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Thursday, October 2, 2008

What’s in a last name?

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A lot, of course. In India, last name signifies religion, caste, community, place of birth, place of ancestors, hometown, occupation, and more. Among people of my generation, last name is largely irrelevant, along with any differences and preconceived notions that go along with it. That is, telling first name in introducing yourself informally is acceptable and last name is not demanded. Not so in dealing with adults outside globalized corporate world. I am constantly asked to complete my name when I introduce myself as Ashish to others, say to, government officials, shop keepers, colleagues of my dad, etc. My inability to do so in the first place and reaction of surprise show how different that idea is to world which I typically inhabit, and how important is to people outside. Not that all those demand last name are biased, yet it is important to them to completely place a face and personality to a name.
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