30 October 2007


Your dad's brother is your uncle
Your mom's brother is your uncle
Your dad's sister is your aunt
your mom's sister is your aunt too

And you have the in laws.

we indians are very specific.

Any ways, if you marry an Indian, you don't marry one person.
500 people invade your life along with your wife.
So we have to be vary specific who they are and what they are
and how they are related to you
and you have to make all those 500 people happy
by remembering their names.
You have to remember tha names of their cats and dogs too.
odderwise your wife would be very angry wid you
and you would always get charred breakfast
black black things
which are not very tasty to eat, besides making your tumm revolt.

ok let me make an attempt in explaining each relation.

your father in law is your SASUR with respect SASUR JI
Your father in law is generally a local goon of his area
so SASUR or SASURAA is genrally a derogatory word.
you find yourself saying SASURA taxi driver cheated me.
your wife is not happy to hear that. you get black black dinner dat night.

Your mother in law is SAAS, or with respect SAASU JI
no comments, the world knows about mothers in law
But very surprisingly the word SAAS is not used in any derogatory terms.

SASURAAL is the house of your in laws.
When a criminal is arrested he goes to jail.
we say the convicted man is going to his SASURAAL
So when you go to your in laws you go to jail.
SASURAAL, the house of your in laws, is a derogatory term.

oh its so long and complicated, why i started this i wonder.
now you know why i am not married.

Your dad's younger brother is CHAACHA, his wife CHAACHI
Your Dad's older brother is TAAU, don know what his wifeee is called.
i used to call my dad's older brother's wife TAYIIMAA. Sweet thing she was gave me good things to eat always, ignoring her own army of children.

My Dad and all his brothers were JERKS of the first order. All of them were rough on their wives, including my own dad. I had problems with them. Actually they had problems with me.
For some strange reason i was the favourite of all my cousins though i looked like a gorilla and the poorest of them all, absolutely no money in my pocket at any given time. they were scared of my freedom.
i am a loud mouth. i always got the best things to eat.

Your brother is BHAAI, he is ok

but your brother's wife is your BHAABI.
next to your mom, your BHAABI is the most respectable term.
you fold your hands always and bow with respect.
you always take your complaints to your BHAABI, she is the one always sorting things out. And you do everything to win the favour of your BHAABI. and You always look to your BHAABI to defend you when you fight with your brother.

When you address a stranger, you either address her as BEHENJI (sister) or BHAABIJI. And you never address her as SAALI (your wife's sister) - you are in for trouble, i'll get to that later.

So brother's wife BHAABI is like your own mother.

your mom's sister is KHAALA her husband KHALAYEE
in some states mom's sister is MAUSI but don't know what her husband is called

Your mom's brother is Maama, maamaji, maamoo,Your favourite always. his wife is maami

your Dad's sister is BUAA or BUAJI, not your favourite because she hates your mom.
and she always pours oil on fire. Some call her PHUPPOO, her Husband PHUPPA

who else ?
Ah cousins
oh dear.

All cousins are your brothers and sisters. Now you have to be very specific.
BHAAI is Brother and BEHEN is your sister.

Here is the list of the first cousins and i will never make an attempt to explain 2nd or third cousins.

your mom's sister's son is KHALERA BHAAI, his sister KHALERI BEHEN
your mom's brother's son is MAMERA BHAAI and his sister MAMERI BEHEN
Your Dad's older brother's son is TAAYERA BHAAI, his sister TAYERI BEHEN
Your dad's younger brother's son is CHECHERA BHAAI, his sister CHECHERI BEHEN
i think i am missing something here.

your wife's sister is your SAALI., not a derogatory term, but used mostly in frustrations. you have an eye on her and she gives you the boot is a case in general.
you are enjoying a movie, you watch a glamorous star and say SAALI she is sexy.
SAALI has a touch of affection too.

Lets get in to some rough weather. Humongous problems.

your sister's husband is BEHENVI. What is his wife called ?
oh no she is your own sister, i am so dumb.
Your sister's husband BEHENVI is something to be avoided at all cost. This word BEHENVI is twisted as BHAOONI in many areas. HE is a bloody pain. Demands to be treated like god. He thinks he is god.

Son in law is DAMAAD.

let's view from his Angle.

His wife's sister is SAALI, you know that now,

His wife's brother is SAALA, the most derogatory term in hindi or Urdu language.
Wife's brother a SAALA, is a thief.
a SAALA comes to your house only to steal something from you, like borrowing money.
Now you come home angry and tell your wife that some SAALA pick pocket stole your wallet.
you are going to get black black lunch.
your wife does not like her poor innocent brother refered as a pick pocket or a thief.

You say SAALA Chief minister, SAALA politician. SAALA loan shark
all the thugs and goons are your wife's brothers. SAALAS
Now lets flip the coin.

Your SAALA is a MAAMA to your children. Most loving and most favourite person in their lives. Brother's love their sister's children. and children love their MAAMA to bits. its universal.

Kids simply adore their mummy's brother.

Both my brothers in law (MY BEHENVIS, Sister's husbands) hated me and detested the very sight of me and i hated them back very passionately.

Its true that i have been a big pain to them. without me their lives would have been much smoother. I was their only SAALA. A darling of my sisters, who kept feeding me, giving me money and made me an intolerable brat. i adore my nephew and niece.
they are my life.


Aaarti said...

Phew... We sure have hoards of relatives and family na... our own and extended... :D

have a safe trip...

vishesh said...

hmmm.....i never quite whos who...i get all mixed up...so if they ask do you know who this is when someone comes...i give them a pepsodent smile :D

Ruth said...

I loved reading this. Love it. But please, please, I beg you, rauf, please never ever give me a quiz.

isabella said...

Ahhh...that explains why most Indian men are so thin...They get fed charred dinners often ;-)

Cuckoo said...

Ha Ha....

I agree with you. :)

Cindy said...

Wow-and I thought they said english was such a complicated language. I'm also left wondering if the song "I'm My Own Grandpaw" came from your country and not ours...

mystic rose said...

OH How sweet sweet sweet, youa sweet man!!! only you could write something like this. and you forgot to mention that while everyone fights with, in times of toruble the whole horde of army is there with you and quite passioantely too. then everyone else(outside the family) becomes a saala.

and no, you dont get charred things for dinner.. not you, the husband, i mean. indian women worship their husbands didnt you know? and like to pamper them completley till they become roly poly. :)

Sharon said...

Rauf very interesting and funny especially the black, black things you might get for breaksfast if your memory is not so good!

I have to agree with Ruth... no quizzes please!

Raw Kale said...

Rauf, I'm afraid we don't have anything this exciting going on in our family! I do love my uncles and aunts, tho!

Ruth said...

rauf, you know me, my mind keeps workin on stuff, wonderin about it, what the roots of things are (I know you do that too). And I been thinkin about this "Sociology of India" by M.A. Rauf, and I remember in Turkey they had a similar list of different words for mom's sister, dad's sister, etc. So I'm asking myself, why do Indian and Turkish culture have this, but we don't in the white non-hispanic West. Actually I'm ignorant about Europe, I should ask Inge, so I should only speak for the US.

I think it must be kinda like the large number of Eskimo words for snow. When something is so closely ingrained in your life, in your case, family, there is a need for this depth of vocabulary. I'm glad RK loves her aunts and uncles, we really do have a lot of love in our big family. But it's a sad commentary, I think, on American culture, that we generally don't need more than one word for aunt and one word for uncle, etc.

Ruth said...

Well, I guess it's more linguistic than just my culture. I don't think English ever had different words for these relationships. So maybe I'm being too US-critical where I don't need to be. I'm gonna ask my linguist friend at work about this . . .

Ruth said...

I'm back to report from my convo with Dennis the Linguist. He says all the evidence shows NO correlation between the number of words in a vocabulary for kinship and how that language's cultures view kinship. In fact sometimes it's the inverse, such as Mexican culture, where often four generations of relatives cohabit, yet they have one word each for aunt, uncle, and in fact call all males at the same level, including cousins, "hermano" - brother.

This generated a fantastic, fascinating dialog, with me asking a ton of questions, and him going off in great detail. I wish you could have been here.

Ruth said...

Oh, and bummer, Dennis says the Eskimo multiple words for snow theory: it's BS.

And get this, he said there is sometimes an inverse relationship between how many words a language has for colors (like the ones you say you don't know - mauve, rose, fuchsia, blush, etc. -- for pink) and how many they have for kinship. Some cultures have tons of words for each color, but one word for aunt, uncle, etc.

Ok, I know you're not back from your trip yet, but I'm ready to start having a two-way conversation. I'm feelin kind silly and lopsided here. :|

JoAnn - NL "My digital eyes" :) said...

Hi my dear RAUF,
I red all you wrote ,you are such an excellent writer, poow! I think I would better not marry an Indian, Just only NOT for all those birthdays I should have to celebrate!!! Not to name all those presents...Hahaha!!! Maybe its very cose?

I have already to celebrate many birthdays and not to forget all those presents they want (children...what I think is many = 30 people/family all together...and besides that all frinds their families countup 40/50 people more....

I also don't see anyone of my family because we "live in a different world" we even donot speak the samer language,( I mean we don't understand each other) so if I talk about family its the family of my hus.

Of course I have parents ( 1 mom , 2 sisters, 1 brother) But I never see them, at least a couple of years ago I tried to go-on with them, but no way, better not...

So now YOU and some other blogpeople are a little bit my FAMILY, so we do not have to spend money te celebrate our birthdays, just some time and dear attention, some nice words wil do...

Did I also tell you that our Queen (of Holland) visited INDIA with her son and his wife? We also were having an INDIAN festival in Amsterdam last weekend... So you see that we DUTCH PEOPLE we love the INDIAN culture very much!!!

I wish you a good day and a nice week, take care my friend :)

Aaarti said...

i know i know.. ur not back yet..but i was thinking of u n so decided to come n jot down those thots before i forget... :D

last eve was talking to a friend, busy telling her that my uncle n aunt n dad were coming back from their trip, and since this uncle who was at home was gonna go pick em up, and i dint want him to go alone, i shall go, but then aunt would be alone at home.. blah blah... i could hear her breathing at the other end but there was absolute silence.. ..... after a sec, i asked if she was ok..

she replied "woman, what the hell u talking".. so many uncles n aunts.. n who is here, who's coming and who's going to station and where are u off to"... hehehe.. made me realise that we have so many specific words in tamil n hindi but none in english n so this confusion.. then i had to start n explain the whole thing in tamil..phew.. then she understoood...:D

when are u back???????wedding was fun???????????? :)

Zareba said...

You make my head spin. I don't know how I would remember all those relationships. Good thing I am Canadian in Nova Scotia.

Love your writing and your pictures. I often put one of your pictures on my desktop to be able to enjoy it over a period of time. The eyes do not take in all detail nor does the brain absorb it with one short viewing.

Peace be with you


Rauf said...

Dear readers,
i sincerely apologise for my late response as i was away to attend a wedding of my friend's nephew. then i realised i have not added nephews and nieces to the list.
i simply forgot.

your sister's son is BEHENJA
your sister's daughter is BEHENJI
Your brother's son is BHATEEJA
Your brother's daughter is BHATEEJI

so it was my sweet friend Mala's sister's son's wedding.
Who is the bride groom ?
The bride groom was Mala's BEHENJA
i enjoyed the wedding, met many people, made friends,
What ? you did not make any friends Mala would say
yes i did Mala, i even remember their names.

an indian wedding is a treat for your eyes and for your tongue.
let me count how many meals i had at the wedding. yes i counted, Eight it was, in less than 2 days. the number of delicacies is something i can't count. so many of them. i can't even count the sweet dishes i had.

it was a very happy joyful and colurful gathering of people to watch the wedding of a very handsome couple.
How many people ? i can't tell you that. Staggering number.
took lots of pictures.

Rauf said...

Ah AAARTI, you bet. So many and we remember the names of their children too. Its a delight.
how about my wife's brother's son in law's nephew ?
please help me with Tamil names of relatives like CHITTI and ATTHEY.
i used to call my neighbour ATTHEY, poor thing died. in 50 years of friendship i knew nearly every one in her family. i got a call from my old neighbour my childhood friend, like my own sister, knew her for 50 years, asking me to take pictures of her daughter for aliance purpose. Oh dear ! this kid is getting married ? Now i have to remember tha names of her in laws too. i don't know how muchmy mind can take.

Rauf said...

VISHESH, please don't get in to the present software culture. they are plain insensitive. you better get to know how they are related. Ask mom and dad. Please read Mystic Rose's comment. All these people are behind you, in times of joy or sorrow. in India knowing your own relatives very well is more a blessing than a pain.

Rauf said...

Ah sweet RUTH, with a sweet tooth, i know you love sweets too, there is such a wide variety here, in one region, like Tamil Nadu, different in kerala and Andhra, Believe me, Gujrat is an ocean of sweets.

i am nt going to spare you Ruth
here is the quiz
Something i missed on the post.

What is Don's sister to you ?

sister in law ?

no, she is your NANAND and her husband is NANDAI (not sure, would some one please correct me on this ?)

more confusion Ruth if you have south Indin and North Indin friends
CHITTAPPA in Tamil and CHAACHA are same, father's younger brother.
CHITTAPPA literally means small father.
APPA is father
small father ??

PERIAPPA in Tamil is father's older brother.
PERIA is big. APPA is father
big father ??
we have big father and small father Ruth.

Father's brothers sisters, mother's brothers ans sisters have some specific roles in the weddings. Their absence is greatly felt.

here people may miss weddings, but people never miss funerals. they give up what ever work they have to attend the funerals.
People wait for the relatives to come and delay the funeral till their arrival. there may be rift in the family, weddings and funerals provide oppertunities for
patching up the differences.

Rauf said...

oh RUTH, sorry, i forgot.
today i am hell bent on confusing you.

Don's older brother is your JETH (Pronounced like BADE and add an H in the end) and his wife is your JETHANI (JAY - TT in tata- HAANI)
And you are supposed to be very scared of her and shiver at the very sight of her. the name JETHANI suggests that and she lets you know that she is the boss. if you say something silly your JETHANI would give you one cold stare which will reduce you to freshly made jelly. You are not supposed to show your face or talk face to face with your JETH. your head and Face is always covered with 'GHOONGHAT" the pallu or the end of your sari.

Don's younger brother is your DEVAR, and his wife is your DEVARANI, and she is always your friend. Two of you sit together and gossip and plot against your mother in law, finding ways to torture her and your JETHANI.
Your DEVAR is your biggest fan. you are his BHAABI, treats you like his own mother with utmost respect. He may tolerate any insult to his own wife but can never tolerate any insult to you his bhaabi.

Rauf said...

Dear readers,
the situation i am giving here is
one family, we call it a JOINT FAMILY where all members of the faamily live under one roof, big or small. We Indians adjust. We have to. But the joint family tradition is disappearing or i think has already disappeared. We now have small satellite families. Mom dad and two kids. they go separate ways as the wife or the mother is also an earning member.

there is one family income. Indian income tax laws have a sepatate laws for HUF (Hindu undivided Family) a bit complicated for me to explain. No, i am sorry i cannot explain because i don't know the money thing. Its so confusing the i refuse to learn.

Rauf said...

RUTH, How can i forget grand parents ?
Mom's dad is NAANA, mom's mom is NAANI
Dad's dad is DAADA, and Dad's mom is DAADI. then you have an army of mom and Dad's uncles aunts, too long a list.

remember i interfered with what you ate for dinner Ruth ?
As a habit we Indians interfere in each other's affairs. 'personal Space' is an unknown factor in India until recently. this interference is in our culture.
perhaps you experienced this kind of interference when you lived in Turkey. people wanting to get closer and desiring to know more about you your family and your personal life. i am completely ignorant of Chinese culture Ruth. must be the same as the Chinese Mandarin is a complete language in which every human emotion can be expressed in words without the aid of hand gestures. Asian languages are very specific. Asian philosphy makes an attempt to understand deeper meaning of life, which has led to more complications.
Western culture on the otherhand, has made attempt to simplify things filtering unwanted details.

An Indian family structure is very complicated. there are extremes, joy and pain. But never indifferent. let me give one painful example.

one joint family.
mom dad, three brothers and their wives.
married daughters are erased from the family structure, very little share in property division.
now there are three daughters in law.
first daughter in law gives birth to a girl child, yes there is joy, second child is a girl too. its ok. but she is in big trouble if third child also happend to be a girl.
now the younger daughter in law brings home a son. and she becomes the queen of the household.
This is a tragic situation Ruth, so painful. the other daughters in law are ignored. situation is pathetic when a son dies, leaving behind his widow and daughters.
they get pathetic treatment from rest of the family. this is the reason behind wife falling into the funeral pyre of her dead husband, this practice called SATI thankfully was abolished during Moghul King Akbar. but it continued during british period. independat india passed a law against it. But to the world's horror there were a couple of cases
of SATI in recent history which were glorified by religious extremists.

though female infanticide is made punishable by law, unfortunately is still practiced even among the educated. the demand for male child keeps the daughter in law in constant panic.
sex determination clinics are still thriving. i was with Chinna in coimbatore when i saw a huge neon sign of a 'fertility clinic'. Don't know what goes on there.
we have thousands of such situations for family movies. the most popular soap on TV which i am afraid is still on and seems to be never ending, called "SAAS BHI KABHI BAHU THEE" ( Mother in law was once a daughter in law) it had a phenomenal popularity. my sister my niece sit glued to the TV and they shed tears along with the characters in the serial.

Ruth said...

rauf, I'm astonished!! You met my Jethani?? OMG! How'd you know???

But clearly you didn't meet my Devarani, no, no, dat one is all wrong.

Rauf said...

Hi IZZIDEE, Yes, the whole country is pretty thin, but there are well fed and fat Indians who eat sweets as normal food. and to get good food cooked by their wives, they remember the names of all the in laws and their relatives.

Indians generally are not very health conscious. I am not health conscious myself. but i am thin even after pampered by my sisters and relatives who love feeding me.
i don't put on weight bikkaas i am a loud mouth. i do a lot of yellin an screamin. cracking jokes too. All my energy comes out of my lungs and to make matters worse i smoke the strongest tobacco.
not good not good i knows IZZIDEE.
Hope you doin fine.
enjoy da weekend sweet.

Rauf said...

CUCKOOJI, Mere' Behenvi (JEEJA JI, no he is not JI just JEEJA,) ke' behen ke' ladke' ki sagaaii. JEEJA's sister is not directly related to me but we are pretty close and affectionate. She loves feeding me too, though i have no respect for her brother, my JEEJA. she's a darling. My big fan. I am a big trouble maker Cuckkoo ji.

Rauf said...

Hi CINDY yes i heard that song, hilarious. Actually Hindi and urdu are not complicated, people learn the language very fast. But we are very specific about everything. just an uncle aunt or cousin will not do.
Only Indians say 'cousin sister' or 'cousin brother'. they try to be specific with English language too.
You say just a cousin of mine. then on further enquiry you have to explain that he or she is your brother's son or daughter. We Indians leave no room for further questions and explainations.

Rauf said...

hi RA CHEL, we indians are so inquisitive and interfering. Sitting thousands of miles away, i know the names of all your uncles and aunts. you have a such a big and lovely family Ra Chel, and i love seeing pictures of all your family gatherings. The family is your real strength though you may live on your own. The family behind you gives you the confidence and the courage to be different.

But now even in India business like relationships are beciming very common. When i visit some cousin just like that without purpose, they wonder why i came and keep asking me if i need any help.
i say no, i just wanted to see you thats all. It hurts me.
Now there is a purpose behind everything. Purpose has become a disease which people don't realise. My cousin or aunt will not waste any of their precious time with me unless they want something from me.
This 'purpose' has crept into friendship as well. You'll have friends because you are 'useful' to them. It is very rare to have purposeless friends who want to be with you just because you are a nice and lovable person.

Rauf said...

Oh MYSTIC ROSE, i was hoping that you would help me with how you call your own relatives in Telugu.
Yes yes what you say is quite true. My family and relatives may kick me for my views and arrogance. But they defend me always if there is an outside attack, though they tell me very clearly that they will never agree with my rash views. Right word Mystic Rose ? you must be having a better word for 'rash views'

one day you will realise when Vinayak would tell his wife what a great cook his mom is and he is going to get black black things to eat from his wife. oh my dear son, you have become so thin, is your wifee giving you black black thingees to eat ?
yes mummy i told her that my mummy is the greatest cook in da world.
Oh these young girls don't even know how to cook and your mother in law is such a bad cook herself, how can she teach her daughter how to cook and make her DAAMAAD fat.

now Mystic Rose. a wife gets the credit of being a terrific cook if the husband puts on weight after the marriage. If he doesn't, he hasn't learnt any diplomacy or the art of inventing lies every time he eats. The husband has to learn to walk on a tight rope with wife and mother at each end. He is in big trouble if he doesn't. He is going to get black black thingees to eat all his life. i would blame it all on men who demand to be treated like kings. but unfortunately they have crazy saala like me to make their lives miserable.

Rauf said...

SHARON, not many men know the art of keeping a wife happy, they are too much in love with themselves. Language food and culture change every 100 miles here in India. DAADA is father's father in Hindi, but the same word DAADA is older brother in Bengali.
i have heard women of kerala call their husbands CHETA (brother)
Confusion Sharon.

Rauf said...

Hi JoANN, You are already married and you have no worries.
Even i feel that my blog friends are my family too. They have been a good support, my readers contributions and their views have made me very rich.

I think the Queen of netherlands visited india with son and daughter and i wrote about their visit to you in response to your comment in some previous post..

yes sometimes relatives are a pain JoAnn. But please do your best to be in touch with them. Unfortunately in today's world everything has purpose. People don't like to waste their time unless there is some gain for them.
In a fast world there is hardly any time for socialising and interaction without any purpose, just to know each other well to share your joy and sorrow, support them in difficult times. There is no joy in having fun for ourselves unless we share it with people we love. Love is supreme JoAnn.
Hope you enjoyed the weekend.

her indoors said...

wow i am dizzy now! i struggle with who's who as it is and with your list i would just have to become a hermit lol

Rauf said...

Thank you ZAREBA, i am sorry i've been been traveling up and down, missed your comment,
oh yes it is a tough job, but Indians remember the names of the childrenof their distant relatives as well

Rauf said...

oh yes HER INDOORS, this is what people do, become a hermit and play musical chair, live in the house of their relatives. Indians are good hosts, but not any more.

Raw Kale said...

Hiya, Rauf! I didn't even realize you had gone anywhere- must have skipped a line. Looking forward to seeing the pictures.

It was an interesting insight you had about my family giving me the confidence and courage to be different. I have to say, I do come from a family of artists- they are all so unique and talented in so many ways. It's such a treat to hear about these unique peoples' lives. I wish more of them blogged!

That's a shame about visiting family and having them wonder what you "want." I know about this purpose. I am very blessed to have friends that create "purposes" just so that they have an excuse to see, write or call me. This blog is definitely a great "purpose." But I know what you mean when it's not the friendship that drives the purpose, but the other way around.

Nathalie said...

Rauf what an extraordinary lesson in language and culture you are giving us! This is fascinating! The bit I liked best was the last sentence... about you being an intolerable brat!!! I laughed whole-heartedly! It seems to me you have changed, because from reading you, this is not the impression I got.

JoAnn - NL "My digital eyes" :) said...

Hi dear Rauf

I am afraid that I am too late, I heard from you that DAWALI was on November 8th, but another blogwiter said (on her blog) that it was 1 day earlier this year, what the heck (sorry), my wishes are wellgood, out of my heart!

So I even posted FOR YOU, and other India-people some REAL firewework and lights on my blog of NOVEMBER 8, which is today. ( see and visit to know that I did it...) So let me know how you and your relatives celebrated your DAWALI, with all your 500 family-members or relatives, (yes I red your post very well hahahah) Thanks for that information:)

Now I am going to sleep because its late!! 2.00 after midnight peeeww but.... I wanted to wish you a good celebration,here is my wish! ppffff blowing over the sea.. ppppffff.

Bye greeetings :)
More Smile's and many lights and GOOD firework wishes!:):) ENJOY!!!

Matangi Mawley said...

good lord! i mean so far.. i ve called everyone "uncle" "aunty".. "mama".. "mami"..etc.. never knew things were more complex.. n yes.. nw tht explains a lot why my dad had to go to work often without coffee! ;)
neway.. gr8 post!