I live in a culture where elders are called “auntie” and “uncle”, and peers “sister” and “brother”, even if they’re not related in the literal sense. As for husbands, traditionally, their names should never ever be uttered by their wives. To do so is disrespectful.
Ever since I came to India and got married, I’ve been encouraged by my in-laws not to call my husband by his name. Instead, he must be referred to as my “husband”, “him”, “he” or a pet name. But not his real name. If I want to get his attention, I should call out “dear, please listen”, or “dear, can you hear me?”. Coming from a western country where this level of formality doesn’t exist, it’s been a challenge for me. But, I’m getting used to it. So much so, that my friends and relatives from Australia noticed and commented.
We were having dinner in a restaurant in Colaba one night and my husband was sitting beside me. I kept referring to him as “he” in the conversation. “Why are you taking about him like that? Why don’t you say his name?” one family friend piped up, implying that I was rude. Indeed, back home it would be looked upon as rude if I just kept referring to him as “he”. But not in India.
Therefore, today I was surprised to receive an email from an Indian reader who said he felt like I was “minimising” my husband by not mentioning his name on this blog. In a country where it’s respectful not to address people by their names, I found this notion perplexing.
Of course, there are the usual privacy issues as to why I don’t mention my husband’s name on the blog as well. I feel like I reveal enough about myself and our lives, without revealing his name too. But apart from that, I usually don’t say his name, and so I won’t be saying it to the world here!
© 2010, Diary of a White Indian Housewife. All rights reserved. Do not copy and reproduce text or images without permission.
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