Sep 3, 2014

What's There In A Name.....

My name on my Google profile is Anisha Kanchan Kashwani. My childhood friends, classmates and teachers know me as Kanchan Rawlani.

I often have people asking me “what’s with two names?” Some of my old friends ask me “Have you changed your name” or even “why did you change your name?” In fact, a lot of my old friends did not accept my friend request on facebook as my facebook profile name was Anisha Kashwani (which I changed to Anisha Kanchan Kashwani recently).

There is always so much explaining to do when asked such questions. I was named Kanchan Lata Rawlani by my parents. And all my family called me Kanchan or even Kanchu, Kanchi (whatever would make sense as a short form of Kanchan, basically!) and I was constantly teased at school about having two names. However, while growing up, I decided to do away with the ‘Lata’ bit and always introduced myself as Kanchan Rawlani. Lata was just mentioned on all official documents.

When I got married, my name was changed to Anisha. You might ask why? Well, it is a Sindhi custom that the bride’s name is changed at the time of the wedding. It is in fact, one of the rituals and the pandit who carries out all the wedding rituals is also entrusted with the responsibility of suggesting a suitable letter of the alphabet (yes, just a letter, not the name!) with the which the bride’s new name should begin.

The name change is considered an important part of wedding - so much so, that there is always an eagerness among people attending the wedding to know the new name of the bride! There are people who spend a lot of time, thinking of names beginning with all possible letters of the alphabet, well in advance!

This name change custom actually makes no sense and was not even prevalent until some decades ago, when it suddenly turned fashionable to change the bride’s name. Maybe at that time people might not have thought about the complications you might have to face when you need to get a passport and your application for the same carries your new name while the documents you produce as proof of age carry the old name! A change in surname is understandable (though there are some who oppose even that- and I have nothing against them!), but why the change in name?

A reason that we have been given for the mindless custom is that when a girl gets married, it is a new life for her and a new name is just the appropriate beginning to a new life! But does beginning a new life mean doing away with even the name you had till now? After all that is how you have been known and that is how you have known yourself all these years! I actually had a hard time getting adjusted to being called Anisha and it took me quite some time to begin responding to Anisha!

There are some lucky girls, who don’t need a name-change as the letter picked by the pandit is the same as the one which their maiden name starts with. And believe me, the first letter of the name is carefully selected by the pandit after astrological calculations, so that the bride’s name brings good luck and prosperity to her new family and there is also harmony between the couple (at least that is what I was told). Does that mean that the onus of prosperity and harmony is on the bride only? And if the responsibility of having a successful married life is on both, then the groom’s name should also be changed!

However, I have been in some confusing, embarrassing as well as irritating situations because of this name change. Some people who know me as Anisha are genuinely surprised when they find someone else calling me Kanchan and some old acquaintances are perplexed about what name they should address me with! Some of my old friends have had to deal with my domestic help hanging up the phone saying ‘there’s no Kanchan here’!

I hope someday this custom will be done away with and Sindhi girls will not have to live with two names- one for her family and one for her husband’s family. And not because the pandit will choose the same letter as her maiden name, but because the groom’s family would not be interested in such a thing in the first place!

1 comment:

  1. Similar custom exists in GSB Konkana Brahmins in Karnataka/Goa. I can totally sympathise - whatever you change - name, surname - you are going to be you. And then you have live all your life in duality - two names, two surnames, two entities...