What's in a name?

My name has so many abbreviations that it’s a wonder I manage to retain my identity.

A lady I know (quite a few years younger than I am but more than my equal in other ways), is hesitant to call me by name. Neither is she comfortable addressing me in any of the other conventional ways! When she mentioned her dilemma to me, I laughed. Her brow creased in puzzlement. I told her that my irreverent young relatives have so many abbreviations for my name that it’s a wonder I manage to retain my identity.

My pesky young relatives — among them one all of eight years old — have thought of variations — Paddy, Padu, Padam, Pam, Pearl, Padamsee, Padukins. A principal of mine, a dear soul, grilled me about about my name. “Are you sure you aren’t Padmavathy or Padma Bai or Padmasini?” I assured her that I was just plain and simple Padma. She wasn’t convinced and declared, “Then I shall settle for Padmini.” At least that had some historical significance! 

Once, when I was bugged and wanted to assert my seniority, I told them that they might attempt to call me ‘aunt’ which would have some semblance of dignity. To give the cheeky creatures credit, they did mull over the problem. After that, the verdict was, “It doesn’t suit you.” It was delivered in all seriousness. At a gathering, a well brought up youngster addressed me as ‘aunty’. My young relatives were perplexed. “Aunty? aunty who?” they enquired. When he pointed to me, the relatives went into peals of laughter. When such merriment left the poor boy confused, they explained, “Why don’t you call me her Paddy, Padu...like we do? It’s so much nicer.” That was a dubious compliment. Ever since, the poor guy has studiously avoided me. When he can’t, he has the briefest of conversations with me, taking care not to address me by any name, before doing the disappearing act. He has my full sympathy.

On one occasion, a thirteen-year-old brat, with all the complacence of a teenager, said, “You know, your parents need to be congratulated for naming you Padma. It lends itself to so many short forms.” I don’t think my parents had that in mind when naming me. The slightly older ones, between whom and me there is still a generation gap, give the matter a different twist. “What’s in a name?” they quote grandly.

What indeed? Even if I protest, which I do as a matter of principle, from time to time, it doesn’t make the slightest difference. I am one against a brute majority! Somehow, they even manage to give the impression that I ought to feel honoured for being singled out. What is ironical is that the eight-year-old calls the thirteen-year-old ‘Akka’!

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