Finally, Riya had come back from Bangalore to take a small break from her job. As usual, we met and started our chit-chat.
I wanted to show off, so I opened my Facebook app and showed her my new name.
You might ask, what could I possibly flaunt in my name? “Hardik Ratna Lashkari” was the name written in the app. Yeah, I had added my mother’s name as my middle name, to give her respect and recognition.
“See this, I have added mom’s name in the middle,” I said overzealously.
“So? What’s the big deal in it?” she gave a stony reply, as usual. “What was aunty’s surname before marriage?” she curiously asked.
“Bairathi,” I replied.
“So, did you change your name to Hardik Ratna Bairathi? You can definitely show off the day you adopt your mother’s surname too,” she firmly replied.
“But, who does that? C’mon, my mother also writes Lashkari after her name now. Then, how can I write Bairathi?” I didn’t want to feel defeated in the argument.
“Exactly my point! No one does it. And you know why? Because we all want to carry forward our paternal family’s surname, but none of us care about our maternal grandfather’s family. She would feel more respected and happy, if you feel proud and privileged in using her own family’s surname, just like you wrote her name in between.”
Yet again, I was defeated in the argument, but she gave me the learning of a lifetime.
In our country, a child’s surname tells the world about their father’s surname, the traditional occupation of the family, and sometimes even the stories associated with the surnames.
The mother, who gives the birth to the child, isn’t even allowed to claim her right over such an integral part of the child’s identity – her surname.
All our documents have our father’s last name as well.
Why are we not allowed to choose our surnames? Why does society raise eyebrows if a person uses their mother’s last name? Does only a father raise a child? Isn’t a mother contributing equally?
Accepting your mother’s last name is not just an empty exercise in gender equality. For many, it is a necessity arising due to various situations – missing father, a divorced mother, or a traumatised childhood. If a child has seen their father ‘brutalising’ their mother all through childhood, why would they want to adopt his name and take it forward?
But, as they say, India is changing now. In a landmark decision, Women and Child Welfare Department issued a government resolution where the children are given a choice to use either mother’s or father’s last name as their own. They can get documents printed in the name they choose for themselves.
Still, the awareness is almost negligible everywhere. I’m not saying that we should change our surnames mandatorily to our mothers’ last name, but we shouldn’t be raising questions the next time we see someone carrying their mother’s surname.
Instead, we should applaud them, encourage them and salute them, for they are not only fighting against stereotypes but also helping India move forward.
So, the next time you see my name written as Hardik Ratna Bairathi, son of Satya Prakash Lashkari and Ratna Bairathi Lashkari, don’t ask – why mother’s surname?