When Aakash Mishra was cycling from Chennai to Bengaluru in 2015, a strange thought struck him. Did his name reflect who he was? “Aakash means sky and freedom. That is apt for me,” the 25-year-old author and climate activist told Re:Set. However, his last name ‘Mishra’ was never a part of his identity. “Mishra is my father’s last name and my father left us when I was young,” he said. “Even when he was around, he was abusive.”
Aakash also wanted to change his last name for the caste location and undue privilege it exhibits. “Caste is only another thing that divides us,” he said. This was also one of the reasons for him to not accept his mother’s maiden name ‘Shukla.’ “[It] is also what she inherited from her father and he was not a good man either.”
Upon introspection, he realized that throughout his life, his identity has been linked to his mother — Rani, who raised him single handedly. “From childhood, everyone would call me Rani ka beta,” (Rani’s son). And so came about Aakash Ranison.
“I was considered a burden in my grandparents’ house.”
Ranison had a turbulent childhood. From a young age, he witnessed domestic abuse inflicted on his mother by his father. Despite repeated second chances and reconciliation attempts, his father refused to mend his ways. “Fighting against outsiders is easy, but fighting with someone who lives in the same house is not,” he reflected.
In his early teens, his parents separated and he moved in with his maternal grandparents along with his mother. However, he wasn’t entirely welcome there as well. “I was considered a burden in my grandparents’ house,” Ranison told Re:Set. Though his grandmother was supportive, his grandfather only held his mother back further.
“This was my mother’s second marriage.” She lost her first husband and went on to marry Aakash’s father. “My grandfather didn’t like that after getting his daughter married twice, she was still at home,” he said. Despite obstacles from her family and ex-husband, Rani managed to raise her son with the meagre salary she earned from being an attendant at a jewelry store.
Watching his mother overcome roadblocks time and again has been the motivation for Ranison. “I’m proud to be her son,” he said. She raised him with discipline and always ensured he gave everything he attempted his best shot. That is where, he said, he gets his meticulousness and drive to live a sustainable life from. Despite society’s obsession with lineage only being paternal — even with an absent father — Aakash acknowledges his mother as his only parent. “My achievements are because of how she parented me. I owe her a lot.”
As told to Vaishnavi Suresh