Salaam. My name is Eli… Ellie… Ella… Hey… Ahaay…
Let me start over.
Salaam beh hamegi. I won't introduce myself because I don't like my name. When I was growing up, I would often ask myself why any reasonable parent would name their child Kobra, Mohiyedeen or Qoli. For God's sake we are the new generation. WE NEED NEW NAMES!
So what's wrong with my name you ask? Everything! I live in an Arab community that has shaped my views and strengthened my religious beliefs. Hence, I have spent a better portion of my youth listening to people gasp at the mention of my name.
The conversations usually go like this:
— “Shoo esmek?” (What is your name?)
— (In a low voice) “Elahe”.
A moment of silence. Then,
— “I'm sorry, I didn't get that. Could you repeat it?'”
Sigh. After all these years I STILL get agitated when I have to repeat my name to strange nobodys I'd rather not know. In a louder voice I spell out E-L-A-H-E!
— “What? Do you know that's blasphemy?”
— “Yes, as a matter of fact I do!”
And so the story continues.
Elahe translates to “Goddess” in Arabic, and since no such thing exists in Islam, my name becomes sacrilegious. My religious mother was told that Elahe meant Angel. She loved the meaning and decided that my name should have a great deal of impact on my life. Well she obviously made damn sure of that!
I have been called by nicknames, by my sister's name, my surname or called nothing at all. So after years of debating and arguing with my mother, I have finally won.
Or have I?
For weeks I have exhausted every search engine on the Internet with the phrase “baby names”. Except, I'm no baby. I'm 22 and I'm actually considering changing my name. So now I am the butt of everyone's jokes.
I understand; they're used to knowing me as Elahe. I'M used to being me as Elahe. This isn't going to be easy.
My mother suggested the closest name to the meaning she had in mind, “Fereshte”. I suddenly have flashbacks of my cousins back home singing “Fereshte aashe reshte, dare ******* neveshte…” NO! I don't want to be ridiculed anymore.
I shall start my own search. I want a unique name, a Persian name but nothing blasphemous or controversial. A name with a meaning that is easy to pronounce and not offensive in other languages. Most of all, I want it to look good when I write my signature. Never did have a decent signature with “Elahe”.
And so the contestants have been narrowed down to the following:
— Noor (too common among Arabs)
— Aryana (beautiful. Love it. Translates to “Naked” in Arabic. FORGET IT!)
— Yalda (doesn't suit me)
— Atena (Athina in Greek, meaning Goddess of Whatever. No more Goddesses for me, thank you! Or is it the duaa “Rabana Atina fi Dunya Al hasana?”)
Oh never mind. I'm not taking any chances.
Choose names that are suitable to your child's sex, generation, surroundings, etc. No Aryana in Arab countries, no Aghdas in the West and no Shahrooz khanom please!
I can't decide. I don't want to. I want to be free of this burden and free… that's it. That's what I want to be.