Love In A Name

My name is old-fashioned for my generation. I remember many instances of older ladies back home, who asked me my name and exclaimed how beautiful they thought it was when I answered with "Noorulain." Even people who were familiar with names like mine thought it was funny to have so much similarity between the first and last names. Noorulain Noor. It was always unique - I have never met another with the same name. 

There is a story behind my name. Everyone should have a "name" story. Parents often have reasons for giving a certain name to their child. Maybe they are naming the baby after someone, maybe after a character in a favorite book, perhaps after a city or a cricketer or an actor. In my freshman year of college, my cultural anthropology instructor must have thought the same thing, because on our first day of class, we were supposed to turn to the person next to us and exchange our "name stories." 

I can't remember what my neighbor's name story was. He was a John or a Jack - I feel a little guilty for not remembering now. But he was fascinated by my name story. When the discussion ended, the instructor asked if there was anyone brave enough to share their neighbor's story with the class. A couple of people raised their hands and related the usual stories - named after the mother's grandmother, or the father's dead sister, et cetera, et cetera. 
"Anyone else?" asked the instructor taking a sip of her coffee. 
Please don't do it, please don't do it, please don't do it, I thought fiercely, willing John or Jack to not say anything about my name. I could feel him staring at me. Damn, he was going to do it. 
"I've got an interesting one here," he said. 
Idiot, I thought. He began to tell it, but he was getting it all wrong. Story aside, he couldn't even pronounce my name correctly. 
"I can tell the story if you don't mind," I said. The lecture hall with about eighty students was completely quiet. I took a deep breath and began to tell it. 
"My name is Noorulain Noor - that's noor-u-lane-noor, but you all can call me Noor, it's shorter and easier. Everyone calls me Noor anyway. Noorulain is an Arabic name. Noor means "light" in Arabic and Noorulain means "the light of eyes." You'll notice that my first name - Noorulain - and my last name - Noor - are very similar. That's because Noor is my family name. You see, my parents were being poetic when they named me. I am their first child, so my dad wanted me to have a name that was similar to his, but also had a wonderful meaning. He named me Noorulain - the light of eyes - with the idea that I was the light of his eyes, and I also ended up with Noor in my surname."
They were quiet. So, so quiet. Then they began shifting in their seats. "How cool" a couple of them said. "Interesting," said the girl behind me. John or Jack smiled at me and nodded his head.
"What a great story, Nor," said the instructor. 
"It's Noor, actually, but Nor is fine, too," I said. 
"I see that you spell it N-O-O-R," she said holding up the roster. 
"Yes, that's correct," I said. 
"Well, then Nor like door, right?" she asked. 
Damn this language. "Sure, let's go with that."
And so I became Nor like door, but I loved it anyway. For those of you who don't know the difference, it's subtle, but Noor is supposed to be pronounced Nuur - actually somewhat like "tour."

Usman mentioned the other day that I should switch to my married name soon, that is, take up the name Saeed and drop Noor from my last name. I told him I would think about it. The fact is I won't think about it. Not at all. I am not changing my name. My name has a history and a story - a mighty good one at that. Nope, sorry, not going to happen. Sorry you have to find out like this, darling, but I will always be Noorulain Noor. You can take comfort in the fact that I chose to be Mrs. Usman Saeed. 

What are your name stories? Tell me, tell me. I am aflutter with excitement.

Read about LOVE on Goll Gappay this month and relate incidents where you have witnessed or experienced it.