A number of months in the past on an obscure February weekend in Pebble Beach, Akshay Bhatia made a press release.
The 19-year-old skilled golfer from California hit 18-of-18 greens on the hallowed course, a feat that has been achieved solely six different occasions, together with as soon as by Jack Nicklaus.
Bhatia didn’t win the event as he completed T30 and continues to be looking for his first skilled victory. But that Thursday in Pebble Beach and the promise of Bhatia is a wierd and unbelievable feeling for me.
Because Bhatia and I share a primary title.
I’m an Indian American who works in sports activities, and there aren’t quite a lot of us. Virtually none is enjoying, teaching, working in a entrance workplace or media and in any other case.
So it was a shock to the system to see an Indian American who will not be solely an up-and-coming skilled athlete, however who can be named Akshay. To hear the commentators say his — my — title.
It felt like lastly getting a type of title keychains at an amusement park.
Before speaking about what Bhatia means to me and the Indian neighborhood at giant, we have to speak about what’s in a reputation.
My title and I’ve a sophisticated relationship. Akshay interprets to “eternal, immortal and indestructible.” It’s a strong title with a strong that means, but it surely’s not commonplace. There’s Akshay Kumar, one of the vital well-known actors in Bollywood. There’s Akshay Bhatia. There’s me and some extra who get the privilege of the facility this title brings.
But my title has been butchered all through my life. Throughout childhood, college, socially and professionally, a lot of my time has been devoted to correcting individuals. Some nonetheless can’t get it proper.
My title is Akshay.
Not Ashkay. Not Aackshay. Not Ashley.
Growing up in suburban Texas, there weren’t many individuals who appeared like me, not to mention had a reputation that appears intimidating and is difficult to pronounce.
The first day of college and days with substitute academics have been depressing and performed out the identical approach each time. The teacher would run down the roll sheet, calling names and ready for a “here.”
Then, they’d get to my title. The trainer would hesitate. There could be a clumsy pause. The eyes within the classroom would dart towards me. Everyone knew what was about to occur.
“Ummmm … Aak, Ash, —”
“Here,” I might say, reducing them off to avoid wasting myself some embarrassment for the day. There have even been a couple of occasions the place a trainer would mispronounce it as “Ashley.”
It was mispronounced once I walked throughout the stage throughout my school commencement.
I don’t use my actual title when putting an order at a espresso store or putting my title on the ready checklist at a restaurant. My “Starbucks name” is Tony.
It’s simply simpler.
It’s not that I don’t have satisfaction in my title. But I might be mendacity if I mentioned there wasn’t any embarrassment in having a reputation that appears humorous and is tough to pronounce.
My title got here from my Indian mother and father. Like many Asian mother and father, my mom and father bestowed me with a standard title and selected to lift me right here.
In the wake of the racial justice reckoning on this nation, the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 rebel on the Capitol, we talked about what that they had in thoughts once they and their mother and father moved to this nation. Whether that they had regrets.
Part of that dialog centered round my title, and the challenges that I confronted for having a reputation that appears and sounds totally different. How might my mother and father know I might be teased rising up for it? Or that it could be mispronounced and butchered in each skilled and social settings? I do not blame them for any of that, and I’ve satisfaction within the title they gave me. It simply made issues just a little trickier.
But sports activities turned a spot the place I felt like I belonged, even just a little bit.
I fell in love with journalism and sports activities rising up, and I used to be fortunate sufficient to discover a technique to fuse my two passions collectively. I used to be by no means ok to play — the peak of my athletic profession was scoring eight factors within the first quarter of a recreation basketball recreation (I by no means scored once more). But I discovered a technique to be across the video games and tales I cherished, even when nobody appeared like me.
And that’s the reason Akshay Bhatia’s existence and profession is one thing to comply with, and never only for individuals named Akshay, however for all Indian Americans.
There are a couple of, however not many, Indian American success tales in sports activities. The Chicago Bears in January named Sean Desai their defensive coordinator, making him the primary NFL coordinator of Indian descent. Sanjay Lal has bounced across the NFL as an assistant coach for greater than a decade.
The Dallas Mavericks made Satnam Singh the primary Indian-born participant to be drafted into the NBA once they chosen him within the second spherical of the 2015 draft. He by no means noticed the ground.
The Sacramento Kings signed undrafted free agent Sim Bhullar in 2014. He turned the primary participant of Indian descent to play in an NBA recreation when he noticed the courtroom in 16 seconds of rubbish time. He appeared in two extra video games after that and performed lower than three minutes complete.
We’ve had flashes, however nothing in comparison with the highs of one thing like Linsanity in 2012.
Bhatia, in the meantime, is just 19. His profession is simply starting. He, too, might find yourself being simply one other golfer within the historical past of the game. He could by no means placed on a inexperienced jacket at Augusta National or ever have a good time a U.S. Open victory at Pebble Beach.
Some of the highest-paid actors on this planet work in Bollywood.
The aforementioned coaches and gamers have hopefully carved a path for extra who will come after them. Their accomplishments matter to extra individuals than they know.
But it’s powerful for a sports-obsessed Indian American rising up in suburban Texas to see himself in these examples.
In Akshay Bhatia, I lastly see me.
Bhatia on no account ought to carry the burden of each single Akshay in America and the Indian American neighborhood at giant. Let the man qualify for a serious first.
But each time he seems on my TV from right here on out, there’ll at all times be a smile of satisfaction and pleasure.
Like getting a keychain on the amusement park with my title on it.
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