Friday, April 15, 2016

L for Last Names

I don't have a last name. After my first name, I attach my father's name that doubles up as last name and surname. His name is actually just a first name with a couple of initials, that in turn just abbreviate his dad's first name. And all our names are quite generic. That is, you can figure out we are South Indians, or at the best, Tams. Nothing more. Nothing less. Our names are a bunch of random first name combinations. 

There was a point in time when the very fact that I don't have one family name that all of us in the family can share really worried me sick. Well, not worry, but a mild form of irritation tugged at my heart. Why can't we have family names for last names like the rest of India? Or, for that matter, a major part of the globe. I even fleetingly thought of adding my clan's name to mine as last name (yeah, we do have such things though we don't really follow the tradition of the addition for reasons unknown). I eventually dismissed the idea because it sounded a little weird and pretentious. 

Cut to a few years down the line. 

A couple of months back, we discussed reservations in education and the all pervasive caste epidemic in India in one of our Ze Salon community meets. For the uninitiated, we are a country that for a thousand years has discriminated on the basis of caste. And now, post independence, we are playing reverse vote bank politics by favouring the former lower castes through reservations in education and government jobs. Both then and now, caste and religion based division and hatred exist, in fact thrive and fester through us, undermining our advancements in science and technology. 

During the meet, a fellow community member was told us how he has done away with the last name funda in his child's birth certificate. The child has two first names in the certificate, two generic first names. The child's last name / surname is not my friend's family name. Such a simply executable but absolutely revolutionary thought and action by someone who is anti-caste and doesn't want his child to grow up with a casteist identity. Another member was speaking about how her forefathers had changed their entire family name to a generic name to move away from caste based segregation. 

I felt a little small about even having considered adding a clan name to my name, announcing my caste to the world. And, I should admit I was a tad jealous that I wasn't one of those great people with simple yet revolutionary ideas, standing up for what they believe in. 

However, I do know that the next time I come across a person with a generic last name (any name that doesn't give away a person's caste or region easily), I would halt a second and thank his / her forefathers for having had the vision to make this world a better place to live in. 

P. S. This post is the twelfth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I'm always fascinated by how names have so much more significance in the rest of the world than they seem to in America. I supposed that's not entirely true - people definitely make judgments about you based on your name in America too, but it's different.

Kavity said...

Is that so? I didn't know that. Do you have some examples, would love to hear.
Thank you for reading, do keep visiting the blog!

Unknown said...

Well I have heard last names as generic as Biscuitwala, Engineer etc... they are their official last names ! Thanks to their forefathers too...
The engineers with "Biscuitwala" surnames have remained so for ages without changing it :P
Wonder if they will change the "Engineer" last name when a kid from the family becomes a doctor or sportsperson etc..

Kavity said...

Haha no they don't change their last names forever. I know quite a few too - Mithaiwala, Pithawala, Hodiwala, Bottlewala / Bottleopenerwala. We even have a chain of restaurants in India called Sodabottleopenerwala :)