It’s okay to be a bit weird…

different

 

So in keeping with the recent #FAFE theme , I thought I’d repost my blog on being scared about standing out and being different.

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The first day of school, college or university is always accompanied by a mixture of nervous excitement and mild panic. In my case, each of these milestone events come with an added issue to stress about: ‘How would my name be prounounced this time?!’

If you are like me, you are one of those fortunate souls with a name (or perhaps multiple) that finds itself being mispronounced frequently. The name may make perfect logical sense in your family’s ethnic language, culture or religion, yet as it journeys through the English language, its pronunciation appears to get left behind.

Before my name was called in the register, there would always be a pause before the teacher or lecturer made a hesitant attempt at ‘Ananya’. Some others however, decided they were not going to even try to pronounce it and instead asked whether I had another name I preferred to be called. Thus was born an English equivalent nickname, ‘Ana’, that has stuck with me throughout most of my life. Most Indians or at least Bengalis have 2 names: a ‘good’ name (Ananya) for official documentation and a ‘dahk’ or ‘affectionate nickname’ used by friends and family. ‘Ana’ became my ‘English Dahk’ name alongside my other Bengali nicknames.

I used to go through a phase of just switching topic when anyone asked about the real pronunciation. Some were persistent and would seek out a fellow Indian in the hope of finding out my ‘real name’. Triumphantly they would proclaim they had discovered the ‘Indian way’ of saying it. However, India is a country of numerous cultures, traditions and languages. Hindi may be universally spoken but different Indian states have separate principal languages. Within these, diverse variations in dialect can also be noticed, depending on geographical location. This means that ‘Ananya’ in Hindi is pronounced much like the modified English version, only with a few softer syllables: ‘Ah-naan-ee-yah’, which is noticeably different to the Bengali pronunciation.

It is interesting that even non-Bengalis, living in an area of West Bengal (where Bengali or Bangla can be heard predominantly) will pronounce ‘Ananya’ as ‘Ah-naan-ee-yah’. Not that it bothers me. I have become accustomed to hearing variations of my name. In fact, I like to make note of the most original attempts: ‘Ah-nigh-ah’ has maintained its first place position for a number of years now, whilst the National Health Service tried to record my name as ‘Anan Ya’. To this day, however, my dentist still tries to call me ‘Anya’…

Maturity has revealed the core issue at play at adopting ‘Ana’ over ‘Ananya’. I wanted to be like my peers and therefore shied away from my full name, assumed ‘Ana’ instead and consequently the name has stuck. Yet as I have gotten older, I have come to realise that each and every one of us has quirks that make us different: misplacing items hours after being purchased, adding cheese to every meal (!), obsessing about Canadian popstars – sound familiar?! These traits are for celebrating not being ashamed of. What is it about yourself that makes you different?

Mine? So, what is my name, really?
Ananya, pronounced in Bengali as ‘O-non-nah’ (O as in ‘lot’) meaning ‘unique’, or ‘like no other’, in Sanskrit.

So today I ask, is there anything about yourself that you have been hiding or shying away from? Instead of shying away, can you embrace this about yourself and be proud? After all, without these qualities, positive or negative, we would not be who we are today, the same as everyone else– we would not be unique.

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Would you turn a blind eye?

To commemorate 100 years of Rotary, this hand painted cover by Nirlay Kundu is available in both limited edition cover as well as printed version. Please get in touch for further enquiries.

This commemorative philatelic cover is available in limited edition of 40 hand painted as well as printed editions. Please send me an email or get in touch with the artist, my uncle: Nirlay at nirlay@hotmail.com.

Would you turn a blind eye?

Imagine eating without being able to see your food.

No, your eyes aren’t closed.

You’re eating in pitch black and being looked after by blind guides, ushering you in and out of this surreal experience they are so accustomed to.

For a few hours, that was exactly what I was doing a couple of weeks ago. I had the unique opportunity of eating at one of these ‘Dans Le Noir’ restaurants. The complete absence of one sense, my sight, not only heightened my other senses to provide a unique culinary experience but also increased my awareness, respect and empathy for those with any sort of visual impairment.

Naively I had thought that my eyes would grow familiar to the darkness and be able to focus after a while. I was wrong. For a couple of hours, my eyes were rendered helpless and I was left feeling around my plate in an attempt to ascertain how much food was left. Simple tasks like pouring water into a glass were made that much more difficult; not only did I not know where my glass was…I could not tell when to stop pouring!

As Edouard de Broglie, president of the Ethik Investment Group, which owns the restaurants says: “When you see disability as a difference, but not as a problem, then it brings you to very interesting concepts and ideas”. He believes corporate social responsibility is the root of the company, and more than 50 percent of the staff has a disability.

I have such a greater appreciation and awareness of those that do have a visual impairment. The blind guides that waiter for the evening wear T-shirts displaying a quote from Twelfth Night by Shakespeare: “There is no darkness, but ignorance”.

As I entered to eat ‘dans le noir’ I was apprehensive about the dining experience that awaited. Yet as I emerged out of the dark into the light reception area, I left knowing that the blind guides had opened my eyes to a different world.

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For some, blindness may be unavoidable. Organisations such as Dans Le Noir, with a great level of corporate social responsibility, offer hope and increase the level of awareness surrounding such visual impediments.

However, there are some forms of blindness that can be prevented. So many poor people across the world suffer unnecessarily or seek medical assistance too late to prevent irreversible damage to their eyesight.

The Guildford Rotary Eye Project aims to prevent and cure avoidable blindness across the world. The charity was founded in 1998 by a Rotarian & Guildford consultant ophthalmic surgeon with a vision for restoring the sight of 1 million people.  Originally, the Guildford Rotary Eye Project focused on Kolkata, in West Bengal in India, providing training for eye surgeons, equipment, buses to transport patients to and from hospitals to their rural villages and mobile eye screening camps amongst other facilities. Today, the Rotary Club of Guildford Eye Project carries out more than 40,000 operations per year in the Indian sub-continent, Africa and other developing countries.

This is why, the 10K run I’ll be doing on the 6th July, 2013 will be in aid of The Guildford Rotary Eye Project. For those of you that know me, the fact I’m volunteering to run a 10K will surprise you. If you would like to sponsor me or find out more about how and why I’m doing the July 10K race, please visit:

http://www.justgiving.com/Ananya-Das1

£5 could buy you: 5 x McDonald’s Big Macs

£5 could buy you: 2 magazines

Or you could donate £5 and give someone the gift of SIGHT.

Which gift would you rather?

Are you are interested in the commemorative philatelic cover (Above) available in limited edition of 40 hand painted as well as printed editions?

Please send an email or get in touch with the my uncle, Nirlay at nirlay@hotmail.com.

A donation of £10+ to the Rotary Club of Guildford’s Eye Project will get you your own copy!

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