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I, Me and my new name

'It’s my life, and so’s the name’ . C Sujit Chandra Kumar speaks to some who changed names to prove a point.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2008 00:44 IST
C Sujit Chandra Kumar
C Sujit Chandra Kumar
Hindustan Times

Seven-year-old Smita was inquisitive about everything in life — including the practice of surnames. Her father, RY Thakur, explained to her that different clans had different surnames so that people could carry the name of their forefathers. He also added that most women discarded their surnames when they got married and replaced them with their husbands’. “Why can’t women carry their mothers’ names?” Her father explained that alas, society accorded more importance to men.

But that didn’t sound right to Smita, and she decided to have a surname that she could retain after marriage and pass on to her daughters. “One day I was very naughty while my mother was entertaining guests and she told me to be polite. I thought it would be a good idea to have people call me ‘polite’ even if I was rude. And I promptly put new labels on all my schoolbooks with my new name, Smita Polite,” she says.

When it was time for her 10th standard exams, she entered her Polite name in the exam forms, after a detailed discussion with her parents. She now has a 5-year-old daughter called Anjali Polite.

Has the new name influenced the course of Smita’s life in any way? “During job interviews, I have always been interviewed by men and every time I’ve been asked about the name, I have not got the job.” Once an interviewer reduced her to tears when he remarked that ‘Thakur’ sounded better than ‘Polite’ and that she betrayed a weakness in her character by adopting an ‘English’ name to hide her Bihari roots.

Now that’s certainly not polite by any standards. Is it?