Every Maharashtrian has come across one or more of these gentlemen in their lifetime. Baba, Dada, Nana, Anna, Appa & Bal. Terms that take over the first name of the man in question and become his identity for the rest of his life. Nobody know exactly how or why this happens. It just does.
Famous cases to the point – Baba Amte, Bal Thackeray, Nana Phadnavis and several other distinguished gentlemen.
It’s alright to see a man pushing 40 called Baba Damle. I mean, he’s qualified to be a Baba (father) . But a 72-year old Bal anything is a problem. Bal? At 72? What exactly is ‘bal’ (baby) about 72?
And the most surprising part is that the men themselves don’t mind. Indeed, generations of cultured Maharashtrian menfolk have borne these names with pride, almost as honorifics. Or titles. Some have even earned these titles – like the supreme monarch of natyasangeet, Bal Gandharva, whose youthful and delicate features earned him the first part of his name and the honeyed god-like quality of his singing, the last part.
But the point still remains – why?
For some reason nobody questions how or why this happens. A man may go to bed a Narayan Joshi and wake up as the new and improved Appa Joshi. And remain that till his dying day and beyond. Just like that. And what happens to a Nana Nene? Or a Bal Bal? Do they get picked on at the senior citizens’ katta? Because you know, boys remain boys.
I think relationships are the culprit in some cases. A newborn child automatically elevates the men in the house to Baba or Dada status. And sometimes, these names stick. The new kid or Bal, becomes the Bal of the family, neighbourhood, city or whatever. The Baba of the house becomes Baba to everyone else too. In a very unprominscuous way, of course. And the Dada of the house becomes Dada to the whole street. Without gathering hafta from any shopkeepers whatsoever.
But what could possibly be the reason behind Nana, Appa or Anna? Either nobody knows or they simply won’t say. Least of all, I assume, ladies whose names are subliminally replaced with Tai, Mai or Akka.