What’s In a Name?

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You and I, all of us have one. It was the first ever blessing from our parents, it is what the world knows us as. It has given us an identity. Yes, it is our name and no matter how hard we try, we can never detach our names from us.

But one day if you come across someone who has to think twice before mentioning her name; you’d be surprised. How can someone get confused with their own name? How can someone not be sure of their own identity?

We recently inducted a new batch of candidates and got to know them better at our meeting last week. Our candidates came out of their rooms to gather in our reintegration home lobby and introduced themselves to Adarsh and me. One of them walked out and said, “Hello, my name is Padma*…. sorry Prabha*”.

How could someone confuse her own name? I thought but didn’t make a big deal out of it.

Every time we meet our candidates, Adarsh gets into his element, cracks jokes and puts everyone at ease. It’s always a lot of fun hanging out with them: there’s a lot of laughter, leg-pulling and just generally, we all love hanging out and talking. Prabha got pretty excited when she found out that I speak Tamil and started speaking to me in Tamil to blank stares from half the room.

At some point, Prabha called herself Padma again and  corrected herself. At this point, Adarsh casually asked her what her actual name is and why she keeps using both names. There was an awkward silence. Padma looked away, and the  counsellor told us in a hushed voice, “Prabha is the name given by her parents. Padma is the name the trafficker gave her”. Adarsh was quick on his feet and in his characteristic way immediately responded, “I like Prabha better, I’m going to call you Prabha” and immediately diffused the tension in the room. We were back to joking around and casual conversations.

Whenever an incident like this happens, it drags me to reality and I’m reminded everyone around me in that room has gone through unimaginable horrors. Yet here we are, joking, laughing and enjoying ourselves – forgetting the past and looking to the future.

It also goes to show the level of control traffickers and brothel owners have. So much so that a person can sub-consciously change her own name! That’s crazy, it’s scary, and it reminds me of the mammoth task we have in reintegrating our beneficiaries. But the laughs, the smiles, the giggles and their excitement to start a new chapter give me confidence.


*These are fictional names and images. The actual names and images have been changed for the sake of safety and confidentiality


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