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Random Thoughts : Uncle

BY RANJIT SINHA ROY

Boy goes to the chocolate shop and says to the shop keeper - “Uncle, five Éclairs, please.”

College girl gets into the bus and requests - “Uncle, please give way. Let me go to the Ladies’ seat.”

Young man unable to locate a house in a locality asks a passer-by - “Uncle, do you know where Uday Villa is?”

Girl asks the elderly neighbor who had mild fever the previous week - “Uncle, are you alright now?”

To the visiting father’s friend - “Uncle, why have you come alone? Why hasn’t Auntie come?”

To sister-in-law’s father - “Uncle, Bhabi is so nice, we have become very close friends.”

Young college girl to her friend’s father - “Uncle, can we go to the movies? We promise to come home before dark.”

Young girl traveling by train - “Uncle, you have the lower berth and I the upper. Would you mind exchanging? I have some pain in the ankle and it is difficult for me to go up.”

Student showing slip to the college librarian - “Uncle, is this book available?”

“Uncle” is a general and a very effective term mostly used by younger people to address older males. But there are certain conventions. The person addressed should have a socially accepted position, which need not be related to his economic status. One may address a bus conductor “Uncle”, but not a railway porter. It is all right with a vegetable vendor but not a beggar. Imagine the accepted form of use of the word to be non-existent. How would you address people then? You would either call him by name and sound rude, or address him as “Sir” and become too formal.

In South Asia we freely interact with people. It’s not like in Europe or North America where they avoid talking to strangers, and dealings are formal and business like. Ours is different. Known or unknown, we like to talk to people.

One stranger thing. Though “uncle” is an English word, this form of use is solely confined to the Indian Sub-Continent. British and other English speaking nations do not use the word as we do. It is an excellent socially accepted and useful term. We are the innovators and users of this unique addressing system. This form of address (Uncle) does not have any emotional involvement, any feelings or attachments. The heart is absolutely free. It is like raindrops on a lotus leaf. It does not wet. It is impersonal.

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