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Addressing People Correctly

Back in August I read a really interesting post by my friend Ayak , entitled "Addressing People Correctly" about the way people are addressed in Turkey differently depending on their place in the family etc.  I immediately decided to do an Indian version of the same post.  So thanks Ayak for the inspiration, this is my version of your wonderful post.

India is a community of many cultures  and languages.  I am married to a north Indian who speaks Hindi, so the form of addresses I'll  be mentioning here are Hindi.  My rakhi brother Ramana is a Tamil from south India, although he has lived most of his life in Maharashtra which is in western India.  I am sure he could come up with a fascinating post on the same topic with both Tamil and Marathi expressions.

In north India, mothers are generally addressed as 'maa' or 'amma with an honorific 'ji' at the end, hence 'maaji' or 'ammaji'.  My mother-in-law is generally addressed by the English term 'mummy' ('mummyji') but that is about the only English influence I have ever noticed on my in-laws. 'Pita' means father and fathers are supposed to be addressed as 'pitaji'.  But my father-in-law was called 'papa' by his children ('papaji').  In Ireland, I always called my parents 'daddy' and 'mammy' like other Irish children did.

Elder brothers in north India are usually addressed as 'bhai sahib', 'bhai' meaning brother and 'sahib' being a title of respect.  'Sahib' is used in areas where Urdu is understood as well as Hindi.  A more Hindi version of this title is 'bhaiyaji'.  When Ramana became my elder brother I started calling him 'Bhai Sahib' and 'Bhaiyaji' which is customary in the north, but he made so many jokes over these formal titles that I toned it down and simply address him as 'bhaiya'. That's very informal and familiar, but it seems to suit.

Elder sisters are usually addressed as 'didi'.  I usually address my husband's two sisters as didi, taking it that they are my seniors although one of them is younger.  My husband usually addresses his sisters as 'behen' (sister) or 'beheniya' although they are both younger than he is.  They both call him 'bhai sahib', although I notice the younger generation is much more informal.  Neither my daughters nor my younger son refers to my eldest son Neil as 'bhai sahib' and efforts to get them to do so  usually end in laughter.

Addressing my huband's aunts is a minefield.  His father's sister are to be addressed as 'bua' or 'buaji'.  Yash's sisters are called that by my children.  My husband's mother's sisters are always maasi or maasiji.   The buas' husbands are addressed as 'phuphaji'.  Yash's  father's elder brother is ''Tauji'.  His wife is 'Taiji'.  I am a taiji too, but I am seldom addressed by that respectful title.  The two boys who are supposed to call me that have always called me 'aunty'.  Or 'Maria aunty'.  I was unmarried when I met them.

My father-in-law's younger brother is 'chacha' or better still 'chachaji'.  Well, he's my husband's chacha and my chacha sasur, but I address him as my husband does.  Chacha's wife is of course chachi or chachiji.  I am a chachi to quite a few youngsters in my husband's family and am often called 'chachi' and 'chachiji' on my Facebook page, and I love it!

My mother-in-law's brother is mamaji and his wife is mami or mamiji.  In Spanish, 'mami' means mother, in an informal way.  I'm a mami to quite a few youngsters in the family too and I love that title too.

My husband's younger brother and wife are supposed to call me 'bhabhi', meaning brother's wife.  I am more often given that title by the friends of my husband.  My kids call me 'ma', 'mamma', 'mummy', whatever they like.

Some of my husband's nieces and nephews (through the cousins) have produced children already so technically, Yash and I are already grandparents.  I am addressed by some kids as 'Nani' (mother's mother) and in one case, Daadi (father's mother) although the concerned child is too young to say that to me yet.

In short, an Indian family is a large network of relationships.


  1. That was fascinating!
    English family are much easier to address but we don't have the same respect towards family that Indian families do. That is more the pity.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  2. That all sounds very complicated, I'll stick with Grannymar! :)

  3. Goodness me...and I thought there were loads of titles to remember in Turkey. It must be so confusing at times!

  4. That is very interesting. But I have to admit, I'd have a hard time keep track of everyone :-)
    Cheers, jj

  5. Shhhhh! WOW! Very interesting though. I must say I agree with Maggie May ~ Thanks for sharing.

  6. Yes, this helped in sharpening the memory power of Indians which now is paying off in IT job markets! Cities have solved all these complications by simply going to Uncleji and Auntiji for everyone! Even ladies of more or less my age call me uncle now a days!


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