Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A generation cloud and a lightning strike

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.


RS said...

Ram Uncle!!! Reminded of an incident when a cab driver took me for my husband's daughter :P (He hadnot seen him, thought I was too young to be married :P).

About your daughter refusing to call periyamma, anyday, I prefer the way she calls--amma. It took me a lot of bullying, cajoling to convince my niece against calling me 'chithi'. I prefer being called by name instead. To this day (she is 12yrs now), she calls me by name, and I am glad she does! :)

Yes, I agree completely with your last line, even to our parents, kids are kids, even when we are married and have our own kids :)

PS: Just read your reply to one of my earlier comment. Have been caught up with work, hectic work at that. Will be back after April.

Swaram said...

I think 'Excuse Me' sounds better too!
My niece, who used to call me by name started calling me aunty after I got married Boohoohoo :(

My cousin calls my father Daddy as we address him that way. Nothing can change that for her ;)

A journey called Life said...

Ohh I know how that must have felt.. Its ok when kids address us as 'maama, maami' etc, but grown up ones doing it- 'so in the face' I agree.
Chotu calls his periappa and periamma by their names, no matter what..we have all resigned to this fact :)

zeno said...

இதுக்கு எதுக்கு இவ்வளவு feeling??? :P :D

Ramesh said...

Oh - I know exactly the feeling. The first "uncle" moment is very poignant. Great observation and post - we age in stops and spurts, not chronologically as time goes by.

Zeno is too young :)) stay that way zeno !!

RamMmm said...

@RS-That taxi driver episode was an extreme. :-D :-D Maybe you must have drunk the elixir of youth in your childhood for him to mistake you as a child!!! :-) :-)

My daughter calls her aunt as "XYZ's Amma" where XYZ is her cousin's name. Politically correct, though. It is a good way of calling someone without offending by calling relation names. My nephew/niece call us with our names tagged with chiththappa/chiththi (like Ram chiththappa) which is perfectly fine.

Kids in a certain age have no inhibitions calling parents and people similar to their parents by their name or a nick-name. :-)

RamMmm said...

@Swaram-:-) Marriage is a price to pay to getting 'more' respect. :-)

Some things become hard-wired, just like for your cousin. Hope you aren't jealous at that. :-D :-D

RamMmm said...

@AJCL-I don't have a problem even with grown ups (grown up kids) calling me uncle, only that it was sudden in this instance. :-)

His periappa/periamma would be happy to be called so by Chotu. His age is such that even if he calls you names, it will be so sweet to hear him talk.

@zeno-நான் ஒன்னும் சொல்லமாட்டேன். :-) No feelings. You get married, you'll be promoted a quantum higher by the kiddos who can 'kalaaichchify' you further.

@Ramesh-When I was born, I was an uncle. I have cousins who are as old as my mother. :-) At times, we get caught in a time-warp as you said.

R-ambam said...

tsk ... tsk ...tsk ...! Enna kodumai saravanan uncle ithu ?

R-ambam said...

Actually Someone just married was addressing me aunty because I had a kid screaming , "Mummy!" at me .
and I introduced this "Akka" to my brat ! Nallaa irunga akka :D

TheUncanny said...

uncle..uncle..uncle..[echo eppect]


chennaigirl said...

Ippo ungalukku enna prachanai - "uncle" appadinnu address pannathaa, illa antha college ponnunga ungala "uncle" nnu address pannathaaa....

RamMmm said...

@R-ambam-Just as Shrek says, "Onions have layers, ogres have layers, we both have layers!", substitute ogres with 'our society'. :-) Aunty tag comes from being married, it is indelible when you are a mom. :(

@TheUncanny-ungalukkum oru kaalam varum. :-) :-)

@chennaigirl-your second point ma'am, second point. adhu eppadi theriyaadhavangalai 'uncle'nnu koopidalaam? :-D kozhandainga or chinna pasanga koopitta OK, adhayaey periyavanga koopitta? :-) [Aanaa idhukkellaam kavalaippattaa aaguma? This post was an observation. :-D]

Uttara said...

Heh, LOL. You are right. Tis way better with Ma'am and Sir.
When we were conducting the open quiz, hordes of kids came for the school quiz part. And one tiny one crawled under the registration table and called my very pretty junior, "Aunty". The gang took hold of this and she was ragged for months :P.

I have my own moment of reckoning. Shall blog sometime

RamMmm said...

@Uttara-No Sir/Maam for me, unless the person looks far senior to me. While talking in Tamizh or Kannada, automatically can use respectful words to convey seniority/respect unlike in English where you have to tag a Mr/Ms.

And, yes, kids can put you in the most difficult of positions, easily. Poor junior of yours! :-P

Anonymous said...

This is an odd and new phenomenon. We have a lot of students who call me aunty as my husband is a professor, BUT they are horrified when my pre-teen children call them Uncle/Aunty ha ha ha ha. I guess the initiation to adulthood takes aplomb :-)


RamMmm said...

True My3. This generation doesn't want to be called by an 'aged' sounding title. (College goers don't want to be called uncle/aunty even by a toddler. They want to be called by name, and that is perfectly okay.) If you are a parent, then immediately the uncle/aunty tag holds on tight. :-) What to do? Stereotyping needs to be broken somewhere.

Venkat.. said...

Y blood? same blood :( :), thats too when young girls calling, soo much blood. kodumaikku enakku inum kalyanam koda agalainga. antha varthaiya ketutu oru nal night porum thukam pochinga.

ithula enna oru santhosamna, yam petra inbam ungalukkum :)))

RamMmm said...

:-) vaanga Venkat. Ayyo ayyo, idhai thavira vera enna naan solla. :-) :-)

Neenga nejamaana uncle aaga (adhaavadhu kalyaanam aaga) en vaazhthukkal. "Uncle"ngara vaarthai kaekka kaekka pazhagidum vidunga.