Veshtied interests

At first sights it seemed silly why everyone got so worked up over the dhoti issue. But since everyone is so worked up, there must surely be something behind all that silliness. After all, the matter has dogged the judiciary and legislature and bogged down the media for close to a week. Above all, I am basically a dhoti guy at home and at home in dhoti in public places too. Yes, I have no choice but to wring up my dhoti in all righteous indignation and spring into action by jumping into the ring.

Of course, I promise to be balanced in presenting the case. That comes naturally to dhoti wearers who know what a tough balancing act it is to keep the dhoti intact at its critical position, namely, waist. So despite some snooty clubs and characters treating it as malware, I proudly declare dhoti as the perfect malewear. This traditional attire is not only nature friendly, but also male nature-friendly, if you see what I mean. Not everything can be put in print. Still, the varied virtues of the veshti can be extolled no end.

First, it saves our tribe from the tyranny of tailoring and the stranglehold of size. Clothing must fit the person, not the other way round. The prepared, pressed pant always runs the risk of a carelessly gaping zip or a popping button, particularly after a sumptuous lunch. But the plain or parched dhoti is waist-flexible, which, considering the common trends in that part of the body, is quite a boon. A quick open and shut sleight of hand when no one is watching or an adjustment in the men’s room, makes your tummy want another meal for dessert, something a pant does not permit. And despite not having a pocket, dhoti is easy on it in comparison to many modern wear.

Dhoti pampers the body by affording a freedom of movement that no other attire allows. That is, assuming the art of keeping it in place is mastered because the said freedom of movement includes separation from self if not careful. But secured well, you can squat, sit, stand, stroll and saunter in gay abandon. Dhoti is healthy and can heal too. It is so skin friendly in a tropical land suffused in heat and dust. Fresh air and sunlight do not need passwords to access parts of the body that need them most: The soft, loose, porous dhoti is a dermo delight. And when in disuse after daily use, it is wear and tear for house cleaning and hence hygiene. Life after death!

Indeed, in India that is bharath the ubiquitous veshti has its imprint on egalitarianism, economy, environment and enlightenment. In a metaphorical way, dhoti covers the length and breadth of the nation. It lends itself to variations in wearing and virtually every State has a style that signifies the culture, climate and conveniences of that land. Its versatility is visible even within a geographical unit. From the saintly kaavi to religious panjakachcham to the jari borders befitting family functions or as a jibba-companion for a kutchery, dhoti makes a sartorial statement for every occasion. On the flip side, the veshti, raised to reveal a khaki or checked ‘undrawer’, represents rowdies while one with a broad belt (seen through a transparent long shirt) marks out ‘minors’ and ‘mirasus’. Another dampener for this hip-wear is it does not seem very hep to youth, losing out to shorts.

And that brings us to the karai veshtis of TN, those most vocal on the controveshti, pardon, controversy. Smart readers would have sensed that I have so far silently skipped the issue of dress codes. I want to play smart too because any stand you take can lead to some kind of dressing down by an opposing camp. Even seemingly rational arguments can be stripped down. For instance, you can’t say yes or no to miniskirts without being dubbed either sexist or a moral police. But often naked hypocrisy marks all dress debates. TN politicos’ sudden simulated angst against clubs for hitting Tamil culture below the belt smacks of such duplicity and opportunism. Such colonial hangover rules are not breaking news. And surely, many of these politicos or at least their wards must be members of some such clubs and so in the know and very much in the ‘anti-Tamil’ elitist loop too.

Well, my take. Veshti may or may not be strictly club wear. But if push comes to shove at the entrance, I would rather stand by veshtis than those British vestiges. In deference to this long piece of cloth standing by our hips and honour for centuries.

Hip hip hurray to our veshti!

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Jawahar T R