raven: TOS McCoy and Kirk frowning, text: "Well that's just maddeningly unhelpful" (st - MADDENINGLY UNHELPFUL)
Friends, I am so tired, jet-lag is the worst. (I do not always like William Gibson, but he is spot-on about jet-lag: ".... her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly umbilical down the vanished wake of the plane that brought her here, hundreds of thousands of feet above the Atlantic. Souls can't move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.”)

(On this basis, my soul left Singapore four days ago and is currently slouching towards Bethlehem. Onwards, onwards.)

Australia was wonderful, I really enjoyed it. I (mostly) enjoyed New Zealand; I was in Christchurch, Wellington (briefly), Lake Tekapo and Hanmer Springs. I do tend to feel uneasy in NZ though. The first time I went to Hanmer, a pack of white teenagers stared at me with hostile fascination until I cracked and left. It wasn't particularly pleasant and was replicated elsewhere in the rural South Island. So partly it was that, and partly it was the place in itself, but I really enjoyed Singapore. It's not my favourite place for various reasons - not least, I was travelling without my drugs because they're controlled substances there - but, well. I went on about this elsewhere but in Singapore people look like me. People on the street, popstars on TV. Adverts for make-up, adverts for wedding venues, adverts for law school - they all had girls like me in them. I wonder how much less utterly neurotic I'd be if I lived in an environment like that all the time, because there is a psychological pressure you don't notice until it's gone - until you spend a day thinking, oh, hey, I look pretty today, oh, hey, I said something funny and people laughed, and all those casual quotidian thoughts aren't followed with "Despite..." and a giant asterisk.

I read a fair bit while I was away, which is what I originally opened this tab to talk about I've been meaning to read the Moore graphic novels for years, and finally got around to it on the long flights. Watchmen - I wanted to like it more than I did. It's a critical darling, yep, I get it, and even on a visceral level, I get it, it's rich and complex and fascinating, I was swept up in it. But in the end I just found it distasteful and unsatisfying, which is a bit tragic. The women in the story exist to be raped or denied agency. And I loathe Rorschach - I loathe being placed in the mind of misogynist, homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic, tragic-childhood-waaaah men, and I particularly loathe ~narrative ambivalence~ in respect of them. Rorschach is not an anti-hero. I do not admire his integrity. It's a virtue in itself, but I don't admire it in bricks. And ultimately I don't know what the text is trying to tell me. Is it that being a superhero is possible, that being a hero is possible? Or is it 300 pages of nihilism? Either way, by the end I didn't care.

I liked V for Vendetta much better. I thought it was interesting and clever and hit a lot of the narrative tropes I adore. And then I had this thought, which I share with you because it's a sad, pathetic little thought and I'm sort of ashamed of it. Here it is. V for Vendetta is set in a near-future dystopian Britain, where the fascists are in charge and totalitarianism has seeped into the public's skin. It's richly and devastatingly imagined. It's a world in which there are explicitly no brown people and no queers - they've been destroyed by the regime. And I - the brown queer reader - am being placed in the position, as reader, of feeling empathy and concern for those who are left. For a now wholly white and non-queer society. For the story to work, I must be invested in what becomes of it. And I'm capable of it - this is the task of the brown queer reader, to find empathy and commonality of self, in that distant human for whom existence and interiority is permitted - and capable of it to the deeply ingrained, deeply socialised extent that it took me 200 pages to have this thought at all.

But I had it. And then I didn't enjoy the rest so much - but I did enjoy it a bit. Because, as I said, I've had the practice. In some ways, I'm wondering why I participate less and less in media fandom, and in other ways I know the answer: it's that I no longer want to encourage this tendency in myself. To queer the text, or run the fic challenge focusing on the browns, or whatever, is work. Unpaid female labour, in fact, which in my non-fannish life I yell about all the time. And I know I'm missing the point deliberately - fandom was never about the labour-for-capital economy, quite the reverse - but it's also emotional labour, isn't it. It's emotional labour to centre the brown or queer experience in stories that were not written about those things. It's emotional labour to just write or consume the white dude pairing du jour while carefully Not Thinking about the other thing - and as I get older I get crankier and less willing to do this. For me, the way through the Gordian knot is to write my own stories. It'd be different for someone else, perhaps, but that's it for me.

I also read Marbles, by Ellen Forney, which is a graphic memoir about living as a writer and artist with badly medicated bipolar disorder. I was both interested and nervous about this book, because it focuses on something I'm worrying about a lot lately: the relationship between creativity, medication and mental illness. It's a lovely book, actually. It's all grounded in a single experience, melodramatic and abrasive, without purporting to generalise. Forney decides that to be medicated is better for her, even if she does worry about its effect on her creativity, and makes significant effort to emphasise it wouldn't be the same for every mentally ill creator. It wasn't reassuring, but it wasn't meant to be. I liked it.

I read other things, but they'll have to wait for the next post. The drive-by rec though is for Tansy Rayner Roberts' Castle Charming novellas, which are sweet and colourful and queer fairy tale parodies. And the first one is free!

(Urgh. My soul is still plodding across the Middle East. It's taking in the sights. It's ordering olives and shakshuka. HURRY THE FUCK UP oh my god.)
raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)
"Anything you might want to share about languages would make me very happy," says [personal profile] falena, my favourite polyglot.

Now, last year I wrote quite a bit about languages in the abstract, which ones I speak and learn, and what they all mean to me, so this year, my friends, we shall address the technicalities. We shall address GRAMMAR. (I love grammar. Okay, maybe not when actually learning it in the trenches? But I love the idea of grammar – how it encodes meaning, particularly, and what it presupposes as necessary for meaning. I am a giant language nerd news at eleven.)

For no particular reason other than the fact I’m proud I finally got it straight, let’s deal with the past perfect tense in Hindi. This is a tense used about as commonly as the equivalent English tense, and it’s always translated straightforwardly into the English past perfect – “I ran”, “They fell”, “We listened patiently to Iona explain Hindi grammar to us for no particular reason”, etc.

Okay! So taken first of all, it’s quite simple. “To be” is very irregular, of course; Hindi doesn’t have “to have”; but “to go”, while irregular, does follow the usual pattern in the past tense. So!

I went – मेँ गयी, mein gayin. (I say this, because I identify as female; if I identified as male it would be मेँ गया, mein gaya.) I believe, but do not know for sure, that non-binary people often use the plural first person)
You went (formal, plural) – आप गए, aap gaye.
He, she, it went – वह गयी or गए, woh gayin or gaya.
We went – हम गए, hum gaye.

…etc. There are only three forms for each verb – fem singular, masc singular, and plural.

However, this is the hard part. The verb “to go” is intransitive. I tend to understand this with the thought that I can just go (or sleep, or take a shower, or fall, or laugh, or dance), without involving any other object or person. But करना (kurna - to do_, खरीदना (karidhna - to buy) पढ़ना (parna - to read) – require you to do, buy, read, things. They’re transitive.

You say, therefore: मैं ने किताब पढ़ी, mai ne kitab parhi. पढ़ी, parhi, is taking the feminine singular form, but not because of me, because of the book. “किताब" (kitab) is a feminine noun, in the singular. If I read lots of books today, I would say: मैं ने किताबे पढ़ीं, mai ne kitabe parhiin, again taking the verb form from the object, not from me. ("ने" doesn’t mean anything: it’s just something you throw in to show this is a transitive verb.)

Similarly, if it were you (lots of you) who read a book today – let’s assume you all loved it and passed it around like a relay baton - it would be, आप ने किताब पढ़ी, ap ne kitab parhi. If you all read a book each, so books should be in the plural, आप ने किताबे पढ़ीं, ap ne kitabe parhin.

If you all read today, but I don’t know what you read – maybe you read a book, किताब, kitab, but maybe you read a magazine, or maybe you read fanfic, or maybe you walked up and down the street reading roadsigns – then it’s आप ने पढ़ा, ap ne parha. “पढ़ा” there takes the masculine form as the default, because it ought to agree with something but we actually don’t know what.

(Interestingly, that’s idiomatic. आप ने पढ़ा, without anything specified, usually means not that you read, but that you studied. I’ve always wondered if this is why you read for your degree at Oxford and Cambridge, rather than study for it. पढ़ना means to read and लेखन means to write – someone who is पढ़ा-लिखा, which is an adjective, is literate in both senses of the English word. It can mean someone who can read and write, or someone who is well-educated and learned.)

There are some verbs – not many! – which have irregular participles. There’s “to be” and “to go” and “to do”, of course. There’s a handful of others which have irregular participles because the regular ones would be very difficult to pronounce. (शराब, alcohol, is feminine, and पीने, pina, is to drink. But it isn’t, मैं ने शराब पीयीं, main ne sharaabi piyin – it’s plain old, मैं ने शराब पी, mai ne sharaabi pi, so you can actually say it.) And there are three more verbs, मिलना (milna, to meet), लेना (lena, to bring) and भूलना (bhulna, to forget) which should be transitive but aren’t, so instead of मैं ने कुछ भुला, main ne kuch bhula, it’s मैं कुछ भूली, mai kuch buli – I forgot something, and I am female so भूलना (bhulna) agrees with me rather than the something I forgot. Otherwise, that's it - and surprisingly regular and logical it is, too.

I suspect this was possibly not utterly scintillating for people who don't like grammar? But there we go.
raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)
I have finished my re-read of A Suitable Boy and don't have much to add to what I said about it originally. (Hey, [personal profile] silly_cleo! Don't click that link and don't click this cut that's coming up. At least, not yet!)

cut for spoilers )

I feel like this was more a burst of feelings than any kind of review? But it's that sort of book.
raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)
Today's question comes from [livejournal.com profile] littlered2, who asked: If it's not too personal, languages: which languages you speak, in what contexts, and what they mean to you.

Well, this one is personal (and I'm honestly so touched by your sensitivity in picking that up - it's not immediately obvious as a personal question!), but I am trying to talk - and let myself think - about it more, so here we go.

Languages! Okay. I am good with, and love languages. (I have to remind myself of this a lot, for reasons which will become clear in a moment.) Not in the sense that I'm a super-effective communicator or whatever as the job apps would have it; I mean languages in themselves, their grammars and structures and interesting twiddly bits. (I write stories and I draft things for a living. I figure all of this goes together.)

So the first language I ever spoke was Hindi, and Hindi more than any other is the language of home - both for me, and for everyone; if any one language could be, Hindi would be India's national language, and that makes sense in a way because Hindi is an acquisitive workhorse of a language, anecdotal and crude and beautiful and weird. Hindi speakers, more than any other, drift into English and Urdu and all the other languages of India when they talk; there is this push towards Sanskritisation in India, using new coinages and back-formations, trying to make a purer tongue of it, but I don't think it's terribly successful. For me, Hindi is the language of making tea, getting the milk in, can you chop a couple of onions, and stay tuned, we'll be back after this.

There's more to it, of course. But I lost it. I had it, and I lost it. If I could have any wish granted, it would be to go back in time, to my parents who were so scared - justifiably scared! - that I would never fit in, and we would never go home. I lost Hindi as my language of choice by the time I was six; by the time I was sixteen, it had gone almost entirely; now, I'm twenty-six, and it's back, in moods and lights, and I work at it and I get by, but sometimes there's no there there, like, just, some awful howling loss where an identity-constitutive grammar should live. (This is what I mean when I talk about the decolonisation of the mind - how to rid yourself, both of internalised colonialism, and also guilt: that because you were on the wrong side of a system that didn't want you, it's not you that's made wrong. I dumped a Hindi teacher I had once for not understanding this.) What comforts me at this stage is that it is there, somewhere. I was in India for six days in October and by the sixth day I was reaching for it without thinking; my grandfather once said, live with me for six months and I know you'd be reading me the newspaper. Which was kind, and maybe even true. I hope it was, and is.

(I can read Devanagari script, something of which I am inordinately proud. I read at the grade school level, slowly, sounding everything out, and I annoy everyone by stopping in the middle of the street to do this. Mostly, people observing this come to the conclusion that I have a learning disability.)

I also speak French. Kind of. I had no choice about French - I had a polyglot primary school teacher who loved teaching it, and it's the one I kept on with through secondary school - and although I wish very much that I had more of it, and had kept up with what I had, I think I'm actually at the stage with French where the only thing that will convert me to easy fluency is moving to France for six months and getting unstuck trying to order soup. As a language, I never used to like it very much, but I'm coming around to it now as I get the feel of it as well as just learning it - I like its softness and its elegance of expression. On ne puisse pas rentrer. Yes. Since I left school I've had friends who spoke French from francophone Africa, and oddly, that helped: I thought it was beautiful and grounding to hear it from non-white people.

The only other language I speak anything worth mentioning of is Gaelic, and Gaelic is wonderful - it's so beautiful and fascinating and replete with a kind of musicality, I adore it, and given all my capital-I Issues detailed above, it's a gift. Why learn to speak Gaelic? Not because it's my mother tongue. Not because it would be particularly useful for anything. Not because I'm likely to meet another speaker I didn't already know about! But just because it's a beautiful language, and I love it and I'm pleased to be a statistically significant addition to its body of speakers.

There are some others: I can understand some conversational Bengali because my mother's family are all Bengali, and I have two years of Spanish I can't remember, and have been taught Welsh, though I couldn't say a single meaningful thing about it at this remove of time. Oh, and I have four years of Latin - which I remember the shape of, rather than the substance; I absolutely love Latin grammar and how regular and interesting it is, amo amas amat amamus, etc; and in conjunction with that I was taught some Greek (I'm English-public-school-educated, shut up) - and my father taught me the very beginnings of Sanskrit grammar. He loves Urdu poetry and has tried teaching me the basics of that, to no avail; I believe if my father's father had lived longer, he would have had more success teaching me. Something else that comforts me: my grandfather had never had Hindi, either. He learned it in his thirties and was deeply distrustful of it all his life.

(Oh, English! I forgot about English. Despite everything, I love English: though it isn't home, and has never been designed to be a language for living in, it has been a good place all these years. I love writing in English, I love its wacky spelling and ridiculous plethora of synonyms for everything and shameless biffing up of other languages for vocabulary and cheerful lack of grammatical gender. English is just, it's wonderful and ridiculous and amazing. Did I mention I love languages? Because I really, really do.)
raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)
Notes on a week in Delhi and Mumbai:

-So this time I flew into Mumbai from London, to visit friends for a couple of days, and it's lovely. Unlike Delhi, it has reasonable weather all year round rather than two months out of twelve, and although it has its problems, it doesn't have Delhi's perennial issues with water. (Lately, in Delhi, you just want to cry watching water go down the drain; it's like throwing away gold dust.) Anyway, so I went to the beach and ate street pav bhaji and saw the Gateway of India (which you can't go in, any more; there was the beautiful open lit empty space inside, occupied only by a police dog having a snooze) and had tea at the Taj and generally was quite, quite useless. It was great. My mental health hasn't been the best, lately, but I think a dose of warmth and sun is never bad. Delhi, once I got there, is in the smoothing-off period, the pre-Diwali time where the shops and businesses are beginning to turn off the air conditioning. It lingered around a pleasant, dry thirty degrees, which was nice.

-Since I was last in India about eighteen months ago, my parents have sold their old house in Delhi, which was by New Delhi Railway Station, and given that it was my father's ancestral house and he did to a greater and lesser extent grow up in it, and also, it was where I spent the little time I did with my paternal grandfather, a deeply formidable gentleman who was kinder and gentler to me than he had ever been to anyone, given all of those things, god, I hated that house. When my father was young it was a nice house in a residential district, running on the rhythms of the railway station (one of the things I did like about it was the brief moment, halfway between wakefulness and sleep, every morning at five am: this is the night mail / crossing the border, in this case, the Kalka Mail), but now it's surrounded by developments, hotels and construction work, and to make things just that little bit worse, the water pressure in the area has long since fallen to basically nothing. We spent four months there the summer I was four, and it was forty-eight degrees in Delhi with no air conditioning or running water, and those days, you had to ring up Emirates to confirm your flights the day before travelling. (Did you know that? I've never met anyone who knew that. We were bumped to standby. I missed my first two months of school. I was put off my ancient and magnificent homeland for not-quite life.)

-(A related note, also: I occasionally see non-South-Asians refer to us as "desi", which is just, beyond not on, from my perspective. "Desh" means, homeland; "desi" means someone from that homeland. To presume to give that word, because it is a gift, is rank imperialism.)

-The new place, oddly enough, is very close to my mother's family. It's in CR Park, the Bengali colony which my maternal grandfather, my Dadu, was instrumental in creating in the seventies, and it's beautiful – it's a second-floor flat with two actual bedrooms (which, in south Delhi, is positively palatial) and trees in leaf brushing up against the windows. I adore it – partly for itself, because it's quiet and clean and comfortable, and as part of my family's continual quest towards non-Western modernity, it's outfitted with Indian-style bathrooms and kitchen, all cool, smooth granite and rattan and ridiculous drapes from Fabindia, and Ikea's finest in the kitchen drawers – and partly because, well. Last night I couldn't sleep, and it was maybe three or four in the morning and I got up, went to the kitchen and got myself an apple and rasmalai from the fridge, and cut the apple and put the rasmalai in the bowl, and sat for half an hour with my laptop, and ate them, then washed up the bowl, spoon and knife and put them in the rack to dry. I think maybe you have to be me to understand the significance of that. But I have my keys to the place. It's my home, too.

CR Park, too, is a good place to live. It was created as a gated community before the phrase acquired the connotations it has now – that is to say, the emphasis is on the second word. It's large and getting larger all the time – we are a short walk from the CR Park police station, CR Park Market No. 4 and the CR Park Kali Mandir Society – but all with that dusty-tree, homely feeling. Annoyingly, it's equidistant between two metro stations, Nehru Place and Kailash Colony, and thus not really walking distance from either, but just as I was complaining about that someone reminded me about the Phase III Metro work, which will build a third radial station closer than either of the others, so really, I'm very happy. I kind of want to take Shim there for a week one winter without telling any of my relatives I'm in town, and just hang out and explore.

-Speaking of which. I can't put my finger on it, and it's kind of frightening, but this kind of middle-class Delhi life has become a lot easier for me to navigate, just recently. I've been married five weeks and those five weeks have done more for my social capital than my previous decade of adult life. And it doesn't matter that Shim wasn't with me, or even that Shim isn't desi; somehow, something has changed. It's deeply insulting, of course, but that's maybe epiphenomenal? I picked up a book in the airport called Lady, you're not a man, which I liked mostly because it's basically a slim Indian feminist tract masquerading as a self-help book, and rule one is, never apologise for being a woman. This is the sort of self-help advice I can get behind. Anyway, so it is insulting, and maybe it is psychologically destructive to be a woman in a society that demands such apology (I applied to get the natural gas pipeline connected; the gas company wanted to know my husband's name before I could apply), but I don't know, I think the best way out is to carry on living the life I do. After all, India is an idea – a grand, ancient idea, for sure, but a thousand dialects and cultures, old states, new states, rural and urban and mixed, 1.1 billion people, one in six of all the people that there are, all pushed together like they fit, like it's possible for them to be one noisy nation, under no god. If there's no room for me in India, then what the hell's the point of it. (One of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me, ever, was said by my second-year institutional politics tutor, herself a desi: "She is the argumentative Indian.")

(Rule number whatever in the book is addressed to single women, living in a society that believes they need to be married before they're complete: remember all the other women who support you, cheer you, admire you, are you.. It keeps telling you there's nothing wrong with you and you don't need help, it's the worst self-help book ever.)

wedding stuff )

Anyway. It can't be helped. I am back now for seven weeks (wouldn't it be nice if I got a job in those seven weeks, gosh), peeling off the jet-lag, and listening to Jiya Re on repeat this morning, if anyone needs something cheerful to help them out of bed, and going on.
raven: image of India on a globe (politics - india)
I have been putting some Vorkosigan trope meme fic from a month or so ago on the AO3, like so:

the last winter (Miles and Ekaterin, apocalypse)

something in the autumn that is native to your blood (Aral and Simon, telepathy)

gendha phool (Simon and Alys, pretending to be married)

A brief note on these. I put "something in the autumn that is native to your blood" on the AO3 pretty soon after I wrote it for [personal profile] philomytha, and "the last winter" I hadn't time to put up until about a week ago. But I had no intention of putting the other one up. When [personal profile] hedda62 and the trope meme yielded "Simon and Alys pretend to be married", I gave Shim a joyful grin and said, "LET ME SING YOU THE SONG OF MY PEOPLE."

We were pottering around making lunch and putting the washing out at the time, and we talked it over while we did that and plotted it with me grinning delightedly most of the time; and later I said to [personal profile] forthwritten, "So.... what do you think the Planet of the Indians would look like?" and they started getting gleeful and we decided instantly that there would be no police force, of course it would be a network of aunties and chachis doing their thing with gusto, of course.

And I wrote it and put it in the comment box and didn't post it anywhere else, because of course it is self-indulgent idfic. Isn't it?

But, then, saat phere, Alys says in this story: she's talking about the seven times you walk around the flames in a Hindu marriage ceremony. A little more than a year from now I will do that: I'll stand up in front of a hundred people and walk around those flames, and when I sit down again I'll be married in the eyes of my people. The folk-etymological derivation for the ceremony is that the seven times symbolise the seven lifetimes you'll go through together, and while this is logistically complicated (what if you're not on the same reincarnation cycle as your partner? and believe me this is the sort of thing Hindus and their religious leaders worry about) I believe in the spirit of that idea: that you walk around those flames in place of walking through them, you come through irrevocably changed. That's not self-indulgent. It's not for whimsy that Shim and I will become part of one another. And I was raised as a daughter of the oldest continuous religious tradition on earth, and of one of its oldest, richest, most flamboyant cultures.

So I have been promising myself in this tentative adulthood that I will keep track of this, the slow decolonisation of the mind, and my little story is silly and light but not because of its content, so it goes on the AO3 as a "real" story, with thanks to [personal profile] hedda62 and everyone else: gendha phool, with some amendments from when it was written first.

For those wondering about the title, I recommend Google image search. Those people later down the page are the cast of my mother's favourite soap opera, Sasuraal Genda Phool! The nice-looking chap in the glasses has amnesia, it is the BEST.
raven: lit tealight against dark background (stock - diya)
Hello, flist. Apologies for being quite as crap as I have been being recently. I have a migraine. It's no good at all. I had about fifteen migraines in two weeks, and then on Thursday I started having a migraine that hasn't stopped yet. Three types of pills and a lengthy visit to out-of-hours haven't helped, and although everyone has been very nice (I tweeted about how much I heart NHS Direct - they retweeted me! I thought it was sweet) I am in pain and cranky and very, very worried about work.

about that )

So that's why I'm a little out of things. To try and keep my mind off things I am watching Satyameve Jayate on YouTube, which I am enjoying thoroughly - I always like it when actors whom I love because they are delectable are also likeable for reasons of being decent human beings, and really, Aamir Khan is - and it's kinda melodramatic and scripted but hey, where's any other show doing what it's doing. So. Y'all should watch it. (I've had no luck finding a version with English subtitles, but will post if I do.) Episode 1 deals with female foeticide, and episode 2, I am told, with child sexual abuse, so this is my trigger warning.

I'm also watching The Golden Girls and thinking about how much I love Bea Arthur. I thought about more Game of Thrones, but somehow I think it would not be so good for the headache.

On names

Mar. 28th, 2012 10:58 pm
raven: (misc - thine own self)
I have been thinking a lot recently about names. Partly this is because the sunshine and change of job have given me the energy to work at languages again, so I'm thinking about words and grammar and such more generally, and partly this is because of this being the Year of Weddings. I witnessed a deed poll at a wedding recently, and then the other week, during Maria's wedding ceremony, it was very obvious that the somewhat smarmy officiant said her first name at normal volume, but her patronymic and surname very softly.

I think you must already love your friend, if you're there to see them married in the second row with your tissues out, but if possible, I loved her a little more at that moment: she had been speaking softly, but she said her names clearly and loudly for the world to hear. The officiant had the grace to look embarrassed.

For reasons I have explained many times, I have a Western, Scottish use-name. I have my surname as well, though; it's not at all a Western name. As this is a public post, I'm not going to tell you what it is. It's the same surname as a lady in a television show whom you all love. Which is, okay, me being flip, but also that is important: I look back now, and think, if I had been in primary school and there had been a woman in a TV show whom all my friends loved, with the same name as me, well. Imagine how life would have been, then.

I hated my surname then. I hated it for being weird, for always having to spell it, for never knowing how I ought to say it, for being weird weird weird. I was twenty years old by the time I sat up and said, thought, I have one of the commonest names on the planet. There are heads of state with my name, there are mathematicians and poets and sports people and there's also me and I am a person too. But before then, I had learned to mispronounce it - to say it like white people say it. Because then they will spell it right; then it's only one letter different from a proper white-person name, it's almost a real name. Then I won't be weird any more.

I will never change my surname. I don't plan to take my partner's name on marriage; I am unlikely to change it for any other reason. So here, today, I have decided: I am going to say my name the way it should be said. If people mispronounce it, I will correct them; if people mispronounce the name of the nice lady in the TV show, I will correct them, gently, and go gently named true.

And if they can't spell it, they can look it up.

August 2017

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