Bhushan Kankal: A Film Maker and an IIM-A Research Associate Talks About Uprooting Sir/Madam Culture

Bhushan Kankal, a Film maker and Research Associate at Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), is an ardent believer of No Sir No Madam culture.  Having an Environmental Engineering background, at present, he is working on a climate change project at IIM-A.

Personally, Bhushan encourages everyone, including his students and colleagues to address him with his first name.  He concurs that giving respect is mandatory.  However, calling someone as Sir/Madam is not necessary.  “The moment, we refer someone as Sir/Madam we are degrading ourselves” he indicates.  Individuals should have a direct communication that can be enhanced, if we quit droning Sir/Madam.

Moreover, he indicated that this Sir/Madam culture came from the British.  At that time, the words’ Sir/Madam had a completely different symbolic meaning.  During the British rule, Indians were, directly or indirectly, forced to adopt Sir/Madam culture.  Even after independence, without realizing, Indians imbibed this culture.

In IIM-A, faculty members communicate with each other using first name.  Besides, there are few students who call their professors by their last name (i.e.; Professor Sharma, Professor Gupta, etc.).

Additionally, he agreed that the excessive use of this taboo should be reduced so that people can receive equal respect and dignity.  “We often say that a particular individual is working with me instead of saying under me, this makes a difference,” he included.

“We are expected to address the administration authorities as Sir/Madam when we visit government offices” he said.  The officials feel empowered, when people call them Sir/Madam.  However, if people did not use expected Sir/Madam nomenclature, the officials would usually consider this act disrespectful.  Consequently, the work might be delayed.

Therefore, Bhushan conceives that generally in India, individuals consider using Sir/Madam, to save their necks.  Although, by nullifying the Sir/Madam culture, everyone can approach the higher positioned staff in a cordial manner.  This culture must be annulled from the society.  However, the change can begin with reduced occurrence of Sir/Madam.  At present, younger generation is more pragmatic and comfortable with first-name communication.

Bhushan shared an incident where one of his student’s uncle addressed him as Sir.  When Bhushan refused to be addressed as Sir, uncle replied “you are teaching that is the reason I am addressing you as Sir.”

Nowadays, it is a common practice to address boss’s wife as Madam in India.  A friend of Bhushan recommended him that they should avoid referring wife of their boss as Madam.  Bhushan thinks that such small reforms in our vocabulary can change our mindsets.

Overall, he firmly believes that instead of indiscriminately following this Sir/Madam culture, we ought to have the reasons why we should quit rambling Sir/Madam. Our society must comprehend the benefits and ideologies behind No Sir No Madam culture and venture towards the change.

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