Rashtrapati is ‘gender neutral’ like ‘Crorepati and Lakhpati’

The credit for coining the words like ‘Rashtrapati’, ‘Shri’ and ‘Shrimati’ for the ‘President of India’, ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’ go to famous Hindi journalist Pandit Baba Baburao Vishnu Paradkar when he was the editor of the daily Aaj of Varanasi. Hindi journalism has produced six great editors- Baburao Vishnu Paradkar, Rajaram Khadilkar, Lakshman Narain Garde, Ambika Prasad Vajpayee, Pandit Kamla Pati Tripathi and Vidyabhaskar. Pandit Kamlapati Tripathi later left journalism to become an active politician. This group was later known as ‘Five Greats of Hindi journalism. Incidentally, all of them had their roots in Kashi and some association with Calcutta. The first three of them were Marathi speaking and the last one Pandit Vidyabhaskar was Telugu speaking. Only Ambika Prasad Vajpayee and Pt Kamla Pati Tripathi belonged to the Hindi heartland. It must be mentioned here that Hindi journalism was born in Calcutta, and it was from here Pandit Jugal Kishore Shukla brought out ‘Udant Martand’, the first Hindi newspaper in Devnagari script in 1826.
There was a big debate that why the President of India should be called ‘Rashtrapati’ and what will happen if any lady becomes the President. Pandit Kamlapati Tripathi, who was also a renowned journalist and politician, was also consulted on this issue. He is reported to have sided with Paradkar ji that the ‘Rashtrapati’ could not be gender specific. The words ‘Pati’ and ‘Patni’ are used in almost all Indian languages. Therefore, the excuse offered by the Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury over calling Draupadi Murmu Rashtrapatni instead of Rashtrapati because of his being a non-Hindi knowing person is lame and unconvincing.
As a matter of fact, the use of the word Pati in Rashtrapati is in the sense of ‘Swami’ (Lord) as those of ‘Crorepati’ and ‘Lakhpati’, which is applicable for both genders. ‘Shri’ means ‘Lakshmi, which connotes feminine gender, Paradkar ji gave a very convincing logic that a male person can be addressed as ‘Shriyut’, ‘Shriman’ or ‘Shri’ (Blessed with Lakshmi), which is much better than that of ‘Mister’ or ‘Mr’. A woman having the qualities of the Lakshmi would be called ‘Shrimati’. However, this word became rigid to be used only for married women and unmarried women got to be addressed as ‘Kumari’.
This dilemma continued for the post of Pradhanmantri for some time also when Mrs Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister. Some overjealous Hindi enthusiasts initially addressed her as ‘Pradhanmantrani’. But thanks again to Kashi journalists, this tangle was resolved, and it was made sure that there would be no distortion of the word ‘Pradhanmantri’ regardless of the gender of the person holding the post. This dilemma continues even in the Supreme Court and High Courts, where some of the Advocates address the lady judges as ‘Your Ladyship. This controversy can be resolved only when a gender-neutral word like ‘Your Honour’, Sir or Madam is used for both male and female judges. The same is also true about “Rajyapal’ and ‘Rashtrapita’ ( father of the nation).