Modesty of dress and Indian culture 9

[Note: This article was first published as a Facebook note, where it got thousands of likes & shares, and then in The Hindu’s Opinion section, where again it attracted lots of comments!]


I write to complain about the abysmal standards of modesty I am noticing in Indian society. All bad things–sensationalist TV, obscene movies, diabetes among elders, pickpocketing, dilution of coconut chutney in Saravana Bhavan–are a result of Evil Western Influences. However, to my surprise, in this issue of modesty, even the Great Indian Culture (we had invented Maths and pineapple rasam when westerners were still cavemen) seems to encourage this.

The problem, sir/madam, is that revealing attire is being worn. Deep-neck and sleeveless tops, exposed legs–and these are just the middle-aged priests! Some priests are even (Shiva Shiva!) doing away with the upper garment. And I am told some temple managements even encourage this.

But this is the worst thing. They are doing this in front of ladies and Gods, with no shame at all. Just the other day, I saw a priest without upper garments making an offering to God (which itself is shameful) and then coming out just like that to give prasadam to the ladies. The whole sanctity of the ceremony is spoilt. Plus, what evils may result if they speak to the ladies like that.

You have to worry about a society in which boys and men are allowed to dress this way.

The few who wear full dhoti and kurta are wearing some thin muslin material through which you can clearly see the outline of their underwear and banians and sometimes even read the name of the manufacturer. This is made worse because some young boys are following new fashions and wearing printed underwear in gaudy colours (Karmam Karmam).

Some more modest young people are wearing full pant with shirt and that is much better. However, this Evil Western Invention called zip is encouraging them to answer nature’s call at the side of the road in full view of the public.

And what is this abomination called shorts? Is it really necessary that Indian boys need to play sports in which they have to show their legs? I think they can just stick to games like chess and cricket (it’s not like they are doing well in other sports anyway). And swimming is another problem. We have a long tradition of bathing with clothes, why should they wear little Speedos just for this? I think it is just an excuse to show off their bodies.

But really, I would like to know what the parents of such boys are doing. Why are they not bringing up their sons correctly? Maybe all this is because of this trend of working fathers, who are neglecting their children for the sake of their careers. My biggest worry is that these boys and men will not be able to get married if they continue like this. Which mother-in-law would like to visit her daughter only to be given coffee by a son-in-law wearing a banian exposing his underarm hair? (And that too, Bru coffee since boys are not taught these days how to make good coffee.)

All this immodesty will also lead to other issues. Once boys realise it is alright to expose, you don’t know where it will end. Boys will be out of control.

I propose that we start imposing dress codes on Indian boys and men straight away. A good strategy is to stereotype and call them names based on the way they dress. And also, any time a boy or man is sexually assaulted, we should completely forget about the attacker and instead ask questions like “Ah, but what was he wearing?”This is the only way we can safeguard our society.

9 thoughts on “Modesty of dress and Indian culture

  1. Reply Manju Apr 4,2013 2:13 pm

    Brilliant post Suchi!!Love your passive voice and Indianisms 😀

  2. Reply Sarah Jun 3,2014 12:38 pm

    WOW…Your writings have captured all I ever wanted to say in my life. Thank you for this and standing up for the voiceless. All your pieces are just beautiful and feeds the soul!

  3. Reply Jeev Dec 20,2014 9:09 am

    Finally someone who thinks like me but had done a brilliant job communicating it. Love this writing!!

  4. Reply Indian (Feminist but not Misandrous) Dec 23,2014 6:42 pm

    Dear author,

    I wish I could ask for the kind of restrictions you are seeking if I could believe that it was the best way forward to go ahead with. Restrictions on one gender by the society is already a hard nut to crack and to think of such an extreme would be like adding fuel to fire. Society doesn’t run on revenges but in trying to find solutions to make way for the better. Seeing topless men might be somewhat revealing if we were to compare the similar dressing for the females. Why not ask us to walk topless too. Society is anyway going to be against in both the extreme cases, the one you are proposing and the one I propose. Why not we also urinate in public and show our stuff to men standing in public after all we have to come to similarity right? The real basis of survival doesn’t lie in reciprocating the bad deeds or the problems of the society but in trying to fix this up and make it for better. I am pretty sure it won’t be if we were to behave the same way as the other gender has. And lastly, if we were to go ahead as per your proposal, kindly add the following points too to have the similar thing for both the genders!

    1) Laws to be amended with totally in favour of the men when such restrictions are to come
    2) Let us also be happy with the fact that we would welcome the rant of all the men terming us as opportunists, rapists and all desperate ones like sluts
    3) Let us also accept the fact that we shouldn’t be allowed to ogle or see the men in any attire whatsoever else we would be termed as despos
    4) Let us not get sad if we are not being looked at by the guys or don’t see guys coming towards us and asking us out
    5) Let us be prepared to be beaten up in public even if we accidentally touch any guy in any place
    6) Let us be prepared to not see men trying to make us feel special by doing so much for us, instead it should be us to do everything for them ranging from the asking out guys to proposals and finally to deal with all the hell that comes after the marriage
    7) Let us also not shout and cry when a guy actually takes advantage of laws being in their favour and
    8) finally lets be ready to be not allowed to show our frustration to anyone because doing so will be considered as less girly for us.


    Feminist but not Misandrous

  5. Reply Madhuparna Sengupta Jan 6,2017 12:21 am

    Hello Suchi,
    I have just discovered your article published in The Hindu. I just loved it. Your post reminds me of a short but powerful dialogue used in a Bengali telefilm; I am translating it here:
    Mother-in-law: These modern girls wear short dresses exposing themselves to such an extent. Boys are bound to be attracted and then they would complain of molestation!
    Daughter-in-law (calmly): What can I say mother…boys too move in towels exposing their bare bodies but the eyes of girls never get diverted!

    All the best to you! Waiting for more of your powerful works 🙂

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