Changing nature of Meiteilon - Pabung / Papa

Ringo Pebam *

 With Illustrator credit - Changing nature of Meiteilon - Pabung Papa
Changing nature of Meiteilon - Pabung Papa :: Illustrator credit - Kapil Arambam

My generation grew up calling each other "Bhai". Even girls to some extent call each other "Bhai". When one calls "Etao" or "Eta" or "Marup", many feel it is outdated.

I call my father "Baba" since childhood, and while I was in college when I addressed him "Baba" in front of my non-Manipuri friends, I felt awkward, and I felt no pride, because that's not our word. I always envy my friends who call "Pabung" to their fathers.

My father's generation calls their fathers as "Baji", "Paba", etc, our generation calls "Baba"; now the younger generation mostly calls "Papa", "Mama", "Daddy", "Mummy", rather than "Pabung" and "Ema", and it is becoming a new trend.

Many of my junior friends call me "Bro" and "Bhaiya". Only a few call me "Eyamba" and only one calls me "Ebung."

"Bhabhi" instead of "Eteima" is widely used these days.

Years ago, there was one junior friend who called me "Tamo" instead of "Dada" among the many lots, and when I asked him why, he told me that he wanted to use our word "Tamo" rather than "Dada" which is not ours. Another one calls me "Ta"/ "Tada" because he says he feels it expresses more respect than "Da"/ "Dada."

Many married women nowadays address their elder brother in law as "Ebai" in lieu of "Etei".

I call my aunt's sons and daughters who are elder than me as "Ebai" and "Eteima" respectively. If I were a girl, I would have called them "Etei" and "Enamma". But, many cut short and use the words "Da" and "Che" instead. At times, I feel, am I so old-fashioned, am I so out-dated in front of them?

I recently called up a junior friend of mine, and her father picked up her phone and said, "Ibema do moupa nupa ga keithel da chatkhine". I was amazed to have heard the word "Moupa" uttered from the other end of the line, because "Manao nupa" and "Enao nupa" often replace the words "Moupa" and "Eupaa" respectively in this day and age.

"Enao nupi" means younger sister-in-law, but the word is used in place of "Echan" repeatedly by many.

"Eyamba" is a beautiful word that carries emotion besides respect. Let's say that you happen to argue with a stranger on the road, say for rash driving. How much angry you are, in the heat of the moment, when the other person (who is a junior to you) addresses you as "Eyamba", your anger evaporates. That's the kind of emotion the word "Eyamba" evokes.

"Echou" is a word our Meitei Pangal echil enao use to this day, a word which kindles emotion and closeness.

Whenever a friend of mine used the word "Tachou" to address her elder brother, I always felt good. In my friend circle, no one uses that word. It reminds me of how an aunt of mine used to address my father as "Tachou", and the kind of love and affection the word conveyed.

To the fathers of our close friends, we call what our friends call them. Say, if our friends call their fathers as "Baba" or "Papa" we also call their parents the same as they do. But, to a father of a friend, about whom we don't know what our friend addresses him as, or to an elderly father figure whom we meet for the first time, we address them as "Pabung." Because we still consider the word "Pabung" to be carrying more respect than "Baba" or "Papa" or "Daddy."

I believe that the word "Pabung" was formed by the combination of the words "Epa" and "Ibungo".

In the 1990s, during our school days in Don Bosco, Chingmeirong, there was a lady teacher who taught us Social Studies. Her English was excellent, and she even spoke with an American accent. But sometimes she told the class, 'See, you may think I speak like an American, but how many of you call your fathers at home "Pabung"? I am sure most of you must be calling them "Baba." But, I call my father, "Pabung." Know that!'.

Epal, Eton, Eku, Epu, Eben, Palem, Panthou, etc are words that are much less in use nowadays than they once were.

Are our words losing their usage? Is our language getting diluted? Is our language fading away? Yes, I feel so.

I observe a new trend of replacing our native words with foreign words and interchanging of our native words in many instances.

I fear that maybe in the next 40 years from today, so many of our native words will not be used or used very less.

The many points I mentioned above, I felt in the past in many instances, but never thought seriously. I began to realise after pondering over numerous vocabularies of our Ema Lon. In fact, an article I wrote a couple of days ago on the word "Neire" affected me to deep dive into our native words on their origin and usages.

I am not a traditionalist or a language activist or a linguist or an expert. I am just another son of the soil, who fears that our language might die out soon and wishes to alert my fellow men.

Between 1950 and 2010, 230 languages went extinct, according to the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.

Encyclopedia Britannica says that most languages die out gradually as successive generations of speakers become bilingual and then begin to lose proficiency in their traditional languages.

I hope this write up, in whatever little way, will make the readers ponder over and do things in their capacity to save our language from dying.

When I sent this article to some close friends for review, one of them remarked that from now on, she would start addressing me as "Ebung" and not as "Bro" like she used to.

* Ringo Pebam wrote this article for
The writer can be reached at: ringo(DOT)p(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on July 07, 2020 .

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