My name is Karuna Chandran. It’s a statement that is refreshing and simply therapeutic to say.
Most people, myself included, pronounce my first name the Americanized way: [kah-roo-nah]. It is simple, phonetic and easy for people to grasp. That is why it surprised me when one of my classmates asked me how to pronounce my Indian name properly.
I tried demonstrating to her the pronunciation, but insisted it really was fine the way most people pronounced it. I even preferred it that way since it was easier. However, she insisted on trying and, to this day, makes a concerted effort to pronounce my name correctly.
Her kind-hearted attention to representing my identity and culture meant a lot to me. It showed she cared about the small things enough to ask.
I was surprised to have almost shrugged away such a thoughtful gesture. Still, it makes sense, since hearing my name said so many times one way made me almost forget what it really was supposed to sound like.
In the turbulent times we live in, it is important we take the time to make a difference both in big ways and small. After all, it is often the little moments, the day-to-day interactions that we remember and help us form our view of the world. We are able to understand the things that are important to those around us and use those ideals to shape our own. Whether that is making sure I’m pronouncing someone’s name right to asking how their day is going and really taking the time to listen, I am able to make an active choice to be a part of the world around me.
After that day, I asked my classmate how she pronounced her name and realized I had spent all of middle school saying it wrong. I resolved to return the favor by pronouncing her name the correct way. I would make sure to do my part and this was my first step.