first personTalking about the place we got here from united us greater than speaking about our petsJanuary 9, 2023
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I’ve a kind of names that’s exhausting to pronounce. It’s uncommon even for the nation that my mother and father got here from. I used to hate it and considered legally switching my title to Sabrina once I turned an grownup.
I by no means preferred the primary day of faculty. When academics learn via the attendance, I all the time knew once they got here to my title: there can be hesitation, then a sluggish syllabic pronunciation of my title. Earlier than they might even end, I’d put up my hand and say, “That’s me. Simply name me Sanj.”
Sanj is brief for Sanjukta (pronounced Suhn-juuk-taa). It’s an Indian title derived from Sanskrit and it means “united.” When Indians decide names for his or her kids, the which means is essential. I’m stunned once I ask my associates what their names imply they usually do not know. Phrases are highly effective and so are names. I like that my title means united. Rising up it jogged my memory of the United Colors of Benetton and their advertisements with a rainbow of smiling individuals. Now, united means greater than variety, it means connection.
When strangers see my title, I can inform that they’re making an attempt to determine the place I’m from. Some ask me what sort of title it’s and I do know that what they actually need to ask is “The place are you from?” I can reply that: I used to be born in Toronto. However I do know they don’t seem to be asking me about what a part of the 6ix I’m from. Answering that I used to be born at North York Basic Hospital is a assured method to finish the dialog.
Rising up, I answered that I’m Canadian. I didn’t need to stand out because the Indian child. I by no means introduced Indian meals to highschool for lunch, fairly, I introduced what everybody else did within the Nineteen Seventies: bologna sandwiches, hotdogs in a thermos of boiled water, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I by no means wore vibrant Indian materials. As an alternative, I wore what the opposite children wore: jumpsuits, bell bottoms, turtle necks and something corduroy. I finished talking Odiya (a dialect of Hindi) with my mother and father and we turned an English-speaking family. I celebrated Canada Day and never Diwali. I watched Hollywood as an alternative of Bollywood. On multicultural day at college, I introduced maple leaf-shaped cookies as an alternative of samosas.
I perceive that some individuals assume it’s rude to ask somebody the place they’re from – it might make somebody really feel like an outsider. However I perceive most individuals are simply curious and need to make a connection. Now when somebody asks me the place I’m from, I additionally ask them the place they’re from. The dialog will get fascinating when this occurs.
I’m proud to be a Canadian. However I’m greater than that. I symbolize my mother and father and the generations earlier than them. I signify the journey that my mother and father took once they left their nation and their households to start out their very own household in a brand new nation. It’s essential to me that I additionally inform those who I’m Indian to be able to honour my household.
Within the Indian tradition, we simply don’t signify ourselves, we signify our households. As an Indian rising up in Canada, my mother took it one step additional and instructed me, “It’s essential to all the time be respectful since you don’t simply signify your self and your loved ones, you signify all Indians.”
I can name myself Canadian since I used to be born right here, however can I additionally name myself Indian? I wasn’t born in India and I don’t communicate an Indian language. I’m thought of a coconut – brown on the skin and white on the within. However I’m not white on the within, I’m Sanj.
I married a person whose mother and father are from England however he was born in Canada. Then we had kids and it was a mouthful for them to say that their mother and father had been born in Canada and their mother’s household is from India and their dad’s household is from England. So, they only say, they’re half Indian and half English. So, now I simply say, I’m Indian. I determine individuals know I’m Canadian since we’re having the dialog in Canada, proper? They usually know my lineage shouldn’t be Canadian due to my brown pores and skin and weird title. Isn’t it higher simply to present individuals the reply they’re actually on the lookout for?
Just lately, I used to be at a dinner the place many of the visitors had by no means met one another. At first, individuals requested about the place others labored and lived. Then individuals requested about children and canines. In fact, everybody began exhibiting footage of their canines, even their useless ones. Individuals began feeling much more snug with one another, so I requested everybody the place they’re from. That is when the dialog actually bought full of life. Individuals began guessing one another’s nationalities like the last word celebration recreation. We laughed when one girl mentioned she was half Vietnamese and half Chinese language however appeared Filipino. An Asian girl mentioned that when individuals ask her the place she’s from, she says Ajax. So unique! A girl from Jamaica instructed us she was going again for a marriage quickly and was having bother discovering a inexperienced gown. A few Indian ladies on the desk satisfied her to take a look at an Indian clothes retailer and confirmed her a standard Indian outfit that may look nice on her. Rapidly, all of the speak about the place we got here from united us – much more than speaking about our canines did.
United. That’s what my title means. After I introduce myself to individuals, I say, “My title is Sanj. It’s brief for Sanjukta.” Then I inform them that’s Indian and what it means. And similar to that, the which means of my Indian title makes two individuals united.
Sanjukta Mohanta lives in Mississauga, Ont.