by Aksha Mittapalli
This story was originally published on New York University’s Washington Square News.
It’s move-in day. You and your entire family, grandparents and all, spill into your smaller-than-expected dorm room. You’ll hang the clothes that you’ll probably never wear, loft your bed to an unreasonable height, and side-eye the better side of the room that your roommate got to before you. Then, before you know it, you’ll engage in the rite of passage shared with the other glassy-eyed first-years around you.
On your elevator ride up, you decide that this is the time and place to make friends. You look at the girl next to you and introduce yourself. She shakes your hand and says her name. You say it back to her, and when you notice her wince, you try again. You try five, six more times as she laughs awkwardly at each attempt, until the elevator stops at her floor and she gets off, saying she’ll see you around. You have already forgotten how to say it correctly.
Our names are the first identity assigned to us, and they usually stay with us for the rest of our lives. How can one feel welcome and respected if the people around them won’t even take the time to learn their names properly? That being said, however, there is a tension between the acknowledgment that our names represent who we are and where we come from and the awareness that some tongues are not used to the sounds of our languages.
I am here to tell you that as much as we acknowledge and appreciate your efforts to say our names correctly, after a point, it just becomes embarrassing for the both of us. It reminds us of how different we are, how much we took for granted back home, and how strange and foreign our identities are in this country.
Read the rest of the story at Washington Square News.