If you have ever faced confusion on usage of Tu / Tum / Aap (English equivalent being ‘you’) while communicating with fellow people in Hindi, this blogpost will interest you. Wish it was as simple as ‘you’ in English which doesn’t factor the age / relation. Being well-versed with three regional languages (Tamil, Gujarati & Malayalam) and our national language (Hindi), I can safely claim regional languages are extremely comprehensive and create cognizance amongst communicators on usage of pronouns. One would realize this easily while using pronouns to address people. For the sake of wide comprehensibility, I would base this blogpost on Hindi vs English and share my real life encounter. Here is what I witnessed live with a close friend of mine being the protagonist in all situations.
Situation 1: He often uses ‘tu’ to address his friends. None of them take it as disrespect and are pretty fine with him.
Situation 2: He once uses ‘tu’ to address his colleague at office in front his colleague’s manager and quickly he is pointed out about this inappropriate usage.
Situation 3: He addressed the tea vendor by ‘tu’ where he ‘frequented daily’ and yet the vendor got offended which resulted in an argument.
As I witnessed all three situations, this strange animal ‘tu’ went deep into my mind and various questions started erupting. Personally, I do understand the difference of using tu/tum/aap and their equivalent in Tamil (Nee/Neenga) and Gujarati (tu/tame). But, researcher in me went ahead to understand the linguistics. Luckily, I came across this beautiful blogpost that differentiates all three in a very comprehensive manner. I started thinking, is it all about linguistics? Few of my past experiences forced me to deny this hypothesis. I later pondered if the usage of words or to be precise the pronouns depends on factors like – education, culture, societal surroundings of upbringing, etc. Though my friend is a well-educated one, I wondered why he used this pronoun across all three situations, which also landed him in trouble. Wasn’t it aware of it? Or Was he assuming everyone to be ‘close enough’ as mentioned in the blogpost referred by me? Or Was it just a carelessness? Many questions bothered me.
I am not criticizing or supporting any religion / culture here. However, I have often observed that Muslims, Rajasthanis, Sindhis make sure they use ‘aap’ even while addressing a one year old kid. Let’s talk about cultural differences. Same applies to people from Uttar Pradesh. I have noticed they are very particular in usage of ‘aap’. I have stayed for five years in Gurgaon and have rarely have seen the local people (Haryanwis) use ‘aap’. When I shifted from Ahmedabad to Gurgaon, it was a shocking surprise for me when even shopkeepers addressed their customers as ‘tu’. So, does culture play a role in how you address people?
Finally, does societal surrounding really affect the way you communicate? If it was true, then people who relocated from other parts of the country to Haryana, should start addressing people as ‘tu’. However, its not true either. I haven’t been ‘influenced’ by it and likewise haven’t seen any of my other colleagues who migrated to Haryana, getting influenced.
I know if I discuss this further, it would be an endless debate. I would conclude by just saying that respecting fellow human beings should be our priority. Need not bother whether we are meeting them for first time or they are our best pals, its always best to address with respect. You never know, when trouble might land you at crossroads!
The digital vein in me scratched my soul to check Google what does it translate ‘you’ to. It was indeed a relief to see the result.