Those who know me know my explanation-giving of how I’m not Bengali. How my father just changed his surname on a whim in school and stuck to it. People are often surprised when I tell them, insisting that I ‘look’ very Bengali as well. The fact that I work as a communication designer/editor just seals my fate as Bengali.
I never knew what anyone’s names meant when I was in school. When I got to college (and ever since) everyone wanted to know exactly where I was from if not Bengal. Initially this bothered me. I have no idea why I felt the need to represent my 'true' background so strongly. Maybe because I was asked so often. I used to point out that actually I looked very much like the good people of Kumaon, which is where my mother’s family is from. My father is half Punjabi but there are no identifying features as such, at least on me. I've only recently decided to let people think whatever they wanted based on my surname. I've stopped explaining. I surprise the typical polite conversationalist with my identity (if at all these things can be called my 'identity', and if a person who asks your religious leanings the first time they meet you can be called 'polite').
I’m more than these niche categories and attributes and labels. There is a lot of history behind my name, and much that I am proud of, but there is so much beyond a name. I’m a product of my thoughts, and I create my own identity every day. I’m a product of how my parents raised me. How they taught me to think. For myself.
But I guess it isn’t as easy to box me into a category with this sort of vague information.