Manvendra Singh Gohil, the crowned prince of a 650-year-old dynasty, who is a leading activist for LGBT community in India, ardently supports No Sir No Madam initiative. He is also the chairman of a charitable trust known as “The Lakshya Trust”. Lakshya is a community-based organization working for HIV/AIDS prevention among men. In 2006, Lakshya won the Civil-Society Award for its contribution in preventing HIV/AIDS among homosexual men.
Manvendra comes from a royal lineage and is the first gay prince in the world. Ever since he accepted his homosexuality, he has been working as a human and animal right activist. Recognizing his philanthropic and social activities, Manvendra has been invited on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show.
He is a stern believer of treating everyone equally. Subsequently, he does not like being addressed or addressing others with a salutation. Manvendra opines — I consider the idea of referring someone as ‘Sir/Madam’ very British. When we have freed ourselves from them, then why carry on a culture that they forced upon us.
Moreover, we have the option of greeting others with various vernacular terms because of our diversity. For example, here in Gujarat, people denominate each others with ‘bhai’ or ‘behen’. These terms are cultural and display respect at the same time.
Even in his organization, there are no designations or formal titles for each other. People converse with each other on a first-name basis. Furthermore, to build team morale, they all eat food, on the floor, together in the community kitchen of their office. Manvendra ventures, “Society discriminates us for who we are, if we have differences within ourselves, then how can we expect the society to treat us equally.”
He is also aware of the egoistic nature that salutation custom, builds in the corporate sector. People have ego issues, and that is how clashes happen in an organization. However, he shares an example of Aditya Birla Group, which follows a unique way of setting parity in their workplace.
Manvendra narrates — usually corporate firms have their meetings in the office. Whereas, Aditya Birla group visit our palaces or our farms to conduct their meetings. I was impressed when I noticed that they all sat down together on the grass, while the meeting was being carried on. Such practices help in breaking down barriers and lets employees mingle and get to know each other better.
Likewise, No Sir No Madam movement focuses on setting parity at workplace and improving communication. Ergo, letting the employees express their views and make work enjoyable.
Manvendra firmly agrees that salutation edict has plagued the government with arrogance and apathy.
He voices, “Dealing with government officers can be a real pain. I often interact with various ministers, regarding policy implementations and other work. I have noticed that government officials take great pride in being addressed with a salutation. They even go the extent of obstructing your work if you do not refer to them with a salutation. Therefore, a person has to adhere unwillingly to such mandates, in order for him or her to get the work acknowledged.”
Manvendra reminisces over one such incident when he had gone to Delhi to meet a minister. He enunciates, “I had taken an appointment and ensured to be on time to meet the concerned minister. However, the minister arrived late to the office and was not interested in hearing about my case.
During our conversation, I happened to refer to him as ‘Sir’. To which, his eyes shone, and now he paid attention to what I had to talk about. Even his behavior changed and he started to pamper me, for being a prince. These politicians are duty-bound; however, they require such ego massage to do the simplest job.”
He adds — I do not understand why bureaucrats expect others to address them with a salutation. When I had met our current Prime Minister, I referred to him as ‘Narendra bhai’ and he was not at all offended by that.
When, the Prime Minister, himself, does not consider salutation diktat as the ultimate form of respect, then why are ministers working below him so adamant about it?
Manvendra considers this egoistic issue of being addressed with a salutation as a grass-root level problem. Therefore, he suggests teaching about such topics in schools. Implementing No Sir No Madam doctrine in the education system would enable kids to learn about respecting each other equally.
He remarks — What we learn in school is what we carry on forward in our lives. Hence, schools play a vital role in forming one’s personality. More importantly, they are the future leaders of this country. They are the ones who are going to spearhead similar initiatives like No Sir No Madam. Ergo, it is important they be groomed in a manner that they grow up to be respectful leaders.
In the end, Manvendra winds up by quoting, “Be thoughtful of others. Thus, let us be loving and compassionate to others and make this world a better place to live.”