Friday, January 23, 2009

Of Surnames, Cognomens and Monikers

I really don't want to be blogged down with the political ploy of the Samajwadi Party and the Congress in the-your-court-my-court-ball-throwing but would like to maintain that no "Gandhiji image" should be given to a twisted mind, a drug junkie and a criminal like Sanjay Dutt. He simply should not be "the one" to guide India in its democratic endeavors. Period!

I was busy all day "googling" up all the famous personalities and their surnames. Following is a small list:

Albert Koch (Einstein)
Isaac Ayscough (Newton)
Johann Sebastian Laemmerhirt (Bach)
William Arden (Shakespeare)
George Ball (Washington)
Thomas Randolph (Jefferson)
Johan Wolfgang Textor (Goethe)
Wolfgang Amadeus Pertl (Mozart)
Napoleon Ramolin (Bonaparte)
Ludwig Keverich (van Beethoven)
Abraham Hanks (Lincoln)
Charles Wedgwood (Darwin)
Charles Barrow (Dickens)
Karl Pressburg (Marx)
Sigmund Nathanson (Freud)
Charlie Hill (Chaplin)
Ernest Hall (Hemingway)

It's not a new information that in western society and in our part of the world the wife looses part of her personal identity (Feminists: Don't curse just read, part of her full name) through marriage as she takes on the family name of her husband. If she's famous before marriage, the family name of the husband usually gets (read: usually) gets ignored. So its only fair to all parties as dictated by reason and conscience to emphasize on the 50% of the polypeptide gene chain the mothers put in the mix to surname immortality. It's believed that the Chinese were the first to embrace surnames to honor their forebears, with the family name placed first, rather than last. Thus, the family or the surname name of Wei-Sheng Sun is Wei. When close knit communities comprised of just a few people, surnames weren't so important. They were simply known as for example, "Jesus of Nazareth". But as each small villages or communities started migrating and the village adopted more and more "Raj's," "Rahul's," "Geetha's" and "Sita's", the need was begged for a way to identify each from the other. In India according to the type of work they did, the Patel's, the Kumar's, the Gupta's, the Malhotra's etc came into being.

Now the names that identify the father are termed Patronymic surnames. Rarely, the name of the mother contributed the surname, which is referred to as Matronymic.

Here's something interesting which was followed until 1900

The first son was named for the father's father
The second son was named for the mother's father,
The third son was named after the father.
The fourth son was named after the father's eldest brother.
The first daughter was named after the mother's mother.
The second daughter was named after the father's mother
The third daughter was named after the mother.
The fourth daughter was named after the mother's eldest sister.

If a widowed mortal remarried (divorce was virtually unheard of) and had children with the new spouse, the first offspring of the same gender as the departed spouse was given the spouse's name. The same was in the case if a child in the family died, and then the next of that gender was given that name.

Isn't it romantic to be associated with your husband? Isn't it still the tradition of a girl joining up a "family" and be colligated with a name? I beg to be differed! What's happening with this world? Is marriage so casual an affair that women feel the urge not to change their names in the passport and other legal documents in the fear that after separation and divorce, it’s a mess changing it back?

Now a so called "traditional" Dilnawaz Shaikh, oops, Sara Khan, oops, Manyata (I simply don't have the right to sing, "alhar mast jawani…" in my mind and imagine the daring camera tracing human anatomies) added to the on going debate between-the-now-wannbe-politician, Sanjay Dutt and his Sister Namarata Dutt, when she told IANS: “If you can't accept your husband's name and family then why marry? And yet again, "Mrs. Indira Gandhi was married to Feroz Gandhi, someone not as famous as the Nehrus. But she didn't fight all those glorious battles as 'Indira Nehru'. And now Priyanka calls herself a Vadra after her husband (Robert Vadra), not a Gandhi.”

Sanjay Dutt said and I quote, “Women should not stick to their fathers' surname after marriage. It is disrespectful to their husbands. They must adopt their husbands' surname. I would have felt bad if Manyata had stuck to her father's surname," Poor Sanjay (The new MCP) had no idea that the Feminists (Sorry dear Mummy’s, Aunties and Sisters) are waiting to hear something like this utter out and that too in front of the media. A dog biting a man is no news however a man biting a dog is news!

Over reacting to Sanjay Dutt's remarks, our ever the more aspiring feminist (sorry again!) Minister Renuka Chowdhury (Women and Child Development) uttered out in sheer disgust, "Aspiring politicians like him should take some lessons on the constitutional rights of women before thinking of entering parliament." This is the same Renuka Aunty who one day on the national Television said speaking of the much one sided (sorry again!) Domestic Violence Act, “It is the men's turn to suffer" and yet again, "We will have cradles strategically placed all over the place so that people who don’t want their babies can leave them there"

Imagine that? You don't want a baby, just throw it away! In my judgment anything that will help palliate the foeticide curse is a good thing, but the quick mental imagery of "improvised garbage boxes" set up everywhere is kind of sickening. A child is a gift and not a dress you throw away if you don't want it. It’s a quiet hushed up truth that the SIFF (Save Indian Family Foundation) receives 200-350 calls from men per week for torture, forced to pay maintenance and for alleged dowry harassment. Of course, there are real cases but all the disgruntled women have to do is shed a few tears in the courtroom.

Women talk about rights, they talk about dignity and integrity and they talk about "being a Man, oops...being a Woman." They blame the Man if they become frustrated with life and the boredom in Marriage. They blame the Man when he comes dead tired from all the work in the office and too much time in the office and is not able to perform in bed. They blame the Man if he has a woman as friend and more the so if she's too friendly to call at home. They blame the Man if he's pathetic in the kitchen and cannot manage the Kids if she's not home. The list goes on... What they fail to understand is that HE is a Man and SHE's a Woman. Does that same Woman treat her kids, a boy and a girl the same? Is the boy in the kitchen, cutting vegetables while the Girl pulls up a jeans and wrestle with other boys? So let's have nature define roles in marriage. The man cannot nurse a child and provide milk but he can give a strong shoulder of support- Emotionally, Socially as a Father and a Man and finally financially, to the best of his ability.

Let not women grow out of the basic sense of ethics and tradition to enjoy the patronage and pamperment of radical women’s organizations, the helpless laws and the biased judiciary and the biased anti-men news seeking media who want to squeeze and rub out every possible drop of sensationalism from the fulcrum of the family. Let's all live together- caring, teasing and fighting, indulging and shouldering each other as we age and fall. God Bless!


Anonymous said...

Interesting take..

But can I ask something..Why should husband feel bad if the wife prefers to retain her maiden/father's name? Shouldn't she be given to freedom of choice?

I fthe wife prefer not to chnage the name,why should the husband feel insecure?Does attching the name have any significance in the intensity of relationship they share?Afterall,the wife is not a property or something who right is transfered from one person to another..

If i like it,i will go thru all difficulties to chnage name in all documents,if i don't like,i will not change either..Andi wonder why some men associate emotions to surname..If i don;t chnage my surname,does it means that i am rready for divorce anytime or that i love my husband any less than any underdog wife who changes even her intial nem to suit her husband's wish??

We are simply deluding ourself to think that follwoing traditions will bring us good and good alone.Why not give the choice to the woman involved..

Good day..

Biju Mathews said...

Nimmy: You are missing the point here. It's the emotional feeling of "attachment" that the "Men" want to share. Of course the women is no object or property that the men buy or get it transferred onto their name! What would you like your children to do? Would you like them having their own surnames, like for example Obama or say "Michael Jackson" I'm not sure if the "mordern women" just feel a husband as a "security guard" or better a "banker" but Men would feel it romantically and emotionally "nice" to have someone associated with their name and call them their own just like a mother would like to have a child and call her own. No hard feelings please :-)

PraveenG said...

I agree with the author ! Its all about mutual understanding and compromise. But there is no point in forcing and any kind of compulsion in this regard will have a long term adverse impact on the relationship itself.

But, but, what is wrong if the husband expect his better half to add his name/surname after hers which is a normal (100% normal) custom here? After all, we are in India and it is a tradition which we've been following for 100s of years and moreover an emotional attachment and bond. It is very silly and considerably a small issue. 99.9% of women population in India would prefer( I feel so, I think I am right here) seeing their names followed by their husband's name/ surname. If both are in deep love, I don't see even a small chance of being dragged to a conflict on this issue anywhere. Marriage is a knot or a binding and there are some boundaries drawn around it and it is an agreement to stand with in and adhere to some restrictions (directly or indirectly imposed by the society) and live together. Considering this binding and attachment, if, still, she preaches freedom and feminism, it doesn't make sense to be called a "pair". Better stand alone and don’t get married !!

Nimmi, no hard feelings, plz. I was juz expressing my ideas here. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.

Biju Mathews said...

Hello Praveen,

I like what you wrote, "Marriage is a knot or a binding and there are some boundaries drawn around it and it is an agreement to stand with in and adhere to some restrictions" There has to be some seriousness when one says, "I'm getting married." Thank you!

Nimmy said...

lol..I understand..

there is no space for hard feelings..We are sharing thoughts..I don't say that i am right,but its just my opinion :)

Even I would like to attach my husband's name as my surname.But all i was saying was that it should come out of her choice,else she may feel bad for having compelled to change her identity.I have seen some men making it haste to change wife's name and it makes me feel odd ..

Good day

Nimmy said...

@PraveenG,you sound familiar to maybe 23478923472398 PraveenG's in this world,but i just felt that you are the 'G' i knew in college..
Just shared..Good day

PraveenG said...

I will certainly expect my sweetheart to add my name along with hers :-) :-)

and, i am looking forward to see that day coming :-)

Nimmi, i m frm Tiruvalla, Kerala and I m nt sure if we know each other..

whr r u frm ?

shail said...

Lol @ the change of name. I mean we do live in ppre-historic times. What's the big deal anyway. The Nairs of Kerala have been sticking to their maiden surnames since donkeys years till the invasion from other cultures have made them also take to their husbands names. I have taken my husband's name, because I WANTED to. But nothing will make me endorse it. It is each individual's desire. Period. Taking your husband's name is not what marriage is about, take it from someone who has been married for 26 years. If men think so it is only their ego rearing its head.
If taking husband's name implied what you convey, why have women been subjected to so much in the past when they not only took the husband's names but were docile door mats for them to wipe their feet??!! Those women should have been worshipped and given exalted place in their families instead!!

Moreover, there is a simple thing called 'change.' Life changes and with it comes new ways of naming and being named.

"Women talk about rights, they talk about dignity and integrity and they talk about "being a Man, oops...being a Woman." They blame the Man if they become frustrated with life and the boredom in Marriage. They blame the Man when he comes dead tired from all the work in the office and too much time in the office and is not able to perform in bed. They blame the Man if he has a woman as friend and more the so if she's too friendly to call at home. They blame the Man if he's pathetic in the kitchen and cannot manage the Kids if she's not home. The list goes on.."

Yes, women complain AND SO DO MEN. They are past masters at it. The only difference in the two is what they complain about. So whats so great about it??!!

Dignity, integrity and rights of a woman are not something to be made fun of. It is their birthright which has been denied them and still is being denied all over. It is not the Manyataas of the world who are the measure for it. It is the aam janta. Would you really care to know what it is to lead a life without rights and dignity?? Then go out and meet the normal average householder women out there.

Mathew said...

Hello Shail,

You are perfectly right in your ramifications and of course a husband's name is not what marriage is about. I called up my Mother who has never heard of a Sanjay Dutt nor about his now celebrity wife not has she heard of this surname controversy. I asked her if she ever wanted to keep her own maiden name after she married my Father. She bursted out laughing and asked, "for what? Are you crazy?" I gather that women want their identity but why then keep their existing family name too? Why associate their children with their names too?

I agree that MEN also complain but women should introspect very closely into their family lives. Men complain to avenge the volley of complaints from the women who never seem to have a bucket full of imaginations. All this said, I respect your views, they are from a Woman and I've never been able to understand them and always tried to rainbow my theory of life above their heads. Sorry! Thank you for coming by and commenting. Please keep visiting. I value your views! TC

brocasarea said...

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Indyeah said...

Will be back to comment in a bit!:)interesting post!

Onthewingsofadream said...

Hmmmm ..intresting!!
its ok if its been a custom , its okie if others do it ... I am not going to do it ... i din use my dad's name , i never used my ex's name ...and I dont see myslef marrying again , but if i do , i will not add my guys name ..coz i just dont want to ..

Its a matter of choice it or not..its my life and i have all on it ..

as far as men are concerned ..they are hypocrites ( 99%) . They crib about their wifes compalining ablout thier female friends cool they are with their wife's guy friends calling ???
they dont want to blamed when they are tired and cant perform in bad ...what about 70% of extra marital affairs that guys atribute to lack of sex in their married life (reason wife's are too tired )..

they complain about shopping , but dont understand when women complain about sports ... why they want kids if they cant do more than providing money and his name .... I am independent and i dont see any need of any guy in my life except for single reason ..thats love ...I dont need anybody's money , support , help in my life ....marriage is just additional burden , for doing more work and getting more blames .... I and lot many people I know just dont need it ...

and I am no feminist ...I have grown up like that ...with equal rights... my bro and me has done dishes together and have same deadline for coming home ..i always had equal freedom in all the ways ... and I can knock a guy down ..:-))

just my view

Biju Mathews said...

@Indyeah: Thanks :-)

Biju Mathews said...

@Onthewingsofadream: Ha Ha. First let me thank you for visiting my blog. I'm honoured!

I liked what you wrote, "... and I can knock a guy down" :-) Please don't knock me down...

You have opened my eyes a little. I admit that I may have typed in something which is so general in a two way relationship. Both partners complain and both partners are selfish and suspicious. All I hope is that they look beyond these small trifles and accomodate each other.

Yes, marriage looks like a huge mountain with the other side not visible but one has to journey on least the place you keep standing fissures apart and you cry alone in that hole with only your shadows for company. God Bless!

Anrosh said...

how about this scenario?

the husband has added his wife's last name. - and (he is an indian)
and the wife is keeping hers.( not adding her husbands)

and the kids have taken the mothers last name.

Anrosh said...

Another scenario

- she is an indian. she has a first and a last name ( but not her fathers last name) Her parents did not give their last name though her mother has taken her father's last name after marriage. the parents logic was each of them wanted to give a name to the kid and so they they did not want to burden her with another last name ( surname)

she is now married and has not taken the husband's last name either.

Biju Mathews said...

@Anrosh: Thank you for the comment and welcome to my blog. I had to read your comment a few times (you see, I'm not that intelligent *wink wink*)

Of course Matronymic surnames names exist in families so do a combination of a Fathers and Mothers. I've usually seen Parents not choose their name as surname when its not mordern enough for them or is funny but ALL execeptions happen in this world but why? I'm sure there is nothing wrong but why? It just sounds like me in my childhood, crying my eyes dry since I wanted my name done to Michael Jackson Mathews. My Dad very sweetly kept saying monday till I grew out of it. Now more than ever I want to be only associated with my parents and I know now the meaning of relationships. Life is like that..

Anonymous said...

I married the first time. Changed my sirname to his. Then problems began and I met another guy. He helped me get a divorce from this first guy so I could marry him. My sirname then changed to his. After 14 years of being the good wife and mother and being at the receiving end of perfect misery and not for lack of trying, I've had to leave him. So its been two years of separation. He still wants me back. I definitely want out. Looking for an effective way to divorce. I want my sirname back. And the next time another guy comes around and by some freak chance its third time lucky...I'm NOT changing my sirname.

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Misty Patterson said...

nice info..never knew abt these things...:) sp is always behind those filmstars...!!!