Vidya Balan is a member of the film fraternity who has not taken her husband’s surname.
Even as Rohit Sharma jokingly suggested Anushka Sharma to retain her surname after her marriage, women still continue to face stigma for not taking their husband’s name.
It should have been a simple matter of signing on a dotted line and receiving her husband’s credit card, but for Mumbai-based Kavya Iyer matters were made unnecessarily convoluted for one simple reason — she had retained her maiden name. Despite having her marriage certificate on hand, she was not given the credit card, which was then delivered the next day. “The man eventually came by at 6.30 in the morning the next day to deliver the card. He went out of his way to do so, when it would have been a simple matter if he had just given it to me. According to the law, both his parents and wife are entitled to receive the card. Though it wasn’t a huge inconvenience, I found the whole incident extremely insulting. I chose to keep my surname after marriage. It should have been a simple matter of choice, yet I keep facing issues like this every other day,” she gripes.
Kavya is only one of many women who have had to face indignities simply because she chose to keep her own surname. Even celebrities have had to face their share of criticism for not taking their husbands’ surnames after marriage. When the target was Twinkle Khanna, the author shut her trolls up with her usual panache when she tweeted, “A lot of people bring this up, though not as stridently as this gentleman - Khanna it will always be #MarriedNotBranded.”
As a bit of friendly banter, Rohit Sharma asked Anushka Sharma not to change her surname after her marriage with Virat Kohli. He tweeted, “Congratulations you two! @imVkohli, I’ll share the husband handbook with you. @AnushkaSharma, keep the surname.”
Anushka only thanked the cricketer for his good wishes, so it remains to be seen if she will follow the advice. Vidya Balan, on the other hand, is a member of the film fraternity who has not taken her husband’s surname. She says, “I am very much Vidya Balan, I will not change my surname unless Siddarth changes his name to Roy Kapur Balan. I am not changing it to Balan Roy Kapur and he doesn’t expect me to, just as I don’t expect him to change his. I don’t think any woman should change her surname. But then, to each their own. I am no one to sit and judge.”
Juhi Chawla, on the other hand, confessed that she had added her husband’s name to her’s in official documents. “Its not like I haven’t adopted Mehta as my surname. I just retained Chawla because I felt that when I write only Juhi Mehta people in the industry get confused. My husband and I amicably decided that lets have it Juhi Chwla Mehta. I see a lot of girls doing it. Take Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, for instance,” she explained.
Yet, matters are usually not as simple as a matter of preferences. Priya Saxena, an advocate, who travels extensively, recounts a harrowing experience she had when she dropped her husband’s surname from her passport. “I breezed through the initial process in 20 minutes but since the government reserves the final nod, I soon found myself in conversation with one such official. I wanted to get my husband’s surname out and have the passport re-issued in my maiden name. The official’s reaction to this was to first ask me if I was going through a divorce. When I said that my husband were very much together, he went on to ask me numerous questions, then took me to his superior, who also asked me similar questions before dismissing me.”
For Priya, her woes didn’t end there. “I was asked to go to the policy office a month later.”
The baffled passport officer, who was a woman this time, asked me what the issue seemed to be, since all my documents seemed to be in order. When I told her that her male colleagues had sent me there, she nodded knowingly, and gave me the stamp of approval immediately,” she recounts.
Despite being completely legal, the problem that arises is one of customs and prejudices, explains Advocate Mrunali Deshmukh. “Changing surnames is just a custom and not a law. People follow the customs because their ancestors did, not because they are legally bound to do so. So there is no rule that you have to change your name and there is no difficulty in retaining your father’s surname as long as you are able to prove it that you are married to so and so with a marriage certificate,” she asserts.
Giving the examples of celebrities, she says that all that is needed for people with unnecessary prejudices is a firm hand. “Sanjay Leela Bhansali took both his father and mother’s names. No one questions him about it because he’s a figure that commands a certain gravitas. Even Kiran Rao has given her son her surname — Azad Rao Khan. You just need to be firm and upfront with these people and not let then run over you,” she concludes.