I could have been a Sakinah, a Qur-atul-Ayn or a Naseeha.
Had I popped into this world Y-chromosomed and cocksure, I may have been named Dhul Qarnain.
My folks settled on Saaleha; pronounced Saw-li-ha with the h sound emanating from the throat, exactly like when you have to hock up that annoying bit of phlegm.
The name Saaleha means Good even Pious. My parents hoped.
The original spelling of my surname has an H after the A, but for reasons unknown, it was filled in like that on my birth certificate and I’ve seen written examples of my dad spelling his the very same way. I have no idea what my surname means. I want to believe that Bhamjee/Bamjee means something more than “One who opened up a shoe shop in the Oriental Plaza”.
My forefathers were not even Bhamjees to begin with. They were Patels, but apparently, there were just too many of those coming in on the ship to South Africa. So someone had the foresight to adopt the Bhamjee name, thus consigning to me a lifetime of having to explain that we’re not related to the Bhamjee’s Shoes people or that uncle who was involved in the dodgy soccer ticketing business.
My own dear doppelganger and friend, the other Saaleha (of course to her, I am the other Saaleha) thought me terribly potty-mouthed when she first visited my blog. I’m a lot more mellow these days; ask Noorjehaan who was expecting a trigger-happy chain smoker on our first meet. I must have been really angsty.
Saaleha is also a writer, and we’ve even collaborated on a script for a radio drama series. You can see how our names and similar vocations would generate a bit of confusion.
To ameliorate this, I hyphenated my surname after I married. But even though I was presenting myself as Saaleha Bamjee-Mayet, it was still quite muddling for some. The guys down at Adgator got our blog codes mixed up and it’s happened where I’ve received emails not meant for me (disappointingly, nothing risqué).
During our time in Egypt, I decided to pop my dad’s name in the middle of mine. It was one part memorialisation and two parts pragmatism. I dropped the Mayet from that as it just seemed like too much to chew down (though I’m still very much Bamjee-Mayet at heart). Should I ever publish, I will do so under the name Saaleha Idrees.
According to the Department of Home Affairs, I am still, officially, Saaleha Bamjee.
You can call me whatever you want.