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Not spelling names correctly… is it an Indian thing? Adding and subtracting from names randomly as they see fit seems to come naturally to us. Is it a sort of national pastime, and something that if you are a government employee in the issuing of certificates and id cards department, you are inordinately proud of doing?

If you get a government issued certificate or identity card with your name spelled correctly on your very first try, believe me, it is as if you’ve won an unexpected lottery. I won’t be surprised at all if the lucky person burst into tears of joy holding the precious piece of paper close to the chest, and/or distributing laddoos to all and sundry all along the way home.

When I went to collect my driving license the very first time, my name was missing the crucial ‘a’ in it. It distressed me greatly to see my name thus mangled. Father who was visiting at the time, dismissed it as something not important enough to warrant a second visit to get it changed. And him an officer! The elderly relative visiting nodded his head in agreement too.I heard them out, but disregarding their advice, went to the concerned office to get it corrected.

The officer in charge, visibly impatient with my request for correction, dismissed the whole thing as not important. Why do you want your name corrected, he asked peevishly. Duh! Obviously because the one on the license wasn’t mine. Anyone with half a brain could get that, but apparently he couldn’t. When I insisted, he grudgingly let me apply for a replacement card. I am not going into how this same driving license had a new date of birth (!!!) assigned for me on its third renewal. I suppose government departments have the right to change your DOB at will, just so they can make you run around trying to get it changed. The mistake theirs, the punishment, ours.

What amazes me is how people spell your name differently even when it is right under their nose printed in bold font. For example, on Facebook when someone replies to you, it is hard NOT TO SEE your name, which is right there, like I said, in bold font. And yet the ‘ai’ in your name will be replaced with ‘y’ or ‘ae’ at will as if the spelling of your name is a right totally dependent on the whims and fancies of the one who is writing to you.

Locals in my state add an extra ‘an’ to the L&M’s name. Never mind that he has told them his name is ‘Mohan’. If they want it as Mohanan, who is L&M to say otherwise? When I named the Second Born with a ‘s’ and two ‘h’s’ in his name, I never knew how much trouble that would cause. Who knew there were people waiting with scissors and knives ready, to chop off a ‘h’ here, add an extra ‘s’ there, everything depending on their mood of the day. Recently we had an unfortunate experience of someone changing the spelling of his name in his email id as well, and then expecting the mail to reach him.

A blog post is not enough to document the messing up of names and the difficulties people are put to trying to get it all sorted out. So I’ll wind up now. I wonder though, what goes through the mind of those who change the spellings of names? Is it mere carelessness? May be, some of the time, yes. Is it, ‘I couldn’t care less’? That too, perhaps. Is it, ‘I know better, and this is how it SHOULD be spelled!’ Oh, a LOT of that, definitely. Bingo.

© Shail Mohan 2020