A fad called ‘Shri’

The word ‘Shri’ seems to have become part of the Naga ‘in-culture’ while addressing a person, particularly people holding some position of an official nature. While it is quite obvious that the word ‘Shri’ comes from the Sanskrit tradition and understandably never a part of the Naga cultural norm of either presenting or addressing another person. Over the last few years the usage of the term ‘Shri’ has caught on rapidly and is now commonly being used to address a person, so much so that there are instances when people become annoyed whey they are not addressed as ‘Shri.’ 

In definite terms, the word ‘Shri’ is more than just a way of addressing a person. It represents a particular cultural and traditional heritage, and can be said to embody and imply a set of values and worldviews. While it had been the chosen manner of official address in Indian governmental institutions, this had not been the case in the Naga context, that is, until recent times. The usage of ‘Shri’ in Nagaland seemed to have first started in government institutions and is now more commonly used than ‘Mr.’

Opinions from people seem to indicate that ‘Shri’ has now come to entail more than just addressing a person; it has also come to mean status, affluence and power. In other words, the class distinction in Naga society in terms of status and political power is now slowly coming to be defined with how one is addressed. This is being reflected in the form of ‘Shri.’ 

One is not questioning the use of ‘Shri’ but is raising concerns over the underlying connotations that are attached to it. While ‘Mr’ is as alien as ‘Shri’ is to the Nagas, it would be fascinating to do a study on how ‘Shri’ has come to acquire such a status in the way Nagas address those with status and political power and the impact it is having on society and the cultural and traditional consequences it will have on the future. 

Finally, while Nagas keep insisting that they are not Indians, it is however interesting to note, how ‘Indian’ the Nagas have become!