It’s 11pm on #blackouttuesday and I’ve been scrolling through a seemingly infinite number of black squares on all of my social media accounts. I’ve seen some incredibly beautiful tributes, calls to actions, and just plain support both from within and without the community. In light of current events, it warms even my hard little soul that there are so many people in my social spheres who are so willing to publicly support the less privileged.
However, I couldn’t bring myself to only post another black square in a sea of black squares. So I remained silent all day. Until I came across a friend’s post that stuck out:
So with that, here’s that info in (my edited) text form.
Alongside a blackout pic, I’d like to post action items. Please consider donating, sign petitions, and if able, make calls.
Hi! My name is Nancy. Er and Riddhi. Does it help to know that I respond to either?
I have an Indian name that my parents were told would be too hard for white people to say. So now I’m Riddhi in some places and Nancy others.
Normally, I will introduce myself as Nancy. It’s easy to say and simple to remember.
But lately I’ve been feeling like it’s not exactly representative of who I am. It’s not that I don’t like it. I do. But it’s confused people for ages and brought up conversations which bring up even more questions.
There have been countless conversations that go something like this:
I was just talking to my parents and they said “Riddhi, just do XYZ and I said-
“Wait, who’s Riddhi?
Oh, right. Sorry that’s me. It’s my Indian name.
Ohhhh! That makes so much sense. I was wondering about Nancy.
Yeah…my parents gave me that name to make things easier for non-Indian people to say. So Riddhi became Nancy.
Why not just give you an easier to say Indian name?
Because my mom loved Riddhi. And gosh darn it, it was going to stay. Even if it wasn’t official.
Alright, fair. But why Nancy then? Why not just something similar to Riddhi?
It was was a popular cartoon strip character, the wife of a US president, a renowned ice skater. Nancy had renown But it was also not terribly common. How many 20-something-year-old Nancy’s do you know?
If that doesn’t help clarify, I’ll include something along the lines of “It’s kinda like how other Asian folks have an ‘English’ name and a ‘Chinese/Korean/etc’ name.”
Sometimes it also turns into a tangential lesson on how to say Riddhi or Thanki. The pronunciation of my last name is another story for another time.
Or it becomes something like Hasan Minhaj’s experience with his name. I recommend watching the video for the full context.
So most of the world knows me as Nancy.
Except for family and some close friends who know me as Riddhi.
It’s usually only other Indians who feel comfortable enough with the pronounciation to call me Riddhi (though some non-Indians really like the feeling of the name).
Not every language consists of every sound a human is able to create. Gujurati has a “dth” sound not commonly found in other languages. So it may be hard to get your tongue to make it.
When I was in Copenhagen, no matter how much I tried, I could not master the 40+ vowel sounds in the Danish language. (For reference, English has 6.) I was lucky enough to have very gracious classmates and friends who were patient with my butchering of their mother tongue. They did tell me that it’s hard for anyone who is not a native Danish speaker to be able to hear the differences, let alone make the sounds. To be fair, I don’t know how much of it was just to soothe my ego.
I’m more than happy to help you learn how to say my name. Just ask my high school principal who spent a half-hour with me learning how to say my full name for graduation 😀
Just please don’t ask me for nicknames. And for the love of all things spicy, don’t call me “Nan”.
At the end of the day, I really do respond to both. But I always wonder what either means to the person I am speaking to and how different their understanding of me would be if I had used the other name.
It’s been a heck of a ride since. Southern California has definitely taken my heart in a way I couldn’t have imagined then. No, it’s not just the weather (but how could I not enjoy all of the sun?). Or even the scenery (reading on the beach after hiking a mountain trail on the same day!).
It’s the feeling of accomplishment, survival, growth. Albeit, some of it came after much kicking and screaming. I’ve never lived so far away for family or my inner circle — thank goodness for text messaging, phone calls, and facetime! I’ve made new friends and created more circles. I’m still working on having game nights and potlucks though (Sidenote: Anyone know how to get folks to cross the 405 on a regular or even irregular basis?)
It was such a milestone when I realized I could get around the city without Google Maps-ing my way everywhere. Even more so when I could find faster shortcuts!
All of this to say, the two years have flown by and dragged on. Another 730 days older (I see you wrinkles!), wiser (pfft…maybe), and weathered (wear that sunscreen folks!).
Besides, can it really be real if Facebook didn’t remind me or I don’t post online about it for the world to see?