Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pontifications on Auntification

Ok… I have swept this topic under the carpet for long enough now… it is time I outed it. Friends, sisters, countrywomen…it is time to protest against a grave injustice being done to us. I am talking about that serious threat to the well being of urban Indian women– the menace of ‘Auntification’.

Consider the scenario. You are a woman some years above 30 (let's leave that part vague). You consider yourself fairly presentable, and a pretty good amount of attentiveness comes your way. You are used to jaws dropping when you reveal that you have kids, and the same dropping 2 inches further when you reveal your age. And then the bubble bursts – some full grown adult goes and calls you ‘Aunty’…   

And at once, you know- your time is near. Even before you can spell 'AUNTYJI', all that attentiveness and jaw-dropping will be gone. Soon, you would firmly be sent on your way with a one-way ticket to Auntyland.

I clearly remember the first time someone called me 'Aunty'. It was a neighbour of ours in Munirka. I was all of 23 and just married. Well, having been brought up in Delhi with colourful Punj neighbours, I felt like retorting, “%%$$##@, Aunty kisko bola be? Tu hoga Aunty. Teri behen Aunty. Tera poora khandan Aunty...!!!"

But then, that is not authentic Auntification. At 23, if a 30-year-old oddball decides to call you 'Aunty' just because you happen to be married, you can afford to laugh it off. I am talking SERIOUS Auntification here.

Of course, we are prepared for the final slaughter from early on – we have a kid when in our late twenties or early thirties, and the kid’s friends start calling us ‘Aunty’. So, by the time we reach the forties and serious-midlife-crisis time, we are kind of numbed to the 'A' word. But still, the initial stages of true Auntification – when full grown adults, not just kids, start calling  us ‘Aunty’, is hard on us – really hard..

Well, it’s an age-old problem (pun unintended), as you would say. But I say, why only us? Can you imagine being called ‘Aunty’ - not only by young adults in the neighbourhood, but also by casual acquaintances, the plumber, the watchman, and even strangers on a train - if you happen to be living in the US, or Japan, or the UK? Even if you are classic Aunty material, you would just be 'Suchi' to most people, without that abominable ‘A’ word to remind you all the time that you are getting on… and deepening your midlife crisis. X-(

Thankfully, rural India is as yet untouched by the Aunty Affliction. There, 6 to 60-year-olds call you ‘Didi’ rather endearingly. In villages that are close to a town it is sometimes ‘Madam’ (which is distasteful, but one can shrug it off). Strangely, when a 60-year old village woman calls me ‘Didi’, I don’t mind it at ALL- rather, it induces quite a pleasant sense of camaraderie. On the other hand, when an urban adult calls me ‘Aunty’, I feel quite, quite keen to strangle him/her with my bare hands…

And so, we fight back. With all we have got. Trying to delay the onset of Auntification, we slather on age-defying creams. We run on treadmills as if for dear life. We join programmes that promise to vibrate all the wobbly we-are-your-mortal-enemy chunks of flesh off our body. We worry more about our peeping grey roots than we do about a nuclear holocaust. We look up (for newer and more outlandish ideas of preservation)  to well-preserved idols like Demi Moore - who regularly botox  and detox (using leeches, apparently) - remaining gorgeous, naturally… (Pun very much intended.)

Really, is this all not getting a bit too stressful and demanding?

So I say, it is high time, ladies… let us rise as one against the rampant Auntification of our society… let us revolt... start a movement!

What is that - a meeting of the movement to discuss strategy - next week, you say? Sure thing, suits me just fine - gives me
just enough time to get my root touch-up and anti-aging facial... I'll go call up the parlour RIGHTAWAY...

(This write-up was inspired by Seema Goswami's article in HT Brunch)


  1. Singapore is quite the same but worse for men. Every bus/taxi driver is called Uncle even by tottering old women.

  2. I insist that every one call me Gautami. Even kids. It has worked great for me. Most of my friend's kids call me by my given name much to the discomfort of their parents.

    You better tell your kids to call me Tami if not Gautami! I insist!!!!

  3. Puja... oh, is that so? But then, most men seem to be able to shrug off the 'Uncle' tag without much care..

    Gautami, tu ne yeh idea pehle diya hota... I would have enforced a strict embargo on 'Aunty'.. ab toh its too late

  4. shraboni aunty loves the awesome write up

  5. Anupama "aunty"loves it too!!!:)
    True,actually when little kids call you aunty,its sounds lovely,but when full grown adults(male/female alike)do that then its sad.:(!!!lol!!.Love your write up as always suchi.

  6. PCH PCH! :)
    this I think is a very Mumbaiya phenomenon. Of course what Mumbai does today, rest of India catches up soon. what's worse is the tone - Hello! Aanti! Oye Ankal! all the same always look at these things relatively - does aunty notsound better than "pch pch" which is the more prevalent call in same Mumbai - especially mastered by Auto drivers and other vendors too. And Suchi, the difference betweenAunty and didi is not merelythe spelling and pronounciation; the former ismost usually a commercial / transactional call and the latter is a sweet call from the heart and that is what makes all the difference auntyji!

  7. :) I hear you.

    What I've never quite understood is our obsession with suffixes. Didi, bhaiya, aunty, uncle, blah blah. We've taken it so far that calling people by their first names can offend them. Imagine that, how can you be offended by being called your OWN name?


  8. @Stuti... totally agree. I tend to think it is the 'status' that these suffixes provide that enamours some people.. giving a whole new meaning to 'vasudaiva kutumbakam', I guess :)