The boy who tried to shrink his name
I have a soft spot for books that emphasise the importance of name identity. I believe that names define who we are – it binds us to our cultures, heritages, spiritualities and family histories. The author has written such a subtle and yet powerful message about celebrating their individuality, and that no one should ever have the need to shrink themselves so that they can feel welcome. While reading this book, I had a major flashback of the times when I was a grade 2 student. I remembered my teacher had to pause while trying to read out my name during morning roll call, and I would quickly jump to rescue myself and with the correct pronunciation so that I could avoid being called a different mispronounced name. Being a young student, I wanted to shorten my name and Anglo-Saxonised it into Sam so that I could fit in. Mispronounced names can be a distortion of an identity of one’s personality and I didn’t want to go through the embarrassment or shame.
Author Sandhya Parappukkaran has successfully showed the protagonist’s discomfort about his name. Zimdalamashkermishkada wanted to shrink his name to Zim. He tried ways to shrink, to fold and to crumple his name but to no avail. His journey to acknowledge his glorious name began in school when he met a good friend named Elly who sees him for who he truly is. Their friendship blossomed as she taught him the art of skateboarding and he became an expert at the skating rink. The understanding of each other’s culture also began as he shared his southern Indian sweet treats over dinner table. Eventually Zimdalamashkermishkada accepted his name with confidence especially with a friend like Elly who proudly corrected everyone in the neighbourhood, “His name is Zimdalamashkermishkada.”
This book will remind us to pay close attention to pronouncing difficult names of people which is the key ingredient to celebrating them because names matter. It influences who we are and how others view us. What a warm and uplifting book indeed!