Tumi - the definition of a relationship

Tumi: A simple word in the Bangla language. There is no translation for the word in English. If one were to claim, "you" as the translation, then that would simply lose the beauty of the Bangla word. Perhaps the Spanish, "TĂș" comes close, but it still does not. Because the tumi stands between two other salutations, "aapni" close to the "Usted" in Spanish and "tui" for which there is no real equivalent in Spanish, let alone English. But that is only at the dry linguistic level. The real power of 'tumi' lies in the way some people can use it to create a sense of peace and comfort for the people around them. I know of a person who would start with tumi with anyone and completely bypass the "aapni." The ease with which the person does this is admirable and creates a connection that can only come from the correct use of the tumi hailing. Because tumi creates a sense of connection that overcomes the stiffness of the aapni while not creating the uncomfortable familiarity of the tui. But as the tumi is also contextual. Who you address with tumi gives different meanings to the word and to the relationship. In my mind it actually beautifies a relationship where an aapni might frame it in formal mahogany and the tui would write it on scrap paper - too common and familiar. The tumi is the perfect mix people who want to define their relationship be it respect, affection, friendship, romance, indignation, jealousy, envy, or hate. It is the relative proportion of the ingredients that makes the tumi special. Such is the tumi in some contexts where the intonation of the word will show what the proportions are at any moment in time. And the beauty of the tumi is the way in which the proportions vary. A tumi that starts with a good portion of respect and friendship can at some point take on the faint aroma of romance transforming lives of people as the relationships encapsulated in a tumi metamorphose offering openings and opportunities. This is why people move to tumi from aapni - sometimes unknowingly as new comfort zones are created or graduate to tumi from tui when the relationship changes to a point where it demands the acknowledgment of the change from the casualness of the tui to a more nuanced tumi. Because the word does not work by itself. In a language like Bangla tumi creates an ecosystem, a space, where all aspects of a relationship get defined. Because tumi is a part of a universe of the middle-level hailing system in the language and there are many other words that follow the hierarchy of the tumi. In combination with tumi these words define a relationship and solidify the essentials of the relationship made up of the mixture of all its ingredients. This includes the affection encapsulated in the invitation “esho (come over)” or the gentleness of the “bosho (have a seat) or many such words that fall in the middle between the formal and the informal versions such as “boshun (the formal)” or “bosh (the informal).” This may seem natural, and perhaps banal, to some, because of the familiarity with the words, but that does not imply that the meaning of the words is lost to those who choose to transform and define a relationship through the words. There is an inherent beauty in the careful use of the word and anyone observing attentively will see these nuances. When a disbalanced relationship comes into balance, where both people settle on tumi as the relational term, some abandoning the tui to become congruent with the tumi which might be the only option of the other person. The words bring a balanced comfort as opposed to the stilted formality of two people addressing each other with "aapni" and also opposed to the uncomfortable informality of the “tui.” Sometimes, relationships come to a point where the tui does not sound right and the aapni is cold and distancing. It is in that moment of transformation to the tumi, that we perhaps get the sunshine that John Denver sings about.


Unknown said…
a simple word...lucidly explained...typical Ananda style; love it !
Ananda Mitra said…
Many thanks. Much encouraged

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