I don’t know what my parents were thinking when they gave me my nickname. Poupee, apparently, means doll. Whoever would want to go through life being called “doll” by all and sundry? Especially when one doesn’t have an even remotely “doll-ish” personality? If you go to see an old-fashioned Hollywood flick, it would be ok to have an adult female character called “Doll” only provided that character was a blond bimbette (the bimbette part being at least as important as the blond part; although my spellchecker says there’s no such word as bimbette) who was coquettish, obviously sexy, and completely empty-headed. Ideally this would also be a character that ended up dead halfway through the movie. Obviously, I do not resemble this prototypical doll from any angle. And apart from such a character, I can’t think of any adult who could do justice to the name “doll” – in any language.
Thankfully, most people who know my nickname don’t know what it means – it only means that in French. And come to think of it, how pseud is that? To nickname your daughter in French? Ugh!
What’s even worse, as my friend Supriya kindly pointed out to me when we were only just barely acquainted, is that various abbreviations of Poupee – “poo”, “poop”, and even the homonym “poopie” are all indicative of a certain form of excrement in colloquial English.
All the same, Poupee is what I was called at home and it became the name I called myself. Of course I have a formal name: Anamika. And again, I wonder what on earth my parents were thinking. It means: one without a name. But then, these are the same parents who wanted to nickname my sister “Pennycandy”. Shudder. My mother must have had a weird sense of humour when she was younger. (Not that it’s much better now…) Luckily for my sister, she escaped that fate and wound up without a nickname. Her friends supplied various dreadful ones to fill the gap during her school years, but I doubt they were as bad as “Pennycandy”.
As for me, I spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to convince people that Anamika, apart from meaning “nameless one” is also the name of the ring finger. Thankfully, nobody has yet been so lacking in civility as to ask why anyone would want to call their daughter by the name of the third finger.
Since Poupee was what all the people close to me called me, I liked the name. (Back then, I hadn’t found out what it meant.) I liked people I liked to call me Poupee. Family friends, family members, and friends of my sister called me Poupee. Anamika was for school. Over the first couple of decades of my life, those few school friends who bridged the divide between school and home switched to calling me Poupee. Amit called me Poupee from day one. “Anamika” became my formal, outdoors persona, while “Poupee” was me.
It was only when I started working that I really became Anamika. My early writings as a journalist were published under that name, and for the first time, I felt “Anamika” begin to develop into a real person – as opposed to just being an external wrapping for Poupee.
In 2001, I joined a workplace that already had an Anamika. It was too difficult to have two Anamikas in a six-person team, so I got to pick a name. I didn’t want to be Poupee in my workplace, and the other Anamika was also sometimes called Ana, so I had little choice but to settle for Mika. And actually, I somehow liked it. I liked the oddity of it being the second part of my name, instead of the first. I liked the pointy sound of the ‘i’ sandwiched between the ‘M’ and the ‘k’. I even liked that it reminded me of Mika Hakkinnen, the only other Mika I’d ever heard of.
It turned out to be a very good idea, too. In that organization, I worked with people from various parts of the world, and you wouldn’t believe the number of different and horrible ways that the name Anamika can be spoken. There’s only one right way to say it, which is music to my ears. Any other way, and you run the risk of being silently but terribly cursed by me. And while I try to make allowances for different accents and different interpretations of the written symbols, my patience really runs out when even Indians who have stayed abroad for a bit make a mess out of my name. Mika was much less likely to cause me to burst a blood vessel – it’s just two syllables, four uncontroversial letters, consonants and vowels alternating. How difficult can that be. (Of course, my then manager managed to turn it into Mikka, but she had a lot of far greater crimes to her credit, so it’s hardly even worth mentioning that.)
A few of my friends still call me Anamika. Several call me Mika, including some who didn’t work with me at that organization but got to know the name either through this blog or through common friends. A few – typically those who know me through Amit – call me Poupee. One eccentric creature calls me Poops (which is ok coming from her, but nobody else had better dare try it). My paternal grandmother, who didn’t get on with my mother (obviously), called me Pupu until I became old enough to make it clear that that was unacceptable even from a grandmother.
And I? In this multitude of names, what do I call myself? Which name do I like the most? What do I want people I like to call me? Strangely enough, I just don’t know any more. Or maybe, it doesn’t matter anymore. After all, as the Bard said, what’s in a name? That which we call Anamika, by any other name would still be me!