“What is in a name?” Shakespeare had said. Ever since, millions have quoted him in the span of their lives. But perhaps a newer version would be “What is in a surname?” Well, by the looks of it – lots.
Atishi or Atishi Marlena, born to Leftist activist-academics Vijay Singh and Tripta Wahi, decided (and not coerced) to drop her surname on becoming a candidate for next year’s Lok Sabha elections from AAP. For those curious to know, Marlena was a derivation from Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.
The said decision has stirred up an almost comical response from political sides who have argued that her previous name was being misused to categorize her as a foreigner, which she is not and hence she took the step to bury the hatchet once and for all and drop the last name for good.
Being in a country like India where wars — both political and literal — have been fought all in the name of ‘last name’ the amount of hullabaloo around it is quite understandable
Looking at the lighter side, let’s see what can be the after effects of dropping the “last name” be for Atishi.
Things Atishi cannot Say or Do
1.) Flaunt her Surname: She can no longer say – “Do you know what my family name is?”, thus implying the importance of lineage and forefathers who had carried the last name before her.
2) Apply for a special Quota / Favour: Having lost her last name, she can no longer freely apply for quota, seeking special reservation based on it.
How it can help
Not that it can be considered an achievement of any sort, but now she can make do with smaller name slips when her posters will be made. This would perhaps also help in saving some trees (I hope so!)
Things people cannot Say or Do
1.) Categorize her: Being rendered last name-less, Atishi would introduce herself only by her first name. People would perhaps find it difficult to categorize her into neat groups and categories like they do in India. As all last names in India function on a highly refined mesh of caste system and each ‘last name’ is supposed to be aligned to a certain caste and creed which over a period of time have been assigned various attributes. So finding her last name-less, they would be at a loss to neatly categorize her into a group (I do feel sorry for them!!).
The loss of last name seems to have been a liberating experience for Atishi, whether it can help her weather the political storm next year, that only time can tell. Until that time, should you risk joining the fray and becoming ‘last name-less’ you should do so at your own risk.