“The moment you become embarrassed of who you are, you lose yourself. I changed my house, the way I dressed, the way I ate – for what? For nothing.” – Reuben Tishkoff in the movie ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’, 2007 (played by Elliott Gould)
I was in 10th standard when I first noticed an error in the spelling of my name. All students were asked to check the spelling of their names and their father’s names before the data was submitted to the CBSE. I noticed that the spelling of my name was ‘Avdesh Kumar’ instead of ‘Avdhesh Kumar’ in the form (notice the missing ‘h’ after the ‘d’) I really didn’t think it was something to be worried about so I just ignored it.
It was when I received the mark sheet and the certificate that I realized my mistake. My school records were indicating an unintentional error in my TC (Transfer certificate) issued by my past school in Haridwar, Uttarakhand when I had passed 4th standard. (That’s a long story and I am really in no mood to bore you, so let’s put that aside)
I tried whatever I could to get the spelling corrected but all went in vain.
I was just 16 and had no clue as to how to get that done. I relied upon my grandfather for the task but he quit midways. Apparently, getting the spelling of my name changed was too much of a trouble.
What’s in a name?
I started hating my name because most people used to write my name as Avdesh and not what it actually was – Avdhesh.
Almost 7 years later, one interesting thing happened. I started leaning towards numerology. There was a book by a numerologist Cherio that hold my attention while I was browsing through a bookstall at ISBT (Maharana Pratap Inter State Bus Terminus, Kashmere Gate, Delhi). I purchased the book and started learning the principles of numerology.
According to my understanding, both the spelling Avdesh Kumar and Avdhesh Kumar had negative vibrations.
I changed the spelling of my name from ‘Avdhesh Kumar’ to ‘Avdhesh Arya.’ Then I gained some more insights and changed it to Avdhesh P. Arya, which eventually turned into Avdhessh Arya.
I was, in fact, running around in circles – jumping from one branch to another like a monkey. People used to make fun of my name since it had two “Asses” in it.
In 2011 I started a website named www.avdhessharya.com.
Later I realized that the extra ‘s’ in my name was drawing undesirable attention and at times ridicule as well. One of my voice over clients had commented when I had given her my visiting card, “Oh! Was there a time when you had to change the spelling of your name?” To be honest, she had a kind of sarcasm in her voice that made me uncomfortable.
I do no get bogged down by criticism or ridicule that easily but I was pissed by the fact that I needed to explain to almost everyone – from the courier guy to the Internet service provider to my clients, the reason behind the weird spelling of my name. It was becoming a pain in the neck.
So I decided to change it from ‘Avdhessh Arya’ back to ‘Avdhesh Arya.’
Then I purchased www.avdhesharya.com and moved my old website www.avdhessharya.com to that domain. In doing so I lost the link juice and all the social shares I had in my articles.
For example, I had 5000+ social shares for the article “Are You Afraid of Losing Someone You Love?”
But I knew I had to do it, despite all the risks.
So I did it.
Now the domain name was www.avdhesharya.com.
What’s in a name? He said – everything!
It was a busy day for me. I had quite some voice over recordings. While traveling from one studio to another I had jumped the red light in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi. The traffic police sergeant asked for my driver’s license. Upon seeing my name, he asked, “Mr. Arya, which caste does the surname “Arya” belong to?”
I replied, “Well, any Brahmin or Kshatriya can use the surname Arya.”
“So what are you?”
“I am a Kshatriya.”
“Is ‘Arya’ your gotra? “
“No. It is not my gotra.”
“Well, in its true sense, one should only use gotra as his surname. Nothing else can replace it.”
I don’t know why but his words made me uncomfortable. After some days, I started getting anxious about this whole name thing. I got restless on the night of 13th July 2015. I was tossing and turning in my bed. A gut feeling was pushing me to change my surname to my gotra. But that was an uphill task. Doing so would have meant getting the spelling changed in the bank accounts, pan card, Aadhar card, driver’s license and so on and so forth. I tried to suppress that feeling but it was too strong.
I gave up.
I got up, turned on my computer and decided to come back to who I really was. It was around 2 am. That was the night when I launched the domain www.avdheshtondak.com.
I am telling you this because there’s a lesson in my story.
I had changed the spelling of my name because apparently that was supposed to make me more successful in life. I was in denial mode. I wasn’t ready to acknowledge and accept myself the way I was born.
I tried different variations of my name and ultimately realized that I can only be at peace with myself if I come back to who I truly was. I feel that using my gotra, as my surname is more of acknowledging my ancestors and the identity I was born with.
Why don’t I use ‘Rajput’ as my surname?
I could’ve changed my name from Avdhesh Arya to Avdhesh Rajput instead of Avdhesh Tondak (It appears to be the latest trend among the Rajputs nowadays)
It’s true that I am born in a Rajput community but using ‘Rajput’ as my surname would have been as futile as using ‘Arya’, because ‘Rajput’ is not my gotra.
You see I am the first one to have started using my gotra as my surname. Even my great-grandfather and my grandfather did not use their gotra as their surnames. This act of mine signifies that I acknowledge my bloodline. It signifies that I accept who I am, no matter what people say or think about me.
I am actually respecting my ancestors and in turn respecting myself as an individual.
This whole name thing reminds me of the Bollywood movie ‘Upkar’ (1967). Puran (played by Prem Chopra) was ashamed of his name. People used to make him feel his name was dated, and so he had changed his name from ‘Puran’ to ‘Kumar.’ It was his idea to get socially acceptable and getting worthy of mingling with ‘high society’ people.
Is using your gotra, as your surname is the only thing you need to do to acknowledge and accept who you are?
But it sure is a step to move towards being comfortable in your skin. It’s a step to accept who you are instead of wasting your time being someone that you aren’t.
There’s nothing in a name, or maybe everything. It depends on how you see it.
25th June happens to be my birthday so I am posting this article today. I thought it would be more relevant to share with you the story of my name on the day I was born. Just a thought. 🙂