Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Peacock

“Mamma, can I have a peacock for my birthday?” asked Palak.

Her mother laughed, a tinkling laugh that sounded like water being poured into a glass. “Ever since the child saw peacocks at the zoo last month, she has been obsessed about them,” she said to Sheela Aunty.

Palak wondered what “obsessed” meant. But she was focused. “Can I, Mamma?” she asked again.

“We’ll see, dear,” said her mother. “Now go inside and play with your toys. Sheela Aunty and I are busy.”

“Children forget so soon, don’t they?” her mother continued once she had left the room. “I am sure by August she will have forgotten all about peacocks and will be very happy to play with a Barbie or ride a tricycle.”

But Palak did not forget.

A week before her birthday, she asked her mother, “Where will we keep the peacock, Mamma? Will it stay in my room? Maybe we can let it out in the balcony at night?”

“What peacock, beta?” asked her mother.

“The peacock I am getting for my birthday, Mamma,” said Palak, her eyes filling with tears. “You haven’t forgotten, have you?”

“Of course not, my love. It can stay in your room. It won’t take up too much space.”

On her birthday, Palak woke up at the first chirping of the birds outside her window. She ran into her parents’ bedroom.

“Good morning, Mamma,” she called loudly. “Good morning, Daddy.”

Her parents grunted, shuddered, and finally sat up.

“Happy birthday, princess,” said her father, and gave her a hug.

“Happy birthday, my love,” said her mother, and kissed her cheek. “Come, let me show you your presents.”

Her mother held her hand and walked her out to the living room. The dining table was full of brightly wrapped packages. Palak stopped and looked at them.

Her mother drew the curtains and let the morning light in.

“You sit here and unpack your presents, dear,” she said. She went back to her bedroom where Palak’s father was getting out of bed, yawning.

“She looks stunned at all the gifts,” she told him. “She looks so happy.”

But when she went back to the living room, Palak hadn’t opened any of the packages. She was standing as her mother had left her, looking at the gifts on the table.

“What’s the matter, dear?” her mother asked. “Don’t you want to open your presents?”

“Where’s my peacock, Mamma?”

“Here it is, my darling.” She picked up a red box and handed it to her. “Now you play with your gifts and I shall go and make us some breakfast.”

Palak tore away the wrapping paper with trembling hands. She opened the box to reveal a clay peacock with its feathers spread behind it like a fan, brightly painted.

Daddy came into the living room to find all the packages except one still neatly packed, and one opened cardboard box and some red paper on the table. He looked for Palak and found her in the balcony.

"Look, Daddy,” she said when he came out to join her. She pointed towards the ground. “My peacock tried to fly.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On OLX: Free Online Classifieds

I recently heard from OLX, an online classifieds company who own www.olx.in. As you know, I am interested in marketing, particularly in online marketing, so I was intrigued. The Country Manager for India, Amarjit Batra, has obligingly answered some questions for me. Do read through and check out the site if you're interested.

Let me know if you have any more questions that I can pass on to him. Also, if you have used OLX, tell me how the experience was.

Unmana: Your website says OLX was “created in March 2006 and launched in June 2006.” When did you launch olx.in?
Amarjit Batra: www.olx.in was launched in May 2006.

U: You claim OLX is “the next generation of free online classifieds.” What makes it so? What can users expect from OLX?
AB: OLX is a Web2.0 product and users can easily design rich colorful listings with pictures and videos and display their listings on their social networking profile (Facebook, Myspace, ...) Some of the features that make us different from others are:
  • 100% free (forever) even in jobs and real estate

  • Ability to include videos and pictures in listings

  • A city, neighborhood and zip code database so the entire country is covered and not just pre-selected cities (Available in select countries)

  • Ajax "WYSIWYG" rich-text editor for richer listings

  • Ability to comment on listings to create a stronger community

  • Advanced search functions with sliders allowing searches at variable regional settings

  • A distance field allowing you to see postings near your zip code wherever possible (Available in select countries)

  • Ability to post listings in any language in any country

  • Ability to view the site in any country in any language

  • Global reach

  • Mobile version: The mobile version http://m.olx.in is unique as one can browse all listings with pictures and videos

  • Find a listing you noticed on the web and save it on your phone

  • Read your messages and reply to ads

  • Post an ad anytime

  • If the mobile number is mentioned on the ad, then there is a one Click-to-Call to speak to the ad poster

U: Does OLX have any way of verifying the authenticity of listings on it? Will you enable users to rate sellers and goods/services?
AB: OLX is a free site and we allow free flow of information between the seller and buyer. We do not earn either for listing, searching or transacting. This makes it convenient for sellers to connect with buyers directly without us controlling the communication or the transaction. In a classifieds site like OLX, the transaction takes place offline and unlike an ecommerce site, the buyer does not need to make any advance payment to the seller. This way, the buyer is safe and can transact with the ad poster once assured of the genuineness of the item.
Though OLX does not verify the authenticity of each listing posted on the site, we do have certain tools and filters to check for Spams and Scams. We also have a multilingual dedicated customer support that manually screens listings and deletes those with suspect content. Over all 60% to70% of postings are deleted.
We will not enable users to rate sellers since the transaction between the buyer and seller takes place offline and we cannot authenticate the transaction. But we have a ‘Comment’ section on each listing and users can share their purchase experience with other searchers or provide feedback to the seller.

U: Sites providing online classifieds have come under scrutiny in other countries for illegal transactions conducted or advertised through the site. How do you plan to deal with such issues?
AB: Spams and Scams are challenging issues for a classified site like ours. As mentioned above, we monitor the site manually as well as have automated tools to detect Spams and Scams. We blacklist keywords, IP addresses, countries etc. and have a large multilingual customer team that is vigilant 24/7 to tackle such issues.
In addition, we urge our users to flag a prohibitive listing and this messaging is provided at key user touch points. We also provide onsite messaging to our users advising them to be alert and careful when making any transactions offline. We take proactive measures to prevent such issues from happening.

U: Are older listings removed from the site or do you keep everything up indefinitely?
AB: We currently keep the listings on the site till the users delete them on their own. The users have their own dedicated dashboard ‘My OLX’ from where they can modify, delete or repost their listings. We are also evolving new policies around this.

U: If OLX is “100% free (forever)”, can tell us about your revenue model?
AB: Yes, OLX core site will be 100% free forever. However we have launched ‘Featured Listings’ in few countries that allows users to get prominent placement on the site. This is certainly a value add to the advertisers, without compromising on the free listings that one can still post.
We also do not charge any subscription fee (in matrimonial sites for instance) or charge for any reply to ads.
Our revenues come from the text ads (currently provided by Google) displayed on our listings result pages and the individual classified ad pages. We haven’t activated any banner ads our site.
Our mobile site (m.olx.in) is also completely free for users. The mobile site has a banner or text ad on top and bottom of each page and is monetized through ad networks.

U: Is the global downturn affecting your business, particularly in terms of your entry in India? Do you think you chose the wrong time?
AB: Since we are free to list, search and transact, the Global downturn has affected us positively as more users are flocking to our sites. For ad posters, OLX provides advertisement and exposure to thousands of potential buyers in their city completely free of cost. Even SME’s who want to conserve their cash are turning to free classifieds sites like ours as a channel to increase sales. In the downturn, people are looking for deals on used items like mobile phones, furniture, cars, etc and OLX provides these individuals a free platform to post or search these products.
Our India site has been live since 2006 and recently we have established local presence in the country. It is a good time to enter India as the growth of Internet users and the Mobile Internet users will hopefully work in our favour. The first phase of classifieds has been the vertical classifieds in jobs, real estate and matrimonial. We have entered at the start of the second phase when a free local classifieds model is emerging strongly.
Worldwide, users are getting habituated to free ad supported business models (most social networking sites etc) and India is also catching on to that trend. People are not going to pay for posting their old furniture, car pool, domestic help, finding roommates, jobs wanted and that is where OLX will be the first choice for such users.

U: When you start out in a country, how do you get sellers to put up listings on your site? What kind of publicity do you create? Do you offer any incentives?
AB: We normally do a soft launch in a country and focus on SEO and a bit of online marketing. We try to be present where ever they are looking for platforms like ours; like search engines. Our focus is to provide a clutter free user experience to a new user and make it easy for them to use and navigate through the site.
We would sometimes do a press release about the launch, but we do not do any specific publicity or offer any special incentives. The biggest incentive is that we are 100% free.

U: Does OLX plan to extend its online business to on-the-ground offices across different locations in India?
AB: No. We are a pure online business and do not intend to have any offline presence in any city.

U: Have you personally worked on OLX in other countries? How does the experience compare to that in India? What do you think is the biggest challenge for OLX in India?
AB: I have joined OLX a few months back and am focused towards building the India business. However, I assist in business development initiatives in other OLX countries. In many markets, OLX has grown very well and is the leading classified site in the country. India is uniquely positioned from these other OLX markets as we have a sizable population accessing internet through PC’s as well as mobile.
Our biggest challenge and probably the biggest opportunity in India is to tap into the huge rural and semi urban population who are not comfortable with internet or do not have access to PC’s. Also, these people are more comfortable in communicating in their local languages and not in English. We hope that the mobile version of our site and our presence in other local languages position us to win these users.

U: What are your personal views about how the online marketplace is shaping up in India?
AB: I strongly believe in the online market place business in India. In each of the categories (like jobs, real estate, vehicles, services etc.) there is a huge fragmentation because of which consumers have to deal with intermediaries that leads to margin erosion and lack of options. An online marketplace helps in disintermediation by bringing sellers and consumers directly in touch with each other.
Online marketplaces are poised for a strong growth and models that allow a free flow if information between the buyers and sellers should do well. Some of the key trends in favor of online classifieds in India are:
  • Increasing awareness about the online classifieds and a gradual migration from print classifieds to online

  • Rise of the Horizontal Classifieds sites like OLX provides users a one stop shop for all their category needs

  • New categories like vehicles ( auto), services, education becoming increasingly important like the strong categories like Jobs, Real Estate and Matrimonial

  • C2C transactions are increasing due to increased disintermediation

  • Online marketplaces becoming a boon for SME’s (a huge and fragmented base in India) helping them find new buyers and increase their reach

  • Internet is going local with more and more transactions taking place within cities and towns.

  • India with a 50 Mn Internet population and a 400 Mn mobile population, is seeing users getting their first experience of Internet on their Mobiles

I feel that online marketplaces which provide a great user experience, provide options on both Internet and mobile and localize to Indian consumer needs would stand to gain in the long run.

Monday, July 27, 2009

To the Noisy Neighbours - 2*

Ma'am, as if the picture conjured up by your (very loud) words to your child, "Cheeku, baith ke teevee dekho, Mummy nahai-nahai kar rahi hai" ("Cheeku, sit and watch tv, Mummy is taking a bathy-bath") wasn't enough to scar me for life; you, sir, have to shout out - to your wife, I hope (or maybe I should hope it wasn't to your wife, as you seemed not to remember her name) - "Towel! Hello!"

I can stand what sound like shouting matches between you, ma'am, your child and your visitors; an infrequent quarrel between the two of you serves to entertain me; and I suppose it is edifying, in its own way, to hear you struggle to communicate in English (which you do - communicate, I mean, though the form your words take usually makes me raise an eyebrow). But is it really fair to mar my day by subjecting me to such a picture as above first thing in my morning, before I have properly woken up and got the courage to wrest with the challenges the day will throw at me?

I hope you will admit the justice of my plea and do your utmost to prevent such occurences in future.

Yours sincerely,
The quiet-loving woman in the flat above yours.

*1 here. And yeah, they're back from vacation.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Monsoons

I don't remember enjoying a season as much as I am enjoying the monsoons this year. It helps, of course, that I am at home and can just sit by the window and watch it rain: I don't have to worry about water-logged roads or muddy clothes. And the weather has been wonderful till now: alternating between drizzles, showers and sunny skies.

The rain has made everything around green and beautiful, so that the view from the windows is worth a look, if you can blur out the ugly buildings in the immediate vicinity. And today I took an auto ride along green lanes - and realised I don't envy the residents of Bangalore any more.

It helps that the roads have improved this year, so auto rides are nowhere as bumpy or squelchy as they used to be. I always sympathise with bike riders, pedestrians and people waiting at bus stops: my feelings about the rains were much less unequivocal while I was one of them.

I have always been fascinated by the rains, however. In a queer way, they make me feel at home, as I grew up in wet Assam. I had written about my first experience of the monsoons in Pune and also about the conflicting feelings the rain aroused in me. I wrote about braving the rains to go shopping for my wedding. Last year, I wrote about the season's first shower. This year, the rains inspired me to write this short story.

Now let me go get a cup of chai and sit by the window again...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Revolutionary Road": the Book

I had wanted to read the book ever since I watched the movie and loved it. (If you read that post and you haven't watched the movie or read the book, don't read the one comment: it contains a major spoiler.) I thought the movie was one of the best I have ever seen.

Given that, the book was necessarily a bit of a disappointment, just as a movie made from a book you have read is always a disappointment because you know what's going to happen next, and that takes away much of the charm of the story. And as I'd liked the two lead actors so much in the movie, as I read the book I kept picturing Kate Winslet and Leonardo diCaprio as April and Frank Wheeler, so that I am not sure I can judge the book separately from the movie.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lost

It was spring when we first met.
And walked on flowers scattered on our path.
Then it began to rain.
But what did I care?
The raindrops only washed the dust off our faces
And we walked on, hand in hand.
Then the clouds blew away
And the wind rose, fast and loud.
A sandstorm surrounded us
But I closed my eyes and walked on.
As long as my hand was in yours,
What did I have to fear?
But then for a few minutes
I let go of your hand.
I was too weary to keep walking.
But when I tried to catch up with you
I couldn’t find you again.
I call out your name:
A faint cry answers.
I run in the direction of the sound.
But there is no one there.
It is dark now, and I do not know the way.
Where are you when I need you most?
It is cold, and I am shivering.
What will I do without the warmth of your love?

Written seven years ago

Friday, July 17, 2009

Alice Walker's "The Color Purple"

I read this much acclaimed book yesterday. I had read a lot of praise of the book, especially from a feminist perspective, and I was apprehensive about whether the book would live up to it all, but it simply blew me away.

An amazing book. Read my review here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Things the Guy Has Done for Me

Most of you seem to want to love reading about the Guy, given that this is the most searched label on my blog. (And the fact that that label has the most posts might say something about me too.) So I picked up this tag, and will now reveal to you lucky people five great things that the Guy has done for me.

First. Back when we were in bschool, the Guy rescued me once from the worst state I've ever been in. That seems melodramatic, especially as there was nothing physically wrong with me that day. But this was some time after my dad's death, and I felt like I had plunged into dark despair. I had this insane urge to just walk off, out of my room, till the familiar streets ended, walk off into darkness and oblivion. I also had some vague idea of stepping onto the street in front of a moving vehicle, I think. As I wasn't completely insane, I reached out for help, realising that I needed someone to hold on to, to just talk to or sit by. And the Guy came when my then-boyfriend was too busy, he recognised the tinge of despair in my voice as soon as I said 'Hello' when my boyfriend talked to me about what he was doing for a few minutes without noticing anything amiss. The Guy came. He took me out and sat with me and talked to me while I cried in a busy crowded eatery, and this undemonstrative being showed little signs of discomfort. He shook me out of my depression by the means he knew best: by making me laugh. I know he would have done as much for any friend, but I was grateful then and am now.

Second. Soon after we realised we were probably falling in love, I insisted to the Guy that he needed to come and visit me because I couldn't decide whether to be with him without meeting him first. So much had changed since we had last met that I needed to see this new Guy and talk to him face-to-face to understand whether I should be with him. I was being unreasonable and childish, but the Guy understood and visited within a few days.

Third. He initiated the merging of our finances and of our lives. He started talking of how much money 'we' had coming in in the current month, and the different things 'we' needed to spend on. I was changing jobs and moving to be near him, and the move was taking up a lot of money - the Guy's support at the time helped me feel I was doing the right thing. (You might feel this is a small thing, but to me a person's attitude towards money signals a lot, and by these gestures the Guy signalled how important I was to him.)

Fourth. When I changed jobs last year, the Guy made the move so much easier. He suggested we move nearer my office, and we went house-hunting. For that one or two weeks until we moved, he drove me to and picked me up from office nearly every day, even though my office was much further away from home than his. He handled most of the moving hassles, and encouraged me to focus on my new job.

Fifth. When my job stressed me out and when I was ill, he tried hard to take care of me. He would usually fix breakfast for us when I got up, and cook and pack me lunch before we left for work. He would drop me at my office - which was now on the way to his - and then pick me up again in the evening. He would bring me home and cook us dinner. He would buy fruits, and cut them and serve them to me or pack them to carry to my workplace to make sure that I had them. He took care that I was taking my medicines. Quite a few times, he worked from home or took a break from office to come and look after me or take me to the doctor. He did all of this even while his work wasn't going that smoothly and he was working long hours. This Guy who says his favourite activity is sleeping - he did without a lot of sleep so that I could rest a little longer.

Sixth. (I'm taking six because it's been just about six years that I've known him.) He isn't very keen on gifts and surprises. He picks up stuff for me when he's travelling, but he rarely bothers to cook up a surprise on a special occasion. (This has rubbed off on me - I rarely bother either any more. Instead, I ask him what he wants to do.) But last time, as he was away, he tried to make my birthday truly special. I received not one, but two surprises! From a Guy who had to be nudged to buy me cake or a present the previous two years.

It's been six years, so let me give a quick summary of how it's been.

Year One: We started to know each other and gradually became friends.
Year Two: Our friendship grew complicated; we tried to sort out our feelings for each other, and finally agreed not to be in touch.
Year Three: We connected again and finally decided we wanted to be together; I moved cities to be with him.
Year Four: We got married and came to know each other's families; we travelled together.
Year Five: We grew even more comfortable with each other,we spent almost all our time together; the Guy went away for a month and we found it a difficult time.
Year Six: We went through difficult times and grew up a little more as a result; we bought a house together!

We have taken to completing each other's sentences, now. I know what sad joke he is going to make before the words leave his mouth. We are growing comfortable and boring.

But there's so much yet to do, so much to see. The journey is unpredictable, at least my companion is someone I know and trust.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Public Service Message

The other night, the Guy and I were returning home late at night - or early in the morning, depending on how you see it - after picking up my mom and cousin who had just arrived in town. Usually, I love late night drives. This time though, we had got up after a couple of hours of sleep and were feeling very tired - and my mom had just had a long journey and was understandably more so.

A car ahead of us was moving erratically from one lane to another with no apparent reason. After some time we got closer, and I saw that the two young men in the car were drinking out of a beer bottle. They kept on driving wildly, moving from one end of the road to the other, and suddenly coming up right near us when we tried to pass them, so that we had a couple of narrow escapes. They even moved into a different road once, and then turned right around and followed us once we'd got a little way ahead. They seemed to be deliberately baiting us.

We lost them after a few kilometres. I hope a hard knock that hurts no one else - or the police - knock some sense into them if they try such stunts again.

And if any of you ever drink and drive - please don't. It's not fun. It's just idiotic.

Friday, July 10, 2009

No, You're Not My Friend

I get a ‘friend request’ on Facebook.
No, you’re not my friend.
What made you think you were?
Just because you knew me by sight
All those years ago?
Yeah, I had a crush on you.
That’s why I used to hang around your class.

Though I didn’t think you’d ever noticed.
You used to speak to my friend sometimes.
But never to me. Ah, yes.
Once, you gave me a smile.
I was on cloud nine for days after that.

But so what? We never spoke.
I don't think you even knew my name.
What makes you think we can be friends?
What makes you think I want to know how you are
Or how good you are at some word game?

I have moved on. Grown up, you know.
I don’t care to know you any more.
Oh yeah, back then, I would have jumped high
If you had asked me to be your ‘friend’.
But that isn’t me, the me of today.

I wouldn’t like you if I saw you as you were then.
I mean – that haircut, were you serious?
And that leather jacket. Ahem.
And you weren’t even all that smart.
Look at who you had for a girlfriend.

I’m much smarter. Maybe you are too.
But I don’t care to find out.
Maybe I’ll ‘accept’, for the sake of my teenage self.
Or maybe I’ll ignore, so as not to seem rude
But I don’t need you in my life, you know.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Fiction: The Crescent Moon

The moon is a crescent today with a halo around it. Larger than I have ever seen it before, it hangs just between two buildings. I want to call you, to tell you how it’s like sitting here on the familiar garden swing, gazing at the moon, the smell of jasmine pervading my senses. We had sat together on that bench nearby so often. Often you had stood by while I took my turn on the swing. We had spent so many beautiful summer evenings here, talking till late in the night, wondering at how starlight or moonlight touched the leaves to make them gleam, how the night turned the small park in our colony into a magical land.

It is just such a magical night today. Or it would have been, if you were here.

I reach into my pocket for my phone but draw my hand away without taking it out. You are on your honeymoon, and I shouldn’t disturb you. You did tell me I could call any time, but I am not sure Saakshi would like it. I like you too much to want to cause any disturbance in your domestic life.

I like you too much.

I wonder sometimes, if I should have spoken. If things would have been different if I had spoken instead of Saakshi.

After all, you and I were best friends. You used to say you love me more than anyone else in the world. Even after you started going out with Saakshi. Do you remember, that day at the mall when Saakshi had asked you to get her chocolates? When you returned, you pushed the box towards me, asking me to take my pick first. I did not dare look at Saakshi then. I wanted to refuse, but that would only prolong the awkwardness, so I hurriedly picked one and gave the box to her. But later, I looked back on that moment with a fierce triumph that you had chosen me over her.

But you didn’t choose me over her, did you? You choose her. You said you loved me best. You said I understand you in a way that she never could. You came to me when you fought with her. You cried on my shoulder in pain that day, anguished at the way she had treated you. You even came to me when you didn’t get the promotion you had expected, instead of going to her, and you did not even answer her calls while she was frantic with worry.

You chose to marry her, not me. Even though you said I was the smartest person you knew. Even though you said I was beautiful. Even though you hugged me, right before leaving for your honeymoon, as if you would never let me go.

You did let me go. And you went off with your wife.

You may not have known how I felt. But you did choose to marry her.

I get up from the swing and turn my back to the moon to walk back to my house. For the first time in months, I walk past your building without looking up at the flat where you used to live. Tomorrow I’ll walk into the office where we worked together and not glance at what used to be your desk as I walk by. A girl sits there now, a very nice girl called Shahnaz – we have coffee together sometimes. From now on that is Shahnaz’s desk, not yours.

Before stepping inside my building, I turn to take one more look at the moon that has shown me the light today.

On "The Middleman"

The Middleman is a book written in the 70's by a renowned Bangla writer, Sankar (Mani Sankar Mukherji). It was made into the movie Jana Aranya by no less than Satyajit Ray himself. The English edition was published this year. The book has been translated by Arunava Sinha.

If you recollect, we had picked up the book on Chandrahas's recommendation. Here is what I thought of it.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Visiting Friends

Effe and the Man-Friend have the most delightful house. You can sit at the dining table and look out at the clouds passing by. The weather is amazing, and a cool breeze blows softly through the window. We spent hours just sitting and talking.

There are few people I consider family: it was inexpressibly nice to spend time with some of them. Especially when there was no hurry of things to do, when we had left all our worries behind at home.

Of all the memories I have of this long weekend, more than the partying and all the eating and drinking and shopping and driving around, I cherish those long hours we spent in their home, talking.

And just before we left, we looked out of the window and saw rainbows. One bright arch, and a faint one above it. Much the same as last time.

I suppose it was the city's way of saying goodbye.

The picture isn't very clear and the rainbows were fading by the time it was taken.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Here's what I thought of the movie.

Jeans Aren't Banned!

I never thought I would praise Mayawati, but here it is: her government removed the ban on jeans in certain colleges in Kanpur.

Sanity has been prevailing in the Indian state lately.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Filling out Forms

I hate most forms. I hate them because they try to club you into categories and file you away. I hate them because they usually ask for "Father's/Husband's Name" and rarely for the name of your wife or mother -would it hurt to write "parent" and "spouse", if they do need to know? I hate that it's usually mandatory to fill out surnames, and sometimes middle names as well. (My telecom service provider used the Guy's first name to give me a middle initial, even though I don't use his last name. A friend described how he started using a last name, even though he didn't have one, because it needs to be filled in on forms.)

I hate that they ask you for your religion. And that "atheist" is not an option.

They seem so inhuman, these forms. So unreasonable. So unable to grasp that people don't come in little colour-coded boxes.

But I hadn't really thought about what a transgender person faces. I read this and shuddered.

A Happy Day

This makes me want to go out and dance in the streets.

To Women Who Think about Changing their Names after Marriage

You know how I think on the issue of a woman changing her last name after she gets married.

To those who have changed last names: I understand. I do. I know it's difficult, and this may seem like a small battle, one that's not worth fighting. Yet, each time one of you makes the change, I feel slightly let down.

There are those who change both names. I knew this happens in certain communities, but thought it was an anachronistic, outdated ritual, perhaps followed by a few backward families. It seems I was wrong. For those of you who do this, who walk through this fire of ritual sacrifice to emerge with a new name, I feel pity. But I also feel outrage.*

I know I had it easy. The Guy didn't want me to change my name: my in-laws didn't either. My mom was pleased that I chose to keep mine. I know it's difficult to fight a battle with the ones closest to you.

A group of friends discussed this a few days ago. All of us, except one, were of the same view. This friend feels we shouldn't judge what is someone's personal decision, that it doesn't matter what name you choose to be called by. It shouldn't, in an ideal world. But in an ideal world you wouldn't only ever hear of women changing their names after marriage. In an ideal world, you shouldn't need to change your name, because your name would only be an identifier, not an indicator of your marital status or which household you belonged to, or of your caste or your religion or your race.

The Guy's brother-in-law spoke up to tell us a story that left me feeling proud that I was related to him. He talked about their struggle to give their son his wife's name, about the obstinacy of forms and procedures and a doctor who said he couldn't help as they had never come across such a case before. (I wonder what he'll say to the next person who has the same request.)

He said we have to be the change. That we have to break the cycle of tradition.

Unless enough of us are known as Ms Anylastname rather than Mrs Husbandslastname, until it's common for people in one family to have different names, until there is one less example in favour of "Oh, but your (sister/sister-in-law/cousin/friend) changed hers" and one more for "Oh, but she didn't change hers"; society isn't going to change, and nor are forms and procedures.

If your name isn't important, why change it? And if it is, why change it?

*I wondered why these people who want the wife/daughter-in-law's name to begin with a particular letter, don't search for a girl with such a name to begin with. I realised it's probably more difficult to find a girl with a name they consider acceptable than to get the girl they choose to change her name.