>Hum aur Tum…

>…is the way I say me and you. You can say main here but tu would be considered rude.

I’m a Lucknow girl and if there’s anything you need to know about Lucknow, then it’s the language. The city has given birth to many poets and they owe in large measures their success to this city where the confluence of Hindi and Urdu lends a lyrical lilt to the language. So it’s only natural that as a Lucknow person and a literature student, I’m quite intrigued by the use and function of language.

In India, a person can be identified by the language he speaks and the way he speaks it. As you travel across UP, the dialect of Hindi changes through the cities and towns – refined in one place, rustic in another. A samosa from Kanpur would become a samausa in Meerut, if you know the difference!

I remember travelling to Haryana for my cousin’s wedding a few years ago with my family and being immediately identified as a Lucknowite there because of our aap and hum! Some say this language of thou and thine is too formal, that there’s a camaraderie that grows when you let this stiff upper lip-ness (I just made that up. So?) pass and come down to more comfortable tu and tera. Ask Mumbaikars, they’ll answer the how and why of it better.

A few months ago, The Guy was in Chandigarh to attend a business meeting. He came back extremely flustered because he didn’t understand why the man on the other end of the table was being so offensive. That man did not understand why The Guy minded what he said. Turned out, it was a simple case of lingual misunderstanding. The Punjabi fellow spoke a corrupted Punjabi that didn’t go down well with The Guy from the town of Nawabs!

Not that our language hasn’t corrupted and we can’t say anymore that if you find two people quarrelling in Lucknow, they will not be resorting to tu or tera (oh yes, they used to say that about the language here) but it’s still different from what you’re likely to hear in, say, Delhi.

And no, I’m not insinuating that the language we speak is the best but because I’m familiar with its nuances, I can appreciate it better. There are some languages though that you cannot understand but which still come across as incredibly sweet. Like Bengali. It has a tone that’s melodious even if you don’t know what the words mean.

When you transfer the tone of one language to another, it sounds unsettlingly fake. Like how they speak Hindi on Discovery (or some such) channel. Even though the pronunciations are right, the tone is still of English, lending the Hindi commentary a strange quality. When people speak a language that is not their mother tongue, they often bring the inflection of their mother tongue to that language. The result may be amusing or offensive!

But it’s the prowess to manipulate a language to make it say what you want it to, that impresses me. How you can say “kaminey” and get away with it.

Gulzar does it so well. Hear this and decide for yourself.

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34 responses »

  1. >Some time back on Indyeah's old blog I had mentioned something similar. Growing up in Kanpur and also in our circuit, Hindi was bit formal. We used a lot of 'aap' and 'tum'. 'Tu' was only for very close ones. Really close friends but still rare. I remember starting with 'aap' even to a new classmate till there was a comfort level and then moved to 'tum'. I still prefer it that way and there was a time I disliked anyone addressing me 'tu' at the first go but not anymore because now I am used to it. :)Also after I started talking in the fun tapori language.Anyways, when I wrote that comment, some 'anon' came and commented on mine that I was being too formal and that living in US, I should be used to informal addresses. Actually, to an extend he is right. US in informal but still there are many who don't cross the line at first go. In fact I ask people their preference on how my daughter should address them. Some prefer first names, some like so n so's Dad/mom (that works best), some even likes to be called grandma/pa. Now about 'Kaminey', I never knew there's a movie like that. Let me check. 🙂 I have a post on Gulzar where I mentioned that he even uses chimta and gaalis and still gets away with it with the sheer charm he weaves.

  2. >Nice one. Language and its nuances. Waise Bihar mein bhi HUM ka bolbala hai. I identify a Bihari by that particular word 'HUM'.Hubby darling is from Bihar so I am into the HUM thing big way. Soon after marriage I made the mistake of saying 'Main' and immediately a 3 year old asked me if I was from Delhi?The first time I met some Maharashtrians who later went onto become my best friends I like The Guy thought they were very rude…thanks to the tu tera etc…On sweet languages.. you should hear Dogri my mother tongue…very sweet as sweet as the people who speak it 😉

  3. >I'm a Bengali and I've often been told that it sounds sweet and melodious but I can't tell…I've also heard a lot of my North Indian friends refer to their kids as 'aap' which I find weird 'cause in Bengali, 'aap' is very formal…

  4. >as you said, there is a beautiful cadence, and finesse to lucknowi hindi – had a few friends from UP and I remember even their swear words used to sound quite, well polite ( the girls that is- the guys, well never mind). Being a mumbaikar, what i can say about bambaya is that while it is not as refined, there is a certain buoyancy and joie-de-vivre to the lingo, that is very difficult to replicate. i mean can you beat kayku khalipeeli bom marta hai?

  5. >Funny,yes. But being a delhite and having stayed in various places has taught me the lesson…of adapting to people's conversation styles. So its 'tu,teri' with the punjus and 'tum,aap' with others.I prefer the 'tu' somehow. habit, I guess.

  6. >@Solilo: Everyone has such interesting experiences to share as far as linguistics go! Of course, we borrow liberally from other langauges to make our own. But it takes time to get used to a 'tu' if you come from an 'aap' culture and vice versa.And thank you for the compliment @header@Chrysalis: Yes, Dogri is also such a sweet language. So is Punjabi actually, if you hear it from the gentler Punjabis.@Sraboney: We do address childen as "aap" not just as a matter of hait but because you must practice what you preach: if you want your children to address everyone as respectfully, you have to start by addressing them respectfully.@cynic in wonderland: LOL! No, nothing to beat that!@Meira: Speak in Rome as the Romans do? It would take a long time to learn!

  7. >interesting what you say and what sols said… we have varying ways of doing things and even in the same language there are regional ways…In gujarati people near surat in south gujarat have a pretty rough manner… where as in ahmedabad have a typical way but better… Saurashtra has a strange accent and many times is termed sweeter… There are various ways… some call Dad is tame (aap in hindi) and Mom tu… wonder why… interestingly we have been trained in such a way by my parents that we normally call almost everyone aap… especially people we dont know… Languages being manipulated… geez… we can speak english without using gujarati or hindi.. but we cant speak gujarati or hindi without using english… but it has all evolved i guess and cannot be avoided… cant see the video so cant comment on that… but this is a long comment anyways… he he

  8. >I'm afraid I commit terrible language gaffes where respect comes in 😦 This goes for even for my native mallu, where what's respectful addresing in Malabar (where I come from) is disrespectful down South. 😦 Leads to no end of confusion with the in-laws, I tell you! Sigh! That's why I so love the current English with its straight talking. A You can mean the King, or the Princess or a beggar too.. :-)But I do love to hear the respectful way of talking in HIndi, using Aap and Hum. It is a pleasure to hear it.And I just saw your header yesterday- totally cool!. 🙂

  9. >Very interesting D. In my intercast marriage, I have gone through all these confusions & it took time to adapt myself. Here people greet elders with "Pranam", even over the phone. With us, just a "Hi" or "Hello" or "Namaste" used to be the norm. We've reached a middle path now. :)BTW, I love Lucknowni language. & Love yout header!!

  10. >@hitchwriter: The evolution of language is such an interesting subject and Hinglish is already on its way to becoming a langauge in its own right.And the link there is the title track of the film 'Kaminey'. Lyrics by Gulzar.@JLT: Oh yes, 'you' is quite a leveller! But English is not without its own variations, the most obvious being between US and UK English.@Blue Mist: Neither to me. @Monika, Ansh: Like at my in-laws', when they serve the guests, they say 'snacks dikha do'. The first time I heard that I was quite amused – what do you mean dikha do, aren't they for eating? And hey, thanks for the compliment about the header. My very first try and am glad so many of you like it!

  11. >I know a lot of people who use "aap" when talking to their children, but it always seems strange to me. You do have a point about the teaching of respect, but still….Cheers,Quirky Indian

  12. >I can totally identify with the Guy, except that I would be the offender! Growing up in Hyderabad gave me a Hindi that does not go down well with many. We pepper our hindi with kya re, kaiku, hau and nakko….so much that the shudh hindi speakers really cringe…..but we plod on with our bhasha!

  13. >Badi Nazakat aur Nafasat waali post hai yeh :-DBeing from Nawaab Nagree myself, I can relate very well to what you've written. I know there isn't any 'Pehle Aap' anymore but whatever remains is still quite elegant. The Urdu/Hindi concoction is delightful.And you are right about Bengali too. It mostly sounds so mush mush. On the other hand, there are languages like Tamil (the fastest spoken language) that make the non-native assume there are tempers raging between the speakers 😛

  14. >In bengali, we use 'tumi' when talking to kids. Almost always!'Aap' is only used when you talk to strangers or neighbours. But other than that its usually 'tumi' or 'tui'. But like you said, Bengali does sound pleasing to the ears no matter what. 🙂

  15. >This I can relate. My parents are both brought up in Lucknow and I grew up in Bombay. Every trip there would start with minor adjusting of my vocabulary and I think I can very easily switch from Nawabi to Tapori depending on the audience and it feels really nice when people who can discern compliment although I dont really make an effort. You are right about the tone. The natural is always the best. Somehow I can always tell when someone is trying the Mumbai tapori lingo as opposed to talking it without being aware of it (the latter I find charming.)My mother tongue is Bengali and I have heard many people say what you said that its a sweet sounding language. Like Sraboney, I also cannot really tell.

  16. >@Quirky Indian: Well, what do we say to "but still…"?@Shilpa: Hahaha! Right here, that sounds cute.@Sangroid: Oh yes! You said that well. There's something about the langauges down South that gives the impression that there's never a pleasant conversation that can be carried out by their speakers.@Miss M: See, it's so simple – "tumi" doesn't sound anything like "tu" though it may mean the same!@Anamika: Which is why most of us Indians are multi-linguals.

  17. >oh yes languages and its charms… i have grown up and lived almost all thru in delhi and when i moved to blore couple of years back I had a shock of my life in the way hindi was speaken gulzar i love him he says simple things with so much intensity gosh

  18. >D,This was an interesting post!I'd been once told that to distinguish Hindi of Uttar Pradesh from that of Haryana/Delhi/Punjab–simply observe if they say 'jee haan' or 'haan jee'. And this general rule has largely proven quite useful, just that I was proven wrong where I least expected to–in Lucknow! There I found people saying 'haan jee' and 'jee haan' interchangeably, and on asking further, they said that their Hindi has got spoilt!I'm a Gujarati, and have stayed in Mumbai for a major portion of my life, and could claim to have a decent Hindi. Once, one of the Hindi-speaking persons asked me if I was "from UP"? I was petrified, not because I found anything wrong with being mistaken to be from Uttar Pradesh, but I realized, I was misfit! So, then on (nearly 10 years back), I've made it a point to incorporate Mumbai-slang also in my Hindi. So, now my Hindi is quite versatile–calling people of my own age–'tu', 'tum' as well as 'aap' depending on the nature of acquaintance. But yes, I never refer to the self as 'Hum'! :)Take care.

  19. >I lived in Lucknow or 5 yeas and completed my graduation from that city . It used to be a city lost in time and although I suffered a traumatic personal loss I have fond memories of the place . And yes, the language – I still carry it with me . My father was from Allahabad so therefore we grew up speaking a sweeter Hindi than most. And still continue to do so ..

  20. >I am from Mumbai, so quite used to the tu, main, apun lingo. But I have a friend, from Ranchi, who uses "hum" to refer to himself, but uses "tu" to refer to others. It hella annoys me because even though he doesn't mean to be rude, it just sounds condescending. I don't know if its just him or if that's the way they speak in that region.

  21. >I think Aap is used when talking to children so that they also learn to speak like that, most North Indians would be uncomfortable if a child used tu or even tum while speaking to them. I think Aap is a standard way of showing respect to elders or new acquaintances.

  22. >I somehow find the aap more decent and civilized than the tu despite it being too formal, but there's some kind of beauty to it.But ofcourse it changes when you move from one region to another.

  23. >@Monika: Adapting to a new culture has a lot to do with adapting to its langauge.@Ketan: The 'haan jee' and 'jee haan' is a tell-tale sign. And you're right that people in the Hindi belt also say 'haan jee' with as much frequency as 'jee haan' – that's what intermingling of cultures does.@eve's lungs: It's nice to know you were able to retain the language you were exposed to for only 5 years. I lived in Delhi for 3 years and though I picked up a few typically Delhi phrases and words, I was quick to give them up when I was out of the capital.@Rakesh: LOL! Why do you find that condescending? Is it that you find 'hum' a more royal address that 'main'? Perhaps this Bihari friend is trying to fit in in a new place and is in an in-between stage of adapting to a new lingo.@IHM: Exactly my thoughts.@J: That's what I was trying to say with Gulzar's example. He's made 'kaminey' also sound like a pretty harmless word.

  24. >interesting…since was raised in lko and have lived in mumbai now for abt 17 years my bhaasha is a complete gadbadjhala! But i am happy to say that even after so many years people still compliment me on my hindi, accent vocab etc..And surprisingly i automatically switch over to lko ka lehza when i speak to anyone from lko…and I never say TU…But my bombay frnds? I call them TU!!!

  25. >Hey, i am sure I left a comment here…..:(Here goes again…I love that beautiful kind of Hindi. Its been ages since I heard 'shuddha' Hindi. Once I came to Bombay, I picked up the language/dialect way too fast, and miss the way its spoken in the Northern parts of the country. honey to my ears. 'Kaminey', I was surprised at the melodious soulful song it is, when I first heard it. Absolutely love it.

  26. >@my space: Makes sense to do in Rome as the Romans do.@Goofy: I don't think Lucknow Hindi is anywhere near shudh Hindi. That you'd probably get to hear in Varanasi and Allahabad. Lucknow's Hindi is more of Urdu and we don't even know that.@Sirop: 🙂 14 Aug is it? I hope I'm not in town to watch it! Would spend that long weekend doing something better than watching movies!

  27. >Maybe, I would not really know the difference, but it is definitely way more 'shuddha' than Mumbaiyya. 😉 Also, aren't a lot of the Urdu words officially a part of the Hindi vocab too???

  28. >@Manish Raj: No, though I have a few friends and relatives from Bihar. Why do you ask?Goofy: Yes, you're right.@PaKKaramu: Great!

  29. >You are bang on with the nuances of the way hindi is spoken in lucknow to kanpur to delhi to mumbai.Lucknow is at one extreme and mumbai at another i would say. I miss my "samausa" 😀

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