she asked me. “No.” I told her. I could see by the expression on her face that my answer completely caught her off guard. “Why not? What else could your name be?” she asked. “Ms. C-P” I explained. It seemed to be a completely new concept for her.

A Colombian student of mine put it nicely one day… most people from Spanish speaking cultures have two last names because one is from the mother and one from the father: so for example a person named Carlos Sanchez Rodriguez had a father whose last name was “Sanchez ______” and mother whose last name was “Rodriguez ______”.

Anyway, this student of mine didn’t really understand what “maiden name” meant on immigration forms so he would put “Rodriquez” as his maiden name and “Sanchez” as his last. I told him that people in the US would interpret this to mean that he was a) a woman and b) married if he filled out forms in that way. This launched us into a long discussion of last names in the US. Even though he had been living here for several years he hadn’t realized that most Americans only have one last name, from their father’s side, he just assumed they went by one of their two names for simplicity in a class room situation. At one point he declared “But, with only one name that’s like they are an orphan on their mother’s side!” I kind of liked that line of thinking.

As a college student I decided that if I were to marry someday I would want to hyphenate because it seemed to be the best of both worlds—my name and my husband’s name—my identity, and his, with family continuity on both sides. I remember having quite a few heated debates with people about my plan. People told me that hyphenated names were “pretentious,” or too long, or confusing. That a kid would never be able to spell such a name in kindergarten. I think it was the hyphen in particular that annoyed people, but I thought that without the hyphen it would be all too easy to drop the “C” or for people to assume that “C” was a middle name and not a last name, that it would be easier to mess things  up. I thought for alphabetizing purposes a hyphen made it easier because the names were connected, so something would have to be filed under the first “C.” It made more sense to me.

“But what about your kids?” someone asked once, “If you give them the same double/hyphen name as yours, what happens if your kid’s future spouse also wants to hyphenate? Will you have grandkids with four last names? How ridiculous is that? Where does the madness end?” To that I can only answer that I made the decision for myself, and any potential future kids can ultimately make their own decisions about their own naming conventions.

As it became more apparent that my marriage partner would eventually be P, I was adamant about my choice, and the fact that any potential kids will also have the C-P last name (or P-C, at one point I said if he decided to take my name he could decide on the order). P was always fine with me keeping my C, that was never an issue. However I pressed for P to take on the C-P last name as well so that the entire family would share the same name, a stronger, more visible identifier of a family unit. At first he seemed cool with the idea, but after starting his phd program and having some publications under “P P,” and as our actual marriage got closer, he wanted to stick with just “P” for his last name.

He worried that if he changed his name people back in Nepal might find it “weird,” or that it might mess up his immigration documents, or his Nepali citizenship papers. He didn’t know the legal hoops he would have to jump through. I still encouraged the name change, but eventually figured he wasn’t going to budge. I had to be fair, I wouldn’t have been happy if he had continually pressed me to drop my C (which he never did), so I couldn’t keep pressing him to do something he didn’t want to do. When we applied for our marriage license he lingered for a few moments over the “name after marriage” question and I held my breath to see if he would change his mind, but eventually he filled it in “P” and looked up at me apologetically. Ah well.

Right before we got married I had briefly struggled with the idea of just keeping “C” instead of adding “P.” Many of the female international people I knew had kept their maiden names after marriage. This was due, at least in part, to having married in the US and not wanting to deal with changing over all their immigration documents to a new name. Many of my international students at work had kept their maiden names for the same reason—and all the Chinese students kept their names, since it was not a Chinese custom for a married woman to change her name after marriage. I had an American friend in my book club who had kept her name, and when she had a baby the baby’s last name was a hyphenated version of her’s and her husband’s name. I almost felt that by hyphenating I didn’t feel “progressive enough,” but then I would think back to the Hollywood actors that annoyed me as a kid, and realized that it was important to me to have both the names.

In particular I thought it was important to have P’s name as well as mine to denote the influence of South Asian culture in my life. Not everyone will recognize P’s name as South Asian, but those who do have a little bit more knowledge about me when I introduce myself. It kind of “breaks the ice” so to speak or gives me some South Asian street cred.

For example, a professor came to my office recently. I had sold something over the university email listserv and he was coming to collect the item. He noticed during our back and forth emails that part of my last name is “P” and he recognized it as different than the Irish sounding parts of the rest of my name. He was curious because even though he is just as “white bread” as I am, his wife is Filipino and he had known some Filipinos who had similar last names. He wanted to see if I also had a Filipino connection, and started by asking, “I don’t mean to pry, but I was interested in your name, what is its background?” It started a pretty interesting conversation.

Anyway, I digress.

I think the post-wedding transition has felt smoother for me since the “C” is still in my name. On occasion I forget to add the “P” when introducing myself (I’m getting better at it), but it’s easier to say, “I’m C C…… -P” instead of the more awkward sounding, “I’m C C—er—nope, I mean C P.” Sometimes I hear myself saying, “I’m C C-P” and I think, “maybe it does sound long and pretentious?” but ultimately I think I would have deeply mourned the complete loss of the “C” had I decided to change my name. I’m really happy with my decision. Now I just need to gently coax people to use my name correctly.

For my birthday this past August my mother sent me a card that was addressed to “Mrs. P P.” I decided to nip that trend in the bud from the get go. Perhaps it makes me sound like a psychotic control freak, but I called her up and said, “Hey mom, thanks for the card, I just wanted to ask you to please send me mail under the name ‘C C-P.’ I’m not ‘Mrs.P,’ and certainly not ‘Mrs. P P,’ I have my own name.” She brushed it off by saying, “Well, I was in a rush and it was faster to write that.” But I pointed out that in eight years of dating P and many years of living together it was never faster to write his name on my card before. She probably doesn’t really see what the big deal is, but I’m hoping the next time she sends something she will hopefully remember our conversation.

An article in the Huffington Post summed up my feelings about it (although the married couple in the example decided to change their name to a new name combining the two original last names, her sentiment on receiving the card is what I thought echoed my own):

Emily Zeugner, 32, who works in media in New York, and her husband, Amos Kenigsberg, made a similar decision — they changed their last name to Zeeberg.

Ms. Zeeberg explained that changing her name would have sent a message she wasn’t comfortable with, one that that effectively said, “I’m shedding my identity, I’m joining your family.”

“As a feminist, it really bugged me,” she said. “I’m glad that we created our new identity.”

After the two married, they received a wedding invitation addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Amos Kenigsberg.

“I just saw the envelope, and I felt such annoyance, and on a small scale, kind of outraged,” she said. “He gets full billing and his full name, and the only thing I get is Mrs. It just really pissed me off.”

Similarly, friends of ours (the Bulgarian-American couple who got married a few weeks after us) in their newlywed excitement like to call up and say to me, “hey Mrs. P!” and I usually gently correct them, “it’s Ms C-P, how are you?”

Last night we received another Christmas card in the mail from an aunt in Pennsylvania. She made out the card to “C C-P and P P,” and I appreciated her efforts in keeping us all included. I guess the best short hand would be “C-P Family/Household” I guess we will see what people ultimately do. As long as I’m not the dreaded “Mrs P P” on an envelope I’ll probably be happy.

So that’s the story of how I became C C-P. What about other married (or soon-to-be married) couples? Did you change your name or keep it, or part of it? Did you follow a tradition, or make up your own? Is there a story as to why you decided to do what you did?

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Carded with a South Asian Name

We dropped P’s parents off at the airport last night. It was kind of funny sending them off to the other side of the world saying, “See you next week!”

On the way home from the airport I said to P that a burrito and a cold beer would really hit the spot, a mini break from Nepali food and tea.

We picked up burritos on the drive back, and I dropped P off with the food before heading to a small liquor store nearby to find chilled local blueberry beer. The two men behind the counter looked South Asian, and one man had a red tikka on his forehead.

As I handed him my driver’s license I wondered if he would notice my new last name.

After marriage I hyphenated my last name. So now instead of “C C” I’m “C C-P”—where my original last name “C” is quite Irish sounding, and my new hyphen “P” isn’t overtly South Asian sounding to a non-South Asian, but very South Asian sounding to another South Asian, if that makes any sense.

So I handed over my ID to the man with the red tikka. His eyes grew wide and he said, “P? Your last name is P?”

ME: “Yes, my husband is Nepali.”

“Really? And you?”

ME: “I’m not Nepali, just my husband.”

The non-tikka-ed other behind-the-counter guy chimed in, “Have you been to Nepal?”

ME: “Yes, twice, and Friday I am going for a third time.”

The men looked at each other as if to say, “ohhhhhhh.”

The non-tikka-ed man said, “Have you been to India?”

ME: “Actually, yes…”

TIKKA MAN: “Where? Delhi? Agra?”

ME: “Rajasthan.”

NON-TIKKA MAN: “Did you go to Jaisalmer?”

ME: “Yep, on the train.”

TIKKA MAN: “And Ajmer?”

ME: “Yep, and Udaipur, and Jodhpur—the blue city, and Jaipur—the pink city.” This cracked them up—as if to say, “hey this girl’s for real!”

NON TIKKA MAN: “Have you been to Kerala?”

ME: “No, although I hear it’s beautiful.”

NON TIKKA MAN: “It is, you must go the next time you travel.”

The Tikka Man pointed to the small red and yellow beaded necklace nearly hidden under my sweater and asked, “Is that your mangal sutra?”

I pulled my necklace out to show it was just beads—missing the small gold pendent of a mangal sutra, “No, it’s a pote necklace. They have pote in place of mangal sutra in parts of Nepal.”

I paid for the beer, and they handed me back my license, the non-tikka-ed man wishing me, “a nice journey!” By this time several undergraduate looking customers had lined up behind me, probably wondering if (ironically) my chattiness was a tactic to distract the store employees from a fake ID. I departed the store, ready for my burrito.

The encounter made me feel like a member of the “secret South Asian club”.

I wonder what the immigration officer will say when he checks my passport and visa application next Sunday afternoon at Tribhuvan International Airport.

What’s in a Name?

About a year ago 4B introduced me to the British comedy serial “Goodness Gracious Me” and their sketches really are priceless. Many of their sketches explore the conflict and integration between traditional Indian culture and modern British life. And some, like the following, reverse the roles to view the British from an Indian perspective or poke fun at Indian stereotypes.

“Jonathan”

I saw this particular sketch back then, but recently an acquaintance reposted it on facebook and it reminded me of a post I wrote about a year and a half ago called “Pashwa’s Name.” The writing of the original post was inspired by the fact that many of my family members were finally writing P’s name correctly on Christmas cards after 6 years of crazy spellings like: “all sorts of variations, often with “Os” and “Zs” and “Ss” and “Hs” (letters that he doesn’t have in his name at all!) … My dad used to write his name as “Pazz” for several years, while [my Grandmother used the name] “Pashwa” which [she] still kinda calls him.”

The first time my mother met him they went through this exchange:

Mom: “Does your name translate into something in English?”

P: [honestly ponders this question for a few minutes…] “Well, I guess you could say light or maybe bright light.

Mom: [looks a bit puzzled, this was not how she expected him to answer the question. The look on her face was absolutely priceless. She was thinking something like “Patrice” is the French form of “Patrick,” and “P” is the Nepali version of “Peter”] “Huh? Light? I was thinking Peter or Paul or something like that. Don’t you have an English name?”

P: “No, I guess I’m just P_______ or you can call me P__ for short.”

The “Jonathan” sketch also reminds me of my new freshmen students during international orientation. At one point we had them stand up and introduce themselves, and there were quite a few students who introduced themselves by English names instead of their original more “ethnic” sounding names.

This happens a lot with Chinese students, who are often advised by educational consultants back home to pick an English name since many Chinese sounds are butchered by our American tongues. From experience I know that Burmese students tend to have particularly challenging names—not necessarily long names like Thai or Sri Lankan (I have ten Thai students this year and the average number of letters in their last names is 16!)—but Burmese names tend to have strings of letters you don’t expect to be next to each other—this year I have one student whose first name is Hnin Pwint. I tried several times to say it properly, and the poor girl kept correcting me, and finally she said she goes by the name “Snow.” (Also kind of interesting, since I don’t think it snows in Myanmar).

One of our new Nepali students also has a challenging name—Kshitij. I had to check with some friends before I met him to make sure I was saying it correctly—it is pronounced kind of like chee-teej, but when he stood up to introduce himself to the new students he proudly told the audience his name was…

“Ken.”

When I got home that night I told the P family that one of my Nepali students didn’t want to use his Nepali name, and decided to call himself by an American one.

“Why would you do that?” P asked, “Having an ethnic name is kind of cool. It’s different. It makes you stand out.”

I was a little surprised by P’s answer, since his name can and has been butchered as well, however I also agree. My name is “ethnic” in that it is mostly used by Irish-Americans (or perhaps other Irish-in-diaspora communities*), and although the combination of my first name and last name is quite common within these communities (if you google it, you will get pages of “CCs” that are not me, and as the original C____C____@gmail.com email account I get emails for the wrong “CCs” all the time!) it’s not that common of a name in general. Whereas I had a truckload of “Jennifers,” “Elizabeths,” “Marys,” and “Sara(h)s” as friends growing up, it wasn’t until high school that I met another “C” at an event I attended. During my school age years I don’t think I could have dealt with being in a room and someone calling out “C!” and more than one of us turning around to ask, “What?”

If/When P and I decide to have kids, I think we are probably in agreement that we would want to name them something  “different” but we will have to keep in mind that it should be pronounceable by both my family and his.

So I guess no “Jonathans” or “Kshtijs” for us.

* I wanted to quickly note that all my life I thought of my name as very “Irish” not “Irish American” until our (real) Irish friend RH told me that no one in Ireland is actually named “C.” It’s a noun in Ireland, and has been appropriated by Irish-in-diaspora descendants as an “Irish” name. It really rattled my world when I found out that my supposedly super-Irish-name was really inauthentic… although I guess not really, since I am not really “Irish” but “Irish American.” If it is an “Irish American” name, I guess it actually is authentic in my case.

Dai, Bhai and Babu

One thing in particular that I like about Nepali culture (although this phenomenon is more or less pan-South Asian) is the usage of “uncle,” “aunty,” “dai,” and “didi” (and I guess “bhai” and “bahini” although I don’t use these very often—and for little kids— “babu” and “nanu.”)

Why?

Because I can’t always remember the names of all the new people that I meet at a party and consolidating everyone into one of these categories makes life so much easier!

“Uncle” and “aunty” are easy and self explanatory. Nearly everyone who is just about old enough to be your parent (or older) can be put into this category. Using these words in this way does not denote kinship—most people who are related to you would have a different set of terms anyway— but it is a way to refer to elders with proper respect.

When I first met P’s dad I was at a loss as to what to call him. My Nepali friends insisted on “uncle” but calling my partner’s father “uncle” struck me as sounding a little odd. So I avoided using any formal title for a while and eventually blurted out what was most comfortable to me, “Mr. P” (P’s last name starts with P as well), which made my group of friends burst out in giggles because “It sounds too weird when you call him that!” since everyone else was calling him “uncle.”

However I must note, in case people out there are worried about what to call their significant other’s parents, I’ve known other Nepali couples who have referred to their future in-laws as “uncle” and “aunty” until marriage. Even if the terminology sounds weird to me, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t culturally acceptable!

Anyway, I digress. Beyond P’s parents, all the other older Nepali people I’ve met—parents of friends, friends of parents, etc–easily fall into “uncle” and “aunty” categories.

“Dai” (older brother) and “Didi” (older sister) are relatively easy too. Most of my friends size up people on their first meeting and decide whether to use this title or not. For example, some of our younger friends will call P P-dai even if he is just a few years older, and I call our older neighbors S-di (short for “didi”) and M-dai.

One has to be a little careful though, because if “dai” or “uncle” is used for someone who is not as old or young as you think it can be either a bit offensive, embarrassing or comedic. For instance S-di’s two daughters who are about high school age like to tease one of our friends by calling him “uncle” even though he is too young to be an uncle to them, thus making it a bit comedic and a little embarrassing. However if I meet a new person who is only about ten years older than me and misjudge their age and call them “aunty”—well, you can imagine that I’d probably embarrass or offend that person a bit.

“Dai” and “didi” can be just as versatile as “uncle” and “aunty.” I’ve heard P call taxi drivers and shop keepers in Nepal “dai” while negotiating with them, as well as family friends. “Dai” and “didi” can be used on their own or attached to a name like P-dai, S-di and likewise Frank Uncle.

“Bhai” (younger brother) and “bahini” (younger sister) can be used in the same way as “dai” and “didi.” Although I don’t hear these terms used with as much frequency as “dai” and “didi” probably in part to “dai” and “didi” being more respectful terms, and one should respect your elders more readily than perhaps your youngers.

“Babu” and “nanu” are great terms to know if there are little kids around. Little boys are “babus” and little girls are “nanus.” They are more like terms of endearment, like “little cutie” or something similar. There is one little “babu” that I am beginning to know relatively well, and I don’t have any idea what his real name is because every time I see him he is simply “Babu.”

So if you find yourself at a Nepali wedding, party, or other social event in a room full of people you don’t really know with various age groups, at least the people who aren’t your age could fall into one of these categories and you can focus on remembering the names of your contemporaries instead.

Quick Reference:

Uncle, Aunty—same as English
Dai– older brother
Didi or Di—older sister
Bhai—younger brother
Bahini—younger sister
Babu—little boy
Nanu—little girl

Me and Babu

“Pashwa’s” Name

A quick post for a Friday afternoon…

Names… as the Christmas cards are coming in this year, I realized that everyone in my family has finally starting to spell P’s name consistently correct after more than 6 years. He used to get all sorts of variations, often with “Os” and “Zs” and “Ss” and “Hs” included (letters that he doesn’t have in his name at all!) For example, my dad used to write his name as “Pazz” for several years, while one of my favorite variations is “Pashwa” which my Grandmother still kinda calls him, along with my little cousins who honestly think this is his name due to her mispronunciation. It’s kind of cute and endearing, even if it isn’t correct. I always get a smile when I hear my Grandmother ask, “How’s Pashwa doing?”

The uniqueness of P’s name (in my culture) has helped to keep him a memorable character in the minds of my little cousins. Several are still at an age where it is challenging for them to remember the names of people they don’t see everyday. At Thanksgiving I was christened “Aunt Eileen” (wha?) since the little guy couldn’t initially remember my real name, but “Pashwa” they remember right away. They all want to sit next to him, hold his hand, chat with him (he even had to escort one to the bathroom at a restaurant!) When he walks in a room you can hear little kids yell “Pashwa!” while they run over to greet him.

I mentioned before that it took me a while to remember P’s real name. The first week or two I knew him I thought his name was Parajuli (another friend’s last name that is similar sounding). This was just the first in a long line of my family members butchering his name. Luckily he has an easily pronounceable last name, or my family would have been doomed to mispronouncing it forever.

But one of the funniest stories about his name comes from one of his initial conversations with my mother. It was around the same time he had the Christmas in Nepal conversation with her. We shared a ride home from school and he planned to stay a night with my family and meet them before we dropped him at the local airport for traveling home to Nepal. I had talked to my mother about him before, and she had seen his name written out but it didn’t register with her. It went something like this:

Mom: “Does your name translate into something in English?”

P: [honestly ponders this question for a few minutes…] “Well, I guess you could say light or maybe bright light.

Mom: [looks a bit puzzled, this was not the way she expected him to answer the question. The look on her face was absolutely priceless. She was thinking something like Pierre is the French form of Patrick, and P is the Nepali version of Peter] “Huh? Light? I was thinking Peter or Paul or something like that. Don’t you have an English name?”

P: “No, I guess I’m just P_______ or you can call me P__ for short.”

Poor guy.

I have one of those names as well, which is easily mispronounced by people unfamiliar with it. The mispronunciation isn’t as drastic as P’s but it still happens. I guess it runs in the family now. Just wait until we have hypothetical kids.

“Identity” by Bhuwan Dhungana

I was reading some short Nepali stories this evening and came across one that related to one of my earlier postings (Can You See Everest From Your House?) so I thought I might re-tell the story here. The story was actually written by the mother of one of my friends, so it made me even more interested to share with you. The story is called “Identity” by Bhuwan Dhungana.

_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_

Bhuwan Dhungana

Bhuwan Dhungana

He had tried to introduce himself many times. His name was difficult even to pronounce. It was not possible at the time to find another name easier to pronounce because his identity card bore the name which he had brought with him from his country. To be sure, he looked younger on the photograph attached to it. Whoever looked at him and the photograph simultaneously would ask, glancing at him, “Are you the same person?” He would shrink back, tug at his wrinkled cheeks and reply with a smile, “Yes, of course.”

This had repeated itself many times. He had to forget everything he was supposed to say when it came time to pronounce his name. Often he felt as if his name had no existence at all. He wanted to replace the name with an easier one. But he was compelled to write the same name he had borne since birth, brought all the way from his own to this unfamiliar city. How precious that name was for him! His own name! How easily he could pronounce his precious name as many times as required! His whole family would be linked to his name, his city and his country. He never liked to conceal his name in his city. It was not his country but his name that came first.

But in this city… He had to make his country stand out tall against his name. And in that country he had to search out the snowy peaks, find their height, and move his head back and forth in lively descriptions of their natural beauty, although he himself had not climbed them. In fact he was compelled in this unfamiliar city to be Tenzing* to every stranger he met, to be the Himalayas for them. At such times his name ceased to exist.

Just now something similar had occurred. After he had introduced himself, the stranger shook his hand and said with a smile, “I know Mount Everest; you belong to it.” He suddenly became listless. How meaningless was his name! He thought of stealing the name of an unfamiliar city; he wanted to change his name. But this was both impossible and impracticable. In this large city he possessed nothing apart from his identity card to protect his existence. He was absolutely alone and helpless.

He could name each and every part of the capital of his country. He could get many things done by using his name in his city. But in this unfamiliar city he could not find anyone who could even pronounce his name correctly.

Mt. Everest

Mt. Everest

Something similar had occurred the day before too. As soon as he entered the office, he offered his hand to a man seated on a chair and told him his name. But the man kept on gazing at him with wonder. He pronounced his name more clearly. The stranger laid out a map of the world in front of him. He looked for the outline of his country on it. He felt a thrill upon reading the name Himalaya. He felt excited. Shaking hands with him, the stranger said, “You belong to Mount Everest.” This time again his name did not surface. He was introduced by way of Mount Everest. This kept occurring to him the whole day. He kept shivering from the icy cold of Mount Everest. At dinner that evening he could not feel proud of his name; he could not roar with laughter at the party. He lay sleepless for a long time that night. he kept thinking: What should a country be like if its name is to evoke instant recognition? What kind of name should a person have? He could not find an easy means by which he could introduce himself. The sentence “You belong to Mount Everest” kept reverberating in his ears. He felt himself to be a mound of snow. The whole night he felt cold. He clung to the snowy peaks in search of the existence of his name.

He was sitting eating in a restaurant. A boy eating by his side showed a map to him. It was a map of Machhapuchhre. It was very beautiful. “Have you been to this place?”

Machhapuchhre

Machhapuchhre

He vacillated for some time. He was forced to publicly proclaim the fact that he had neither seen the mountain directly nor climbed it up. He felt as if he were an announcer announcing Machhapuchhre standing beneath the Himalaya and reducing the whole country into an enclosed area.

The big city was larger than his country. There were people from different countries. He was invited to a feast. He had his identity card in his pocket.

He too looked busy among the crowd of people. He was lost in a new civilization of a new country. He wished to present his identity distinctly; he wanted to introduce himself by his name but failed to do so again and again. He shrank back during introductions. Before him were tall people. He was forced to stand next to them and to shoulder the existence of the high Himalayas. They were like flames of fire; he, like a melting peak, was turning colder. Every time he became a mountain he turned colder.

Every time he was invited to such get-togethers or parties, he found his identity card to be meaningless. He wished to display a large photo of the mountain on his chest before leaving his room- a nice photo, an attractive photo. In a foreign land, he had no better way than this to introduce himself.

Taken from Selected Stories from Nepal edited by Sajha Prakashan.

*Tenzing Norgay, along with Edmund Hillary, were the first people to sumit Everest. Due to this Tenzing is one of the most famous Nepalis for people from abroad (although sometimes he is considered Indian because he spent a considerable amount of time there).