“Mom” and “dad” to each other

April 28, 2010


by Rashmi Talwar

NOTHING transcends geographical borders like the mom, dad, beta, baby syndrome that catches on with a long innings of a couple. I wondered who an elderly woman was addressing as “Abba” a man her own age, in Lahore till he answered “Ammi jaan…waqt par hun”.

It felt just like home merely 60 km away in Amritsar, where dad used to address mom as “Mummy” and mom vice-versa to dad as “Papa”. Now we too were doing that even before our silver wedding anniversary. It is not Lahore and Amritsar’s shared culture to be blamed for turning couples into each other’s mom-dad but a worldwide trend in marriages nearing a sterling silver.

I remember my most beautiful paternal aunt got married to a Merchant Navy guy. Exposed to countries other than “Mera Bharat Mahan” she addressed her husband “darling” and “sweetheart” as grandmother glared and we teenagers giggled. Tickled endlessly by the endearment, from Mills and Boons reading spree, we could not see the “darling” as the TDH (Tall-Dark-Handsome) but the not so familiar “sweet nothing” in Indian domestic circles surely stirred youthful longings.

A number of gifts from foreign lands kept granny mum but when a new daughter-in-law started the “darling” routine, granny mumbled her choicest expletives: “Hindustan vich reh ke, pati nu ‘darling darling’ kardi hai”. Our giggles were never ending . That was in 70s when we heard mothers call their husbands “Oh ji, Ay ji or Suno ji” and approving nods by grandmothers, till it became a hearty joke in films. Actually, schooling had changed all.

Often peer or parental nicknames either spread warmth of familiarity or turn one glacial in later life. My sister when addressed as Nane Shah felt prickly. ‘Petha’, ‘kaddu’, ‘nali cho-cho’, ‘tiddi’, ‘chiku’ ,’drum’, ‘elachi’ and ‘ghori’ were names of our tennis buddies. I felt that more often childhood names re-bonded the shared pranks but most don’t share my enthusiasm. Some even take offence over shortened names as familiarity no more fits them. So when I called my classmate, now a principal, by her short name, she boomed: “Call me Mrs Sandhu”.

However, my ‘darling’ aunt had a unique penchant for name-calling and so musical that none felt berated. A stay at her place was indeed enlightening. Early in the morning she exclaimed “Dhoop aa gayi” for the morning maid and “Raat aa gaya” for the evening servant. A vegetable and fruit vendor outside her house in the morning smiled widely when she asked him “Chor, itne din kio nahi aya?” while her grandchildren danced a merry-go-round with “chor aa gaya..chor aa gaya”. Why she called him “chor” is a long story.

However, some instances can hardly be forgiven. My husband called me by my pet Pomerian’s name: “My Guccu”. “Am I your dog now”, I retorted. “Oh my ‘Beta’, he said teasingly. Another time when I called my friend on mobile and called out “Dain” and somebody asked Seema who is “dain’, she replied: “Rashmi Honi hai…

FIRST PUBLISHED IN “THE TRIBUNE” PAGE 8 ISSUE DATED APRIL 28,2010

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Well turned out! by Rashmi Talwar

October 1, 2009

Well turned out!
by Rashmi Talwar

YOU should ‘always be well turned out,” this was the jewel of advice for appropriate appearance that my father gave me. Although the idea stuck and pushed me to take great pains at dressing up right, during my tennis career, it often took a toll on my performance!

In time, the jewel was lost, as I felt that repeating a “winning garment” during a tournament —washing only its armpit section— was the true mantra for winning! Many a winning thus rested solely on superstition. For the times it worked, my resolve only became stronger.

Years later, when I graduated to matrimony, my father’s jewel struck again. I was reprimanded often for not appearing as a newly-wed. A crackpot neighbour added fuel to the fire with his comment: “How has she been kept in the family without any jewellery?” It stung my in-laws! I escaped from the caustic remark as the entire neighbourhood considered him a crackpot.

Miscellaneous excuses. Heat, itching, rash etc helped me to shun customary bangles and my only daily accessory remained a watch, till a younger cousin advised how true dress sense plays many a trick. The shopkeeper is attentive, people flock to you, chat more openly…

I took the baggage of  “well-turned-out” with me yet again when I entered newspaper reporting. Thus, politician’s interviews were forthcoming. Dignitaries prioritised my query, refreshments arrived as I waited. Undoubtedly, it felt superb. Initially I felt like a hypocrite but later drew myself as an “expert”.

In my enthusiasm to share my good fortune from the jewel, I pushed this advice: “Look your best when you go for an interview”, I told a senior journalist on her assignment to the university.

Elated, she shored her tresses of rubber bands and went all loose-haired, smart in the hottest month of June! A few kilometres further, sweating and panting, her struggle for a lone rubber band proved futile. Fanning herself and holding her hair in a mock knot, a clerk seeing her dishevelled, promptly handed her a stapler: “This is all I have”. Surely cursing me, she stapled with the oddity!  Pulling hair over the silver staples, wishing them to be invisible to the interviewee!

At another time, on a reporting assignment in Pakistan, a fellow journalist washed her crinkly hair. In their washed state, I complimented that her hair reminded me of Bollywood actress Kangna Raunaut’s curls. Her thrill to be the actress’s look-alike was only short lived. During the Punjabi “boliyan” session when the Indian jatha jumped into bhangra mode, a cocky devotee sang: “bari barsi khatan gaya si, khat ke liyandi chhoti bhen, , mainu ki pata si oh vichon “niklegi  daain”  and pulled the “Kangna” to dance the “bhangra”.

The cutting look she gave me stays with me.

The article was first published in The Tribune’s Editorial Page no 8 on October 1,2009

URL: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20091001/edit.htm#5

All mails can be posted at Letters@tribuneindia.com— Editor-in-Chief