The recent mix up of Obama and Osama got me thinking about my frequent encounters with such errors with my own name, some which have been forgiving, most just plain annoying.
I got a couple of emails last week both reading: Hey Chandra! And fine, they might’ve been from acquaintances that were in too much of hurry to proof read before hitting send, but I digress.
I’ve struggled having a double name for as long as I can remember. I ordered flowers for my mother in law this past mother’s day and the florist inquired as to whether I was on their mailing list. I quickly replied no and she just as quickly opened up a new page just for me. “Last name”, she ordered. Here we go, I thought. C.H.A.N.D.A.L.A.L.A. “First name”, I laughed, because I knew what was coming. C.H.A.N.D.A. She did exactly as I suspected. She erased my last name and said, “I thought Chanda was your last name”. I sighed. Why would one repeat their last name when asked what their first name is? When I picked up the order, she’d put LALA as the last name. I couldn’t help but smile.
In primary school I was plagued with a tune that was my name, heckled at me constantly on the playground. I remember going to my mother and asking her if I could change it. She asked me why and I told her it was too common (my first name that is) and everyone made fun of me. She asked me what I wanted to change it to. I said Chishimba. She said no. Case closed.
Having such a unique last name meant that anyone else that happened to have it instantly thought they’d come into some type of inheritance and were dying to meet me. My first job was in a South African owned clothing store and one fateful day after my lunch break, one of my co-workers informed me that my relative was waiting for me. The tall, young looking man in a suit approached me and said, “I heard that you had my last name and I just had to come and meet you and ask if Jonathan Chandalala is your father”. It was too bizarre to rage over. I politely smiled and said no, and he left, a little disappointed but still on top of the world at our shared coincidence.
When I decided to pursue a post-graduate diploma last year, I made the mistake of including my English name (Theresa) and had to remind instructors constantly that I went by Chanda. When attendance was called out I cringed, for now they’d replaced Theresa with Chandra. Sigh.
Unlike Obama, my name is not mistaken for a ruthless terrorist but often has me internally screaming, THAT’S NOT MY NAME! at every error committed. I quelled my classmates into obedience by rhyming, introducing myself as Chanda, like Panda. That way, they’d definitely drop the ‘r’. It didn’t always work.
I’d told myself that when I got married I would change my name for sure but when I tied the knot, I just couldn’t part with it. I’ve had too long a history with it to give it the boot. And though I get questioned many times why I don’t have my husband’s name or why I don’t have it hyphenated I’m not moved.
I’ve tested the masses by adding and subtracting parts of my name hoping to land a coveted job, an article in a popular newspaper and basically just please everyone but me.
My last exam involved a group assignment, and when my classmate asked for the spelling of my name and realized I wasn’t pulling his leg, he raised his head and said, “that’s awesome”.