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Whats in a name?

By Fairy Dharawat


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” ― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.

The phrase by William Shakespeare says that person matters and not the name. But every name has a story, and sometimes even a legacy. Take for example your name. How did you get your name? Ask your parents and they will give you a small and in some cases a delightful story.

My name is Fairy Dharawat and I am often questioned on the unusual combination of my first and last name since few of them are unable to slot me in preconceived community which exists rampantly in our society – on each document (educational, ID, voting etc.) that Indian’s file, there is an option of stating your religion, community and in few cases you cannot proceed without filling in that option. We have a tendency to slot a person and start judging them starting from their name.

I thought to dig a little deeper for information about on my last name. After speaking to family, I gathered that we came from a small Persian (present day Iran) region residing near a stream known as Dharavi, note that Asia’s largest slum in Mumbai has the same name. The one in old Persia no longer exists – that is where the name Dharawat comes from. The period was the time of 1500 – 1600 when the Mughals were gaining power. Persia had Hindus at that time, today hardly any of them survive. The Mughals were going full throttle on converting everyone in that region to their religion and culture and those who opposed were brutally murdered. Our ancestors of 15th or 16th century fled from the war torn region only to be given refuge in Rajasthan, India; by a generous king whose name I am unable to find. Since we came from the land known as Dharavi, we are known as Dharawat.

Unearthing the mystery of my last name was fascinating. Had our ancestors not travelled to India, they would have been murdered for their religion. This brings me to the topic of why women change their last names when they marry. In the olden days women were known as property and would be forced to adopt the surname of their husband. This  is still prevalent today, it is  objectifying women, as property. Why was this tradition continued in the 21st century? There are women insisting on both names as the surname, especially where their name or family is considered important. Some famous women even refuse to change their names and stick with their maiden name. While there are instances where couples add both last names, including the husband adding women surname, although such cases are a rarity.

Your name, gives you identity, but not just something that others use to identify you. It gives you a sense of belonging to a family, a family that has history. The name in reality is but a tag, a tag by which people recognise you. You weren’t involved in the history of your family. It is quite separate and family tradition shouldn’t be used for clannish behaviour such as nepotism.

There is the need to be differentiated from the crowd, and hence celebrity parents are known to give unique names to their kids which are also sometimes unusual – North West (Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s daughter name ) And Jamie Oliver, the Celebrity Chef named all his three daughters as, Petal Blossom Rainbow Oliver, Poppy Honey Rosie Oliver, and Daisy Boo Pamela Oliver. Unique names are all the rage and every decade has a list of popular names. Movies too play an important role in naming children. In some cases, kids when they grow up, may change their name using a name changing formality; because they may feel that changing their names will be fruitful for their lives.

Your name is as personal as it is impersonal – it is used by people to identify you. But there are many cases where people feel the need to change their names, probably to start afresh or create an industry friendly name, or to stand out in a competitive industry.

My first name, Fairy,  is usual too. My parents loved the name and so do some people I communicate with by mail and email. I am now used to the occasional smiley’s and heart shaped illustrations I get when communicating through mails, be it official or any other. The combination of my first and last names does seem to be unique which makes it easier for people to search for my name on a computer or the Internet!

Do you have an unusual name? Please comment and share it with us. We won’t laugh. Honest! Please help us out by sharing this post on Facebook or even clicking ‘like’.

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