I’ve grown up in a family without gender roles. When my mother worked night shifts, my father would do the cooking. They would take turns to attend our school PTAs and if mom cooked dinner, dad would do the dishes. Even our names are balanced –while my sister and I took our father’s last name, we took our mother’s name as the middle. The logic was simple–both parents have an equal part in bringing up children, so why should only the father’s name be used in their identity?
When we moved to India when I was 11, this became a problem. From the very first day, I was made to believe that I was odd. Teachers refused to acknowledge that my middle name was ‘Lata’ and they kept putting my father’s name on every document.
When I took state examinations, my forms would get rejected because of the discrepancy between my middle name and what was my father’s first name. Dad even had to come to school to request a change in records. We were questioned by everyone– somehow they believed they deserved an explanation. It really pissed my parents off. I spent the rest of my school days being labeled as the ‘strange girl with her mother’s name’.
At first, I was angry with my parents. I didn’t understand why they were making it so hard for me…why couldn’t I just be ‘normal?’ But as I grew up, I realized that they were the normal ones — that even with just my name they presented a powerful idea. They showed the world that women are in fact equal to men. They exposed how deeply patriarchy is embedded in our daily lives, and how difficult it is to break that cycle. But they stood up for what’s right and at 17 I can say that no matter how hard it gets to stand up for basic equality…I won’t give up. I’m proud to carry both of them with me in my name and I’ll relentlessly take their values forward into the world