Monday, August 11, 2014

Veshti - The beacon of Indian Culture and Tradition

This whole dress code business has been swirling around in my head for the last few days. To provide context, here is the back story , for anyone who is actually interested. High Court Judge is invited for a book release happening in a private club (Tamil Nadu Cricket Association Club). He arrives wearing veshti (aka dhoti). He is turned away for not following the dress code of the club. Cue hurt ego, invocation of Indian culture and tradition, sensationalist head lines, uproar in government and new bills passed!! (check this and this)

This is the dress code business that is doing the swirling in the old noggin. I should confess that it's been quite a while since I have figured out that the whole public discourse around "Indian culture and tradition" in this country is a sham and that I have put down some deep roots in the camp of  skeptical-about-anything-that-involves-our-culture-and-tradition. So coming as I am from that perspective, it's been an unseemly mix of comedy and horror with which I have followed this business. Comedy, because of the... well, comedy involved in this whole thing. Horror, because the warped mindset which puts the undefined and amorphous concepts of culture and tradition on a pedestal and makes them "holy cows" is the mindset which is in charge of the public discourse in the country. To paraphrase Geena Davis from the movie "The Fly", I am afraid, very afraid.

Moving on, the whole veshti (aka dhoti) thing has now been settled in favor of the white cloth. Probably the only occasion when waving the white is not a sign of surrender! One more slap delivered to the face of the British, never mind that it comes some 65 years after they actually left! My aforementioned fear aside, I was wondering what will happen if they start applying this dress code logic to areas beyond privately run clubs. Specifically to one other place that all of us immediately think of when talking about dress code - Schools. And colleges I might add, given all the draconian dress codes being introduced there. We will probably have all boys come to school only in veshtis. Pants and shorts are British, so they are not Indian tradition and culture. This veshti has to be worn over a mandatory loin cloth, may I add. Modern underwear as we know them - whether they be the elastic banded briefs or the naada-sporting striped shorts made famous on the silver screen by Senthil in the south and Shakti Kapoor in the north - are also after all remanants of the British assault on our culture, so its time to put a taboo on them. All this is for the pubescent boys of course. If you are pre-pubescent, well only loin cloths for you kids. You need to grow 'em before getting the right to cover 'em!!! Indian tradition demands it. And yes, by the way if you are wondering about what they should wear above the waist, I refer to our tradition and culture again and say that any odd piece of cloth will do. (I have not ventured into the realm of gurl's clothing because current logic starts only from a guy's attire and hence extrapolated to cover guys only. And anyway since our tradition and culture has a different yardstick  for gurls, the extrapolation is moot. So I am leaving the gurls out of this, for now.) There we have it then - suddh desi boys and men looking and being all cultural and traditional right from childhood.

I must say, tongue firmly not in cheek, that that is the direction we are headed. So buckle up and enjoy the ride because getting off doesn't seem to be an option.

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