The Ice-Breaker That Is My Name

In response to the Daily Prompt

Raiha. Ra-ay-ha. Not Ray-ha. Not Ra-hay-a. Just Raiha.

In Pakistan there are some very common names. Like Ayesha, Maryam and Sara. Everywhere you look you’ll find an Amna or a Hina. According to a famous Punjabi (my mother language) proverb: “Itt chukko thallay Amna.” Well the proverb can be used for anything really, since it basically means that lift a brick and you’ll find whatever underneath. Literally, “itt” is brick, “chukko” means lift and “thallay” means beneath, underneath or below.

My name however, is very unique. Only about 10% of Pakistan’s population would have heard of it. Proof of that is Facebook. I’m one of two Raiha Akrams on the popular social site. And as for just Raiha, it’s apparently a Japanese name, for men! Sensei Raiha, it does have a nice ring to it. I myself have only met one other Raiha in my lifetime, she’s a kid, and I’m pretty sure she’s named after me!

Whenever I meet someone, a dentist, a dentist’s secretary, the people at the Identification Card office,  a new teacher, a new class-mate, anyone, here’s how the conversation goes:

Them: “Name?”

Me: “Raiha Akram.”

Them: “Huh, Ray-ha?”

Me: “No Ra-ay-ha.”

Them: “Like Raita?” They snigger. (Raita is a yogurt dish in Pakistan. Yes, yes laugh it off!)

I roll my eyes and laugh sarcastically. My quick temper is coming to the surface…

Them: “Oh well it’s a beautiful name.”

Me: “Yeah thanks.” I’m impatient for them to get on with what they were supposed to be doing.

Them: “So is it Arabic?” Majority of names in Pakistan are Arabic, as is mine.

Me: “Yes it is.” Why can’t people figure out when the other person is being impatient?

Them: “Do you know what it means?”

Me: “Yes yes I do know what it means. It means Fragrance. Can you give me my ID card back now?”

And that ladies and gentlemen, is a five-minute process I have to go through every single time I meet a new person.

I love every single second of those five minutes.

Yes it’s pretty irritating when you want to get something done quickly, but seriously who doesn’t love the attention?

It is a great ice-breaker. I’m sure there are going to be many such interviews and conversation starters once I start university (college for the Americans and wanna-be American Pakistanis) next week.

Enough of my name’s uniqueness and my attention problem for now.

Here’s how my name came into being:

I have three sisters and one brother. My eldest sister is named Sitara (star). After that my brother is Rizwan (named after an angel that is said to guards the gates of Heaven in our religion). The twins follow. Saira (wanderer – in Quranic context it’s meaning sounds better) and Saba (morning breeze).

Now I’m not sure anyone would have noticed, but all my siblings’ names start from the letter S except my brother’s. He was thirteen when I was born. he demanded that his (unborn as of yet) sister had to have a name starting with R, because everyone else had an S name. And so began my father’s extensive search of the perfect name starting from R. Numerous baby name books and finally The Quran went through his scrutiny. He found my name in the Holy Book, and it was accepted by all my siblings.

So here we are now, three “S”s and two “R”s!

I believe that a person’s name does effect his/her personality. Call it Kabbalah, call it superstition.

But I am Raiha. Raiha Akram. My name is like me. Not easily understood. Unique. Strong sounding, but when you look at the meaning, it is as fragile as can be.

Although my name did come first.

So I am like my name.


To be diffused around those who smell not quite right.

A fitting metaphor, is it not?


7 thoughts on “The Ice-Breaker That Is My Name

    • Thanks once more Ali!

      Although I was appalled to see so many typos in my article as I reread it after I had published it! My 18-month old niece was badgering me nonstop as I wrote this.

      Ah well, it’s all taken care of now, thanks to mobile apps.

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