ArchivesCulture and IdentityThe First Issue

More Than a Nickname

By November 3, 2018 December 18th, 2018 103 Comments

By: SaiGayathri Kurup

SaiGayathri Kurup. That was the name given to me by my family 28 days after I was born. The naming ceremony is an important ritual for us as a religious Hindu family. Although this name was given 28 days after I was born, my parents had decided upon it months before. They were dead set on naming me after a Hindu goddess, as well as incorporating the name of Sai Baba, an important spiritual figure my family were devotees of. They determined ‘SaiGayathri’ as the perfect name, incorporating both a goddess and Sai Baba. To add to the magic of the name, it was also the name of a major Hindu mantra, the Sai Gayathri mantra. I have always loved my name; Gayathri was another name for Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, wisdom, and music.

I pride myself on my academic career and passion for music, so my name was perfect for me. Or so I thought, until I moved to the USA when I was 7 years old. From the beginning, everyone had a difficult time pronouncing my foreign name in this strange, new land that I was supposed to call home. When I started going to school, none of the teachers or my peers could say it correctly. My younger self found this bizarre, since it flowed so easily from my own tongue. Why couldn’t these people say it? I hadn’t been in America for long when I decided to shorten my name to just ‘Sai.’ Whenever I met someone new, I would say that my name was Sai. Whenever I had a new or a substitute teacher, I would tell them to just call me Sai. It was better than completely butchering my name, right? It became an automatic response for me whenever I was asked for my name.

About a year ago, I was introduced to; the activist community on social media. That’s when I first realized that it wasn’t right for me to just abandon my name for the the convenience of others. My name is who I am, my identity. It represents who I am. Now that I am older, I know the consequences of the shortening of my name. At this point, it is extremely difficult for me to go back to my full name. Everyone calls me Sai, and it’s become quite integrated into my life. However, as a final attempt to salvage the meaning and significance of the name that I hold so dearly, I write my entire name out on all of my school assignments, unlike what I did in my younger years. Whenever I meet someone new, I always tell them my whole name and get them to attempt to pronounce it to their best ability. Only then do I say that I usually go by Sai. Even that action, I regret, for I am still sacrificing my given name to accommodate others. I can only hope that as I grow older and more wiser, I will do all that I can to save the meaning behind the name that truly represents me in the fullest.’


SaiGayathri, in her own words: I am thirteen years old and currently in 8th grade. In the future, I want to pursue a career in cardiac surgery and start an non-profit organization to give free healthcare to the poor and improve the infrastructure in India. In my spare time, I love to read about current affairs and politics and go hiking in the Appalachians with my family!


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