A discussion with the HR personnel couple of days back about how I have 2 date of births – official and unofficial, reminded me of how pain in my butt was my last name when I got to US 10 years back. I ended up having the rare opportunity of picking my last name as I ventured to fix my first name, last name mess.
You see, in India, we don’t spell out our last names after our first name. We usually abbreviate it in front of our first names. So, for example – “John Dorian” would be “D. John” in India. So, I am guessing by sheer accident when I started my schooling back in 1979 my dad didn’t think of breaking my name for the school system. So on my school records – my name always have been “Akbar Pasha”. It was missing my family name initials in the beginning. My family name is (or was) – wait for it – “Mohammad Abdul” – and I would have usually written it as “M.A. Akbar Pasha”. But something was off. Either my school messed it up or my parents didn’t think it was important. So just ‘Akbar Pasha’ prevailed.
The way Indian education system and further civic system is setup is – the name, you have at your passing of high school (Indian version) – which is a 10th grade – kinda sticks and becomes your official name. So, less did I know the future pain, when I passed the test with my name as ‘Akbar Pasha’. And so it endured. My college, my graduation, my post graduation – everything just proceed with my full given name – Akbar Pasha without any last/family name. I never bothered about it either.
The trouble started when I was trying to get out the country for a job. When I got my passport back in 1998 – the passport office was flummoxed with my missing last name dilemma and they fixed it by leaving it empty. So I have a frigging blank in my last/family name place in my passport. That was ok. It didn’t pose me any trouble. I ended up happily in Singapore and worked my butt off.
The trouble started when I got my US work visa. You see back in those days to get a work visa to US, there was no need to face an interview. You apply with right paper work and if it works out, you get the visa. So, I think when the US consulate in Singapore was processing my visa application – they must have been confused about my missing last name in my passport and in order to fix it – they did something crazy. They made another mistake on top of it. They messed up my first name.
I think the software they were using usually *requires* a last name. And here I come without one and that threw the whole system off. So they decided to take the fix in their own hands. And it got f*ed up more. So, when I got my visa – they made my last name ‘Akbar Pasha’ and in my first name added an abomination – “FNU” – First Name Unknown. I kid you not. That’s what I have in my visa!
The real trouble started when I got to US. While getting a SSN, Driving License and every official document – nobody can find my name in the records because I was frigging FNU. There were many occasions where people – this is true! – called me FNU (It kinda sounded like Fanhuuuu). They probably thought it’s some Swahili shortcut. I felt like when John Dorian tries to say Turk’s phone number using the letters on them in Scrubs! To all those crazy free software movement people – yes, the thought did occur to me if it were GNU instead of FNU I would have considered it keeping it!
So there it started for the next 4 years wherever it required me to show my ID – it was such a pain in the butt. I had to explain to everyone how I have a *missing* first name. Every time I went to DMV, every time I flew international, every time I had to give my first name officially. I was always “FNU Akbar Pasha”.
So, finally I decided I had to fix it – on my trip to India, I decided I would break up my name so that it’s easier for people to say it (Starbucks disagrees) and also break it down. I went to the passport office and got my name fixed. I officially became “Akbar” first name “Pasha” last name. I probably am one of very few people who get to choose their last name. But I wouldn’t recommend it!
As to having 2 date of births? It’s a whole another story and another blog post.