Sohan's Blog

Things I'm Learning

Call Me Sohan and Ask-Me-Not About S M

I have heard this question n times, where n tends to the number of days since June 2006, as I started working with the people from North America:

Should I call you S M?

Well, I’m from Bangladesh and even today, we don’t really have a first and last name, instead what we have is, a full name and a nick name. My full name is, S M Sohan, and my nick name is Sohan. So, call me Sohan.

I don’t have a first or last name like many people in Bangladesh. But since almost everywhere, from the online forms to the call center agents, they ask me about these info, I tell them, my first name is, S M, and last name is, Sohan. At times I get funny reactions to this, for example:

S M? Just S M?

Better yet, some offer me spelling suggestions:

You can spell it ESEM, because SM is hard to pronounce!

You people are funny! Well, S M is actually a short form for Sheikh Mohammed. But it’s so common in Bangladesh that, almost nobody uses the full version in their official documents. As a bonus, you save all those inks and bytes required to spell these extra characters. Honestly, of all these years, this is probably just the 4th time I’ve written the full form, the other 3 times were for US visa applications. Also, it’d be equally weird to me, had I used Sheikh as my first name and people called me by that!

This first/last name convention also causes funny consequences to my friends. For example, two of my friends have names differing only in their middle names and they were rommies at a shared residence in Calgary. Guess what, their credit reports got all confused about who’s who and mixed up the scores!

Lot of my muslim friends go by “Md Xxxx Yyyy”, where Md is a short form for Mohammed. People that aren’t too familiar with it, at times think of them as doctors, which can be quite funny, and dangerous!

If you aren’t convinced yet, take these ones for example. AAMS Arefin Siddique current VC of the University of Dhaka, A. K. Fazlul Huq a renowned leader in the history, A P J Abdul Kalam an ex-president and a nuclear scientist from India.

I hope this makes you comfortable in calling me by the name Sohan :)