If I hear any didactic speech about not having Facebook envy I will be very angry. A few friends went back to my city, Kolkata, to attend not one but TWO weddings of mutual friends. I had invitations to both but I could not make that trip. That thing called life got in the way. Instead, I did the next best thing, I hung around Facebook and kept track of their every move. They made it easy by documenting their every move on Facebook also. I am pretty sure, their aim was not only to keep us connected but also to evoke envy (in a fun sort of way, of course). They were wildly successful at that. I was so envious that I glowed green – Hulk like.
But this is not about my Hulkness. This is about Bengalis, their culture, their city…..and last but not the least their pet names or dak naam. The boys were primarily named Buro and girls Buri during my parent’s generation. Buro in Bangla means old man, buri? You guessed it, old woman. Why would anyone call little babes, Buro, Buri is beyond my comprehension. Perhaps because of the ‘child is the father of man’ concept, or the resemblance of a toothless child with toothless old age. I don’t know!
When I was growing up, girls were called some form of ‘mother’ in our vernacular, and boys – father. Different variations of ‘Mam’, Mummum’ Mamoni, Mamon, Mammai and boys were Bapi, Baban, Babai so on and so forth. My parents, however, called me Piyu. Piyu has no particular meaning really, it is how a particular type of bird’s call. Piyu is a bird song. How beautiful and ethereal is that concept? When I met Sean, he called me by my pet name too. I liked that. However, Americans pronounce the letters P and B with a puff of air which Bengalis do not. So Sean’s Piyu became Phiyu.
Fast forward to our wedding afternoon. The beautiful ceremony in the morning was over. My desire as a little girl was to wed in a gorgeous white dress. Having been born in a Bengali family I always knew that would only remain a dream but it so happened I married someone from not only outside of Bengal but outside of India. And in that man’s culture and religion, women did marry in gorgeous white dresses. However when the opportunity arose, I opted to wear a saree. Not a ravishing red one like a Bengali bride wears but a gold and black one. After the ceremony and reception, Sean and I changed into something more comfortable to socialize with the family and eat catered Indian food for dinner. I heard Sean calling my name as I was changing out of my saree: Phiyu, Phiyu!
And I heard my sister-in-law exclaim, “Sean!!!! Don’t say that to her! How terrible of you. Saying that to your new bride on your wedding day!”
I came out of the room and gazed at both their faces blinking foolishly, clueless as to where the conversation was going.
Sean was also perplexed.
“What did I call her?” He asked.
“You said PHEW. You bad man! She does not stink! You have a terrible sense of humor!”
Both Sean and I burst out laughing. He explained that is my pet name and no, he was not referring to his bride as a stinker. We all laughed.
This post started with Facebook envy, went on to talk about Bengali pet names and ended with a story of my life long time ago. Thank goodness I write for myself 🙂 ! I am quite purposeless, even in my writings!