Generally speaking, there is one striking similarity in the urban and the rural couples, of at least North India. The men address their wives as 'tu' (thou).
Although English language generalizes the way we address all and sundry as 'you', it is the Hindi language which having got influenced by the Mughal dynasties and the Lucknowi andaaz holds three ways of addressing people depending on their age, status, intimacy and respectability as aap, tum and tu.
It's interesting to note that Ghalib wrote, "Teri mehfil mein aakar bade beaabroo hue/ Aap se tum aur tum se tu hue" (I humiliated myself in your company/ From aap, i became tum, and finally tu).
In this post, instead of generalizing the usage of the three words in the different relationships in society, i would like to stick to only couples - married or in a relationship.
In the beginning of a relationship, the men and the women stick to some kind of formal conversations.... some small talk.... trying to strike a conversation and mostly address each other as 'aap'. As and if the closeness increases, 'aap' changes to 'tum' and with time or with the feeling of permanency of the partner, it becomes 'tu'. If the culmination of the relationship is marriage (which is not a reality now a days) the 'tu' is irreversible from the husband's side and the girlfriend turned wife has to mend her ways to shift back to 'aap'.
The need to address the husband as 'aap' arises more because Indian wife won't use the first name of the husband. Girls, at least till one decade back, would absolutely refrain from uttering their husband's name, even to call them. Women would shyly or commandingly call out as 'suno', 'suniye' or the Bollywood auntiji and mummyji style 'maine kaha ji' or (worse!!) 'munnu ke papa' ie., referring to their young one!
There is a great great shift in the way girls are handling their hubbys now. Most of my friends call out their husband's first name while talking to or referring to them. (Reminds me of a life insurance Advertisement where the young lady enters the home shouting (yeah literally shouting) "Sanjoo" many a times. First time i thought she was calling her pet dog! psst!). 'Eey ji , O ji, sunte ho ji, has been shooed out of the home (and the bedroom ) by ' honey' , 'sweet heart' and 'baby' (huff! that's a relief!!)
Talking about the men addressing their wives, the only person who comes to my mind is the old Hindi movie actor Om Prakash, who was always seen calling his on-screen wife as "Aree bhagyawaan, sunti ho?!" I think, all of us, in North India, have seen our parents sparingly using each other's names, except when they had to fill up some form!
Today, I find it very refreshing when I hear a man say the name of his wife while referring to something like "Ritu loves prawns... so taking some for her". For me, addressing your partner by his or her name is like marrying the person and not the whole family. Girls were discouraged to use the husband's first name, as that would decrease the respect... and also the mother in law would feel that the girl is trying to overpower her son. Some such thoughts were behind the practice. Thankfully, the young couples are leaving them behind and cherishing togetherness and oneness like never before.
But, it's just 'tu' which hasn't changed in all these years. I am not talking about a particular caste, or region, or less educated people, or not so well off people. It's a trend just anywhere. Some use is all the time, and others would speak like that in anger, but a wife remains a 'tu'.
I asked a few men, as to why they can not address their wives as 'aap' or at least 'tum' when the women are respectful enough to them? Believe me, the question surprised them!! They were just not prepared for the question, so hard wired they were about the usage.
Someone said, 'tu' means we are close to each other. Someone said, we are like friends... don't friends address each other as 'tu'? Another MCP kind of man replied "so? should i address her as 'aap'? ye devi hai? pooja karoon iski?" (Is she some goddess? should i worship her as well?)
The answers spoke for themselves.
Although, there were exceptions, but they were few. But I was truly glad to hear from a friend how he always addressed his wife as 'aap', and the reason given was "if she respects me, why shouldn't I?"
Another exception is the young couple, who had a love marriage and were used to calling each other as 'tu' for a long time, and had to somehow give up using 'tu' in front of parents, (i am talking about the girl only)
Why am i so averse of the word 'tu' to be used for one's partner?
Ever heard a man speaking to the house maid as "toone kamra saaf kyu nahi kiya?" (why did thou not clean the room) and in the same breath saying "too jaldi se (shopping) list bana ke de" (thou make the shopping list) to his wife?
Interestingly, some time back, an Urdu teacher in Lahore divorced his young wife when she inadvertently called him "tum" instead of "aap"!
'Tu' is a strange word in our society, and here I'm talking about Delhi culture. When you want to show your superiority, say in front of a labourer or a rickshaw walla or a domestic maid - 'tu' is used maximum. When you want to show comradeship or bhaipanti, u say 'tu'. When addressing God, some people out of closeness say 'tu' to God. Elders used to address children as 'tu', which has changed now in educated households.
So, people use 'tu' either when they stand on equal footing (close friends) and unequal footing ( master - servant or God - human). Unfortunately, marriage in India does not make women stand on an equal footing (proved further by the fact that women cannot address husband as 'tu') and women today are not ready for the unequal grounds in marriage. The conflict that arises is of this sort. It starts from language and goes much deeper and much widespread when it comes to equality in married couples.
Respect, like Love, needs to be reciprocated in committed relationships and men must avoid giving those funny logic of being close and intimate and therefore, they call out their wives as 'tu' even in public. In fact, when a man says we are close (in this context) he almost means 'seen that been there and bored'.
What do you think about it? Has 'tu' ever irked you the way it does to me? Do you find 'tu' normal? Have you ever told your husband how you feel being addressed as 'tu' or 'toone' or 'tujhe' in public?
Let me know