coffee with Katja 
I wish I knew her name...

A new mother refuses to name her unborn child Simon, after her husband's father, because the name reminds her of the red-faced bully in third grade.

In the old South Africa, a white “madam” didn't think twice about changing a maid’s name from the tongue-twisting Ntombomzi to the oh-so-easy Nellie. Never mind that Ntombomzi loved her name. It means “home girl” in Xhosa, and her mother gave it to her because her father returned home from the mines when she was born.

Katja is a common name in Holland where I was born, but it was so foreign in South Africa that I reinvented myself as Cathy-with-a-C whenever I attended school camps. Just as I learned to respond to my new name, it was time to go home.

Names are important. Which is why I wish I knew the name of the young Indian woman who recently died after being violently gang raped.  The media refer to her as “India rape victim” but that removes her humanness. She was so much more than this heinous crime.

Her birth created a mum. She had sisters and brothers. She was 23 years old, so a young man was probably in love with her. Perhaps she had dreams of travelling, of studying to be a doctor. Or perhaps she simply longed to be a mother herself. She may have been modern, dressing in Levis with a Lady Gaga t-shirt, but maybe her favourite piece of clothing was a tangerine sari.

In a society that marginalises women, it would be lovely to know more about her.

Postscript: looks like I wasn't the only one who wanted her to have a name. She remains anonymous, but is now known as "Nirbhaya".