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The gentle thumping of my mother’s heartbeat gave me a small degree of comfort as I cried on her chest that night. It all happened in the eighth grade. In fact, it all happened the day I was born. Saumya is a name that is quite often given to girls in the Indian society. It is a name that symbolizes peace and happiness. The day I was born, my parents decided to name me Saumya. The only catch was – that I was a boy. The beginning of high school isn’t easy for anyone, but for me it was particularly hard. I sat during the lunch break immersed in my books, trying not to attract a lot of attention to myself. I glanced at my wristwatch – there were only 5 minutes until lunch was over after which I could go back to being unnoticed, I thought. Just then, in a loud and rather shrill voice, a student yelled my name straight across the canteen. At that moment, all my senses numbed. Then another voice arose, joined by another. Before I knew it the entire canteen was chanting my name with girl-ish overtones, adding additional A’s after my name (‘Saumyaaa’). I bolted to the toilet, tears welling up at the brink of my eyelids. Hot tears wanted to run down my cheek, but I held them back, wanting to keep a brave front. I locked myself up in a cubicle and dabbed my striped red tie on my eyes. ‘Why did I have to be named Saumya?’, ‘What had I done to have been targeted?’ and a gazillion other thoughts flooded my mind.
Freshman year began, but my insecurity remained. I could not forget the memories of my tears, drenching my mother’s rippled clothes. There was a time where leaving school seemed like the best alternative for me. I could never have imagined that I would have to go through so much for a ‘name’ that wasn’t even in my control. However, upon repeated reflection of grandmother’s words – “Your name is unique and special, just the way you are”, I began to look at it through a different light. This was the first time I began to understand an idea that had given me solace and, in a way, liberated me. The way others perceive me may be intrinsically inaccurate, and therefore I need not let the opinions of others weigh me down. I realized that my happiness lies in my own hands.
From that day forth, I did not let my name define me. I began to open up. I started talking to others about ideas that sparked my curiosity, like business and philosophy, and I made friends that I know will last a lifetime. I realized that it was the tiny things that mattered. I started to hold doors open for my classmates while we all paraded out of the school library. I began to greet the security of my school every morning, hoping to brighten their day. I became engaged in my role on the student council, which paid off when I was elected student body president. Even then, it wasn’t the role itself that I found meaningful, but the way I could use it to help others. The foundation that I built my friendships upon switched from seeking validation to mutual respect for one another. As I listened to my mother’s heartbeat that night, my mind was filled with anger and sorrow.
However, in hindsight, I am thankful for the lessons I learned; the pain I felt was a necessary step in the process of becoming the person I am today – someone who is unafraid to express himself. The very name that once caused me grief now adorns the hall of my school. Today, I am proud of my name, and I always will be. I finally did find peace and happiness. I found it, in my very own name – Saumya.
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