Thursday, March 23, 2017

What Is In a name?

 A week after my elder daughter got married, my son-in-law came to me with a query.
“ How should  I address you sir- Appa  or Mama?”. Even before I could respond he decided to call me Appa`. He continues to address me as Appa

I did not have any such problem  because my father in law had passed away 21 years before my marriage. It seems my wife was only 20 days old when he left this world. 

More interesting is the way spouses address each other. One of my friends calls his wife `Doll`. `Darling` Or `Honey` are  commonly   used by a few . Some shorten their wive`s names: Kavitha becomes  ~Cubs`, Tulse becomes `Tuls` , Sheela becomes ` Sheel ` and so on. While I can understand men wanting to shorten mouthful names like `Gnana Sundari` or `Thirupara Sundari` or ` Uma Maheshwari` etc. I wonder why they abridge single word names?  And  these shortened names are the exclusive prerogative of the husbands. No one else is supposed to use them.

When  it comes to wives addressing the husbands  - we have two distinct types. The old timers (of my generation ) were trained not to address their husbands by their names because it was considered disrespectful.  The most common form  used by this group is `En Naa!...`  equivalent to  saying `Hello..` which is how another friend`s wife addresses her husband. Other variations included `Atthan`, or `Mama`. One of my friend`s wife addresses her husband as `Saar`. Another wife started addressing her husband as `Appa` even before he  became  an Appa. It took my wife almost 20 years before she started addressing me by my name. In any  gathering to draw my attention she would `Shush..`me or use the traditional `En Naa`.
Modern day girls believe in  calling their husbands by their first names. They can be quite assertive when they call their husbands `Dei Bala` or `Dei Mani` like bosom palls address each other. Husband is no more worshipped as a `Deivam`. He is an equal partner in life. While the older generation would cringe hearing those endearing words of a  new generation girl, the younger generation  have no qualms about it.

I have a story to tell about how my name ( Rangarajan) Varadarajan became R.V.Rajan. Among my school & College friends I was known as Varada  or Varadarajan. My father used to call me `Varadu`. When I went to Calcutta as a Management Trainee in Clarion Mc Can Advertising I found the Bengalis mutilating  my name by  calling  me `Boradarajan` or `Buradarajan` as the syllable `V` is  non  existent in the Bengali language. I was horrified to realize that I was being addressed as ` king of filth`- you see the word buradha in Telugu, my mother tongue,  means filth. So I decided to shorten my name to R.V.Rajan and requested the Benagli babus to call me  simply as Rajan. Since then I built my reputation as Rajan.   Even this name got shortened to  `RV` or `RVR` in  voluntary organizations that I was associated with where there were  scores of Rajans  from different parts of the country from different communities, as members. This was ok by me. But what was not ok was when my German friends in WAN- IFRA, a newspaper organsiation  that I was associated with,  addressing me as `Rozaan` or `Razaan`. 

I had to reconcile  to this  and tell myself ` After  all, what is in a name? A rose is a rose by  whatever name you may call it!

This article appeared in the 19th-25th March,2017 issue of Adyar Times under my column `Rajan`s Random Reflections`

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