A reputed mall in Kolkata allegedly denies entry to a man because he was dressed in dhoti.
A post on this goes viral and becomes a national news item. And I’m reminded of a very similar episode that happened about an year ago, which of course did not get even half as much attention, except a few angry emoticons and shares: my father was denied entry into a niche club of the city because he was dressed in Kurta Pajama, it was considered to be violation of club rules!
Also, I’m reminded of hundreds of such episodes that keep happening with different people in different situations in different ways. The only common factor is that ‘It happens only in India’ (pun intended)!
Here, it would be apt to revisit history. Over 150 years ago, a certain Englishman named Lord Macauley declared – “We must, at present, do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.” And he did it precisely by introducing English as the medium of instruction for higher education in India. Interestingly, Wikipedia also identifies Macaulayism as a term, defining it as ‘the conscious policy of liquidating indigenous culture through the planned substitution of the alien culture of a colonizing power via the education system’. Good Lord!
Macauley was to Indians what Hitler was to Jews. While the latter killed bodies, Macauley murdered our spirit. What else would explain the continuous disrespect of Indian cultural elements by Indians themselves! Language, dress-code, lifestyle, and sometimes even values; there is a sense of rebellious pride in negating and demeaning that which is an integral part of our national identity.
Of these, I find the disrespect of Indian wear one of the funniest and lame. It lacks even basic intellect. Historically, not allowing Indians in some clubs and similar places was a deliberate decision by our ‘rulers’. Fair enough, since Britishers wanted to maintain their 'superiority'! But decades after being free from the 'British clutches', and years after being nurtured by Indians, these places have rules which advocate the discriminating colonial mentality.
Some places have rules for dress code written down, which makes them plead not guilty of any ethical violation, since the rule is ‘clearly mentioned’! But it’s really not about breaking or following the rule. It’s about questioning the logic/relevance/context/beliefs behind the rule itself. A rule made by (erring) humans is not nature's law and hence not beyond the periphery of being challenged. When so many things change with time, shouldn't degrading rules change, too?
For some clubs, such dress code rules 'maintain the decorum of a modern club'! Of course, a formal Indian traditional wear can never qualify as something 'modern'! Note that we've been served interesting definitions of 'modern' by so many capitalist consumerist platforms! And what is the idea behind being advocated when people are denied entry in traditional Indian formal wear - that people dressed as such are not 'sophisticated', well-behaved, educated, or cultured enough and hence unfit for such places?
So, people like my father and that gentleman who was denied mall entry, who are probably comfortable only in such outfits, should know that they are ‘not entitled’ to the fun or happiness that these places offer unless they change the way they dress. Unlike my father, this gentleman knew the English language and that saved him!
Yes, the issue is deeper than following Brits. It is about the cultural associations we have created. E.g., a certain dress/language is cooler/smarter than the other...
The episode with my father (who is about 70 years of age) happened on the eve of 70th Independence Day! And the one in the mall happened exactly a month before the momentous day!
We may hoist the tricolour, play 'mere desh ki dharti' on loop, shout Vande Matram, take selfies with tricolour painted faces; but all this is mere tokenism.
No one is going to help us avoid or stop the slavery that we face (and sometimes advocate too) in these small everyday situations!
P.S- any answers why Saree, the Indian formal wear for women does not meet with such fate? Because it serves the interests of the ogling patriarchy?