Oh My Aunt!

I love the English language unabashedly, almost as much as I love my mother tongue, Hindi.

I think as fluently in English as I do in Hindi. I speak it fluently and write it better. Someone once asked my mother very seriously if she laughed in English. She solemnly told him that she certainly did. I hope that kind of tells you where I am coming from.

Do I love the language because my mother loved it? Perhaps. Or it could be because the language has been the biggest enabler in my life. I have met people all over the world- in the pages of the books they have written, the songs they have sung and in their interactions in the digitized world. I have even learned the wisdom of my own culture because of this language. This last doesn’t make me too happy, but truth will out.

Its rules are irksome; it is true. But like the loud, eye- assaulting waistcoat of a beloved, impossibly rich, childless uncle, boasting a mate whose headgear would make you jump happily in front of a speeding train, you accept them as your own. The rules are annoying, but they belong to you. Just like the aunt and uncle.

Accepting the odiously confusing rules is all very well. I must, however, emphatically draw the line on the aunt- or uncle. Eccentricity of apparel is one thing; but this is mere abuse!

If you are feeling a tad sand- bagged at this sudden veering away of topic, hang in there. It’ll come together in season. Trust me.

It is time, I thought to myself, that a strongly worded protest was let lose on the community. Here goes, therefore.

Why is English so unimaginative when it comes to describing relationships? Everybody and their aunt dog is an aunt. All progeny of said aunt( s) are cousins- male and female alike. I suppose we should be grateful all uncles are not called aunts too..! Thank you for your mercies Lord..!

In India, we have different flavors of aunts and uncles. If you are my mother’s brother, you called one thing. If you are my father’s brother, I’ll have to ask you if you were older than my father or younger before I identify the name of your relationship with me. My mother’s sisters are a different flavor of aunt from my father’s sisters.

Every ‘in-law’ spouse of my differently flavored aunt and uncle also has a distinct relationship with me. There will never be a confusion between my maternal grandparents and the paternal ones. Each of them have their own distinct place. All my cousins can bask in their own private bit of sunshine. I wonder if it is because India is a sunny land. Hmmm….

In English though, you have this very messy pot in which you throw in all flavors of aunts making them virtually indistinguishable from each other. The uncles languish in another sullenly bubbling vat. As for cousins, don’t let us even go there. The gruesomeness would just put me off my food for years.

I’ve never been a fan of ‘one size fits all’. How dull it is… how boring… how perfectly TAME! I wouldn’t at all be exaggerating if I told you with my customary candor that I find the thing obnoxiously offensive. Give us a bit of respect here. Give an unambiguous name to our relationship. Let us, I beg, have some dignity.

Don’t lump us all together and call us aunt!

Picture from Google Images
Picture from Google Images
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14 thoughts on “Oh My Aunt!”

  1. Hello Dagny Auntie!!!
    I think English is inferior compared to pretty much any Indian language(though I don’t want to make any claim about Dravidian Languages, but I am pretty sure English has got nothing on them). Though I might say Hindi is infinitely inferior to its mother Sanskrit. The pure structural integrity of the Sanskrit and its succinctness make is at par with well designed computer languages and as beautiful as Latin and Ancient Greek. It is one of the language which was designed compared to rest of them which grew out of chaos. But, human beings are always attracted to easier and simpler things Sanskrit is one of the toughest languages to master and that is why it never became mainstream and not to mention the upper priest class and royalties were super assholes never to teach it to masses. Also the language has very little tolerance for “Tatsam” compared to more successful of its progenies like Hindi etc. and same goes for English, it thrives on loaning words from pretty much everywhere. Whether or not it is a good thing that Hindi is highly customizable and flexible is debatable. I am a Hindi Nazi and I totally dislike use of Tatsam words except when they are from Sanksrit, which let’s face it is the only source of true Tatbhav words for hindi. One of the biggest drawback of Hindi is poorly defined genders, which only and repeat only native speakers from UP and MP would get right most of the time, others would always struggle with it. Even Biharis sometimes mess up with assigning gender to objects, which is not wrong per se but wont form a part of standard hindi writing. Even German and Romance Languages have no set rules for Gender assignment to objects, but atleast they are consistent. Hindi gender assignments are super silly.

    1. I intensely dislike tatsam words adopted from anywhere except from Sanskrit. Specially when writing, I also dislike borrowing words from other languages- like English or Urdu. The downside is that without Urdu words- which have become an intrinsic part of the vernacular, Hindi sounds contrived, formal and pompous. Of all things, I hate that the most. Not that it becomes formal… but that people think it has become formal.

      Sanskrit is indeed a mathematically exact language. I am amazed at the minds of Vedic scholars who devised the language.

      Gender assignments to inanimate objects are indeed silly. I wonder which genius thought those ones up. The illogical rules of English sound like amateur stuff compared to the absolutely impossible rules of gender assignments in Hindi. They come easily to us because we are from the ‘Hindi Belt’. But for others it is a labyrinth.

      1. Do tell! As the Tamilian in Delhi I suffered 🙂 Btw, as far as genders go I think Tamil is better than Hindi – in that there are three verb and pronoun forms – masculine, feminine and objects. In other words, where English does with one verb form for all – he went, she went, it went – Tamil has one verb form each for He, She and It (and also does hv equivalent pronouns for He, She and It) thereby getting rid of the need to assign gender to objects on a case-by-case basis.

        Where Tamil is a killer is in phonemes – You have the same alphabet pronounced differently depending on the word -and THAT you can learn only by trial-and-error. The funny thing is even most Tamilians mess up with it 🙂 Also, Tamil does not have some phonemes at all – the second Kha, gha etc. for example which puts a Tamilian at a disadvantage when he learns Hindi at a later date. The number of times I hv got laughed at for saying kana instead of khana! And I still cannot manage it simply becos I never have uttered those sounds till I shifted to Delhi at age 25.

        1. All languages have their own idiosyncrasies I guess. 😀 I SO know what you mean by the whole kana/ khana thing. The upside is, it gives us many a hilarious moments of innocent fun. Aren’t you glad India has so very many languages?

        2. you know I really want to learn Tamil because I believe(without any prior knowledge or understanding) that it is one of the greatest language in existence. Given it is still in use despite being much much older than almost all languages. That being said I have a buttloads of Tamil friend(no some of them are Telgu but pretending to be Tamil, LOL) they never teach me anything they suspect my lack of commitment. Would you take me as you disciple?

      2. Dangy auntie,
        We are alike in a lot of senses. For example my dad has done his Masters in English Literature and he can quote likes of Chaucer and Yeats by page number in his books. We have few trunk full of these books from all the Classic English Literature. By age of 12, I knew name of more author and books than most adult would know. The funny part is that he started English when he started his graduation, and until then he was a Hindi medium student. I used to like Kabir and later Munshijee, but he used to talk about Nirala all the time. Only few years back, I realized that Nirala is like a god of Hindi writing, with one of the toughest vocabulary and expressions. He also used to mention about Jai Shankar Prashad, who wrote Kamayani. Now Jai Shankar Prashad is one totally unknown authors to the most people, but I recently saw some of his writings and Oh MY God!!!! he is one of the most Nazi Hindi writer of all times. His language is most “pranjal” it can ever get. I don’t pride myself in anything but knowledge of the Hindi language, however after reading few lines from his poems, I was embarrassed by the fact that I know nothing. Alhough my mom is not very Educated but her hindi vocabulary is pedantic, she will pull out words from her quiver, which I have never ever heard before and even at this age. She is still one of those people who would refuse to use words like “cotton” or “soap” or name of other common things which we will never say in Hindi. And lastly I always and without fail always was a favourite student of all my Hindi and Sanskrit teachers and lucky to be taught by one of the most awesome Hindi and Sanskrit teachers ever. I would stop now, enough of tell-a-tale of my life, seems like I am becoming one of those veterans who tell war stories, lol.


        1. Anuz Beta,

          I must research Jai Shankar Prasad. 😛 I too haven’t read him.

          My favorite Hindi poet is Neeraj. His poetry moves me to tears. I like Nirala too… and Dushyant and Bachchan. But the way I connect with Neeraj is outstanding. And then there is Gulzar… but he is an Urdu poet. Yet, his words also make a home within my consciousness.

          I’d love to meet your parents. When are you getting married? You’d better invite me for the wedding or I’d be absolutely livid with you. 😀

          You do sound like a war veteran… but I LOVE your stories. I always have… and you know it.

          Love to you too bachha.

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