Ameet Singh, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee (IIT-R), and prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) ardently supports the No Sir No Madam cause.
Formerly, the Assistant Vice President in Yes Bank, Ameet is now the Co-founder of Bright Fox Learning Solutions which develops innovative fun-learning products for kids under the brand name ‘SUPER KIDS LEAGUE’. Bright Fox Learning Solutions aims to change how concepts are taught to kids and make personalized learning a reality. He is associated with Vision India Foundation as a ‘Change Agent’.
Ameet also loves writing and authored a book titled The Black Book, which is a result of the experiences and learnings he had during his days in IIM, Ahmedabad helping young MBA aspirants to take better life decisions.
He also writes in digital portals including, Qrius, previously known as The Indian Economist and in Shenzhen Blog, a Chinese centric global digital portal.
Ameet vehemently criticizes the Sir/ Madam culture. He has faced many uncomfortable situations in his professional and personal life due to these protocols. Therefore, Ameet insures that he maintains an environment of equality and comfort at his organization. This helps in proper and smooth functioning of his projects.
In IIT Roorkee, Ameet saw the prevalence of salutation. Every junior had to address the seniors as Sir or Madam, and this created a divide between them. He mentions that IIT Roorkee, established in British era (1847), continues its colonial culture of addressing seniors by Sir and Madam.
What is surprising is that even after 70 years of India’s independence, same colonial mindset still prevails. Ameet accepts that in college, he never opposed to the custom as he had no other perspective but in retrospective he feels repugnant to that culture.
However, his outlook changed when he started his first job as software engineer in Sapient Technologies, a multinational company (MNC). He was pleasantly surprised when he learned that all the senior executives there insisted that the other members in the team must regard them by their name only.
Initially, it was difficult for Ameet to adjust to this new idea. He hesitated as he was very young and lacked experience. Ameet mentions that although, he gradually started following the workplace custom, he did not realize the depth of the issue in that early stage.
Ameet faced his second challenge when he had to unlearn. After leaving the MNC, he started working in a government defense organization- Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and after some time in a semi-government firm -Powergrid Corporation of India.
In both these government organizations, he had to return to the Sir/ Madam terminology as people were very hierarchical and seniors feel the entitlement of Sirs/Madams. At that age, it was very confusing for Ameet to understand the difference in approach and felt difficulty in adjusting to extreme view points of two different cultures.
Ameet shared an interesting incidence which occurred when he was invited as a speaker in a session at Life Insurance Cooperation (LIC). On the entrance of a senior official of LIC, the moderator of the event probed everyone to stand and greet him with salutation. The moderator was shocked as the Ameet remained seated.
Ameet mentions that “The instructions given to the people in the room, felt like an army command. Respect doesn’t mean that we have to bow before anyone and everyone. Usually, these organizations follow such protocols to subdue their employees and make them follow orders, blindly.”
Ameet asserts that the practice is deep-rooted in the Indian mentality. When bosses come out of cars or enter a premise the service staff automatically bows and salutes. Such respect is produced out of an unspoken and unjust demand. This naturally creates inequality and discrimination within the society.
Although, years have passed since Independence, only the color of officers has changed from white to brown, we are still slaves in mind. The Sir/Madam protocol remains to be a moral contradiction. Officials refuse to work and cooperate when addressed by their name. Ameet observes, “If you are saying ‘Saab’ or Sir, it creates a psychological barrier and makes the authorities feel superior. It gives them the power over others.”
Ameet concurs that the education system must change. However, he knows that people within the system will not be too accepting towards the new perspective. For this, proper training and implementation are necessary. Children and adults should be taught that addressing a person by their name does not give one the audacity to disrespect them.
Interns and members in his company organically communicate on first-name basis. However, there are people hired from the lower strata, who feel uneasy while referring him by his name. Ameet constantly encourages them without forcing them to follow a regulation. He believes communication becomes easier when we stand on an equal platform. Everyone should take responsibility and must not cross boundaries of respect.
India is a land of cultural diversity. Even though, people follow different customs, respect remains the constant moral. However, Indians wrongly equate mandatory respect with salutation. Therefore, Ameet perceives that change should be implemented from the grass root level. It is important to spread awareness.
Ameet suggests that the No Sir No Madam initiative should begin at schools and colleges and gradually spread into more sections of the society. It can be included in the corporate HR policy. So, the corporations will automatically follow.
In conclusion, Ameet enumerates, “Dignity of life is important. One should be true to oneself and take decisions to inspire the future generation.”
Kudos to you Amit for having such a broadminded viewpoint regarding this nosir/nomadam issue.
In the world of today where we are trying to bring closeness amongst people and improving our softskills it is imperative that communication comes freely between seniors and juniors .
Dr.Maria Montessori insisted that the Child call us ,the teachers, by our names and thus the trust too would come by .
We have NOT let go of our subservient attitude hence the automatic use of sir or madam and this leads to a barrier behind which builds up a rebellious attitude due to a feeling that one is being forced…
Amit I feel very strongly and appreciate your article.
Agree whole-heartedly with Ameet that dignity is very important, and a lot of times salutations create unnecessay boundaries. I’ve noticed that people in Western countries treat each other equally and always address their seniors at work simply by their first name, which happens only at a few places in India. This needs to change.