Ashini Desai2
What is in a name?
by Ashini J. Desai

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Let’s give it up Juliet!
You never did formally introduce yourself as Mrs. Juliet Montague, did    you?
Ever pause when asked your name?
Ever feel your tongue tangled upon an introduction,
hoping you won’t be seen as an imposter.
Had you known, Jules, you would have stayed a Capulet.

I guess you might ask, “why did you do it?”
I admit, the romantic in me wanted to begin our new life as one team,
to share a name creates intimacy, cementing a bond.
Besides, it’s much easier for us to have the same name…
               (Easier for whom?)

Yet, I was lost trying to find my eponymous network folders.
I felt I was representing the wrong team,
when asked if I knew another Desai.
I so much want to shout, “No, I’m really a Jani!”
Why did everyone else get to stay a Jani?
How can the new brides in the family become Jani
and I’m not anymore?

I’ll always be a Jani girl as my memory resonates with stories
of those shoulders upon which we stand.
Their fibers of resilience are entwined into my DNA.
After almost 50 years of marriage, my mother still distinguishes
herself as one of Vyas Sahib’s daughters, which makes sense.

I chose to break centuries old patrilineal naming traditions.
Rather than trading my father’s first name with my husband’s
to be my new middle name,
I allowed the Jani to step inside my future.
No hyphens, just a “J” tucked in there as a reminder and support.
At first, my mother was aghast — as if I were disobeying my husband.
Then she realized how special it was and we are still linked.

After all of this name shuffling,
of men, of families
of histories and of futures,

I know the first name is all mine.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: At my wedding in 1998, excited by the future that lay in my henna-dyed hands.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In my region of India, in addition to taking his last name, the wife adopts her husband’s first name as her middle name. The children will have their father’s first name as their middle name. This allows a family to track their ancestry through the father’s lineage. When I got married, I realized the impact of a name change in modern, western society.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ashini J. Desai balances creative writing with family, community, and a technology management career. Her poems have been published in various literary journals and anthologies. She has published book reviews, articles on writing and parenting, and poetry for a number of South Asian websites. Her poetry blog site is