Monday, November 15, 2010

As lonely, as weird, as extraordinary as my name

I was a lonely and a shy lad when young, certainly companionless and lacking self-esteem. I had no pair for my name, Riku. When I was first admitted in a primary school I found scores of Tsherings, Sonams, Kumars and Lal Bahadurs. Moreover, they were plenty back in my village and often heard in movies and radio. They are very common and admirable, though. But I have never heard and met a person of my name. This singleness of my name dislocated my stand and detached me from our society. 

Furthermore, my own name had isolated me from my family. My father and all my four big brothers are Bahadurs. I felt, at times, I was an alien or adopted.
In the schools I earned all sorts of humiliations and harassments due to my ludicrous name. My teachers and classmates pronounced my name differently from the way my parent say it. My teachers always pronounced it Rudu and they laughed. I was bitterly angry to hear my name being pronounced so mindlessly, incorrectly. Again my classmates jeered at me during the breaks, “Kuri Kuri!” which in Nepali is, “Shame on you! Shame on you!” Every break I was trying to avoid such nasty remarks and embarrassments.

I passed Class IV and was admitted to Class V. My new class teacher was a Dzongkha lopon, a strict disciplinarian. We again went through the same ritual of introducing ourselves. After the first row had finished, the second row started and ultimately it was my turn. I was nervous; my name is so weird and hard to understand.

Hesitantly, I introduced myself, “My name is Riku enla.” The lopon went mad instantly. He jumped at me like a ferocious tiger shouting, “You are kidding me? What’s your name lo? Tupu lo?” Oh God! He misheard my name. Tupu, he heard, meaning very dirty part of women’s body. As he ran towards me to bash, I dashed out of the classroom. Later my classmates explained him about my name. Tears springing to my eyes, I went to my parents that evening and asked why they gave me this wicked name. I told them that I hate this name and wanted a new name, a good one. But they told me that my name was given by my grandpa who died right after giving me the name and they can’t change it. But they consoled me saying that I am always Kaley (my pet name) for them.

Riku started sounding ridiculous to my ears. Like this name, like its oddness, I too felt very absurd and ostracized. I started hating writing my name at the bottom of my applications or essays or painting I made. I felt awkward to say “Hi, I am Riku”. I hate my name because it has nothing to do with who I am, that is neither Lhotsham nor Drukpa.

My name has been always a chronic pain for me. Every time I register my name while traveling or booking a lodge or visiting offices I undergo the same frustrating agitation. Whenever the officials behind the counter ask me for my name, experience had taught me to take out my CID card and show it to them right away. Because every time they ask my name, I always have to make them understand the name first, then to pronounce it correctly and spell it correctly. It requires quite energy to complete the task.

Attending job interview was also discomfiture for me. I was attending RCSC viva voce, several years back. There were four panel members led by a head. I prepared hard for the interview, was very confident. But as soon as I introduced myself to them I lost all my confidence. The panel head tried uttering my name, “Ri…tu”. He stressed on “tu”. Other panel members started giggling; however, the head of the panel suggested addressing me as Mr. Subba for the interview. Nervous, I forgot everything.

In another incident, I met a minister in Thimphu. He inquired my name. I replied him courteously, "Riku la." Angry, he responded, "I am not in a mood to joke. I didn't ask for your nickname." He gave me a sarcastic wink and left.

The bizarre of my name never stopped demeaning until 2008, the year of Coronation and Centenary celebration. I took part in Tarathon, a 30-day marathon race from Trashigang to Thimphu initiated by an English couple, lecturers at Sherubtse College, to mark the glorious celebration. At the end of the event, the Tarathoners were received by HRH Queen Mother Azhi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck at the Druk Hotel in Thimphu. After a banquet, the Queen Mother awarded the merit certificates to us. When my name was called, Queen Mother glanced at my certificate and said to me, “Your name is very extraordinary. I think you are as extraordinary as your name.”

These two majestic inspirational lines from the Queen Mother invoked by my name (which has been debasing me) brought immense gush of delight and revelry in me. For the first time in my life this infamous name made me so extraordinary and ecstatically proud.

That moment I looked up in the heaven and shouted at my grandpa, “Thank you, Grandpa!” and I exclaimed in excitement, “Is this what you mean from the extraordinary name you gave me in your deathbed?”

1 comment:

  1. wow - excellent. It sounds good to me too, I didn't think of anything of your name, which you have tried to point out here. Loved this piece. Anyways it is human tendency to hate anything to do with ourselves - I had the same problem.