To whom it may concern,
Today was admittedly a long day. Early start, 3-hour (compulsory) lab on how to send a bloody email, 1 hour of chatting to my friend Aidan without realising it was HIS BIRTHDAY!! (Happy Birthday Aidan J) followed by more class.
Furthermore, despite substantial evidence to prove the contrary I thought the snacks, juice and lunch I packed for an average human being of 5’2” would keep me sufficiently energised throughout the day. I stand corrected.
By the time 4 pm rolled around marking the start of my final class its safe to say I was in a vulnerable place. This particular class had only occurred once previously, last week and aside from the lovely girl I sat next to last Wednesday and an old schoolmate I happily discovered took the same paper, I knew no one.
So when a friendly looking chap bounced over, literally bounced, and asked me if I was enjoying the class and started dirting on the lecturer before giving me a chance to answer, I smiled and agreed.
This guy then asked me what my name was. “It’s Kethaki, nice to meet you” to which his legitimate response was to laugh and say “That’s too hard, I’ll just call you Kathy”.
I laughed it off, give the guy a break, its 4 pm and we still have class, he’s probably tired, who knows maybe he’s a little slow and can only process 2 syllables at a time, you don’t know his story, let it slide.
He proceeded “ So where are you from originally? Fiji? India?”
“No, I was born in Sri Lanka”
“Hahaha, you brown guys are all pretty much the same anyway right?” He said. Out loud. In Public.
Before my Criminology class.
Where we learned about racial profiling.
When I first moved to New Zealand I insisted on not shortening my name or using my middle name Sarah in class because I knew I’d never respond to it organically. Aside from my little brother calling me Akki, older sister, it’s always been Kethaki. Somewhere in the throes of adolescence, my closest friends nicknamed me Keth.
I suppose it’s a technicality to most, It’s not a far stretch from Keth to Kathy, I could probably get used to it if this unlikely friendship grows stronger in the future. But nicknames are a term of endearment and a sign of familiarity. Renaming someone you’ve just met to save you learning an extra syllable? It’s one step up from referring them by a serial number instead…
My parents picked names carefully and excitedly for their first child. It is my identity and I’ve stubbornly held onto it. I fear I will hold onto it despite the enunciation fears of a handful because, for the most part, Kiwis will give anything a good try once.
Kethaki Sarah Thalia Masilamani