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Shashi Tharoor : Sari fate ?

Written By: amodini - Mar• 29•07

 photo Shashi_Tharoor_zps6ae8169e.pngOne always assumes that people who’ve achieved some eminence, some significant perch in life, will think with their brains and not their patriarchal hearts. Apparently not. In his article for the TOI Shashi Tharoor writes on the disappearance of the sari:

“So why has this masterpiece of feminine attire begun fading from our streets? On recent visits home to India I have begun to notice fewer and fewer saris in our public places, and practically none in the workplace. The salwar kameez, the trouser and even the Western dress-suit have begun to supplant it everywhere. And this is not just a northern phenomenon, the result of the increasing dominance of our culture by Punjabi-ised folk who think nothing of giving masculine names to their daughters.”

He asks WHY ? Maybe because the resident Indian superwoman who works, manages her household and helps rear the kids, and is soooooo stretched for time, is someone like me – the kind that requires at least 4 safety pins and 30 minutes per sari ? Maybe because in her commute in the local train/bus and the melee that is nowdays called traffic, a salwar kameez is more practical ? And OUCH ! besides all the other crap, Tharoor’s throwing in a nasty dig at Punjabi folk ! Oh yeah, we love that Bhangra, but this Punjabi cross-naming habit ! Tch, tch.

In his entire article, there is not a word lamenting the demise of the dhoti, mundu, lungi, or any male garment. What, don’t miss the lungi, Mr. Tharoor ? No tears for the dhoti ? Is the Sherwani not totally exotic now – seen only at weddings and such ? How many men exactly do you see wearing salwar-kameezes (the masculine version) or the pajama-kurta or the churidaar and bandgala ? It’s only the women who “aren’t wearing the alluring, 5-6 yard garment”. Sob.

He writes further :

“I think this is actually a great pity. One of the remarkable aspects of Indian modernity has always been its unwillingness to disown the past; from our nationalists and reformers onwards, we have always asserted that Indians can be modern in ancient garb. “

Most desi women know what Mr. Tharoor can do with his “pity”. And when he speaks of “Indians” being modern in ancient garb, I assume he means women ? Because there’s nary a mention of men, or the pants they wear.

More wondrous prose :

“Today, I wonder if I’ve been too complacent. What will happen once the generation of women who grew up routinely wearing a sari every day dies out? The warning signs are all around us now. It would be sad indeed if, like the Japanese kimono, the sari becomes a rare and exotic garment in its own land, worn only to temples and weddings. Perhaps it’s time to appeal to the women of India to save the sari from a sorry fate. ”

Hmm, he’s not only being complacent, he’s also being dumb. Once the generation of women who grew up routinely wearing a sari every day dies out, they’ll be replaced by Tharoor’s counterparts – the kind that wear business suits to all public places – just like he does. I do love the sari (and wear it about once a year), and sometimes worry about the scarcity of the ones I see worn, when I travel back to India, but idiotic articles like Tharoor’s make no sense. He not only lacks a balanced view but seems to forget little things called evolution, choice, practicality and yardage. In their changing roles, women will opt for comfortable and practical choices when they see them. Besides which it’s not very pleasant getting eve-teased in a bus, when wearing a sari.

Besides pandering to the “male gaze” – “Women looked good in a sari” (reason enough ?) Tharoor reaffirms the patriarchal notion that women are responsible for upholding “culture”. If it’s culture he’s so bothered about, I’d think there’s a whole Pandora’s box to open here, without dumping on the women. There are lots of reasons Indian culture is where it is today and it’s got nothing to do with the sari (or the women).

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6 Comments

  1. Tarana says:

    I would really suggest Tharoor to try out a day in a sari and find out first-hand how it feels. And btw, if he’s so concerned about women wearing saris, why doesn’t he strut in a traditional dhoti???

    PS I really liked your “Dumb things people say and do” label!

  2. AMODINI says:

    Tarana,
    Exactly – practise what you preach. And about the label – thanks :-) thought about it after reading Tharoor’s article.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I will pray earnestly that Shashi Tharoor be born as an Indian woman in his next life. He can then grow up, live and sleep in a sari to his heart's content. Btw, did he try this argument on his Canadian wife or does it apply strictly to Indian women?

  4. Preeti says:

    Here’s an idea Mr Tharoor.

    Once the generation of older, sari-wearing women dies out, perhaps men like you will manfully step up to the plate?

    Perhaps you will tighten your petticoat’s nada, drape that wondrous fabric around your manly hips and teach us women a thing or two about being modern in ancient garb.

    Voila, problem solved!

  5. anonymous says:

    Tharoor is often seen in bandgalas. Perhaps you people haven’t noticed that. That used to be a formal wear and he does conform to the traditional and formal indian clothing. Please see the photograph you yourself posted. :-)

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