Gauri Midha Common App Essay


Gauri Midha, Contributor, '21

For a while, I was afraid of correcting people. I wasn’t sure why I let all them say my name—Gauri—wrong, and I was even less sure why I was responding to the wrong name. I didn’t look like many of my classmates; my name didn’t sound like those of my friends. I believed the best way to blend in would be to stay silent. Let them call me “Gory,” or even “Gary,” to avoid being called something worse. I always thought that I would be judged—that people would think I’m weird, or boys wouldn’t like me because I wasn’t “American” enough. I wanted to believe I was the same American girl as the dolls I adored.

I eventually started going by my middle name, Emma. My then-still-recent immigrant parents thought having an “American” middle name would make life a little bit easier. A name no one would have trouble pronouncing. I began to eat meat on Tuesdays, a sacred day to my Hindu family. I lied to my friends when my family went to the temple. I stopped attending Grandparents’ Day because it hurt to watch my friends laugh with their grandparents while my Nani lived over 7,580 miles away. I even tried to make daal and roti sound more “American”, but the best I came up with was “lentil soup” and “bread.” In retrospect, I understand the deep histories of these foods that were lost in my attempts at translation. No longer was I Gauri—just Emma…

“And your name?” asked the LensCrafters employee.

Before I could spout my practiced reply, my Nani quickly interrupted—


My cheeks flush with learned embarrassment, I kept quiet. At that point I was so ashamed of my name, I did not want even a stranger to know it. We got my glasses and went home, but later that night, my Nani ushered me over. My gut churning, I finally asked the question I had always avoided—”why was I named something so different?” She told me that my namesake was the ancient Hindu goddess of love and beauty; “Gauri” was a name loved by my Nani and late Nanoo. A name she was proud to call her granddaughter. A name that, sure, made me different in one way from the people at my school. But a name that I am now proud to be called.

That night, my name became more than a word; it became a conduit to the culture my grandparents wanted me to love. I realized my dissonance—I loved so much about Indian culture, yet I tried so hard to hide it. A culture that gave me Garba—dancing with strangers until 3 a.m. one night every autumn. A culture that gave me Kathak and the opportunity to learn Indian classical dance. When I try on my mom’s colorful silk lenghas, I can still smell the aromatic spices from Chandni Chowk, Delhi that linger on the fabric. I do love my heritage. Why hide it?

I used to think I had to be either Gauri or Emma. But I don’t have to choose; my life doesn’t have to be a series of binary choices. My Indian heritage and my American upbringing—my parvarish—as my Nani says—can both be part of me. I don’t need to hide a part of me in order to fit specific labels. I now understand that I can embrace all aspects of my identity.

So many bad things happen in our world because one group of people don’t stand up for another. If I can’t even stand up for my own name, then how can I stand up for others, stand up for what is right?

I am Gauri Emma Midha, and I love my name.