What’s In A Name?

My parents named me Emil Kassamali Salehmohamed Remtulla.

In our small Muslim town, my middle names were that of my father and that of my grandfather, so everyone within my community knew which family I came from.

Emil was given to me to remember a German who had saved my father—then a child—from drowning. No one knew how to pronounce the name. Instead, they called me Milo (Meelo instead of Mylo) from Gerber’s powdered baby formula, and my resemblance to the face displayed on its tins.

Fleeing to the West, I shortened my last name to Rem—to conform. Thanks to my parents, I remained an Emil.

My father was, of course, called Kassamali Salehmohamed Remtulla, in accordance with tradition. Since his mischievous school days, then becoming a cricket hero within the community, he was forever called Kassare (KASsamali SAlehmohamed REmtulla).

To honour him, I purchased the licence plate KASSARE. Even in Calgary, Canada—a universe away from Africa—elderly East Indians from Tanzania would stop me and ask after my car’s namesake.

On bringing my father over to Calgary, working as a parking lot attendant, Dad changed his beloved Kassare into Remy, because it was easier to swallow.

Unbeknownst to my Canadian colleagues, Remtulla, an Arabic name, meant Grace of God (Rhemet-Allah). Anxious to be accepted, I had chopped the name down to REM (Rapid Eye Movement).

I wonder when the likes of my pukkah Indian bank manager, with a first name of Bhaumikkumar will ever stop being called Bill.

In 1964, Robert Allen Zimmerman wrote a protest song The Times They Are a-Changin’.

He was known as Bob Dylan.

My newest book ‘The Vanished Gardens of Cordova’ is available on Amazon and Kindle.
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Written by Emil Rem

An eccentric accountant becomes a writer of eccentric characters, in exotic locales, with each chapter taking us on a trip into the fascinating twisted world of Emil Rem. Born to a close knit middle class Muslim East Indian family in Dar-es-Salam in the 50’s, he is then moved to Maidenhead England at the age of five. The next twenty years are spent shuttling between England and East Africa, wearing a St. Christopher’s cross one minute and attending church, to wearing a green arm band and attending Muslim religious classes in Africa next minute. Moving to Canada, marrying a woman from the Philippines and having two boys only adds further texture to his stories.


What’s In A Name?