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‘What’s Your Name?’: A Poem

2 min read

by Kainat Akhtar

What’s your name? You ask




As a Pakistani girl, people never got my name right, but I don’t really complain.

To be honest, sometimes I don’t get it right either.

And you know

it would be hypocritical of me to get mad

that your tongue is too weak to carry my heavy name.

You see, my people have been through war.

They’ve bitten their tongues for so long,

That now their tongues are strong enough to carry my name.

And that’s enough for me.

That’s why I don’t really complain.

Look, my tongue still shakes and quivers as soon as somebody asks me:

“What is your name?”

I say Kainat.

They say Kay-not?

I say Kainat.

They say Kai-not?


I lift weights off my name.

But, I still feel like, I don’t have the right to complain.

I know words like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and it’s atrocious that my tongue is strong enough for this word.

My tongue is strong enough to carry three other languages, but it still quivers when I’m asked;

“What is your name?”

My name is Kainat.

Kainat, like the universe.

Kainat and it’s not universe for you.

It’s a burden.

You tell me, you wish my parents named me something else.

I smile at you and tell you my name can get easier.

I lift the weights off my name.


But then I remind myself, that I am so much more than a mispronunciation.


I am the sky.

I am the stars.

I’m the moon.

So when you ask me,

“What is your name?”

I’ll smile and say,

“My name is Kai….nat.”

Kainat Akhtar is a proud Pakistani-American who wears her culture with pride—and when she has tandoori chicken, her happiness is amplified. She is currently studying Clinical Psychology at the University at Albany. She’s extremely passionate about changing views on mental health in Pakistan, and hopes to pursue a Ph.D. She believes in impacting one life at a time, in a way that spreads throughout the world—eventually.