It’s the first two letters of my first name and the first four letters of my last name. It’s my username at my job. I learned this week that it is also a very common Muslim name. A coworker found this very amusing and thought that I had selected this name deliberately for myself, but it was just assigned to me automatically.
My former boss had previously identified it as something that sounded foreign, but it wasn’t until my coworker spoke to me about it that I found out that in fact it was. It comes from Arabic, and it means secure, safe, and free. Saleem Elahi is the name of a famous Pakistani cricket player, my friend tells me that Saleem Sinai is the protagonist of “Midnight’s Children,” a novel with X-Men-like themes that served as an allegory for the tumultuous colonial and early postcolonial era of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Saleem Raza is a Pakistani singer famous for his song Bedard zamanay walon nay kab dard kisi ka jaana hai among others. I would translate it from Urdu for you, but the delicate subtleties would be lost.
Actually, I have a few interesting stories regarding that general area of the world and my limited interactions with it at my work. I made chicken tikka masala on a lark a while back, and happen to bring it to work on the same day that some of my Indian coworkers happened to invite me to eat with them. They were impressed with my Indian food until I told them it was chicken tikka masala, at which point they laughed awkwardly and quickly changed the subject to Bollywood.
Bollywood, as some of you may already know, is India’s center for the creation of movies. One of my new friends from that area of the world told me that his wife of a different heritage was at first perplexed by the plots of Bollywood films, but then came to like them even more than he did. I also learned that India doesn’t have a music industry except through Bollywood. Their music industry and their movie industry are one because their movies are so musical. Saleem Raza is, in fact, both a movie and a music star from the 50s and 60s. Maybe I’ll tell people I picked my username in honor of him. Here is another one of his songs, Aye Dil Kisii kii Yaad MeiN. I regret to say that this one is also untranslatable. It would just be too much of a bastardization of the beautiful Urdu for me to try and force it into English.