Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What is in a name?


Ok, so I am officially Bhattacharya, i.e. my photo id has my husband's family name finally! It did not change much of my life, though! This whole process lead me to ponder about something.

What is such a fuss about this change of name? I mean no offence to anyone.

I have seen girls, or wives, making a ruckus out of this whole situation. Common comment: "I will lose my identity..." blah blah crap. How can one lose their identity with one small change in the name, I am yet to understand?

Well, boys, or husbands, are no less in adding to the clammer. Common comment: "Its our family name....." A male chauvinist statement: "After marriage, wife has to take husband's name!!" Any female would go berserk over such a statement and react: "What great things have you done that I should showcase your name for the rest of my life!!!"

This is an eternal debate. Oh sorry! not a debate, its an eternal fight! Debates have some conclusions, you know! Fights never have any solutions, they just act as fuel to another fight!!

In my childhood, I never understood what this identity is, but heard such talks and thought, "Oh so name is identity!" I defined identity as my name! Can you beat that?

I do not know, should I thank God or my parents' logical genes or my parents upbringing or all together, that as I grew up saw the life in a larger perspective and beyond name. Remember Matrix - "Look beyond the spoon!" and lo! the spoon bends. Thats exactly what happened with me. I changed my opinion about name when I started analysing as to why do we need a name.

So why do we need a name? Imagine there are three persons standing at a distance and you want to divert the attention of one of them towards you. Either you start jumping by waving your hands over your head and shout: "Hey you, hey you!" or use identifiers as "HEy you boy in black shirt!" You would have won everyone's attention, though that was not your aim. So, here name comes handy and saves you some embarassment if not all! Well, numbers would be too difficult to manage and then the problem of distinct number for each individual sorts, like our SSN or PAN number. Imagine the amount of secondary storage required to save all those numbers! As of now, world population is around 7 billion. hmmm.......Too cumbersome to manage and remember too! So, lets just stick to name for now.

And I would myself not like someone calling me as "Hey you girl!" Name is a better identifier.
Ok I grant little understanding to even the last name or surname for the sake of distinction. But after this, I suffer a mental block. Name after marriage, name before marriage! How does it matter what is the last name as long as the first name is same?

I mean imagine a person is called Jai XYZ and the last name changes to Jai ABC. You dont call someone as "Hey Jai XYZ are you fine?" And two days later, after marriage, "HEy Jai ABC are you fine today?"

I can understand the row over the change of first name considering that a person is used to a particular name since childhood. If that is changed involuntarily then there is a problem. Imagine a person being called Jai for 28 years and after marriage name changed to Veera! That is a little tough situation to handle. Family is calling "Veera(that is Jai earlier)! come here", and s/he is sitting and sweetly reading a novel! Obviously s/he not used to Veera!!! That must be some funny scene.

But, then our society has so many things that have been ingrained for centuries together, that these have become a second nature to us. Rules and laws of the land are formulated around these default things. These innate beliefs just drilled into our genes and passed on from generation to generation has just created more chaos than clarity of purpose of anything, in our case, the NAME.

Well, as for me, I am still Jaishrie. Last name needed as a proof in banks, travel tickets, etc that I am married to my husband!! Just so you know, I had to get my name changed due to an incident at an airport. Never mind that! Thank God, am clear in my head that my identity is what I do which gets attached to my name. And not the other way round!!! Anyone who begs to differ, would be glad to be enlightened!!


  1. Changing name after marriage is just a formality that society demand for nothing .The name which is given by the parents to their new born is the real identity for the child,with whom he or she will be known.The name which gives the person real identity should not be changed after marriage but can be added somenew if he or she desires.

  2. Yes, I totally agree. The name change must be done willfully rather as a family ritual!! Thanks ma for your inputs! Appreciate it!

  3. The last name simply identifies a person as a part of a certain clan. After marriage, one of the partners has to basically shift their primary allegiance from the 'old' family to the 'new'. Historically it has been the women in most cases; the bitterness begins only when it is viewed as renouncing the previous 'inferior' name in favor of the new 'superior' name. People also use the name change, especially the change of first name, as a power ploy to establish their dominance. Sadly, they do not understand that wives are not slaves or property; if they realized that wives are equal partners, they would not have such chauvinistic attitudes towards name change.

  4. Its funny though, that clans are formed by we humans ourselves again! Taking analogy from the wild, guess there are only two clans, the weak and the strong. And the strong gets to rule!! And that is the problem with humans that men being stronger, tend to exercise their superiority. Well, guess, these clans of us humans must have been formed some ages ago by men. I dont think so women ever had any part in the nomenclature!! Well, am happy to see beyond the spoon and hope that others too do the same.

  5. May be you could have just carried an attested copy of u
    your marraige certi in your wallet than going through the whole process of name change!

  6. :D :D, did that, but thanks for the advice anyway!!

  7. Anyway issue is not the certificate!

  8. The real reason why most people (girls) dont want to change their names is that if they have had a very busy and lucrative career and then they change their name they have to change their name everywhere. Passports, etc. which might be a pain. Guys want it to help their ego!! As for me I dont really care. The future is out there soewhere!!

  9. I really don't know when we are finally moving out of this system of patriarchy. lets hope soon. Till then all this "name change" issue will persist and each of us will be frequented by such obstacles at some of the other govt checkpoints.But anyway, life has many more complicated subjects to speculate.
    Of course ,i must congratulate you for getting over one such obstruction,which i am still to go.
    : ) take care.

  10. @Bhaskar - I wonder how many girls' actually think about these practical problems first. The moment their husbands ask them to change their name, the first reaction is: "Why should I?" I do not think so the reaction is more because of practical issues than mental ones!!!

    @Moni - There is a tribe in Assam which follows matriarchal system. There the groom has to give dowry and go to wife's place. So there families are upset if the mother delivers a boy, u know!!! I guess, there are many places where matriarchy is practised. But the issue is not patriarchy or matriarchy, its more about the power game. Whoever has power will rule over the weak - Jungle rule you know! Well all the best for your process!

  11. Nowadays, a lot of brides have started using their middle name, as well as their 'new' surname, so as to 'retain their identity'. The 'old surname' becomes the middle name. (Though it is very difficult for south Indians. With already such long names, I wonder who wants a middle name AND a surname!!).
    Changing surnames after marriage is more of a compulsory ritual than a choice. It has several issues of prestige and 'log kya kahenge' associated with it. To my inexperienced mind, it all appears ludicrous and farcical.

  12. @VibrantSoul - Yes, have observed that. I wonder if they have to fill the form, how many boxes they would fill and how much time spent only to fill their names!!! ;) I guess anything that is imposed is always taken with resentment. Why not this? By the way, good for ur perspective bride, she wont have to change hers!!


Post your comment