How do South Indians feel about their surnames? by Raakhee Venugopal
Answer by Raakhee Venugopal:
I’ve had quite a few raised eyebrows situations when I tell people my name. It is a Bengali name and I’m from Kerala where Raakhee is still not a very popular name…well, not as much as Priya or Nisha or Maya. And Venugopal is my dad’s name. My dad apparently broke the family norm when he applied for my birth certificate.
Every individual born before me in my family was given the family name followed by the given name and then ending with Menon (the clan name). A person’s identity was incomplete if his family name was not attached as a prefix to his given name. A person’s family name decided his social standing and the respect he demanded from society. There may have been a hundred different Achutha Menons in society, but the respect that Elamana Achutha Menon received when his name was uttered was different. He was the royal physician to the then Rajah of Cochin…and he was my great-great grandfather 😛 This was the case in most families. It completed the identity of the person, what with the possibility of so many repetitive names.
For example, my grandfather’s name was Krishna Menon…his father’s name was also Krishna Menon. Since we take our mothers’ family names, my grandfather was Kuttickat Krishna Menon and his father was Nedumparambath Krishna Menon….big difference there…and no confusion either.
Personally I would have really liked to have a Menon after my name and my mom’s family name before it…the old-fashioned way. It would have had a nice ring to it. Almost a with a tinge of regalia 😛
But anyway…it’s okay now I guess. Raakhee Venugopal has become my permanent identity and I’d rather be known that way forever 🙂