So Our Boys In Blue Wore Their Mothers’ Names On Their Jerseys. Will This #NayiSoch Really Be Revolutionary?

Posted: November 2, 2016

Is it enough that our ‘boys’ in blue wore their mothers’ names on their backs, to strike at the roots of patriarchy? Is this #NayiSoch going to change society?

The final One-Day International (ODI) against New Zealand in a recently concluded series was much talked about for a reason other than cricket – all the Indian cricketers wore jerseys bearing their mother’s names respectively instead of their own.

This was preceded by the advertisements of three renowned Indian cricketers for a campaign titled ‘Nayi Soch’ (New Thought). This unique initiative is part of a social awareness campaign started by Star India in collaboration with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to bring into focus the importance of mothers in the lives of everyone, especially in the lives of accomplished people. It is definitely a refreshing change, and has the shock value to make every viewer introspect, as to why mothers remain anonymous in the lives of their accomplished kids (read sons).

A matronymic is a personal name that is based on the given name of one’s mother, or a female ancestor. In societies across the world matronymic surnames are less common than patronymic surnames. Traditionally, matronymic last names were often given to children of unwed mothers. Patriarchy further supports this system by insisting that children/progeny belong to the men’s family, especially male heirs. Daughters are expected to renounce their father’s names and take up their husband’s name at marriage.

In India the only public figure to use his mother’s name formally is the acclaimed film director, Sanjay ‘Leela’ Bhansali, who uses his mother’s name as his middle name as a dedication to her struggles in bringing him up almost as a single parent.

So clearly it’s not a norm to use mother’s names in India. Girls use their father’s last name before marriage and husband’s after marriage, whereas boys always use only their father’s names. It could be one of the reasons why boys are the preferred gender in progeny in India still because they supposedly carry forward your family name.

Any trend supported publicly by a national team of a sport that has such a wide following in the country is bound to catch eyeballs and become a point of discussions, but will it lead to long term change? This needs to be debated and seen.

It is very charming to see skipper Dhoni say he must use his mother’s name ‘Devki’ with as much ease as he uses his father’s last name ‘Dhoni’, but the real question is – would he be comfortable if Mrs. MS Dhoni refuses to use the family’s last name or his daughter wants to use her mother’s name instead of his? This is just an example; the question is to all of us.

Families and society in India is still not comfortable with women using hyphenated or double-barrelled surnames as they are derogatorily sometimes called. So is it even realistic to expect boys to formally take up their mother’s names, and even more for women to take up a last name from the mother’s side or none at all?

Another stereotype that these kind of campaigns may underline is the glorified motherhood of boys traditionally so evident in Indian mythology. So mothers must seek sons to carry forward their names and not daughters.

We only revere and remember women as mothers and that too only as mothers of sons. Even the traditional blessing given to newlywed women is “Putravati bhav” (may you give birth to a son). Does anyone remember Sita’s or Draupadi’s mothers, whereas we all know hundreds of stories about Rama and Krishna’s mothers respectively?

While some may say these are just empty gestures and what is there in a name, and some others may argue that it is a small but good beginning towards gender parity especially as parents for men and women, but the fact of the matter still remains that the agency of ‘granting’ validity to a woman’s rights remains with the men folk.

As long as women do not exercise their own choices whether it is regarding last names or how gender sensitive they bring up their kids to be as parents, their dependence on patriarchy to ‘validate’ and ‘allow’ shall remain.

I always believe all change begins in homes and in a family, naming the problem is often the first step. This advertisement has shed light on the anonymity of women in our culture but it might also send in wrong signals as far as patriarchal cliches are concerned.

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