Thursday, March 04, 2010

What Is My Name?

This happened almost a month after I came to US. I got my Social Security Card (SSN) by mail and my name was spelt completely wrong. I took the card to their office and officer on seeing my name in passport asked me this question “Brijesh has a Nair, Achuthan has a Nair, why is Nair missing from Nalinakumari”? The officer made this comment after seeing my full name “Brijesh Nair Achuthan Nair Nalinakumari”. Most of the Indians who come to US may have faced this kind of situation at least once during their stay.

Now some flashback – while studying in the 10th grade you are supposed to fill in your “Name”, “Expansion of Initials”, “Date of Birth” etc that will be in your 10th grade certificate. So for expansion of initials I wrote name of my father and mother. So when I applied for passport they took the name from the 10th grade certificate and wrote like this

Given Name: Brijesh Nair

Surname: Achuthan Nair Nalinakumari

All was well till I applied for GRE exam. They need the last name as it appears in the passport. There was no way I could fill the entire name in the columns provided. So from then I started writing Nalinakumari as my last name and Achuthan Nair as my middle name.

After coming to US – only in two places my name is written correctly – one is the SSN and other is the driving license. I had to wait extra 30 minutes in the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) for them to make some changes in their system to enter my entire name. SSN office got my name correct by third attempt. Every other place my name appears differently. Even my MS and PhD degree certificate have different versions of my name. See my name in four different places.

I know I could have changed my name publishing it in the gazette but I have learned to live with this. I made sure that my daughter Gayathri Nair won’t have this issue as she has a well defined first name and last name!.

The concept of first, middle and last name in US often results in so many funny incidents and almost all the Indians coming to US may have a story to tell. My friend works in a software company in east coast. When he joined that company he noticed that his manager’s name was “FNU XXX”. Colleagues used to call him “FNU”. Later my friend came to know the story behind “FNU”. His boss has only surname in the passport like many Indians. So in visa document his first name will be written as “FNU” which means “First Name Unknown”. The driving license is issued based on the name in the visa and hence his name in driver’s license is “FNU XXXX”. So wherever he has to use driving license he will be addresses as “FNU XXX”. His office made a name plate exactly matching the driving license and thus his first name become “FNU” to his colleagues.

Do you have any interesting stories to tell about the first, middle and last name concept that is followed in US?

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Blogger SK said...

WHOA... tht was something!!! :D
Even mine had gone thru stages of 'Evolution'... Started with "Shekhar Kothanath Nair" and then "Sekhar Kothanath", and then "Sekhar" (as in Madonna - no last name) and finally "Sekher Kothanath" (Notice the 'e' btwn 'h' and 'r'... thts unique.. hee hee). But I hv the same 'weird' spelled name everywhere... :) am not complaining after seeing urs!

March 04, 2010 8:37 PM  
Blogger Khalil Sawant said...

So many Nairs in your Name ?
Is Nair meant to be a middle/secondary-name like Kumar and Singh that has evolved into a Surname ?

March 05, 2010 2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This much mix-up can only happen to Brijesh. He should change his name to "Brijesh Is Awesome"

March 05, 2010 4:25 PM  
Blogger scorpiogenius said...

Yes, similar here as well. My last name is my mother's name and it looks pretty awkward when I get my PPS number, Bank cards etc. Naming of my daughter was also an issue because they wanted to know why my last name isn't my daughter's last name or why my first name happens to be her last name... Pretty much confusing eh? ;)

March 05, 2010 6:43 PM  
Blogger Brijesh Nair said...

Khalil Sawant
My name should be First Name - Brijesh
Last Name - Nair

March 05, 2010 11:15 PM  
Anonymous Shyam said...

Hi Brijesh,
I also faced a similar situation in UAE. My name in passport is
Given name: Shyam Kumar
Last name: Kanakalatha Sasidharan Nair.
In all correspondences from bank I am called Mr. Kanakalatha. I did not bother to correct it.

March 06, 2010 2:31 PM  
Blogger Lakshminarayan Viju Ravichandran (Viju) said...

For me it was due to my long first and last names... all credit cards had my dad's name in full, and one letter of my name.

I also know of people whose last name is - NoLastName :P

March 06, 2010 8:56 PM  
Anonymous Keerthi Chand said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

March 08, 2010 6:47 AM  
Blogger Mani Karthik said...

Interesting story Brijesh, I've heard about such stories earlier but not as complicated as yours :)What we all can do is name your kids with a proper FirstName, SurName format. Isn't that right ? My Kids name is Dhruvan Karthik, and I thought its globally acceptable, but still not sure as am learning new things from posts like this :D

March 08, 2010 7:03 AM  
Blogger Brijesh Nair said...

Keerthi Chand
As long as your last name in the passport and I20 match you are OK. Even the first name in the US visa does not have my full first name. All they see is the last name. Since your I20 has NALLABOTHULA as last name you are OK

You kid if he comes to US, his first name will be Dhruvan and last name will be Karthik. He will be known as Karthik

March 08, 2010 7:28 AM  
Blogger keerthi chand said...

Thank u Brijesh Nair.I am a regular visitor of ur blog...Your articles depict the actual NRI version of US nd India.Keep up the good work...

Thank you once again for ur reply.

March 10, 2010 1:51 PM  
Blogger keerthi chand said...

Hello Brijesh,
I had to dig up my emails to find this post"What is my name"...
My friend have got a problem regarding this.Her name is Nitya Thakur.She does'nt have any surname so in her passport it is printed like this:
Given Name: Nitya Thakur

She is planning to leave to Us for her masters.Will this be a serious problem???Some ppl told me that she may face problem in getting her license or SSN???...please give some info on this...

June 22, 2010 12:22 PM  
Blogger Brijesh Nair said...

Keerthi Chand

U need to have surname or last name to apply for US visa. I think when u fill the online application for the visa u can write FNU for the first name but for the surname u have to enter “Nitya Thakur” (I have done this while applying visa for my father who had only “Given Name” in the passport and he got visa; but he never applied for license or SSN here). In that case her first name in license will be FNU.

If she has time the best way to solve this will be to change the name in passport as Given Name – Nitya and Surname as Thakur and that will help solve lot of head aches later.

If you don’t change the name and go to US it wont become a serious problem (u will surely get SSN and license) but will be a constant headache as you may have to explain at lot of places why you don’t have a Given Name in your visa.

Hope this helps…Let me know if you have any questions.

June 22, 2010 12:35 PM  

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