AAPI Heritage Month #6

May 6, 2023

Have you been given a nickname that you dislike?

Raj. It’s a rough story.

It was often used for me during 20 years of my early life. When I convinced myself to accept white American pronunciations of Rajani. Ruh-JAW-nee or RAJ-aw-nee or RAH-JAW-nee. Still not sure the best way to illustrate it, but no matter what, it often led to, “Can I call you Raj?

In college in Oregon, my second year RA put nicknames on everyone’s door before move-in day. Mine said “The Raj Mahal.” I laughed and made it my own. Told it to my friends. I was a deeply wounded Brown kid who didn’t want to feel so alone. So I accepted what got laughs and attention.

It took my mom’s loving request when I moved to Baltimore for graduate school for me to go by my correct name: RUH-juh-nee. To fight for it. So I did. And I have made amazing, loyal friends in the process.

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