KATHMANDU, Sept 20: We’re born with a name, we grow up with that name, and we create, attach and build ourselves with the same. One day we get married and suddenly we have a new name! This is especially for women when they marry.
Our identity is important to us, and our name is a big part of who we are. Women, after years of living with their family surnames, marriage changes that in one stroke. They not only have to adjust and compromise to include someone else into their lives; they take on new surnames too.
But Nepali women, in the past few years, have chosen to keep their maiden names intact. There is no shedding of one name and taking on another. They simply merge their husband’s name with their own.
For Pavitra Rana Ojha, an MBA student, her new name doesn’t change the person she is but it signifies the life she shares with her husband.
She says she didn’t really give it much thought before taking on this new name. Married for more than a year now, Pavitra, 27, says she didn’t discuss this with her husband. “It’s not a big deal. I make my own decisions and even if he had shown reluctance, I would’ve done what I felt was right at that moment,” she says.
For most women these days, it’s simply good judgment to keep both names. Gone are those days when a woman’s identity was either wrapped up in her father’s, and later her husband’s. Between carrying her father’s name and then her husband’s, she’ll have started to create her own. Also, before she settles down to matrimony, she’s not simply her father’s daughter but an individual with her set of opinions, dignity and values.
Women have understood the importance of taking their identity forward and building stronger layers in the years to come.
Chandra Kumari Subba, Program Coordinator at UNICEF Nepal, mostly sticks to her maiden name. It’s easier that way. Though she is addressed by her husband’s surname, Jaiswal in some official documents, using her own name has been the norm for her. “It seems that as soon as they know you’re married, they automatically start addressing you with your husband’s surname. But somehow, I never got around to using it,” says Subba.
She feels more comfortable with the name she has been using for years now. It helps that her husband doesn’t think differently.
“We’ve not really talked about it. And he doesn’t seem to mind,” she adds.
And that could just be the key. With times changing, and education and modernization thawing the more pervasive feelings of our males in patriarchal society, a husband is now more understanding and respectful of his wife’s opinion and decisions.
Behind a name is a history of relationships and life experiences. And expecting a woman to easily replace that with another, because society demands it or because it has long been the tradition, is no reason at all. It should be a woman’s prerogative if she wants to comply or if she thinks it fit to hold on to her identity.
“I was always sure about the fact that I would keep my maiden name along with my husband’s. It’s just a simple way to see myself,” says Vandana Bhattarai Tripathi, 26, currently pursuing her post-graduate degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communication from EMDI Institute of Media and Communication in Mumbai.
For her, it was about not forgetting her roots. She says, “It’s my way of showing my parents that even though I’m married, I still belong to them.”
The choice was left entirely up to her, with her husband, Manoj, having no problem with it. Though she is yet to register her new name, she has already started to use it. “I’m really excited to see both names on my passport and marriage certificate,” she smiles.
Her new name represents her power, pride, love and respect for both her families.
And they ask,”What’s in a name?” Our identity, our roots, our self, our story.