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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2429

What should be the Honorific for Our Ministers

By Tukoji R Pandit - Syndicate Features

The fire from the union human resource minister Smriti Irani, reputed holder of a degree from an Ivy League university, is faster than the shots from any Texas cowboy’s gun. Luckily, the rapid gunfire from the HRD minister comes in verbal form and so it saves any bodily harm.

The Bihar education minister, therefore, is as hale and hearty as he was when he sent a Twitter message to the union minister, making the cardinal mistake of addressing her as ‘dear Smritiji’ which she obviously thinks the familiarity it implies belittles her exalted status.

A blue-blooded and patriotic Indian is expected to regard every woman as one of the three: mother, sister or daughter. It can be said outright that the minister would not have liked the Bihar education minister to address her as ‘sister’. Smiritiji bonds only with the blue-blooded Indian ‘nationalists’ who are confined to the ranks of the Sangh Parivar. The Bihar minister belongs to JD (U), a ‘sickular’ party and, hence, an anathema for the Parivar.

Our union minister is allergic to the term ‘dear’ and, presumably, all such words of endearment found in the English language. But surprisingly despite her contempt for the foreign language she cares for English grammar! When an obvious Twitter detractor criticised Smritiji for taking umbrage upon the ‘dear’ word, she asked the man to correct his grammar and learn the correct usage of the past tense. Now, it must silence those who think she is unfit for the portfolio given to her by Narendra Modi.

However, Smritiji did not realise that she has put the whole nation in a fix, at least that section which corresponds or communicates with each other either in the form of letters or through one of the many new-fangled electronic gadgets in the English language. It is immaterial whether they have poor grammar. Following the universal—and age-old—practice their correspondence always begins with the word ‘dear’. It may soon be banned.

India can search a better alternative by delving into the country’s past, going back to the Vedic age—more than 5000 years ago. The English language was still not born and there was no question of ‘dear’ being used as an honorific.

With ‘cultural’ revival a top priority of the government, the ‘nation’ must immediately focus attention on deciding the right way of addressing our present crop of union ministers, especially the women ministers, keeping in mind the picture of the ideal ‘Bharatiya Nari’—complete with a large ‘Bindi’ and a prominent Mangalsutra.

How appropriate or acceptable will the union HRD minister find the word ‘Mata’? After all, she is a mother and, in fact, she addressed as ‘Beta’ (son) the person who sent her a follow up Twitter message after her spat with the Bihar minister.

As a TV star, she is reported to have portrayed the role of mother. But the trouble with ‘Mother’ is that most Indian women, including those who agree with the Sangh Parivar definition of ‘Indian culture’, might not like to be addressed as ‘Mataji’ (mother) because it denotes an older age. Our honourable HR minister does not fall into the category of ‘elderly women’. In fact, in everyday life of ordinary Indians there are instances when a woman addressed as ‘Mataji’ by a stranger or even a domestic help has been very upset.

So ‘Mataji’ is out as an honorific.

‘Respected’ comes to mind quickly because that is the way we have been addressing our elders and seniors in written communication in vernacular languages—before the era of computer and mobile phones.

‘Respected Smritiji’ might have been a good honorific term. It is possible the offending Bihar minister might have thought of it but hesitated at the last minute wrongly assuming that a person with a US university degree might have preferred to be addressed in the universal manner of addressing other persons.

Free India cannot accept ‘Right Honourable’ for a minister. ‘Venerated’ might be acceptable in the present ambience of recreating or reviving ‘Indian culture’ but it is a foreign word. The large army of holy men and women who are part and parcel of the ruling dispensation will not approve of it when they are busy promoting Hindi and Sanskrit.

The best man to solve the knotty problem of picking up an appropriate honorific for our ministers, men and women, may perhaps be ‘Prof’ Dinanath Batra who has already spread the word of ancient wisdom in many textbooks. It is at the school level that many Indian learn many ‘anti-Indian’ ways of social behaviour.

Why should we greet each other with ‘good morning’ when ‘Namaskar’ is a better word which can be used at any time of day or night? We should beseech Modiji to instantly legislate against the use of the word ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’. It can be speculated that had the Bihar minister known that ‘dear’ would upset the HRD minister he might have used either ‘Hello’ or its short form.

Efforts are on to make ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ compulsory in the country, as a multi-purpose salutation and greeting. Why can’t it serve as the equivalent of ‘Hello’ and even ‘Dear’?

Old timers in North India will recall that many Indians, especially in the police, used to greet their seniors (all male) as ‘Jai Hind Janab’. The present government has very strong reasons to let it be buried.

Jawaharlal Nehru used to ask his audience on occasions like the end of his Independence Day speech to shout ‘Jai Hind’ thrice. It will be blasphemous today to suggest revival of something that was associated with Nehru, the original ‘sickular’. But the need of the hour is to banish ‘dear’ and then think of how to address union ministers and other custodians of ‘Indian culture.’

- Asian Tribune

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