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`