So the other day I was at the Dutta Roys in Andrewsganj. KBC was going on flat-out on the flat screen. It may seem idiotic, but I don\’t own an idiot box. So whenever I\’m here, its a novelty to watch TV. I love quizzing too, so I was gleefully answering Shah Rukh\’s questions(all correctly) and had reached the 6 lakh Rupees mark. Piyali\’s odd remark broke my concentration.
\”Bhaiya Shah Rukh khan ko manners nahin hain.\” She said.
\”Matlab?\” I asked.
\”Wo badon ko bhi \’Tum\’ bolta hai.\” Piyali explained
\”Kya baat kar rahi ho? Ho hi nahin sakta!\” I said incredulously.
\”Haan bhaiya, use baat karni nahin aati.\” Piklu seconded with force.
Now I had to see and hear this for myself. I couldn\’t believe that Shah Rukh, a pucca North Indian, didn\’t know the basic manners of addressing people and elders.
Dominic(Dom), a late fortysh gentleman from Mumbai, was on the hot seat. With some white strands and some appropriate wrinkles, he looked much older than Shah Rukh. This was a real test now. Just then Shah Rukh Khan said something like, \”Tumne first stage paar kar liya hai..\” or something to that effect. I was flabbergasted! Afsos! Galat Jawab!
Once while riding my Bajaj Super scooter, a tiny bug fell into my left eye. The feeling was similar. It was sudden, unexpected, it was odd, incongruous, out of place and stung like hell! The thing is that in normal Hindi conversation you always address strangers, youngsters and elders as \’aap\’. \’Tum\’ is reserved for your wife, girlfriend, little kids, friends and some other categories of economic class (like your maid or driver or car washer). \’Tu\’ is strictly for close friends, brothers, sisters etc. It is normal for me, having lived in Delhi for almost fourteen years, to follow this linguistic culture. Most people I know follow these rules. In fact I know no one who doesn\’t. The Dutta Roys are Bengalis, I\’m an Oriya and we too know these nuances. Thats why when I heard what Shah Rukh said, it didn\’t just come across as wrong, it came across as if something is not right with the picture. Something just doesn\’t fit. Like a smudge on a clean mirror. Like a mole on Mona Lisa\’s nose. It wasn\’t just wrong, it felt ugly.
The other thing that really puzzles me still is that Shah Rukh Khan has lived in Delhi long enough to know this. Then why would he commit such a disgrace? Does it have to do something with Bollywood\’s scriptwriters, who for ages have made heroes address the villains as \’tum\’? Since a long long time, I\’ve noticed that many Hindi film heroes do this, \”Main tumhein nahin chhodunga!\” Or, \”Tum mera kuch nahin bigad sakte!\” Of course the villains reciprocated, \”Main tumhari maa behen ek kar doonga.\” Whats with all the respect? \’Tu\’ should be the word here. If you want to check if this is right, then go watch the usual brawl on Delhi roads. I think Bollywood is obsessed with \’Tum\’ and therefore, the professional that Shah Rukh is, the script has just seeped into his neurons. Its high time someone corrected him. This is a live family show, not a Bollywood matinée.
The English have it easy. No degrees of respect. So no confusion and no disrespect. Most Indian languages and cultures are developed enough to have two or three degrees of respect. Although, the respect denoted by \’tu\’, \’tum\’ and \’aap\’ can be different for different languages. For instance, in Oriya, \’Aapono\’ is for strangers, \’tommay\’ is for elder relatives and \’tu\’ is for real close relatives, friends and brothers and sisters. So I address my dad as \’tommay\’, my mom, my mausis, my nani and cousins as \’tu\’ and my brother as \’kutte\’. 😉