When I meet new people, I already have an interesting topic to talk about-thanks to my name! It serves as a great icebreaker! It is not a name that you will come across every day and sounds like it belongs in those classics of Tamil literature. I have only come across one 'Karkuzhali' personally, and a handful on the Internet. Whoever I meet asks me what it means and I delightedly launch into the story of my name.
My father was a writer of par both in his mother tongue, the classical language of Tamil, and English. Little wonder that he wanted to name his firstborn in chaste Tamil. According to my stars, my grandfather insisted that my name should start with the letter 'ka' of the Tamil alphabet. When my father chose the name 'Kannagi', the heroine from the great Tamil epic 'Silappathikaram', my grandfather was not impressed as her story had a tragic ending, and the name search continued. Even as a newborn, they say I had a thick mop of curly black hair, and my writer-poet father came up with the poetic 'Karkuzhali'. It means the 'one with hair as dark as the rain clouds'.
When I was in middle and high school, my classmates used to tease me by calling me 'Kar' (car), 'Bus'-kuzhali and 'lorry'-kuzhali. No wonder, I was never happy with the name and used to beg my parents to let me change it. Then, I met a girl with a name almost like mine at college and was quite relieved when she narrated her experiences, which were also similar to mine. Not that my woes came to an end, people I meet at shops, hospitals, post offices, banks, and other places still bungle up my name so badly that it makes me squirm. It is pronounced 'carcurrelli' and I understand it is quite a tongue-twister. But, when native Tamil speakers don't even make an attempt to get it right, it makes me sad.
As I grew older, I realized that I had a unique name and brushed aside any suggestions to change it. However, about 10 years ago, when I entered the corporate workspace, one of my managers suggested that I let him address me as 'KK' as it was the practice in the organization to contract long names to two-syllabic ones. And, here I am, Karkuzhali to the larger world, Kuzhali to family and close friends, and KK at my workplace. We don't have the tradition of surnames or family names, and Sreedhar is my husband's name.
Now, when people tell me that I have such a unique and awesome name, I feel happy and proud.