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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2736

Hypocrisy Over Dress Code

By Tushar Charan - Syndicate Features

Two district collectors in Chhattisgarh have earned the wrath of the chief minister, Raman Singh, for not being properly attired when they met the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the state on a day when the sun god was not in a merciful mood. They were sent ‘waning letters’ for not following the official dress code which obliged them to wear ‘bandhgala’ (buttoned up jacket) while they wore shirt and pants. In fact, one of them attracted an extra charge for sporting sunglasses!

Had it all happened when India was still under British rule, there would have been perhaps no reason to ‘warn’ the duo. They would have been wearing ‘sola topee’ which would have protected their eyes from the intense glare of the sun as well as the hot winds that lash disconcertingly on the face. But the ‘sola topee’ has gone into oblivion.

Despite the displeasure they incurred, it can be assumed that there was no sense of defiance behind the two young collectors’ deviation from the formal dress code. They probably thought that wearing the formal ‘bandhgala’ in searing temperature would make them look untidy and that might not go well with the Prime Minister who has a narcissist’s obsession with his appearance.

Except for the unfortunate poor, both the lesser and the higher mortals care equally about their appearance in public. Most human beings change their clothes at least twice or thrice a day: they have different clothes for wearing at home and at work place. Most also use a different set of clothes for the night rest.

Then, of course, there are those who are way too conscious of how they dress when appearing in public. For them, it has to be a well-ironed set of clothes after every few hours of the day. There was this famous politician who had actually raised quite a howl in the country by appearing in Parliament in fresh set of clothes—‘bandhgalas’ and white shoes being prominently noticed—after every two or three hours on a day when the nation was hit by a tragedy!

The district collectors of Bastar and Dantewada had taken the plea that the intense heat on the day prevented them from being dressed formally. It did not help them. The temperature in the shade was 42 Celsius on that day in May and they had to spend a lot of time in the open supervising arrangements for the visit if the Prime Minister, who, of course, is known to be fond of making a fashion statement in his public appearances.

Prime Minister had risked a nation-wide uproar by wearing a very expensive suit while playing host to the US president, arguably the most powerful man on earth, on a cold January day in Delhi. Had the Chhattisgarh collectors not been civil servants, they could well have said they were drawing inspiration from the Prime Minister’s flamboyant and flashy dress sense which endears him so much to the chattering classes and the fashion fraternity.

Perhaps, the DC duo of Amit Katari and K.C.Devenapati were guilty as the All India Services (Conduct) Rules 1968 which insist on their being attired formally, irrespective of the mercury level when in public. But to most ordinary folks the public reprimand that they received from the state government would appear too harsh—even hypocritical. If at all some kind of ‘disciplinary’ action was to be taken against them, ticking them off privately would have been sufficient.

How many mortals would relish the idea of being dressed in ‘bandhgala’ and then move around in the open to supervise the ‘bandobast’ (arrangements) for a VVIP in scorching heat? You would probably argue that if the person is an important official there is no other option but to follow the prescribed dress code. Of course, it is not at all uncommon to find people dressed formally in bandhgalas at the peak of summer.

On many social and formal occasions you will find people—men and women--‘overdressed’ which may include heavy gold and silver jewellery. A famous music director in Mumbai is never seen in public without literally a ton of gold jewellery. But almost invariably such bedecked persons are usually confined to a room or a hall—‘fully air conditioned’.

It is not without some irony that the displeasure against the two Chhattisgarh officials was expressed by the chief minister belonging to a party that has vowed to do away with most of the archaic rules and regulations, the hangovers from the colonial days. The dress code for the bureaucrats might have been revised or rewritten after Independence but that does not make it apt for today’s world where informality has spread widely both at the social and official levels.

A recent news item says the tie is slowly disappearing from the sartorial code of public figures and private citizens in the West where dress codes are generally followed more strictly than in India. But, of course, the temperatures never rise as high as they do in India. During the recently concluded British polls, the Prime Minister and many top politicians were photographed attending functions without wearing a tie with their jacket and trousers.

At home, in India, the political class has taken informality to a new level which has been shocking in the eyes of those who stand for the ‘correct’ dress. There was a famous defence minister of India who would attend military functions like the ceremonial parade in his trademark ‘crumpled’ kurta-pyajama as if to refurbish his socialist moorings. While we respect the traditional attires of different regions in the country, it is doubtful if it is a good thing for civilian boss of the military to attend ceremonial occasions in un-ironed ‘crumpled’ clothes.

The political scene in India today is dominated by ‘nationalist’ forces, who are known to frown upon Western ways of dressing by both men and women. By that logic, the official dress code for the bureaucracy will have to be changed to displace pants-jacket combine with ‘dhoti-kurta’ or ‘kurta-pyjama’ or even lungi-shirt, each of which is identified with the traditional attire of Indian male of one region or the other. It might be a bit problematic in deciding the formal dress code for women because in the past few decades, the perceived ‘national’ dress for women, the Sari, has been under threat from ‘salwar-kameez’, which, after all, is the ‘native’ dress of one part of India.

Lawyers in the country, especially in the higher courts, appear wearing a black gown over black jackets. Many call it a sign of ‘slavishness’ traced to the colonial days. Many also disapprove the practice of addressing the judges in the higher courts as ‘my lord’. When a final call is taken on these matters, the dress code for the civil servants might also be changed to look more suitable in the contemporary world.

- Asian Tribune -

 Hypocrisy Over Dress Code
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