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I have just begun reading Arshia Sattar’s abridged translation of Valmiki’s Ramayana, and after introducing Rama as born in the Ikshvaku clan, Valmiki says, “This virtuous man is the son of Kausalya.” Dasaratha is introduced a few lines later.
The Venkatesa Suprabatham, a familiar early-morning sound in many South Indian households begins with “Kausalya supraja Rama” – Rama, the beloved son of Kausalya.
Quite often, we hear in the online as well as offline world, thoughts on whether or not women should adopt their husbands’ surname post marriage. Some of us choose to keep our original names, some opt for hyphenated/combined surnames, yet others drop their original surnames and adopt the husband’s. Regardless of what choice we make on our own surnames though, few women will pass them on to their children. A very few may pass it on in the form of a middle name, or perhaps give the child a hyphenated surname, combining one’s own and the partner’s.
Plus, not all communities use surnames. In the Tamilian community I hail from, we don’t have surnames at all; we simply adopt the father’s name as the last name – in which case, passing it on to one’s child would feel weird. When I first heard of the director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, it struck me as amazing and wonderful that he had chosen to honour his mother by adopting her name, Leela, as his middle name – in many communities, this is traditionally where the father’s name appears. Yet, very few of us will do this.
It’s not that dads are not important, but surely, if a child must carry any parent’s name, it should be that of the mother who brought her into the world. ‘Rama, the son of Kausalya’ seems like it would be the natural way to go, but centuries of conditioning have made us accept a child following his or her father’s name/surname as the obvious choice. So much so that even women who keep their original names post marriage would be hesitant to pass it on to the child.
An interesting post I read a long time ago proposes an alternative solution, of mothers passing on their matrilineal names to daughters and fathers the patrilineal to sons – forming a hyphenated new surname. Of course, as time goes on, the grandchildren in the family would eventually have different names. It’s still not a solution for communities that don’t use surnames.
What do you think? If you are a woman, do you consider it adequately fair if you kept your own name after marriage? Is this enough? Or does it bother you that this name will not go on to your children?
Pic credit: Ketrin1407 (Used under a Creative Commons license)
Founder & Chief Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas
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