I had just got home from work when my daughter Akshara came to me with a question. With Akshara, if she goes straight to the question, it usually is, “Can I watch TV?”, “Can I have a packet of chips?”…something straight forward. But if she does a lot of explaining before she gets to her question, it means she has something complicated. Fortunately for me, she seldom brings those complicated questions my way. They are mostly taken to my wife.
Her question this time was –
Akshara - Papa, my name has your name ‘Narendra’ in it. Why is it papa?Me – Because, papa loves Akshara. That’s why (Wow.. beautiful answer isn’t it J)
Akshara – ok. Mommy’s and Anishs’ name also has your name. So you love them too.Me – Yes, that is correct. I love you all!
Akshara – But we too love you papa.Me – I know (With a big smile. But deep inside I knew she was going somewhere with this question. And worst, my wife was nowhere to be seen.)
Akshara – Then why don’t you have our names in your name?Why don’t I have my wife and kids name in my name? I had never thought about that.
Why should a wife take husbands name or husbands family name? Why should the kids take the fathers’ name and not the mothers’ name? I thought of explaining to her that the normal convention is to have father’s name or husband’s name as the middle name. But this does not really answer her question.
I hoped my wife would come and I can deflect the question to her but she was nowhere in sight. I stood there thinking, as Akshara waited for me to say something. But there was nothing I could say. Someone had come up with this naming convention and I was blindly following it.
My mind drifted as I thought of an answer for her question. Why do they drive on the left side of the road in India and right side of the road in America? Why should the traffic light always be Red, Yellow and Green? What is the logic behind all these conventions?
I was still thinking when Akshara asked “Did mommy suggest my name?”
Me – Yes (with a big relief. I was almost shoutingJ )Me - Mommy suggested your name (I had not lied. My wife had picked the name Akshara. I was just not getting into the specifics of middle name and last nameJ)
Akshara – oh, so mommy named me Akshara. (She sounded like she got the answer she was looking for)Me – Yes, mommy named you Akshara.
Akshara stood there for a few more moments.
Akshara – Why do you have your papa’s name in your name? (She asked this slowly. So I don’t think she actually had this question in her mind).
Now that was an easy one. All I had to do was to bring my mommy into the discussion :)
Me – Maybe because my mommy suggested my name. You should ask that question to Ajji (Ajji means grandmother in Marathi).
Akshara – Ok papa (and she ran off to her room).
It did not feel good watching her run back to her room. I had not given her the right answer and I had only dodged the question. But in doing so, I had learnt a valuable lesson. Next time, if I don’t know the answer to her question, I should simply refer her to her mommy. This is not just because mommy’s always have answers to all the kids’ questions but also because the kids know that Mommy knows all!
~Narendra V Joshi