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.

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