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'What is in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other word would smell as sweet.' is the most quoted reference part of Shakespeare's well known play called Romeo and Juliet. Very philosophical as it sounds in the first place when I mused over it on a second thought I found it quite challenging. I have had my share of struggles when it comes to my name. My late grandmother expressed her desire to name the firstborn in her family. Diehard fan of veteran actor " Tabbasum" chose this name for her only son's newborn baby girl. My reluctant mother who had been contemplating a name out of her long list gave up following a few domestic tiffs. And that marked my identity as who I am called today "Tabbsum".
As my life's voyage began at a local school, people called me by various names and many pronunciations followed. Of course, it didn't please me much but gradually I learned to live with it. I will always remember my class 10 teacher who instead of encouraging and inspiring me to do something greater in life insisted that after marriage girls face lots of difficulty in changing their surnames when it comes to documentation so do not put your surname so that it is easy for you to take up your husband's surname. At the tender age of "mills & boons" you do not like to know the complications of life and relationships. Little did she know that by the time I get married, women would start taking up their father's name as middle name post marriage. Like a soldier in the battlefield who is programmed to follow the command of his senior, I agreed without taking permission from my parents. So, till date I struggle to get my legal documents in place because I don't have a surname. All my certificates have different spellings, had I been qualified for any Government job, I would have disqualified in the first round. All thanks to the authorities in my state unfamiliar with Urdu names.
As I grew up, I realized that my name is my identity. If I am someone significant it's because of who I am and not from where I come or which clan I belong to. So, I officially stayed Tabbsum in all my legal documents.
Over the years, people called me 'Tapasvi', 'Tapasya', 'tabby', 'tab', 'tabs' ( which always takes me to my doctor's prescription for loose stools and then immediately I imagine that one small pill with the power to turn my mouth bitter and leave me hibernated for a day or two). "Tabbu" sounded relatively better.
Today as I got to know that Government of India will make it compulsory to link your aadhar card to pan card, I decided to do it online. Once again I stumbled upon my name. Surname column had a star marked next to it which makes it compulsory. So, here I end up writing this sob story, unable to link my aadhar card to pan card as I am one of those unique human specimens who do not qualify as stars because I do not have a surname. ..And Sir Shakespeare, your Juliet asked what is in a name?
When I was getting married in Goa (not a destination wedding as my husband is a Goan) I tripped over my name once again as we were trying to get our marriage registered. From my father in law to the typist, lawyer and registrar looked at me as if I was one of the first apes or firstborn of Eve. They gaped at me surprisingly.
"What! you do not have a middle name and surname?"
Oh, so am I a bigger loser in Goa? I didn't have a surname and now I don't have a middle name either.
Recently, we shifted to a place between Haryana and Rajasthan . I didn't expect to receive and give so much of cultural shock in such a short radius of approximately 30km from Gurgaon.
Didi, what is your name? (all the ladies of our building are her sisters and their husbands brothers)
My neighbor took two steps back.
How did you get married to Bhaiya?
He is a Christian na? Goa mein toh sabhi Christian hote hain.
No, not really. Goa has 25% Christians, around 4% Muslims and 66% of them are Hindus.
What? But how did you get married? Your name is Tabbsum. Love marriage? She threw a hesitant question mark smile at me.
I am a Christian too.
What? Eh! Ok but your name suggests....she stretched the 's' for 20 seconds and thoughtfully diverted the direction of her question since I turned out to be someone else than what she thought.
Did you kiss after your vows like in Hollywood movies?
Didi, please don't mind but during Christmas celebration please give us egg less cake. We are vegetarians.
As close ended conversation as it could be. Isn't it? It was all initiated by a name that stirred curiosity -'Tabbsum'.
Sometimes, I fear if I will be ever detained from a foreign airport one day because I bear a name which people might doubt and dislike. Had Shahrukh Khan said he is "...... Khan" (You are free to fill in the blank) at the airport would that have worked or If Sachin Tendulkar said his name is something else because they are roses in their respective fields and they just smell as sweet if you call them by any other name. Well, I am nowhere close to popularity neither do I see it happening in future. Heaven knows what all I may face for my name in the coming years.
In every other interview I had till date, people were more interested in dissecting my name than my qualifications or experience. Triggers a piquant conversation, right. If I call myself a "Paes" (my husband's family name) , I turn into "Peas" boiled, fried or roasted as you like it.(quite Shakespearean huh!)
Well, it's Paes as in "Leander Paes".
So what if he is the only renowned Paes, he is not the only one. My name is my identity and whatever I do portrays me as 'Tabbsum'. There is much more to a name than it being a word that you are called by. Life is a story, a tale and name its title. It may not change anything about me but it represents me. You may or may not like it. As you like it.