I was a kid in school back then. Those good old days when children could complete their homework, play with friends, talk to their heart’s content and still find time to do other things….
I particularly enjoyed paying regular visits to my neighboring Aunty and spending time with her. We used to live in company accommodations in a remote location and the major source of entertainment we had there was socializing with the people around us who belonged to different states of India. Of course, I had a selfish motive too, Aunty had a color TV and we had a black and white one. Our black and white TV had strict timings as my brother, and I were students, but Aunt’s kids were all grown up and had left the nest. Hence the color TV was MINE and Aunty didn’t mind!
I enjoyed observing Aunty going about her usual business. As she was a Maharashtrian and I; a Bengali, I couldn’t help noticing how the same things were done differently by my mother and by her. Naturally my curiosity bombarded her with many questions which she was only happy to answer. She used to talk about cultural differences and how she adjusted to them. How she didn’t have a very luxurious childhood. How poor her parents were but very strict with her and her siblings. How she cared and nursed her younger brother when he was ill despite, she herself being very young. How she wanted to pursue her studies but had to get married. Stories about her friends who got married and had their names changed despite of not wanting to.
She remembered everything……
Here I interrupted; “What is this name changing business?” I asked; after all Bengali marriages had no such tradition. She replied that this is a Maharashtrian tradition where the groom can change the bride’s name as per his wish and asking for permission seemed unnecessary! I was a kid still couldn’t believe that someone wouldn’t even bother asking me if I am ok with my new name! In sheer disbelief; I asked her; did Uncle change her name too? To my horror she said “Yes”. I couldn’t believe the Uncle who was such a hit with kids; with us; could have done something like this! Aunty’s name is beautiful though; I asked her; what was her name before marriage?” She replied casually “Ohh, its being so long, I don’t remember!”
She didn’t remember……….
Life has a weird sense of humor! Many years later, I married my longtime friend, boyfriend; a Maharashtrian! Most of the marriage preparations were overseen by Aunty, Uncle and their children as my parents were not aware of Marathi rituals. My “name” was not changed, and I was happy and basking in marital bliss and decided to add my husband’s surname to mine. My husband agreed that I won’t be adding his name as my “middle name” and that I will also be retaining my maiden surname. Now I had to update my name in my office, in my bank accounts, PAN card etc. So, it was decided that the next day I would walk to my Bank with my marriage certificate and have my name updated.
Life is always simple for the inexperienced! I had clearly underestimated the Bank’s resolve. As soon as the lady behind the counter heard my request, she replied with a firm “NO”, “You can’t have 2 surnames”, “Also no middle name?” “The form won’t be accepted as this is not a valid name”. Irritated I blurted out that; how then Madhuri Dixit Nene and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan have bank accounts? She replied, “They don’t have salary accounts in this branch, Mam.” Well, Of course.
She further challenged me, “Bring me your updated name in any government document and I will update your name here.” “Challenge accepted!” I told myself.
I immediately applied online for name update in PAN card, they replied that they need another government document other than the marriage certificate with the updated name. My office admin guy asked me to change my name in the bank first to be able to get my monthly salary. So, end of road; a deadlock!
Luck finally smiled in the form of the newly introduced Aadhar card. The lady at the Aadhar registration center didn’t find my name odd enough; though she still enquired about my husband’s name; she was the only one who took my marriage certificate seriously. At last, I had my name as I wanted it to be! The road ahead was easier and now I have my name as I want it to be even on my passport! Pat on the back!!!
The day my daughter is old enough to understand this, the day; girls, boys, men, women read this story and understand the seriousness of one simple thing; that all women have the right to decide their own names at least; my life will come to a full circle.
What’s in a name…. Well, I am sure Shakesphere must have lived in simpler times!!!