Of Thorns

aesthetic

My name, given to me
as a shield of sorts
against stereotypes and prejudice,
sits strange on my tongue.
Foreign to me.

For it was meant to be a veil,
If not on purpose, then at least subconsciously.
(my father admitted to it once,
and at an age too young,
unaware of social cruelties and divides,
I brushed him off as paranoid)

I was told at age six
the meaning of my name:
to remember God’
And I was pleased,
(being as of yet a stranger to atheism)
For it was a nice thing to know
That when my name fell off a pair of lips
They would recall their Creator,
The one who tended to the skies
And the oceans
And the trees
And the moon
And the stars
And the galaxies
And the eyes
and ears
And nose
And hands with which they drank it in.

I’d tell them my name,
And they’d look at my dark skin
And my curly hair
And my small (and not yet crooked) nose
And say it was a pretty name.

At school I was made aware
of the different gods
and wondered who was remembered
when they heard my name.
I was slightly confused
When they would tilt their head
And tell me they never remembered mine.

And the people with whom
I shared my God
Would chuckle in surprise
For my name was foreign
In my own God’s land
and my appearance,
just as alien.

Someone else told me
my name meant ‘God’s gift’–
–but not my God,
never my God.
For my God meant destruction and hate
and bombings and despair.
–not to me,
never to me–
And the world was better off
not knowing he was mine.

What’s in a name,
(“A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet”)
said Shakespeare.
And I thought about standing up
and telling my class exactly that;
about what was in a name:
The fear of a man
who held his newborn child
and wanted for her
what was denied to him:
The chance to be seen as human
in a world set on viewing our entire kind
as ruthless killing machines
to be ostracized.

And it worked.
Unless I specifically mentioned
to which God I belonged,
no one was the wiser–
and everybody was kind.

At 12 am today,
Acutely aware of the news,
Of massacres and airstrikes
Of hate and blind fear Trumping acceptance,
Of women forced to undress on a sandy beach,
Of ignorant acts in the name of God (my God),
I looked up what my name meant.

There is no mention of a God,
It is simply:
‘The act of remembrance’.
‘Reminiscence and recollection
leading to the realization
of that which is held closest to the heart’.

(smaraṇa)
A Sanskrit word; a pretty word,
Free of all the ugly connotations
I had tacked on to it
(had others tack on to it,
believers and atheists alike)
over the years.

What I remembered
when I heard my own name
was being considered
to belong to that which I did not,
and the face of my father
as he reminded me (again)
that some things I should keep to myself.

(It isn’t shame, no, but fear.
Born of experience.
Of having multiple doors slammed
in his face.
For the act of remembering
for believing in,
for loving
his God.
For being in possession of a name that proved it)

My name is still reluctant
To roll smoothly off my tongue.
for fear of being an imposter,
however much of an unwitting one.

But what’s in a name?
(A rose by any other name would prick just as deep)

Yours Truly,

sign-off

(Simran)

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