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Who Am I, Part 2: My Best Gift

My best gift from my parents is my name.

My name is Riddhi Shilpi. My emphasis is on the "Shilpi" part, because my parents' last name is Mukherjee, and my mother's maiden name is Biswas. So where did my name come from?

My parents gave it to me.

Riddhi is a sanskrit name derived from one of the consorts of the god Ganesh. It means wisdom, and it often scene as the northern alternative to the southern name Buddhi, which is the feminine version of the name Buddha. I can actually say my name is Buddha, in a roundabout name. Because of variations on legend, Riddhi can also mean intellect and prosperity.

But, that's not my favorite part of my name. My favorite part is Shilpi, which means art. My love for that name isn't for it's meaning - even if this does mean my name is basically "wise art" or "wise artist". No, my love for my name comes from what it represents.

My parents, rather than just giving me their name, decided to fight against the patriarchy and give me a different last name completely. My dad fought with the Social Security Department for six hours the day he went to get my official documents right after my birth, and the fight didn't end there.

Over the years, my name has frequently been listed as my parents' last name Mukherjee, often making me lose places in schools and registries as it wasn't my actual name. I have had people refuse to acknowledge my last name as Shilpi once learning it wasn't my parents' name. People have told my parents to change my name "back" to theirs, and someone has even called the name change abuse. I have had people ask me what I plan to do when married (without even asking me if I ever would), and then promptly ignore me and say that I'll "grow out of it" when I said that no matter what, I wasn't changing it.

But we held on, all of us, to my name.

It has not only given me a way to think differently about my role in family, community, and society, but by explaining my name to people, it has made others think differently, too. It's a little sign, but it's a sign of change, of a whole new way of thinking. It has made me my own person instead of just my parents' child, and has given me autonomy in my thinking.

My best gift from my parents is my name. I may add to it, but I will never take any of it away or change my names. It is my identity, and I will not even let myself be defined by another person, either.


I agree with you 100%

Awesome! I love what you wrote here. I agree with you and your parents so much that I have named my own daughter different than both my wife or my last name. Fortunately, because of pioneers like your Dad, I did not have to fight too much. In the first set of my daughter's birth certificates they added my last name making her given last name a middle name. I had to spend some time over phone to get that corrected but nothing like what your Dad had to do. But you represent a new breed - hopefully someday WE as human beings will evolve at bit and comprehend the the real essence of the name. Hopefully a day will come when people will not name their children any more by borrowing names from their ancestors or popular mythology characters or even worse some character from the most evil thing on this planet - their religion.

Re: I agree with you 100%

I mentioned this to my dad, and he was happy to hear that this was becoming more common, and easier. It's been over 17 years since he had to do that, and it's a long time running, but I'm glad to see it's slowly changing. :D