Thursday, November 3, 2016

Mum's the word

October 29th was a red letter day for Indian sport. That was the day, when Mahendra Singh Devaki, Virat Saroj, Rohit Purnima, Ajinkya Sujata. Amit Chandrakala and six other mamma’s boys teamed up to beat New Zealand in a series tilting victory.

The ODI stunt to promote the ‘nayi soch’ theme of Star Plus, may have been just that - a stunt. But the message it sent out to our suffocatingly patriarchal society was earth shattering. Because for long the ‘father’s name’ has been a burdensome thing that many people have been forced to carry all their lives as an adjunct surname or a vestigial initial.

Ask the children of single mothers and they will tell you how they are made to squirm at schools and colleges for not having a masculine sounding surname. ‘Why no father’s name?’ and ‘What, no father-ra?’ are some thoughtless questions that are routinely flung, like red hot daggers poked into a suppurating wound.

I’ve often wondered why, in families where dads are wastrels and moms wear the pants, children should not proudly proclaim that they are the fruit of their mother’s labour. My respect from Sanjay Leela Bhansali went up manifold when I learned that his middle name is a tribute to his mom who brought him up almost single-handedly after his dad passed away.

Which is why it was truly heartening when I read a news item that several Dalits in Gujarat were dropping their caste-laden surnames and replacing them with their mother’s name. Kaushik Parmar, for instance, has now become Kaushik Jamnaben Babubhai. What an elegant solution to an age-old curse!

Internationally, there have been many celebrities who have opted for a matronymic nomenclature. Zorro actor Antonio Banderas was born Jose Antonio Dominguez Banderas. He preferred to drop his patronymic surname for his mother’s maiden name.

British musician Eric Clapton should have logically been Eric Fryer but he chose to model himself after his mom Patricia Molly Clapton. Even the Kasparov in Gary Kasparov is a Russian variation of Gasparyan, his Armenian mom’s maiden name.

Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, perhaps put it best, on why he chose his mother’s Italian surname, “Can you imagine me calling myself Ruiz? Pablo Ruiz?” That’s entirely the point. Sometimes mom’s works best.