My parents are cousins so that they have the same family name, “Podungge”. This family name is somewhat strange to Javanese people’s ears so that my family sometimes had funny stories coz of this family name. When I was a kid, realizing that this family name was very strange, I was happy to know that this family name was not put behind my name in the birth certificate so that at school, my friends only knew me as “Nurhayati”. Kids here sometimes like to play jokes on parents’ names and it can be very offensive sometimes.
One day in 1970s, I sent a letter to my cousin living in Gorontalo, North Sulawesi, and I addressed her as, “Dearest Hilma Podungge”. My mom corrected me by saying, “She is not a Podungge.” Seeing me confused, she explained that her sister—my cousin’s mother—married to a man with different family name. I was wondering why my cousin should use her father’s family name and cannot choose to use her mother’s?
When reading Saman—a novel written by Ayu Utami, a feminist writer in Indonesia—I found Ayu’s witty criticism on this family name. Shakuntala—one main character in the novel—got difficulty to arrange her documents to study abroad coz she didn’t want to fill in the family name’s column. Her bad relationship with her father made her “kill” the father. At last, to compromise, she divided her name into two; Shakun as the first name, and Tala, as the family name. “Why should my father always follow me wherever I go during all my life? Can’t I live in peace without being related to my father?” this was a question uttered by Ayu Utami via her character in the novel.
Well, as long as there is no violence to women in using this family name, I don’t find it hurtful. However, when knowing in some certain ethnic groups of Indonesia that a woman is forced to bear many babies until she can “produce “ a baby son to pass on the family name, I object very much why a child cannot choose to use the mother or the father’s family name.
Suddenly, I really appreciate my late father’s choice not to include the family name behind my name in the birth certificate. I don’t belong to my father. LOL.
PT56 13.19 250706