Scene 1(this happened when I was in my previous job).:
A: Wow, your name is totally different from other people’s name.
Me: I take it as a compliment. Thank you.
A:You’re welcome. But that’s not your name, right? Your real name?
Me: What do you mean, sir?
A: I mean your real, real-lest (that person did say that!) name. Your Malay name. Like Siti or Aminah…
Me: *chuckled* According to my IC, that is legitimately my name since I was born. I guess my dad was creative enough to put my name as such.
A: …*smiled and walked away*
Another customer read my name-tag in disbelief while I was working on the till (this also happened when I was in my previous job)…
B: Oh, my God! Your name!
Me: *a bit terrified* Yes, sir?
B: Your name is the same as our granddaughter with the exact spelling.
C : Yes, we gave her that name. That name is beautiful.
Me: *blushed* Thank you, sir, madam. I’m flattered by the compliment.
B: This is the first time we met someone else with that name & of all people; a young Malay girl! Sorry to embarrass you.
Me: *smiled* Thank you, sir, madam.
They ended up taking my picture and sending it to their daughter. I guess they took pride of the name. I just laughed all the way (in nervousness), while my supervisor just stared.
For almost 29 years… Okay, minus the first 7 years of obscurity; for 22 years I have carried my name. For the past 29 years, I have a ‘collection’ of (nick)names called by those close to me; few, added consonants in front of my nick name, few, spelt my name with only two or three letters, and a handful, totally changed it (my late grandfather called me ‘Dodek‘)! Alas, my real name is only consistently used in official setting. I dislike it when my name being wrongly spelt when ordering food & drinks . My solution was to use other names; Finn or Jake 🙂 (I’m a sucker for Adventure Time). When I was in uni, my course mates & I used our lecturers’ names instead. There were 5 of us, so the names were ‘lecturer’s-name-1/2/3/4/5’; just for the fun of it. Little that we knew that our lecturer was eating at the same place that day. So, our lecturer kept going to the counter multiple times, but of course his dearest students countered the situation ASAP by being in front of the stall waiting for the food. He smiled at us, knowing his students were being cheeky. Thank God, he was cool about it.
So back to my story. I am known by different nicknames by different groups; that proved that I have many in my ‘collection’ and all of them are unaware of the ‘collection’! When I was young, I was puzzled about my name & identity since my name is very different compared to my siblings (though each of our names has unique spelling). My first name doesn’t have any meaning, unlike my second name. I was skeptical about my name back then.
In primary school, I asked my parents why my name is different… others have Nur, Noor or Siti. It was ‘different’ for a Malay girl to have a ‘modern’ name in the early 90’s. Sometimes, I felt out of place especially when we had to queue according to the spelling of our name– alphabetically. I would be further away from my friends. (The only time I felt happy and lucky about my name in school was when we were being called up for dentist checks, immunisation jabs (every 3 years) and being called the to principal’s office due to academic challenges… hehehe…) Apart from those times, I pestered my parents multiple times to add ‘Nur‘ to my name. My late father was very patient and appeased me by saying my name is nice enough without any addition. I just kept quiet and resigned to my Reena-fate. I was unable to relate between my name and ‘myself’ plus, the meaning of my first name was too vague to the point that I was a bit annoyed whenever my two elder siblings kept giving me weird ideas to tease me and my name! What can I say, siblings’ job is to tease each other. =.=’
Then, came the phase I struggled with those calling my nickname publicly. I was known to be shy, so, when people called me loudly, I would duck my head and raised my hand. Once, my close friend shouted my nickname from across the hall when we were very young. I was embarrassed and told her to begin calling only my real name. Occasionally, some of my closest friends still call my nickname loudly in public especially at local food stalls… I just smile and wave awkwardly.
Even during my working days with ATS, my ex-boss who knew me since I was little, used to absentmindedly called me by my nickname during seminars. I refused to answer until she called me by my real name (Sorry, ex-boss! 🙂 ) However, when it comes to family members, I raised the white flag. Both my mother and my elder sister keep calling me ‘adik’ publicly until today– I give up feeling shy & just embrace it, after all I am the last in the family. No escaping there… Redha je lah!
Contrary to my experience, my late father had this habit of giving his friends nicknames (he was the jovial type, people just accepted what he called them & they stuck till today!). The nicknames still make me giggle whenever they surface in our family conversations. If I were to ask him back then, ‘Why the ‘name’?‘ I could imagine his reply, “Do you know how many Awang-s are there? To differentiate, I have to be creative, you know?” One of the Awang-s, was famous for serving local Pahang food (how I miss Laksa Pahang!). My father described him to be a huge man since Awang’s physique was… big. As big as…. But he was of course, not as big as such, though. They were close friends and almost every evening after school, I would be taken there, joining my father entertaining his friends at that Awang’s stall. Every Raya, it was his food on our table! It became a norm to only call his nickname and we didn’t know the name of the stall until recently– when the signboard was up! It hit us badly when KL-ites asked for the stall name but we could only furnished them with landmarks, instead. Quite an embarrassment, eh? Since then, we tried telling people the stall name, but to the locals, they would give a dazed & confused look until you give up and resort to the owner’s nickname. Faces would brighten up and ‘Ooh-s‘ & ‘Aah-s‘ could be heard. Lesson learnt; we get it– for Kuantan people, just stick with the nicknames!
From the experience, I learn more about names and to embrace them. Yes, my first name is not totally Malay, and it doesn’t have any meaning in the Quran. I have checked. Same goes with my most ‘popular’ nickname. However, this is the opportunity that I, myself have the chance to create… To create my own meaning to my name. Even though I am called by many names, it comes back to just one person, which is ME. After all, they are just names & I am that unique entity. I am responsible towards myself. We have a choice on how to present ourselves publicly but most importantly towards ourselves first personally, before anyone else (mind, body & soul in unison!). Once, we are comfortable to be in our self– physically and mentally; good things definitely happens according to our very own definition. We should just ignore what others think about us. Like what Khairany always say, ‘I don’t prefer conformity. I choose to celebrate individuality.’ because individuality makes you shine above the rest and that is special.
In my case, I want to be that independent person, to always be in Zen who radiates good & calming vibes. Thus I am still learning to open up my true feelings… My sister dares (present tense!) me to ask a person out & yours truly over here needs a chill pill about it =.=” . Halfway Zen, it is! (Unfortunate events should just be Ctrl+ Z)
P/S: My mother was in Kelantan once and prayed at a mosque which name is similar to my second name. She vowed, if she had a daughter, her name would take after the name of the mosque. I got to know about this only recently. Haha!