They Changed My Name

3 min readOct 19, 2023
Photo by Vadim Bogulov on Unsplash

My name is Adesh. Pronounced Aa-de-sh. Aa (आ) as in arm. de (दे) as they. sh (श) as fresh. It’s a Sanskrit word for command, order — in my case used in judicial sense. Aa is the prefix. It was supposed to be pronounced ādeś but my culture had already changed it.

Everybody I know has called me Aa-de-sh. This is because I was born and raised in Nepal and in Nepali language it is written आदेश and pronounced Aa-de-sh. Aa as in Aardvark. Sh as in fresh.

Long after my culture changed my name and before anyone else did, I changed it when at some point in school, I dropped an a from my name and started writing Adesh. I may have done that because double A looked boring. But still everybody called me Aa-de-sh.

But one school teacher who taught Social Studies called me A-de-sh. A as in all.

‘There’s only one a in your name. So it’s not Aa-de-sh, it’s A-de-sh,’ he warned. I laughed and continued to write Adesh.

Here I am — six months in Canada — and people at work have started to call me by name. I have always felt both weird and good when someone else took my name. But turns out it feels weirder and better when someone from a different tongue takes your name.

For some here my name it is A-de-sh. For some it’s A-de-sh (where the a is pronounced as in apple.) But in all this variation there is a common: The de is no longer as in they, but as in debt. The boring sh is still sh.

But I don’t have a problem with all this. It’s fun.

Whenever some one pronounces my name Adesh as in all or Adesh as in apple, I remember the Social Studies teacher. If I had put in a couple of a’s in my name, I would be called Aa-desh (Aa as in aardvark). Yes, it would look boring but at least something would be right. Hey, but that teacher never warned me the de in my name could be pronounced as in debt.

As I battle alienation and subtle racism (which I think is natural everywhere) here, I notice that if my name had two A’s and sa, it’s meaning would be of ādeśa : order, mandate. But I guess people here would still pronounce it the way they do today. I would be Adesh. A as in all, etc.

In Sankrit, desh (deśá) could mean country or location, or area. And the prefix a as in all could be used to mean a negation like they use non in English.

Today, if the A in my name is pronounced as in all and desh as in they, it could mean ‘without country’.

Who said we don’t become what our names are?!