A Woman Retaining Her Maiden Surname Is Still Unacceptable In Our Society!

I broke into the dinner conversation, in a not so confident voice. I chimed, 'Your wives are not obligated to take your surnames!'

With the last piece of cake, I joined the dinner table like an ideal Indian daughter-in-law. The elders have vacated the dining and the youth have still stuck to the seats absorbed in some discussion. I eavesdrop, the deliberation is about changing of surnames of brides after the marriage. I broke into the conversation, in a not so confident voice.

I chimed that ‘your wives are not obligated to take your surnames. Leave it to her whether she wants to retain her surname or take yours. Give her the freedom of choice.’

To the aforesaid statement, I solemnly declared to welcome my daughter-in-law’s self-will with a clean heart in future. To which my sister-in-law hurled a brusque reply, ‘Your daughter-in-law may enjoy this freedom but not mine. She is bound to adopt our surname.’ Soon the band of brothers silently retired to their respective rooms. I ended the rest of the chores being normal in unpleasant air and went to hit the pillow. But the just happened scene had taken my sleep away and from the dark corner of my memory, an unfair past appeared in the forefront of my mind.

I wanted to retain my maiden surname…but that created a storm!

A few years back, I had a clash with my in-laws on this particular subject. Mine was an arranged marriage and after marriage, I wished to retain my maiden surname. And this created a storm. I was badly ridiculed and got a raw deal from my new family members. In that milieu, I surrendered to my in-laws fierce ‘No’. My husband maintained an unbreakable silence and didn’t stand by my side. I asked him the rationale for not being supportive. It’s my sheer foolishness that he later mollified me with sweet words in the name of family propriety.

Thenceforth my self-confidence went down. It hurt the emotional aspect of my individuality. But still, the incident didn’t hover over my mind for long as I have come from an unequal social-cultural background where females have no say.

Seemingly trivial matters disquieted my inner sense. I came to terms that rigid societal convictions are still stubbornly persisting.

I don’t understand why women are carrying this regressive culture forward!

Retaining parental surname for a bride is still unacceptable in India. Is patriarchy the only reason behind this? Perhaps no. Ok, it’s been customary in India to change the surname after marriage and an overwhelming majority of women do follow it. But the picture is changing. There are a lot of instances of equal partnership in relationships. Today’s open-minded males are asserting their wife’s individuality and sticking to their choices. They are acknowledging partners say by cutting down the Gordian knots of patriarchy.

But why are some women taking this regressive culture ahead?

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I and my sister-in-law are contemporaries with polar opposite mind-sets. She wants to uphold the regressive orthodox culture that impairs a woman’s personality whereas I feel breathless in a power dynamic relationship. She prefers to be under her man’s shadow over her own identity which is my central priority.

I am not judgmental of her choice but she shouldn’t impose her disposition on the next generation. It was my mother-in-law whose voice was aloud from thwarting me from living my wish. Women don’t want to come out of the aeons ago pre-set social frame that weakens their self-worth. The deep-rooted regressive culture is actually in our psyche.

I am glad the new generation is discussing this topic as that will lead to change!

Why is the burden of names put on the shoulders of women alone?

Not considering my husband’s surname doesn’t mean I don’t love or respect my man. But if marriage is all about mutual understanding then why husbands don’t adopt the surnames of wives symbolising equal love and respect for their wives.

‘Nothing should force a woman to change her identity unless she wants to.

I am glad the new generation is discussing this topic. Discussions bring the facts to light and lead to change. Let’s see my boys choose partnership over dictatorship and let’s see girls counting their individuality over their husbands’ haven.

Image Source: Still from a YouTube Video


About the Author

Reshma Moharana

I am more expressive with the pen. Usually my subjects are - Obsolete Social Norms that hamstrung women in myriad ways. I too an environmentalist and gazing at nature is like my healing prayer. My conscience read more...

5 Posts | 11,046 Views

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