The Proper Address.

As some of my readers know, I was in Navi Mumbai, Vashi, which is a township on the mainland across from what was once known as Bombay. Navi Mumbai in Marathi, the local language, translates into English as New Bombay.

I was there to attend the thirteenth day ceremonies after the passing away of our family’s 98 year old matriarch, who was like a mother to almost all of my generation of cousins and her own children of course.

I went primarily because my two cousins and one cousin in law had come from South, for the ceremony and I wished to meet them as I had not seen any of them in about a decade.

I was amazed to find something there and this blog post is about that. My cousin’s wife called him “Yeynna”. This is the address that my mother and other women of her generation called their husbands as calling the husbands by their names was just not on. My other cousin, elder to both of us, is called by his name by his wife, who is of course not from our community. My late wife, and my sisters in law called each of us by our given name as do the girls of the third generation. My sister calls her husband by his given name.

I have been away from the South for decades and perhaps have lost touch with such formality. On reflection I find that the old form of address has all but disappeared now. No doubt due to ‘modernizing’ influences!

In Tamil Nadu, women of most communities use, Yenunga, In Kerala, Chetaa, in Karnataka, yenundre, in Andhra Pradesh, Yevandi and Maharashtra, Aaho are used to address their husbands. In the North, Sunoji is often used with some variations and in Bengal, Shunoon is used. All these forms primarily indicate “listen” or another way to draw the attention of the husband. My late mother in law, used “Listen” in English as the name for my late father in law! That was because they spoke to each other in English, even in those days! She could however never get around to calling him by his given name!

For someone who has not heard any of these forms of address for many years, hearing my cousin in law addressing her husband in the traditional form, took me down memory lane and the way we used to tease the elders for their reluctance to use the given names of their husbands. At least some traces of that old ways seems to be in existence in my generation.

In some North Indian communities, husbands too do not call their wives by their given names and use, say something like, “Ranjan Ki Maa”, meaning “Ranjan’s Mother”. This is however not the practice in the rest of India.

Are, or were there any such practices, current or in the past, in the West?

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