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Its more than just surnames!


Sujit De’s article titled “Surnames that discriminate”(ST January 5, 2016) is extremely well-intentioned. He deserves congratulation for his stand against casteism which is indeed the greatest evil plaguing the country. Unless we get rid of the medieval, dark caste system, no amount of success in attaining Mars orbit will make our nation an “elite” one. However, while appreciating Mr. De’s intentions, I differ with him as far as the issue of surname is concerned. He refers to a school mate of his bearing the surname ‘Mal’ who had to stomach insults and bitter comments because of his surname. And Mr De concludes that age-old caste system is responsible for it! Now let me cite the case of my cousins whose family bears the surname ‘Malkhandi’. My cousins also had to face unfathomable taunts and abuses during their school days because of their surname. Now comes the punch line — My cousins are Brahmins, residing in the highest echelon of the laggard caste system! So it can be easily concluded that mocking certain persons by exploiting their surname has no relationship with the caste system. Brahmins to Dalits — all can be made objects of jokes if they have uncommon surnames.

Actually all depends upon the mindset of individuals. People who are evil in nature will abuse anybody by exploiting any peculiarities. An office colleague of mine reside in a village named ‘Kelomal’. Often many persons make fun of him by exploiting the name of his village. During my childhood days in Bihar, the Hindi-speakers used to mock at Bengali words and expressions. So people should learn to rise above such narrow mindset of humiliating others. Why is a mere surname being made a scapegoat? Mr.De also states that surname fans nepotism. Yes, but linguistic, provincial and religious identities also give birth to all forms of biases, prejudices and favouritism. Now will Mr De demand that henceforth, people have to hide their religious or ethnic identities as well? Will we identify ourselves as Mr Sky Blue or Ms. Rose Fragrance? Again the mindset of people is the only factor.

Those who believe in humanity will never favour or discriminate against another based on his/her surname, region, religion, language or nationality. And those who possess divisive ideology will continue to remain biased even with/without usage of surname. So the urgent need arises to strictly ensure that all appointments or interviews be conducted in a neutral and transparent way. Mr De has also taken up cudgels on behalf of the brides who have to change their surnames due to patriarchal demands of the husband’s family. There are innumerable couples who lead extremely happy cordial marital lives even though the wife has discarded her paternal surname post marriage. Equally there are several couples who are always at loggerheads with each other and have extremely violent relationships even though the wife has retained her original surname! Marriage is ideally a noble holy relationship where the couple is expected to traverse the path of life together through mutual affection and sacrifice. Change of surname, or status quo regarding it are absolutely immaterial. I am sure Mr De will continue to fight against casteism and try to eradicate this evil system from the soil of India. But he should redirect his energy and time in a more constructive and purposeful way instead of dwelling merely on surnames.

Yours etc.,

Kajal Chatterjee,

Kolkata -114

MRP now Minimum retail price


For the past few years, there is an illegal act that has been trending. This illegal act has changed the expanded meaning of ‘MRP’. MRP which actually stands for Maximum Retail Price now stands for Minimum Retail Price. In quite a few shops, the shopkeepers sell products at a rate exceeding the MRP. The other day I had gone to Jail Road to purchase a packet of ‘Megha Milk’. I handed over Rs. 22 to the shopkeeper, which is the MRP marked by the company. He told me that a packet of milk is worth Rs 24.

When I pointed out the print on the packet, I got an unexpected reply. He said, “Yahan me MRP nahin chalta. Lena hai to lo nahin to jao” (MRP system does not work here. If you want to take, then take, otherwise go). In tourist spots, the local vendors charge double the MRP of a particular product. The tourists, not wanting to spoil their family-fun are forced to buy these products. What about the common-man? Is he going to face this problem forever or is there going to be a stop? The concerned authorities should keep a check on such acts and take action against the people who are pioneers in such acts. Sometimes, even the concerned officials are involved in such acts by taking bribes to keep quiet. If these problems go unchecked, it will just be a reflection of the government’s true face.

Yours etc.,

Pratham Sharma,

Via email

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