My Name

Published Categorised as Personal
I couldn't believe how close this duck got to me or let me near him to photograph. I shot fast, though!

The origins of my name are a mystery and well known.

Where did your name come from?

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.

107. Hommabai and Ji Ji Bhoy.51 N. Sorty
Footnote 50 This name should be Kaikhusroo (=Kaikhusroo Jiwajee Parter).
Footnote 51 In India and elsewhere, Ji Ji Bhoy would be spelled as a single word: Jeejeebhoy or Jijibhai (=Jijibhoy Nowrojee Surty)

Born 23.11.1937.
Died 3.3.1939.
My great-grandparents’ names in a listing of Parsi (Persian ie Zoroastrian) tombstones in Rangoon, Burma. Given the dates, this stone was for my aunt Aban who died in one day at 18 months. Note footnote 51 on spelling.
Mitra Sharafi (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Parsi Tombstones from Burma

Tombstone fragments stored at the New Parsi cemetery, North Okkapala outside Yangon, Myanmar (2007)
Between the early 1940s and 1995, the Parsi cemetery of Yangon (formerly Rangoon) was home to Zoroastrian Parsi graves from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Parsi community of Rangoon was too small to support the construction and maintenance of Towers of Silence (dakhma). Under such circumstances, the Zoroastrian purity laws permitted bodies to be buried instead of being exposed to vultures in the Towers. Parsi cemeteries developed across Eurasia where there were some but not many Parsis. I describe a few of these graveyards here.
The old Rangoon Parsi burial site was located at Bo Min Yaung Street in
Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township, Myanmar (formerly Burma). In 1995, the cemetery was moved on short notice to the Yay Way Parsi Burial Ground in North Okkapala, outside of Yangon. Parsi community members saved and moved some of
the tombstones listed below but were unable to preserve or transfer any human remains. They created the list that follows. I am grateful to them for sharing it with me during a trip I made to Myanmar in 2007.
Square brackets indicate illegible text or probable spelling errors in the original list. My editorial notes appear in italics and in footnotes.

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.

Ramryge angels at Gloucester Cathedral, England

Brain injury grief is

extraordinary grief

research proves

needs healing.

Humans so fear the real enemy they turn on each other.

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.

My Duck logo walking on my books in pink and blue shading.



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