My Name

My name would have been easier without the “w.”

In most of India, it’s spelled Sapna—pronounced like a casual, slightly nonsensical, encounter. ‘Sup? Nah.

In Kerala, it’s Swapna. Pronounced like Sapna, but lightly seasoned with a W.

My parents tried explaining my Good Name to my kindergarten teacher, but the best she could say was “Soap-nah.” My 5-year-old peers turned it into “Soap.” I didn’t know any better; I was Sonia at home.

I have always been a bastardized form of Swapna. In 9th grade orchestra, I was “Swope-nah.” My 2nd employer called me “Soup-nah.” Most strangers say “Swaap-nah” or read “Swamp-nah,” both of which disgust me. In college, I found a tiny group of Indian friends—the first to call me Sapna, the only ones who could pronounce Swapna.

But Soap has stuck.

I introduce myself as “Soap-nah.”

I spell out “S-O-A-P” at Starbucks.

Like it or not, I’m Soap.

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