Oxford dictionary defines the word ‘surname’ as a ‘hereditary name common to all members of a family.’ And in India many families can have the same surname, provided it comes down their lineage and is acceptable to them. In other words surnames are just family, caste or even trade and trait names. But certain towering personalities take their surnames to unimaginable heights and some bring it down. But bringing it down is only okay till it doesn’t start affecting the generic surname in an adverse manner.
Let us start with the father of the nation’s surname- Gandhi. I would call it one of the tallest surnames of the world. Today, Gandhi is almost a synonym for non-violence, freedom struggle and nobility. Many Gandhis may have come and gone thereafter, but this one Gandhi, the father of the nation has stood the ground; thereby raising the brand image of this surname.
Today, some contemporary and tall Gandhis, appear in certain ways, to be in ethereal sync with the father of the nation’s surname, even if they are not up there. Just as Indra and Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister of India, Sonia Gandhi the Congress President and Chairperson of the UPA and Rahul Gandhi Vice President of the Congress Party. And, so the overall brand image of surname ‘Gandhi’ deceptively conveys, as if all Gandhis are a towering personality by default. And in some way or the other guiding India, and could even be dynastical. Surname ‘Nehru’ too had a strong brand image but never got the critical mass to surge ahead, I guess.
It is typical of India, certain surnames always zoom you to certain professions, traits and banners. Just as the Khans, the three top stars of India; remind you of acting under the Bollywood banner- the famous trio of Shahrukh, Salman and Amir. But then one Khan could be known as a trouble maker that pulls down the brand image of other Khans. And, the Kapoors, who too remind you of the erstwhile number one family of Bollywood; Prithviraj and Raj Kapoor. And this is how certain brand images of certain surnames have been built.
And, then the Ambanis sounding generic to business; reminds you of Dhirubhai Ambani and his sons Mukesh and Anil now running the biggest business empire of the country. While we come to sports, Tendulkar, Gavaskar and Amarnath brothers connect you to cricket in the manner Amritraj brothers connected you to lawn tennis to name a few sportsmen.
And, I can’t move ahead unless I talk about one of India’s most famous surnames ‘Singh.’ It signifies the ruling class of India. Even the Sikhs as a community wear this famous surname. Many Rajas and erstwhile rulers have used this surname Singh and have given it a high brand image. Lord Rama too was from this clan. Some famous Singhs of India are Dr Karan Singh, Giani Zail Singh and Dr Manmohan Singh who unfortunately got reworded to Maunmohan Singh. But, then, where do we place the famous Yadav Singh involved in this huge scam in Noida.
Then you have one of the oldest and strongest surnames in the name and style of ‘Yadav.’ It originates from Lord Krishna, a Yaduvanshi and therefore considered holy. But then how does it battle the whining cry of criminals such as Pappu Yadav, Lalu Yadav and the more recent ones Shiv Kumar Yadav involved in rape crime. And the lackluster Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav who need to do much more in the stream of governance. Probably boxer Vikas Yadav and psephologist-cum-politician Yogendra Yadav bring some reprieve.
‘Modi’ was never a strong surname brand in India. But there again one towering personality like Narendra Modi has made the surname ‘Modi’ as an international brand now having being picked as number two out of thirty most performing of the world leaders.