Friday, September 7, 2012

Showing respect: the Indian way?

From an article in TOI
1. The 49-year-old, Gurgaon-based CEO of a software product company was in for a rude shock some months ago when one of his young employees peeped into his spacious cabin with a beaming smile and said: "Hey, your cabin's goddamn big... What fun man!" The irritated chief executive instantly summoned a senior hand, a 52-year-old, to check on what could be done about the cheeky geek. The senior executive told the CEO, "We have an army of such guys, how many can you reprimand? It's their style."

Another instant: 
2. A guy wrote an extremely anguished mail on a forum seeking suggestions when he found "an extremely junior and subordinate staff" address his boss by first name in her mail. He feels she should not have addressed someone very senior  (age and position) by first name. He wanted to know how he should advise or warn her to follow proper etiquette while addressing seniors?
(This was written in such atrocious grammar that had I reproduced it as it is, it would have been incomprehensible)

Another instant:  
3.  A well-known food blog says that unless you show respect by addressing as ji/garu/shri/shrimati/Mr./Mrs./Ms., your comments will be ignored...

What do you think of these instances?
If I was in the place of the CEO in the first instant, far from getting irritated, I would have smilingly waved him in and  invited him to explore the cabin as he seemed to have liked it so much. Why and for what he should be reprimanded is beyond me. He hasn't shown any disrespect towards me with those innocuous remarks. On the other hand, he has openly expressed that he liked the place. He might be considered disrespectful if there was an important meeting going on and he had intruded.
If only the seniors more experienced know how to harness this abundant energy of the youth without impeding their thought process, without ridiculing their ideas however implausible they seem, without denting  their self-esteem through discouragement, but work in unison by giving a positive direction to the yet-uncontaminated minds, they can achieve wonders.

In the second instance, I was quite befuddled by the query. What is the meaning of "an extremely junior and subordinate staff"?
A dictionary search threw this meaning for Junior: of lower rank or standing and this meaning for subordinate:  belonging to a lower order or rank/subservient or inferior. Do I infer then that being in a lower rank permits one to consider the person as being subservient or inferior? 
If the criterion for showing respect is age, then should I respect Osama who is older to me? And if the criterion is position, there is the once President of Uganda, Idi Amin. Again, I do not understand what did this person want to "warn" the subordinate about? Mind you, the content of the mail wasn't mentioned anywhere. So my assumption is that there was no issue there.

In the third instance, I do not understand how tagging the blogger with ji, or garu or Ms. or any other title portrays respect to the person.To be able to give a detailed and simple step-by-step guidance to cooking and to have so many clicks on the You-tube, is truly an amazing accomplishment and inspires respect for the work. But to demand ( "I expect and insist") respect through such tags takes away something.
I have read blogs by many senior citizens of India...people in their 60s and 70s who have hundreds commenting on their blogs and addressing them by their first name. (Zephyr and Gappa to name just two). I respect these really senior people, not because of their age but that despite their not-so-robust health and advancing years, their yearning to keep blogging and be able to keep up with the times (as evidenced in their writing on contemporary topics...topics which people of all ages can relate to).

On the personal side of relationships, in India, the touching of feet is considered the ultimate sign of obeisance. But then whose feet does one touch? Any person who is older to you or the one who inspires in you that reverence towards him/her? And looking at the way these Pairi Paunas (feet-touching) happen, I wonder whether they are paying their respect or playing out a farce. A quick 30 degrees bend forward and sometimes side-ways, your hand brushing against the legs just beneath the knees is Pairi Pauna? Personally, I don't allow anyone to touch my feet. I am not God I say, and am as imperfect as everyone else is.

'Respect' is 'to show regard or consideration for.' Every person's being, his space, feelings and thoughts deserve to be respected irrespective of his age, position or status.
Respect is a two-way street. Authoritarian ways never beget respect. One of my favorite authors in Telugu, Chalam, said that in a society that believed in the children being indebted to their parents, he proclaimed caring for and bringing up of children as the fundamental duty as parents. To all those parents who demand respect through unquestioned obedience, I ask:
If Ji/Garu are signs of respect then why Pithaji, aap but Ma, thum ( in Hindi) Nannagaru, meeru but Amma, nuvvu (in Telugu)?


RamaWish said...

I m grateful to have understanding ppl like u in our elders. Or else our generation wud have been an outcast

Beautiful World said...

Hi Rama,
An 'elder' conjures up a stick-in-the-mud image. :) On the contrary, and to the woe of many,I have always been ahead of my times in thinking.
Interacting with the younger lot is like a breath of fresh air :)

anwar ali said...

The science is involved in this process : when a young touches the elder's feet, and elder keeps his/her hand on the younger one cycle of energy transfers.

Beautiful World said...

True, Anwar. Our practices have a traditional root.

Div Sharma said...

Just caught this post somehow, since I got married i see my husband referring everyone as "meeru" except for his mother. At our home we don't call anyone as "meeru" (i mean our dad or uncles and aunts) unless they are outsiders or not from family. And then they feel that I dont respect elders, I mean seriously how can a single word make so much difference. Well, i just ignore it with a smile, I dont feel it is necessary to show respect with a "MEERU" tag.

Rather I feel my mother in law works like anything from day till night she even gets them a glass of water from kitchen to them if they ask for it, she should be given that respect rather than some so called uncle or aunt who just visit you during festivals.

Well, somethings doesnt make any sense to me :)