My Name Journey: An Indian Woman with a Western Name, Returned

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With my parents in Canada – November 2014.

My parents are traditional Brahmins from Northern India. They immigrated to Canada and birthed and raised their five children there. Four daughters and a son. (Oh, the burden within a largely patriarchal Indian society!) I am the last born of this particular parade, and the only one who happened to be given a western name, after the first four were given traditional Sanskrit names. The funny thing is that I am the only one that is connected to their tradition on a spirit level.

Actually I was named after an anchor of a national news station in Canada (Pamela Martin). Interestingly, I went on to study journalism, although I focused on print rather than broadcast (though completing a couple of radio and tv broadcast courses was mandatory for the program).

My birth name

And so they named me “Pamela.” (Come to think of it, I was also the only one that did not get a middle name either.) Frankly, the name never resonated. It always felt foreign. I was first “Pamela. Then “Pam.” Sometimes “Pammy.” Depending on who was calling me — and when exactly. I was known as “Pam” for most of my childhood and teenage years. (Though one or two of my sisters insisted on “Pammy,” mostly as a term of endearment.) Following high school I became “Pamela.” That was a little better and seemed to suit my graduation to adulthood, apparently. Somehow a more mature title? At least, that’s what I believed at the time (as I continued to grapple with this unfitting name).

Why my name did not resonate

I was from two worlds. An Indian girl born and raised in the west by very traditional Indian parents — who were born in India. At home we were steeped in all the traditional ways, yet once we stepped out the door we were immersed in western influence amid our western peers, the media, etc. I often felt bi-racial actually.

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“Indica” written in Devanagari – the script for both Sanskrit and Hindi.

Total transformation at 23

It was at the age of 23 that I decided to empower myself with a name change that would more so align the experience of being “me,” more truly and deeply. It also happened to be the age I resigned from my cushy’ government-funded job for a non-profit, left a relationship, gave all my furniture away, shaved my head, and bought a one-way ticket to India! So why not throw a name change in there too, and just go all the way with this seeming transformation?! And so I did. I seemed to be becoming someone else. Didn’t someone say that every next level of your life will demand a different you? And so it was. Back then, I was at the beginning of a journey that was leading me to walk out into the horizon and let it take me. To not know. Which I now know is the whole point of life! Letting go. Surrendering to the mystery of Divinity in every moment. Resting fully in the present. Total faith and trust is what Is. Just This.

Looking back, it was an apt time to change my name whilst being away from my every day life on the west coast of Canada. It gave me space to settle into my name. To everyone I met in India, I introduced myself as Indica. (Apparently at the time a new car was just released in India called Indica, so I got a lot of “Like the car?” smiling responses when I answered the question “What is your good name madam?” Hah!

When I returned, I dropped a lot of names out of my contacts as I began to refine my immediate social circle to bring it more in line with my truest, deepest self. (That trip seemed to transform me dramatically.) That said, my family still calls me by my first name and I never imposed that they shouldn’t. Whatever flows, I say. As does my best mate of 32 years. (She is also family!) Here, I’d like to reiterate that being away from familiarity and your comfort zone is a good time to change your name.

How my name came together

The way “Indica” (my newly initiated middle name since I never got one – which I’ve used as my first name ever since) came together was simply by taking “India” and “Canada” and putting them together. The first four letters of “India” followed by the first two letters of “Canada.” And viola! That was it. It formed so simply and naturally in me. It flowed then and it largely still does for the everyday world, because it radiates both my Indian heritage and my Canadian birth and upbringing. It fits the bi-racial profile I had been feeling for years. And I like the way it runs off the tongue too, hah!

What does “Indica” even mean?

Although, it wasn’t until a couple of years later that I really knew the actual definition of this name that came to me so effortlessly. Inspired by numerous people I met travelling and friends who both first complimented me on the rather unique name, followed by an inquiry as to what it meant — I decided to do some research (finally).

Remarkably, “Indica” is classical Greek and Latin for “of India.” (Somehow this did not surprise at the time! For the Great Goddess is always unfolding everything through us. In fact, when I learned the Indian origin behind my name, I just laughed and said “of course!”) “Indica” also refers to “life force,” a strain of tree, rice, flower and plant. An interesting parallel is that “Pamela” has Greek roots too. Although it means “all honey.” Seriously? Hah!

What’s in a name? Who are You really?

Our name acts as our label. Our title. But is it really who we are? Who are we really? Beyond name and form. That’s who. So why so much emphasis on our name? It seems to be a product of the automated mainstream society. We are not recognized, and subsequently cannot function without it, within this society. So we may as well choose something that vibrates deeply and truly. So that we may be empowered by it.

What to keep in mind when choosing a name

Consider choosing something that intends your values, vibration and essence. Something that connects to your soul. Perhaps to your history, lineage and/or origin(s). Maybe one that is flowing from your heart. That touches you profoundly. Something that captures your true essence. That you can own. Walk with. That carries the pillars of the life you stand in/on (values/truth, etc.). A name that inspires you to live to your fullest potential – your soul purpose. One that you can grow and expand into.

Have you gone through a name change process? Please feel free to share your journey in the comment field below.


3 thoughts on “My Name Journey: An Indian Woman with a Western Name, Returned

  1. Hi Indica-Pamela
    from Leila-Pamela
    I so resonate with your story. As you know, I was named Pamela too and now go by my middle name Leila. I too am the only one of 4 children who did not get a Sikh name..instead, I got Leila a Muslim/Hindu. Of course in India one sees it spelled three ways…Leela, Lila & Leila. I chose to identify with the Hindu version of it’s meaning -the divine play, or cosmic sport of which the universe is created of. I resonated with India and am too the only one of my siblings to delve into Indian philosophy, wisdom and practices. I changed my name for very similar reasons as yours. I did not resonate as much with Pamela and I was also wanted out of the rigid box of Pam Rai, Olympian. Recently, I have found myself more accepting of Pamela. Perhaps because my mom told me it was originally an Indian name and many girls in India are called Pamela…and the fact that mom is now declining in health and she chose my names. Sometimes I miss Pam…and sometimes I want to go back to that name. It is definitely an interesting journey. I was so aghast meeting you the first time and you said your first name at birth was Pamela. I thought “What are the chances of that?” Here’s something interesting
    http://www.indiachildnames.com/name.aspx?name=Pamela

    hope you are enjoying yourself..so jealous!!!! I love Bhagsu and McLeodganj area!

    Like

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