“Tum nahin aaoge, really?” (“You won’t come, really?”) I asked him in an exasperated tone. It was my aunt’s 25th wedding anniversary celebration and I was on a call with my fiancé. We belonged to two different cities and he was saying ‘no’ to a golden opportunity to meet up because ‘he couldn’t get away from work’! To say I was upset would be an understatement. “We will talk later”, I hung up without hearing him say goodbye.
My mother, who was within hearing range, approached me. I knew I was up for a lecture. Before she could start, I began my tirade, “Mom! Don’t take Aakrit’s side. Maybe in your time you were not allowed to meet before marriage but it’s not so now. We don’t just accept everything thrown our way,” my poor mom became the unintended recipient of my lingering anger.
“Of course Aakrit ji must come, courtship days are magical.” Like all old-fashioned ladkiwale’s (bride’s side of the family) my mother would add ‘ji’ for my fiancé even though Aakrit was nearly 25 years younger to her. She had always been a stickler of traditions. “Call him, he needs a small dose of how to make your girl happy from people of our age,” she said and winked at me.
I went and hugged her and apologised for my rude behaviour. She hugged me back with a generosity which comes so easily to that generation and then she drew me close and whispered in my ears, “If only I could tell you of all the ways we met despite being under a pallu (covering the head with one end of the sari is called ‘pallu’) and not having a phone or this so called internet of yours”. And just like that my lovable, tiny-framed ma melted all my anger with her sweet, naughty tales and love. I lay my head on her lap and she began gently massaging my temples.
“But you know what I would have said to him?” I looked her in the eye. “Aap* nahin aayenge? instead of tum. That’s all”. I held her thin hands and told her that I understood where she was coming from, but how our generation was different. And that Aakrit would burst into a fit of laughter if I called him aap. That tum, for us signified closeness.
“Try it once, Taniya”, she said with an equally sweet smile. “Times may have changed but respecting one another is timeless, isn’t it? Now everything is all sweet and may God let it be this way, but in future when you two do fight try doing it with aap.”
This line left an impression and in the very next call, I discussed it with Aakrit. My fiancé being the firebrand equal he is, wanted to call me aap too. Within a week we had moved to addressing each other as aap and tum became a thing of the past.
It has been over six months since then. We have had our tiffs and differences, we have had our share of sarcasm and screaming, some small, some serious, and I am sure we will have more of those famous fights where partners actually go to sleep without resolving an issue. But, not once, in these months have we addressed each other as tum.
The moment we say aap, the aggression drops…like it’s on an automated mode. Perhaps because we always use aap as a sign of respect. And I find yelling very difficult if I have to refer to him as aap while at it. For that one moment that it takes to lisp aap, something changes psychologically, the tone becomes gentler, the eye expression changes, even the body language softens…maybe it is hardwired within us. I had heard about the power of words to soothe, I swear by aap, it’s a touchstone.
Don’t believe me? Try screaming at your partner while using aap…
*Aap is ‘You’ in Hindi, used formally and denotes respect for the person addressed thus. ‘Tum’, also ‘You’, denotes an informal, friendly manner of addressing, but is also a sign of being casual, and therefore, not serious or respectful.
(As Told To Raksha Bharadia)