I read an article recently about someone named, say, Nirupama Raghuram*. Throughout the article, the author kept saying, "Raghuram graduated from Bangalore University, Raghuram works with the poor, Raghuram likes animals..." - Hello! It is not Raghuram who likes animals, it is Nirupama! Raghuram is probably her father or her husband. And he isn't the one who works with the poor and likes animals!
Haven't you seen this often? It makes me laugh out loud. You could refer to her as Nirupama Raghuram! Or if that makes you cross the word-limit, just say Nirupama. Or is that too informal?
This problem arises mostly with South-Indian names, where the usage of surnames is not too widespread. But since the concept of surnames is catching on, most people just affix the father's name to their names. In fact, even in the above Nirupama Raghuram example, say the article was about Akshay Raghuram. Akshay is the guy, and Raghuram is his father's name. In the article, they would say, "Raghuram likes dogs", which again is not true. It is not Raghuram, but Raghuram's son Akshay who likes dogs. So, isn't there a rule in written media, about not using surnames, but the whole name?
This brings me to another thing that I have noticed. Say this Akshay Raghuram character gets married to Sahana Subbanna. Sahana wants to change her surname after her wedding. So she takes Akshay's surname, which is Raghuram. That makes her, "Sahana Raghuram". Now, Sahana is stuck with a surname which is neither her husband's name nor her father's name - but that of her father-in-law!
Of course, nowadays, many people I know simply attach their husband's name to their surname. For example, Sahana would be Sahana Akshay.
That brings me to changing surnames. Now, what is the necessity? Ok, I won't get into that argument - it is the individual's choice. But I also feel that there are some people in particular, who should not change their surnames after marriage. My sister had a friend who was doing her post-doctorate. Many of her papers were published in respected journals. Her name was, well, a known name in those circles. She was going to get married, and mentioned to my sister that she was going to change her surname. What? Asked PeeVee. And start from scratch? Building a reputation is not that easy. Why give it all up? At least use a hyphenated surname - but no, she was adamant. PeeVee gave up. She must have her reasons!
That brings us to hyphenated surnames. i.e. Sahana in the above example would be Sahana Subbanna-Raghuram. I think these are quite cool. You retain your surname, you add your husband's surname. Great. Do let me know if this results in any major hassles!
By the way, many Akshay Raghurams have got over their "Father's name as surname-not convenient" problem, by adapting the father's ancestral village as their surname. If Raghuram hails from, say, Doddakere, Akshay calls himself Akshay Doddakere. Personally, I think these sound quite nice!
Now, you might be wondering - what has Shruthi done? Retained her surname? Used S~'s surname? Used a hyphenated surname? Well. I had it easy. S~ has the same surname as mine. No, that wasn't one of the reasons I married him. It just turned out to be a bonus, though.
There are many, many more questions that remain unanswered. As to why a child should be given only the father's name, and not the mother's name. And why a husband should not take his wife's name after they get married. I leave the historians to explain that. If one of you can explain it to me, please go ahead.
Then there is the argument - why do we need a surname? We can have another name instead of a surname. We could. For example, Sahana could be Sahana Madhuri. I have heard of some people are going in for this option too. Will it catch on? Let's watch and see!
P.S. All the above statements are made on actual observation, and about my personal opinions on them. I am in no way demeaning any choice. I respect each individual's decision to do what he or she pleases.
*All names in this post are fictitious. Any resemblance to anybody living or dead is purely coincidental.