It has been almost a year since I got my U.S. citizenship and changed my name. Our name is an integral part of the life; we don’t even acknowledge it as an important aspect of our life unless we come to struggle with it. In Tamil culture babies are named after Hindu gods/goddesses or local heroes or based on their peculiar characteristics. However this has been changing rapidly due to heavy hit of the western wave in the eastern culture.
The name that was given to me in my birth was Divyagash. Divya means radiant in Tamil and Sanskrit. The gash part doesn’t really have any meaning, at least according to me. The reason for the gash part is that our eldest brother was named Piragash (which means shining or lustrous), so everyone after that had the gash suffix added to their name. In our culture we didn’t have a last name. There is the given name and you use it with your father’s given name to make it the full name. So by looking at your name you cannot track down your family history. My father’s name is Swargaloganathan which means the leader (nathan) of heaven (swargaloga). Also, back in Sri Lanka the way I wrote the name was different, I always wrote my name as S.Divyagash, last name initial and then the first name. I rarely ever wrote my name as Divyagash Swargaloganathan until I came to the U.S.
For the first time, I realized that having a long name is not a desirable feature when I took the SAT. In the personal information page we had to fill out the name and bubble it. However, I couldn’t fit my name within the designated number of boxes, so I just had to cut the rest of the name that couldn’t fit. By the time the proctor told us to start the test I was still bubbling my long name. Little did I know that this is going to happen many, many times when I move to U.S. From job applications, exam booklets to credit cards had limited space for name that couldn’t fit my name. If you had a full name that is ten letters, this is not a dilemma that you could have ever imagined in your life. Since I moved to U.S. I told everyone to call me Divy, which was the name that I have been called since I was a kid. I developed this hatred with my own name since many people were unwilling to say it and it became more than a nuisance to me in my day-to-day life. If one of my professors or someone in the doctor’s office had a hard time to even start saying a name I knew it was mine. Hence, I made a resolution that if I am going to stay in U.S., I can no longer live with this twenty-five letter long name. Coincidentally, I got to know that when you get the U.S. citizenship you will be given a chance to change your name without going through any hassles with court orders etc. This did make sense since many immigrant who come to U.S. wants to get acclimated to the new culture and country and the first thing to do is to change your name to fit the new culture or at least the new norms.
Knowing the fact that I can change my name when I apply for citizenship I didn’t want to miss this opportunity; however I also didn’t want to change it to a western name either. I decided to keep Divy as my first name since that is the name that I have been exclusively using since I came to the U.S. We discussed as a family to find a last name that will be used as a family name. Many names were thrown and finally we settled for the name Kangeyan. Kangeyan is one of the names of our family deity Murugan, the god of Tamil language, beauty, youth and the commander-in-chief of devas or the angels. The origin of the name Kangeyan has its roots in the word Gangai or the Ganges river since lord Muruga formed as a baby in the river Ganges.
So I chose Divy Kangeyan as my name, to not to lose my father’s name I added it as my middle name, hence my new full name is Divy Swargaloganathan Kangeyan. My family members are also planning to change their last name to Kangeyan. I changed it on 18th of June 2015 when I got my U.S. citizenship. Since then I had to change my name in many documents such as Driver’s license, credit cards, bank statements, credit reports, student ID, register’s office etc. It was a hectic procedure to change my name in all these documents but I believe it was well worth it!