Saturday, May 9, 2009

My name UNKNOWN ( Part 1 )

As is the case with many young folk in the subcontinent, I have been smitten by the desire to 'study some more'. And as is the case with most young folk, I have decided to 'study some more' in the US. Well all was seemingly going on the right track, when one day I received an email from the university I will be heading to. Apparently following the guidelines of the US department of homeland security, they thought that there was something wrong with my name.

There was certainly no 'Mohammed' nor any 'Singh' in my name. So I was evidently surprised. At first, my surprise turned into laughter. Seriously, I thought it was very funny. The thing is this:

My name is 'Subhodeep Moitra'.
First name 'Subhodeep'
Surname 'Moitra'.

The problem is in my passport. Due to some historical 'F***ups' and some quirks in the thought process of south Indian passport officials , my surname field is blank in my passport and my whole name 'Subhodeep Moitra' is entered in the given name column. This is absolutely unacceptable to the protocol driven folk in the US. Not having a surname is a mortal sin. I was all ready to brush it aside as a trivial issue when I thought I should talk to the univ people. What transpired in that five minute conversation shook my establishment and destroyed my peace and feeling of well being for the next few weeks.

They told me that I basically had two options.
1. Amend the name in my passport.
2. Go ahead with no surname and face the consequences.

Both options were actually no options

1. Amending the passport was an impossibility. My previous experience(2 years ago) with the Indian passport office at Trichy had left me so bitter that I had sworn never to step back into that dungeon.

2. Not doing anything about my name was even more sucky. I could go ahead and apply for my visa but the US embassy guys would do something really clever. They would shift my entire name 'Subhodeep Moitra' into the surname column and put a FNU (First name unknown) stamp on my visa. And since the passport and the visa are the only two documents that the folk in the US recognize, I would be known as 'Mr FNU Subhodeep Moitra' for the rest of my life. And the best part is that all this name correction business could not be done in the US. Once you landed there, you would be FNU.

Imagine, my predicament. I was seriously nursing the idea of being FNU. Imagine what my friends would say, "Hey meet my best buddy, his name is UNKNOWN". And at other more personal moments, if I scream "say my name, say my name..!", an "FNU..!" would certainly dampen the proceedings. Certainly not a rosy prospect. Plus there are other more serious issues as well that cannot be compromised with, such as refusing to be granted a SSN (Social security number), driving licence, etc.

So after much delibration, lots of googling and going through edu forums I decided to go in for name correction.

More on my experiences at the Trichy passport office in the next blog titled 'My name UNKNOWN ( Part 2 )

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