Think history doesn’t repeat itself? Think again.
The first thing the police officers told me was that I needed an alias in order to make possible certain practical things: secret houses had to be rented, and I needed a fake bank account and had to write checks. Besides, my bodyguards needed a code name to use when they talked about me. But just try coming up with one. I thought about it for days.
At first I wanted to use the name of a character I had developed for a new novel. The character was a little mentally confused, also a writer, and he was named Ajeeb Mamouli. It seemed fitting. Ajeeb means “strange,” while Mamouli means “normal.” So I was Mr. Strange Normal, a changing contradiction. That’s how I felt about myself.
Well, my security people didn’t like the name. Too hard to remember, too hard to pronounce, too Asian.
From then on I was Joe, for 10 years. Hey Joe. I hated it. When I was alone in the house with them, I would always say: Hey guys, why don’t you stop calling me Joe for a bit? No one’s here, and we all know who we are. It was pointless.
II. Now. Seventeen-year old Shubha Vedula, the first female South Asian American to make the top 40 on American Idol gets eliminated from the show. (Yes, that’s right. She’s only seventeen. One. Seven.) Fans and haters immediately take to the Twitters to express their views. Many of the reactions center around the young singer’s name. Below are a few found simply by searching “name” and “Shubha.”
III. Then. Vasugi Ganeshananthan, then an undergrad, authors a piece titled “It’s All in the Name” for the Harvard Crimson.
Ganeshananthan.Ganeshananthan-andonandonandonan donandon, as someone once said. But you know what? It’s my name and I like it. I even like that some people think it’s a pain and that I’m a pain for making them use it.