Updated: Sep 27, 2021
Malayali christian naming system is the most unimaginative system to ever exist; even more boring than the Indian education system. If you are a girl child, you get a name from the Bible, your grandmother's name as your middle name, and then your dad's as the surname. If you're a boy child, you're one of Jesus's twelve disciples. My family is so big that we have all biblical characters covered a generation ago. Now we are simply on "repeat mode".
I'm named after my dad's sister-in-law, Elizabeth. It's a popular English name, with Hebrew origins that means "God an Oath". The only time I stood true to the meaning of my name were the times I had to pretend like a holy-church going girl. Well, it's true. Not the holy part; the part where I was dragged out of my bed to church every single Sunday early morning.
The name "Elizabeth" is quite common in Kerala. My school had at least one "Elizabeth" in every batch. It's so common that my high school boyfriend dated two of us just in our senior year.
But there is one thing different about being an "Elizabeth" in Kerala. You're Eli-SA-BATH. I would throw a fuss about this when I was living in Kerala. I thought things would be better off once I moved up the country. For people in the North, I wasn't "Elisabath". I was "Eli-JA-Beth". That's worse.
I realised you're never really an "Elizabeth" in this country.
I'm still surprised by how hard people find it to rightly pronounce my darn name. After all, I do share the name with one of the most famous person in the world today. Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch of the country that colonised India for 200 years.
Speaking of which, there has been a sudden interest in Indian history over the past couple years. According to many, India belongs to the people whose lineage existed before the Mughal invasion that happened 500+ years ago. This particularly excludes the muslims. The imagination runs wild as if there were absolutely no muslims in India prior to that epoch. I was first surprised to see many educated people buying into this bullsh*t. But this is what happens when Indian history textbooks write every single detail about the Mughals and not mention anything that happened in the South or the North-East. It's almost like the entire education committee ran out of time to research about anything apart from the North Indian history, before their deadline to print the books.
The funniest part is that these are propagated by politicians who probably haven't read these books. I don't know where they are getting their facts from, but this has raised "nationalistic" sentiments that has catalysed hate-crimes against minorities, especially the muslims.
In short, if you have an Islamic name, you're screwed.
Being a Christian in India means you're a minority too, like the muslims. But having a christian name is different. We have it a little better.
"Elizabeth" is evidently British. Much like my family, the British Royal Family too just reuses their names. There is not just one, but two Queens who are "Elizabeths". So this clearly establishes the stereotype of royalty that my name has. But I'm not complaining. Nothing has been more helpful in times of trouble for me, than these stereotypes.
There have been many incidents, but my favourite one is how I once was let go from a police station.
Fresh off fashion school four years ago, I was a graphic designer who had just moved to Mumbai all by myself. By the end of the first week of my job, I realised that adulthood and work life are pretty much fictionalised as "happening and a blast" in movies, and that maybe I should rely on something else for fun. I was a holy kid during my time at college. I drank no alcohol, smoked no cigarettes and did no drugs. (I still don't, to the 'apostles' in my extended family!) Turns out the ex-boyfriend who has a thing for 'Elizabeth's' was in town for a day. We met that night after five years, and I finally decided that I would no longer be an alcohol-virgin. We hit it off instantly- One shot, two shots, three and I was standing at the bustling South Mumbai pub like a fishing hook. We had our fourth shot of Kamikaze and we couldn't keep hands off the empty glass. But the bill was already off the roof. First jobs don't pay you well to afford more than four shots, so we decided to buy alcohol, a bottle of water and two plastic glasses off the street and head to the nearby beach to get more drunk. My mind kept fazing in and out by the time we stepped out of the pub that I don't remember where we got the bottle of whiskey at 3 in the morning. But now, with the things ready, we ran to the beach, like one of those young ex-romantic partners in the movies, hair flying, holding hands, eyes sparkling to reminisce our time together. Except I was walking disorientated like a zombie, and giggling like a gargoyle in the sand, barely making things in the dark.
But like I said, people hype things in the movies. Two mins into the shore, and we heard loud whistles! It wasn't the lifeguard, this is happening in India. It was the coastal Police. Our plot was cut short.
The salty winds and disappointment had somewhat helped me recover from the fazing drunk state by the time I was standing by the entrance of the station. I remember my ex standing right in the centre of about six officers sitting in a circle but not so much that I can't remember what exactly they were interrogating him about in Hindi. I just kept wondering if this was “Saturday Night Live” for them. He doesn't speak Hindi, so they called the next best person in, to ask what the f*ck we were doing by the sea at 3am. When I finally stepped into the station, one of the officers haughtily asked me for my name. I said "Elizabeth" and there was silence, and a shock on all of their faces.
Shit, did I accidentally drop a F-bomb instead of my name? The officers got up, stood straight as a pole, and said with the respect one should ever show someone who stood like a u-pin that "Elizabeth means like you're a madam to us, Ma'am." Now I was confused if I were the one who was really drunk.
We were out of the station within two mins. Again, I'm not complaining. I love how overly-classy my name makes me seem like, even though in reality I'm just a potty-mouthed girl who cannot afford alcohol at fancy pubs.
But thank god they didn't ask me for my full name.
Boy, they would they have had a hard time figuring out if "Sara" came from the Mughals or from the Bible.