“Pehale aap.” “Nehin, pehale aap.” And the train sets away rolling.
This is the most vivid picture that comes to our mind, the moment we talk about the Awadh’s (formerly, for Lucknow) ‘Aap-aap’. And even when the train is missed out in surmounting one’s ‘pehale aap’ (‘you first, please’) on the other, Lucknowites are still proud of it. For, now this is seen as the symbol of the city’s greatest patronage to two popular language of the country at their distinction, the Urdu and the Hindustani. Javed Akhtar, Naushad, K.P. Saxena, -- don’t know how many noted literati have taken routes to fame through the streets of Lucknow.
But, like we keep one-track thinking for most of our subjects, so do we do here. Because we consider only ‘aap’ to be pure and the best, and the rest to be sub-standard-- ‘Tum’ is more of plebeians. The two are never evaluated against their merits and demerits— formal or informal, stressful or comfortable. All ruled out—it has got to be ‘Aap’, always.
Due to my regular intercourses with many other dialects, of late I have stumbled upon some disadvantages also of the ‘Aap’ word. For once, people see it as mark of submission to their ideas. The resistance or protest laced in ‘aap’ is perceived to be weaker than other second-person pronouns.
Secondly, the communication is obstructed as the users of the word continue to remain more formal with each other. This makes them to put more focus on avoiding getting hurtful than speaking out one’s mind. The father-son relationship, friends relationship, it all remains un-warm, un-sharing, and taut, till ‘aap’ acts as the binder.
Also, the patrons of ‘aap’ often feel offended at the slightest piercing by ‘tu’ or ‘tum’. This is because there is a natural expectation of reciprocating Respect while giving it to the other. One does not realize that he may, infact, be compelling the other, against his will, to do that.
The ‘aap’ culture is also repressive on the use of swear-words. Now however illicit it may sound, but the fact remains that abuses too are used to depict some of our basic feelings, like anger or extreme love, in their varied degrees. There is an un-obstructed pouring of feeling by their use. ‘Aap’ keeps us shackled us to certain fixated ideas beyond which it becomes Intrusion.
I think the word itself sees it origin from other native dialects, ‘Bhojpuri’ and ‘Awadhi’— variants of Hindi, which lent it to Arab soldiers during Mogul rule in India. Urdu, meaning the Camp Language, was evolved as the fusion of Hindi and Persian happened. Speakers of both these languages would use this word to keep off any confrontation among them, while fighting for the same ruler. They surely must have been under stress while keeping company of the other ‘strangers’. The stress of those times, to date, gets carried down by excessive use of ‘aap’. Later, even Mogul rulers adopted it, and thus it became the king’s language.
Today, since it’s so many centuries now, Lateral thinking is required to re-explore the pros and cons of ‘Aap’.