Me Thinks

Monday, June 19, 2006


Some of the side-effects of growing up in a joint family are not reversible. I know it because I grew up in one. When my e(o)ldest cousin was born, he saw all the elders calling my grandmother "Amma", so he started calling her "Amma" instead of "paatti". Then his siblings were born and they called her the same way. Wonder how they differentiated between their own mother and our grand-mother! And they all called my parents "Mama" and "Mami". When I was born, all the kids were calling my parents mama-mami and I started calling my mother mami. "Mama" was not called as often as Mami, so I stuck to Mami and Appa to address my parents, much to the disappointment of my mother. Why Appa? Well, who can ever understand kids' logic!Then one of our uncles visited us and to assuage my mother, apparently, told me that Mami is actually pronounced as Mummy and that was the right way to call my mother. And that was the day I started calling her "Mummy". My brother, as expected, followed suit.
How can a thayirsadham-eating, middle-class, all-the-time-tamil-speaking tamilian kids call their mother Mummy? Or so the people who inhabited my world thought. My world then consisted of classmates and neighbours (apart from relatives) Most people called me a "show-off" or a "bandha" type. I would never forget what one of my classmates said. She showed me a girl who was getting down from her car. The girl waved bye to the driver and her Mom, who was wearing sunglasses. This classmate told me "She is so rich, even she doesn't call her mother Mummy". From that day on, I was so ashamed to call my mother in public but I couldn't call her Amma either. Amma is my grandmother. I would scream Appa when I saw parents coming home but would say Mummy so quietly that no one would hear. I would even call my parents Ammi-Abba or Thaye-Thandhaye or Aattha-Naina and pretend I was jesting while in reality I just wanted to avoid calling Mummy in public. When I had to, it was just "Mee". Most North Indians call their parents Mummy-Papa, so they never found anything strange with the way I called my parents. Nor was I made fun of during college days.
Recently, one of my friends asked me how I would want my son to call me. "Is it gonna be Mommy as the kids here call or Amma?" she asked with a mischievous smile. The smile seemed to convey "How can you ask him to call you Amma when you don't call your mother that way?" To avoid falling into her obvious trap, I told her. "He is going to call me Aattha. After all, I am quintessential Madras". I bet she was disappointed that she couldn't finish her thought.;-)
And yesterday my son kept repeating the word Aattha and that warmed the cockles of my heart. Maybe Naina is next....


Anonymous Anonymous said...

if it's aatha for mother, then grandmother will have to be "aaya"!

1:32 PM  
Blogger Casement said...

My mom used to call her Paati periamma and my periamma called her mom by name!!!


2:53 PM  
Blogger Prabhu said...

So true, the thinking that calling mummy is only for the upper class people. As for ur kid calling you aathaa, LOL :)
Deepa aaathaa, not bad, i think the more you hear it the more you will used to that :)

5:50 PM  
Blogger Ajay said...

we used to call our Mamis Manni cos evryone called them that...coming to think of it, i guess we still do the same...

11:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no difference between mummy and mom.

9:39 AM  
Blogger D LordLabak said...

Ramki, I might get into trouble with the grandmoms if I teach my son to say "aaya".
Casement, you see its not that only my family was funny.
Prabhu, maybe he'd be too embarassed to call me that way in public.
Ajay, Mama and Manni is how many people call but somehow we don't.
TTM, I didnt get what you said. Yes, Mummy and Mom are the same. Yeah?

1:08 PM  
Blogger Me said...

...i was the first one in the nan ellarukum per vechen....half of my paternal relatives are called by the name i kept for them....(not just by me but by everyone)..

2:09 PM  
Blogger Me said...

...anyways chinna vaysula i did not like kids calling their mom mommy...

....very important kosteen....
...didn't ur mom have yekkam that u didn't call her amma..

...dont tell me even now u call her mommy

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

:) this post reminded me of a Cho drama - do not remember the name.

Cho, tamilian, married to Sukumari, a telugu.
C insists on his son calling him `naina' and S objects -
S: Neenga naina-na naan enna naini-a...
C: Aen naan appa-na nee enna appi-aa...

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

:)I call my dad 'aangna' (from aiyaa)..thats from our old roots...there was a time wen i used to feel shy to call him in public..but i grew over it with time...

4:07 PM  
Blogger Syam said...

aamanga enga amma appa padicha ore reason kaaga yenna mummi daddy nu koopida la itha velailaye solla maaten...pasanga ooti thalliduvaanga...

4:20 PM  
Blogger Ananya S P said...

My mom never calls her mother "amma, ma". She will just tell her mom " inga paaru, seekiramaa saapidu/inga paaru inga vaa" or she would ask me to call her. I remember asking my mom when I was young "amma, is she not ur real mother? did she buy u from some place, why dont u call her as amma?" My mom told me that since she lived with her grandparents since childhood, she did not have the habit of addressing her mom...Hmm...I call my mother "amma/ma".

I dont like kids calling their mothers "mummy".

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if mummy is westernized and anti-indian, so is mom.
Heh, 90% of today's kids in TN use Mummy, Tamil culture be damned :-) Well, atleast that's tolerable, but young mothers talking to kids in English in shops, temples, Indian railways...well!

9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deepz, ungamma 'meee' nnaa ungappa 'deee' yaa? hehehe.. ida namma dosth yaaro unkitta kettan illa, some years ago?

you know my family.. my naina has 7 sisters and 10 kadan(!)vaangina sisters.. so i have 17 atthais in total.. but we call all atthais, chittis coz the other atthais' children would call them chitti/ perimma etc.

So at a family function in chennai, decades ago when my mumbai-delhi cousins went around visiting their atthais, my yakkov arumai jikku.blogspot cried saying "ellarum atthai aatukku poara.. enakkudaan atthai-ee illai" much to the disappointment of all 17 atthais :)

btw enakku mummy-amma-aatha prechanayee illai.. naa per solliye koopduven.. chella peyar!

btw have you faced this problem of gettng stared @ when you refer to purushan as AVAN? ada solve pandradukku ennoda idea kaelu.. whenever some1 (m-i-l, f-i-l etc)asks me .. "*purushan* ethana maniku varuvaan?" , i switchover to englipees "aamam, he called to say he's gonna be late".. englipees la avan/avar ngra paagupaade kedayadu.. ellame HE daan.. hehehehe

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

btw, both 'amma' and 'appa' are not original Tamil words...they have their origin same as
'Mather' and 'pather' (farsi)
'mother' and 'father' (english)
'matha' and 'pitha' (hindi)


12:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

but namma oorla pasanga 'mammmy' 'daeddy' koopadradha ketta sahikkadhu. my maid used to teach my kid to call me that way. when se says 'atho paaru...mummy vantaangaa aapis(office) lendhu', my BP will shoot up. initially i smirked it off, but later, i told her ammannae sollunga...i think calling by name sounds coolest.

3:10 AM  
Blogger Casement said...

There is another funny thing in my family. My mom has three sisters. We address them with their name followed by Periamma/chithi, depending on the case. Now, their husbands too go by the ladies' names. For example, Shanta Periamma's husband is popularly known as Shanta Periappa!:))

7:18 AM  
Blogger Mahadevan said...

The younger generation today has never lived in a joint family. Mummy and daddy comes to them naturally. One need not feel ashamed to call mummy or daddy as we never felt ashamed to call our parents amma and appa. In the joint families different generations lived together and therefore one always followed the nuances and practices of the elder among the younger lots. In several familites "appas" are called "atthan" and 'ammas' are called 'akka'.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahaa! Deeps! indha "mummy mahathmiyam" flash backa pottu enakku malarum ninaivugalai kaattittiyemma!!!

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deepz, Thaai-paasam appadiye urugudu paaru.
btw un purusan porandaa naalukku neeyum un payyanum serndu enna gift-u? payyana NAINAA nnu koopda vekkarada?
aahaa! paavam purusan [ idudan un adutha post-oda title aa irukkum:) paaru]

11:14 PM  
Blogger Ginkgo said...

Enga vootu aatha...appdinu jkoopda poraan..:-D

9:50 AM  
Blogger D LordLabak said...

Me, your comment reminds me of the dialogue "peru veccha soru vecchiya?".:-) And yes my mother still has yekkam.
Balaji, I remember those dialogues. Can't remember the name of the drama though.
Ashok, join the gang.:-)
Syam, I understand your kavalai. Down with such kids.
Anusha, you dont like kids calling that or those kids themselves?
TTM, its westernized for sure but if someone calls it anitIndian, I'd like to have a word with them. I think its upto a person to decide what language to talk in or how to call. I just dont approve of the judgmental attitude people tend to have. I can bet that my love for tamil (and its pronunciation) is definitely more than that of a guy that calls his Mom "Thai". But I was looked down as a "Peter".
Bubs, I think it was our dear froiend practical-idealist who said that. Calling purusan "avan" - tell me about it. Its been so many years and the lectures never stop on how its not "mariyadhai" to call hubby like that and by his name. When he himself prefers it that way, I think the actual "mariyadhai" is respecting his views and calling him like that. What say you? me also the shifting to englees conveniently at times.;-)
Anon1, thats true. Thai Thandhai is how one should call, right?
Anon2, you think so? I think its beautiful that in Indian languages you have a name for most relationships. Your maid probably wanted to score some brownie points.;-)
Casement, trust me your family is not alone.:-D
Thats true Mahadevan. But joint family is not always fun and frolic like they showed in Dekh Bhai Dekh.:-)
Annaye, alugadha. No silly feeeeelings!!
Thank you Bubby. Adhu nalla (naina) idea. Will do that.
Ginks, I expected "Aattha naan pass aayitten".:)

11:46 AM  
Blogger I said...

joint family..sux.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Lauvooo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Lauvooo said...

monee..i wonder how many times you would have called ur athai son athan and mama's daughter as ammanga...can u recollect when was the last time u used these terms?

I have a doubt... indha 'Me thinks' la 'me' neena unga ammavaa?

life la enakkoru aasai. ellamae thamaash thaan la sollara mari nee amma nu sollanam. adha naa kadhu kuilra kekkanam.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Vinod Ramamoorthy said...

Hey amazing post!:) ..

I would stick to Amma & Appa :)

5:19 AM  
Blogger Nilu said...

I guess losers who can't get their own sexual gratification live in joint families.

Person+loser+teen = Incest.

Not that there is anything wrong with incest. But just say that is, stop giving the excuse of a joint family.

5:57 AM  
Blogger Ramnarayan said...

When I was growing up--long before most of you were born--there were some rare communities (by which I don't mean caste) in which children called their mother by name and even 'vaadi' and 'podi', if you know what I mean. In contrast, I never came across anyone calling his father by name or 'dey' or 'poda'--except in Tamil films, in particularly emotional scenes, when the son/daughter finds out (i) father is not his/her real father; (ii)father is a villain or a traitor; or (iii) he's about to kill/ rape him/ her or marry her off to another villain, who has already cheated several women and/or the country.

7:08 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

doesnt matter whether u call your mothe mom , mummy or something else...what matter is ,there should be respect and love in your voice when u call her.

7:50 AM  
Blogger APAM NAPAT said...

I see a lot of parents insisting that their children be very religious and adhere to certain protocols which they themselves never bother to practise. I see the inner point although ur case is different.

2:13 PM  
Blogger tris said...

bubby - I have scandalized many timers by not resorting to this. I don't think I can speak in English with those folks anyway though most in my family have a working knowledge of it...

10:29 AM  
Blogger D LordLabak said...

I and Nilu, there you go again.
Lauvoo, andha aasai nirai veradhu.;-)
Thank you Vinod. Welcome.
Abhorigine, is that true? Sounds silly and yeah, biased for sure.
My Views, thank you for supporting and welcome to this blog.
Rajesh, as long as you realize my case is different...:-)
Tilo, join the gang.:-)

11:03 PM  
Blogger Ramnarayan said...

Calling your mother 'manni' was pretty common. that's what we called our mother for the first few years, the way everyone of my father's younger siblings addressed her in the joint family. in the case of my maternal grandfather, he and his wife were anna and manni to all of us all their lives. a maternal uncle and his wife are ambi mama and sarada manni even to their own kids

6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

casement u r not alone.In our family also we follow the same way to address our periyappa,chitappas :-).so same pinch!!!

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my husband calls his patti "mummima" just because the first grandchild got confused and started calling the patti mummima..and everyone followed suit.

And then there is this "ammama" for patti - yuck..i dont like this for some reason.

1:01 PM  
Blogger The Visitor said...

I sympathize with the "younger you" when you'd have gone through all that trauma.
Very good narrative.

11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed a lot!
» »

12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was the eldest in born in the family and I named my chithappa (Jia or Zia) - and all cousins followed suit; for some time his own daughters called him that. Poor chithappa lives with that name even now.

1:13 AM  

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