As I was crossing MG Road the other day, a street urchin tried to grab my attention. He thrust something under my nose, muttering some gibberish. Being practically stone deaf in my left ear, I ignored him completely, and walked on. Feeling slighted, he upped the ante.
“Hey UNKAAL!” he screamed from behind me, “Bas kya??”
This `nephew’ of mine was apparently trying to market some foul looking concoction which, if his marketing pitch was to be believed, would work wonders on my joints, essentially restoring me from a doddering sixty to a sprightly sixteen!
I have other such `nephews’ too - my barbers, or to use the more politically correct term, hair dressers. I use the plural because sadly, the good ones have a tendency to scoot off to greener pastures. My first guy, aptly named Iqbal, is now practicing his art somewhere in the Middle East. Salim, the next one is now in South Africa, and Mohammed, the present fellow, is just about getting the `feel’ of my intricate coiffure. What the three of them had in common, apart from the fact that they each wielded a nifty pair of scissors, was their propensity to call me – you guessed it – UNKAAL! “Ekdum mast baal hai, unkaal!”
Then there’s the butcher at Shivaji Market who, as he pretends to pick the choicest cut of meat for me, invariably adds by way of greeting “Kya unkaal, baut din baad aaye!”
I’ve become an `uncle’ to all and sundry of the next generation - from strapping young lads in their teens to middle aged dads in their 40’s! The burning desire among the youth of the world to ingratiate themselves as my nephews is only mildly irritating, and something I can live with.
It is the lissome young lasses and PYT’s whose `uncle’ tag rankles the most. At my age, with more salt than pepper in the mane that provides soul and sustenance to the likes of Iqbal, Salim and Mohammed, I’m considered a `safe bet’. An avuncular pat from me can never really be mistaken for a wolfish pass – so why the pressing need to be branded as my nieces, pray? When these hotties call me `uncle’, I gently remind them of the esteemed company they are in, and implore that they atleast pronounce it properly, ie UNKAAL..
Why can’t we ape the West, and use first names? Does it reek of familiarity? The kids at `Junior Master Chef’ always address their hosts by their first names – Gary, Anna, George. In the extremely popular `The Bold and the Beautiful’, Brooke routinely addressed Ridge’s parents as Eric and Stephanie. Ok, admittedly that was the wrong example, given the goings on in that serial, but you get the gist. The heavens don’t fall, the earth doesn’t tremble, and God continues to be in heaven, while all continues to be well on earth.