Abhishek Kariwal, Co-founder of Open Door Education firmly believes that Sir/Madam culture creates a hindrance between communicators. Abhishek is an IIT-Madras graduate, who along with his friend Aneesh Bangia started Open Door Education. The main purpose of this firm is to make children develop a habit of thinking and questioning.
Even though they are based in Bangalore, they are working all across India. They are working with more than 70 schools and 40,000 plus students. Abhishek and his team are also working on a science book to enable teachers and students to conduct discussions in the classroom.
In India, respecting elders is deeply rooted in our culture and tradition. It is common perception that using Sir/Madam to address someone is a gesture of showing respect. He articulates, “This culture has been followed for ages and breaking this monotone makes Sir/Madam lovers uncomfortable.”
Before starting Open Door Education, Abhishek has worked with Volvo. He says, “Sir/madam culture did exist in pockets in the company despite management guidelines not supporting it. It was mainly because the people were reluctant in changing their behavior.”
Therefore, at Open Door Education, Abhishek has firmly implemented the No Sir No Madam culture. He asserts — When you remove Sir/Madam barriers, employees feel easier to communicate and even provide their candid opinions on projects.
He talks about the government sector where this attitude predominantly exists. He believes over the years, Sir/Madam culture has changed from showing respect to showing authority. Abhishek maintains that it would be heartening to see Sir/Madam culture being removed from government sector.
He professes, beyond corporate and government sector, Sir/Madam culture creates a barrier for blue-collar workers like security guards and drivers. Furthermore, “We can make a good beginning by asking our security guards not to use Sir/Madam anymore. Rather, just address us by our first name.”
Change can be brought about only from the grass root level. Abhishek shares his memory of schooling days, where they used to address their teachers as “didi” or “bhaiya”. This practice made it easier and less scary for them to interact with their teachers.
He cites an example from a school in Bangalore where students can address their teachers by their first name. Therefore, it is important that children are taught the difference between showing respecting and bowing to authority.
Overall, Abhishek firmly believes that “if India can incorporate the first-name culture in a meticulous way, this No Sir No Madam initiative can bring a positive change.” Although, Sir/Madam culture is so deeply rooted and may take time to change. However, it is high time that we abolish the Sir/Madam taboo. As Albert Einstein said, “the world as we have created is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”