Rooting for Respect #AtoZChallenge

Dear Son

How’s it going? I hope you’re enjoying these letters. Feel free to discuss or debate with me regarding the things I’m writing to you. Do not assume that you have to take every word I write here as a dictate out of respect for me. That brings me to one of my favorite topics. Respect.

Recently, someone paid me a compliment. He told me that I am a good human being. But he added that the only flaw I had was that I could not handle disrespect. He was right. However, it actually set me thinking on how that could be a flaw. But then, why would and why should anyone tolerate disrespect? After all, we humans, thrive on admiration and acceptance from others. Mutual respect is an unwritten rule of conduct that one needs to follow. While it is important to give respect one definitely should strive to command respect. Using force or powers to command respect is the sign of weak people. If you ever find yourself in a situation where someone tries to extract respect out of you by using undue means, do not hesitate to put your foot down. You need not rebel, but gently make it clear that you cannot be forced into something that doesn’t come to you naturally. The right people will understand your concern and respect you for being honest about it. To command respect the right way one needs to be humble and respectful himself.

Surprisingly, it is observed that the mid-management employees are the ones who seem to be the most arrogant and overbearing people of all. I’ve seen the highest authority in many organisations that I have worked with to be the most humble of all. These are CEO and directors of the companies who have worked their way up to where they have reached today from the scratch. One of the CEOs of a famous luxury brand once helped wash the floors of their new store that was about to be launched the next day. It so happened that at on that particular day due to some reason they had shortage of staff and the store was to be launched the next day. The CEO did not think twice before he rolled his sleeves up and got to work with his team to get the store ready in time. To this day people respect him for his down to earth attitude, look up to him and quote his exemplary behaviour in the industry.

As a baby when you started mumbling your first words, me and your Dad decided to address you as ‘aap’ (you) in Hindi which is a respectful way of addressing someone as opposed to ‘tu’ (you) which we normally use to address people younger than us or of the same age. Since there is no such differentiation in English when we say ‘you,’ it doesn’t really matter. But in Indian vernacular languages we really need to be careful when it comes to how we address people of different ages. A wrong usage of pronoun indicates disrespect to the person who it is directed towards and also sounds crude. Although, technically we should have called you ‘tu,’ we decided otherwise so that you would learn to be respectful while talking to us (since we would have been the first ones you would have interacted with). As you grew up you automatically developed the habit of addressing all elders as ‘aap’ irrespective of whether they were your parents, grandparents or the domestic help in our house. To me that amount of regard matters. It speaks of fine upbringing and I am confident that I have not gone wrong with it, now when I see you interacting with people from different walks of life and of different ages. It is said that if you ever want to judge a person’s character observe his behaviour towards people who are not his equals.

In some cases the behaviour lessons that parents impart to their children often get washed off when he starts mingling with the world outside. It is observed that the kind of respect a person gives his own mother or sister is not given to other women he comes across in the society including his own wife. Somewhere either the parents gave the child a wrong idea that the respect should be limited only to the other women members in the family or they themselves did not treat his wife as they would have expected him to treat the other women in his family. And that leads to a tilt in the balance of how men treat women who don’t belong to his family.

A few months back, if you remember, in context to this topic I had told you categorically that if ever in future I see you treating any woman differently with disrespect, I would extend all my support to that woman, no matter what. Thats how strongly I feel about it. And as my son I would expect you to respect every person out there, man, woman, child, whoever it is, irrespective of their gender, caste, color or economic status. A woman needs extra respect for the fact that she puts in her whole life in serving others. Each of us owe them that much for getting you in this world and ensuring in where you’ve reached so far. A person who disrespects a woman loses my respect instantly, no matter what his reasons for doing so are. I am absolutely intolerant to it. I guess this attitude of mine does not go down well with most men, since they are used to women succumbing to disrespect in dire circumstances. That explains why the gentleman who complimented me thought that it was a flaw.

The best way to show respect to a woman is by giving her the freedom to decide what she wants to do with herself, what she wants to wear, how she wants to carry herself and how she wishes to lead her life. Respect her choices and you will command deep respect in return. That has been the way I have raised you as well. I have always stood by you in your choices and supported you no matter how different it was from my own thought process. This kind of acceptance of an individual is the ultimate respect that one can offer to each other. I hope you take a cue and use this piece of ideology in your future interactions to gain the respect that you give others.

Love
Ma

My theme for this year’s ‘Blogging from A-Z Challenge,’ is a set of 26 open ‘Letters to my Son’ from me that I will be writing throughout April. Read more about my theme here.