Of surnames and married women

The Sanjay Dutt controversy is something everyone is talking about. I just want to know why he can’t shut up and stop behaving like a spoilt brat. There is simply no point in discussing whether Priya Dutt should remain Dutt. A woman’s name is her business. She is the only one who has the right to decide what it should be. It’s quite simple you know?

A woman is an individual in her own right. She is not just Mrs. So-an-so or Miss. So-and-so. She is just herself. She has an identity, a job, a passport, a driving license, and maybe even property in her name. It is entirely her right to decide what that name should be. Marriage is something that happens in everyone’s life. I don’t see why that should bring about a major change in identity. Chandni speaks of this issue here. She can’t understand why a woman should undergo a major change in everything she holds close to her heart simply because someone has walked into her life. I agree. Why? Why should I change my name?

Now, before you think I have an attachment to my name, let me clarify. I don’t exactly like my surname. I have no emotional attachment to it. I am Ms. Upendran. Great! But, tomorrow, if I cease to be Ms. Upendran and become Mrs. XYZ…well…ok too. But, whether I stay Ms. Upendran or become Mrs. XYZ is my choice. Right? Why is this so difficult to get? I may choose to keep my maiden name for the convenience it offers. I may also choose to take on my husband’s name because I know it means something to him. But, in a civilized society, I should not have to justify my choices to anyone. I should not have to explain why I retained my maiden name. That’s my business.

Many people, especially women, don’t get this simple thing. A friend from college sent me a friends’ invite on orkut. I didn’t recognise her. The reason is that she had changed not only her surname, but also her first name. And suddenly, I receive a request from someone called ABC DEF while I knew her in college as PQR XYZ. What the hell? How am I supposed to react? When I asked her why she changed her first name, she told me her husband did not like her first name and so she was forced to change it. I have responded to the name Amrutha for the last 26 years. Someone comes along and declares he hates that name and henceforth I should be called Alamelu. And to oblige him, I change it too. What the hell? Where is my individuality? What happens to me, the person? I am someone’s wife, someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s daughter-in-law, but me? Ever thought about it?

Sanjay Dutt was only echoing the sentiments of millions of Indians who think the same way. He can be branded an MCP, but we are only fooling ourselves if we believe that he is the only one around. Unfortunately for us, most people think this way. It is a woman’s responsibility to do everything possible to be accepted into the husband’s family. What about the family’s responsibility? Is it not their responsibility too to ensure the new bride does not feel left out? We never talk about it. We don’t have the guts to do it. Because, all said and done, we live in a male dominated society. Whether we like to accept it or not.

7 thoughts on “Of surnames and married women

  1. arun m c says:

    Vow! Alamelu instead of Amrutha, that will be fine…ha h ha

    By the way I had a discussion with my cousin, a legal practitioner, the other day and he outrightly denied the existence of any such provision as you mentioned in the post about Kasab: “Our criminal justice system is founded on the British Common Law principle. If an accused is not represented in a trial, and if he refuses to defend himself, he can be released and walk scot-free”.I’m confused and I’m going to give a print out of your post to him. It needs to be clarified.

    About the Alamelu part, no thanks. I would tell him to change HIS name to Kuppusamy before I change mine to Alamelu. 😛 About Kasab, he can get off on a mere technicality. Refer TOI news item on CJI’s statement that Kasab could get off on the grounds that the trial has been vitiated due to inadequate representation. It’s part of the CrPC.

  2. Indian Homemaker says:

    I agree Amrutha. It has to be a personal decision, but tell me you say your friend changed her name because her husband did not like her name? Do you think her husband would have changed his name if she did not like it?

    I think this kind of expectations are unfair, and in the end they lead to the greatest evil in today’s world, that of female foeticide. All children should carry their own names, this whole family name business causes a lot of unnecessary inflated ego issues. I also blogged about the same thing today … this Sanjay Dutt is getting a lot of free undeserved publicity.

    You hit the nail on the head IHM. See my reply to previous comment. If he changes HIS name then I will too. But, as it seems unlikely, I don’t see why a woman should change hers either. In my friend’s case, her husband wouldn’t change his eating habits, let alone his name.

  3. Jayalakshmi says:

    Well said.

    I know of in-laws who sowed deep distrust and spoiled a marriage becuase the DIL refused to change her name!

    So long as we do not teach our children that boys and girls are equals and are human being first , this attitude of “girls much be responsible for family life, they must sacrifce ” etc etc will continue.

    It is heartening to note that young ladies are coming out of these old habits( made for family property), and are giving a go by for die hard “tradition bound’ guys.

    Still miles to go!

    Welcome to my blog. And yes, I agree.

  4. Pixie says:

    Yep.. i agree… its a personal choice and you are right, we don;t have to justify our actions, but I spent a good half an hour arguing the same issue with a colleague today and I have seen that this has become a habit – people keep on asking me WHY I haven’t changed my surname and the answer – its my name and its a personal choice etc etc, never seems to appease anyone..

    As for Mr. Dutt – ARRGH!!! I hope that people in Lucknow display good judgment when he contests from there!

    Welcome to you too! All the best trying to explain. But seriously, just forget it. These people are not worth your effort.

  5. valluvar selvan says:

    Its all a question of power and dominance:Continuation of the practices of the tribal era.Bertrand Russel says in his ‘Marriage and Morals’ that male domination would have come into existence only after the discovery of fatherhood by man.In matrilinial societies even today children get their initials/surnames from the mother only.

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