I’m a Christian and my husband, a Hindu. After marriage, I had retained my maiden last name adding it to my husband’s last name. 19 days before my child was born, we sat to decide on a name. We wanted him or her to have a Hindu first name and a Christian middle name. While at it, I was also keen that the child carry my last name (a combination of both our last names!).
It was our love child after 10 years of marriage and many a heartache later. It was a gift from God that we never expected would ever happen to us. We wanted the child to have it all. I even wanted a baby shower although the ritual didn’t exist at my in-law’s place. I wanted the child to represent me and my husband as one and hence the thought behind the name. I wanted the child to have a part of me as well as my husband. I was clear that it had nothing to do with women’s right. I wasn’t trying to prove my independent thinking as today’s woman.
I retained my maiden last name so as to leave a legacy behind – being one of two daughters, my parents’ legacy. I wanted to retain an identity that was my own. An identity that set me apart. My in-laws were not in favour – perhaps my husband too but having an open mind, he let it be. Guess he wanted me to have something that was important to me.
Today, while deciding on a name, a close friend questioned the need to complicate a child’s life by misconstruing his or her identity. He argued, the child should carry your values but why to mess with its identity. Why confuse the child? What religion would the child follow? The Indian constitution asked to know the name as identification and then religion – so whatever name I might decide for my child today, it would be the child who would have to justify its identity, life long! What would the world call the child? Which name would the child give? The Hindu or Christian name? As parents, ideally, we should decide on one name and then let the child grow up to create its own identity.
He also added that currently in this decision-making process we hadn’t involved either set of grandparents – if they realised that there was a doubt they would probably each assert their thinking too. He was right though – I know how my parents would respond. They would be happy. My in-laws wouldn’t be as they still have a problem with me retaining my maiden last name. They would joke about it for sure. My husband, on the other hand, would probably agree to want us to be happy.
But the question troubling me was, as a mother what did I want for my child? My child – my flesh and blood, a part of me. Did I really want my child to question my judgement later in life? What I believed to be a ‘right’ decision today, would it hold the same value later in his or her life? Would I be raising a confused child who would always be drawn apart because of a name – in school, in the playground? What was the point I was trying to prove?
It was time, to be honest with myself. Here, I was being questioned about who I thought I was as a person and therefore my thinking amidst the larger issues of religion and identity – something I perhaps needed to reflect upon carefully myself.
I suddenly remembered the climax scene in the movie, Bombay where the child is questioned by rioters if he was a Hindu or a Muslim and it made me wonder, as a mother, what did I really want for my child?