Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What is in a Surname ?

What is in a surname? Everything for some or may be nothing for some others. The opinion will differ from person to person. In my case i don't give a damn to a surname. Neither i use my surname, nor do i call my close friends by theirs.

The reason for my not using my surname is that even my parents never used it. My father was of a very strong opinion that Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh guru had established a classless society and had given the second name as "Singh" to all the Sikhs to put after their names. Even the Guru had replaced his own second name "Rai" with "Singh" and became Gobind Singh from Gobind Rai after getting baptized. However, it is another matter that many Sikhs today, use their surnames after or in place of Singh. Some Sikh married ladies use two surnames -- one their maiden and the other of their in-laws' whereas, for a Sikh female the second name is 'Kaur' instead of 'Singh', regardless of her marital status.

Another reason for me not to use my surname is that i love my first name and want people to know that and be called by the same. Instead of being called by my surname ie., Nagra or Mr. Nagra i will certainly prefer to be called Balvinder or Balli.

The story behind my decision not to address my close friends by their surname is very interesting which actually had caused me some embarrassment too. I had a class mate named Maheshwar Pal Singh Chaudhary. His father was a Colonel in the Army. All the friends in the college used to call him Chaudhary and so did i. Once, when i went to his house and rang the doorbell, his sister opened the door. Though, i had visited their place a number of times earlier, but i had not met her because she was putting up in a hostel. I told her that i was Chaudhary's friend and would like to meet him. She very politely asked me that which Chaudhary i wanted to meet, "Colonel" or "Mahesh". I realized my mistake and promptly corrected myself and told her that, i wanted to see Mahesh. She ushered me in and though, she sheepishly tried to hide her grin for having pointed out my mistake intentionally, (as she could have very well guessed that a boy of her brother's age could not be calling her father as just "Chaudhary"), i could not hide the embarrassment which was writ large on my face. That was the last time i addressed any of my close friends by their surnames.

Second incident, when the surname (this time my own) had caused me some embarrassment, is in fact more interesting. One of my girlfriends from my college days met me on the mall at Shimla and we went to have a cup of coffee together. We had finished our graduation and i was pursuing my post graduation in English literature and was also waiting for the call letter to join the Officers' Training Academy, as i had been selected for the commission in the Indian Army. She, perhaps, was looking for a match for getting married. During our chat over coffee she directly proposed to me. Though, i was not prepared for the same but i did not show any signs of negative feelings either. While departing, she asked me my surname in a matter of fact manner. I told her my surname. She laughed aloud. When i asked her the reason for doing so she said that her family also had the same surname (she was also from a Nagra family). After a few days when we met again on the mall, she told me that she desired to take her proposal back as she was like a sister to me, since our families shared the same surname. Though, I had not taken her marriage proposal very seriously in the first place yet, there was some feeling of embarrassment, which again, i could not hide, but nevertheless, we had a great laugh after that. Few years later during my visit to Shimla i saw her roaming on the mall road, wearing vermilion in the hair and a 'choora' -- the red and white wedding bangle-set which is worn by a newly wedded Punjabi bride for a number of days after marriage.

I wished her a happy married life and we, once again, had a great laugh in the memory of the day when we had discovered our common surname.


This post also forms part of my life journey. To read all the posts in this series, please click here.

30 comments:

How do we know said...

wow.. u always manage to make us laugh at commonplace incidents...u have a great writing style!

Also, i second your decision to not use the caste based surname. Personally, me thinks its a great decision.

How do we know said...

wow.. u always manage to make us laugh at commonplace incidents...u have a great writing style!

Also, i second your decision to not use the caste based surname. Personally, me thinks its a great decision.

Balvinder Singh said...

HDWK, so much is stored there in the memory so why not share it with all.

Thanks for the compliments and for seconding my decision.

BK Chowla said...

balvinder,sorry I belong to the category which is particular about the surname.
I think it matters.

Balvinder Singh said...

Yes Mr. Chowla, it is purely the personal choice.

deep said...

...quite funny..cant't marry bcz we are from same religion..that means a sikh girl can never marry a sikh guy...lolzz :D

...and it is so nice of you to talk about this issue..I am a strong supporter of not using anythig after Singh/Kaur..but I don't know why even those who claim themself to be strict followers of Guru Gobind Singh use their surnames..

Balvinder Singh said...

Deep there is a slight mix up here. She did not take back her proposal because we both were sikh but we both had same surname that is called 'gotra' in Punjabi which in my case is Nagra. So as per her funda all Nagra boys and all Nagra girls are brothers and sisters.

Harpreet Kaur said...

Wow it is funny but true, never told us this Nagra Sister of yours. LOL

Balvinder Singh said...

Happy, yes this 'sister' was my classmate. We were just friends but after hearing about my selection in the Army she suddenly showed that special interest in me and proposed. Her surname spoiled her chances and then God had made your bhabi for me :-))

You had shifted to Punjab when this incident took place.

And there was nothing worth mentioning about it at that time. But writing a post on surnames in my blog i thought of narrating it.

Kuchh baaton key baare mein kayee saalon baad hee sun kar mazaa aata hai. Like a grapevine.

I am not revealing her name here as one never knows, her children may be reading this blog.

deep said...

ohhh..ok..got it now.!!...still its lolzzz.. :P

Latin Sardar said...

This seems like a common thing. I once called up a friend and when his father picked up the phone I asked him if I could speak with 'Chopra' to which came the reply, "which one dear, every one here is a 'Chopra'."

Balvinder Singh said...

Deep, yes very funny, thanks once again.

Latin Sardar, yes it is actually very common amongst friends to call each other by their surnames. Earlier to that 'Chudhary' incident my friends in college were Sood, Khullar, Kaul, Puri, and Gupta for me but that incident onwards they became Sudhir, Suresh, Arun, Kash Raj and Devendra respectively.

J P Joshi said...

Interesting incidents...

I believe most of us have been through similar incidents like the first one narrated by you...

BUT the second one is ... should we say the spice of life.. and a VERY good reason to not use the surname for the rest of your life... I too would have done the same..??

Renu said...

Even I agree to this..I feel that surnames are irrelevant .Thats why I kept my daughter's name..Smriti Yamini..no surname:)

Balvinder Singh said...

JP, you are right, most of us called our classmates and now call our colleagues by their surnames but such faux pas, as mentioned above, take place only when we happen to address them in front of their parents, particularly the fathers who carry the same surname.

And yes second incident is the "spice of life". My sister has expressed her surprise in her comment above for not having known it earlier. But such incidents sound meaningful and spicy only when discussed much later.

Renu, yes it is high time that the boundaries between different castes and even between different religions start vanishing. That will be possible only when the right thinking people of the society make a start. Thanks.

ruSh.Me said...

My mom n dad had the same surname before marriage... :D

Thank god, they weren't considered bro-sis!!

Balvinder Singh said...

Rushme, u are right these surnames are our inventions only. I also know so many friends whoes parents and in-laws share the same surname.

Capt N.S.Bisht said...

Hey Balli,
Now wonder I got a mail from you today addressing me by my first name for the first time since we have known each other. I dont mind if my friends call me either 'Bisht' or 'Nandan'. What's in a name ?.. a rose by any other name...blah, blah !! BUT I am not willing to drop my surname as that denotes my family tree. Like you mentioned, its purely a personal choice. Good post.

Balvinder Singh said...

Nandan, now that i have got over the inhibition, i will address u by ur first name only and u have given sanction for that.

Ash said...

..a gr8 post indeed, even mundane everyday things have a special meaning in our lives..

The post made me smile for it triggered something which I had forgotten. In my very early conversations with my wife, I had got into this habbit of using 'short cut' indications for people.e.g. Mrs Chopra became 'Chopri', Mrs Gupta became 'Gupti'..etc

sm said...

lol
happy new year

Anonymous said...

cool blog..................................................

Balvinder Singh said...

Ashwani, many a times the surnames, not only in India but the world over, actually evoke very funny feelings. Sometimes i wonder that who must have inevented such surnames which sound and also have very funny meanings. There are Rice (Condeliza), Stones (Sharon), Bullocks (Sandra).

One of our colleague's surname was "Gadhey" as in "abey gadhey" and to avoid any embarassment we used to call him Gaadhey, (pulling the pronunciation of letter "a") but he insisted that we should call him "Gadhey" only.

SM, thanks and same to you.

Anonimous
- Cool comment..........

CY|\|O$|_|RE said...

a gr8 post indeed........me too being a strong supporter of not putting my surname i think that was a nice thing to put up this topic.......

very unfortunate of you of not being able to marry a sikh b'coz of surname.......lolzzzz.....:)

Balvinder Singh said...

CYNOSURE, thanks,

And no CYNOSURE, she took back her proposal not because we both were sikhs but because we both had same surname, which in her opinion made us bro and sis.

And i was not unfortunate because i got married to a beautiful sikh girl only, of course, without getting into the surname business.

Mrinalini Gadkari said...

what stories! i love reading your blog!!

Balvinder Singh said...

Mrinalini, thanks. I liked your blog too. Particularly the latest post on your own name.

Anonymous said...

А! لدي بعض الحكمة الرائعة.

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