The Venus Flytrap: Grace In Aliases


I have a friend who has a name so supremely cool that I’m concerned it cannot even be mentioned in this column without incurring royalties. It is Chandrachoodan, which despite meaning something as poetically wimpy as “the one with the moon matted into his hair” sounds like “the one who will have you eviscerated if you take his parking space”. I unfortunately, am a Sharanya. The prettiest name in South India – as all of about 20 million sets of parents seem to have realized, including mine.

However, as only people with access to my legal documents and hardcore stalkers may know, it’s not my real name, in a technical sense. My real first name, my spiffy business-like alter-ego who collects cheques, signs debit card bills and occasionally gets interrogated at immigration, is one that really does live up to my (entirely fictional, my also-fictional lawyer insists I add) reputation of eating men for breakfast. But what follows that secret sobriquet takes the cake: an alias sign. Also known as the @ in an email address. I bamboozle you not. I have a glyph in my legal name.

There are even more interesting reasons to be grateful for my monikers. I got to thinking about this topic because of the excitement over what the new Brangelina twins have been christened: the perfectly sensible names of Knox and Vivienne. Is normal the only remaining fetish in celebrity baby-naming? Not being called Apple or Audio Science might be the last taboo, a curse guaranteed to make you really unpopular in Hollywood playgrounds, and your parents total revolutionaries.

This, therefore, would make my parents incredibly ahead of their time and cool. Which doesn’t exactly compute with data already at available to me, but still.

The great disadvantage of a common name that can be pronounced two ways, however, is that mine inevitably gets pronounced in the way that I don’t like. Without the H. Ironically, one of the names I hate most contains only letter less than my own.

But there’s one specific advantage to so unexceptional an epithet: there’s already a planet that shares it, and I’m not even very famous yet! Minor asteroid 17092 Sharanya was named for an upcoming scientist from Coimbatore. Do you know who else has one of those named for them? Andy Warhol. That makes at least two things that put me in his league: incurable kitschiness and planet co-baptism.

If that doesn’t make me cosmically cool, I don’t know what will.

I could accessorize the planet with a star bought off the Internet, but that’s not extraordinary anymore. And a perfume or clothing range is just too boringly bourgeois, so the unimaginative can keep those options. I’d rather have the quirky stuff.

So among my dreams are to have two seemingly paradoxical things named after me: a cocktail and a hurricane. The second will be an act of god and the first will be simply divine.

In some folklore, such as in the story of Manawee and his twin brides (as retold by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run With The Wolves), knowing the name of something indicates power over it. The truth is this: I considered reverting to my legal name even as recently as last year. And then things beyond my control pushed this name, the name you know me by, into a public sphere. There was little I could do but take possession.

Now I know both my names. And I am powerful in both. To the world at large, I have a common, frequently-mispronounced, everyone-has-a-relative-who’s-a… name. But I plan on owning it like none of the others ever have.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express. “The Venus Flytrap” is my weekly column in the Zeitgeist supplement. Previous columns can be found here.

8 responses »

  1. “The prettiest name in South India – as all of about 20 million sets of parents seem to have realized, including mine.”

    This line just killed me. I’m laughing so hard I haven’t even read the rest of your article yet. Oh you.

  2. “…occasionally gets interrogated at immigration”


    How can you joke about such things after what happened to you? :O :O :O

  3. Haha! I had this classmate in school, whose name changed when he was six, and I remember it took him almost two years to come to terms with it!

    Better Sharanya than Gajalakshmi, I’d think. And one never knows with Tamilian parents – they sometimes have these manic bouts of devotion!

  4. :) I’m just rolling with laughter….
    though I didn’t have any immigration problems, I had to(and still have to) deal with a lot of people pronouncing my name in ‘n’ number of ways..especially without the ‘h’. I just hate it..and where ever I go, I bump into a namesake of mine…every school, college or watever…and now in the blog world! :)
    But I’m quite happy with my name….changing it at this point of time would lead to a major identity crisis!
    U just make me to want to read more and more…. :)

  5. Andthirtyeights — Oh yes. Definitely glad my parents didn’t get into a Gajalakshmi-esque bout of devotion at the time of my birth! The Devi Stotra (“sarva mangala mangalye”) inspired my name. :)

    Sharanya — Thanks. I’m pretty sure my midadventures at immigration had nothing to do with my (our) name, although that’s another story! The TVF archive is available at the page at the top of the blog, if you are interested.

  6. Hi Sharanya, it’s like saying hello to myself, well ironically aswell my name’s Sharanya. I googled my name and i came across your blog(right?), I have one aswell *pokes website url*. Anyway, i was trying to find what Sharanya really means; some say dedication, some say surrender and others say a god. It’d be real spiffy if I were a god. Shout to me if you take note.

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