“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 to 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 weren’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 to 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. 😛 😉 )
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 by Indispire Edition 56
Related article: What’s in a name deals with name in general.