Father/husband’s name.

There is much hoo-ha these days about bizarre new government guidelines that make women give details of their menstrual history on appraisal forms. S Mitra Kalita correctly points out in Mint that there is an equally invidious requirement that women in India constantly face on every form that they fill in: Father/husband’s name.

Kalita even spoke to an official in the labour ministry who told her that there is no law that requires such a question to be answered, but that “for 60-80-100 years blindly, we have been asking this question.” Don’t expect that to change. Inertia is a powerful beast.

The one requirement that has irritated me in forms that I’ve had to fill up in Pune and Mumbai is of “Father’s Name.” Why so? Well, in Maharashtra there is a custom of the father’s name being the middle name of a person, and the government here assumes that the custom holds across the country. So, say, if I wrote my father’s name as Cthulhu, my name would automatically go into the records as Amit Cthulhu Varma. Punjus and Bongs—I’m half of each—have no such custom, and I don’t have a middle name, but try explaining that to a ration-card officer.

Or even to Cthulhu.