The term ‘you’ is a universal term in the English language in the sense that you can use it independently of the person’s sex, age, position, etc. You may be calling out a boy or a girl, your boss or your subordinate; it is still ‘you’. This however, is not the case when it comes to Hindi. In Hindi there are two different terms, namely ‘Tu’ and ‘Aap’. ‘Tu’ is used when addressing some one of the same age/position as yourself or lower while ‘Aap’ is used for someone who is older and/or commands respect.

Long time ago I was watching a movie with mom when the lead character while talking to his mother, addressed her as ‘Tu’. I began to take notice of this and observed that in many cases the father would be addressed as ‘Aap’ while the mother was addressed as ‘Tu’. This had me totally miffed, and I asked mom why it was acceptable to address the father with more respect than the mother as both are equally parents to a child and cheekily asked if I should be calling her ‘Tu’ now. She thought over it a bit and said that because kids bond over more with their mom while they are bring brought up instead of dad, they think of mom as a friend and confidante and hence address her as ‘Tu’.


I raised a brow in apprehension and asked her what about the families where kids bond with their dads too, and consider him as friends. To that we don’t have an answer. In fact kids don’t bond with dad so much (because the dad is away due to work or other reasons such as resting after  being back from Over time , social activities, etc.) he is more of a distant character. As one never gets to have as free a hand with him as mom, and must behave in his presence to not disturb him, he commands more respect and gets addressed as ‘Aap’. Which is also why you will have many people who refer to their moms as Ma, mom, etc, but refer to their dad as Pitaji, Babuji, and so on with the ji being added to convey respect.


This however is not just the matter of kids addressing their parents but a matter of the dynamics of a man and woman in a relationship. I have seen couples call each other ‘Tu’ before marriage and have the girl shift to calling the guy ‘Aap’ post marriage. Many a times he doesn’t have to ask to be called so, but the wife calls him so by default. In the event that she calls him ‘Tu’ as an equal (because horror of horrors, a wife and husband are to be equal in their relationship), someone from the family or friends will take her aside and go “HAAAWWW!! You should call your husband Aap, show some respect.”


You get many people who tell the wife to show the husband respect. Show some respect, yes, but why should she not be respected as well? 


For those of you who are wondering, I still call address mom with an ‘Aap’


8 thoughts on “We respect husbands more than wives

  1. I agree with you!! Some of my cousins address their moms like they are their friends or someone younger!! (Its hard to explain!)
    I have always hated it… and my parents were also pretty strict when it came to respecting them. Both get the same level of respect…

  2. Very thoughtful post.what you have written is true.the girl automatically respects the husband because she is taught and brought up that way.and yeah relatives and in laws make a mess about addressing the husband by name(which has slightly improved now) and treating him as an equal.

    Sharing this on my page 🙂

  3. I mulled over the subject or the gender bias several times and sad we live in a society where everythg is defined by them. I think it suit the interest of some people at the upper rung of the strata. speak of a hypocrite society, dude where women are considered second class citizens. Insightful n sharp observation, Santulan.
    Cheerz for this one:)

  4. I understand the difference and in some situations it is like carved in our brains…as if the male figure in the family is someone to worship and the female is good for nothing….for me it’s aap for both my parents or anybody who is elder to me and tum for TBH and all my friends, or for anybody who is equal be it in relationship or age…I rarely use tu, it sounds very rude to me.

    But if we observe minutely in some languages it’s tu for parents, and even when they talk in Hindi they are habitual of using tu which sounds odd to people like us 🙂

  5. Tell me about it! I can take on from where you have left off on this matter. I don’t agree with mothers being addressed as ‘tu’ because they are somehow friends and confidantes. It is the quite early lesson that has sunk into the psyche that mothers need not be (or don’t deserve to be) respected as much as fathers. So the children take to ‘tu’ for mother more easily. Even society takes this difference lightly for the same reason.

  6. I read this first on the small screen of my tiny mobile :D; I could not wait to read it at a regular computer 🙂
    And since then I’ve been thinking of this. It has a lot to do with stereotyping, definitely. As Shail has already said, I too cannot agree with the notion that it’s acceptable, and sometimes even an indication of ‘closeness’, that mothers get to be called Tu, and Dads Aap. Right there you teach a young one that it’s okay and if parents allow it, why not other relationships. And then again we move on, up the heirarchy, to a relationship, which if it culminates into marriage, the turnaround in addressing the husband is quite laughable, except that it’s rather ironic and disgusting at the same time. What is ‘expected’ is the respected way of addressing, so – called, and so it becomes ‘woh’, ‘aap’, and not the name, which was the norm all this time. Sigh.

  7. I have a rule in my home – Everyone, from my children, husband, to guests and I are to be addressed as aap. So there is no exception. If you dont know someone well enough, say the name and end it with Ji..and if a person isnt Indian and doesnt understand the nuance, address them as Mr. Mrs. Miss or Sir/Madam unless the person explicitly mentions how they prefer to be addressed, then use the address with a tone of respect…I know its archaic but thats the only way I can enforce the unconscious idea of respecting another. If using aap comes only with a lack of closeness, then I prefer people to keep their distance, think before they speak and keep profanity confined to their homes. And yes that was taught by my parents and grandparents, which is shocking, given that they lived in and with the throes of patriarchal nonsense.

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