Sunday, September 22, 2013

Of names and reactions

The parents have always been Mamma and Baba. When relatives protested with things like "Ma is more respectful" or "Mamma sounds like Mama*", they were firmly, but politely, informed that this is what they preferred her to be called. I had other names for them from time to time - Mother & Father, Mommy & Dad, Mumsie & Babs, the mother and the father in all online references - and these are still used from time to time, usually when I'm trying to, but failing to, cajole them into something. But Mamma and Baba will always endure.

A few years ago, I started called her Ma. There were two reasons for this. One, I'm called Ra by loved ones. So when there would be a plaintive "Raaaaa" yelled from some corner of the house, bellowing back "hain, Maaaaaa?" rhymed and therefore seemed like a lot of fun. Two, and more importantly, she hated it. I mean, hated it. It made her feel old, it seems. The quickest way to irritate her was to call her Ma. I was always astonished she didn't get whiplash from the speed with which she would turn to glare at you with a look Medusa would envy.

It started out as fun, but somewhere along the way, it became natural to call her that. There's a sweetness to the word Ma that just felt... right. Unfortunately, she didn't - and doesn't - see it the same way. And it wasn't till when I was home this summer, and happened to call her Ma in the middle of a conversation. Both the parents grimaced, and when I rolled my eyes, it was the father who suddenly commented, "when you're used to hearing something for so many years, it hurts our ears to suddenly hear something else." Which drove home the point a lot better than their glares and grimaces over the past few years had.

So I'm trying to get unused to calling her Ma. It's not as easy as it should be, for some reason, but I'm trying. I would like to point out, however, that calling my mother Ma instead of Mamma is darn sight better than their son calling his elder sister Duddo instead of Didi**.

*maternal uncle in Hindi and Bengali, for the uninitiated
** elder sister in Hindi and Bengali, also for the uninitiated


Anonymous said...

I started calling mine, Ma a few years ago. It was shorter, sweeter and more intimate and possessive.

a traveller said...

:) now if only my ma would see it the same way.