What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare

Everyone quotes The Bard to undermine the significance of names. I feel names are important. How would you like it, if you asked me to order roses for you, and I called them chrysanthemum while ordering? You may not consider names as your identity, but they are used for identification. No one likes to be called that pie-faced boy/girl; they prefer names.

Now, getting to the reason for this rambling. In some parts of India and the world, a girl is forced to change her maiden name after marriage; sometimes even her first name. Feminists have always associated this with stripping of female identity while some justify it as family solidarity.

If you ask me I don’t like changing names whether due toย marriage or anything else. I had a school friend, Amita who became Devika. No, she wasn’t married; she loved the other name. She might have been happier, but most of her friends werenโ€™t. We were used to call her Amy, and it was difficult remembering that she was Devika now. Besides, we already had a Devika. Some friends actually asked her that if she didn’t mind, we would like to continue with Amy.

Back to the name changing after marriage. Today’s woman is essentially a career woman though she still maintains her family responsibility. Changing a complete name does strip a girl of her identity. Imagine a Vandana Patil turning into Meenal Ghorpade in a day. None of her usual acquaintances would recognise her without seeing her in person or a photograph. To understand the significance of this fact let me give you an example of my friend.

My friend is a dental surgeon like me. After marriage, her husband’s traditional family made her change her surname. As a result of marriage, she had to shift her clinic closer to her new house. Thankfully, it was in the vicinity of her earlier clinic. In spite of this fact, her practice declined. Most of her patients knew her as Dr ‘Surname’. None of them thought to peek in a new clinic started by Dr. ‘New Surname’ to check if this was the same dentist. They had heard their dentist had got married. That was that. Some older patients did find her in the new clinic.

She didn’t complain about it though she had to essentially start a semi-fresh practice. The patients would know about the change of names soon. She was confident about it flourishing again; her in laws weren’t. They accused her of lying about her income before marriage. Strange are the ways of the world; the new family might not like her maiden name, but they adored her maiden income. She is supposed toย give away her old name, but maintain the old income.

I have one question which always haunts me. If the name signifies family solidarity, does it mean the girl is no longer a part of her original family? It reminds me of a line in a melodramatic Hindi serial, which meant once married, a girl should never return; it’s better that she dies in her new family rather than coming back.

This kind of thinking led to many girls committing suicide and not complain about her torture to her parents. Is this what you want your daughter to do? Remember, stronger the roots, stronger the tree. She’s not a parasite; let her expand her branches, and she’ll shelter her complete family.

However, there are girls like my school friend who want to change their name. Of course, surname change after marriage is an opportunity for them. It’s not about feminism, it’s about what a girl wants. A happy girl makes a family happy.

I’ll borrow the earlier ‘what’s in a name’ quote from “Romeo and Juliet” to explain genealogy and names. Genealogy is mixing of gene pools not of names. The surname has nothing to do with genes. I’m proud of my surname. When for the first time, I realised there are Acharyas who aren’t related to me, not by genealogy, not even by community, I was hurt. Our family habit of talking “We Acharyas” felt like a sham. (Though ‘We Acharyas” are still proud of our lineage. ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Now-a-days, girls have started using both the surnames which I think is more of a family solidarity. After all, marriage is about growing your family not leaving them.

This post is inspired byย  Indispire Edition 56

What's in a name

Related article: What’s in a name deals with name in general.


23 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. ” ..Remember, stronger the roots, stronger the tree. Sheโ€™s not a parasite; let her expand her branches, and sheโ€™ll shelter her complete family.”
    Here you have presented the central idea of the whole debate ..for once and all !
    very articulate Kiran ๐Ÿ™‚
    And lesser people dissect the names and surnames .. great ones simply perform ! Its for the morons to categorize a Gandhi from a Nehru..
    Strangely enough our film industry shows remarkable unity in this field as nobody cares about surnames/ caste / religion there !
    Again Kiran .. very well written ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Very well written, Kiran… Thought provoking one. I felt very sorry for your friend. There was a time when we brahmins had stopped using our surnames, as we are bashed by every other community. If I observe the names of my cousins and other brahmins of our generation, most of them don’t have surnames including me! But, things are changing today. People are adding surnames to their children’s names.

    1. Oh, I didn’t know that.It makes me glad that Acharya is a surname surpassing all communities. My grandma told me, that after Gandhi assassination, during the massacre that followed, the only reason, our family was spared was we were obviously not Maharashtrian brahmins, but from Karnataka. So, common surname has definite advantages. It helps stop discrimination. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Thanks for sharing Sindhu. Have a fantastic week ahead.

  3. Agree with you. Names are important. Unfortunately, things like wearing ‘sindur’, changing names/surnames are imposed by ourpatriarchal society and women are made to carry the tradition on. But as you have mentioned, things are changing. Today many married girls add their husband’s surname instead of completely changing surnames and the society accepts it. This is a good sign.

  4. I second your thought Kiran. Though I have no offence against people choosing to change their surname completely after marriage, I personally prefer holding on to my original surname alongside my new one.

    1. Thanks Maniparna. I too think retaining both the surnames is a better option.
      Really so, Acharya seems to symbolise unity in diversity. ๐Ÿ˜€
      Have a fantastic weekend. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I believe act is neutral. The intent behind an act makes it right or wrong. So, if a surname is forced after marriage then it’s wrong but what if one changes her surname voluntarily out of love?

    1. Thanks for sharing your view. The act is indeed neutral. As I already wrote, there are many girls who would love to change their names. They should definitely do it. My mom changed her name because she wanted to do it. So, I have nothing against it.
      I only hope it isn’t forced. After all, what’s in a name?
      Have a great day, Ravish.

  6. There are so many well known personalities who gain success after a little change in his/her name so you cant straight ignore the value of name or the importance of the name. It may be just by chance or for 1 out of 1000 but it works. So I think Kiran ji , There is something in name. you cant ruled out it straight forward.

    1. Thanks for sharing your views here. I agree with you, Yogi ji. ๐Ÿ™‚

      You got me wrong. In fact, I believe in the importance of names as witnessed by my article here. :- Significance of name

      I think name is your alter ego. So, I understand people changing names though I may not like it. What I don’t understand is forcing a name on someone. After all, if name is that significant, shouldn’t everyone get to decide about it for himself?

      Have a wonderful day!

  7. Wonderfully expressed, Kiran!
    Examples of your friends are eye-opening.
    One of them is even a doctor & had to start her clinic semi-fresh & that affected her income… Sad when such things happen.
    Of course, a lot is at stake.
    Women are expected to unquestioningly do so many things.
    May everyone (gender no bar!) get to do what they want to & not be forced to.

    P.S- Surnames can be misleading. At first I thought you might be Odia as ‘Acharya’ also happens to be a surname common in the state of Odisha!
    Santanu Kumar Acharya is an eminent Odia writer, belonging to Odisha. He has won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1993 for his book of short-stories- Chalanti Thakura (The Living God)

    1. Thanks Anita. I remember, you had asked me whether I was from Orissa. Acharya is such a common surname ๐Ÿ˜ฆ though I love it.) I had a friend in college- a Maharashtrian- she was Acharya too. I’m from from Karnataka. Everyone asked us whether we’re sisters. Some even saw the family resemblance. ๐Ÿ˜›
      Thanks for sharing about Santanu Kumar Acharya. I hope one day, I make my name proud of me too.
      Have a great day!

      1. Yes, you have a great memory ๐Ÿ˜›
        Yes, people with the same surname are thought to be family!

        Amen! May it be true!
        Best wishes!
        Have a great week ๐Ÿ™‚

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