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For years, women have been conditioned to call their husbands ‘aap,’ while they are being called ‘tu.’ Will this discrimination ever end?
One of my close friends, Mamta is married to a man who is three years younger than her. When they are in public, however, her husband, Dinesh, invariably uses the informal and slightly derogatory ‘tu‘ while addressing her. Mamta, on the other hand, only call him ‘aap,’ regardless of where they are.
Whether you like it or not, the fact remains that gender bias and sexism forms the basis of traditional Indian society.
I am not sure about the rest of the country. However, from my personal observation, I can say that in the northern part of India, most men address the women in their families in this manner. In the Hindi speaking region, (from Bihar to Rajasthan except in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh) men address all the women from their sisters and cousins to their sisters-in-law to spinster aunties as ‘tu.’ And in some cases, that is how they refer to their mothers and grandmothers as well. (I am speaking about all this from my own experience and what I have seen. It may be different for some of you.)
Interestingly, though, the men enjoy the additional privilege of addressing their wives as ‘tu’ as well. A number of Indian girls are brought up with the notion that their husbands are ‘God-like’ beings who are superior, flawless and unassailable. Thus, they must be treated with due respect. And what better than calling them ‘aap’ while talking to them.
It is my personal opinion that within the immediate family circle, one has leeway to use all sorts of appellatives. However with a stranger (wife), tcha tcha! Don’t we all call the wife a man’s equal partner and even his ‘better half’? Why then, do we have this dichotomy in speech?
At the same time, if a wife, irrespective of her education background and social status dares to replace the ‘aap’ with ‘tu,’ all hell breaks loose. She is pretty much made to walk on coals for this misdemeanour.
Honestly, this subtle undercurrent of discrimination makes me feel like women are still considered as objects completely at mercy of the men. Are women lowly creatures whose sole objective in life is to be in service of men?
Some of my female associates often tell me nonchalantly that ‘aap’ is a term of endearment and affection. They claim that it infuses a sense of apnapan (belonging). Sorry, but I absolutely refuse to buy this argument. Can we agree to disagree?
On a personal note, it was refreshing to see our family friends Mr Gera and Mr Sahay address all women as ‘aap.’ This included their own wives as well. Commendable indeed!
I don’t intend to be parochial but I have observed that the Bengalis have a very liberal and equal term ‘tumi’ for mutual interaction. Wives of the bygone era (as depicted in literature) did say ‘aapni/aap‘ while referring to their husbands. However, the men never went beyond calling their wives ‘tumi.’
I have absolutely no bones to pick with anyone for I believe in following the policy of ‘laissez-faire’ (leave you alone) every day. However, I do strongly feel that women definitely deserve a little more respect!
Picture credits: Still from Hindi TV series Anupamaa
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