Opinion@The Hush Post: Among other things, actress Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and Anand Sonam Ahuja’s marriage forces one to go back a little to the topic of the metaphor of feminism rather than feminism itself.
This movement began in 1960s in the west and Indian-born foreign educated women imported the concept in its easiest form here: Thus feminist movement began with a small metaphor which was to retain one’s last name after marriage. It was a beginning nonetheless.
A beginning of any kind starts with prodding. As American actress-cum-dancer Zoe Saldana said: “Fathers, sons, brothers, men everywhere. Your legacy will not perish if you take your partner’s surname, or she keeps hers.” The first man to follow the advice was her husband, Marco Perego, who later became Marco Perego Saldana.
Historically, last name from your father’s side was like an epithet one lived with, carried to the grave and beyond unless and until one wasn’t born a girl. A girl would take the husband’s last name after marriage. Across the world, it has started changing in three ways, though remotely metaphoric of the real change – first, when a woman retains her last name after marriage but adds her husband’s name in the middle. Second is when the woman adds her husband’s last name to her’s. The third is when she sheds her father’s last name and takes her husband’s last name.
There were small little revolts of the metaphoric kind which went unheard of in the past. Like the famous Spanish tennis star Arantxa Isabel Maria Sanchez Vicario, retained her mother’s maiden name and became Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.
But the movement doesn’t seem to like to grow out of the metaphor. The fairer sex is fighting for its name. So recently when actress Sonam Kapoor changed her name to Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, her husband Anand Ahuja too added a middle name to his and added Sonam – the acronym read – ASA or Anand Sonam Ahuja. And that it seems is enough for us to celebrate feminism (equal rights for two sexes) just as we celebrate any other ‘ism’ like celebrating nationalism by singing the national anthem with perfect tone and modulation.
But what’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Though that’s not so with the last name. In the English culture, which has crossed over to India, the youngsters address elders by their last names, and doing so is considered being respectful. For the last name carries probably the tradition and pride of hundreds of years of the family. So essentially this Mr X, Y, Z is called out by the last name because he is considered good enough to carry the values and traditions of his family and whoever lived with this name.
But there is something which remained unsaid, in fact, hidden. And the feminists understood it well. Now we know many among them were arm-chair feminists. This Mr X, Y, Z was a symbol of only fraternal tradition, the fraternal side of the family. So much so that in the West and also here, a step father’s last name made more sense to us than one’s mother’s last name. Sometimes things went so far that a boy or a girl would use the names of two step-fathers – of the first step-father in the certificates and the second one’s name was used because he was kind to pay for the bills and qualified well in husbandry.
The breaking of this tradition is like a meeting ground rather consummation of fraternal and maternal values and traditions, much like the Y chromosomes rendered useless without the X or like the X and Y of the algebraic equations, either of them is incomplete without the other.
So how far have Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and Anand Sonam Ahuja been able to graduate the metaphor further? Well, while Sonam has no inhibition in taking the family name of Anand. On the other hand, Anand hyphenates his name with his wife’s. Kapoor to him seems slightly alien. However, Anand S Ahuja would still qualify to be the most egalitarian husband, metaphorically speaking.
However, the metaphor would mature rather graduate, if the name or rather the fad about the last name is accompanied with companionship in the kitchen by the husband and vice versa, or as recently the vows of the marriage were read out by the priest during Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s profligate wedding: “I take you to be my lawfully wedded (husband/wife), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
Casually understood these vows are an anti-thesis of the metaphor we are talking and mentioning here, that we do not marry a name or a last name of the man, or as nowadays of a woman. We marry a situation of our partner, whatever that be. We may need to begin metaphorically like Sonam and Anand but should graduate to the more complex algebra that comes with marriage and simultaneously with life.
Meanwhile, the question which first came into the public forum for discussion somewhere in the 19th century, of equal rights for men and women, hasn’t found a black and white answer, or a simultaneous equation of egalitarianism beyond the last name syndrome. We are just hovering back and forth on the square.