The name


I lived inside the covers of books. I read and read. Books filled with fairies, gnomes….. books full of magic. I was intrigued. One particular story captured my attention – he was old; he was tall; he was gentle. He lived in the forest and even though he had no friends and lived by himself, he befriended all the animals. They listened to him. He had one pet, a mouse. That tiny mouse lived in his jacket; it ran under his sleeve and appeared above his collar only to disappear into his hat.

You see, this man I thought of as beautiful, reminded me of my father. Dean Bacchus ruled my world, but at that time, he was simply “daddy.” Names had no meaning at the time.   Mummy and daddy, those mattered. I had no idea “Bacchus” was Greek and that I would slowly question its origin.

Fortunately for me, my country had no television at the time. Therefore, no bombarding images filled my days and invaded my mind.   The control of my mind could be interrupted by critical thought and slowly as the years passed and I allowed myself to explore books and visit with educators of color I started to question the history of Denise Bacchus.   Why Denise? Where did Bacchus come from? I looked it up and learned in some book that “Bacchus” was a Creek gods of wine. Essentially, my name meant bacchanal…. a god damn party of liquor and I didn’t even drink.

And, then, one day in college Chukwuma, tall, dark, handsome, Ibo and Nigerian walked into the cafeteria at UC Berkeley this man walked in and I immediately noticed his regal stature. I loved listening to his ideas and, eventually, I learned some knowledge about Nigeria. That was my first close contact with Africa and African culture and I learned that names had meanings and, Chukwuma had meaning. “God knows” – that is the meaning of Chukwuma. How beautiful is that! And, then the envy and the jealousy crept in………… my name had no meaning – no meaning to me. It did not reflect the rich mix of Indian, black, Portuguese and native Carib culture swimming in my veins.

Years later, on a visit to London, I stopped at one of those little quaint bookstores. The ones with tiny doors with blue paint and glass windows stacked with books that leave peepholes to the outside world. The day was a crisp cold one with clear blue skies; the grass and trees climbing over the fence of the gardens were a deep moss green. I had the freedom of travel in my heart.

As I browsed the titles of books, I ran my hand along the well-worn shelves and I enjoyed the feeling of being in the past. I opened one book, I really don’t know why. It was a random pick. But it was a story written by an Indian man who happened to be gay. At that time, I had a particular interest in the gay community because a man who I loved madly had revealed to me that he was more interested in men than women and this had broken my heart. And, as I tend to do, I remedy almost everything by reading. I continued to read about gay men in India and the marriage that society forces on them. As I read one story, I came across the word “yaari.” Something about the spelling of the word vibrated; I felt it. In the context of the story the word seemed to have a deep meaning. I noted “yaari” in my notes. It had an aura that called.

I took it home with me and did the research. “Yaari” or “Yari” I learned, meant “soul mate friendship.” I longed to be soothed by meaning. Today, even though I never officially changed my name, I am Yaari to some, but most of all I am Yaari when I write.



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