Speechless!

“There are two sides to every relationship… Don’t trust either of them.”

That is a tagline from the movie “Speechless”.

For most of my life, I was used to leaving people speechless. Since December 2008, I am the one, mostly left speechless by circumstances.

I posted about my speechlessness on Monday and I shall refer my readers to the same post, rather than repeat myself. Some of the comments and suggestions on the post have left me speechless!

I hope that you enjoyed reading another post of the Friday Loose Bloggers’ Consortium when eleven of us post on the same topic chosen by one of us. Today’s topic has been chosen by Gaelikaa.

Please do visit Ashok, Conrad, Grannymar, Magpie11, Maria, Gaelikaa, Helen, Judy, Anu and Ginger to see ten other views on the same topic. Some of these bloggers may be preoccupied with vacations, examinations, family problems and/or romance, so be a little indulgent in case they do not post or post late.

Head Of The Household.

I was in my lungi and singlet with a hand towel thrown over my shoulder. For those of my readers who do not know what that would like like, here is a picture of a model, which is not me, with exactly the kind of clothes that I was wearing.

It was a humid morning and I was perspiring from all the work of the morning. I was cooking lunch when the door bell rang.

It was the enumerator for the latest Census exercise of India.

He took one look at me and asked “Saheb ghar mein hain kya?” translated, “is the head of the household at home?” Not one to miss the opportunity, I asked him in Hindi, yes he is and who should I say is calling on him? When he said that he was the census enumerator and produced his identity card, I invited him inside, made him sit at the dining table, switched on the fan and asked him if he would like to have some water or cool drink. He gratefully asked for a glass of water but added that I should call the Sahib quickly as he had to visit a number of households for the census.

I gave him the glass of water and went upstairs, had a quick wash, put on a kurta and my glasses and came down and sat down at the dining table next to him and said let us start. At that point of time, this is how I looked but with a pair of very professorial looking glasses on too.

He knocked over the chair on which he was sitting, in his hurry to stand up and apologize for mistaking me for the domestic servant! I laughed, made him laugh too and made him comfortable again.

Having concluded the census interview, he started to apologize again and I stopped him and told him the story of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar and his clothes. “Ishwar Chandra stuck to the traditional Indian attire of his home-spun cotton Dhoti-Kurta, woven by his mother. He was once denied entry into a club by the gatekeeper as he was not dressed according to the dress code of the club. He then went back home, changed into a suit and was promptly given admission by the same gatekeeper who refused to recognize him before. At the dinner in the club, he kept on talking to his clothes and prodded them to have food. The host and the other guests at the party were bewildered and then he explained the incident with the gatekeeper. He elaborated that respect is increasingly being accorded to sartorial affairs, rather than cerebral affairs.”

The much enlightened man told me that he had never heard of Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, thanked me profusely for the story and for not taking offense at his gaffe and went on his way.

The Proper Address.

As some of my readers know, I was in Navi Mumbai, Vashi, which is a township on the mainland across from what was once known as Bombay. Navi Mumbai in Marathi, the local language, translates into English as New Bombay.

I was there to attend the thirteenth day ceremonies after the passing away of our family’s 98 year old matriarch, who was like a mother to almost all of my generation of cousins and her own children of course.

I went primarily because my two cousins and one cousin in law had come from South, for the ceremony and I wished to meet them as I had not seen any of them in about a decade.

I was amazed to find something there and this blog post is about that. My cousin’s wife called him “Yeynna”. This is the address that my mother and other women of her generation called their husbands as calling the husbands by their names was just not on. My other cousin, elder to both of us, is called by his name by his wife, who is of course not from our community. My late wife, and my sisters in law called each of us by our given name as do the girls of the third generation. My sister calls her husband by his given name.

I have been away from the South for decades and perhaps have lost touch with such formality. On reflection I find that the old form of address has all but disappeared now. No doubt due to ‘modernizing’ influences!

In Tamil Nadu, women of most communities use, Yenunga, In Kerala, Chetaa, in Karnataka, yenundre, in Andhra Pradesh, Yevandi and Maharashtra, Aaho are used to address their husbands. In the North, Sunoji is often used with some variations and in Bengal, Shunoon is used. All these forms primarily indicate “listen” or another way to draw the attention of the husband. My late mother in law, used “Listen” in English as the name for my late father in law! That was because they spoke to each other in English, even in those days! She could however never get around to calling him by his given name!

For someone who has not heard any of these forms of address for many years, hearing my cousin in law addressing her husband in the traditional form, took me down memory lane and the way we used to tease the elders for their reluctance to use the given names of their husbands. At least some traces of that old ways seems to be in existence in my generation.

In some North Indian communities, husbands too do not call their wives by their given names and use, say something like, “Ranjan Ki Maa”, meaning “Ranjan’s Mother”. This is however not the practice in the rest of India.

Are, or were there any such practices, current or in the past, in the West?