No sir, no memsaab, yes Raksha Mantri: What Nirmala Sitharaman prefers to be addressed as

After Nirmala Sitharaman became defence minister many soldiers she interacted with were unsure of the most appropriate way to address her. Here’s how she cleared their confusion

india Updated: Nov 17, 2017 22:05 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Nirmala sitharaman,Defence minister,Raksha mantri
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman with Army chief Gen Bipin Singh Rawat showing an urn containing the soil of the grave of two Indian soldiers of 39 Garhwal Rifles who lost their lives during WWI in France, in New Delhi on Tuesday. (PTI Photo)

It didn’t take much time for Nirmala Sitharaman to notice that soldiers seemed confused over how to address India’s first full-time woman defence minister.

During her visits to the country’s frontiers over the last two months, Sitharaman has been variously greeted with Jai Hind, memsaab; Jai Hind, sir; and Jai Hind, madam salutations. Officials from her entourage confirmed to the Hindustan Times that many soldiers she interacted with were unsure of the most appropriate way to address the minister.

“The minister has been addressed as sir, madam and memsaab on different occasions. During informal interactions, some jawans even asked how they should address the minister. The minister said, ‘You can just call me Raksha Mantri please’,” a source said.

An army officer’s wife is called memsaab by troops and sir can be a generic term that covers women officers too.

The 58-year-old Sitharaman is only the second woman to hold the defence portfolio.

As prime minister, Indira Gandhi twice doubled up as the defence minister, in 1975 and in 1980-82. Some of the troops may get around to addressing her as Raksha Mantri and some could struggle with the appropriate greeting to accompany their salute, a retired army commander said.

“ It’s a nice gesture on the Raksha Mantri’s part to help resolve the dilemma of our troops,” a senior army officer said.

First Published: Nov 17, 2017 07:14 IST