Browsing through the net I wonder, social networking is infectious! From Orkut, My space to Facebook and Twitter; and I guess it all started from the young boy who found a place to find his love to the latest geek associating micro blogging and hyper terms like CSS and virtual catalogues of people’s lives. It has transformed life!
Just like that, I was thus surfing the site named FACEBOOK which holds the Indian imagination at present which some months ago would be in Orkut, and I found this wacky offer to keep a surname for myself on it. I said to myself, but I hold one myself and so do almost all people on the earth. But things ain’t that simple everywhere. The issue with Surnames has been in times dated been very important.
We in India have a system that women after marriage adopt the surnames of the men. I suppose it has been from ages since the beginning of the civilization. Since a woman spends on an average the life after 20 years at her husband’s house in majority of the civilisations, they adopt the new surname, that of the husband and live and raise families with it. The men are thus regarded as carriers of names. Few exceptions were that of the royal families of Europe, which they took names based on places or rituals. In Icelandic countries, they have a complex system of naming their sons and daughters, wherein they add a part of their own name in their son’s. The etymology and history of surnames is a very interesting field. Try Wiki.
The surnames in India were originally meant to denote the castes or occupation or the place from where people reside. Mehta’s for example where people who kept the accounts of the families or gave out salaries to the workers of the firms; their name originating from ‘Mehentana’. Singh in Punjabi means ‘Lions’, and people of the caste were regarded as warriors or protectors of righteousness. Similarly Trivedi, dwivedi and chaturvedi’sRadhanpura means one who dwells from Radhanpur. There are many more examples and almost all surnames in Indian subcontinent context would have logical origins.(Link) being Brahmins who would have knowledge of 2-3-4 Vedas respectively. Soni’s is a caste associated with business and services with gold and gems. In my case, being
In western countries it is much more informal and holds lesser equitable value or importance in terms of the society or caste. They name their children sometimes with surnames out of interest of nicer names, sometimes out of their own names, and sometimes according to the places from where they would dwell. It seems pretty unhistorical and baseless when you generalize in their case. But they do give importance to the names as much as we do, only not think it as a sole identification.
Now coming up to contemporary times, as the world turns more chauvinist and sexist or for other places the other way round, the debates and issues regarding surnames have intensified. In the US, liberal European countries and the Australia during the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s more and more women were treading a different track by either keeping their own parental surnames after the marriages or many more cases of new names appeared. It started a revolutionary idea for the women rights and many observations showed that those societies were much more advanced, with higher education and women rights. In India since the last decade, you could see a small step in the direction with the metro crowd women following their western counterparts.
Recently I read an article in Hindu(With ref. to The Guardian) about a british based media personality marrying and keeping the name of the husband, on this action some women’s group is ballistic and condemns the lady for doing so. Link. I came across this article around a year back when i was searching something else, about the surnames and problems in Meghalaya, India(Link). Such so, i also came across this weird study and report in Hindu about relating DNA with your ancestral surnames(Link). So much said and done, there are various institutes on Name Etymology among humans that study anthropology, archeology and psychology among us.
I read the book The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri some time back and came to know that in some places discrimination on the basis of surnames apart from color is prevalent. It is a fact that some surnames are language specific and its difficult for people from different countries to understand and spell them properly like for example the surname: Gogol, amenikhev, Akkerdijsk... Frankly I have problems spelling Russian and African surnames with elongated or suppressed syllables they comprise of and understand they too would have similar problems with ours. But its kind of sympathetic for those whose names are spelt, mine sometimes being among them!!
On the lighter side, we have surnames which resonate with abusive words like Banchood’s and Lodha or those with kunjinath and chudawala. It’s a birth luck for many in India to be born with some specific surnames like those with tribal names are regarded in future and treated on first impression as backward; or for that matter names like Singhania or Oberoi, or some with Brahmin names are treated with reverence and respect.While on the other hand we have big personalities who change their names by adding an extra syllable or replacing some letters to suite the pronunciation or if they provide good luck. More people are turning to vaastu for the new names and changing a lot more than just names.
All in all its not entirely in our hands with what names we come, but it is not in our hands whether we give importance to the surnames we have or whether it shows our oppression (in case of women) but it surely is in our hands to keep our actions and image ahead of the surnames which people may remark. It may not be possible to name parks and bridges on surnames apart from Gandhi but It definitely is in our hands to make it a point that although the surnames may be important in distinguishing us, but they are not our sole identities.
our power we can have names to our liking and the governments do provide the right to change so.
For times change and so do the means, and times demand that we be legitimate to our actions much more than regard our birth as our destiny.