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Shuddh Shakahari Desi - "What's in a name? Everything! "

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"Shudhh Shakahari Desi" is all about you and me: my exposure and experiences with your culture, your food, your language, your music blended in a humor curry of my own hopeless attempts to become you and my struggle to evolve as the sole epitome of National Integration, as I grew up and cultivated my own self embracing all of my nation in over 15 states in India. Am hoping you will find some of yourself with a bit of me strewn in here...


Episode -10 

What's in a name? Everything!


My maiden name was Ananya Khan Bhaduri.

No, am not going to use this editorial space to launch my auto-biography or start a discourse on what secularism, racial harmony and inclusiveness should mean. I am not qualified enough to preach what in the context of today’s world is an unusual “common sense”. Do I sound paradoxical? Look around the globe and you will construe what I mean.

Back to something closer at home, easier-to-share from my personal experiences with relevance above and beyond my personal life….my maiden name! I hope in all sincerity that you will be able to connect.
Yes, I have seen many eyebrows raising at that surname, instinctively suffixed by a series of predictable questions. “Are you a Muslim? Bhaduris are supposed to be Hindus, no? Is your mother a Muslim then married to a Hindu? Oh, inter caste marriage?” On several occasions, the pre-supposed, self-assumed wise men or “Buddhijibis” as they are labelled in Bengal, have crossed social and personal boundaries to even suggest I dropped the “Khan” in my surname. “It's so misleading,” I was told. The connotation of that “Khan” was perceived to be so heavy to the myopic perspective of some literary elites that in one particular instance, my name as the Cover Girl in a Diwali edition of a popular Marathi magazine was mis-represented as “Ananya Bhaduri” sans the Khan to “avoid controversies”. On another occasion, a heated argument rose if I should cover the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Congress beat during an election campaign. These are questions, concerns and suggestions I have lived and dealt with all my life.
No, I don't follow Islam, and I have nothing for or against it or any other religion of the world. My ancestors were feudal landlords in Bengal; yes, bordering East (now Bangladesh) and West Bengal. Devotees of the supreme power of the Goddess Kali, they were bestowed with the prestigious title ‘Khan Bahadur” by a royalty few hundred years back. The family carried the legacy for several centuries, and in what I assume to be a case of “lost courage” dropped the Bahadur somewhere between the generations. Jokes apart, the original Bhaduri stayed as an extended suffix to the Khan. The Zamindari in the early half of the 20th century retained the “misleading” seal of the Khan Bhaduris unshaken by the political divide of the country. In hindsight, it is perhaps what saved us from partition. We were either on both sides or none.

I was born a Khan Bhaduri and I am a Brahmin, a believer who recites the Gayatri Mantra every morning, no matter where I wake up; in Singapore, Cape Town or London. I wear a piece of fresh cloth after a shower and seal my mouth while preparing the sacred "Onyo bhog" for Saraswati puja and other Vedic rituals at home. I truly respect the privilege to be able to do so and I don't mean to debate or even question the correctness of this right to serve rice to the Goddess. At least, not now, not here on this platform!

But, at the same time, I was also born in Kashmir, lived in Bhopal and Hyderabad, and love my Biryani and kebabs, Haleem, Sewaiyyaan, Tandoori and Mughlai cuisine. I get floored by the Luckhnawi tehzeeb, the Taj intrigues me, both Qawwali and Baul stir my soul, my Jamdanis and my Balucharis don’t care about the names that spun the loom… I am in love with my Ghazals and I dream in English and Urdu. My life is incomplete without Mirza Ghalib, Amir Khusrau and our own Gurudeb. I can't remember their faith, but I don't carry my religion beyond connections with my personal God.

For all I know, God never had a religion nor fought for it. And, if I must be the sovereign advocate of Tat Tvam Asi, I should love the Khan in my name as I did. I also loved my Bhaduri. I wish more people had such "misleading names". It's the ultimate identity of what I stand for, and I urge many more to stand up to….secular to the core, true to my faith, true to my heritage, values and bloodline.


About the Author : Ananya Mukherjee, former editor of HRM Asia, is an acclaimed writer and journalist with more than 1000 publications to her credit. Her journalistic acumen in print and television covers a whole gamut of subjects including politics, lifestyle and business. She is a passionate short story writer, columnist, avid reader, keen traveller, blogger, theatre artiste and a trained dancer. Ananya currently lives in Singapore and spearheads Internal Communications in a Multi-national Company.

Image Courtesy : Prodipto Roy.

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many many thanks

Thank you so much. Humbled.

No name calling!

Such a well articulated article. I do wish more people would be proud of being citizens of the world first, before religion, caste and creed take over. I love the way you write... your style speaks a language all its own. Kudos!

I Love this so much

I honestly think you should post this every Repulic and Independence Day to remind people what it is to be Indian. A lot of us who are far removed from the home base are perceived in different ways, but we each carry our country in our hearts.. and you articulate more beautifully than I have read in recent times my dear Noddy..



Thank you:)

Awww... Such a lovely feedback from a woman who has known me as a Khan Bhaduri. Thanks dear Big Ears... Always means so much more when family and friends encourage my modest attempts to pen my thoughts.
Much love,
Noddy ( ananya )