William Shakespeare once said, “What’s in the name?” Here, by ‘name’ he definitely meant the ‘first name’ because nobody ever says so about the ‘last name’. People seem utterly keen to learn your full identity; your full name and you have to pacify them, accordingly. Everyone faces such situation especially those who don’t have any ‘last name’ written in their documents, including me.
I don’t know if it was their negligence or far-sightedness; my parents just skipped adding last name to my first name in my birth and school certificate. Maybe it’s because, earlier, people preferred to stay confined to smaller spheres where they were well known and therefore felt no need to justify, who they were? Above that, my father has always been a kind of trend-setter. Probably after getting bored of his monotonous last name i.e. ‘Thakur’, he decided to switch to our ‘Gotra’ (clan name). It didn’t matter (plus it wasn’t even documented), until this interesting incidence occurred while waiting for my result of University entrance exam along with a friend who shared her last name with me (however she belonged to an entirely distant place). This friend of mine appeared quite assured, for both of us. I reminded her that the number of seats in ‘General’ category was just nine and she laughed at my lack of knowledge and said, “Fool, we have additional seats.” I decided not to enter a debate and eventually made it to the top nine students. It was only after a year or two that I actually understood why she said so? Reason was the confusion created out of owning a common ‘last name’!
Soon after marriage, I was likely to bear my new acquired ‘last name’ which would never have been a problem, had my dad not ventured back then. Now the real problem surfaced. Before marriage, my research guide (RIP, Sir) insisted that I should ‘officially’ use a last name as it is mandatory for publishing papers. So I am known by my maiden name in science community. How I was supposed to lose my identity just like that? I don’t know why but I actually switched to new last name (may be to please my new family or just to get rid of a misnomer). So everyone became contented, at-least for the moment.
Your last name is of immense significance and it becomes evident once you leave your territory and enter an alien land. You don’t need to explain anything because it’s obvious that you are definitely not native. I kind of enjoyed this luxury until one day when I was asked “You are a ‘Thakur’! Like which one?” I was like, “The only one”, and it was a new chapter in the name of last name as I had a rendezvous with the fact that my last name is not exclusive (which I thought it was) but quite ambiguous.
Your last name may sometimes put you, in awkward and funny situation. In Hindu religion, after getting married, girl’s ‘Gotra’ (the clan name) changes automatically. It’s hilarious but while performing any religious ceremony, we are supposed to pronounce our ‘Gotra’ and because of the habit of using the previous one, you end up correcting it all the times and subsequently thinking, ah…where were we?
On one occasion, during an interview I was asked why I have used two last names, at places. I wanted to say, (It’s because I actually have two of them and presently struggling to get used to one. Don’t you know that our society works like this and every girl has to face such catch-22 situation? I mean imagine you live with a name since the dawn of your life and then suddenly someone strips off your identity and on top of that, people dare to ask such a question)! But instead I said, “Sir, It’s because I don’t know how to handle this conflict between the social and official world. I would appreciate if you suggest something.” One man was kind enough, he advocated, “You can write it like (he even bothered to cite an example, Aishwarya Bachchan nee Rai), it is accepted internationally.” Since I am a fine follower of international trends thus henceforth, my name became a quadruple. Don’t ask the reaction I got in return. People would first look at my name and then my face in a gesture of gag. It looked so out of the world for them that I ultimately decided to stick back to my maiden name, leaving everything at bay. Man…this ‘Last’ name is a tough nut to crack.
Let me end with one (more) instance dealing with the fallacy of the last name. We won a gift voucher of a renowned company and were invited for an orientation as a ‘couple’. Their representative attended us and after a formal conversation, bonhomie was apparent. He excitedly pronounced that he too belong to a ‘Thakur’ lineage and handed over his visiting card for any future communiqué. I stared at the card for a moment, on realizing something, he immediately corrected, “Though I prefer to use Sharma.”
I looked at him and couldn’t help but smile at the glory of “The Last Name”.