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?