Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Are we Indian women growing younger?

Or just putting off growing older? A 40-year-old woman today is not the stately matron of a generation ago, whose life, whether she was working or not, revolved around family and home. There werent many who considered themselves "young" at that age then, and fewer people still who didnt label them "aunty" even if they (the labellers) were in their mid-20s! (I'll come back to that bit later.)

I doubt the 40-year-olds of then (unless they came from a VERY broadminded family - I wouldnt know about that, mine was a typical middle-class Brahmin Iyer family with the outlook typical of such a family) would dream of wearing jeans and shorts and short T-shirts and skirts and anything else going in the world of fashion today. They might have clawed each other over the latest saree designs or salwar fashions, but nothing less decorous would ever be seen on them. Not at "that" age, when they were wives and mothers, possibly of teenage or pre-teen children.

I'm glad that women are staying younger nowadays. The one thing I loved instantly when I moved abroad was that people did not let their age stop them living life as they wanted, rather than be hemmed in by social expectations and morality forced on them by society. Fifty, sixty-plus-year-olds going around holding hands, dating, cheating, divorcing, re-marrying, getting drunk, travelling, determinedly living alone and independently... it was a refreshing change from back home, where turning 40 meant humdrum decorum and respectability, especially in public. Not that decorum or respectability are wrong. That's not what I'm not saying. (I'm also not condoning cheating, drunkenness and other unpleasantness which is as reprehensible in the over-40s as it is in the under-40s.) But to be able to live like you're young, rather than be burdened with middle-age because of family and societal obligations when you're really in your prime - that's desirable, that's required! In fact, I'd expect it. Women have other expectations to live up to, apart from the mother and wife ones.

I'm pleased to see that at least on the surface, things seem to be moving that way in India for your normal everyday women, not just celebrities and the jet-set millionaires/billionaires whose lives and lifestyles are well beyond normality anyway. Perhaps it's because more women are employed and financially independent. Perhaps it's to do with the increasing exposure to the West and its way of life. Whatever the reason, I'm just glad that Indian women are staying younger for longer.

Which brings me to the 20-somethings who address the 30-something women as "aunty". Nothing but nothing makes me see red quicker than this pseudo-humility. And most of the time, it IS pseudo. It's just making oneself feel younger at the expense of the older person. "I'm so young, I'm so immature, I'm so inexperienced, I'm such a child" - these statements get on my nerves! And this sort of behaviour doesnt happen at formal interviews - oh no. Where it happens is in a social environment, usually in front of others, just to impress upon them the much younger age of the so-called "young and immature" person.

I have nothing against children addressing me as aunty and I dont think I have any serious hang-ups about my age either. (Just dont ask me how old I am. Heh). But I'm not impressed at all when adults - and I consider anyone 20 years and above as adult - address comparative strangers as "aunty". "Mrs so and so" would be fine, first-name terms would be even better. Calling your uncle's wife "aunty" is more than fine. But if the addressee is not remotely related to you or known to you since childhood, "aunty" is a not-so-subtle put-down and just downright rude. Embarrassing, too. Not that everybody would agree with this, but it's what I feel.

Ok, rant over. Back to the older generation here in the West (and by West, I mean the UK since that's where I've lived the longest). I'm all for people of all ages living their life to the full... but there's also a limit to wild behaviour from them over-50s. They're meant to have a little more responsibility and wisdom than adolescents and young adults, not rival them in rowdy behaviour or thoughtless violence. I grant you, the older generation are more sinned against than sinning in terms of violence, etc,... but I cant help wishing that the minority of them who dont seem to have the sense they were born with would just grow up a bit! A little decorum and responsibility there wouldnt hurt.

Hm. Looks like I'm asking for an idealised world! I shall lead by example! And if you believe me, I'll be really impressed! That's all! Thank you! (I have the monopoly on exclamation marks!) !!!

29 comments:

the mad momma said...

yes Shyam. all 20 pluses and 50 pluses are paying rapt attention :p

but listen, you are not going to find anyone in india calling you mrs edwards. its either aunty or akka. or shyamala. get used to it.) you've been away far too long!

Shyam said...

MM: But I dont want to be addressed as Mrs Edwards! :) Happy to be shyamala or shyam (to anybody) or akka/didi (ditto) or aunty (to the under-18s) :)

- Shyam

meerkat said...

nahin aunty

mera woh matlab nahin tha. i can hardly call you by your name. accha nahin lagta hain. aunty is a such a lovely word with love and respect. please aunty, gussa mat karna

Shyam said...

Meerkat: :D One of these days we're going to meet... and that, missy, will be the Day of Reckoning! :D

Broom said...

shyam aunty,
i am turning 30 in few weeks & i'm actually really happy about it. i always thought i'd dread it but i am really looking forward to it.

shyam said...

Broom: And the same goes for you too - one of these days...! PS. Turning 30 isnt that big a deal -you spring chicken you! :)

brinda said...

but shyam, aunty is such a nice catch-all kind of word. sometimes i suspect it's b'cos the other person is not sure what to call you -- name alone might be rude, akka/didi not quite right, mrs so-and-such, way too formal... which leaves what? aunty :-)

shyam said...

Brin: You sound so reasonable... but I still wont budge! :)

CW said...

I once called my aunt's friends who's in her late 30s by name & got a stare for a response. I've since resorted to addressing anyone I know is older than me, 'aunty'. And also don't flinch when my colleagues kids return the compliment! (Am told tho I look way younger than an 'aunty' but HAVE to be called so since am married! Humbling, I tell ya!)

CW said...

Gosh..awful grammar in my prev comment. Pliz 'xcuse, auntyji.
:-D

shyam said...

CW: *sigh* Should have expected this response - from you and everybody else... :D

Inbavalli said...

Shyam Aunty, please, please don't get soooo angry Shyam Aunty. I've been brought up this way, you know -- respect elders, don't call them by name even if they are just a day older than you, etc. etc. If 'Aunty' troubles you so much Aunty, shall I call you 'Madam', Aunty?

Just loved your post. A topic that has been irking me since I got married at 21 and had 19-year-old nieces calling me 'Aunty'. Hmpf :-(

Shyam said...

Inbavalli: aiyaiyo!! This gets worse than I thought! I think "madam" is possibly the one term that's worse than "aunty" :D

Orange Fronkey said...

DOH! I lost what I wrote.. grrr.

Interesting post, and the comments were funny to ready!

Don't think the art of calling the older person aunty, uncle, sis, bro, miss, mrs is gonna change anytime soon.

Hmm.. Should I call my close friends sis or auntie? they prolly murder me. THey are in their late 30's and early 40's. I get along really well with older people, can't stand the people who are my age... a friend claims i have an old soul. aren't i special lol

shyam said...

Merino: The answer to that is yes, you ARE special :) Old souls are mellow souls :)

Anonymous said...

Shyam: agree wtih u word for word - do u know when ws the first time i ws called aunty? by a 12th std gal, when Dana wsa in LKG --gosh, that was the day of reckoning, as far as i was concered. and shall i tell you what used to annoy me just as much: being called baby by shopkeepers, etc even when i was in college.....
been bc, will try to catch up with u sunday. G

GettingThereNow said...

Nice post! Comments are funnier than the post. I have to say - it IS the way things are done in India. But I am wondering - haven't the 20 somethings heard of the word "bhabhi"? That is what I used to call all the 30 something, married ladies I knew back then. And "didi" for unmarried ones.

shyam said...

Gee: Heheh... yep, I remember the odd veggie seller saying "Baby, ammava konjam vara sollu" :)

Gettingtherenow: I agree! Didi or bhabhi or akka sound wayy better.

lakshmi said...

i wonder what would be reaction to "madam"?

i was a happy "didi", "akka", "chechi" till the world of work introduced me to "madam" and no matter how hard i try, it refuses to be shaken off.

ps: the captcha says "yentz" - for once something that at least sounds like a word in a language (sound very tamil if you ask me)

Janani Barath said...

I enjoyed the article and the comments :)

workhard said...

Hello, You make me feel young again!!!!!!!!!


Work from home

Indian NGO said...

It is not that Indian women are growing younger rather they are aging very stylishly and gracefully. Unlike earlier when women were only limited to households now days they are now pursuing a career and getting a much required exposure which help them remain mentally more agile and fresh. And we all know that age is ultimately what you feel...

God's Princess said...

Hi there :-) I don't know much about getting younger, though perhaps Indian ladies do age quite well. But I do know that Indian women have a certain something! You can read about it on my blog;

http://theartofbeingfeminine.blogspot.com/2009/04/beauty-femininity-and-appeal-of-indian.html

I hope you like it.

M xx

joshua said...

In present scenario women become yonger they are most responsible and aware to their carrier.they do domestic chorus and job also they always prepare to accept challenge by the man they are hoisting the flag of their achivement in every arena.
=================================== REShu
sapience</a

reema said...

hey, am reema moudgil and compiling a chicken soup for the indian womans soul book and would love it if you could contribute a story or two..am on facebook so do get in touch in case u feel upto it or write to me at reemamoudgil@rediffmail.com. And do spread the word around..really running woefully short of quantity and quality, cheers

Anonymous said...

you get what you invite.

KohinoorDevroy said...

Good post on insights of growing woman mind.
Its true , that over the past few decades Indians women have changed considerably.But their is an different aspect to it as well. The present Indian women is born in a very convinient world of today than their counter parts.I mean financial security plays a mojor role and to top that the option of financial security is available today. We are fortunate to born in changing India.

Anonymous said...

Hey !I'm able to empathise with your feeling completely.The other day I was at a saree shop admiring a saree with bold prints and bolder colours until the salesman told me " that saree will make you look younger" Can you believe that? And I'm sure I was his daughter's (or okay maybe younger sister's) age.
Well sets you thinking about how you should behave, speak etc., because although you do it as naturally as it comes, people may assume you have an age phobia!
Then again, maybe, it's all in the mind! Chalo uncle I forgive you.

Anu said...

Hi,

I think it's gd to be young at heart. Ciao.