First, some background:
The disclosure of complete names (including so called sir names or family names)
reveal to the stranger facts about a person that
may or may not be perceived in good light.
The Indian social system was castes/class ridden
with some communities regarded as superior
to others. The caste system, although free from untouchability now, is still
an important cultural identifier.
India also has a large number of languages
which act as barriers to intermixing of people.
Due to ignorance, people have developed
fear and prejudice to communities that
speak different languages than one's own.
For example, my own name Vikas Kamat, indicates (just by name!) the following:
- Origin (approximate origin in India), Caste, Language spoken at home,
Food habits (especially whether or not I like seafood) etc.,
This is a real problem in India. When someone
asks you for a full name, you can be sure that he/she
is trying to judge you by trying to fit you in the
In the earlier part of the 20th century, some leaders
felt that this prejudice can be eliminated by
not disclosing the other names. Both upper and lower strata of the
society participated in its implementation. Many others,
however, were proud of their heritage and continue
to use all their names.
This is the primary reason
why some Indians just use initials whereas some use
the complete name.
Of course, there are some people
have simplified longer names by use of just the initials.
It is a lot easier to say or write P.T. Usha than
the full name Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha.