Story of a lost journalist

October 8, 2011

To Sir Or Not To Sir

Filed under: My Musing Moments — Cris @ 15:17

One of the first things that the HR told us on our entry into the Infy Mysore campus was ‘we don’t use Sir here. Everyone including NRN is addressed by first name’. Was a little difficult at first – having Sirred all our professors in college, not Sirring someone in the authority felt odd. But once you fall into the practice, it seems the much more sensible option. Whoever invented Sir and Madam, must have thought that a single word could inject a lot of respect and command into the system. Wrong. Respect does not come from Sirring someone. Respect is an action, not a word, it is a behavior, not – I repeat, a word.

Unfortunately we still live in a world that enjoys being Sirred and Madammed. Not all, but yes the number is not less. After infy life, I continued with the first name rule at several places before I started sensing the displeasure it created. The how-dare-she expressions people wore were too obvious to be missed. I could not quite grasp it because I shuddered everytime anyone called me Madam. I took a lot of pain to stop them! And so it seemed weird to me that there are people who actually enjoy it. There were exceptions too. I was the only one calling Anoop John by name during my short stint in Zyxware and he said: “I tried telling them not to call me so, but they don’t seem able to digest the idea.”

I remember my friend and former colleague Sanjeev telling me “I hated it when you called me Sir. But I didn’t want others who enjoyed it to be ripped of that pleasure because of me.” Friend and one of the best writers I know – Sabin – made it clear on the very first day (when he was editor and I was reporter at Yentha) – ‘Please don’t call me Sir!’ And now Ayyappan at Deccan Chronicle, tells me “In Indian Express when you were an intern it was fine. But now we are colleagues, so please call me by name.” There was Madam trouble too – I first called Saraswathy by name and later Madammed her when someone advised me to, the time I freelanced for Metro Plus.

I still maintain that people who teach us call for a Sir or Ma’m or Mister or Ms or at least a Professor. But the problem however is there is no particular system in work places. So we will have to rely on instinct to decide who prefers what. Safer route always being to call all seniors Sir until they tell you to please stop. I don’t have any problem in calling people Sir – if it makes them happy, I’d be glad to give them that bit of happiness. But for sure, that is not where my respect comes from. Respect is a feeling, and I repeat again – not a word.

(Silly aside to serious post: My friend just read this and told me my entire professional resume seems to be in here :D)



  1. Cant agree more with you on this, Cris. The usage of such words of respect and the implicit compulsion on those who dont want to use it (since most others are using them) doesnt lead us forward for sure.

    Social structures that promote reverence through these kinds of mechanisms are are a huge hindrance to progress. There was a recent series of articles discussing how irreverence could enhance Indian Science – a commentary appears at has Achuth Sankar Sir’s take on this.

    Comment by Deepak P — October 8, 2011 @ 16:08 | Reply

  2. 🙂 Good one!

    Comment by Gov — October 10, 2011 @ 06:59 | Reply

  3. cris, sometimes i enjoyed the word ‘sir’, in a work place there will b some fellows whom we want to ignore but forced to communicate, then ‘sir’ title helped me to avoid them in a nice way..

    Comment by Anila Balakrishnapillai — October 20, 2011 @ 00:59 | Reply

  4. Interesting post. True, but you need a word to signify any feeling.

    Comment by anusha — November 14, 2011 @ 20:11 | Reply

    • @Anusha: Hmm yea. But that’s the same way one could deceive people. Using words to fake feelings.

      Comment by Cris — November 19, 2011 @ 14:15 | Reply

  5. Respect is not about the words you choose to address someone.. But it is something they earn by their doings & you feel from within.

    Comment by Javed Miandad — December 21, 2011 @ 17:38 | Reply

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