Till a few days back, I went by the name Sujeet Gokul Gholap. Now, I’m Sujeet Kausallya Gholap.
A few days back, on the occasion of teachers’ day, I wrote about how my mother is the most influential teacher that I’ve had. It got me thinking… My mother (Aai) has contributed to me, my personality and my views as much as my father (Pappa). When Pappa took me to science exhibitions, Aai taught me household science. When Pappa imbued my childhood with a strong sense of morality and idealism, Aai exemplified how to be caring and loving. When Pappa made me interested in history, Aai made me like poetry.
It struck me odd that having played equal roles in shaping me, my name has two words from Pappa’s name, and no words from Aai’s name! “Let’s fix that!” I thought.
But it runs deeper than that…
In significantly large portions of India, which include Maharashtra and Gujarat, do you know what’s the naming convention? Everyone has a first name, a middle name, and a last name. Parents decide their child’s first name. The child’s middle and last names, however, are automatically decided based on the father’s name. Father’s first name becomes the child’s middle name and father’s last name becomes the child’s last name. There’s hardly any exception to this at all. Also, when a girl gets married, she changes her middle name to her husband’s first name and her last name to her husband’s last name. Thankfully, this trend is slowly and steadily changing.
Something as innocuous as a naming system, a perfect example of unquestioned bolstering of patriarchy. The hideous hydra of misogyny rears its head in my everyday life, but I conveniently turn a blind eye. While it’s a ‘bonus skill’ for me to know cooking, if my sister doesn’t like cooking, it raises ‘practical concerns for her future’.
I’m surrounded, influenced, and inspired by my rationalist friends. An idealist among rationalists is bound to feel a need to justify one’s actions. That’s what I’m doing through this blog post. Why did I change my name? Does it have any practical impact?
The name change is symbolic. It is my attempt to feebly shout at the monster of misogyny: “You suck! You loser!!”. Because, I haven’t a clue how I could take on it head-on. Maybe it isn’t possible. Maybe it is beyond my capabilities. But if I don’t even make the noise which I can, I won’t be able to sit at peace with myself. Maybe you understand. Maybe you’ll never do.
I grew up firmly believing in the importance of ‘questioning things’. If you arrive at some conclusion logically and there’s no other explanation why you shouldn’t do it, then do it! ‘No one is doing it’ is the stupidest reason I could come up with to not do it! To me, it looks an open and shut case that my parents have a 50–50 % stake in me, I want one word from my father’s name and one word from my mother’s name in my name. Simple. Others might not do it for a zillion reasons, cool. I’ll do it all the same!
As far as practical impact, the very existence of this post is an attempt to make some. If, after reading this post, you re-realize your mother’s importance in making you and call her up (because, you know, you’ve been busy all the time doing assignments or something), this little stunt of mine is a success. If, after reading this, you realize how different the world is to you compared to your sister and you appreciate her for that, this stunt is a success. If, after reading this, you make a resolution “I’ll raise my daughter such that she feels confident and comfortable, when the time comes, to say no to the asshole who expects her to be able to cook ‘by default’, who expects her to change an important part of her identity”, this stunt is a success.
I changed my name because every movement starts and gets built-up with little-little gestures. Because unnecessary conformity to arbitrary social conventions is poisonous. Because symbolism matters. Because 50% is a significant number.
Because it brings great pain when someone you care deeply about tells you that her biggest mistake is that she was born a girl.