There are two gifts we should give our children: one is roots and the other is wings.
They say when you pray together, it becomes more powerful. When you meditate together, it becomes more effectual. And when you eat together, the bonding strengthens. Then what about a mass sporting the same look?? Have you ever wondered why do the pilots, the army men, the navy officers and air force folks seem more alluring than their regular counterparts sans uniform? Have you ever thought that the uniformity and a unique standardization of their dress code might give it a more credence and credibility? Here I wonder if the uniformity becomes more striking when it’s related to your roots and culture. For some, may be, for some may not be!! But I feel the answer might be in affirmative because something amazing happened as I was a bystander on my first Gokulashtami celebration (Janmashtami) in the premise of my institution, Amrita University, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.
On this auspicious day of Gokulashtami, all the young and vibrant Amritians were supposed to be their ethnic dress and accessories. Ethnic!!?? If I hear the word ‘ethnic’ in my place Odisha, I would imagine the Odia boys at best in their Jeans/Pajama and Kurti and the girls in salwar/suit or may be in saree. However, I can never imagine those young bloods draped in a dhoti until and unless it’s something mandatory in a pooja or in a marriage ritual (which is also on the verge of extinction). Though seeing these beautiful Odia young ladies in saree is somewhat a frequent affair but seeing Odia teenagers in Dhoti?? “Might not be too a pleasing sight for my eyes,” I sigh!!!
So, am I being judgmental? Have I judged an attire?? Have I typecast a clothing altogether? Am I too quick to come to a conclusion? Well, may be yes, specially in this case!! So, have I stereotyped Dhoti then? Yes of course, I have.!! Yes, WE have. We, the North Indians (yes, that’s how I have been stereotyped in South India though I belong to the eastern Indian state of Odisha) have. And for us it’s not Dhoti it’s actually Lungi. Coming from a state where only Unclejis or Mausajis sport Lungi/Dhoti, I had grown up listening to (read watching) “Main lungi uthati, tum ko disco dikhati” (Courtesy: Mithun-Agnipath) which I don’t consider to be a great and respectful song associated with lungi.
Then the recent addition was the widely popular and extremely over-rated “Lungi Dance” where it was more of a spoof of this south Indian attire rather than paying tribute to this centuries-old-attire. I confess that coming from a locale where we were more accustomed to spoofs rather than tributes, I had typecast Lungi to be an apparel sans style, trend and fashion carried only by our senior citizens.
As already mentioned, in my state I had rarely seen youngsters sporting Dhoti or Lungi, hence, witnessing hundreds and hundreds of youngsters sporting Veshti or Munds (the Tamil and Malayalam counterparts of Odia dhoti respectively) was definitely not a pleasant but a shocking surprise for this naïve soul.
I kept on wondering why this sight was so spectacular? Why this sight was so breathtaking? Why this sight was so mesmerizing? Were it these sophomores or was it their attire? Or was it their thousands years of history allied with those Lungis. Was It was their rootedness or it was the manifestation of the fact that how grounded they appeared in those “unclewala” piece of cloth?? I was searching for an answer.
I was pondering how did these Pokemon-Go-Generation feel while being draped in the legacy of their forefathers, passed on to them from generation to generation?? What did these G-O-T-Generation undergo when they were adorned with the traditional costumes of their predecessors?? Did it give them a sense of belonging, a sense of rootedness, or a deep connection with their history?
Most probably it did. My heart was asking me isn’t it true that if we want to understand today, we have to search our yesterday? Aren’t these learners of life in search of their past, while trying to comprehend their present? Yes, they are. I had read a beautiful quote long back, written by Nellie Winslow Simmons Randall. Here it goes as “If you could see your ancestors all standing in a row, would you be proud of them or not? Or don’t you really know? But here’s another question which requires a different view. If you could meet your ancestors, would they be proud of you?” I think these little souls have got their answers and the answer is a big yes. They definitely make their forefathers proud and I am confident that these brilliants minds will fly high as their roots go deep and deep. Recently I read somewhere that a person without the knowledge of their past, origin and culture is like a tree with no roots. I am pleased I could see hundreds of tough trees today deep rooted to its soil, draped in the four yards of pure elegance.
[PS: Here are my new-found respect for the following South Indian celebrities whom now I find extremely stylish, refined, graceful, and sophisticated in their Veshti/Mund/Lungi/Dhoti). I just wish if our younger Odia film celebrities follow this trend too exactly the way they unabashedlylike follow (read copy) all their movies, songs, dialog, action and dance moves.]