This appeared in Financial World on May 6, 2013.
|Graphic Courtesy: Financial World|
One of my friends - a gym-going, club-hopping woman in her mid-thirties - has the audacity to change the houseboy's name. Reason: Her husband is his namesake. "Every time I call him I would be taking the name of my husband. How can I do that?" reasoned the pativrata.
That guy should have thrust the broom into madam's face and asked her to get her 'woh' to clean up. But that's the sorry state of the less fortunates - both househelps and househeads alike.
What a pity most Indian men get shooed and cooed by the wives in the name of being respected! It's worst in public places, for respect is at most times only demonstrated.
Consider this - A wife calling her husband aji, oji, loji, sunoji...and if her man refuses to answer, she will continue to wax lyrical and add all the remaining matras in Hindi language to the 'ji', but for his name.
When push comes to shove, they will take his genetic title...Raju ke papa; Munu ke papa and Guddi ke papa in the name of bestowing respect.
But the dominating Bengali mamas will leave children aside and check on their mens hearing abilities instead. Most Bengali married men are respectfully addressed 'ei je shuncho...' (meaning aiji sunte ho [are you listening]) before being spoken to.
Similarly, Assamese women first test their mens sense organ. The common pronoun they use is Hoonisha (again the word means are you listening).
These women should be given tympanometres as dowry.
The South Indian ammas are equally funny...Malayalis, for instance, are the dramatic lot. They call their older brothers and hubbies the same - 'chetta'. Now the cats on the wall will pronounce it a bit different to say they aren't the aunty-types. Try this chetta: Tch - i -tteh. First lift your tongue to the palate, whirl your lips and thrust it out so that the 'Tch' is forced out as 'tsh' out of your mouth. Isn't it a lot easier to pronounce the man's name than this exercise? Then there's the achaya and ichaya lot. I guess brothers are the former. A or i, I can only hear chayas!
Andhraiite women are a more somber lot, at least initially. They begin their sentences - be it conversations or requests - with 'Ente' (the word actually means 'what'). Something similar to the virtual lingo of today - 'what say'. And the 'e' in the ente will be pulled harder, the longer the husbands take to acknowledge them. Entee, enteee - Why the hell can't you answer sort of eeeeeehh! No, it's not frustration, that's their way of respecting their devtas!
Gods on earth, saviour, purushottams, et al, are the various statuses bestowed on husbands by respect-howling females, who insult men folk in the name of following tradition.
I know of one such husband worshipper who crosses all limits of sanity. Another invariable fact is all such pativratas feel they are the epitome of beauty and graciousness - Ma Sita's modern avtars. As if those who pronounce the names in full come running from the wild!
This aunty-of-a-woman who claims Aishwarya Rai is lucky to have been born 20 years later than her, begins the day by touching her snoring husband's feet at 7am. Then she heads to the washroom to check the colour of her bindi. During her 'days off' she sports a huge roundish black colour between her brows and not the everyday reddish-brown stickers. This is followed by MS Subhalaxmi's 'Kausalya Suprabatham' after which she proceeds to fix a cup of coffee before waking him up. All that's left of the ritual is for her to garland him and burn an incense stick between his ears!
Even as I storm for a suitable word to define such mockeries in the name of respect, am reminded of the 'silent generation'. Have heard stories of several old grandmas of traditional Kerala homes who never appeared before the male members, not even their husbands. Can't fathom how they produced so many offsprings though! And considering that the norm then was hum-do-humare-dus, am curious about the modus operandi. At least it would help clear the numerous rape cases languishing in Indian courts today.
Well, until some sportive grandpas come forward that will remain a mystery, but at present I'm puzzled why today's men are tolerating such disrespect. All the wohs and jis and sunos must sit on a hunger strike to rewrite tradition that lets married women use all permutations of syllables to rename them at their whim.