The origins of my name are a mystery and well known.
My first name is ancient Persian — Zoroastrian — meaning “sweet,” co-opted by Muslims as their own, maybe through the conquering of Ancient Persia over a millennium ago that reduced the Zoroastrian population to a minuscule fraction.
My second name is English. I’ve recently learned Queen Anne suffered from a disability and chronic illness. So my second name seems prescient.
My last name is…well, it’s newish to our family.
Jijibhoy was my great-grandfather’s second name, the first name of his father as in the Zoroastrian tradition. Second names for both daughters and sons are traditionally their father’s first name. My father failed to mention that fact to my mother when they had me. Well, they were reeling from shock with both her pregnancy and my gender. Yes, they’re both medical professionals. Anywho, back to my last name.
So my last name is Zoroastrian but also Indian. And a Russian blood lab tech told me it’s well known in the Georgian region. Turns out there’s an Ancient Persian fire temple in Georgia near the northern border of Iran. My grandmother had told me our ancestors were from the far north of Iran, and we have Russian and French blood.
Our original last name, Surty, was Zoroastrian and my great-grandfather dropped it as it sounded too Muslim; in the endless fighting between Hindus and Muslims, my ancestors got caught in the middle. My grandmother, my great-grandfather’s daughter-in-law, used to be stalked for that mistaken identity. You’d think wars and oppression would be enough to deal with without groups turning on each other. But here we are fighting with each other today while a virus chuckles maliciously, feeding freely on willing victims while the climate sends them screaming towards it.
My name’s origins though is a mystery. “Why Shireen?” I ask my parents. A shrug is the best answer I’ve gotten. I know more about the spelling than anything else. My mother was adamant that my name shall be spelt the way it is. Basically, my parents were so convinced they were going to have a son (maybe because no girl had survived on my father’s side in three generations), that they’d spent all their baby naming moments on boy’s names.
When the doctor told my mother, “It’s a girl!” she told him he was wrong. I’d like to have seen his face! Maybe he thought after a week of contractions and 24 hours of labour ending in a forceps delivery soon after midnight that she was a bit addled.
So my name was hastily smacked together like disparate pieces of clothing from a handy junk pile.
My brother and sister’s names had no such inglorious origin. Their Zoroastrian first names were chosen in advance, their English middle names named after loved relations on my mother’s side.