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Name dropping is the new name of the game

Want to make a point? In urban India, dropping one’s surname is turning out to be one of the fastest ways of doing so. Paramita Ghosh reports.

india Updated: Dec 09, 2007 03:02 IST
Paramita Ghosh

Want to make a point? In urban India, dropping one’s surname is turning out to be one of the fastest ways of doing so. Sushil Kumar, a lecturer, has dropped Singh from his title and uses Kumar in his official documents to “de-caste” himself. At public forums he goes a step further; “Hi, I am Sushil from Jamia,” he says.

Neena, a Hindu and Adil, a Muslim, named their son Samar — to subtract religion from his identity. Charitra Kapoor, a housewife, dropped her surname after divorce to “begin life anew and to be known as just Charitra.”

The reverse trend “of a revival of Sanskritisation” is equally true, says sociologist Ravi Kumar: “Names like Pratham and Dwitya made popular by regressive TV serials are being looked up on the Internet to name a newborn to be used without a surname.” Not surprisingly, no one wants to retain a Dalit surname. Ram Kumar, a garment exporter, has dropped Baitha as that would be a giveaway and not be accepted in the elite fashion circles he moves in.

Lawyer Tarun Goombar says “there is no legal problem as such with an affidavit done and a newspaper declaration. For a passport officer it makes no difference whether you want to drop your name for personal, sociological, religious reasons.” However, he adds, that at the IGI Airport police station, “almost all the cases are about keeping two passports — one with name and the other with the surname.”