>Do you tell your name to a stranger?

>I didn’t, not for a very long time. I thought if I told my name to strangers I may get into trouble: they may stalk me, act familiar with me, use my name for things I did not want it to be used.

It started very early, way back in school. I was a teenager then, taught to ignore comments by boys wanting to “make friendship” with me. Sometimes those comments were questions, usually ‘What is your name?’ I never answered that question, never except once.

A boy my age following me on his bicycle insisted day after day he wanted to know my name. I ignored him like I had ignored others before him. But he was cute. And naughty. And if it had not been for my conditioning I may have befriended him. But it was only because he was cute and naughty that I took the liberty to reply to him, mock him rather. He pleaded me to tell him my name and I barked back at him, “Chameli!” It was the unlikeliest of names for somebody my age and the likeliest thing to stun him into silence. He never asked me my name again. Never came back to follow me.

When I was in college and used to travel in trains – usually alone, often with friends – to Delhi, I had a very unoriginal but fictional name for any stranger on the journey who wanted to know my name. I called myself ‘Preeti’ for no apparent reason. On hindsight, I do not know what I thought they would do with my name if they knew it but I never told my name.

I was almost fanatical about not disclosing my identity. At self-service cafes like Barista, I never gave in my name fearing that when they called it out, the whole café would know me by my name. I can now ask myself that if they did, what would happen, but I did not question myself then. Instead, I gave the name of whoever was with me. Later, I became slightly more daring and came up with names I would liked to have. Like Vivienne or some such fancy thing.

I don’t know when I grew out of this mindset but somewhere down the line I realised I was being very boring. I was closing myself off to a lot of people. They were strangers, yes, but how would I make new friends if I kept lying to strangers who could be my friends? Did I have to know people from somewhere, through somebody to befriend them? And I realised I could afford to be less harsh on others and more liberal with my name!

Yesterday, T and I were at a bookstore browsing through books, discussing authors, must-reads, flipping through magazines when a young boy (I say that as if I’m an old hag but he was definitely much younger!) came up to us and started chatting nonchalantly. He complimented T, told us he was Afghanistani student here on a scholarship. And then he asked me my name.

I did not pause to gave him the name by which everyone who knows me, knows me. I did not pause to cook up another name for myself. I did not pause to think, after I had spoken to him, that I had done something out of my league.

But when I came back home, I realised it was probably the first time I had told a stranger my precious name. It felt good to be finally free to be D to a stranger.


27 responses »

  1. >poof! here i was waiting it to be revelaed in all its glory on the blog! hehe!so for me, as of now you are still D! who could be preeti or priya or even chameli! bah!i funnily am the exact oppsite and never even thought of lying about my name. ever. and till date have never had a bad experience! :)this was indeed a very interesting read D! :)cheers!abha

  2. >@Monika: I love Vivienne too. I think it suits me!@Abha: You know for a very short while I was writing on this blog with my real name. But it didn’t give me the freedom that anonymity does. So I changed to D.@Anon: REALLY?! Why, if he liked me so much, could he not have ignored a silly name like Chameli. Lol!

  3. >:) Interesting read..Even i am afraid of the same -whether they would use my name to play pranks or put me in some problem,but whenever somebody asks me,i end up saying my real name..Yes,blogging anonymsly gives you lot of freedom..At times,even i ahve felt that if i had been anonymous,and my blog not known to my family,i may have said or written more differently..then again,it is great feel to have friends calling you by my real name,so to me,i feel good and a times bad for using my real name 🙂 We never know who on earth will bring charm and add colours to our life..So don’t close oneself to strangers,we never know if they are more worth than our deaers ones..But again,atmost care or filtering should be done..

  4. >I always have the same issue. But I am not able to lie usually about my name, so I just smile and walk away at the whats your name question. But like you said,when someone is following you on a bicycle I think maybe I would also have come up with a pseudo.And mine would have been Anita!

  5. >Lol Chameli! But seriously even I used to be terrified of giving my name..and some where still am..when i am not sure I use my surname and say m Mrs. so n so .not comfortable about putting up my pics too ..

  6. >Chameli??!!!!! LOLI,on the other hand, can never cook up an appropriate name and always end up giving mine. Though I`ll confess that it`s had me worried a number of times!

  7. >interesting..you know i never give my real name when ever i order food for pick up ..or coffee shops..not for the fear strangers might know my name… i just HATE mispronunciation of my name:)

  8. >yes yes…i did that too..in school…to boys who wanted to ‘be friends’. never never told them my name and would walk as quickly as i could :D. then when I grew older I used fake names :)..like noineeka and bulbul and jennifer 🙂 hee heeeChameli! hee hee you don’t sound like a Chameli at all LOL

  9. >yay to you! 🙂 Vivienne is a gorgeous name…i love the way its pronounced…very sexily!!surprisingly ive never been afraid to give my name…despite the fact that its quite unique and is always remembered by people…the problem comes when these ppl expect me to remember their names as well…now thats something i cannot for the life of me do!!!

  10. >@nimis540: I think this realisation that I must be more open to relationships with more people has been a sort of growing up experience.@Aathira: Also, I was barely 15 then and more concerned about being misunderstood as a girl who was accessible, if not available, to all and sundry. Didn’t want to give that impression.@Ramby: Lol!@my space: I avoid bracketing myself as Miss or Mrs. but I do sign in with my initials often.@roop: Trust you to do that 🙂

  11. >@Piper: I don’t worry about it now at all. Perhaps, because I’ve not gotten myself into any trouble by telling people who I am.@unsung: It is liberating, in a sense.@hmmlife: Yeah, that’s one of the reasons for me as well. I hate having to spell out my name and tell them how to pronounce it.@IHM: It definitely is conditioning. This was something that I picked up probably because I was brought up in a small city where everyone tends to know everyone and one can hardly afford to have one’s name misused. Now, I know people around me know who I am so I guess that’s why I’m more comfortable with being D even to strangers. If you know what I mean…

  12. >@How do we know: 🙂 True@A: Oh finally there’s someone who did that too! I thought I was really an aberration.@Sunshine: I loved ‘Vivienne’ on Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Picked it from there.

  13. >Vivienne such a pretty name… Miss D… i am most comfortable sharing my name… have always been but I agree anonymous blogging does give u an edge for sometime but after that its like the people u want to be anon to figure out anyways and the new friends u make here, does it really matter what ur name is nah… ur blog to me would have still been the same if it was not D and something else…

  14. >haha .. i kno how it feels .. being asked for friendship and name randomly on the road by men as a teenager.. it has left me with different names in different situations, i rem i used to call myself sneha and then came up merci.. which has become part of my screen name now :)…i don even give my name in email ids i always use sansmerci …i still have the fear to even shout out my name in public for official reasons! i jus started thinkin.. why! i mean what can they do with it after all 🙂

  15. >@sansmerci: Let go of this fear and you’re going to enjoy it!@Piper: Not keeping too well and therefore am unable to devote any energy to writting. Will be back soon.

  16. >Vivienne is such a pretty name. I shared your hesitance to share my name with certain people, but I don’t remember making up names. Does sound fun! It’s nice that you’ve at last got over your fear! :)Hope you’re feeling better now, Chameli…errr…D! 🙂

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