I first heard the American pronunciation of my name in kindergarten. We practiced handwriting with chunky Ticonderoga pencils and three- lined paper: two solid green lines with red dashes in between. I wrote Anu over and over: my dhak nam at home meant bright star in Bangla. My blonde-bobbed teacher wrote INC for incomplete, attached -radha in red pen. You need to practice writing your name, Ann-uh-rah-duh. Radha was the Hindu goddess of love and good luck. I told the teacher my name was Oh-nu-rah-dha, Oh-nu for short. Don’t talk back to me. The first language I spoke had eleven vowels. Ma and Baba spoke broken Bangla-English. They mailed letters to Bangladesh in orange envelopes: the return address in jumbled capital and lowercase, extra loops and curls in the letters. I learned about abbreviation. When I got my first B in handwriting, the report card comments noted U for unsatisfactory. I practiced my penmanship till the letters straightened, the pages clean of eraser residue. I crafted my American name inside Lisa Frank folders, wore a Barbie clip in my black hair for the Lifetouch portrait. I lost the aspirated last syllable of my name when I was six. In the American alphabet, it did not exist.

Anuradha Bhowmik