Reference: – Any Respect? (Cambridge Letter column, The Hindu Magazine, 29.05.2005)
Dear Mr Kirkman,
These are my reflections on your comments on dressing and how it brings in or takes away the subject under discussion, ‘respect’. In my state Kerala, there is such an argument about the dress codes of teachers and doctors. You might have seen the dress ‘Sari’, very common among the Indian women. Some (in fact, most) people believe that teachers and doctors (of course, female) should wear only Sari, and not the modern garbs or even Churidhar, another very popular dress. They argue that respect comes automatically with Sari and the other dresses would take away the ‘look’ of a teacher or a doctor. Sari is most uncomfortable when getting into a vehicle (especially a bus) and it has to be given extreme care in workplaces as it is the most revealing of dresses in the world. On the contrary Churidhar is very comfortable to both the young and old and it is not revealing at all. But for the sake of a ‘professional look’, the authorities also prefer Sari to Churidhar. It is the customary uniform for women in Teacher Training Colleges also.
Another one of this kind is the dress code for politicians. In most parts of India, people would reject anyone not wearing Khadi (a cloth item made popular by MK Gandhi), no matter however good he is. As you have rightly said, we should realize that dress isn’t everything; but behaviour is. On the other subject, there is little wonder people and politicians dislike mutually. Just like water, sand and air, it is seen everywhere, differing only in texture and feel.