Vinita was given her name,
Sophia was chosen.
Vinita corrals her three younger siblings, grasping at the slippery emotion and stress
Sophia is calm and collected, held tightly, neatly
Vinita is the swirl of incense that fills the room with grounded tradition
Sophia is the modern culture, a new ideal
Sophia will grow up to be an activist, eloquently expressing her values
Vinita will focus on the problems at hand; she is the mediator and common ground in her family’s bickering and arguing
Sophia wears a symbol of privilege, a school logo sewn onto her polo
Vinita rides metro to school, confused as to why she feels embarrassed about it
Sophia involves herself in mass at school
Vinita attends with her family, uninterested
Vinita sounds lost on her lips, the syllables forced, without a fluent tone
Sophia fits, the soft letters click into place
Vinita and Sophia are the same person.
I was given the middle name Vinita at birth.
All my life, the foreign word would struggle against my tongue as it rolled out
So I learned to keep it locked up
I never told people that name
not adults, not friends
I was embarrassed by its abnormality
In grade school, when told to align by middle name, I placed myself randomly
Among the Elizabeth’s, Anne’s, and Claire’s I longed to have
I would fall silent when asked for a middle name, uttering
“I don’t have one”
How ironic, that a name
what should be one of my most familiar aspects
was so removed
and so strange to me
When I was a confirmant in eighth grade,
after grudgingly going to church every Sunday
I was given the opportunity to create a new name for myself
A new identity.
I chose a pretty one, named after a saint I knew little about
But it was a new name
Sophia fluttered out of my mouth with much more fluidity
At first, Sophia was the middle name I used at school
It blended better with the atmosphere I was surrounded in
Vinita was the name I used at home, it was implied
With my family and heritage that I had grown up with
The confusion grew over the years as my mother was white and Catholic
My father was Indian, no religion
Both manifestations of my internal yin and yang.
I still struggled with confidence,
afraid that one of the names would be unveiled in the wrong environment,
and more so because I didn't understand myself
and my dual identity enough
to be confident with it.
However, as time drew on,
I entered a new stage of truly discovering myself
I found passions and hobbies that I loved to dedicate myself to,
interests that I was actually good at.
I worked hard in school, and acquainted myself with a close group of friends
Who I knew love and appreciated me for myself.
Sophia started to take Vinita to school with her,
presenting on her heritage, wearing an anklet from India,
and slowly revealing her to close friends.
Vinita brought Sophia home,
taking friends on the metro with her.
Vinita took home her passions that Sophia often shared;
she opened up about her interests for film and the environment,
showing her family documentaries such as "Backfish" and "Cove".
Vinita encouraged her siblings to attend church
With the same positive outlook that she had
Sophia talked about her opinions
based on prior knowledge and experience
on cultural appropriation and Indian tradition.
Eventually, the identities merged into one.
In the end, my names are a combination of letters,
but they symbolise two halves to one whole.
I finally recognized that I am a soul composed of many personalities that
They are what shape me an individual,
and while I might act differently depending on the circumstance and environment,
I will continue to hold true to my identity as a whole.
I am Zoe Vinita Sophia Malhotra, names
and an individual,
that I proudly embrace.