In the west the expression aunty or aunt is used mostly in a derogatory sense, often implying the fossilized nature of the addressee. In our ex motherland the prefix aunt conjures up an image of old white haired ladies in tweeds, pruning roses in quaint villages like St Mary’s Mead and serving scones to ravenous nephews at high tea.

But in India ‘auntyji’ has no such specific connotation and works pretty much like loose change; applied universally to any lady above the age of 28. So everyone from the postman to the grocery delivery boy to the next door neighbour’s pesky son starts calling you aunty once you are over a certain age, with an ease which suggests that they have been given the moral right to do so by society.

I assure you that no woman is particularly thrilled to be addressed thus. Like Hindi film heroines who start getting offered mother – sister roles with the same male actors they were earlier paired with once they are 30, this labelling has a certain ‘past shelf life’ tone to it which is sad.

As Anurita commented earlier, the first time this happens it actually puts one in big state of shock. And with every aunty call-out, a woman’s self image keeps moving southward till it finally ends up like a limp rag somewhere near her ankles!

After nearly a decade of being called aunty, I was so reconciled to the fact that I was middle aged, that when some roadside Romeo type started whistling and making kissy-kissy sounds while following me down a deserted street in Chennai, I didn’t even get the fact that I was being eve teased!

When it finally dawned upon me, let me admit quite honestly that momentarily I was quite flattered! Here I was, 35 years of age, and with ten years of being called aunty behind me, and someone was eve teasing me! Wow! Then of course I walked across and gave him one tight slap as a matter of principle, since I strongly believe that every eve teaser should be given immediate feedback with a good thrashing. But I can tell you my heart wasn’t in it.

Ultimately, it has taken a sensitive and imaginative writer from Bollywood to show everyone that hidden in every ‘aunty’ around us, there is a gutsy spirit which refuses to accept the limitations of that particular word. The song ‘Auntyji’, which is currently rocking the charts, is testimony to the innate exuberance in a woman’s personality, whatever the baggage of age Indian society may dump on her.

In case you haven’t heard the song a loose translation goes something like this;

Your youth may have faded slightly, but you are still young auntyji
Your beauty still attract boys half your age auntyji
Your hair may be greying, but the romance in your heart hasn’t auntyji
Like old gold and mature wine, only with experience can an innocent beauty become auntyji
Your waist may have thickened, but the smile is still a million dollar worth auntyji
Your husband looks like your daddy and your daughter like your sister auntyji
So auntyji, auntyji, get up and dance!

                                   Movie: Ek main aur Ek Tu, Lyricist:Amitabh Bhattacharya

So all you dear nephews out there, go ahead and call us ‘aunty’ as much as you want ; a rose by any name will smell just as sweet and an aunty will always remain sexy thanks to Shakespeare and a Bollywood lyricist!