Do women really have to change their surname after marriage? Let me guess, you will most likely say no, it should be her choice, we will in modern society. So a lot of women choose to take on their husband’s last name, some suffix it after their maiden name and some continue with their maiden surname. You find us in all varieties, but what is the repercussion of continuing with your maiden name? Let me tell you.
I had gone to my son’s school, or former school, to collect his transfer certificate. I will spare you the reason for seeking the transfer, besides, the school also couldn’t care any less about my decision to withdraw the admission. But the parting note reinforced that the decision to withdraw my six, going on seven-year-old from the school is correct.
So, after working my way through, the new building, old building, ICSE wing, I finally found the admin office for the CBSE wing from where I had to collect the document. I was shown a bench and asked to wait there, when madam would be ready she would call for me I was told. Cringe!
On being summoned inside, I happened to look at the monitor opened next to me and saw my husband’s surname which is by default my son’s surname being written next to my name. I pointed out my name is written wrongly. The woman at the monitor said, “kahan?”
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I explained I do not use this surname. She toggled her excel sheet and checked, the error was obvious. However, she checked me out and said “only after the class teacher confirms that this is not your surname will this change be made.”
For some context to you dear decerning reader, we are talking about a well-known school in suburban Mumbai in 2022. When I insisted that the class teacher cannot decide what surname I would prefer to use, I realised there was a collective gasp and I had all heads in the room turned in my direction. Some even looked at me with pity. I was firm as I was not ready to navigate through legendary Mumbai traffic once again for a mere clerical error.
The lady who was at the monitor, from where it all started, however, was still not convinced. She benched me again. Sitting there I wondered why is it that in our country instead of finding a solution we make the situation more difficult? Why are our schools so far behind in terms of adopting changes? Why is there no sensitisation in schools? Every time I have got a call from the school I have been addressed as Mrs Basu, my son’s surname. I don’t mind being part of the family but have a problem with the assumption and more so when it is another woman making that assumption at the other end. These are women who have taken it upon themselves to teach the future generations. Why is it assumed that a mother and son will have the same surname? Are you less committed to a marriage or parenting if you have not taken your husband’s surname?
The answer is a vehement no. Surnames only trace back to a male bloodline, it is either your paternal family name or the family name your husband uses. So, the choice to not change the surname after marriage should be based on what is practical. Do you have any idea the kind of paperwork it would involve? This particular experience showcases how schools need to focus beyond the curriculum and look at holistic change. Shouldn’t schools be the place that should break the shackles of outdated thinking?
The views expressed are the author’s own.