Tumhara naam kya hai Basanti?
Not a funny post, mind you but if you still happen to manage a few laughs…well I am funny. Now I am neither Basanti nor it my ‘daak naam’ aka pet name anywhere closer to Hema Malini’s iconic role from this cult classic film. I just chose this as my post title because I thought it resonates my feelings.
Imagine having to change your name. It is a terrible idea and the sense of loss can cause permanent damage. I remember while in college, Jerry Pinto, my journalism professor had asked an entire class of 40 women (terrible, I say!), how many of us would change our names. Now he was particularly pointing out to the custom of changing a woman’s first name as well when she marries the guy and obviously the ‘surname’ changes. I was horrified at the thought at that time. I couldn't and cannot even today imagine how another name would fit me.
During the same year, a friend of mine married her long-time boyfriend. He is a Maharashtrian and she is a Punjabi from Himachal. Now it was a custom to change the girl’s first name in the boy’s family. When posed with this question, the girl replied, “I met your son as Rekha (assuming she was Rekha), I am marrying him as Rekha so why his wife should be called something else?”
I thought it was a bold decision she made and her in-laws accepted. Of course, her soon-to-be husband supported her too.
Now when I got married, these thoughts never ventured into my head. I was way too excited and no one really brought it up. However, hubby came up with this while we were on our honeymoon. He wanted to know if I wanted to change my name to adopt his surname or keep both! Tricky, I’d say.
We decided to get back and decide. Soon, there were issues with me carrying on with my maiden name. Explanations were given everywhere. It was tedious and we decided that I keep both names. So I was going to be Ms Nikita Banerjee Bhagat. Big name but I got to hang onto ‘Banerjee’ so everything seemed cool or so we thought! He was a tad bit disappointed, but this was my name so I got to decide!
Once we had finalised my new name, we began with the documentation process. My pan card was to change now. So after dinner, hubby decided that it was the right time to get started with the process. Sitting in front of the television with my mom-in-law for company, he began filling in the requirements. Being the thorough person he is, he asked me (read in front of my ma-in-law) if I was sure my name was to be ‘Nikita Banerjee Bhagat’. I glared back at him and nodded my head. But it was too late. Mummyjee had caught onto it and hated the idea of two surnames. Also, it was more about keeping my maiden surname.
“Why do you want to keep two names?” I smiled back and explained that we both were okay with it so we want to go ahead.
“But why two names?” Again, I smiled back and clearly said that I wanted to keep my old name as it is as it had been a part of me for very long. Plus, I was adopting my new name as well.
“But then Bhagat comes after Banerjee?” Lol. I just smiled back when all I wanted to do was to ask her to mind her business. After all, this was my name we are talking about!
But she continued. She reasoned by saying, “You want to keep two names so your kids will have two names as well! Complete confusion for them, no? What will they call themselves? Punjabi or Bengali?”
The argument was not worth it. The husband just meekly smiled back and explained to her that all new-age (poo-poo) have names that contain their old surname and new. So it was normal and no big deal. She wasn't convinced and I wasn't interested so the topic was dropped.
I still continue to be Ms Nikita Banerjee. We have to explain our choice of names at every nook and corner. Yes, we are married but we or rather I haven’t changed my name. We simply present our marriage certificate that reads Himanshu Bhagat is married (legally) to Nikita Banerjee. This works perfectly well. As for our kids, we’ll see when they come by!
P.S: My dad asked me the very same question when I went home for my pag-phera after the wedding. "How can you keep two names? You are married and so it is obvious that you adopt his name as yours!" I asked him to shut up and knowing me, he has never brought it up.