An odd Indian name

People in India are gravely obsessed with a name's meaning and this I can tell from experience. Each person here is incredibly motivated to find out the definition of your name.


There exist typical names such as Gaurav Pandey, Aakash Agarwal and Aakansha Sharma which are pretty self-explanatory to common Indians. Gaurav is for pride, Aakash the sky and Aakansha is hope or desire.

But every once in a while comes an extraordinary title which brings along with it a feeling of discomfort to the one who's bearing it!

Take mine for example, a poor combination of unfamiliar first name and infamous surname: vedang sati. Throughout my school years, I have tried hard to explain meaning of the two words that were gifted to me at birth.

I remember this as it's happened to me number of times: a new teacher would enter classroom and start taking introductions to kill time. Each student would rise up at his/her place and tell their names loudly. I was like, "here we go again," and waited for my turn, preparing for the obvious.

Then, at last, "my name is Vedang Sati," I would say, and the teacher stood totally blown away by surprise!


First of all, because Vedang is a strange first name and you don't get to hear it all the time. Secondly, because Sati was a shameful hindu practice in India whereby a widow threw herself on to her husband's funeral pyre.

But I must point out that "sati" as in my last name, designates originally the goddess rather than the rite. The rite itself has other technical names such as anvarohana (ascension to the pyre), sahagamana (going with) and sahamarana (dying with).

The shorter word was popularized by Anglo-Indian writers as they used it frequently and extensively in radio announcements, magazine articles and newspaper stories of the time. Later, the Indian Commission of Sati Prevention Act in 1987 defined sati as the act or rite itself.


I can understand why the difficult sanskrit words like anvarohana, sahagamana or sahamarana were discarded. Those were after all very forgettable names for a ritual of the worst kind. Instead, a more soul-stirring term had to be used, and therefore, I believe, that the word sati was vilified for good reason.

Despite the difficulties, there is bright side to having an unconventional surname. It became source of amusement for many: my friends used to scream "sati savitri" very openly. I felt hurt because of it in the beginning but eventually the phrase grew on me. I was rather more upset when they shouted, "sati teri fati!"

There is another advantage for having distinctive name, which I must mention. I can set my custom username on social media without having to use numbers, underscores or other ugly characters. Think about it for a moment: there could be thousands of Aakash Agarwal(s) or Gaurav Pandey(s) in India but there is possibly and hopefully, only one Vedang Sati.

Hence, a happy ending, after all.

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