I heard on the news today that according to NYU psychology prof and author Adam Alter, unexpected forces shape how [I] think, feel, and behave. It makes perfect sense; unexpected forces such as tiramisu and chocolate have quite literally shaped me, so it stands to reason that I THINK large, FEEL overwhelmed and mostly BEHAVE.
Caught between a semi trailer hauling construction material and a state trooper, I am unable to change lanes because of a fused front left turn indicator. Right away I decide to use Alter’s reasoning as my legit excuse for being 45 minutes late in picking up my youngest from track practice.
Only he doesn’t buy it.
He tut-tuts and declares, “last week you blamed everything on your varicose veins, the week before that it was hot flashes.”
“What can I say, Alter is very convincing,” I say weakly.
Besides, by Alter’s reasoning, there’s a good chance that my name tends to drive these outcomes. Certainly in America it appears to. Take my first name for instance – SINDHU. It’s half a musical note, a tributary of the River Indus, figures prominently in the Indian National Anthem “Punjab-Sindhu-Gujarata-Maratha-Dravida-Utkala-Banga,” but here, as a deeply religious woman once gleefully told me, my name has a negative connotation. For her Sin – DO is a big no-no, so instead she follows her priest’s advice (Sin. DON’T!) as a way to remember my name.
I don’t get it. According to Alter, certain people even have damaging hurricanes named after them because their names invoke a sense of charity and induce people to contribute money toward hurricane damage recovery. Mine says “Where’s the chastity belt?” Safe to say, no hurricane will share my moniker unless folks equate sin with charity instead. So the next time Angelina Jolie donates a few million bucks to hurricane relief, and we all called her largess “sinfully charitable,” I just might have a shot at having a destructive force of nature named after me. How’s that for an aptonym?
So maybe with some good PR, I could salvage some goodwill for my first name, but my last name does not evoke any benevolence in the US, only bafflement and a weird hankering for a stiff drink. Alter does say that every name comes with its own baggage. Thirteen characters long, VIJAYASARATHY musters little compassion even when split into 6 syllables. Friends have said that the name should come with its own disclaimer: Pronounce at your own risk. Repeated failed attempts at pronouncing the name has been known to cause COPD in some people.
And our kids wonder why we didn’t give them a middle name!
NOTE: Adam Alter, Drunk Tank Pink And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, And Behave 2013