My birth name is legendary.
In terms of the spirit of the name, I think the Western world equivalent would be Guinevere. When you hear it, you never just hear the name. You hear the beloved story.
You might think of True Love, or Treasure, or Great Misfortune, or Mischief, or Lady Warrior Spirit, or maybe even Betrayal — but it all depends on how you heard the oft-tired tale and what you think of the players.
My name is Radhika.
I think it’s a very pretty name, but it can be a mouthful and it’s easily mispronounced, so I have really never gone by it.
The classically-shortened moniker is Radha or Radhe. I’ve been called both my whole life. The “dh” is a soft sound, and Radha is pronounced the way Americans think British people say the word “rather”. This is the name I used through school because it was the simplest, safest version.
Life happened then– furiously and fabulously. I started working and became known as RJ. My nephew was born and called me Rara. I married Dave and my last name changed socially — if not legally — and the J part of “RJ” ceased making sense. Then, he changed his name. My last names switched rapidly here, too– Jaini, Martinez, Queen. I started a blog, based off a nickname which was based off the nickname of a nickname. I went to prison and Rara was shortened to Ra by my favorite correctional officer. My husband liked it and absorbed it fully. It was the last word he said to me.
Each variation of my name is sprinkled with happy memories and painful memories and I use them at random, depending on whatever seems most efficient. I answer phones as R.J., and introduce myself to bankers and officers as Radhika. I call myself Ra, and tell others to call me Rara or Radha. I don’t actually use Rarasaur in real life at all, except in stories where I’m talking about the louder piece of my personality or my blog, but wouldn’t that be fun on a business card?
The truth is: I don’t care what you call me. I really don’t. You are you, and who I am to you is singular to our relationship.
There are feelings wrapped up in my names, of course. Big ones. Potent ones. But they flash and they fizzle, and I don’t feel them for more than a micro-fractured millisecond.
Radhika is a beautiful name, but it hasn’t been mine since I stopped wearing bows in my hair. No one knows how to pronounce it and it’s a little more everything than I am.
This is Radhika.
Radha doesn’t bug me one iota. It’s a compromise name. It was invented for the General You to be able to refer to the Obvious Me. It’s a safe name for those afraid of syllables or the less-than-obvious me. At some point in my life, it was very important to offer people that tether. It matters less now.
This is Radha.
R.J. is catchy, easy to spell, and basically meaningless. It often reminds me of the man who came up with it– the one who sent me to prison and hurt my heart, but mostly it reminds me of why I bear no ill-will towards him.
This is R.J.
No one likes saying Rara, it seems. It’s a little too childish, fanciful, and nonsensical. This is Rara.
And this is Ra.
People keep asking me to pick, and I keep explaining that I’m a little bit of all these names all the time. I feel like the fancy of Rara sharpened against the reality of RJ. I feel like the wild colors of those leftovers– muted by the comforting compromise of Radha and then darkened to the highest contrast by the extravagance of Radhika.
Right now, I feel like Ra.
It’s a little sad. A lot darker, more gritty. It’s smaller, sharper, and its permanence is radical and imprinted. It’s fragile in a way that suggests I’m barely holding onto my last syllable.
But to me, it’s a victory, because “barely” doesn’t count when it comes to living. We do or we don’t– and no matter how dark or flattened I’ve become– I am still holding on.
So if you can’t find the name that suits who I am to you– call me Ra.
I’ve earned it.
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If you could change my name to anything, what would you change it to? Do I call you the right name or would you prefer something different? Do you like balloons as much as I do? (Does anyone?)