Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Ordeal of a feminine name

Yesterday after having dinner, I was going through the yearbook entries once again that my friends had written for me while parting. Almost all the entries had a reference to the gender confusion caused by my name when they first saw it and how all their dreams of dating a dilli ki kudi were shattered when they met me. And then I read Rishi’s entry which said “He is happy to go to Europe because on one there knows the female orientation of his name”. Good Riddance, I had said to myself 6 months back when I read this comment and thought that he was right. How the hell would Europeans know if ‘Divya’ is the name of a male or a female? But I was worried also. What if they know that 98% of Divyas that come from India are females? It’s still easier to explain to Indians that the name is Divya (with ‘a’ silent…) and not Divyaaaa…!!! So it’s nobody’s fault but the English language which does not have any means to distinguish between ‘a’ and ‘aaaa’. Given their disliking for English language, French (and to some extent Germans) would still empathize with me but how would I explain it to my British boss!

Thankfully nothing happened when I arrived! People had better things to do than to analyze name of one of the 1.8 million expatriates in Switzerland. Life went on smoothly for some days until one day when one of my colleagues asked me over lunch “Usually names ending in ‘a’ are feminine names…Tania, Nadia, Maria, Diana, Claudia (the list was endless!!)….How come in India its different”. Every bite after that got difficult to swallow! “It’s the same in India also but…ummm..actually…my name is not Divya…its Divya”. She started laughing hysterically “Did u have beer with the breakfast today..what r u saying …..My name is not Divya…..its Divya”. Finally after a lot of hard work I was able to explain to her the nuances of hindi language though still they all pronounce my name as ‘Deeevyyaaaaaa’. Colleagues were still ok to handle. I decided to apply to Kanton Basel for a Certificate of Residence which can be used as a substitute for an invite in order to get a Schengan Visa. I was amazed to see the automated processes, u just apply online and the letter and bill for it is delivered at your home within 72 hours of application! If you change home, you just need to inform police, they update the record and it gets automatically updated everywhere….all databases synchronized…wow!! I said to myself. The letter arrived and I was about to send it with application when I thought of going through it. The last para in the letter said “Frau Kumar….. blah blah blah..” I said to myself…what the ****….if everything else is synchronized with other databases, why not gender of the applicant. ‘Frau’ is a title in German used to address females!! The next thing I did was calling up the office and pointing out the mistake to them. The lady on other side of phone wasn’t happy to know that my passport said I was male when she had assumed otherwise seeing my first name!!.

I had still not recovered from these personal and official shocks when today I got another one…that too in office. The Head of Corporate communications has sent me a CD and the note written by her PA starts with “Dear Ms. Kumar…..”. Another confusion, another apology! Shakespeare had said “What’s in the name…What we call as rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet” He was right….it doesn’t matter for roses because roses don’t live under the terror of their gender being changed without any intention of doing so. I love my name and its meaningfulness but for how long this ordeal of attaching an explanatory note on gender with every first communication carrying my name would continue!!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Search for Perfect Relationship

This blog is triggered by a discussion that happened few days ago on the MOR yahoogroup. We decided to continue discussions on the group after being asked by Dr. Fenn if we would like to continue. The reason why most of us chose to stay active on the group was probably best pointed out by Antra - "ppl suddenly become active when something frm the past....which they truly enjoyed is on the verge of being taken one wants to hold onto all da gud things...gud things like XL..which u knw will never come back....but you just keep tryin to find it in all the new things u r doing..."

The discussion was on the topic - Is a perfect relationship possible? Can there be a person who loves you unconditionally? Can a relationship be totally transparent with no skepticism? Sir's view was that such a relationship is possible only with God. Nobody sees the world with your eyes because everybody has grown up with different experiences. All of us have an inherent need to be perfectly understood and sometimes this need wrecks havoc on relationships with people moving on from one relationship to another in need of perfect understanding which is not possible.

There were conflicting views on this. My view was very similar to Sir's view. We all tend to approach towards the ideal state of being perfectly open and transparent in a relationship with time. But Is that state achievable with humans at all?
When I look at my life, I have a set of very close friends with whom I have shared many things rather most of the things that happened/are happening in my life...but a there are a lot of things about myself that I have not shared and probably will not share with anyone ever. Not only this...there are several times when I don't like smthg abt the persons I am very close to (my parents, close friends, relatives) but still I don't convey to them in exact form and words what is going on in my mind! Only I am aware of my actual feelings...the other person just hears my words which I want him/her to hear. I am yet to see a situation in my life where I can say anything without thinking at all about how other person will take it. This is what I call Management of Relationships.

Last evening I asked one of my closest friends whether he/she would do me a favor. It was not for testing my theory or something but I genuinely had some work. He/she prankishly replied - only if it was 'reasonable'. I was slightly shocked at first instance. Why did he/she put this caveat? Doesn't he/she know I would probably never put my friend in a problem by asking for unreasonable favors. This conflict can probably only happen when I see something as reasonable while he/she sees it as unreasonable. I started thinking about some scenarios which I would see as reasonable but he/she might find unreasonable. I could not come up and even he/she could not come up with any such scenarios independently. However if we start discussing those scenarios mutually one by one, I am sure there will be many such conflicts. The simple reason, for not being able to come up with 'unreasonable' ideas, I believe is that we tend to test the reasonability/rationality of our idea or argument by our own perspective and assume it to be reasonable/rational for others too as per our own assessment. However it might not be so in practice and when actually confronted with that situation, my friend might find my request unreasonable/irrational which I assumed would be reasonable/rational for him/her.

What if the person accepts it despite finding it unreasonable or doesn't even get into the question of reasonability? What if his/her concern is not the reasonability of the favor but that it is for you and nothing else matters. This can happen repeatedly without exception only if the other person merges his/her own identity/existence with you. Though physically there but intellectually he/she does not exist any more in your presence. You only become center of the universe for him/her. The thoughts, the ego, the self of the person do not remain any more. Will this relationship be called 'perfect relationship'? Probably yes! But is it possible with humans?

PS: The day a person's existence is erased from his memory and merges with you, you become God for him. So technically the point that such a relationship is only possible with God still stays [:D]