COLUMN: Introducing … Kulwinder

I have been struggling with this ‘identity issue’ for quite some time now

  • Sat Aug 12th, 2017 9:00am
  • Life

I have been struggling with this “identity issue” for quite some time now. I finally decided to come out of the closet and set the record straight – for as crazy as this sounds, it’s my name.

Since I was a toddler and went to school, I was always known as “Ken” or “Kenny” – both fabulous English names. Obviously, I didn’t have a choice at birth.

I come from a generation where Southeast Asian parents wanted their children to have English nicknames rather than traditional Indian names.

The main reason, honestly, is that many names are just difficult to pronounce for English-speaking folks. They also wanted their children to feel accepted and not teased at school. A major sacrifice to make just to feel part of a western society.

Sure, I have been ridiculed by friends like, “Where’s your Barbie doll, Ken?” Or, referred to as the Irish beer “Kilkenny.”

And if I am not mistaken, there is a T-shirt that reads, “I killed Kenny.” I sympathize with all the Kennys and Kens out there.

For the longest time, I didn’t like people referring to me by my traditional Indian name, which was given to me by my grandparents. Only a few close people know my real name.

When I was surfing through my legal documents, passports, birth certificate and driver’s licence, one thing became very clear: I am legally known as someone else.

This internal struggle on who I am “pretending” to be and who I really am is going to have some closure for the record.

For years, I was ashamed of my traditional Indian name and ran away from my real identity. I have come to the realization you don’t have to change your name to be part of an “inclusive Canada.”

My name defines my rich heritage and nothing can ever replace that background. Even when people say, “You need to be Canadian.”

The funny thing is many of us already have changed our names. I respect people who keep their vibrant traditional names in Canada.

Are you ready to hear my real name? A little drum roll, please. My Punjabi name is Kulwinder. It’s universal and both males and females can share this name.

I encourage people to call me Ken or Kulwinder. I will not be offended by either. But, just not “Kenny,” please. It’s too boyish for me.

kenherar@gmail.com