Lord of the Files

For the fifth day of Bar-A-Thon I have decided not to write another short story but an anecdote from my experience. This was a recent incident, where I encountered a sexist Lord of the files in the form of a passport officer, while applying for my minor son’s passport.

A little flashback:

I decided not to change my maiden surname post marriage. Thus, all my government identity cards like Adhar card, election card, driving license and pan card have my maiden surname. When I renewed my passport there also I used my maiden surname. However, my son’s birth certificate contains my name and husband’s surname.


I tell you.

I had a C-section delivery. Post the operation I was obviously under the impact of anaesthesia and my poor husband was beside me taking care of both me and our new-born. During this time the hospital gave us a form to fill up for the birth certificate. As both of us were not in a position to fill up the form, my husband’s brother filled it up on our behalf. And, he gave my name and husband’s surname. I cannot blame him because the usual accepted behaviour in our society is that the woman would use her husband’s surname after marriage.

A fortnight later when we got our son’s birth certificate we saw that it had my name with my husband’s surname. However we didn’t take it that seriously then. Changing the name would have been a tedious job so we let the name remain as is. Our lethargy got the better of us.

Now back to passport.

I went to get my son’s passport done sans my husband. The initial rounds went smoothly but problem started in the last counter. The lady who was adorning the counter looked at my son’s passport form and asked with a frown on her face “What is the mother’s name?”

I replied, and then she pointed to the birth certificate and said that the name was different. I said that both were my names. Then she said that in my son’s passport she will put my name as per his birth certificate. I protested that if all the other submitted documents including my passport were carrying my maiden name then why she would put the other name in his passport.

Then this lady looked at me and asked with a cruel smirk “Are you getting divorced or separated?”

I was shocked. What has my name got to do with this?  She said in Hindi “Agar divorce nahi hua to pati ka naam dalne me kya sharam?” (If you are not getting divorced then why are you ashamed to use husband’s name?) She went on and said “Khud k passport me bhi naam change kara lo, shaadi k baad pati ka naam hi passport me hona chahiye.” (Change your name in passport, after marriage a woman should use her husband’s name)

This passport lady was not the only woman who said this to me. Long back my bank manager had said that it was disrespectful of me not to use my husband’s name. If I love my husband I should attach his name to mine. My reply was that he should also attach my name to his if he loved me. The look on her face could have given the actors in Ekta Kapoor serials a run for their money.

In our society even though legally we can use our maiden name post-marriage, yet there are many people who judge us for not using husband’s name. Why is only a woman supposed to change her name, her address and her entire identity after marriage while the man has to change nothing? Even though we say ‘what’s in a name’ yet my name is my choice and nobody should judge me for that.





48 thoughts on “Lord of the Files

  1. Moon says:

    I haven’t changed my surname either. So , I could very well relate to your story . It’s truly unfair to impose rules like these . Sad that we have to wage a war just to keep our ” core” name intact.
    Nicely told .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. L.E.R.T says:

    That was no business of that lady to butt in with her opinions. That being said, Passport offices have the best collection of ill-mannered Govt employees. I remember a Passport office lady flinging the application of a Grandpa because the documents were not arranged in a particular order. She told him to sort the file and then come back in the line. Thank God these days the first few counters have been privatized.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Shweta Suresh says:

    Well said! I loved how you replied to the manager. I personally feel that our name is part of our identity and it should remain as such. Marriage shouldn’t really require someone to change their identity! And some people make it a point to poke their noses into places where it clearly doesn’t belong. It’s sad that the society tends to lean towards patriarchy! I hope that your trouble with the document was sorted out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Balaka says:

      People in India love to pass opinions on things they have no business at all…why the hell do only we need to change name…and unfortunately I have seen more women comment on my surname than men…thanks for your comment dear

      Liked by 1 person

      • Shweta Suresh says:

        Yes! Exactly. People here have a general tendency to do that. I can’t understand the concept of changing the name either. I’m not yet married but even if I do get married, I won’t change my name. It’s a lot of work and also, I don’t see any reason to do so. Let men change their names for a change. Certain people just can’t seem to accept that what we do with our name is our decision and choice.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Balaka says:

        Yes, you are right…A name I grew up becomes me and then all of a sudden I have to change it because I got married…why?? isn’t it absurd..why only women need to change name and not men?? This is because even today a woman is considered a property of men….it is like branding yourself with a tag..


  4. Natasha says:

    This is the awful and bitter truth this country is plagued with despite having progressed so much. Even I continue to use my maiden surname alongside my husband’s..
    In fact my younger one has been telling me to add my maiden surname to her name along with her Dad’s. So she wants to be Aarshia Mukherjee Sinha!

    Wonder how the narrow minded government officials at the passport office will react to this!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Akshata Ram says:

    I haven’t changed my name and don’t intend to. Not just because of the hassles in getting so many documents changed but I feel it’s an identity I have lived with for 27 years before I met my hubby. I am aware of the regressive attitude in our country it really sucks

    Liked by 1 person

    • Balaka says:

      That is exactly my belief Akshata…this is my identity since birth..why do I need to change it, only because I got married…my parents raised me..and I owe my name to them and not my in-laws

      Liked by 1 person

  6. apsster says:

    Oh I had the same issue when I was getting my passport renewed. I opted for my mother’s name instead of my dad because they are separated. The problem was my mom decided to stick to her name before marriage after she divorced but all of my other documents had dad’s surname. At the end, I had to get it done with the name she got after her marriage. Sigh
    apsster @ Little Heart Speaks

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Shalzmojo says:

    OMG Indian red tape is bloody infamous and the passport office is infamous for this nonsense. Sorry to hear you went through such nonsense with some idiotic ppl who have never stepped out of the comfort of their 2×2 brains….
    I hope you got your husband to change his name to yours…😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ranjini says:

    I don’t understand. If not using your husband’s name is disrespectful, isn’t changing or replacing your father’s name even more disrespectful? People and their beliefs baffle me! I hop you gave a piece of your mind to the Passport office.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. BellyBytes says:

    Oh this reminds me of the runaround my daughter had when she had her first born son. She too had a caesarian and faced a similar situation. But she also refused to change her name so her son’s passport has her maiden name,her husband’s name and the child’s name. She has done this for her second son also. And my other daughter has also done this for her daughter.

    In Maharashtra state when you apply to school or any competitive entrance test the candidate is expected to fill out the name of the mother and not the father…… And recently the Govt has insisted that Ration Cards be made in the name of the eldest female heading the house and not the man……

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Rajlakshmi says:

    Woa she has no business asking you to add the surname. I didn’t change my surname either. It’s too much a hassle. Most girls don’t do these days and it’s a personal choice. I hope the views of society will change with time.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Esha Mookerjee-Dutta says:

    Regressive, to say the least. I remember when I didn’t wish to drop my maiden surname, my FIL was very unhappy. Imagine, I was still using the husband’s surname but that wasn’t enough, apparently! That is how our society thinks like! Over the years I dropped most other things that are mandatory for a wife, esp Bengali women! My question for all of them who stare at me for not wearing a ‘noa’ is does my husband wear anything like that for my well-being? They have nothing to say after that! Red-tapism in our country is nothing new esp with these matters. I do empathise with you…its nothing short of a battle out there for women like us, trust me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Balaka says:

      Mituldi… you should have seen the woman there…o dhorei niyeche j Ami separated… because one I went alone without husband..second I was insisting on my maiden name…ki j bolbo


  12. Alana Mautone (@RamblinGarden) says:

    It isn’t just in India. My sister in law kept her maiden name when she married, over 30 years ago. It took my mother in law a long time to accept that. Even today, this happens. This reminded me of something else that would happen in the United States – something called “daughtering out” when a man has only daughters and no one is left to carry on the family name. That may very well be happening in my family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Balaka says:

      This daughtering out is a new thing I learnt from you…. incidentally my father also had no son…so that makes me more eligible to carry his name forward😁


  13. the bespectacled mother says:

    The saddest part in this incident was it came from a lady and not from a man. I consider such ladies as the doorkeepers of patriarchy. I want to know what happened later. Did you get your maiden surname in his passport or was it the other way other way round?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Balaka says:

      I have heard comments about my maiden name only from women so far. No man has honestly ever questioned this, including my own 😉 these women are indeed the doorkeepers of patriarchy.


  14. Parul Thakur says:

    Oh man! This was bad and regressive. I once had a friend who had gone out shopping and she gave her credit card. Since it wasn’t working for some reason, the husband also gave his. But since the last names were not same, they lady at the counter asked if it was a stolen one. according to her, the last names should have matched. Pathetic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Balaka says:

      ha ha ha….Once I had booked hotels using my credit card, when we were about to check in at the hotel, the manager suspiciously looked at my husband and asked politely yet a kind of disbelief “relationship Sir”..my husband later said that he was dying to tell the Manager “dusre ki biwi bhagake laya hoon” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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