What’s in a name?

That is the question a very famous playwright once asked. So if there really is not much in a name, why is there so much fuss over it?

When we are born, we are supposed to take up the ‘family’ name. This family name is dubbed the ‘surname’, or the ‘caste’, and who knows what else. More often than not, we are forced into taking up the father’s name. Why? After all, wasn’t it my mother who brought me into this world, taking a lot of pain and making a truckload of sacrifices? I’ll admit I’m a feminist, but my point is I’m equally my mother’s child, and my mother admittedly deserves much more credit for bringing me into this world.

Even application forms ask for the father’s name. And the government takes the liberty of attaching your father’s name after your own name in your passport. Well, its my name isn’t it? It’s a mark of identification right? Then at least allow me chose my name. What if I decided to adopt my mother’s name? There are matriarchal systems in India too. And I’m really proud that somewhere, women are given their dues, and I wish there were more such systems.

And then there’s this whole issue of changing your name after marriage. Well, am I no longer my parent’s child? Well, this debate will keep raging as long as humanity will exist.

But what drove me to write this post is not the feminist angle, but the regional angle. Yes. This is the part when I complain that South Indians are alienated in India. You see, we put our ancestors’ names before our own name, and usually use it as an initial. I have lost count of the number of times I have to sit down explaining to people around me, “No, that’s not my name, that’s my dad’s!”

Here is where most of the government application forms allow us some leeway. They allow us to write our names the way we want to. There is just one space for name. So I can feel free to put an initial before my name.

But what’s with these private companies? Why are there 3 columns for my name. I have one name. I don’t have a middle name. That’s the American way, or maybe the British way. I don’t know. But I sure know that it’s not the Indian way.

The other day I was trying to book tickets online. And for the billionth time I was asked to fill in my first name, middle name, and last name. What’s worse, it was supposed to match the name on my photo identification.

Well, how do you suppose that’s going to work?? You tell me to provide my name, and then you tell me how I should write my name by providing 3 columns. And then you expect it to match the name on the government identification, which of course has a single name with an initial!!

So now, even centuries later, Juliet’s famous lines have fallen on deaf ears.