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I’ve never had any issues with anyone calling me ‘aunty. And I wonder what was it was about the word that annoys people so much!
The other day, my friend and I were walking in a park. While walking, a child of about three or four, riding his tricycle, called out to my friend, “Aunty please excuse me. Can I park my bike on that side?” Saying thus, he moved across us to the other side, to park his tricycle near the bushes.
My friend who usually has no problem with children scrunched her nose, screwed up her face and called out to the child, “Don’t call me aunty, I am not an aunty!” she looked indignant. The child looked confused, shrugged his shoulders and rode to the other side.
I turned to look at my friend who seemed perturbed. She continued, “Tell me, do I look like an aunty? Don’t parents teach their kids anything?”
This wasn’t the first time I’d witnessed such an incident. I have had friends tease me saying they would ask their kids, especially, to call me ‘aunty’ when they grew up. Then, they would wait for a reaction out of me. But the only reaction they got from me was ‘okay.’ Honestly, I’ve never had any issues with anyone calling me ‘aunty. And I often wondered what was it was about the word that annoys people so much!
Over the past few years, the people of my generation (kids of the ’80s and ’90s) have grown up and also have the next generation of their own. Now a lot of people seem to be taking offence to the word ‘aunty.’ Why does the word bother people so much and so easily? And why is there such a grudge against such an innocent word?
When I really got to thinking, I realised maybe it is because people have a ‘certain’ image attached to this word. As kids, any woman who was our parents’ age or older was referred to as ‘aunty,’ simply out of respect.
Most of these women were typically dressed in a traditional salwar-kameez, with oiled hair and a low bun. A round maroon bindi, sindoor adorned their forehead. They wore a magalsutra, two gold bangles in each hand, gold earrings and a nose ring to complete the whole look.
So unconsciously when we think of an ‘aunty,’ our mind conjures an image of a woman who we were so used to seeing and addressing as kids. We instinctively think of a woman who matches the above description.
Nowadays, the word ‘aunty’ has almost become synonymous with someone who is very old-fashioned, unattractive and probably a gossip queen. The 80s or 90s look of “aunties” may not be trending these days. If someone calls us ‘aunty’ we automatically think they are judging us as old-fashioned or un-cool. Maybe that is the reason why a lot of people get offended by this word.
But by taking offence to this image, are we not being intolerant towards people who even now choose to dress or behave that way? In times when we talk about being more tolerant towards everyone’s choices, where does our progressive thinking go? Especially when we remotely do not want to be associated with old-fashioned women?
The other reason could be that people think that ‘aunty’ is referred to only old people. So if someone is calling us ‘aunty’ then we are old and not young anymore. But aren’t we old enough for a small child? Also, what is wrong in ageing?
I guess people always admire women who age gracefully. The ones who accept who they are and are very confident about themselves. Why would you want to give anybody a chance to tease you or bother you about your age? You could be rocking and envy-worthy in every decade of your life.
More importantly, if one pauses and thinks what actually the relevance of the word ‘aunty’ is and why it is used, our concerns would be at bay. In a lot of Asian countries, people do not call their elders by their first or last name. It is a kind of tradition.
Culturally speaking, in the west, only relatives or people very close are referred to as aunts. However, in many parts of Asia, any woman older than you is referred to as ‘aunty.’ Because addressing an elder by their name is considered disrespectful to them.
In olden times, each place in India had its own way of addressing the elders in their local language. Like Kakisa in Rajasthan, mousi in Maharashtra, akka in Karnataka and so forth. Now, since we are globalised and more cosmopolitan, “aunty” is used almost everywhere in the country.
‘Aunty’ is just a way to address an older woman with reverence. When we were young, women had a particular manner of dressing. And today the ‘aunties’ may be dressed in tube tops or LBDs.
But should the way we dress alter the way people address us? If it is Indian culture to pay respect to elders, then why should that culture alter now, just because we have changed the way we dress?
All we need is a change in mindset. We need to let go off that image of ‘aunty’ that we have subconsciously stored in our mind and re-define it. All we need to do is remind ourselves why we call someone ‘aunty.’
What’s needed is an alteration in our thinking that ‘aunty’ is only a name given for people younger to address elders with respect. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the way you look or dress or what you do.
Picture credits: A series of ads on YouTube
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A Chartered Accountant by qualification but a writer by passion. Apeksha has authored the book '
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