what mould do you fit?

it starts at school… this urge to fit everyone into moulds. not just physiological — tall, short, beautiful, cute, could-do-with-nose-job!

and it’s not just about trying to fit a personality mould either — cranky, cheerful, angry, selfish, selfless, friendly (we are all one or the other at some point in the day).

then it’s the environmental classifications, as well.

O comes back from school telling me how her teacher couldn’t understand why i did not share the surname she and her father did.
apparently, she asked her more than once if she was sure my surname was not C.
O handled it well, as we have had this conversation before. because i have explained to her that i prefer keeping my name alone, and when she is old enough, she can call herself as she pleases.

i don’t carry any surname at all. My given names are a mouthful by itself, so i dropped my dad’s initial/name. in the south, surnames are not really common. you just take your father’s first name. or the initial. so i was C. V S for a long time. and when i had to give a name for my bylines when i joined Indian Express, i decided V S would do just great. and marriage to a C-surnamed person, didn’t change the resolve.

so already the teacher (whom i totally adore otherwise) is trying to fit my whole family into a mould — the Cs.

i hate being introduced as Mrs R C — especially by people who know my name. one of my sisters, who hasn’t taken her husband’s surname, sent out a communication to all, that her name will not change post-marriage. and when some very stubborn people still send letters or cards to her, addressed Mrs and Mr D or Mrs D, she returns it with a polite note that no Mrs D resides there, but a certain Ms M C does!

you may consider it extreme — but what do you do when people try to force you into a mould, even when you expressly convey your dislike or disregard for it?

now, i log in to the school website to check O’s profile, I see ‘Christian’ marked against religion. this when we didn’t just leave the column blank in the school form, we actually ran a line through it. even the birth certificate we submitted doesn’t contain details of religion. but apparently some know-it-all decided that with a surname like C, it has to be a certain religion.

i know i have a huge scene in the making at school — and R would probably disuade me from doing so, as i have earned quite a reputation there already! — but i don’t want O trying /struggling to fit into all the categorisations thrust upon her. Malayalee/Tamil? Christian/Hindu? Daughter of Journalists=journalist-in-the-making? (oh, goodness forbid, hope not)

there are some things she can’t escape, for now.
daughter of V&R, an indian; legacy of uneven teeth and quick temper from mum…
i don’t want her burdened with more.

PS: I sent R out on this job, and he explained to the school official that we were a multi-religious family, and did not want any one to be highlighted. the detail was deleted without a protest. — Sept 21

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5 thoughts on “what mould do you fit?

  1. Teesu (very very Indian, very very good) says:

    I like to keep my ‘maiden’ name mainly because I like the sound of it. Yes, am one of the few who likes her own name and surname;)

  2. Deeps says:

    Are’nt educational institutions supposed to be teaching children to form their own identity or helping them percieve themselves better? Its a pity that children like O are made to feel as if they are at the wrong end. Its indeed praiseworthy that she knew how to handle the situation

    Deepti

  3. Indian Homemaker says:

    My daughter faced some of this when they had to fill in their forms for class ten – there was disbelief that she does not have her father’s first name anywhere in her name.
    I had to write a note to confirm that I was aware of and approved of the name the way it was.

    I feel we need a law that allows us the option of disclosing or not disclosing our religion. A lot of forms ask for religion when they needn’t.

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