“The moment you become embarrassed of who you are, you lose yourself. I changed my house, the way I dressed, the way I ate – for what? For nothing.” – Reuben Tishkoff in the movie ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’, 2007 (played by Elliott Gould)
I was in 10th standard when I first noticed an error in the spelling of my name.
All students were asked to check the spelling of their names and their father’s names before the school submitted the data to the CBSE. I noticed that the spelling of my name was “Avdesh Kumar” instead of “Avdhesh Kumar” in the form (notice the missing “h” after the “d”) I didn’t think it was something to be worried about so I just ignored it.
It was when I received the mark sheet and the certificate that I realised my mistake. My school records were indicating an unintentional error in my TC (Transfer Certificate) issued by my former school in Haridwar, Uttarakhand when I had passed the 4th standard. (That’s a long story, and I am in no mood to bore you, so let’s put that aside).
I tried whatever I could to get the spelling corrected, but all went in vain.
I was just 16 and had no clue as to how to get that done, so I relied on my grandfather for the task, but he quit midways. Getting the spelling of my name changed was too much of a trouble.
What’s In A Name?
I started hating my name because most people used to write my name as Avdesh and not what it was—Avdhesh.
Almost seven years later, an exciting thing happened. I started leaning towards numerology. There was a book by a numerologist Cherio that hold my attention while I was browsing through a bookstall at ISBT (Maharana Pratap Inter-State Bus Terminus, Kashmere Gate, Delhi). I purchased the book and started learning the principles of numerology.
According to my understanding, both the spelling Avdesh Kumar and Avdhesh Kumar had negative vibrations.
I changed the spelling of my name from “Avdhesh Kumar” to “Avdhesh Arya.” Then I gained some more insights and altered it to Avdhesh P. Arya, which eventually turned into Avdhessh Arya.
I was running around in circles—jumping from one branch to another like a monkey. People used to make fun of my name since it had two “Asses” in it.
In 2011 I started a website named www.avdhessharya.com.
Later I realised that the extra “s” in my name was drawing unwanted attention and at times ridicule as well. One of my voice over clients had commented when I had given her my visiting card, “Oh! Was there a time when you had to change the spelling of your name?” She had a kind of sarcasm in her voice that made me uncomfortable.
And it wasn’t her only. Almost everybody started asking about the reason behind the weird spelling of my name—the courier guy, the Internet service provider, the clients—it started pissing me off.
So I decided to change it from “Avdhessh Arya” back to “Avdhesh Arya.”
Then I purchased www.avdhesharya.com and moved my old website www.avdhessharya.com to that domain. In doing so, I lost the link juice and all the social shares I had in my articles.
For example, I had 5000+ social shares for the article “Are You Afraid of Losing Someone You Love?”
But I knew I had to do it, despite all the risks.
So I did it.
Now the domain name was www.avdhesharya.com.
What’s In A Name? He Said, Everything!
It was a busy day for me. I had quite some voice over recordings. While travelling from one studio to another, I had jumped a red light in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi. The traffic police sergeant asked for my driver’s license. Upon seeing my name, he asked, “ Mr Arya, which caste does the surname “Arya” belong to?”
I replied, “Well, any Brahmin or Kshatriya can use the surname Arya.”
“So what are you?”
“I am a Kshatriya.”
“Is ‘Arya’ your gotra? “
“No. It is not my gotra; my gotra is Tondak.”
“Well, in its true sense, one should only use gotra as his surname. Nothing else can replace it.”
His words made me uncomfortable. After some days, I started getting anxious about this whole name thing. I got restless on the night of 13th July 2015. I was tossing and turning in my bed. A gut feeling was pushing me to change my surname to my gotra (Tondak). But that was an uphill task. Doing so would have meant getting the spelling changed in the bank accounts, pan card, Aadhar card, driver’s license and all the other documents. So, I tried to suppress that urge, but it was overwhelming that I had to surrender.
I got up, turned on my computer and decided to come back to who I was. It was around 2 am. That was the night when I launched the domain www.avdheshtondak.com.
Am I am telling you this because there’s a lesson in my story?
You see, I had changed the spelling of my name because that was supposed to make me more successful in life. In reality, I was in denial mode—not ready to acknowledge and accept myself the way I was.
I tried different variations of my name and ultimately realised that I can only be at peace with myself if I come back to who I indeed was. I feel that using my gotra, as my surname is more of acknowledging my ancestors and my identity.
Why Don’t I Use “Rajput” As My Surname?
I could’ve changed my name from Avdhesh Arya to Avdhesh Rajput instead of Avdhesh Tondak (it appears to be the latest trend among the Rajputs nowadays).
But, I didn’t.
It’s true that I am born in a Rajput community but using “Rajput” as my surname would have been as futile as using “Arya” because “Rajput” is not my gotra.
You see I am the first one to have started using my gotra as my surname. Even my great-grandfather and my grandfather did not use their gotra as their surnames. This act of mine signifies that I acknowledge my bloodline. It means that I accept who I am, no matter what people say or think about me.
I am respecting my ancestors and in turn recognising myself as an individual.
This whole name thing reminds me of the Bollywood movie Upkar (1967). Puran (played by Prem Chopra) was ashamed of his name. People used to make him feel his name was dated, and so he had changed his name from “Puran” to “Kumar.” It was his idea to get socially acceptable and to get worthy of mingling with so-called high society people.
Is using your gotra, as your surname is the only thing you need to do to acknowledge and accept who you are?
But it sure is a step to move towards being comfortable in your skin. It’s a step to accept who you are instead of wasting your time being someone that you aren’t.
There’s nothing in a name, or maybe everything. It depends on how you see it.
25th June happens to be my birthday, so I am posting this article today. I thought it would be more relevant to share with you the story of my name on the day I was born. Just a thought. 🙂