What does it mean to be "Vidya"?
According to the Penguin Book of Hindu Names, "Vidya" means
"knowledge, learning, science, philosophy." It’s also
another name for the Hindu goddess Durga. (Durga is an incarnation
of Devi or the Mother Goddess, a unified symbol of all divine forces.
She is also known as the goddess Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva).
But, is it more than that? Is it a true reflection of who I am?
How could my name be a reflection of me? It was given
to me and I was not who I am when I got it. At the same time, isn’t
my name how the world identifies me, how the world sees me? Does the
world (like my ex-boyfriend) perceive me as more or less Indian because
of the way I pronounce my name? Without my name, I would not be identifiable
to the world. So, maybe my name isn’t a reflection of who I
am, but rather a reflection of who I am to the world?
As I entered my professional life, I was faced with another opportunity
to reinvent myself if I wanted. Once again, I chose the mispronunciation,
by now conscious that I was choosing a mispronunciation. As an attorney,
I work with a lot of people, and I decided that an easy to remember
version of my name was more valuable to me than a properly pronounced
one. Ironically, people even mispronounce the mispronunciation.
A few years ago, I wandered into a little shop outside of Los Angeles.
It was filled with names. Names and definitions of names surrounded
me. They were on plaques, in frames and on keychains. They were everywhere.
As my friends walked around looking for something with their names
on it, I just stood around. One of my friends asked me why I wasn’t
looking for something with my name on it. I said, "I’m
sure they don’t have anything with my name on it." I had
long since given up looking for my name in places like that, because
I was disappointed way too many times as a child. A saleslady nearby
overheard me, came up to me and said, "I’m sure we have
something with your name it. Come over here." She took me to
a nearby counter and pulled out a print of my name and its definition.
I almost cried. I finally belonged. I finally was recognized by my
I still get a lot of questions about my name, but I also get a lot
of compliments. Fortunately, I no longer dread someone not recognizing
my name. In fact, I’ve taken complete ownership of it and its
uncommonness. I noticed recently that I often refer to myself only
by first name, unless I’m specifically asked for my last name.
Interestingly, my clients often don’t even know my last name,
and I like it like that. I like to think that the awkward little girl
who was uncomfortable with her name has become a one name phenomenon.
Vidya Kurella is a 31 year old attorney and lives in Washington DC.
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