First name, Unwanted. Second name, Dad’s or Husband’s name.

Satara district has 222 girls, unnamed, and called Nakushi (translates to ‘unwanted’). Punjab and Haryana have Unchahi which means the same thing. Is it difficult to imagine the parents’ indifference towards these children’s welfare or empowerment?

The government is going to have a naming ceremony and give each of these girls real names. (Or they could wait till these ‘paraya dhan‘ get married and go to ‘their own’ homes and get yet another set of names?) This is a well meant and necessary (though patronizing) gesture, but it is not going to change anything.

The same state (Maharashtra) insisted that my daughter adds her dad’s first name between her name and surname. Many women have experienced being asked to include their husbands’ names after their names.

The government or the society sees no connection in a girl child being called Nakushi or Unchahi and the patriarchal tradition of her second name being her father’s or her husband’s name/surname.

In a country that is so obsessed with family names being carried forward, would it not help if everyone, including female citizens had names and second names of their own?

Edited to ask:

Would it help for women to have names and surnames, all their own, like Hema Malini, Jaya Lalitha, Navya Naveli, all their lives?

Should both the parents’ names/surnames be added to the children’s names?

Related posts:

So what could make even the average, selfish, money-minded Indian family welcome baby girls?

What’s in a name? - visionlightcolor

Sadness, Despair and The Lamp

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92 thoughts on “First name, Unwanted. Second name, Dad’s or Husband’s name.

  1. Oh yaa…When we went for R’s admission to school, RD and I were very clear she would have her name and our surname…but the school insisted on the dad’s name…why not the mom’s name, RD asked! but they just wouldnt accept that…

    and then I remember someone had given my brother a gift cheque during his thread cermony which was in his name..bro was in class 9 then…my dad went to get it encashed and they wouldnt do it…dad asked why and they were like its written as bro’s name, my mom’s name and then surname…they wanted father’s name and not mother’s name..my dad fought like crazy saying its the mother who is responsible for the child’s birth, who has carried the baby for 9 months..etc etc etc…why are you insisting on the dad’s name, but they just wouldnt listen..dad refused to encash the cheque and the relative just gave bro something when they met the next time…

    I made the mistake of changing my surname after my marriage and trust me IHM, its been crazy…everytime to prove that I am my husband’s wife or my father’s daughter…I strictly advice married women NOT to PLEASE change their names/surnames after marriage..its too much of a hassle!!!

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    • I can relate to this.
      But in our family, we have defied convention.
      My mother got married about 70 years ago and retained her maiden name.
      My wife married me in 1975 and retained her maiden name when she took up a job in the bank. The formalities were simpler and she didn’t need to apply for fresh documents.
      My daughter got married 10 years ago and she too retained her maiden name. In her case the advantages were really solid as she has settled abroad. The complications regarding all her documents would have been much more if she had changed her name after marriage.
      My father, I and my son in law and his parents had no issues whatever in each case.

      Regards
      GV

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    • I’d been using my maiden name so far for all practical purposes so far. All my educational certificates are in my maiden name–these includes a degree obtained after marriage. My husband didn’t have issues. The mistake I made was that I used my ‘married’ name , now and then, where I thought it would simplify things. For instance I used my married name while communicating with my daughter’s school-teachers or in my husband’s office. Somehow, I suppose due only to sheer carelessness, my PAN card also came to be made in my married name.
      This year my passport expired and when my husband went to apply for a renewal, he was told that since the proof of identity bears a different name,I would have to apply for a fresh passport after having my surname changed formally. So I had to get my surname legally changed. I still haven’t got over it. It kind of hurts to be made to part with the name you were born with and identified with so far. I feel like kicking myself for my stupidity every time I think about it. :-(

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  2. I’d like to do away with sur names and stuff like that. Negative naming has many reasons. One – as you have pointed out, the parental desire to do away with girl children. But another reason is the warding off of evil eye, which is still understandable. I wonder what type of humans can blatantly name a child of theirs unchahi? Its horrible

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  3. What’s in a name? Some parents name their daughters unchahi while some others make them feel that way even without naming them. The real change is in how they are being treated and how they can be taught or empowered to be independent, curious and break out of meaningless traditions.
    I know a single mom with 2 kids who moved away from her abusive husband. They are all grown up and have kids of their own now. They always had their dad’s name for initial and still do. But every one applauds the mom for being so strong and raising 2 kids on her own and no one cares about the initials except on paper. That’s what really maters.
    If at all there needs to be a system, I think it would be a good idea for the couple to take on a new surname when they get married. Both parents change their names instead of just the wife and it could be something that signifies their family. They are starting a new family after all.

    Just can’t imagine how much more competent our government offices would get with all that extra paperwork ;)

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  4. I’ve always had my mother’s name as my surname :) WHile explaining the concept of kerala matriarchial society to everyone who asks becomes a bit of pain at times, I’ve loved the differene in my name. I wouldn’t mind having my dad’s name as surname either…. actually have both parents’ names….they created the child together na.

    One of my friends’ name is Vidhi Maheshwari. I have always loved names like those. They are complete in itself. Why tag someone else’s name to your own name at all?

    I did hear about these ‘unwanted’ girls. To say I was shocked was an understatement. :-|

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    • In Trivandrum, they go one step further and daughters’ have mother’s name and sons’ the father’s name (Not all though)

      I too love names complete in themselves. I feel that’s the best idea.

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      • Trivandrum has another naming scheme too. [FirstName] [Dad’s firstname] [Mom’s firstname]

        So you have names like Rahul Anand Padmini (usually Rahul AP in India). But when they go abroad (US, Canada…) Padmini becomes the last name. And they’d be addressed as Mr Padmini (where Padmini is actually mom’s firstname). Not a big deal though, but kinda funny :-)

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      • Oh yaaa :D That too!!
        My nephew was named with the same concept. His name is Aditya S N (initials of his dad’s first name and mom’s first name). So it would be Mr N or Mr Nandini when he goes abroad. Poor guy!! :mrgreen:

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        • Ashwathy that’s only as funny as women named Mrs Rajkumar, Mrs Rajeev or Mrs Abhishek.

          A friend who wasn’t aware of husbands’ first names being added as surnames for married women, asked this woman if she wasn’t Mrs Rajkumari, since she was female.
          Another time this man was called Mr Amitabh, which was his second name and actually his father’s name. His sister was called Miss Amitabh. A woman named Amitabh? (names changed)

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      • Well…I’ve never understood much the concept of adding a Mrs and tagging a male name to begin with.
        Mr Rahul Sharma and Mrs Rahul Sharma. Honestly speaking its weird. Why can’t people remain personalities on their own?

        That’s the whole point of what I’m saying.
        I never changed my name or surname after marriage. And I carry my mother’s name, not my father’s.
        There are communities (in Tamil Nadu I think?) where the bahu has to change her first name also after marriage. (I think someone has mentioned that already in the comments?)
        What’s the point really?

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        • I think the custom of changing the first name of a new bride is common in some places in North India also. Sometimes we just get so used to something that we miss how wrong or regressive it is. :\

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  5. Yes, women should have their own names and keep them, if that’s what men are doing. It becomes tougher when there are children. Having two names is not a good solution because if both parents have long last names, you’re saddling your child with something unwieldy. As my sister discovered, spelling out a hyphenated name on the phone is a pain!

    I’d be happy to do away with last names – if people want two names they can just choose one that inspires them. Or the whole family can choose a last name together if they want the family unit to have a common name.

    And yes, government officials are hell bent on inserting the father/husband’s name somewhere. I do not have a middle name but on my passport my father’s name was ‘kindly’ inserted by the concerned official so now I’m stuck with it.

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  6. I think the best is each child have a distinct name. No need to tag it with either the father’s or the mother’s name.
    Unchahi amd Nakushi?! Wow and the same people go overboard worshipping their mother!

    On a slightly different note, I am reading Godan by Premchand. It was published first in 1957. Nothing much has changed I feel in the way of thoughts on women and their role and lot of other things. IHM, you MUST read it (if you haven’t already)

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  7. For last few years now, I see mother’s name at the end of ‘Sirname First_name Father’s_name’ in HSC and SSC marksheets in my states.

    I guess it’s a necessary and not-so-difficult move to either stop using mother’s and father’s name altogether or using the first letters of each. Surnames can be done away with too.

    I prefer using my first name instead of it combined with surname whenever possible unless where something more is compulsory.

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  8. What kind of parents name a child Unchahi? It is just so terrible. Its unimaginable what it must do to the self-esteem of the child every time she hears it– and I suppose she gets to hear her name called out very often, to run around doing sundry chores , to try to become a little less worthy of this name. Imagine being saddled with such a name all your life. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry.
    I remember reading in some magazine not so long ago an article on young women in small-town Haryana–how they are beating all odds, studying hard, driving two-wheelers and getting well-paying jobs–in general doing things their mothers could never have dreamed of doing. One such girl the correspondent spoke to gave her name as Maafi, as in sorry. All her educational certificates bore the same name. It sounded as if her parents wanted her to apologize for the accident of her birth.The horrified correspondent asked if she did not have a problem with this name. She nodded quietly and said that she had already applied for a change of name and that she would soon have a nice name of her choice.

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  9. Horrendous practices.

    This naming thing is something I have never been able to figure out. I didn’t change my name but like you said, it is still very patriarchal, dad’s name. So is it really such a big deal to not change one’s name – besides the convenience aspect? I don’t see it as much of a feminist action.

    The South Indian practice of taking the father’s first name as a last name makes things even more complicated. A community surname brings caste into the picture most of the time. And for identifying purposes, one needs more than just a first name….just Sangitha is not enough to distinguish, can you imagine the chaos in our already messed up system?! You won’t even know if your marks are your own (at least now, any mess ups are not because they didn’t know which Sangitha!).

    Even taking your mother’s name is not okay gender neutrally, right? if there are two functioning parents, how come one is to be prized over the other – the same argument for taking your father’s name is applicable here without the patriarchy part. And given the already marginalized responsibilities of the father, this seems to just make it more official. It seems like most mothers, most of the time take on most of the responsibility of child rearing beyond birth and fathers mostly matter in imposing decisions (in settings like the ones you mention here).

    In summary, I guess it is ‘I don’t know how to solve this!’

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    • In one community in central Asia the priest plucks out one of the two last names (of bride and groom). If bride’s turns out, the groom changes to it and vice versa. The kids then have the same.

      Nice methinks.

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      • sorry about that – i meant if of the two chits the priest picks up the one which has the bride’s last name,then the groom changes his last name to hers.
        similarly if the chit that has been picked is the groom’s the bride changes her last name to that of her husband’s.

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  10. ————————-
    In a country that is so obsessed with family names being carried forward, would it not help if everyone, including female citizens had names and second names of their own?
    ————————-

    Yes, I agree. We have so many “fundamental” rights. Is it too much to ask for the right to name ourselves the way we want? The name is strictly a personal matter. Let the governmnt give Pan numbers, Driving license numbers or UID numbers if it wants and leave it to individuals to choose their names.

    ————————
    Would it help for women to have names and surnames, all their own, like Hema Malini, Jaya Lalitha, Navya Naveli, all their lives?
    ——————-

    Yes it would. Mayawati has a single simple name.
    Sita, Radha, Rukmini, Draupadi Lakshmi, Parvati all had simple first names and nothing more.
    Names of husbands and fathers or the names of the clans were not tagged
    Our culture never had this system.
    I wonder from where and from whom we inherited the present naming system.

    ——————
    Should both the parents’ names/surnames be added to the children’s names?
    ———————
    Yes, if one so desires.
    Swaminathan Anklesaria Iyer is an example.
    He is Mani Shankar Iyer’s brother and is an economist and a writer.
    He married a Parsi lady and has attached her surname to his.
    Aishwarya Rai Bachhan now has two surnames tagged.
    Would Big B have liked it if Abhishek had called himself Abhishek Rai Bachhan?
    I wonder.

    Regards
    GV

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  11. I kept my name, for professional reasons and as a tribute to my late dad. My middle name is as unique as my first name, and my last name is my dad’s surname,
    something to the order of Sophia Aniz Jacob (fictional)
    and my husband ( Harry Connick Adam the III, named after his grandfather and dad) is totall cool with that. My son’s name is something ls something like
    Aman Neil Jacob-Adam
    Aman (from my mom;s name) Adam being my husbands name and Jaocb being my last name.
    Anyways to stop rambling whats in a name?
    Do any on these people who want to forward thier vansh (family) even know what thier great grandfather or grandmother we called? Whose vansh are they forwarding.
    This month the world population passed the 7 Billion mark.
    In the US they do follow the very male favored tradtition of follwing the dad’s last name
    Eg..George bush Junior and senior
    But some people do keep thier maiden names I like Madhuri Dixit-Nene, or Rita wilson Hanks.

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  12. IHM, There was a person called Dr Kiishore Shantabai Kale, who wrote an amazing book called “Kolhatyaache Por” (illegitimate son of a Tamashaa dancer) in Western Maharashtra. The book is available in English translation as :”Against all odds” by (Penguin).

    Growing up against horrendous odds, this man actually fought a battle, to use his mother’s name , Shantabai, as his middle name. He fought against all kinds of huge obstacles to educate himself as a doctor, being ostracised by the “educated” and “uneducated” alike. He died at the age of 37. Was a practicisng doc.

    http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report_tamasha-loses-crusader_1081376

    http://www.indianexpress.com/news/a-life-lived-for-the-community/24877/

    While I feel a single name by itself might cause confusions as Sangitha describes (in case of , say, marksheets etc), and will be great fodder for those with aptitude for mischief, I know that SNDT University has been mentioning the mothers name and fathers name on the certificates and stuff. My daughter has one such.

    This business of the government having naming ceremonies for the “nakushi” girls in Satara, is pointless. Maybe the families will be given monetary grants. One more avenue for corruption and middle men. Actually the families (parents ) need to be punished for doing that. That will deter other folks from this practice. Or officially threaten to name the Collectors/Sarpanch’s daughter Nakushi/Unchahi.

    Do read Dr Kale’s book . I read it in Marathi when it first came out.

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    • When you open the telephone directory you find people with the same first name AND second name. Suppose they both studied in the same school and class?
      When I started blogging in 2006, I was asked if I was a published author because there is a Shailaja Mohan who has many children’s books to her credit. Now you know why I stick to the shorter version. But that has not helped either. So many people here think Shail Raghuvanshi and I are the same (in spite of different last names !

      I also had the experience of having a classmate with the same name in my class, but different initials. But the teachers insisted on expanding the initials and writing it out fully for the application for board exams as they feared there may be mix-up. :)

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      • Shail,
        I am privileged.
        There have been web friends who for sometime thought I was G Vishwanath, the well known cricketer.
        I was in no hurry to undeceive them.
        It helped me live in his reflected glory for some time as I lived in the same city, was born in the same year, and was exactly the same height ( facts I discovered later)
        The only difference was that he played long innings out in the middle while I wrote long comments in various blogs in cyberspace.
        Of course, I would soon be exposed but I would enjoy the fun while it lasted
        Regards
        GV

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    • Yes, in fact a fundamentalist Muslim friend (who refers to the Quran and Islamic scholars in every aspect of her life) told me that it is not that Muslim women are “not required” to change their last name, but it is “required to retain their last name”. Since she wants to follow the Quran and hadiths as much as she can, plans on reverting back to her maiden name.

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  13. This is the first time I am hearing about Nakushi and Unchahi…feel very sad. Here, in Dhramapuri female foetases are killed all the time. In Punjab girls are not available for marriage and the boys marry girls from Kerala!

    In south people don’t even include their surnames! Even including father’s name started some years back! My husband is R.Kumar and I was K.Sandhya (Kodavooru – my village, Sandhya, no father’s name!). After marriage it became Sandhya Kumar because including husband’s name had started!

    My mother’s maiden name was Ambujavalli and after marriage it became Indira! Nobody follows it now in our family, though! But my mother never used the name Indira!

    Jayalalitha Jayaram (she includes her father’s name officially)! Yes, Hema Malini never included father’s or husband’s name! Mayavathi?!

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  14. oh God that’s terrible! I can’t imagine someone being called “Unwanted”! :(

    And no, I don’t think adding both names will make a difference… it will only complicate the names. And the next argument (as it happens in the US) would be the ending name. Eg: first name: x. Mom’s name: y, dad’s name: z. Kid’s whole name xyz. But everyone will end up referring to her as XZ cos xYz is way too long.

    Annnyway… i think it will just make it more complicated.

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  15. This post reminds me of a teacher in my secondary school who’s first name translates to ‘God’s child’ and her husband’s name meant ‘the devil owns this’! We laughed about it all the time (secretly!) But I always wondered why she agreed to something like that. Anyway…after a lot of wrangling, the name was finally changed but we still laughed at her tho! In my culture some children are born with a name i.e. Circumstances surrouding their birth names them so sometimes you see some verrry funny combinations.

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  16. I have a friend whose name is a combination of 2 names – one given by her mother, and the other one by the father. She did not even have initials of her parents or family names. That I thought was beautiful.

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  17. Taking father’s or husband’s last name is a western concept, it was not followed in India ever though it was ‘understood’ that the son would carry on the lineage.

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    • Like someone mentioned most great women of the yesteryears were known by their own names, so were my great grandmother, grand mother and mother. Surprisingly, the educated, progressive person in me chose to have the name of my husband, no regrets there though, I feel a sense of bonding in that.

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  18. Why do these people become parents, I fail to understand! To name the innocent child as unwanted is nothing short than cruelty.
    And we debate what the girls’ second name should be! Does it even matter what the second name is when her first name is unwanted? (the title to this post is indeed very apt)

    Of course patriarchy is responsible for this. Everyone else other than the girl choosing her last name is just one small manifestation of patriarchy. It is the symptom to the illness that is patriarchy.

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  19. In Sikhism a Sikh Girl is named Kaur and Boy is named Singh.Unfortunately with rise of casteism in sikhism more and more young Sikh Girls are dropping Kaur and attaching their father or husband’s name.Sikh organistaions are Shouting with there full voice not to attach any caste name but there voices are felling on deaf ears so long caste is their in any religion women will attach their Father or Husband’s name

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  20. I have retained my surname after marriage, My daughter carries my name as her middle name with my husband’s last name as her last name. My mother has retained her maiden name to date. Really, I do not know the argument about only father’s name being last name! Infact, I can give my child a last name that is neither mine nor my husbands. it’s a name. It’s a choice not a rule!
    And really…how can people name their daughter as unwanted? How can a mother even do it? I feel that such children have a better chance at a decent life with adoption. If these so called parents don’t want them, the least they can do is give them away. I know there are a lot of couples around the world waiting in line for years so that they can adopt and want to be good parents.

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  21. This kind of thing happens over and over, but I still find it difficult to get my head around the idea that someone could have this level of pathological hatred towards their child just because it happens to be a girl!

    I don’t agree with the “what’s in a name” school of thought. That might be true in an ideal world but in the imperfect world we live in, names certainly matter. Being called “unchahi” from the day you’re born is bound to have some effect on your self-image, isn’t it?

    I generally don’t append “Eriksen” (my husband’s family name) to mine, except on very formal occasions or in government correspondence. Khan works fine. My daughters, by mutual agreement, have first names chosen by me and the family name of my husband. Of course, they’re free to change their names later if they want. We’d have no objections to that. :)

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  22. Whenever I introduce myself, I am expected to announce my surname as well. It helps others to categorize me into a Bengali of a particular caste. It’s only when we are accepted for just our name sans the title, will we truly evolve into a casteless society. But that’s just a dream, isn’t it?

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  23. I’m from the US, and I knew a few people growing up who had last names that were a combination of their parents’ surnames. For instance, if my mom’s last name was Johnson, and my dad’s last name was William, then my last name might be Williamson. I always kind of like that. I also like the Trivandrum traditions mentioned above.

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  24. It is so cruel to name a child ‘unchaahi! How a parent can do it, is beyond my comprehension.

    I love the idea of a name which is self sufficient, without the additions of any surname(father, husband, caste, anything). Hopefully one day, we will. Hopefully, one day we will go back to this tradition that we once had, and made sense, but which sadly seems to be almost non-existent.. Says a lot, doesn’t it, when societies can name children ‘unchaahi’ as per ‘tradition’, but some really sensible traditions get wiped out..

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  25. my name is my name + dad’s first name. my mom’s name is her maternal family’s name as initial and her name ditto with my grandmom. My dad put my surname his first name cos i was his lil baby( he apparently told my mom even before marriage that he wanted only a daughter). I continue with the same name cos i was a real real dadda’s girl and it is he who made me the firebrand i am :D. my husband once got upset when he got a call as Mr. my dad’s name but he understood it when i said that exactly what i feel when called vice versa. Oh, I should add, whenever my husband introduces me to anyone his auto intro is “meet my wife ” indu+my dad’s name”” u can guess the reaction of others :D

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  26. This is ridiculous!! I even have some aunts who were named “Sarla”, which means “Finished/All done/Over”. The parents named them so because they had too many kids and wanted to get over with child bearing!!! How about using some protection??

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  27. I have retained my last name post marriage. Being a Maharashtrian, my daughter would have had her dad’s first name as middle name, had it not been for his American coworkers saying, “A boy’s name as a middle name for a girl???”. My husband insisted, we use my name as the middle name. But I didn’t want to open a can of worms for his side of the family to talk about. So, we kept an American name as her middle name. And we got away with saying that, that’s how names are here in the US (Sarah Jessica Parker, Anna Nicole Smith, etc. ), we don’t want her to get teased at school. My husband’s parents were convinced and nobody else in his family was told about it.

    Now, my question is: Should I give my last name to my next child? Has anybody done that? Are there any pros or cons? My husband’s side of the family won’t like it for sure. Is there any way, we can get away with doing it w/o any backlash?

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    • That is exactly what I want to do – give my second child my last name since I gave in and let my husband name my first child with his last name. This idea is too radical for my husband (let’s not even get into extended family, including my own parents) and I’ll probably give in in the end, but I’m raising hell right now just so that he realises that tacking his name onto everything is not some divine right. If your husband doesn’t object, I think it’s a fine idea. Would love to hear that someone has done this.

      Of course, people will say ‘oh but siblings should have the same name’ but these same people don’t have any problems with siblings having different names when girl child gets married and changes her name. With wives keeping their own names now common, it is common for children to have different names from their mothers and that doesn’t make their mother any less their mother so I’m sure your children will be as much siblings with different last names – if anything, they will have a deeper understanding of fairness and equality.

      One thing to watch out for – some countries have rules against siblings have different last names.

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  28. I like the American system of giving children a first name, then a middle name, followed by their last name. It gives complete individuality to the children be they male or female. Also, married women are increasingly keeping their maiden name, mostly because many of them are established in their careers by the time they get married, and a sudden name change could cause confusion. I think these developments are very heartening.

    I don’t expect large changes to occur as a result of the government giving names to a bunch of women. What I would like to see is various private organizations going into these villages and employing the women as labor. There are organizations which go into slums, get poor women from there, and train them in house work, hygiene, manners and a language or two. These women are then employed as servants at various houses earning as much as Rs. 5000 or maybe more in some cases. The agency of course, takes a cut. This not only makes the women productive, it also increases their interaction with successful women.

    When they earn money, they’ll stop feeling unwanted. That’s where the problem lies anyway. It’s the self-esteem of these women that needs to be built. For that, they need to work, make money, learn that they can be productive citizens.

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  29. Should both the parents’ names/surnames be added to the children’s names?
    I found this on wikipedia under “Married and Maiden Names” under the title “English Speaking World/Children”
    The hyphenated surname has the advantage of enabling the tracing back of both parental lines. However, it requires the next generation, who have the surnames of all four grandparents, to make a decision about the surname(s) for their own children. One solution some[citation needed]couples have used when both parents had hyphenated last names is for the mother to contribute her mother’s name and the father his father’s to form a new hyphenated last name for themselves and their children.

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    • In my family, our first child has my husband’s surname and our second has mine. That works well for us. If we had had an odd number of children, then we would probably have created a whole new last name for the whole family, either by combining our last names into one word or just inventing something totally new.

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  31. oh u have to hear this. I applied for a passport. The application was in my maiden name. ONly the address proof document was in my marital name. The IT returns and all other official documentation was in my maiden name, bcs i havent changed the name in govt papers at all. So the marriage certificate was given to prove that this is my address proof.

    Guess what the passport office did? They issued my passport with my marital name- without so much as asking me!!! I went back to the clerk and shouted at the top of my voice – i m not dead. Just married. Why should i get a new name? He looked away.

    Now, the visa officers refused to give visa bcs the bank statements, employment records, everything is in maiden name, but the damned passport is in marital name!

    Dont even ask the horrors of that thing! But this is the approach of our sarkari departments.. it completely disgusts me.

    For our son, we have a simple thingie – His name and his father’s surname. Not bcs its patriarchal, but bcs i dont believe in the concept of family names and surnames et al.

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    • ohh…so sorry to hear about this passport-visa fiasco :(

      The clerks (and also the people) in India somehow think that same changes “automatically” upon marriage. When my mother-in-law heard that I haven’t changed my lastname, she thought I haven’t legalised the marriage in the US. She said, “You father-in-law took so much trouble to get your marriage certificate done in India, and you haven’t even changed your lastname.” I said, “Well, my marital status IS ‘married’, but I can’t change my name on the passport because it’s a big hassle.”

      My parents made me a joint owner in some bank accounts in India and even they used my husband’s last name as my last name. Now they are thinking of changing it back, but they feel the clerks won’t understand it unless they use the “passport” argument.

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  32. Of course names matter – else we wouldn’t need laws on whose name should be passed on! Another example of “bad” names is the practice of naming children born after fertility or other childbearing problems, the equivalent of “trash” or “alms” – as a means of fooling the evil eye.
    I like the idea some countries have, of requiring all names to pass through an acceptability filter – almost impossible to implement in our country where so many births aren’t registered, but it is a nice idea in theory. (Too many loopholes in practice, and somewhat subject to abuse, depending on implementation) I also like the old Tamilian custom of names being standalone – my grandmothers were X-vallis all their lives – not that they weren’t bound by patriarchal norms in other ways, but their names were their own.

    Like others have commented above, growing up in the south, never had a last name until the first public exam rolled around and the form needed all initials spelled out – and my father’s name became my de-facto last name.

    My husband and I did the still radical act of changing both our last names after our first child was born – we picked a last name that wasn’t specific to just one of us – it helped that we have enough cultural background in common that we *could* find something to use that didn’t sound too out there :) I would argue that this is the fairest way, especially amongst educated working spouses where both have an administrative history with the maiden name. And yes, had to go through the inequal procedures to go through this: husband had to jump through a lot more hoops to change his name than I did.

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    • See, I think what you’re doing is awesome, but don’t understand why equality-in-naming should be restricted to “educated working spouses”, with administrative histories. Surely an uneducated stay-at-home mom who has no “administrative history” is also equally deserving of the right to pass her name down to her own children?

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      • Sorry was being in exact in my comment. Certainly everyone should have the right to pass on whatever name they want: my opinion is that last names, as an artefact, are of practical use in paperwork, not in daily life. They are also, in their present form, a holdover from a Western system of naming that doesn’t apply to all comunities in India. Given that, I would recommend stand alone names for all, with the admin need for a last name being covered by a new post marital name for both parties concerned.

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  33. At least they are being honest. At least the child grows up knowing she wasn’t wanted.
    Its a lot better than coming to find out bit by bit the hypocrisy of the society that starts from our very home, our own family. I grew up to believe my family was modern and liberal. Its only after three decades that I finally came to find out to my shocking disbelief how deeply rooted these prejudices are . I feel so appalled at times but more than myself I find them to be utterly helpless. They just know nothing else. They can pretend to not care but the truth is…

    A girl is not wanted even in the most educated, well off families. Being a Preeti or a Suman doesn’t change the fact that she wasn’t wanted. Wishes to have a Raju or a Sunil instead are nurtured hideously, secretively. No body says it out loud in the big cities. Things are whispered and the wounds are internal. Its all concrete and hardened.

    Villagers are outspoken and genuine. They have nothing to hide. Their state of poverty, illiteracy, backwardness is for everyone to see, they don’t wear masks of modernity.

    Its a humongous task to eradicate such prejudices because people think these only exist in remote villages, bastis or zillas. There the filth is open and on display. In the cities, its all hidden and shushed under the concrete.

    When I was given a different name at the time of my marriage…I didn’t object. I didn’t think the name changed ‘me’ in any way. I let my in-laws use it as long as I was married while I retained my maiden name on my certificates. Its just a name. No big deal as long as it doesn’t make matters complicated. What bothers me is this mask of modernity that people wear.

    This engineer couple from California (working in Cisco or Oracle or Intel etc…)gave this explanation on being asked why the news of their daughter’s birth wasn’t shared with friends…
    “its just a girl and this is our second girl, so what’s the point??”
    Their new born daughter was still a few weeks old. Who cares what they name her? They still didn’t want her.

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    • i totally agree.. the pain of growing up unwanted is a little better if u know, from the start, that you were unwanted, and if u have to live, you have to want urself, bcs no one else does. In me, it led to a BIG issue – bcs i really wanted me.. so i HAD to ignore the fact that other ppl did not want me..or at least, did not want me as i was.. they would have liked a more docile, prettier daughter..

      But it doesnt take a child long to figure out that she is unchaahi.. and her brother is not.

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  34. my sister got married and she didn’t changer her surname but she asked her hubby if he wanted to change his so that they both could have one surname/family name and he didn’t have a problem with that so he changed his and I find that cute.

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  35. IHM, this was in today’s Toronto Star with a photo of girls holding a certificate with a new name. no more Nakusha, Unchahi and all. thought sharing the link with you

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  36. Pingback: 285 INDIAN GIRLS SHED ‘UNWANTED’ NAMES « As My World Turns

  37. Pingback: A name of your own, to keep or to change. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  38. Pingback: What kind of parents-of-sons do parents who kill, abandon or abort baby-girls make? | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  39. I filled this Aadhar form for my Husband , as he was lazy to get that done.it had an option of filling wifes name instead of Fathers name , But at the last moment the data entry fellow was not satisfied as his software wont take that …Thats what he told me …And in such a rush I left the matter , my husband was quiet OK …We are not allowed proper choices , any tom , dick and harry type of babu has the control on our docs …UNFORTUNATELY..

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  40. Pingback: Keeping her maiden name can save an Indian woman’s life. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  41. Pingback: Of how men’s masculinities are connected to their wives taking their names. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  42. Pingback: Life for a girl: married too young or unwanted? | My Blog

  43. Pingback: ‘This issue might sound very trivial, any stranger talking to him for few minutes will undoubtedly think that his wife is very lucky.’ | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  44. Pingback: ‘Yes, she can drink and dance just as well as you can, but won’t, simply Because you won’t like it, even though you say otherwise’ | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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