Sirs, Madams, Soldiers and Slaves
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Who will face the bullets on the border if everyone starts arguing?” shouted the officer.
He was a municipal corporation deputy chief in a metropolis. I was representing a students’ union for resident doctors, and we were demanding two major changes: that our salaries be deposited in a bank (hundreds of resident doctors, wardboys and other staff were supposed to queue up within the first three days of every month, in front of the accounts office to collect monthly salary, some could not because their duties did not allow them), and that the libraries be kept open 24 hours, as our work hours were never defined, and rooms being shared, it was not always possible to study in hostels. The demands were many years old, nothing had moved.
But this time we had decided to use a new weapon: Strike. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Sensing trouble as we had recently carried out a successful strike, the deputy chief blasted his arguing lethargic assistants who resisted every change: the hallmark of most administrations.
That’s when the deputy chief shouted upon them and ordered to comply immediately.
“Yes, Sir” they said. The next month, both these things changed in all Municipal hospitals. Threat had achieved what the system would never have allowed to happen.
Few years later, studying in Canada, almost every boss or senior I met insisted that we call him / her by name, and not Sir / Madam. “It stinks of slavery somehow” said a professor whose thinking affected me profoundly. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Why are so many brilliant Indian students so intimidated to openly argue, come out with suggestions or put forth a contrary opinion in front of their boss?” he once asked me, “I don’t think respect can be placed above logic. So I think fear must be involved”.
That set me thinking. It was true. From the parents who directly start slapping children for questioning them or talking about issues like sexuality, to the teachers who misuse their authority to suppress students by threats, failing in exams and scarring their CVs, we had grown up in the dual pressure system: cultural limitations that prevented thinking out of box, and intimidation by fear of humiliation and failure: from both family and teachers. There were rare honorable exceptions: teachers and parents who encouraged to think free.
What happens when someone in India argues against the prevalent system? First ridiculed, then refuted, threatened and often destroyed or outcast by the system whose malfunction he / she has questioned. From judiciary to journalism, from schools to parliament, and from doctors to labourers, his/ her own people question his / her sanity or intention. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
No wonder we have mastered the British art of establishing a foolproof slavery system.
Look at the scientific and literary outputs. Look at the productivity and innovation. A country that boasts of geniuses is happy to play the role of “cheap intellectual labour”, proudly flaunting the business, outsourced to it primarily for low costs, as an achievement. These super-talented brains in business or in any other field must only walk the narrow path, at the speed of one of the slowest systems, limited by humungous paperwork, red tapism, favouritism and corruption. . Public condemnation and humiliation await those who differ in their opinion.
What happens when one follows all the rules of argument in such a system?
Suppose a soldier tired of his heavy duty without adequate food complains about it to his superior, what is the typical answer he will get? Is it too difficult to imagine what will happen to his career? How many are the chances that a military superior, a government officer or your own boss will say “You are right, my dear, I am sorry you had to face inconvenience, we will correct this immediately” and do it? Sorry. We grow up with incessant reminders of how we are second to, under, helpless, and lesser than the people we work for, including our administrations. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
We live in a fool’s paradise. We like to stay hidden behind the fears of our little sins and mistakes (who doesn’t commit some?) being exposed, our socio cultural apple cart being upset and our perpetual orgasm with comfort zone being threatened.
When the hallmarks of slavery: calling everyone “Sir” or “Madam”, standing up, bowing, compulsory greeting, applauding and agreeing without pausing to think or argue are so perfectly blended with cultural traditions of respecting the elders, we create a foolproof prison for thought. It is indeed a mystery why a country which has so many elders, and so many respectable people, is yet to be at the top in any field! Do all these “Sirs and Madams” truly behave or achieve to match that respect?
A country where seniority, relation, political strength and connections, nuisance value, money and age surpass all other intellectual criteria of leading and promotion by merit, do we really dream of becoming number one in the world? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Every genuine intellectual, artist, scientist (and there will be many who will throttle up their throats to praise the existing system for obvious rewards) will dislike being tied down by limitations. The ones who have spent their youth standing up and saluting “Sirs and Madams” have had their time. It is high time we start thinking of the youth and the future generations.
When I returned from Canada, I had changed. I knew I could not change the system, but I could definitely change myself. I have since then never expected or insisted anyone calls me “Sir”, respects me out of context, or stands up / greets me. I prefer people, even students calling me by my name, and it has never taken away the affectionate relationship we share. I have always encouraged my children, my students and the scanty number of friends to be completely free in their thinking, to think of the whole world as their home and humanity as their culture, to politely argue without arrogance or spite, and to accept what is right without thinking who said it. Those who presume that “uncontrolled freedom will always go in wrong direction” confuse between misuse of freedom and non adherence to civil duties.
This small contribution to eradicate slavery of thought was one of my many duties towards life.
As for the soldiers on the borders of any country, who just “take orders from people sitting in air-conditioned offices, to face bullets,”, let us at least gather some courage to stand up to the sacrifice they make in the name of their country, and try to realize the meaning of this precious word : Freedom.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Only for free thinking intellectuals.
Please share unedited in the interest of future generations.