‘Sir’ – a much-abused word

October 8th, 2009

While growing up, the word ‘sir’ meant respect for elders, mostly teachers. Of course, it did not mean that we did not make fun of them in their absence… well, sometimes in their presence as well :)

But coming from a smaller town (Patna) and a family of school and college teachers, I almost grew up with the words ‘sir’ and ‘madam’. Student would come to our house every evening to, either study or learn music.

In fact, some people even called us ‘Ghosh madam ka beta’ or ‘Biplab sir ka bhanja’ (nephew).

But nowadays, the usage of the S word irks me quite often. And it is mainly due to telecallers from mobile, credit card, bank and ‘god-knows-what-else’ companies. Some of these callers have almost perfected the art of calling you ‘Sir’, even if they mean ‘Jerk’.

For instance, I want to settle a credit card bill for months now. So every time someone calls from this bank, I request them to send me a bill (which incidentally has not been send to me for over a year). Instead, they keep on tell me to pay a small amount (referred as ‘bucket amount’) and promise me to settle the bill next month.

The conversation goes something like this.

Me: “Kindly send me a complete bill. I am tired of paying these small interest amounts.”

He/she/ (from the call centre): “Definitely sir, but kindly pay Rs … and I promise that next month we will call you and settle this.

Me: “But you have been saying this for the last one year.”

He/she/ (from the call centre): “Sir, this time we will definitely do it.”

Me: “Sorry, I refuse to pay this small ‘bucket amounts’ every month.”

He/she/ (from the call centre): “Sir, your decision. But the interest will keep on mounting. Next month someone else will be on this case and I won’t be able to help you.

Technically speaking, while the call centre person is ‘Sir-ing’ me all this time, he/she/… is almost threatening me.

Some others use this word just to sell a product. Like, “Sir, we have this great offer or product.” And it is rather frustrating when the callers do not realise that a person may know more about some insurance or mutual fund product.

Typically, they try to sell a unit-linked insurance plan as a mutual fund. And conversations are like this… “No sir, you are not getting it. This is not an insurance plan, but a mutual fund.” – Yeah, and I am Salman Khan,

But the best ones are these. Recently, I got a missed call from a cell phone number. On returning the call, the person said, “Sir, I am from ****phone. We are offering you a free number.”

Me: “I never applied.” He/she/ (from the call centre): “Sir, it was a lucky draw.”

Me: “I don’t want it.” He/she/ (from the call centre): “Sir, it comes with a free gift.”

Me: “No, I don’t want it.” He/she/ (from the call centre): “Sir, our call charges are lowest, we will give you X plan. You will save Y money every month.

Me: “Ok, I will take it. He/she/ (from the call centre): Sir, what’s your name? …

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