Sunday, March 30, 2014

What's in a Name?

How important are our names to us? Many people think that our names decide our fate and have strong influence on our destiny. I don’t. Do I love my name? Not much. Would I be something different if I was not called Farida? No. I would still be the weird crazy person I am now, no matter what you called me. It is like what Gertrude Stein said, “"Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose."

When we were babies my sister and I got the traditional Muslim names Farida and Surayya. When my parents shifted to Whitefield, people (specially the Americans) used to mispronounce our names as Surila and Farila. Initially we used to correct the people and let them call our real names, but later we decided that this was sounding much better than the Farida and Surayya which did not have any rhyme and ring to it. Farila and Surila as sisters were coolest ones. Also we loved to be of mysterious religion when in a group. No one knew which religion we belonged to and we never told them. We spoke Nawaiti language which further confused people around us about our religion. When we asked our family to refer us by these names; they ignored us because they always called me Fari and my sister Baby.
In the school admission interview, when my sister was asked to tell her name, she introduced herself as Surila. When time came for my admission they misspelled it as Farila, reason unknown. Possibly they had heard my sister mention it that way or because it rhymed with Surila. My mom and aunt missed to see what had been written on the admission paper and in school I ended up with the name Farila. We both were happy with our names other than the times when some naughty boys called us "Surila, Farila.... a pair of Gorillas".  My Mom and Dad never bothered to change the names for us in our schools. They were not the type who gets worked up with simple things their children enjoy. They allowed us to enjoy our names.
My sister stood by Surila until her death … she never responded to the name Surayya. I on the other hand gave in when I was to be married and took up my original name because my husband and Mom requested me to have some meaningful name. I thought that being called Farida or Farila does not make much difference to me. So my name was corrected and I became Farida Rizwan after marriage. I regret that decision today. I feel it took away something that was unique to me. It is too much of a trouble to change the documents all over once again just for the sake of a name. So I let it be.

My childhood friends do not know me as Farida Rizwan. It is my post marriage acquaintances who call me by that name. Many times I have been asked the question from where did I get the name Farila. Many blogger friends ask me the question and I decided to answer them through this blog. Next time anyone wants to know I will just post link to this blog.


  1. The best part about Farila and Surila is the religion-neutrality.

    While you believed (rightly so, in my opinion) in "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose", there are many people who are extremely particular about the pronunciation and spelling of their names. Some even go to the extent of changing the spelling due to numerology.

  2. This is really nice topic, which is very use full for me.

  3. Ah! THAT accounts for the fact that your first comment on my blog came as Farila!

    Shakespeare had a better quote "What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet"

  4. Farila, thats a cool name. And i appreciate ur parents to let u sisters enjoy Farila Surila... Its rare in Muslim community.

  5. ``Farila`` is cool but ``Farida`` is beautiful!! Both are unique in their own way! Nice write up!


  6. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post, It is awesome.

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