September 16th, 2016
“When someone talks using “us” and “they”, a person has already made half of the argument, already formed an opinion and already cleared the side he/she is on. It’s not hard knowing a person and then forming an opinion. And, it’s easiest to form an opinion by judging on the basis of the name of a person. Sadly, what happens is the latter.
I remember once going to an acquaintance’s place. Before being offered a seat, I was asked after the polite Namaste, “beta aap kya ho”.
A lot of answers ran through my mind at that very moment. Like, human? Girl? Indian? Irritated by the time I took to understand the question, was asked: “what’s your surname?” I replied Das Dhankar. This somehow made the already awkward things confusing and I could feel the piercing eyes on me looking frantically for some detail so that I could be quickly put in a “box”. Finally catching Das in the name, came a question, “Machhi khate ho?” Confused, I replied I cook but I don’t prefer fish.
This almost angered at least one uncle present there to the limit where he asked me “meat machhi khate ho na?” Now, at this point, the poor me decided to remain mum not pointing out the difference between meat and machchi. Then, Dhankar came into focus. “Ye kya?” He asked . I replied somewhat irritated, “my father is a Jaat”. Then came the million dollar bomb. “Father is Jaat so you are jaat! Why did you say you are a Bengali?” Now the point was, I never said that. I always say I am half Bengali and half Jaat.
By now, I wanted to disappear or simply be allowed to scream at the top of my voice.
It was not a pleasant experience but then my name often stirs some reactions, some questions like why I use both my parent’s surnames or why I don’t use the surname of the man I am married to, why I don’t call myself a Jaat when my father is one and then why I don’t call myself a Bengali because I married one.
Often, by the time people move past my name, they have already judged me, formed, an opinion about me and put me in either “likeable” or “too much trouble, can’t like” category. It’s amusing and it’s somewhat annoying but most importantly, it is often a barrier in the communication that I could have made with a lot of people.”
Submitted By: Riti Das Dhankar
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