Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Honey Bunny


Also on The Huffington Post.

The ring tone of an eighties song blares in my kitchen. I wait for my maid to take her call. Oblivious of the screechy song she continues to bang vessels. When I hand over the phone, she looks at the screen and smiles coyly. The screen says, ‘Janu Calling’.

How women address their partners in private or public is an interesting way of gauging our social climate. We have come a long way from ‘Pinky ke papa’ to ‘Pumpkin’, from ‘Husband’ to ‘Honey Buns’, and from ‘Suniye ’ to ‘Snuggle Bunny’. When it comes to naming the grandson, grandpa’s writ still rules in most households, but nick naming your husband is entirely ‘Your choice’. Call him Baby or Baba, Chotu or Motu, as long as the connotations are positive, it is more about affection than gender dynamics.
Amusing how terms of endearment range from bakery items (pie, cookie, muffin) to stuffed toys (teddy, bunny, doll). And an argument at home is guaranteed if an embarrassing nick name  is divulged in a formal setting. But the best part is that the argument gets downgraded to banter if Baby and Baba are thrown in for good measure.

When it comes to public communication, most urban women are either on a first name basis or something generic on the lines of Sweety or Honey. But when the moniker for your husband is something like ‘Darling’ with the D pronounced as duh, you could be accused of faking it. Or drinking too much. This reminds me of a college friend who used to call her fiance My Man, and what followed was a slew of jokes about Her Man. Which sounds irrelevant today considering Twinkle Khanna, the columnist, addresses her husband as ‘The Man of the House’ in her columns. Well, it’s personal and all about her choice.

On a personal note, I’m not sure if it was a ‘government servant’ protocol or a norm, but back in the eighties, my mother used to refer to her friends as Mrs. X or Mrs. Y. So today when she calls her friends by their first name, it sounds a bit odd to the ear, but pleasant to the mind. Also, I don’t remember my mother taking dad’s first name. Their communication was bereft of honey bunny stuff. Thank Lord for that because as a kid I would die of embarrassment had she suffixed ‘doo-buns-pie’ in public.
One reason behind the present informality could be the lessening age gap between couples. Moreover, informal terms of affection signify a healthy relationship. Beyond all this, there is a desire to be a part of everything that is contemporary.

Equally interesting is how women save the number of their spouse on their mobile. A random survey revealed that my friends store the first name, ‘hubby’ or ‘husband’. I make it a point to suffix ‘husband’ after the first name, purely as a safety measure. In case of an unlikely abduction, the abductors should know whom to call for ransom. Point to be noted: The name stored against my number in my husband's phone is The Boss, which is annoying because the way my son and husband address me makes me feel like a merciless Don. 

Overall, this idiosyncratic communication using nicknames or first names signifies a healthy shift in a patriarchal setup. The fact that a name plate once displayed the name of the male member, now displays the first names of the residing couple is also a small but significant step. 


So I ask my house help how she addresses her husband at home. I can’t take his name, my mother-in-law disapproves, she says.

38 comments:

  1. My father has always called my mother 'Sweetheart'. And vice versa. Except, in the presence of "respectable" elders, it would sound like 'Sunita', which is her name. She, on the other hand, made no effort to mix 'sweetheart' with 'Rajive'. Your post reminded me of them. One's muted effort to do as he pleased and the other's "unabashed" #choice. :D
    You've really figured the nick-name phenomenon out. Healthy relationship, contemporary, sweet-sounding, etc.
    An endearing post, for it will make us all think of our 'honey bunnies' too. :D

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    1. So good to see you here. Sweetheart is sweet indeed.
      Thank you for stopping by Sakshi.

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  2. This was such a fun read. Like your parents, mine did not address each other by their names. In front of us, it was call mummy or call papa. My mom would say Suniye :). Thank heavens, no kitschy stuff there for us to be embarrassed about. Also, did you notice how all of your papa's friends must have called your mom, bhabhiji or Mrs. X. Now, no one does that. All of my friends and those of Gurdev's call each other by our first names. When a stray person calls me bhabhi, I do a double take. :)
    Oh yes, we all have our terms of endearments for each other. But, luckily we spare the kids or outsiders. :) I kind of like it, having our own names for each other. One funny thing is that neither G nor I call each other with the pet names that our families have given. I wonder why. Enjoyed this lighthearted post a lot!

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    1. Your thoughts are almost always mine. Our wavelengths match perhaps owing to similar family backgrounds.
      Same here. Glad you enjoyed reading it Rachna.

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  3. If life is a journey from aah men to haha men, marriage is a journey that starts with My Janu,Sonu, Monu and peters down to Abbey, Oye, Jani Dushman.

    It was such a joy reading this piece. Wonderful way to start the morning.

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    1. Ha ha, I am beyond Janu but yet to come to the Jaani Dushman stage.
      Thanks Purba.

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  4. With my parents always call each other by their names. I used to tease them asking why they don't follow conventions and say Suniye or sunti ho :-P All my friends call their husbands my their name. A colleague does save her husband’s mobile number as jaan and I remember asking her how any one was expected to reach her husband in case of emergency :-P

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    1. Sunti Ho is very rare these days. For most women, their husband is either daddy or papa.
      My dad was five years elder to my mom, so I think the age factor played a role. Plus the times.

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  5. What's in a name...some say. Well, everything, as some others may say. I personally am not the honey-bunny-sweetie-janu types...these terms are well, too much TV like, too unreal for my taste :) I prefer my own creative endearments, or best is first name, simple and direct!

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    1. Simple and direct rules as long as it's short and easy to pronounce.
      :)

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  6. Such a charming post! By the way, one of our blogger-writer friends we all know and love, stores her husband's number on her mobile as 'Delhi wala husband'. It's quite funny. But of course I shall take no names!

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    1. Seriously? I don't know who she is but it will work in case of an emergency. Ek husband to ayega.
      :)

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  7. We were both born old. Just 4 years apart and married for over a decade, he addresses me as Rex or T-Rex depending on my mood. I still haven't decided how to address him. I usually address him as 'Hello'. Yes, that's true. It is actually embarrassing when I do that in a public space with everyone staring at me with a question mark: 'Who me?'. The other way I address him irks him a lot but trust me I do it unintentionally. Guess what, I call him 'Bhaisaab'. :-P Mom still uses Malayalam version of 'Suniye ji' and Dad addresses her by her first name. We have always wondered if they were simply colleagues working in an organisation set up by God to take care of us. After all, bachhe to bhagwaan ki den hote hain. :-P

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    1. This is the comment of the day! LOL. Love Rex. It's so cute.
      And Bhai Saab? But it doesn't matter, what matters is mutual understanding and love.
      Hello works for me too.

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  8. Loved your take on this, Alka esp since it has hit home hard ;)

    I remember my mom used to address as Mrs. X and Bhai Saheb's to all their husbands. While never heard her take my dad's name. It used to be Mr. X or Sunte ho types.

    It is all our choice on how to address our better halves and yes, there are still some MIL's who do not approve of their DIL to take their husband's names. It "was" in my family too :(

    With regards to mine...I prefer nicknames and usually say the name when angry!

    xoxo

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    1. :) Good to see you here Ruchira. Not taking the name was also due to the wide age gap between couples. Plus we all change with time.

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  9. I have to find out from my maid how she has stored her husband's number! I never thought I would ever be putting this down, but I don't call the L&M by name! He is not suniye but Suno! said with great authority :D I also don't append the 'ye' while talking to him. We mostly speak Hindi at home and even when I speak in Tamil, it is in the singular. Of course belonging to the dinosaur generation, I still care about not offending elders and so give him all respect while addressing him in their presence. And for the records he doesn't address me except as Memsaab and even that has been given up these days. He says something loudly when he needs my attention and I reply him :D But Alka, the only line that really jumped at me was the last one. Shows the great divide that separates the two Indias so succinctly :(

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    1. It is so so good to see you here. So I missed the tenor part....the weight of authority behind Suno. Ha ha. It's a personal thing and between couples. I know of someone who deliberately takes the name of her husband merely to irk the elders. So we have all kinds depending on the age, class, culture, city and region. I like Memsaheb too. Its endearing.

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  10. A thoroughly enjoyable post! The big divide between urban and rural or small cities populace is evident here too, Alka:)

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  11. I have friends in their thirties who still refuse to address the husband by name! :-)

    Also, when husbands refer to wives as "usko / usne" and women say "unhone"... pfffttt, not good.

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    1. With kids it's Tumahre Papa and with friends it's Ye or Vo. A lot depends on the environment we live in. I remember Ashima that our guests in the eighties were Sharma's, Mehtas or Guptas but today we take first names. Generational change.

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  12. True! These name calling is changing for the better and there is nothing to be ashamed of it! Romance is getting out of the closed doors and I feel it's for the best!
    The names I have for my boyfriend are actually results of auto correct on my phone! Like Jaan became Japan :P and etc etc etc... Such creativity!!! :D

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    1. LOL...Japaani Janu.
      Thanks for stopping by Rupasi.

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  13. Good one, Alka.
    I don't think I've ever heard my parents address each other by anything else other than their first names. And I guess it is the same with Janaki and me ; of course, there are the 'moments' where 'romantic sort of names' appear, but yes, she is perhaps the only one who actually calls me 'Sidharth'. For the rest of the world, it's always been Sid. Except on official documents, that is.

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    1. Most couples today prefer first names unless there is a technical glitch. Like Prashant's ( my husband) sister is also Alka. So I had to be renamed.

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  14. Terra incognita for me :) I look at the mirror and just yell "Nooooooooooooo" :)

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    1. Ha ha...hope you had a good trek.

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  15. Now, ur husband don't call you, Aaji Sunti ho,'. Loove the post. I remember saving the number of former crush, Princess M, the ex-'Jaan'. Hehe! Whatever works and how can I forget the 'Babe.'

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    1. I almost died reading Aye Ji...
      Good to see you here Vishal.

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  16. Loved reading your post..Well my parents never called out each other by their first names. When we were around - if my dad was calling me for tea or a phone call that meant - Mummy is being called upon..I think now he says "Sunti hoo"
    And Mum used to say "Sun rahe hain"..
    For VT and me, we go by first names..we do have private moments of lovely dovey names, but on phone and every where we go by first names!

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    1. Glad you liked it Parul. And thank you for a little peek in your personal life.

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  17. Nice post Alka :) My mom called my husband equivalent of Suniye in Tamil and to everybody else it was .. Mere Mister or Ye :)

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    1. Thanks Asha. How couples address each other is personal but the Janu Calling incident made me pen this post.

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  18. hmmm now that i think back I never heard my mom take my dad's name .. the original OH JI, YEH JI, Inhen, :) I grew up with that , thankfully the Mobile phone stuff was not invented then so I have no idea what mom or dad would have saved each other's number with..

    Though dad always called mom with her first name :)

    Bikram's

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    1. Neither did my mom. Always good to see you on my blog Bikram.
      Thanks.

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