A Woman Has No Home and No Surname

We are made to feel like an eternal Diaspora

Richa Bhattarai


A woman has no home, and no surname.”

During my adolescence, anytime I came upon this miserable proverb, my cheeks reddened in anger. What utter nonsense, I muttered under my breath. One of those degrading idioms that have survived the years, and which sexists continue to use with much relish — that was pretty much what I thought of it.

Until, last year, a colleague of mine — an independent working woman and a proud mother of one — repeated it verbatim. “Don’t say that!” I immediately retaliated. “It feels so… so… old-fashioned.”

“And true,” she smiled. We let it go at that.

The month before, I was filling out a form, a regular one which asked for my birth date and parents’ names. I came to the part that demanded my permanent address. Here I paused. Before this, I had always dutifully filled out ‘Damak-1, Jhapa’ in this blank space. Not because I was born there, but because it is my father’s permanent address. I always felt this was somewhat unfair to Dhankuta, which is actually my birthplace, and also my mother’s. But no, there would be a dozen questions asked if I wrote it in, because my citizenship certificate, of course, insists that Damak is what it ought to be. Not that I have any animosity towards the place, just that I newly realized how we were supposed to be wherever our fathers were.