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!!