Sherene Ellen Sornamalar Rajaratnam was the name lovingly decided by Dr. Rajaratnam Abel and Dr. Jolly Rajaratnam for their daughter, me. When I was four, my dad got an opportunity to study abroad, so off we went as a family and as protocol would have it, my name was added into my moms passport (those days kids did not have separate passports) in its full length.
After a year abroad we came back to India, I joined school, I grew and before I knew, I was in my tenth grade. Our tenth grade mark sheet being an official document,to prove one’s identity, the school sent a form asking for our official names. Not realising the caios it would cause in my life, the form was submitted with the name ‘Sornamalar’ dropped. The wisdom of my parents at that time suggesting that I go by “Sherene Rajaratnam’ was overruled by the love of my middle name. ‘Sherene Ellen Rajaratnam’ was my official name till my passport went for renewal a few years later.
‘This is not the same person, your passport cannot be issued’ was the verdict of the passport office, as the name on the application ‘Sherene Ellen Rajaratnam’ did not match the name in their records ‘Sherene Ellen Sornamalar Rajaratnam’. After all the legal hassels and a lot of running around to change my name, which included publishing in the government gazette and local newspaper, I finally got my passport to find that my name was still ‘Sherene Ellen Sornamalar Rajaratnam’. All our efforts seemed wasted. Thankfully it did not cause trouble with my travels abroad.
The most annoying experience with my name happened when i started a joint account with my husband. By this time I was hoping to change my name to ‘Sherene John’ (once I had a passport with the name ‘Sherene Ellen Rajaratnam’). It was the time personalised ATM cards were launched. ‘Sherene John’ was the choice for the name on my ATM card (they assured me that it would not cause any problems). As time went by I realised that the checks I signed were not getting encashed. On probing we found that while the bank went digital they had entered my name as “Sherene John” and had forgotten to store my signature. To add my signature, they just needed a document saying I was “Sherene John”. Now where will I go for that? This was needed even to close the account. So on advise from the bank we had to abandon and start a new bank account with the original name ‘Sherene Ellen Rajaratnam’. By this time I was getting annoyed with the filling of applications for colleges, banks and other government documents with my long name. There were times I did not have enough space to fit my long name.
Time went on…. our son was born and he needed a passport. The procedure included my passport being endorsed in my husband’s and my husband’s passport in mine after which both our passports were included in my son’s. Thankfully with the other documents the passport office put my name as ‘Sherene Ellen Rajaratnam’ in my husband’s and son’s passport. Finally my passport went for an address change and the passport office issued a passport with the name “Sherene Ellen Rajaratnam”. Time for celebration and change!!!
Life went on and we moved countries – Indonesia and now Vietnam. Our passport has become our lifeline. Now to think of the nightmare of changing my name and have it reflect in my passport, my husband’s,my son’s, our residence permits etc, etc we as a family have decided to stick with my maiden name for life.
After years of dropping my name “Sornamalar” I had an interesting experience. In Asian culture names carry a lot of significance. Somebody I met recently asked what my name was in my mother tongue? I thought that my parents did not give me one. It was then I was reminded of my name “Sornamalar” and found out it meant a golden flower. I had never liked that name but realised the love with which my parents had given me that name. It was also from my grandma’s name “SornaKani”.
As much as it is cute and significant to have many names practically speaking its good to just have one name. There’s nothing in a name but this name helps us identify who we are and makes us unique. It isn’t worth having multiple names My parents had realized this as my brother has only one name, our son too has only one name other than his surname.
This blog is the gazette of the social media to announce that I hear by will revert to my official name Sherene Ellen Rajaratnam. Moving countries and making new friends I need to stick to my official name never know where they will be looking for me!!!