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.