The Hergaarden-Nair Family

I was watching Mr and Mrs Iyer the other day with Bart and was really struck by Rahul Bose’s line where he says how Konkana Sen Sharma saved him by just giving him a name, something a husband normally gives a wife. Two sets of discussion sprang in my mind when I heard this and I wanted to put them down in words.

  1. What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet.” – Juliet from
    Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Apparently these days a name can save you. With religious maniacs running astray in the world, it actually boils down to what your name represents. Are you a Hindu? A Muslim? A Jew? A Christian? No longer does it seem to matter with these pockets of people who you really are. What you stand for, your contribution to the world. That you are a human being. Isn’t it supposed to be all about a personal belief which no one else actually has the right to interfere with?

The world stands witness to this belief of fanaticism gaining new heights in terms of terrorizing people. The recent attacks in Mumbai for example. What has it really gained? Did it make any strong statements? Did it bring out the cries of people who feel injustice has been done to them and they retaliate to violence to make their voices heard? All it did was steal lives of innocent people who had dreams and hopes of living their lives in their own terms; a basic right to freedom guaranteed to all by our constitution. But this right was stolen from every single Indian victimized in a series of heedless fights and fear. It has become all about your name. It seems a rose by any other name smells like rotten cabbage these days!

  1. 2.      “The Nair title is taken from the Mother’s side . as per Matrilineal system . That is, a person can take the title Nair only if his mother’s side has the name and not from his father’s side.”

Coming from a matrilineal family, it really bothers me that the world thinks everyone is born with patriarchal sensibilities. I remember the huge reaction Bart and I faced when we decided to use both our last names, hyphenated together,  after our first names. The thinking ran along the lines that I come from a community that’s matriarchal and he comes from one that is patriarchal. We love each other and respect each other and also each other’s family. Is one family more important than the other? Does one family contribute less than the other? Of course not! And we do not live in the days where according to his customs women go and live with the husband’s family and are dependent on them and so they take up the husband’s family name, nor do we live with the Nair customs of the husbands moving into the wife’s household and integrating with her family traditions completely. We are an equal union and we thought it was a gesture of love and respect to each other if we combined our surnames. This way, when we have children later on, everyone has a common last name. And here we met with resistance similar to the kind the religious fanatics seem to have a problem with; people who don’t know where to draw in their line of interference. Everyone had an opinion. “Oh how could you do it?”, “You are not manly”, “But you are a Nair, why take his name”. It was absolutely ridiculous. I can understand why some people have a problem, it is because it scares them to see other people move out of a herd mentality and live their lives according to their own terms. They still want to hide in the comfort of their herd and pretend to be cool and in control, that they are following a custom which they have no real idea about. Well, I ask you people, what makes you different from the other fanatics out there? They are just one step ahead.

I am glad to be married to a man who is his own person. Who is caring and understanding and open minded. Who loves and respects me and my family completely. Who has taught me that though a name might stand for my roots and culture, it doesn’t define the person that I am. So here’s to a name that has come to mean a lot to me; the Hergaarden-Nair family.


Bart Hergaarden, Thank You

Thank you for making my days special.

Thank you for smiling whenever you see me across the room.

Thank you for including me in all your conversations.

Thank you for talking about me to everyone else.

Thank you for worrying every time I am unwell.

Thank you for sending me surprise food packages so I don’t have to cook.

Thank you for bringing chocolates just because I love them.

Thank you for bringing me flowers on occasions.

Thank you for calling up my family just to chat.

Thank you for making my family yours.

Thank you for giving me a new family.

Thank you for playing with Nemo every day.

Thank you for stroking Memoll whenever you see her.

Thank you for cleaning up after them without a change in expression.

Thank you for fixing all the broken stuff at home.

Thank you for serving me food always before you serve yourself.

Thank you for filling my glass always so that I never have to do it myself.

Thank you for impromptu messages that make me smile.

Thank you for always listening to anything I have to tell you with an open mind.

Thank you for being so sweet tempered.

Thank you for being patient and understanding even when I’m in a complete rage.

Thank you for pulling me out of my bad moments and never giving up on me.

Thank you for never saying one hurtful thing to me even if I do to you.

Thank you for never screaming or swearing or making me feel less important about myself.

Thank you for always being on my side.

Thank you for putting me on your lap and hugging me close when I’m sad.

Thank you for laughing at all my silliness.

Thank you for eating everything I make and never complaining if I don’t.

Thank you for being so nice to my friends and accepting them as yours.

Thank you for letting me be a part of all your decision making and control.

Thank you for working so hard to keep us comfortable.

Thank you for being protective and looking out for me.

Thank you for all the lazy movie nights.

Thank you for always holding my hand when we go out.

Thank you for putting me on the safe side of traffic every time we have to walk on the street.

Thank you for explaining things I cant see.

Thank you for switching off the lights when I’m too comfortable to get up.

Thank you heating hot towels when I’m in pain.

Thank you for calling me beautiful when I feel most ugly.

Thank you for never resenting me.

Thank you for all the great holidays and getaways.

Thank you for taking so much of an interest in my work.

Thank you for great weekends.

Thank you for forcing me to slow down when I’m trying to tear through life.

Thank you for picking me up from the hospital when I was with apoopa everyday.

Thank you for spending so much time with them in the hospital even when you were exhausted.

Thank you for enjoying spending all your weekend in the hospital with them.

Thank you for being so genuinely interested and in love with my family.

Thank you for translating even the tiniest sentences when I’m with yours so that I’m always included.

Thank you for noticing every single expression in my face and reading me exactly.

Thank you for giving me reasons to celebrate.

Thank you for loving me.

Thank you for marrying me.

Thank you for sharing the rest of your life with me.

Thank you for being you.

Bart Hergaarden, I love you.

The Myth of Globalization


In a world which is said to have disappearing boundaries, ‘globalization’ is the new vogue of the day.  Treaties between countries, global organizations and welfare, the magic of the ‘one currency’ system; the world is fast becoming a place that is more of a ‘unit’ than that of a multi-layered system. At least this is what is promoted to people. But the question is, is this the whole truth? Do I sound cynical? If so, blame it on the last two months and let me explain why.

To celebrate the trend of multiculturalism and global integration, (and also of course the fact that I fell in love) I had entered a relationship that tied my family to a Dutch family. We assumed that from the sentence ‘Of course I’ll marry you’, things would be utter bliss and all about rainbows and floating on clouds with the universe conspiring to make our happiness its top priority. Sadly I was in for a rude awakening of the most unpleasant nature.

We had decided to make a trip to the Netherlands so that I could have an opportunity to meet his whole family as he had done mine. So I applied for a Schengen visa. Having travelled quite a bit in my 28 years, I didn’t expect any hurdle in my path. After all I wasn’t asking for diplomatic refuge, I was asking for a 3 week holiday to get to know my new family. The difficulty of being a single woman applying for a visa alone hit me for the first time as I learned the sad truth; globalization apparently didn’t include the reality of common people wanting to do common ‘global’ things.

The paperwork was stupendous. Being a freelancer didn’t sit well with ‘them’ (as all government officials will be referred to hereforth). So my poor dad had to run around and show property, figures is bank balance that I suspect even the Queen of England does not have, tax returns, birth certificates, passport copies and a whole hoard of every imaginable document. And then there were unhappy about the length of my stay stating that three weeks seems quite unnecessary and there didn’t seem to be much to do. The whole circus act went on and on and I couldn’t make it to the Netherlands with my fiancé Bart as planned and had to go much later when they finally conceded that I wasn’t  a gold-digging schemer who planned to silently creep into the country under false pretense and stay on indefinitely.  The next question we started asking each other was how much paperwork would be involved to get registered? The Indian marriage certificate has to go through a whole process to get legalized in the Netherlands. And to get married in the Netherlands paperwork that could make a paper stairway to the moon is needed which carried signatures of all different officials so that everyone’s ego and self importance may be satisfied. Then we have to get him a PIO card, see how my travelling can be made easier, see how his visa extension can be made less hellish; basically we were easily looking at a few years of being harassed. Sort of kills the buzz and happiness of finally having found your soul mate.

At this time, I am finally sitting here in the Netherlands, happy to have met his family, (missing my cats) and all I can still keep wondering is ‘what else do we need to do till everything is OK’. I understand the logic behind the paperwork, how people misuse the system, how it is to protect a certain group of people, I get all that. But a part of me still is annoyed with the fact that in a world that is all about being global, countries still hang on so fiercely to their own boundaries. People don’t really want others from outside, they still want their own language and identity; it is difficult to let go and become part of a unit instead of a small familiar clan. SO where does globalization fit in exactly? Only with ‘news worthy’ affairs? When will it creep into all the small details that actually form lives? When will we be truly global?