What’s In a Name?

by on January 3rd, 2006

My name is Abhirup Roy. But this, day, on the January 1st. of the year 2006; 2006 AD, or “in the Year of our Lord”, I find myself speaking in the past tense. For my name is, on this day, becomes Alexander Kumar Rai.

“That’s ridiculous” says Benito, Benito Bangalotti. “I could never take that name seriously”.

Benito Bangalotti has known me in the indefinite duration, to the last minute of the timeless continuation of our correspondence, as Roy. Asides from being a city in the Northeast of Utah, Southwest of Ogden, with a population of 24,603; Roy is also the typifying name of a British farmer diligently mining potatoes in the idylls of a bucolic Gaelic countryside.

Rai, however, means an opinion. Well, not quite an opinion, but more like a judgment, a mandate: ideally, wisdom. A title of Near Eastern descent.

My great-great grandfather was called a Rai, and those before him. They were judicators, my great-grandfather, a lawyer. Those before him in the ancestral past, warriors.

One of the miracles of history is that it ignores facts. One of the miracles of Culture is that it ignores history. Thus, the Rais became Roys. The British potato farmer left his furrowing tools and took up a separate tool of trade: shrewd, manipulative, politics heralded under questionable, propped up claims of “dominating might”. By the end of 1857, he had managed to buy off in that peculiar British way, an entire culture, an entire idea, proclaiming himself a master, and consecrating his new subject his namesake. God Save the Queen! Indeed, the Englishman thus saved his legacy.

The judgment of the Rais was trampled to shreds. His children did not learn the legacy, and his countrymen became a group of people drinking out of the same puddle that they piss into, an overpopulated rot, a far cry from the Vedic legacy that has given the world the gem of Eastern Metaphysics, the Taj Mahal, the Kohinoor, and the entangling art of making passionate love.

His umpteenth-great grandson, my father became Dr. Roy, he came to America. His younger son, my brother, yet another Roy today toggles the shift keys and the arrows of his game controller, swinging his crossed arms to the beat of rap, and reveling in the oily delights of French fries and soda, ‘make it large, to go’.

He knows nothing of the Indo-Aryan civilization, nor would he know anything about the meaning of Annuit Coeptis. He had blended into a new reality. A reality of “diversity”, of “fast food”, of what it calls, “respecting differences”, a reality that rejects, arrogantly, adamantly, almost with a taste of pride, the concept of ancestral root. A reality of Commodification.

Our Benito Bangalotti, who himself despite being in reality a pure part-time Sicilian pizzeria owner, unrelenting womanizer, and cheap wine connoisseur, is actually in this parallel to life story going to assume the hypothetical role of a German-American.

He denies it though. “So what that my ancestor is a German? What do I care what my last name is?”

I reply, “because that lets you bio-intuitively appreciate that you are an unique expression of the human character. There are too many americans, there are too many indians, but few Americans and fewer of the Vedic people; there are too many italians, but few Romans; there are many iranians, but few Persians. That’s the point. I hope you get it for your sake, and for your child’s. For, a man without a history is a man without a future. The marked sign of decadence is a loss of memory.”

Benito is angry. Flustered he says “so going by Alexander changes all this? All of a sudden you are a universal patron of multiculturalism? Even though you reject your own? You reject the name your parents gave you?”

I remind Benito, “I reject the historical insolence of the british and I embrace the common identity of a new idea, the American idea. If you don’t understand that, I really think you are making a mistake living in this country. Rai is my genuine historical name and so shall it be. The last name is the preservation of ancestral memory. The first name might be anything.” In this case, Alexander which is a qualitative translation of Abhirup to an English equivalent. So it is better served that this first name become something common, forging a common, identity, a mingling tie in the ocean of the many. E Pluribus Unum.

Benito quips, “Thanks Mr. Semantics”. “No problem Mr. Dogmatic.”

Benito slips. He replies, “Dogmatic? Because I realize the last name has no real significance? And you refuse to believe that? I’m the dogmatic one?”

Perplexed Benito interjects “but I don’t see the difference of whether it’s first or last name.”

To him I had become a traitor to his notion of diversity. A traitor to the notion of what he considers a compromise to make things easy for oneself, eschew the struggle of “standing out”, selling out on his notion of a unique identity, and becoming all too American, unconscionably so. Ironic, as Benito, who drives speedy cars, enjoys fast food and alcohol binges, could not be any less american than Bart Simpson. And what is the town of Springfield without its Apu?

“If you believe last names do not have any significance, not only do you not have a culture, you have nothing” I answer.

Benito continues, “It really doesn’t though. Take the name smith. All it says is that somewhere in the history of ancestors, there was a blacksmith. All it signifies is who your progenitor was.”

I reply, “Do they grow potatoes in Persia? Exactly, you are correct. It does signify who your ancestor was. And unlike you, I respect my ancestry. If you disagree with that, well, fuck you. And if you disagree with the fact that Americans should express a common identity, respecting the legacy of the nation’s founders, a homage, who were neither germans, nor italians, nor Indians, but men of a higher destiny; then, well, fuck you. It has nothing to do with “moving up” My father is a doctor, my mother is a nurse, my grandfather was an engineer, my great-grandfather a lawyer, my blood is honorable; at least as honorable as the sons of salvatores, alexeis, wilhelms, modechais, who today go by Saul, Alex, Bill, and Mike. Occupation irrelevant, their blood from many soils, their identity: common, a single order. So must it be for the American of this New World Order.”

I tell Benito, “Your rejection of it, due to your strange anti-American quasi-liberal beliefs that all ethnic first names are amazing, yet celebrating ancestral memory is unconscionable sin, and all that establishes community bond, somehow too common to be good and therefore derogatory, is a strange notion to me.”

So I believe to have entirely ethnic names beyond the first generation of being a respectable immigrant, is a sign of clannishness. It’s like saying “look we are different than you but we still live in the same country and do lip service to the flag, we really don’t want anything to do with you-we just want the bling and want to get the hell outta here”and I find that repulsive and parasitical. Citizens, once that, must make a clear choice.

Benito questions, “at no time in the past was there ever a relative of yours who was not honorable?”

“I’m sure there was, but the idea of a name, a last name, goes beyond the person-it is the representation of an idea. Smith invokes the memory of the hardworking protestant, who created hammers, with which he made ships; so too did the Rais earn their legacy, in their case by the sword and by their scholarship.”

“So the Rais are superior to say..the Patels? Or the Smith?” poses Benito tantalizingly.

I reply, “It is never a question of superiority. No. But it is in each last name a burden of legacy, and the seed must know and abide by that lest he loses his groove in the course of progress; lest he becomes one in the many, in the tower of Babel; in the ancestry lies the foresight of a renewed and resurgent mankind.

“There are classes everywhere, and that carries a certain history, for better of for worse. And just as Smith will be responsible for his name, I’ll be responsible for mine. I know for instance, as warriors, my distant ancestors were not exactly the embodiment of the modern benign. They carried swords, but for the bloodshed, I’m responsible. Certain people change their last names to hide their history, because they are insecure and ashamed. If I were a Patel I’d wear that name, not christen myself ‘Paul’. Transforming myself into a “Roy” means I’m averting the responsibility. If Smith becomes an economically untenable name, would he be the same man as a Patel?”

Benito exclaims, “Why should one have to carry the responsibility of their ancestors’ actions? should i, personally be held responsible for the slavery I’m sure someone in my bloodline committed?”

“No, you are not responsible to be fined, you are responsible to acknowledge, because that is the memory of the blood. If you wipe out the history of slavery, it will begin once again because the laws of history make that practice natural. If you carry the respect of conscience, and along with the legacy of moral rectitude that the West has attained, it won’t. You are under no condition, responsible personally (unless of course, you continue to believe in the lesser notion), but you should apologize for your ancestors sin, for the past is bred into the present, and the present is incipient future. As the progenitor, you must explain the circumstances of all sins. You must say, that the past is ideally backward, and the present is mending, for that is not only your hope, as the former master of that slave, it is also the single hope of the formerly enslaved. If you have no idea, if you decline your legacy, you are rootless.”

“You Benito, must take a course at Cornell to teach you who your ancestors were. I, do not need to. For it is in my blood, and my blood reared me.

“You seem extremely content over the fact, almost proud, that you don’t know anything about your ancestry in any real sense. It is all academic to you. You take an interest in it as if it was never you, it was always eternally, a matter of them. You draw that line. Next day, you go try to woo Chinese girls called Jessicas and Janes, and eat hamburgers and down liters of soda. So what you say and do is peculiar and natural to you. What I do and say is distinctly natural to me. It has nothing to do with moving up as you idiotically surmise. It is a matter of belief; of persuasion. It is the beginning of a new era. My name shall be an ode to that era. For one shall say one day, this great idea called the American Destiny, saved the legacy of the Civilized Human Race at a moment when all else, elsewhere, had come to fail.”

“I belong to no nation, no creed other than Truth, no idea lesser than a ceaseless Curiosity, and no identity other than the final Salvation of the World, and the great Land that’d allow the last remnants of the Human Legacy to unite and bring forth a final solution: a nation that doesn’t have an meritocracy, is a dire nation indeed. My great ancestors have been reduced to a heap of shit. Your great ancestors have been labeled global misfits, haters, exploiters, and murderers. So what do we do to change that reality? The only thing we can do to salvage humanity and its legacy by remaining ambassadors of our roots taking the best values learning from one another, and building finally a New World Order amongst Men; and that is the meaning of Alexander Kumar Rai: Alexander, Son of Rai. If that is arrogant, so be it.

“I am the remnants of a dead legacy, and i wish my children would remember where humanity came from; what the Greatness of Vedic Civilization produced. And i want them to understand what their Germanic Cousins produced. But under your stylized way of thinking, that would be impossible. At this rate, Ceteris Paribus, they are doomed to become little nits who toggle game controllers, eat shitty food, and fuck loose contraptions.”

“Little nits? How about celebrating their own achievements, and not the achievements of some distant relative?” questions Benito.

“Their new achievement would be unprecedented: bridging the heritage of the Earth under a New, Valiant, Vigorous Vision thus fashioning a New World Order. While your vision seeks to create commodification of everything: a pathetic subhuman existence, one without memory, one with short term highs, and a fake meaningless concept of diversity.”

Benito finishes. “Well then, saviour of mankind, Alexander the Great, I’m going to read some Dante.” After that it is time to get drunk.


Names are an important key to what a society values. Anthropologists recognize naming as ‘one of the chief methods for imposing order on perception. ~David S. Slawson

“Fate tried to conceal him by naming him Smith.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

~William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Alexander Rai