A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint


Posted by Pepper on February 4, 2014

No, this post is not about the Aam Aadmi Party. This is actually about the usage ofaap‘. Which in Hindi means ‘you’, just a more respectable version of ‘you’. The causal and informal word for ‘you’ in Hindi is ‘Tu/tum’.

Many years before I got married, I heard a married cousin of mine referring to her husband as ‘aap’. It struck me as odd, because my cousin and I are close in age. And I wouldn’t expect people from my generation to be following these age old habits. Women from our parents generation always resorted to giggle inducing terms like ‘Suniye..’, or even ‘Aji sunte ho’ while calling out to their husbands. Because saying aloud your husband’s name was taboo. But today, I see people in our generation (especially in my social circle) sharing a more casual and informal relationship with their partners. So hearing my cousin call her husband ‘aap’ seemed strange to me. When she saw the surprise on my face, she said, “Why shouldn’t I be calling him aap? He is 3 years older to me”. Alright, each to his own.

Here is why I thought that reasoning would not work for me. When you are in an equal partnership, age is not of much relevance. You are two people on the same scale, nobody higher, nobody lower. A higher age does not mean a higher position in your relationship. There are no hierarchies. Age should do nothing to make your relationship unequal. And when two people are on absolutely equal terms, referring to one by a term that is used to respect elders seems strange to me. My partner will always be my equal first, and will be somebody who is 3 years elder to me only after that. Perhaps people will disagree, but this is how I feel.

So you can imagine my surprise when I first heard Mint calling me ‘aap’. It was in our courtship days. I was amused, and not quite sure how to react. When we would be dining out, he would ask me in the sweetest way possible, “Aapko kya khaana hai?” (What do you want to eat?) At first, I attributed it to his very South Indian Hindi, that isn’t capable of distinguishing between gender, age, and the likes. So I started training him to call me ‘tu’. It worked half the time. He would call me ‘tu’ 50% of the time, and the remaining 50% he would go back to calling me ‘aap’. Till date, this is the pattern we follow.

I have noticed something now. Whenever Mint babies me, he calls me aap. This baby business, by the way, is something I found strange earlier. Why do couples baby each other? Isn’t it dumb? It seemed so. Until Mint and I started doing it. There is something about letting go of all your duties, obligations and social pressures that come with adulthood. And you can take such liberties only with your partner. I feel comfortably acting unacceptably stupid in front of Mint. I give myself the liberty to throw an unreasonable tantrum at times, only in front of Mint. He lets me be his little child, who he has to pacify. So calling me ‘baby’ comes naturally.

It is the same with him. Many times I find myself caring for him the way I would care for a little child. I wake him up, I insist he finishes his yogurt, I bend down to moisturize his legs and more. Again, the word ‘baby’ just slips into our language without either of us even noticing it.

And the ‘aap’ and the ‘baby’ usually go together. Without even realising it, I started calling him ‘aap’ 50% of the time too. So we often hear sentences like “Baby, aapko sona nahi hai?”, or “Aap apna water finish karo” said in very loving ways. This, ofcourse, happens only 50% of the times. The remaining times, we effortlessly switch to lines like “Abey, tu kya bakwas kar raha hai”, or “Tera dimag kharab hai kya?”. Bundle of contradictions? We all are.

44 Responses to “Aap”

  1. The ‘bundle of contradictions’ is what makes you a loving & compatible couple! Stay blessed 🙂

  2. Titaxy said

    the partner and i have always addressed each other with ‘aap.’ it has nothing to do with age, we both do it. it’s just that we started speaking that way when we first met and it stuck even after we started going out. 🙂

    • Pepper said

      That is sweet. Aap is actually a lot better than tu/tum. I only find it strange when one uses the term to elevate another’s status in a supposedly equal marriage, especially in case of my cousin. Because I don’t view the ‘aap’ in isolation, it is only one part of her behaviour towards him. All of which I find a little strange 🙂

  3. I was at a house party on saturday and an Indian guy there got offended cuz I said ‘tum’ to him instead of ‘tu’. I tried explaining how that is I talk since I have a Dilli ki hindi. The fact that he was drunk did not help.
    About the baby thing, yeah. Some things just happen. With the xBF We would talk all cutely and babyish. Looking at him, you wouldnt guess he is capable of cute-fying things! Even I am not like that. I cant handle if some people do the baby voice with me. But it was just natural with him. When alone, of course! 😀

    • The weirdest thing is, I say ‘tu’ to my parents! Since childhood. People in Delhi would cringe at a 5 yr old me saying tu. I think its because of marathi where we say tu to parents well some do say tumhi. Man, weird.

    • Pepper said

      Hain? He was offended by tum? LOL. That is so funny.
      And wait, you said Marathi? And Delhi? I don’t know too many Marathi speaking folks in Delhi. Perhaps I am ignorant. Btw, most Maharashtrains around me only say ‘tumhi/tumhala’ while referring to parents. Tu is new for me 😀

      • I was in Delhi, Ahmedabad and Indore. Dad’s from Indore and mom from Ajmer. Both Mahrashtrians though. We are everywhere! Hehehe. Delhi’s Janakpuri is full of Marathi speakers.
        Well in Pune marathi, many people say ‘aai tu asa kar, baba tu tasa kar’. but I have ended up saying tu even in hindi.

        • Pepper said

          I really should stop acting surprised when I see Maharashtrains in Delhi. 😀 I keep asking em everytime how come they from Delhi. It is so stupid. Lol. But your mom is from Ajmer? I would love to hear more about how her family ended up there. That would be interesting history.

  4. Now that you made me think, between R and I we switch between tum and aap, mostly tum. Tu is something I hardly use because I came from a non-hindi background and I addressed most of my college friends tum.

    I am surprised but the baby thing is common across all my friends. I think like you said most of us feel comfortable being baby in front of our partners.

  5. When the “AAP’ is a current hot topic for everyone to discuss, you pick the “aap’ that’s totally unrelated !

    And yet, this is such a beautiful read Pepper 🙂

    I’m sure you know that babies are referred with “neenga”( tamil) in many tamilian communities? I am sure “aap’ is used for babies in Hindi speaking communities as well.

    So, using the term when you are babying the other makes perfect sense!

    • Pepper said

      Yep, babies are referred with neenga in Tamil and aap in Hindi. Babies are always given respect and rightly so. And yeah, that is why I said in our case too babies and aap go hand in hand.

  6. aarya said

    LOL @ last lines. This is something you can hear in Aarya household too.
    S-Man and I are ‘tu’ people. He never calls me ‘aap’. I swing from ‘aap’ to ‘tu’. Your post made me think why and when I call him ‘Aap’. Some instances are ‘Aap khana bana lo aaj’, ‘Aaj acche lag rahe the aap’ but I can totally imagine me saying ‘Yaar, tu khana bana le’ or ‘aaj kafi achha lag raha tha tu’ so I am not sure when I say ‘aap’ and when I say ‘tu’. But S-Man is always like ‘tu kya khaegi?’ or ‘tu moti ho gayi hai’

    • Pepper said

      You guys sound just like us, swinging from aap to tu without even noticing it. The ‘Tu moti ho gayi hai’ made me laugh out aloud. I say that kind of stuff to Mint all the time.

  7. Such a lovely read! Our baby talk is either in Marathi or Tamil. Don’t even know why. 😀 😀

  8. Bhavani said

    Mine is an arranged Marriage. Took me back the days where I would call my hubby as “Neenga” when I started talking to him meaning “aap”. He would not respond on purpose saying it feels weird as if I was addressing someone else and not him. That was the last time he heard that…i would always refer him as “Nee” and sometimes even “da” in a friendly way:)

    PS : Loved all your posts for the blogathon. Could not comment due to lack of time though I wanted to..

    • Pepper said

      So good to know he encouraged you to switch to ‘Nee’, though I don’t blame you for starting with Neenga at all. Especially in an arranged marriage. I would too..

  9. R's Mom said

    LOL,,,,I have always called RD as tu..which is not acceptable to a lot of people, but I cant help it…Infact, even my mom calls my dad ‘tu’ something which my nani never likes :):)

    and you guys are cute yaar…aapko sona nahi hai..heheheheh 🙂

    • Pepper said

      My mom has always called my dad only ‘tu’. A lot of people didn’t like it when she hollered out his name from across the house. So my parents find it very amusing when Mint and I call each other ‘aap’ sometimes 😀

  10. Agreed. If you call your partner ‘aap’ only for giving respect, because he is older than you I too feel strange and I think they are not on equal terms.

    Btw we two call each other – aap, tu, abey,baby,oye and sometimes monkey, bitch and what not depending on the mood :). Between two of is this is acceptable there is no problem.. yeah?

    • Pepper said

      Bitch too? ROTFL. I was wondering if I should make a mention of all the abusive phrases we use too. But then that would mean subjecting this blog to a lot of profanity, so I let go 😛

  11. Ok, here’s my version. I say aap to my dad, tum to my mom and tu to my sister. I say tu to all my friends from school. Somehow, I always said tum to The Dude becos we never talk in hindi and his hindi sucks. So tu was way too random for him. Tum has stuck forever and sometimes he rags me saying I dont think he is close enough.
    On the other hand I love people who use aap for everyone. My little Zo is doing that now and I do the same to her. It is adorable and in my opinion sounds very nice and polite 😀
    On the inside, I am as TU as one can get. 😀

    • Pepper said

      I say aap to both my mom and dad. I love the sound of aap too. That is why I think Urdu is such a sweet language. They mostly use aap, and only sometimes use tum. Tu is unheard of in Urdu. I think most kids use aap for everyone, even other kids around them. I know my sis and I did that till a particular age. It is only after we grow do we switch to tu/tum. I can imagine how adorable Zo sounds.:D

      PS – You never talk in Hindi with the Dude? You guys speak only English all the time? 😮 Didn’t know that!

  12. Arch said

    LOL 😀 Baby aapko sona hai se seedhe abey kya bakwaas kar raha hai.. Hahaha 🙂
    But I know what you mean.. The extremes between which we people swing.. Yet both only with someone extremely close or whom we are comfortable with. 🙂

  13. ashreyamom said

    it sounds so cute..

  14. Sumana said

    Pepper of all the things you have said in this post is that I liked your creativity in writing a topic so well and also coming up with such interesting topics. Pat your back for that. We do a kannada equivalent of tum all the time while talking to each other. Aap is never there in my vocab for the other half. It kind of distances us. By the way you guys are a lovely couple.

    • Pepper said

      Thanks Sumana, I think I can write a blog post about just anything under the sun. I always have more content than inclination to write. Lol.

      • D said

        I just loved this post. …had to comment. we call each other tum…its an arranged marriage scenario and my MiL even doesn’t like this. she would have liked it better if we addressed each other with aap. hailing from lucknow…aap is the word. I so wanted to be on ‘tu’ terms with husband…..but thats a word nobody in the family uses…:(…though when I refer to him I use ..aaya tha…gaya tha etc…which was a shocker to inlaws initially..but one they have to live with…:D…but pepper…I do know a lot of couples where girls started calling their husband as aap after marriage. .my age group..love marriages..same age…..but I dunno what changes after marriage….

  15. Stu said

    In our household ‘Tu’ is for daily talk, ‘Aap’ is for babying, and ‘Tum’ is for when we’re miffed. A ‘Tum’ means something’s wrong. Feels very distant.

    But I’ve always called my best friend Tum – i met him in campus, called him Tum the first few days, and it stuck. Doesn’t feel distant at all there.

    Context then, I suppose….

    • Pepper said

      Absolutely, it is all about context. And I know the context with which my cousin calls her husband aap. Which is why it seemed strange. I don’t think the ‘aap’ in isolation would be considered strange.

  16. Visha said

    We address each other with ‘aap’ only when we have to shock each other and the receiver always has the ‘what-the-hell-did-I-do-wrong-now’ look 🙄 🙄

  17. Sarah Syed said

    I was actually going to be the first one to post a comment on this. Also typed it half way after which I had to leave it undone. I don’t get extra hours in my room. The carpenters working at my place make sure I don’t cheat out on their rule and start relaxing.

    Well.. I don’t think it is an old age thing to refer the husband as aap because my mil doesn’t and yet I do. That’s just how I like. It’s cute for me. I I do that not as a replacement to the name. I often start by saying, ‘Junaid aap .. ‘ and not just with him but with ANYBODY. With auto drivers, carpenters, watchmen, maids, family. That’s a way of respect I believe. I HATE it when people refer to me as tu and hence I can not and do not refer anyone else that way. Tu is a strange word for me. Although I do use tum with friends and cousins.

    • Pepper said

      The sound of aap is sweet. And anyway, you use it universally, for everyone. So what I say is not applicable to you at all. The ‘aap’ as such might not be an age old thing, but not taking your husband’s name, and giving him more respect and importance than you give yourself is an age old thing. Atleast, I hope it is. It would be awful if people our age believed in those regressive ways.

      By the way, for auto drivers, carpenters, watchmen, maids, family, I use aap too. But that is because I am giving them respect. Respect that is given to people I am not too familiar with. I think that is usually the case, so I find this very normal. Which is why 90% of the world is aap for me. Tu is reserved only for the remaining 10%.

  18. ajay said

    The disclaimer in the beginning. 😀 Agree with you totally. And I like contradictions 🙂

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