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Even after 74 years of independence, are Indians still slaves of the colonial rule?

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Indian (and also most other Asian/Oriental) culture places a huge premium on respect for the seniors and politeness towards the strangers. So even before the British set foot in India or introduced the word Sir to Indians, people were addressing the elders, and those in position of power, or even people in everyday walks of life with respectful terms like “Prabhu”(Lord) or ‘Swamy’. The entire village was our family. A girl of our grandmother’s age would also be ‘Dadi’, any man of our father’s age would be ‘Kaka’ or ‘Kaku’ or ‘Mama’. A woman of our father’s age would be ‘Maasi’ or ‘Bua’. These were not just names, we even followed what we said. No one even married a girl of his own village because she automatically became his sister as he addressed her parents by these relations.

Whereas on the other hand, in western culture ‘Uncle’ means only your father’s brother and ‘Grandpa’ means only your father/ mother’s father. This clearly indicates why in India when some problems arose the entire village stood together. For those who don’t know Panchayat is a system formed and practiced only in India because the decision of Sarpanch (usually the most elderly and wise man of the village ) was considered as the decision of Head of the Family by all the residents of the village.

The influence of the Sanatan Dharma expounded humility, and respect for elders and courtesy for strangers. Even after the advent of Mughal rule, this practice continued, when people addressed the royalty, nobility and the gentry with terms like Huzur or Saheb. The prevalence of adding the honorific suffix Ji to even everyday common relations were, and still are, not uncommon in India, and this is how you will see some one addressing his own father as Pita ji, mother as Maa ji, sister as Behan ji, the temple priest as Pandit ji, the local leader as Neta ji and the school teacher in hybrid Hinglish as Master ji. The point is though the word Sir came much later into Indian semantics, the spirit was already an integral part of the Indian sentiment.

When the Britishers arrived on Indian shores as traders and then expanded their empire here, they wanted the educated Indians only for some clerical or subordinate works for the predominantly British higher officials. Obviously, the White Europeans did not like their Brown subordinates to address them by their first names as it’s practiced in Western Nations and thus the word Sir became the default term for addressing higher ups, and gained wide currency and general acceptance in the popular vocabulary. If this weren’t the logic then people of those days would even call Swami Vivekananda as Sir Vivekananda and Acharya Dayanand Saraswati as Sir Dayanand. Even then the system of Ji or Sahab couldn’t quit our sentiments. I’ve often seen people addressing their seniors as ‘Sir Sahab’ or ‘Sir ji’.

Even if you watch one Hollywood Movie of the ‘Back to School’ theme you’ll realize that if the surnames of their teachers are Wills (Male), Brown (Married Female) and Smith (Unmarried Female) the students address them as Mr. Wills, Mrs. Brown and Miss Smith respectively. In India on the other hand Mr. Wills becomes Sir, Mrs. Brown becomes Ma’am and Miss Smith remains Miss. We are stuck in a web of words. Only if a teacher of the school is also a doctorate then the prefix ‘Dr.’ comes before their names like Dr. Anthony.

Our Gurukul system never taught us to take names of our teachers that’s why even after independence we addressed our teachers as Sir and Ma’am. At the time of the Gurukul system words like Gurudev, Gurumata, Swamiji, etc were prevalent.

Even colleagues, peers and neighbors in India address each other as Sir, even though they might be knowing the names of each other. Funnily, this term Sir is even tagged along with proper or improper nouns like Banerjee Sir, Kumar Sir, or even Manager Sir, Engineer and Director sir. So in India, today every one is a Sir.

The elderly being the guiding force elicited a sense of respect from others, which is so culturally entrenched within us that finds expression in our languages too. Example, unlike English we don’t use YOU for everyone, but segregate it as ‘AAP’ for elders and ‘TUM’ for peers and youngsters. It is part of a cultural trait rooted very much in the way our society and languages evolved. Addressing anyone elderly with their first name or last name is not seen as a good behavior and hence we Indians would never called our beloved Tiwari Sir as Mr. Tiwari or Sunayna Ma’am as Mrs. Sunayna. Instead we’ll use Sir or Ma’am both in corporates and schools.

Now that we Indians have got to know ‘Sir’ is used for a person who receives knighthood from the Queen of England like Sir Albert Einstein or Sir Richard Hadlee. we shouldn’t use words like Sir in schools or offices. It’s better to call them Guru ji, Teacher ji, Master ji in schools and Boss or Mr. So and So in offices.

It’s time that we quit these colonial terms like Sir and follow our own culture otherwise we’ll remain a Slave to the British even after 75 Years of Independence. People should start spreading awareness and by themselves adapt to the change. Petitions should be signed in favour of this because I’m very sure the Government officials find this to be too small a topic to be raised in the Parliament.

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