lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Friday, February 03, 2006

You can call me madam, young man!

Living in Calcutta, well, living in India, one gets used to being everybody's aunt or sister. Indians feel uncomfortable calling their seniors by name alone and feel they need to attach an honorific.

A mature woman can't escape being a total stranger's aunt in India.

My son's friends all call me auntie, I don't mind that. They are being polite as they were taught. My son addresses his friends' mothers auntie, too; he picked that up from his friends. Fair enough.

But shopkeepers, hawkers, bank staff... the list is endless, they all address me as didi. I grit my teeth and put up with it. I tell myself that they are being polite. But why can't hey be polite and call me missus Em or madam? Why do they have to address me as didi, auntie or worse, auntiji?

At least in up-market shops, one gets addressed as madam, but that's small consolation. I don't buy my groceries and vegetables in malls. So I remain didi to the woman who sells me eggs, vegetable-stall owners, confectioners.

I was griping about this to a friend one day. She said, "Look on the bright side. They call you didi. You would be mortified if they called you maashima." I had to agree. I'd have to face the fact that I no longer look youthful enough to merit the didi, but am looking definitely middle-aged, on top of the annoyance of being some stranger's aunt.

I wonder why the auntie is slightly more palatable than the vernacular maashima, though. :D

But I got my revenge. When the ubiquitous Eureka Forbes salesman came to extol the virtues of the latest model of vacuum cleaner that I simply must buy, and addressed me as auntie, I informed him in icy tones that he may address me as madam. And added for good measure that any faint chance I might have been interested vanished with that auntie.



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