Monday, April 11, 2011

When she calls you Bhaiyya

Courtesy - clipart.com

I had a thousand brothers as a kid, not that my mother knew anything about it. Seniors in my school. Sweaty neighbourhood chaps forever playing cricket. Older boys in the circle of family friends.  In the school assembly, we sang the world is a family. I took it literally.  

It was not as if my heart was overflowing with sisterly love.  I was far from a model sister and loved making life hell for my younger brother, using him as target practice for all my pranks.  I had somehow imbibed the congenial spirit we Indians are supposedly so famous for, like a sponge.  Quite literally, Vasudheva Kutumbakam.   

It got me thinking when I recently read that an expat explorer survey has found us the most unfriendly country to live in.  That’s a dichotomy.  We are adept at constantly forging relationships with strangers.  We do not think twice before addressing a random person as uncle, didi or bhaiyya.  The neighbourhood lady in her nighty-chunni ensemble is our Aunty.  If she is rotund then she is lovingly referred to as Gol-Aunty.  However, this pervading feeling of social bonding abandons us in situations where it is needed the most.  When a woman gets molested, most of us look away because we want to stay away from trouble.  When a hit-and-run victim lies bleeding to his death, we vroom past without batting an eyelid.  We rarely smile at strangers, we step on other people’s toes as if it’s our birthright, we think saying ‘thank you’ for the little courtesies extended to us is a waste of time.

Into this boiling pot of contradictions, we women then throw in the B-word.  To the uninitiated, Bhaiyya would sound dignified and lofty, something akin to the universal brotherhood of man.  To the one who has sinned, it’s far from it. 

The word has myriad connotations.  In Delhi, all the men who migrated from Bihar, Bengal and Uttar Pradesh are our long lost brethren.  We may haggle with the sabziwallah, accuse the auto guy of overcharging, glare at the raddiwalla for cheating us yet again – but all the admonishments will be lovingly prefixed with a bhaiyya.   No wonder they never want to go back to their villages.  How can they leave their sisters behind?  In amchi Mumbai, bhaiyya is used condescendingly and reserved exclusively for the northies.  ‘Bhai’ on the other hand sends chills down the spine.  In Lucknow, bhaisahab has a mellifluous tone to it.  And in Bengal, you are Dada forever.  Whether it’s youthful Sourav with his mid-life crisis, or the septuagenarian Pranab Mukherjee with his budgets eternally deficit.

‘Bhaiyya’ is also capable of keeping men really confused and guessing endlessly, holding up a glimmer of hope, that could as easily be snuffed out.  In school, smart girls loved anointing the preferred ones with this special term even though their intentions were far from sisterly.  And he was no ordinary brother but the word of mouth one - the muh bola bhai.   After years of careful scrutiny, I concluded that it was a mere ploy to hoodwink the parents and the rest of the universe.  What better way that to keep your license to thrill close at hand without raising a single eyebrow? Sheer genius, though the way a classmate bitched about it was somewhat revolting “pehle bhaiyya, phir saiyyan”.



 A certain incident put a decisive end to my sisterly ways. I had just passed out of school when I was invited to attend a music camp in Nainital.  We were a motley group of vocalists from Gandharva Mahavidyalaya with me being the youngest.  It’s been over two decades now, but that momentous evening is clearly etched in my mind.   A bunch of us huddled in a room singing Beatles lustily.   In a moment of euphoria I ended up calling this rather oldish looking guy ‘bhaiyya’ (when you are 17, even 30 seems ancient).  My sisterly love was rejected and how!  ‘Arre!!! sabziwallah tumhara bhaiyya, presswallah bhi bhaiyaa aur hum bhi bhaiyya!’  It was as if I had committed the biggest faux pas of my life.   I promptly bid adieu to all my imagined brothers, including the long lost ones from neighbouring states.  

I have had a happily-ever-after existence since then, bereft of filial outpourings.  These days, I always make the effort of asking the office peon, the carwash guy or even the magazine guy his name.   Trust me, it works wonders - they can never say no to you after that.  Why, because a name means that they are no longer an anonymous face in the crowd and someone for a change took the effort to know them.   And a respectful aap works as wonderfully.  Aniiiish!!! Tum phone kyon nahin uthaatee! Phir se dhaniya patta dena bhool gaye.  Ram Prasad tumhe presswala kisne bana diya! Aap ko sharam nahin aati itnaa zyadaa overcharge karte huey!



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74 comments:

  1. You are right...we all love to be noticed and respected..."calling by name" and "aap" are good tips...thanks

    Cheers!
    SUB

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  2. he he he I cna so respond to this article, My two sisters were in same colelge as me so I had a BIG PROBLEM it seemed I was the Jagat BHAIYA... all there friends called me bhaiya or veerji ..

    but now Bikram does the trick he he heeh

    Bikram's

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  3. The new trend is after breaking up with a guy...start calling him BHAIYYA...My friend did that. Said to me that its 'JALE PE NAMAK'

    Nice post!!:)

    do shower some comments on my blog and if gud enuff follow up :)

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  4. Lol...though it did become serious during the molesting and looking away from a bleeding victim bit. Thats a sad reality.
    Talking of name calling. The Asussies use Mate a lot, then I have heard people use Bhai, Yaar, Boss/Madam. Sikh Punjabis are universally Paajis for most. Lalaji, Seth, Bhabhiji(and the one calling her that would be ogling at her)...etc And in Punjab every guy is Veerji...it is equivalent to the Bong Dada, though not used for very old people.
    And and and....you sometimes call me with a loud 'OYE' Yes yes you do

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  5. a young 18 yr old girl got molested by her relative yesterday in gurgaon, freed herself only to run into a certain bhaiyya taxiwala who also turns out to be a wolve in the sheep's clothing.yes amazing isnt..in delhi we call everyone bhaiyya..rakhi ..and karvachauth glorifying male masculinity and presence even though the male and bhaiyyasss chant out the ma-Behen gallis non stop.ironyyy isnt it.when i first landed in delhi from northeast this amazes me..how come so many bhaiyyasss and everybhaiyya love to take a ma and or a behen prefix when he foulmouths...just a thought tho maynt be related.

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  6. You are simbly superb Purba!! Enjoyed reading it! "Bhai" comes with its own intonation and is meant to send down the chills even though many of us have seen have seen them only in movies :-)

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  7. Hehe... Here, everybody is an Anna.

    Get off an auto - Anna, Thanks. Anna, why so expensive.

    The guys who seem to give you a goggle-eyed look when you call him Anna, will most probably be the Bhaiya from the North.

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  8. Some would be happy that its innocuous bhaiyya and not uncle...
    Would love to hear a mans point of view..how do they feel when we call them bhaiyya...

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  9. More confusing to me than Bhaiya was an innocent " Are Bhai" "chalo bhai" pronounced differently from Bhaai. I never could make out if am I expected to shell out my hard earned tuition money on Rakhi or it is a way of speech. And I never had the courage to check!

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  10. Phew, that was a lot of fun and seriousness crammed into one post! What struck a chord with me was the practice of calling people by their name. I, too, find that this works wonders. Whether with the milkman or the driver.

    Regarding the Bhayya thing .. back in my school days, whenever I got close to any girl, I'd extend my hand on Rakshabandhan day and make her my sister .. which is probably why I'm still single ;) .. but thanks for reminding me of those wonderful days :)

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  11. You are so right Purba. It is always nice to address someone by their name rather than by universally accepted title such as Bhaiyya or Uncle ji.

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  12. Okay, but we still call out our National pledge?
    India is my country, all Indians are my Brothers and (their) Sisters.

    What were our forefathers and nation builders thinking? :O

    I have learnt that not every girl, no matter how older she is to us likes to be called Didi, mostly until she's been married quite a long time. And I dread calling anyone aunty. :P

    Nice post Purba,

    Cheers,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

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  13. I second Alka Mam's comment. But have you ever thought - A girl deliberately uses "Bhaiyya BUT a boy will never use "Didi". :P

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  14. oh! yes. i have my stories too. and the one am going out with now was almost turning into that "moh wala bhai" at one point of time ;)

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  15. Hi

    I remember once in school when I get stuck @ pledge. tym saying all indians are my bro and. ..skipped sister part. .whenever I look back it give me a good laugh...
    ..
    yes saying bhaiya always helps. . have lots of. found memories. .

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  16. I have been at the receiving end of being called 'Bhaiya' and trust me it is not good..I hope enough girls read this post and adopt the practice of asking name and not call bhaiya randomly..
    Nice Post though touched a raw nerve..

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  17. Nice post!
    I think it is just the Indian culture which makes us add "Bhaiya" or "Dada" as you have explained.
    and
    Why the HELL are all your posts so damn AMAZING!

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  18. Very true. :-) Here in Bangalore, Sir or Madam will do the trick. Call a bus conductor Sir, and he will give his life to get you to your destination.

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  19. SUB...It's time to give the B-word a decent burial.

    Bikram...Good riddance to bad rubbish eh?

    Red Handed...Aww that's mean!! Will be going through your post soon.

    Prats...Oye is a good way to catch a sleeping c&^'s attention.

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  20. RK...The typical Delhi attitude is revolting. And the men hurl abuses at each other as terms of endearment. But with time you learn to ignore them.

    Giribala...It's amazing how this simple word can convey so many meanings! Must conduct a research on it :D

    Pzes...Just for that look, try calling everyone bhaiyya this week.

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  21. Alka...The sound of glass shattering? :p

    Prasad...Some things are better left unsaid.

    Kiran...Geez...why on Earth did you do that? And you are possibly the only dying to bhai specimen.

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  22. Always happy...Over the last decade and more I have refrained from calling any of the elderly ladies Aunty. It's safe because many react violently to the A-word.

    Anshul...Perhaps it was their cunning way of controlling our population explosion and look how well it has worked :p

    Prateek...SO you think the Didi word is now obsolete?

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  23. Paulomi...heheh

    Vivek...Fond memories of the bhaiyya variety?

    Percepton.....The pain, the disillusionment with the B word. Bare your heart out in your next post...Pls pls pls?

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  24. Xeno...Why the hell indeed :D

    Harish...Let's start a, Say No to Bhaiyya week...

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  25. Oh! Yes. Apparently you can never hear Didi for an unknown girl; it is always "excuse me".

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  26. The repressive atmosphere in our society was mainly responsible for this trend of calling every young male 'bhaiyya'. And the elders naively believed that the sentiment was paramount. I had a neighbour who confessed to having tied rakhi on her family friend whom she dutifully also called 'bhaiyya', but later her elders themselves arranged their match! I didn't ask her how she agreed. probably something to do with love of the other kind. :)

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  27. It's always more personal, calling someone by their names. The word, bhaiya is quite well used in more areas as well. In the army cantt, every 'sahayak' for an officer is also called bhaiya by the women and the kids, no matter how old he may be. It's stupid sometimes but that's the way it is, I suppose!

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  28. lol. nice read. btw it was 'subah ko bhaiyya, raat ko saiyyan' :D:D:D (when the seemingly bro-sis metamorphosised into a love buds)

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  29. “pehle bhaiyya, phir saiyyan”. LOL. I got rid of this involuntary habit of calling any unknown senior guy bhaiyya/dada after first year in college. Seniors would say 'kuch bhi kehke bulana...but no bhiayya'.

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  30. lol! bilkul sahi kaha aapney behenjee!

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  31. I knw..I too end up calling each and every one 'bhaiyaa'..even conductor bhaiyya is he is young in the buses! and its kinda comes in so naturally and spontaneously. even in college I sometimes end up calling my frnds 'are bhai or bhaiyya' and then am made to correct it after an instant retort :P

    sarah

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  32. Yes you are so right...giving a name to the anonymous someone works wonders. I too prefer to call as many people by names, it actually fosters into a relationship...

    Great article once again :)

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  33. Prateek...Why jeopardize your chances.

    Zephyr...Guess some people can never think beyond the age old theory - men and women can never be friends.

    D2...I wonder why we never question it!

    4 those who care...gives a bad name to both the relationships.

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  34. Sam...The follies of the youth. And it's fun learning through a trial and error method.

    magiceye...Ahh the big brother approves

    Sarah...Time to bid adieu to your bhiayya ways.

    Siddhartha... I always love listening to their stories - of their life in the village, the family they left behind, their dreams ...much more interesting than the usual crap you get to hear.

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  35. An awesome read, as usual! :)

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  36. I never followed "Vasudheva Kutumbakam" so no bhaiyyas and didis outside the family. Even at college and school, I always addressed my seniors by their names.

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  37. Haha, i too use it often! Need to stop it now that i have read this, I will try the alternatives :)

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  38. "bhaiyya"...it reminds me of my college...lowest addendence of boys ws on the day of "raksha bandhan" :P

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  39. Ambika..Glad you liked

    Nethra...That's how it should be.

    Aarti...I am starting the "Say No to Bhaiyya Week"..

    Suprit...Oh I know...boys dread Rakhi, it's almost like a noose for them.

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  40. Purba,

    I wonder how many could see the bitter truth hidden in sugarcoated pill - "However, this pervading feeling of social bonding abandons us in situations where it is needed the most. When a woman gets molested, most of us look away because we want to stay away from trouble. When a hit-and-run victim lies bleeding to his death, we vroom past without batting an eyelid. We rarely smile at strangers, we step on other people’s toes as if it’s our birthright, we think saying ‘thank you’ for the little courtesies extended to us is a waste of time."

    I agree it works wonders if you address a person by his name and work is done with more care. I have been following it. And if the person is elderly I do add ji to his name.

    Take care

    PS : Left comments on previous 2 post also.

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  41. hey i'm from mumbai and i used to never call anyone bhaiya until i landed in delhi. Then my friends were shocked when i used to talk to the rickshawala, sabziwala etc-'u'r so rude- call them bhaiyaji!' and this from a city with the highest rape rates in the counrty. I agree with you, our general tendency toward benevolence deserts us when we need it most. Makes you wonder, is this over-and-artifical familiarity somewhere the indirect cause of the frustration and violence?

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  42. 'Bhaiyya' is still ok - the word tht I dread nowadays is 'uncle' - I used to take the time n effort to explain kids of my neighborhood tht I'm nt so old n to pls call me 'Bhaiyya' - then my sis became a mother n now my niece hs made it official - I am forever an 'uncle' :(

    The irony of my life is that my own sister called me by name n never Bhaiyya but all the women I had crushes on communicated their intent by always addressin me ' Bhaiyya' - reason y I used to religiously take leave for Rakshabandhan every year in school n college :)

    Gud post, Purva-didi ;)

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  43. Jack...It's a simple way of conveying that I respect you as a person.

    confusedyuppie...Well, over the last two decades I haven't addressed a single individual as bhaiya/uncle/ aunty and it has worked wonderfully for me :)

    R-A-J....And for women the A-word is even more traumatic. Auntydom spells the end of youth for us.

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  44. Well said...
    In Delhi atleast, we seem to call every other guy Bhaiyya....

    I think I shoudl stop, before I get a retort like you got once :)

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  45. *sigh* ... I have got soooo many brothers now... :P .. but yeah, now they themselves cringe on listening "Bhaiya" ...

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  46. Thats Purba at her best;) By the way, expecting a new post on the A word soon:)

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  47. Dwiti...Your name evokes so many memories - wanted to name my daughter Dwiti :))

    Rashmi...Un-bhiayya them now!!!

    Nivedita...That was one of the first posts I wrote ....http://purba-ray.blogspot.com/2010/02/five-lettered-four-letter-word.html

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  48. I too prefer to find out names and address people by it… everyone appreciates it. Be it a doorman at a five star hotel, a police hawaldar. In fact they become more helpful if you offer that extra respect and attention.

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  49. sweet. I remember me in 4th wanting to be called a "bhaiyya" by someone ...

    and another piece of useful trivia I could have put to good use if I knew this in high school : "In school, smart girls loved anointing the preferred ones with this special term even though their intentions were far from sisterly."

    :P :P

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  50. Didn't I tell u before I love the way u express.
    In case I didnt take a bow now mam :)

    Yaa, I too find using 'Bhaiya' stupid. calling a person by name brings along a personal touch :)

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  51. I thought the bhaiyya words is very endearing.I have used it liberally in college days when the luggage was heavy..May be I will try calling people by their name.. :-D..Loved the bit on "Aniiiish!!! Tum phone kyon nahin uthaatee! Phir se dhaniya patta dena bhool gaye. Ram Prasad tumhe presswala kisne bana diya! Aap ko sharam nahin aati itnaa zyadaa overcharge karte huey!"

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  52. Delhizen....Absolutely

    flawsophy...The one and only with a bhaiyya craving :p

    Mani...I try and sometimes it strikes the right chords. Glad you liked it.

    Blue Lotus...Hahahah....It's called name calling.

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  53. Some serious synopsis and makes sense!!!

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  54. Hi.. i've got an award waiting for you at my page... plz come pick it up when you have time thank you. xo

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  55. Another good one! How do you manage it? :)

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  56. Aniket...The world is a family - only the harmony is missing :)

    Emmy...Much appreciate it:)

    popsie...I scribble and vent till I get it right :)

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  57. in my opinion most girls misuse the word bhaiyya to keep away an unwanted ass as a possible romantic suitor!

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    Replies
    1. Yep..it' s a safer option to ask someone to get lost.

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  58. the dichotomy is the beauty of ur post! wonderfully written..

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  59. I had a older cousin in JNU when I joined and I called him bhaiya coz I had been doing so since childhood .. Slowly all my classmates started calling him Bhaiya ... Its been 12 years and he still hasn't forgiven me for that :)

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    Replies
    1. LOL! so many lovely girls lost forever just because of you!

      Delete
  60. I feel we should have been born as sisters. Our thoughts match most of the time :-)

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  61. Well,no words to describe, how well u have written -overflowing with wit & satire !

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    Replies
    1. Grateful for your effusive appreciation.

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  62. Funny funny .. yextremely funny! Incidentally all this bhaiya business has the male side extremely skeptical if they've been friendzoned.

    We should have a No Bhaiyya Day!

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    Replies
    1. Time to start a "Say No to Bhaiya" movement :D

      Delete
  63. A-musing post again and yes...you are right. I will bite my tongue before randomly calling anyone bhaiyya.

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    Replies
    1. You never know how someone will react to it :-)

      Delete

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