What's in a name!?

My maiden name used to be Patel which is pretty common for Indians from the state of Gujarat. Chances are very good that you know at least one other Patel. I say this because one of the most common questions I received before I got married and changed my last name was “Do you know so-and-so Patel?”. In all these years, I have never ever known the Patel they named.

Patel Batuaa Wristlet 2.jpg

According to trusty Wikipedia, 1 in 10 people of Indian origins in the US is a Patel! The Times of India even wrote an article back in 2015 titled Global Gujaratis: Now in 129 nations and suggested that the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” should be replaced with “keeping up with the Patels”. According to the 2010 US Census Report, there were 229.973 Patels living in the US. In fact, the name is so common that Meet the Patels had no idea! I knew there were a lot of us, but there really are a lot of us (enough to have a main stream movie called Meet The Patels).

When I married, I took my husband’s last name with is Gujarathi. Often times people are confused when I tell them this because it translates to “a person from the state of Gujarat”. They always think I am confusing their question about my last name with that of my origin. But Alas, that is not the case. At least not in my case.

Before India’s independence from the British in 1947, My husband Devang’s paternal grandmother Gee had migrated to the state of Mumbai as a bride, from her home state of Gujarat. When the British came around her new town to take census and asked her “what is your last name?” she assumed they were asking her where she is from. She replied “Gujarati” which was presumably written down with an “h” towards the end, as “Gujarathi”. And from then on, the Shahs became the Gujarathis!

I hope one of the cousins didn’t make this up to impress me.

There definitely aren’t that many Gujarathis as Patels. And in many ways, I now miss being asked if I know so-and-so Patel. In fact I’ll add, “but I used to be a patel” anytime I feel like conversing more.

Asha has recently learned how to spell her last name which is very impressive given that spelling G U J A R A T H I isn’t easy. Arjun too will ask from time to time “is Gujarathi my last name? are you a Gujarathi too?”.

When I was little, my paternal grandfather would tell me the names of his father, his grandfather, his great-grandfather, and so on, going back to 7 generations. At the time I memorized them hoping to be their safe keeper, but when he passed and I didn’t have to recite them everyday, they dissolved somewhere in my brain. I hope they are still hiding somewhere, and that my dad can help me remember them all.

I was reminded of ALL THIS as I was making a customized Batuaa wristlet for a very special couple with the last name “Patel”. They are having their first baby soon and that baby is going to carry on the Patel pedigree beautifully I am sure! Although, now I wonder if that Patel Batuaa needs a first initial because you know … there are a lot of us! = )

Chika GujarathiComment