Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Why only Sur??Why not Bagchi as well??

Before you start making any guesses I would want to clear it out that Bagchi was my mom’s surname prior to marriage..But after she got married to my dad, her surname got changed to Sur!!Thus my name came out to be Prateek Sur..This happened way back in 1988, but we’ve grown into the 21st century, don’t you think it’s time enough for us to start acknowledging the surname of the maternal side of the family too..I think so..When I see Indians like Konkona Sen Sharma who wantonly keep their surnames from both sides of the family, it seems that we are coming forward..But is it enough??How far have we come??I still think hers may be one exception..Don’t you think it’s time now to start coming forward and giving the maternal side of the family their due respect??
Blame it on the British..When India names its children, the mother’s side of the family is all but forgotten..The children are given the father’s surname..It seems like an antiquated practise today, when inter-caste, inter-regional or inter-religious marriages are on the rise and women sometimes find themselves cast as single mothers, raising children all by themselves..
But why blame the British??Till their advent, most people dint find their surnames in their caste..When the British colonial administration began documenting land ownership and birth records, it followed the British custom of giving children their father’s surname..This remains common practise in most of the English speaking world..
In the US, notably, only a few traditional families use their mother’s maiden name as the child’s middle name..That’s how Franklin Delano Roosevelt, America’s 32nd president, got his middle name..
In Europe and America, few women change their names after they marry, so it makes profound legal sense for children to have two surnames..In India motherhood may be celebrated but appears to have little value when it comes to legal and government records..Isn’t it time we changed??Yes, Mr M.Varaprasad, Andhra Pradesh’s education minister indicated this week when he denounced “our old system (of insisting the) father’s name be included in the certificates..Why not mother??This is very unfortunate..This is very discriminatory..”His comments are significant in the very week that the southern state started to offer the option of mentioning either parent’s name on the child’s school admission form..
As campaigners for women’s rights pick a fight with India’s naming system, it might be useful to look at Europe and America..In Spain and Spanish speaking countries in the Americas, children have two surnames—the first from the father and the second from the mother..Painter Pablo Ruiz Picasso used his maternal surname, Picasso, as his signature..
Isn’t it time we stopped the practise of using the surname of just one parent??How about hyphenated surnames, consisting of the last names of both mother and father, in whatever order..It would legalize Indian motherhood..
So what’s in a name??A lot, if it’s your mother’s..Isn’t it??

Jaishree Ram,


  1. What you have written or emphasized is already been practiced by many women now. My aunt is also among them but I think this should be a personnel decision of the girl. Some women fancy keeping new surnames, let them do so.
    Over all it was fun reading.

  2. it was quite interesting
    but i know many people who decide to keep their surnames.
    take sania mirza for instance.she's not going to be renamed as sania malik.
    but you raised a good point!!!!

  3. Informative and well written. I concur with you. It's hight time we gave our mother their due.

  4. yaaaaaaaa that's true.........but the best thng in my home is my mother's previous surname n surname after marraige is same...."MUKHERJEE" gr8 4 me n my brother...bt i will surely not 4get or vanish my surname after marraige 4 sure........!!!i wont change it i may add....

  5. if u hv ritten dis.....itzz gud.....u r a gud riter........i lyk ur work.....!!!

  6. i'm fine with my child having only the father's surname. to me, it's something i got from my dad... and my kid will get from its.
    i do believe that the whole decision of whether to change/retain/append the surname must be that of the woman. it's her name, afterall.
    and more importantly, i don't think it is anybody's right to judge me based on whether i change my surname or not. it's just a live and let-live policy, i guess.