What’s in a name?

My husband’s community has this tradition I didn’t know about till we decided to get married. It’s this tradition of changing the bride’s name on the day of the marriage. By changing name, I don’t mean changing the surname/last name. I mean, changing the entire name! For example, if the girl had been named, Laxmi Kamath, till that day, she suddenly turns over to Veena Pai in an instant.

A new person is created out of the blue. It is as if the girl who walked in for the wedding (or carried in by the uncle) never existed.

When you lose your own name, you lose your’self’, your identity, your everything. People from your old life have nothing more to do with you. Your parents have no say in your life (forget you having a say yourself), you are not allowed to have any contact with your old friends.

This was how it was for my mother-in-law’s generation. She had to discontinue her studies and become a full time house wife. She moved to a new city and lost touch with all her old friends. But luckily for her, her husband (my father-in-law) who never got along with his family, became attached to hers and hence she could continue to remain in good contact with them.

Her tenth standard marks card shows her first name and the Ration card, Voter’s ID etc show a different name. There was never any official change of name (which requires publishing the change in the newspaper), just a name whispered into her ears during the wedding ceremony. This created a bit of a problem during the application for a passport.

My mother-in-law never saw anything wrong in this. She never questioned losing her identity at 19, giving up her studies, giving up her friends. It was just the way she was brought up. It was the way things were, in her world, in her community.

Alcohol affects Husband

My husband hates alcohol. He despises not just alcoholics, but even people who drink occasionally. He calls them ‘losers’. That includes me too…

He knew I drank long before we married.  We were good friends and we got married two years ago.

Things changed overnight. I was not allowed a drop of alcohol. I hated being controlled, we fought and the fight went on. As you might have guessed, along with alcohol control would come clothes/guy friends controls. Somehow the guy friends, I didn’t mind.  I had expected it, and anyway most guys kept a distance once I got married. The clothes control was expected, still it bugged me. The alcohol control was totally unexpected.

I am from a family where everyone drinks socially. It is an absolutely normal thing to do and we are all pretty decent people even under the influence of alcohol. Husband thinks alcohol brings out the worst in everyone. That alcohol makes people want to jump into bed with the next available person or fall drunk along the roadside.

We moved to Europe for a year. He began relaxing, slowly but visibly. I wore shorts one sunny day and he realized that, nobody was gawking at me. I wore a deep necked top. Nobody was making lewd comments about me. We went to friends’ homes for dinner, drank wine. There was no ruckus and dinner was a pleasant affair. Went back home for a good night’s sleep.

He began slowly accepting that things outside his ultra-conservative thought process can be normal. The freedom and hassle free life of Europe has helped. I have total freedom with clothes. He still doesn’t drink, says he hates alcohol, but doesn’t restrict me in any way. (Don’t know how things will be once we move back to India, fingers crossed.)

God and mother-in-law

Mother in law is visiting. Am about to set off for an important appointment. She tells me, “You should light the lamp and pray to God.”

I light the lamp meekly and fold my hands in prayer. But, the only forced prayer I can get out of me is, “Please God, please make mother in law stop forcing her ideas on me. I can’t survive two months of her visit if this continues.”

I stop pretending to pray and turn around to her and try to explain to her why this is all so wrong. I tell her, “I know you believe God is in the idol and photograph and praying to the inanimate symbols are the right things for you to do. But for me, God is everywhere, God exists for me in the trees, plants, animals, nature everywhere. My way of praying wouldn’t be by lighting a lamp and folding hands; but by keeping nature clean and treating every living creature with respect. I believe in communicating with God in my heart, and not with any outwardly show. That is my firm belief and if I go against my belief and start lighting lamps, I shall be doing something fake. By doing so, I shall only be bringing ill will towards me. By not being true to myself, I am not going to get God’s grace.”

It was difficult getting this message across, as we both speak different languages and the common language we both understand doesn’t come naturally to me. Still, I got the message across and she understood, but did not agree. She shook her head sadly but did not force me again for the two months…