AAPI Heritage Month #7

May 7, 2023

Have you been given a nickname that you love?

I wonder how we define “nickname.” They have typically been thrown at me because people are too impatient with themselves to correctly say my name. White supremacy encouraging simplicity and not respect. My spouse and I have silly endearing words we say at each other, but I would consider that too private to be considered a “nickname.” Has there ever been a nickname that I truly love? One that doesn’t feel like a mockery? Like an attempt for me to be approachable to white people at the sacrifice of my own self-respect?

There is my family name: Munni. The thought of this name brings warm joy to my skin. In my family’s culture, people often have formal names and family names. I don’t quite know the history or reason for family names, but I’m curious to learn. From what I understand, “Munni” means “baby of the family.” My family name has been used by my parents and brother since before I could remember, but only at home, never with their co-workers or at the doctor’s office. Those were places for my formal name: Rajani. Extended family would ask after me on landline long-distance calls and postal mail, “How is little Munni?” More recently Ravi’s partner Nicole asked to call me “Munni,” which just made sense because I see her as a sister.

To me, the family name is a signifier of something deeper than a “nickname.” While Rajani is mine to use and mold as I carve my space in this world, Munni is about me but beyond me. It is unconditional love baked into my DNA. It brings me back to protected moments in my childhood. Munni is a reminder that no matter what paths move me or harms pause me, I have a place somewhere.

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