“What’s your name?”
“Pretty odd, isn’t it? You mean Shyam Kumar, right?”
No I stand corrected, I say, and sigh, knowing where this is headed.
And then it comes. “So what caste, I mean what part of the country, do you belong to?” asked the questioner whose only interest is to solve the riddle whether I am a Malyalee or UP or Bihar-ite judging from whatever I have proferred but clearly not the surname, which can be a big give-away – the only purpose it serves, according to me.
But this has been a conversation I got used to ever since I got my teens and when wisdom was slowly trickling in to conflict with my wasted youth.
Earlier the answer to the last question used to be, “I am only an Indian.” Well, the sneers that greeted me then was not the reason I have stopped giving it now. The fact is that the message in the intent behind the modified name was lost and even if it was not, it was too useless trying to explain because I saw nobody cared.
Not even my mother, a liberal-thinking woman who is sadly no more.
Why the sneers? Well, the actual name is Kumar Shyam Motwani, following the standard protocol of Name – father’s name – Surname.
So now that you have it, the instant mass reaction, “Ah, you are ashamed of disclosing that you are a Sindhi!”
That was not the point, I seethe within. Well, the real point of the whole exercise actually was that the surname did not point to anything else beyond the small matter to indicate whether a person is a Gujarati or Maharashtrian or Kannadiga. So what if I was not a Sindhi? Would my parents have loved me any more or any less?
As I said, with my teen years over, I have been wondering about my existence and human life in general. We recently celebrated Father’s Day and we have one for our mother.
Yet in every form that we fill out from our birth certificate to even the death certificate from the municipality before we embark on the final journey, the order remains unchanged.
Name – father’s name – Surname.
Nowhere in this journey is the identity of the person who was responsible for my identity in the first place. The woman who doubled up as a daughter, sister, wife and then mother primarily so that she can cultivate a life in her womb for nine painstaking months. She is then out of the picture altogether whenever I was set before the world.
In these days of feminism and women’s rights activists who have their hands full trying to save the female, an equal creation of God, from physical abuse, I think the most basic thing that a woman wants or needs is the basic right to be recognised for her mere existence alone. Let us just acknowledge her identity in this male-dominated society.
How sad and ironic it is that the person responsible for the creation of life has no role or label that identifies or links it to that life in the years to come.
No need to delve into any more adjectives or highlight the seemingly little crumbs us males throw her way like education et al.
And yes, my full name is Kumar Kavita Shyam. The pride of placing goes to the mother and then my father. You can add any surname to my name if you like.
“What’s your name?”