‘What is your name?’ I tell him my name.
‘What? Aamaaraavui. Is that French?’
‘Actually it is Amaruvi, but should be pronounced as Aamaruvi. It is a Tamil name’
‘Is that your given name?’
‘What is given name? You mean the name given to me?’
‘No, err yes, sort of. How would you be called by somebody?’
‘Amaruvi. That is how I am being called.’
‘Any short form?’
‘Amaruvi is short enough, isn’t it?’
‘No, well, yes, you never know. Okey, what is your last name?’
‘Well, I have only one name. Never changed it. I have always been Amaruvi.’
‘No, not that. You should have a last name. You know, first name, last name that kind of thing like Bill Gates, George Washington. Get it?’
‘Oh yes, I do have. It is Devanathan. I am Amaruvi Devanathan.’
‘Well, Deva.. Dev.. what ever. What did you say first.. Amaaa..’
‘Yeah, this sounds better.’
‘Actually Devanathan is not my name. It is my father’s name.’
‘What? I had asked your name. What is your last name?’
‘Isn’t that your father’s name?’
‘Yes, it is. But, that is also my last name.’
‘I see. Normally Indians have surnames like Singh, Gupta, Sharma and the like. Yours sounds and looks different.’
‘Yes I am from South India.’
‘You mean you are not from India? Is that another country, like South Africa?’
‘Well, no really. I am from India and I belong to the southern part of the country.’
‘Oh ok. Got it. Sorry for the situation. Now, could you please tell me your name, once again?’
I gave up.
This happened in Denver Airport in the December of 2001 after the WTC attacks when I had visited the US for the first time.
Since then this name-deciphering became a routine, but strangely this doesn’t happen now-a-days.
Americans have learnt their lessons, for sure.