I think it’s safe to say that our names play a big part in how we define ourselves and how others perceive us. This seems true whether a) people get your name right every time, b) you conduct a lesson on pronunciation each time you meet someone new, c) you go by a nickname, e) you go by your Starbucks name, or e) [insert your story here]. In a rhythmic reflection on his name called Ache In My Name Vivek Shraya asks “Is a name how it’s pronounced or how I pronounce it?”

ACHE IN MY NAME (short film) from Vivek Shraya on Vimeo.

If Shraya’s name sounds familiar then maybe you’ve heard his music or read his short stories. His alterna-electropop musical history includes collaborations with members from the groups Tegan and Sara, and Marcy Playground. Shraya, who grew up in Edmonton, self-published his first book last year, God Loves Hair, an illustrated collection of short stories about a queer desi youth growing up “as he navigates complex realms of sexuality, gender, racial politics, religion, and belonging.” It’s on the American Library Association’s Rainbow List and was selected as a finalist for the 2011 Lambda Literary Awards. Given that his music includes a collection of devotional songs called Bhajans for Mom, which can be heard here or downloaded here, I was interested to read his comments–which are a small part of a longer interview–about his experience with male and female roles in South Asian culture:

What stands out to me about South Asian culture is the places where those lines blur. There was always room for me to do things that in a North American setting are generally feminized, like cook with my mom, or sing at the religious organization I belonged to. In that space, strength wasn’t about muscle but about how devoted you were.

Read an excerpt from God Loves Hair: Eyebrows

Listen to a reading:

Or watch the video teaser:

GOD LOVES HAIR (Teaser) from Vivek Shraya on Vimeo.

Previously on SM: What’s in a name?

11 thoughts on “Name-ache

  1. Is the “very well educated person” on this train desi?

    Yes, but she was just trying to defend herself against the implication that she was stupid/ignorant/thoughtless, the natural association that people think of when someone uses the f*** word. Poor gal. She can’t use her identity to defend herself – which she could have if she could have if she belonged to certain ethnic groups.

  2. Also, thanks, Pavani, for this post. You should post about the girl on the train too if you have the time. Shouldn’t somebody defend her? I think she conducted herself fine.

  3. Off-Topics link has been removed, but, are you referring to this video?

    Because if so, I don’t see how anyone can seriously claim she conducted herself well! It’s hard to tell what the specifics of the situation are, but it appears the conductor remained professional and was simply doing her job, whereas the passenger was loud, irate, and hysterical. Personally I take the train to and from work every day, and am tired of rude passengers screaming and acting disrespectful. I felt embarrassed watching this woman shriek about how “educated” she was; clearly all those years of schooling haven’t taught her common courtesy or how to remain dignified in public. I don’t see what race has to do with this either, unless you’re suggesting the conductor should let her act hysterical and profane on the train because they’re both minority women…?!

  4. The key to defending yourself in situations like this is to belong to an ethnic group that believes in some B.S. Say, you believe you shouldn’t eat bacon/pork/[[other thing]]. The standard reply to any such questions/situations is to say – “Gee, I was just trying to bring home the bacon.” Then you switch it to a discussion on the religious merits of eating bacon. Less thinking. More effective.

  5. Remember – the girl is on the train. The point is to win the argument on the spot. Nobody cares who is right.

    If anything, it is pretty obvious that the girl never intended to offend anyone. She never said anything bad about anyone on the train. She just said good things about herself. Now that is not bad per se. The point, however, is to win arguments. There are some books in psychology that can help with you that.

  6. I think another mutineer may be working on a post re: the train incident which some of you seem to be interested in. In any case, this thread is not the appropriate spot to contribute comments on that topic.