No, that isn’t my name, and I know I fooled no one . But like Heisenberg I developed along with my name.

As a child it wasn’t easy for me to say my name. I couldn’t generally enunciate the letter ‘s’, thereby pronouncing Kasturi (then) as Katuri, which means bowl in my language. And naturally the laughter that ensued post introducing myself did not do very well in the department of liking my own name. There are 1001 reasons for a young person to get red in the face.

Then came years of living an introverted pre-teen life making it hard to appreciate the sound of my name, since it either meant that the teacher wants me to read out something in class (Golly! What if I pronounce the words wrong?), or I had to respond to attendance calls, or I was told by my friends if I could play with them or not. I disliked the attention my name brought to me, I wanted to disappear but it didn’t let me. Was I shy? No. Was I low on confidence? Terribly so!

Then I wanted to change my name to Karishma, the name of my favourite actor at that time. I was obsessed with this idea and begged my parents to make the change. They gave it a thought; while I spent days and nights imagining being under dizzy lights and stars (hell yes I was going to be an actor now!) and practiced my new signature (because autographs, bro) on all surfaces. Then. Then I came across another mesmerizing name and ran to my parents with the new discovery. They realized that it’s just a phase and we never went ahead with the name change. The lights went out and the stars faded; what remained was Kasturi.

By the time I was a teenager I was ok with my name. I decided to add double ‘o’ in place of ‘u’ and I was ready to face the world. ‘Kasturi’ became ‘Kastoori’ and I gathered confidence in life (I won’t say that it came with the spelling change, but my outlook did change along with it). Then it so happened that each time my name was called it was also to nominate me as the class prefect, or to show my neatly done classwork to others, or when friends asked me which games we should play. I developed an identity and it felt great to associate my name with that.

Kasturi is a substance that releases scent from the navel of Himalayan musk deer to attract females during mating season. The substance is widely used in perfumes, incense and as medicines. It may not mean much to you, and it did not to me either, until a random lady recited a couplet that Kabir Das wrote on it:

Kasturi kundal base, mrag dhundhat ban mahi
Jyo ghat ghat ram hai, duniya dekhe nahi

(The deer runs through the forest looking for the scent that comes within him. Similarly, people look for God everywhere but cannot see that God is within them)

Written in response to: Say Your Name


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