Priya Florence Shah, a Pune based author, blogger, and social media marketer enthusiastically upholds the No Sir No Madam culture. Priya dropped out of a PhD fellowship in molecular biology to pursue the field of media. She started off her career as a content writer and journalist for online magazines.
Priya published her first website, Making India Green, in 2001. Later in 2004, she brought the Blog Brandz domain which at present also provides social media marketing services. Some of her popular blogs include Naaree and AhoyMatey.
Priya finds it absolutely necessary to do away with the Sir/Madam terminology. Most Indians interrelate the idea of respect with the terms Sir and Madam. She considers this to be a hindrance in the path of progress. Priya perceives this custom to create not only a class barrier but also sexual discrimination.
Priya observes that it is harder to convince the older generation to get over this archaic tradition. They have been fed with this idea of unconditional respect. Hence, being addressed by first name by a younger person comes across as an insult. This impacts on the younger generation as well. This is why, even after we offers youngsters permission to use our first name, they feel uncomfortable.
Priya believes the problem lies more in the government sector than private sector. She is aware that government ‘babus’, and their minions get enraged when regarded by their first name. They consider Sir and Madam to be a privilege that they have acquired.
Priya shares that whenever she meets government officials, she automatically addresses them as Sir or Madam. The authorities expect the acknowledgment and might feel offended otherwise. She observes that to get our work done it is essential not to antagonize people in power. This fear exists among all citizens and creates discrimination in the society. She agrees that once power autocracy decreases, people will start perceiving concepts differently. This will in turn reduce corruption gradually.
Priya says that it will be a long-term battle to implement 21st century, two-way respectful communication in India. However, it is possible, if people make efforts to understand the basic concepts. The ideal practice will be to use first names during conversations.
Nevertheless, to begin with, she recommends surnames can be used instead of first names, to keep it formal. In some cases, allowing too much familiarity can backfire if some Indian men choose to see a woman addressing them by first name as an invitation to misbehave.
The change should come from the top, she states. In a hierarchy, it is difficult for juniors to voice their opinions in front of seniors. Therefore, transformation in an organization depends on the top management. Organizations should train the members to be assertive while communicating and build emotional intelligence.
Education plays a primary role in everyone’s life hence, children need proper guidance. Priya, for this reason, disapproves of the hierarchy exercised in Catholic schools. She was fortunate to be part of an institution run by an extremely liberal Catholic priest.
Even in her daughter’s school, the students referred to their teachers as ‘Didi’. This brings a different dynamic to the student-teacher relationship where the teachers show genuine care towards the children.
It also generates a sense of belonging in students. Priya considers the “No Sir No Madam” initiative to be timely as millennials want to implement change in the society. These young minds can transform the society.
Priya suggests that the cause should invite private-sector companies to sign a pledge to expand the “No Sir No Madam” initiative, and in return, provide an incentive to the companies who sign it by promoting their initiative.
In conclusion, Priya asserts that we should learn from Americans who believe in addressing each other by their first names. She believes that this creates an open and transparent relationship which could have a positive effect in the long run. Indians should break out of the autonomy based system for the progress of the nation.