That got your attention, right? That’s just one of the ways I’ve been called! My parents, from a modest middle class family did their due diligence and named me “Ashok”..An Indian name as common as say “John” or “Mohammad” or “Chang”! While they thought they had a special gifted child, I was one of 500 million, so as special as they get!
Things only get better from here..I show up at the engineering school and turns out we have an “Ashok” as the mess boy, an “Ashok” as the neighborhood cobbler and the janitor as “Ashok”. While I hold every trade in high esteem you’d have to in India in the late 70’s/mid 80’s in India to be able to appreciate what these mean. If you didn’t become an engineer or a Doctor, you were an abysmal failure, a loser who would struggle to meet ends meet (including aspiring gymnasts if you get my drift)
So here I am the “special” child getting out to making a career outside of India and then “Ashok” gets butchered, mutilated and any form of disembowelment possible. My parents in all their infinite wisdom thought “Ashok” was easily palatable but wait ! They named me during the times, when Russia used to be Soviet Union, we loved “Different Strokes”, Bjorn used to win Wimbledons and it was actually fashionable to be seen in Momma jeans! And then reality strikes- I get called in as many names possible!
“A-shock” like I am an after tremor, “A-shook” like I am the guy who shakes in the past with a double “O”, then perhaps the more innovative “A- shoock”. I mean I just cannot win! I have to borrow Mr McEnroe to say – “You cannot be serious”!!
After all of 20 years in America, I wonder, why I never considered something more pronounceable to the Western tongue- Ash, Ashk or may be a just a KO. Then I see my fellow “brownies” with names like Steve (short for Srinivasan), Chuck (short for Chakravarthy), Aaron, really? (short for Arun) , Vince (short for Vinod).. Now at almost 50, I start to contemplate why I didn’t change my name. It would have been brutal, it would been unfair and it would be downright stupid.
Hey if you cannot pronounce me correctly, do not feel offended if I refer to you as “Jos” (instead of Ho-say) or “Tat-Jana” (instead of Ta-Yaana) or refer to Grosvenor as “Grows-Wennor” or “Illionoi” as Illi-noise”. Fair trade right?
So when I hear the cliché “What’s in a name” I cannot agree more. My friends and colleagues know me as the brown knucklehead who never feels any compunctions or for that matter offense . The A-SHOCKS shall continue!
PS- Everytime I wrote “Ashok” spell check suggests something that will be deemed highly inappropriate for this site. I presume this site is rated “G”