Sometimes, you chug along on your life, unaware (or deliberately non-conscious) of the fact that you age every day, along with the world, and to the rest of it, until there is a moment of reckoning.
Was herding mine and brother's kids in a park near my parents' house weekend before last, as they were making a huge racket at home. The kids were roaming around and playing. This park (a vast one with hundreds of trees) is close to a few colleges around and frequented by those who need a timeout from their classes or a rendezvous point for young pairs to nestle in the relative obscurity of the boulders and trees. I was watching the kids, sitting on a bench and opposite me were a group of college girls (maybe doing their PUC) cackling away loudly and having a good time.
As I got up and started to walk back home past the chattering girls, one of them called out, "Uncle, can you please take a photo of us?". Uncle? Me? Ouch!!! I did the honours for them, smiling. It is not that I was not called an uncle before, or I felt anything wrong with that or offended, but it was probably never by a college student and that felt a bit strange. Kids (relatives / neighbors) call me by the various flavours of uncle (chiththappa (chikkappa), periyappa (doddappa), Ram mama, uncle etc), but they are 'kids' and I happily oblige them. Today's youth are so 'in your face'. :-) Reported to Señora on this and she had fun, taunting me. This was Newton's third law at work because of my mirth on a similar 'Aunty' episode earlier. :-)
I was just wondering how I may have requested someone in such a situation, in my past or even now. Maybe, I'd have started the conversation with an "Excuse me" and then requested for taking a photo without referring to any name, gender or a relationship, irrespective of their age. Or, could have used the words, "Sir" or "Ma'am" to start the conversation. In all probability, I think it would have been the first one and that is what I recollect of my trysts with strangers of all ages. A gender agnostic, non relation-referring, straight request for some activity to be performed.
An interesting behavior is reflected by 'la Niña', to an extreme, who refuses to call her aunt (my sister-in-law) as 'periyamma' in spite of cajoling by all, with goodies or even large monetary inducement (1000 rupees!), multiple times. No clue why she does that. If she wants (or has) to talk to her, it is a 'relation indifferent' conversation with no mention whatsoever of the term 'periyamma' and references to my sister-in-law to others would be as '[her cousins' name] Amma' (like "D's Amma"). This generation kids are stubborn, damn stubborn. :-) My nephew/niece calls us chiththappa/chiththi, a dozen times in a minute. :-)
Hmmm... Kids are kids to us (parents), even if they grow up tall.