My Name is Rashmi, not Rash-Me!

Four-year-old Rashmi proudly holds her carved Halloween pumpkin, not knowing that her name would be the cause of confusion and laughs.

Four-year-old Rashmi proudly holds her carved Halloween pumpkin, not knowing that her name would be the cause of confusion and laughs.

Rashmi. Rash-me. My name is often mistaken for some sort of dermatological problem or mocked for the quite obvious joke, “I’ve got a rash-on-me!”

I have always been the first to make fun of my name before anyone else had the chance. But it wasn’t until recently that I actually started to enjoy the scratchy resistant ring my name has to it.

Pronounced “rush-me” at home and “rash-me” or “rosh-me” everywhere else, I often felt my name’s outstanding meaning and story was lost in translation, buried amongst the other unique and odd ethnic names.

Although one might not be able to tell at first glance, the significance of how I was named and the events that followed had profound results.

Born June 24 in the peak morning hours, I was brought into this world at 6:45 a.m., much to my mother’s pain and final relief.

When it came time to name me, my parents had not given it much thought. Thinking and possibly hoping to have another son, my father had only thought of Indian boy names like Rajiv and Raj, whereas my mother wanted a common Indian girl name like Roshni.

Unsatisfied with my parents’ name choices, my grandmother peered into my deep brown eyes and smiled.

Just as the morning rays of the sun began to fall on my face, she simply stated “Rashmi,” appropriately named as Rashmi means rays of the sun.

Although it sounds much like a scene from a Disney movie, the way in which I was named was quite special, but not uncommon, to Indian culture. My parents, respecting my grandmother’s wishes, agreed that from then on I was to be Rashmi Guttal.

I started to grow a deep abhorrence to my name around my seventh birthday, just as I was entering second grade.

Children at school began to tease me about my name and I started to realize I wasn’t the same as my normal-named friends. My brother was lucky because his name Rahul was easily masked and often mistaken for the Hispanic name Raúl.

He was able to assimilate quickly with his fellow classmates. I wasn’t so fortunate. After being teased numerous times, I began to brush it off and, just to my luck, my family moved and I was able to start off at a new school.

I was able to throw punches at myself before anyone else could, suddenly making my peers laugh and losing the pain my name had caused me at my previous school.

However, through the jokes and laughter, my insecurities remained attached to every syllable in my name.

Often going over the pros and cons of my name in my head, I developed a love-hate relationship with it.

Although it might seem neurotic to overanalyze the significance of my name, I was convinced that other people defined me by it, and as one of the only Rashmis at most of the schools I attended, its meaning signified a lot more than I had bargained for.

I had a responsibility to make a name for not only myself, literally, but define what it meant to others as well!

Up until high school I struggled with just trying to fit in, hoping that the fact that my name was so different and that I was so normal would cancel each other out.

Yet it was a lot harder to be someone I wasn’t than someone I was.

Unlike the other Jessicas, Ashleys and Amandas, I couldn’t hide among the crowd when I did something good or bad.

It wasn’t until the summer before college that I realized the significance of my name and the impact I could create no matter what my name was.

Through the death of my grandmother, who was also my namesake, I was able to embrace a culture that I was not accustomed to and, after nineteen years of life, finally fall in love with the name I was given.

As I entered college, I began to let go of my insecurities about my name and decided to define a name for myself that my family and community would be proud of.

I no longer allowed myself to think that I didn’t get a job interview because my name was hard to pronounce or that I wasn’t as appealing as girls with names that were simpler or easier to say.

For once in my life, I took responsibility to change the way I perceived myself even if those stigmas were sometimes placed on my name.

In an environment filled with diversity and unique names just like mine, I was finally able to accept myself for who I was and explore the rich culture that my name originated from.

To me, my name is a great reminder to everyone to never judge a book by its cover, whether that may be a name or the way someone looks, and to also embrace yourself for who you are, no matter how different it may be.

In the end, you and your uniqueness contribute to the openness and diversity that can change the way your community is portrayed, and that is what allows me to remain proud of my name.