How I became a “Pasha”

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.

They weren’t there then

My friend who works at the U.N. sent me this. It’s hilarious and truthful:

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An ingenious example of speech and politics occurred recently in the United Nations Assembly that made the world community smile.

A representative from India began: ‘Before beginning my talk I want to tell you something about Rishi Kashyap of Kashmir, after whom Kashmir is named. When he struck a rock and it brought forth water, he thought, ‘What a good opportunity to have a bath.’ He removed his clothes, put them aside on the rock and entered the water. When he got out and wanted to dress, his clothes had vanished. A Pakistani had stolen them.’

The Pakistani representative jumped up furiously and shouted, ‘What are you talking about? The Pakistanis weren’t there then.’

The Indian representative smiled and said, ‘And now that we have made that clear, I will begin my speech. ‘And they say Kashmir belongs to them……………………………………….

Flow

Some days. There are some days which come by very rare, I am in a total flow state. A lot has been said about this in this brilliant book. Today was such day. I was in a complete flow state and my mind was like water. Smooth moving around issues and things. I was able to see how my behavior and feelings were affecting the reality around me. I was able to mend my ways as I found them defective. I was able to keep my awareness to the maximum. As evening arrived, I slowed down and my mind wanted something else to relax. So, I laughed my ass off to some online jokes – one such joke was the best I have ever heard and I will share it below, but first I want to remember the sequence of things that led me to flow state.

  1. When I woke up – I thanked God/Lord/Universe/Swami/Higher Self about how blessed my life is and how grateful I am for this blessed day. I was sincere and honest in this.
  2. I meditated.
  3. On my way to work I listened to some amazing podcast on life, abundance, wealth, belief systems etc

This put me in a flow state. But it was intense few hours and by evening my mind was a vegetable. So, this joke really cracked me up and I am still giggling. Enjoy.

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A guy walks into a bar with his pet monkey. He orders a drink and while he’s drinking it the monkey is running wild. The monkey jumps up on the pool table and grabs the cue ball, sticks it in his mouth and swallows it whole.

The bartender is livid and says to the guy, “Did you see what your monkey just did?”

“No. What did that stupid monkey do this time?” says the patron.

“Well, he just swallowed the cue ball off the pool table, whole” says the bartender.

“Yeah, well I hope it kills him because he’s been driving me nuts” says the patron.

The guy finishes his drink and leaves.

Two weeks later he comes back with the monkey. He orders a drink and the monkey starts running wild around the bar again. While the man is drinking his drink, the monkey finds some peanuts on the bar. He grabs one, sticks it up his butt, then pulls it out and eats it. The bartender is disgusted.

“Did you see what your monkey did now?” he asks.

“What now?” responds the patron. “Well, he stuck a peanut up his butt, then pulled it out and ate it” says the bartender.

“Well, what do you expect?” replied the patron. “Ever since he ate that darn cue ball he measures everything first!”

The Legend of Golden Star

When we moved to India, we had so much stuff to pack – I decided that I would just take 3 of my jeans and rest I can always buy them here in India. I usually get my jeans from Gap because they fit me so well. So, after I got here one of the jeans started to develop a hole in the back pocket area. May be it’s the wash here that caused it so I decided it’s time to buy a new pair of jeans.

There is no Gap in India(yet). So, I went to one of the fancy store here which carries all the major brand names. I got a bunch of them I like and wanted to try them on. So, here is the thing. My jeans size is 32. I take pride(sometimes) that it has been 32 in the past 7 years or so. Anyhow, I was trying this fancy Levi’s jeans of size 32 and I couldn’t pull it up above my knees! I was surprised and checked the size – it was 32. So, I asked the sales guy that if he had given me a ladies jeans. Nope. So, he asked me to try the next size – 34. Now, this I couldn’t get it past my hips! Whoa, did I put on so much weight in India already? So, after thinking a lot about it I reluctantly asked for next size – 36. Now, I was really embarrassed. I couldn’t get this past my hips too. I almost cried in the changing room. I kinda got pissed off at the sales guy, may be he is playing a trick on me. Finally after swallowing a lot of pride I chose size 38 and dang, they fit me. But fit me in a sense, that it got past my hips, but the waist was so loose that I had to hold it with my hands.

Now, I have a theory about this. Please bear with me:

1. Indians somehow like the jeans which fit them tight. I mean really tight. I am not just talking about girls, even guys too. All the Indian jeans are kinda …. ummm….how do I say this without getting in trouble? Anyhow, all the Indian jeans are kinda tight in crotch area! That’s very true. Here we like it to keep our ‘stuff’ kinda warm and sweaty by wearing ostensibly tight jeans where the center of focus is ‘package area’. I don’t know why? Seriously. I hate to wear those jeans, neither here nor in US. It’s already so hot here and sweaty and itchy. Aw. Let’s not go there.

So, one of my conclusion is that those ‘clutch my crotch’ jeans don’t suit me well. So in order to get some air in there, I had to buy 38 size jeans. Well, you wouldn’t know that if you look at that jeans because out of utter shame I tore apart the label on the back of the jeans!

2. I believe, we Indians have wide hips and wide feet. I blame it on all the squatting, sitting, shitting we do. Everywhere people squat or just plain old sit on the floor. Not many Indians wear shoes unless they are going to an Interview. We wear a lot of chappals growing up and our feet can get out of limits. Also we do sit down or squat a lot. Chairs & furniture were luxury items pre-1990 era when the Indian markets opened up for Globalisation. So we all sit down and are happy about it. We are so happy about it that we invented our whole Yoga, Meditation system which wholly supports the sitting on the ground thing.

So, anyhow that was not the story. As I was having trouble to wear 38 size jeans, I decided to get the old torn Gap jeans fixed. I asked my sister and she told me there is a tailor nearby who can fix it. One day I went to “Hanuman Alterzations” to get my jeans fixed. There was a old man sitting a pile of clothes mostly jeans with his hand run sewing machine. Even before I explained to him the problem, he took a sharp knife and slit open the torn gap in my Gap jeans! This is a very smart trick which most Indian business people employ – making sure that you won’t go to other tailors, now that you see the work has already started here even before you spoke a word.

So, this guy told me that he will get it fixed in 3 days. I got busy with my work and I didn’t get a chance to go to him for next 2 weeks to collect my jeans. Finally one day I went to him. The conversation went like this:

Me: Hi, I gave my jeans couple of days back for alteration.

Tailor: Huh? Who are you?

Me: I gave my jeans to get a patch on my pocket place where it was torn?

Tailor: What color is the jeans?

Me: Blue, kinda faded blue.

He looks around, you won’t believe me – his room is filled with blue jeans and theres jeans stuck in every closet, corner. He is actually walking on top of some of them.

Tailor: When did you exactly give me the jeans?

Me: Ummm, about 2 weeks back(?)

Tailor: Was this before holidays?

Me: Yes ( I was horrified by now, because I was worried may be his son/he used it for the holidays?)

Tailor: Long time back. Let me see.

So, he starts his search and after 10 mins of search he finds it lying in a corner with some million jeans on top of it. I made a mental note to wash is before I wear these jeans.

I take the jeans and open it up to see the horrifying thing on the back of my jeans.

Me (completely disturbed by now): What? What is this patch you have here?

Tailor: It’s not a patch. It’s a label.

Me: But I asked you to patch it up with some blue & white thread.

Tailor: I did that, on top of that zig-zag I put in a label so that it looks good.

Me: ??????

This guy had put a piece of cloth on the back of my jeans which says ‘Golden Star’. I was shocked and pissed.

Me: Why did you do that? I didn’t ask you to do it?

Tailor: It looks good with a label.

Me: I DON’T LIKE IT!

He was taken aback. I am guessing no one said anything like that to him before. He is kinda very popular ‘jeans alterzation’ guy in our area.

He looks squarely at my T-shirt and says –

Tailor: Well, I don’t like your T-shirt!

Me: What?

Tailor: You don’t like this label, then I don’t like your T-shirt

Me: That doesn’t make sense, both T-shirt and Jeans belong to me

He was very upset by now, he took that long, sharp knife which he used in the past and reached for my jeans. I knew that he is going to do something more bad this time and I hate pulling my jeans up every 30 secs in those 38 size jeans. So, I stopped him and decided to just take the jeans away from him.

Me: Ok, Ok. How much for this?

Tailor: (mutters something)..35Rs…(mutters again)

Now, that’s how I ended up with a jeans which has a patch on my bum which says ‘Golden Star’. Sangita calls me by that name whenever I wear it. When our friends Sarah, Lisa were here – they pretty much pulled my leg for it all those 10 days and called me Golden Star. They referred to it, whenever any sentence they uttered had a word ‘Gold’ or ‘Star’ in it. As for Sangita – she just calls me Golden star now. I am kinda used to it and sort of like it now. Here is a visual of my Golden Star.

Golden Star

Me, Myself and My Goatee

India is a country where you get feedback about random things – just like that and immediate. As a part of hacking my life, I have decided to grow a goatee (well, it has been Sang’s idea from the past 2 years). As we were going on a 10 day trip, I chose that as an opportunity to grow one as I would be away from home.

Our American friends were, as usual, very nice. They said it was good and it looked nice. The feedback was not immediate as in India as in US it is considered to be rude to comment on someone’s physical thingys. Sangita is excited. When we got back, I got a bunch of feedback though:

“You look too old in your goatee”My Mother

“You look like you are a father to 4 kids”My Sister

“Goatees’ bring good luck to some and bad luck to some. Be careful and watch which bucket your Goatee belongs to”My Another Sister

“May be you should shave off your beard and keep the Mustache”A Collegue

“You look weird”A Collegue

“You look so different”A Collegue

“What happened to you????”A Friend

“Did you forget your razor on your trip?”A very common joke from everyone

“Ah……Akbar…..Ummmm….Ah”A bunch of people

“Hmm.”A girl

“Looking Hot”Sang

“Ow, Ow. Nice”Shyam