Jan 30, 2009

"Moral Policing"

I just hate this phrase.

Simply because it has become a tool to use it criminally against certain groups.

My parents, and even every other parent, does a bit of 'policing' to upkeep the morality of their children, especially the girls. Why do they do that? Why couldn't they just let them grow with their own intellect to understand the world? Why do a mother object her daughter wearing skirts above the knee or a top that is not so covering? Why there are parents who, though not making it obvious, are careful of what their daughters or sons do? If I had a daughter I would be protective about her too.

But can the same be applied to groups that has taken up rights to be protective of the 'culture'?

Religions must have started this way. They are the first ones to make rules for people to follow and live within morals. Only Islam issues fatwa against those of its followers who do not abide by the Islamic law to the last detail. Hinduism or Christianity do not have equivalent of fatwa in their religion. Though some Popes and priests have questioned a christian morality at times, there has been no Hindu seers or any who have questioned that among Hindus. But still all the religions do have definitions of Morality.

Now there is a group, which has gone berserk with their concept of Hindu culture. Questioning their legal rights over 'culture' is absolutely agreeable. But questioning and branding their belief as equal to 'talibanist' or 'unpatriotic' or 'uncivilized' is something I personally do not agree to.

I totally disapprove the Sri Ram Seva's action against those they consider as 'uncultured.' Their view point is understandable, but they just do not know how to present it to the world. They have run out of ways to contain the true culture of Hindu. They have stopped innovating ways to better the Hindu culture, instead have taken up a 'victim-like-defensive' stance against 'ruin' of culture.

But I wonder why don't we just let the girls and boys go do whatever they want? Let them drink as much beer or whatever they love, wear how less ever they like, show whatever part(s) of their body they like to, speak any dirty four letter words they enjoy, listen to any 'filthy' music, have any number of girl or boy friends (or even both,) ............ as long as they are NOT our own family members :D

How media twisted Mangalore attack on pub girls
If I happen to see my own teen daughter in tight jeans and tight revealing top, smoking a long cigarette with her boy friend at a coffee bar, as a father with my own traditional 'morals' I would seriously be worried about where and what she is going to be in her life. Because to me, she has no respect for the family values that we have brought her up in.

Ok so what is right what is wrong? or who is right who is wrong?

Those who claim to be 'modern' or 'cultured' (there is absolutely NOTHING in INDIA that is genuinely indegeniously modern) are the ones who have basically alienated or keeping themselves away from the 'old time traditional values' of Hindu or in general, India. To be far away from the brand 'Hindu' is a mark of higher ranking individual in the society that has defined itself the space of modernity path set by the Europe and America. Mostly the younger generations of these countries are the ones who have set a standard to rest of the world in terms of modernization. But what Indian younger generations do not understand is that the west did not copy any other part of the world to shape their morals, but they developed it from their own.

Its true not just about their culture but in every aspects of life. Even their scientific temper is based on their grooming of their own society, life, education etc. Whatever they are today, is only because of what they developed from their own available resources. They did not copy other countries. They are proud to be Americans! They are proud to be English! They are proud of their culture (even if its Christian) their land, their society, their government.... (on the negative side, most of them are not proud of their parents and gurus :D )

Let us see how we analyse these:

1. Yoga was re-accepted by Indians only after the west approved it!! Not till the soft tight sweat pants was invented for exercising that the Yoga was openly accepted by the women in India.
2. International schools in India is in line with global school systems/standards. Adaptation to a standard that was never conceived in India even by millions of Indian schools and teachers.
3. The lifestyles of most of Indians who consider themselves to be the elite class of society, are mostly western or 'english like.' You may see the women in saree, but they speak excellent english but its very hard speaking in their own mother tongues. "We are different. We do not belong to the pale Indian lack lustre society."
4. Start finding out the way the young generations have started to change their names to a Christian like pronounciation, or shortening it to look 'funky.' Because they are more acceptable in the crowd for being 'different' (different from boring Hindus?)
5. The dress codes, body language, communications has all changed. Now they are exactly a replica of what the American teens have invented. We do not create them. We just love to copy.
6. What the fashion gurus of the west define as fashion is applicable to rest of the world! The colour combinations, the shape cutting for the clothes, the walk (cat walk! India never knew about this till we were shown by them) everything MUST have an approval from the west.
7. Standards in manufacturing, governing, management, software development are not what Indians have evolved on their own. The ISO standards, we weren't part of its conception, has become rule of the day. The CMM levels are set by the developed countries and imposed on rest of the world. You keep up to it or get out of business!

A nice write up by Sagar on Why are Indian's Achievements So Little Known

The list goes on and on. There is no end to what we have copied. We have stopped being innovative. By being ignorant to our own 'culture' we have devalued it much further like how something you do not use for years will go rotten and you would only want to throw them to garbage. (The same Ram Sena must stop misuse of photos of Gods put up at places where the land owners want to stop people peeing on their walls!! Gross misuse by certain people, this is not necessarily a Hindu culture. That message is for those who would like to group all loopholes of this society to be a part of Hinduism as if they were mentioned in Vedic books.)

We have no dearth of fashion for women in India. Look at the varieties.

The westernization has helped Indians to look at the scope of creativity. But the misguided youth has not understood what it means to them. They are simply 'slaves' of these definitions.

There is so much that Indians can do without having to depend on someone else's standard or definition of living. If they werent looking at the west to shape their lives they are better of in coming up with styles that the west will love to follow. We have to change our mindset to be leaders than being followers.

We must have the courage to rule the world in fashion, science, technology, inventions, culture, education, quality, health and every other segments.

Stop blaming on corruption, inefficient governance, 'moral police' for your own inefficiency.


Ek Pardesi Aurat said...

As an American woman who has lived in both USA and India for several years here is my view.

1. Yes, America is exporting her goods and culture around the world but she is also importing. A prime example is the Indian clothing you see in ALL the department stores here. Kurtis/kurtas, what we call "tunics" in the West. All look very Indian and most are made in India, some in Bangladesh.

India's religions like Buddhism and Hinduism's branch of yoga and dhyan is also very, very popular.

People like Deepak Chopra and other Indians who promote Ayurveda and other aspects of India's holistic traditions are extremely popular.

2. Regarding that yoga has not become popular amongst Indian women until the West exported it BACK to India with soft, tight sweat pants, I have a question for you...

Have you EVER tried doing a hardcore yoga workout in a sari or in a salwar/kameez?


Traditionally yoga asanas were and still are performed by Indian MEN in very little clothing - a loin cloth.

Why is there no protest over the skimpiness of that attire? Or for that matter, fully nude nanga and naga babas that roam India?

Why is it only when WOMEN start to wear comfortable and weather appropirate clothing like spaghetti straps that all of a sudden Indians are "copying" the West?

Now that young Indian women can see that there is a type of clothing available that will allow them to do yoga properly, they are happy to wear that clothing and do yoga. It makes sense.

Otherwise in sari and salwar kameez a real hard yoga workout is impossible.

Head stand in a sari? Are you kidding me?

3. I consider myself a traditional, religious, spiritual type of woman and am not one to frequent pubs/discos etc, however the uptight, anal retentive attitude of India regarding women is something that I could just not digest.

I mean, when it is 45 degrees out and I am dressed from top to bottom in a salwar kameez AND STILL getting "eve-teased" (sexually harrassed), then what to speak of if I am wearing weather appropriate clothing?

Even normal yoga gear is considered "western, ultra modern and indecent" according to some of you!

No thankyou.

I have CHOSEN to not to drink alcohol, not to take drugs, not to have unprotected sex and not to eat meat. I have CHOSEN to lead a sattvic life. Yet this was my CHOICE.

Yet I have NOT chosen to be judged for wearing normal, weather appropriate clothing and treated like shit because of it.

I have NOT chosen to become just as uptight and anal retentive as the "moral police" of India.

I have NOT chosen to give up the joy, spontaneity and sense of humor that my family and culture raised me with.

I have NOT chosen to give up being a NORMAL WOMAN with desires, preferences, likes-dislikes, etc.

But it seems India wants us to give up all these things.


Forget the pubbing and "free sex" -
my question to you is ...

What the hell is wrong with weather appropriate yoga wear for women when Indian men have been doing yoga asanas out in the open in loin cloth for hundreds of centuries!?!?!?

Ek Pardesi Aurat said...

And an added point to the comment I just wrote:

India's current morality, anal retentiveness and weather in-appropriate clothing was brought in by the Victorian Brits and sexist Muslims, who were SHOCKED that most Hindu women went topless and wore only one thin cloth wrapped loosely around their body.

Weather appropriate clothing for India's hot climate.

And now? Now we have Indian men telling us that spaghetti straps are taboo and "western"!!!!


Just see the irony.

Suchin said...

Hi "..Aurat",

Your entire writeup has all the answers for my concern on the 'INDIANESS.' You have actually explained the answers to my question in detail.

What made you choose to be satvik? Did you see 'value' embedded in the Indian 'culture' and 'creative religion' that espoused the values of being Saatvik?

Whereas, wearing a chudidar was perfectly ok for 'shirasaasan' (standing over head) for the women, Indian youth especially, are misguided thoroughly to believe that anything Indian in its original form is intellectually, morally, culturally lower than the west. And precisely the reason for them to accept it only in the form that was bundled up with the 'western' outfits with a seal of approval, acceptance by the west that the younger women in India started to involve more in yoga. Why the men are not involved here? Simply because there never was a need for them to discover an outfit for yoga. It was already there for them.

Instead, the fashion designers of India, both men and women, could have designed an outfit probably improvements in comforts over chudidars to come up with something still Indian. The need was very much there since ages. The men enjoyed with one single 'langota' to perform yoga, and probably left it to the women to figure out what they can come up with to practice yoga with a proper decent attire. The opportunity has always been there for the designers to come up with one. But in India we DO NOT LOOK INSIDE US. WE JUST BORROW STEAL AND USE THE WEST. This is exactly what I am against. I am not undermining the women in any way. But I feel very helpless with our 'slavery' mindset.

Renuka Chowdhry could have set a good example of being a women and being in an important position to give a different direction to the 'pub going women.' In the name of equality her entire clan all over the world are simply trying to define/redefine their womenhood and their position in the society, as it is expected to be accepted by the men. Is this required at all? On every such context, why should women always try to prove with examples that they can be equal with men? Why not just be women and create a distinct identity? If boys go to pub, she advices girls to go to pub and get drunk too! Her move is just to appease herself with countering her political opponents and has nothing to do with her belief system or her personal culture. If her daughter is dragged into drugs by the same pub goers, afterall its 'modern' to smoke pots, I want to see what she does with her daughter.

Politics and Culture is no more a mix in India. It used to be in Dwapara Yuga when Krishna proposed noble politics.

Shilpa Shetty's DVD on Yoga is such a lame excuse to do business. Its more an obvious that if she did not wear a two piece, her DVD would not have got that much attention. She could have worn chudidar though! She herself being a 'fashion designer' from the blues now, could have designed a perfect Indian outfit. But why bother creativity? Who bothers though? She's probably afraid about her acceptance not beyond India if she was wearing a chudidar. Her sales would have gotten limited to India or just among Indians.

In America, Buddhism, Yoga etc are accepted now. Good must be accepted everywhere. Why are they entering into America? Why are they accepted? Why a country which has given the top fashions to the world has to go back slowly on these? Why a country majorly of a religion started to see answers in other religions and cultures?

The problem with India and Indians is that we have remained very humble and unassuming in the world. We have such noble traits that can answer to the world and yet, we do not know about them. Why? Because we are made to believe our values are shit!

Ek Pardesi Aurat said...


One can do yoga in churidhar, but what about the top? You cannot do head stands in kameez because the kameez will drop down towards ones head and expose ones' breasts.

Sometimes I do yoga in churidar but do not wear kameez. I wear a tight midriff or tight t-shirt.

I guess a choli could be worn with a churidhar in India to keep it "indian style" but then cholis expose the entire midriff and accentuate breasts due to their form fitting style, that I'm sure people like you would consider it indecent.

So what is the solution if not a t-shirt, which is considered "western".

Moreover, men call also do their yoga in churidhar and t-shirt. I don't understand the need for them to wear the skimpy and indecent loin cloth. And what in the world is the need for those nanga and naga babas to roam naked shamelessly througout India?

Imagine if you had yoginis roaming India with only loin cloth or naked!!! Imagine the uproar it would cause.

But men roam with their penises dangling in the basanti hava and it gets a pass!

I don't understand this fear of all things western. Better not use the Indian railway system then, or for that matter even speak and type in English on the internet, or even use the internet!

Anyway, to answer your question on why I chose to live a sattvic lifestyle - because I wanted to. I have friends that don't. They order drinks when we go out to eat and I have absolutely no problem with it.

Variety is the spice of life.

If you know your Gita than you know the 3 gunas that humans are working under. Sattva guna is just one of 3.

Also, it's not like a person who makes sattvic choices is making an "Indian choice". All cultures have their 3 gunas. India is not the sole creater of good, healthy living.

Drinking alcohol has been in India for thousands of years, as has smoking and eating ganja. Moreover, bars and restaurants that sell alcohol have been in India for several decades now.

Why all of a sudden is it a problem?

Did the SRS go to that pub and stir up a hungama just because women were patronizing it?

And I'm sure Renuka Chaudhari's beti goes to pubs also. Pub and disco going is common amongst India's urban rich.

We can't turn back the hands of time.

While there are things I appreciate about India and her culture, as a woman, I prefer the West. Nobody gives me a second look when I'm swimming at the beach in weather appropiate beach attire.

However, at a beach in India I am covered head to toe almost like a Middle Eastern muslim and I get stares and "sssshhhhh" sounds from dudes following me and circling me.

Hence, here I am in USA.

End of story.

I mean, they won't leave us alone when we are wearing winter season wear on a 45 degree beach.

How would you expect them to leave us alone if we wear traditional Indian loin cloth yoga attire?

Hence we have to cover up in the more "decent" western yoga wear which covers our legs and chests.

I think the male yogis of India should also try wearing the more decent western yoga wear as well.

Their skimpy loin clothes are a disgrace to Indian manhood and are simply scandalous.

Suchin said...


Modernization of the very Indian concepts (culture) is what must be happening in India with Indians. But there appears to be no time to catch up with rest of the world, for these Indians, who have chosen to just copy and stay in the race.

This attitude is what I have written about. I have not criticised the other cultures to show the Indian one in the better light. Why have I chosen to talk only about the women in India? I am not a male chauvinist, but one who believes in true, distinct, original, indigenous identity of women.

But just look at the current trend in India. Nothing Indian about it! That's it! Its time that we start to think back of what we have with us, and start working towards reviving our strengths. Only in this context that I have written my post.

I agree to most of your views, but some. I want you to watch the yoga shows presented by women on the TV channels in India. This program is obviously NOT for general viewing, but ONLY for the ELITE who are english educated, well off, high society people who have very less time for exercises or even to watch TV. The presentation is usually in a super villa, somewhere in a very expensive hotel or resort, the instructors describing yoga in english (no Hindi either,) with a tinge of American or British accent. If this program was to reach all class of people, there would be three quarters of the viewers, if at all they are curious to watch, who just do not understand a word of presenters speak, or even be able to relate to the style and 'culture' of these presenters. Its meant only for some cream of the society. Not for just anyone.

Don't you know, most of the parents have till recently been thinking of NO OTHER OPTION but to find their children educated only in US? If these children were not being prepared to get a seat in one of the reputed colleges/schools in America, they were assumed to be not enough upto mark! That was the scene till recently. Now it has changed only due to recession!! Money! No money, no value. No marriage!!!! You are not fit to marry my daughter if you are not capable of working in the US! If you could not survive in the US, then you do not have the capacity to manage my daughter. That trend is now gone. These very parents are now afraid to look for Indian groom, living/working in US. But alternatively, they find one who is equivalent to the caliber.

So what is it about the parents or the general mindset of us Indians, in 'looking upto' the west for everything?

What and how much have the IITians contributed to Indian science and development? Why could they do a lot when they move out of India? Why in Indian media, even a small trace of Indian connection to any American or British gets a huge coverage, talk, publicity? These issues/mindset puts me to shame. I take it very personal. I strongly feel that we Indians must be leaders and not followers. All my arguments is based on this feeling.

Ek Pardesi Aurat said...

I've read what you wrote and "get" where you are coming from. Will respond when I return and have more time. I'm off to a yoga class, ironically enough!

Suchin said...

"Drinking alcohol has been in India for thousands of years, as has smoking and eating ganja. Moreover, bars and restaurants that sell alcohol have been in India for several decades now.

Why all of a sudden is it a problem?"

The opportunity to design a top was always there. But did any one worth a name Indian garment company come up with a design to suit the purpose of these women? You could probably tie a lace around your waist to keep the top falling over your face. But that is all the reason we need to get creative and design something that can answer it.

By NOT having such a wear, we have limited the women with what they could have performed with Yoga. Then comes a western outfit that perfectly fills in the requirement. In very few years, you see this being available everywhere in India, classes started by women, more number of women joining the courses. Good that they now have the opportunity. But we just waited and waited and brooded over it but did nothing!!! That is what bothering me. What were the men fashion makers doing? Why couldn't they come up with something? Even today we have many such requirements for women. No one bothers till it is created outside India, and we start a huge business in India of it within no time.

We had bars. These were like rotting places. No one thought about having a better place, till the Pub style was 'shown' to us. Bankruptcy of innovative brains!!

Let us not care what SRS has done. They are simply idiots of the first order. I haven't advocated any of their views here. But as the one who feels depressed thinking about what our country could have achieved, but are shunted by limitations we have brought upon ourselves. You just name it, everything is borrowed! Hardly very few genuinely Indian! Doesn't this pathetic situation call for creativity? I personally am definitely working on it.

An Indian filmmakers dream (most of them) is to get an Oscar! An Indian musician's dream is to get a Grammy! An IIT graduate's dream is to pursue education in say MIT (US) or get the best job in the US! An Indian doctor's first dream is to quickly do away with the formalities of house surgeon and get out of India. They are known to deny rendering service in the villages after their graduation. The fashion designers here, have changed their appearance, lifestyles, body language to live up to the Paris style. Its ok to behave utterly feminine for a male fashion designer (I really dont know why they behave that way!) just because it happens elsewhere.

Anyways, to answer your question on "Drinking alcohol has been in India for thousands of years,..."
Yes we all agree its always been there. It was very Indian yet. We had our own way with that. SRS is just one element which has expressed its displeasure against such 'sudden spurt of westernization' that slowly is expected to dominate the definition of culture here. While other normal citizens do still have their own apprehensions about this culture. In this context, I should say let Renuka get her family into whatever she wants, but being in a responsible position, taking up such actions as 'pub bharo' and asking boys and girls to start drinking is much more idiotic than Mutalik. She legally has approved liberty to the people to do whatever they want in the pub, drink howmuch ever they want. Ok! Let us see this effect in sometime soon. Let us see where this goes :) I'll bookmark her actions and show it back on her face one day.

I went to America to work in 1998. That time Bangalore was a different place. There were pubs and bars of course, but the 'culture' was not that affected. The pace at which this pub culture came in was not even in a bang. I was absolutely not shocked at the culture/lifestyle of the Americans... public show of affection, women/girls smoking, pubs, discos, attires/fashions, homosexuality, life on Broadway St in San Francisco....nothing of those did surprise me. Why? Has it been a cultural shock to Americans to view all these? No. Its been there. These have evolved out of what was already there in one way or other. People added their creativity to make it even better or worse in whatever sense you look at. But its byproduct of what was already been there.

I returned to India after just 5 years. It was astonishing to find the whole difference of the world here in just that short period. Believe me till 1998 I had not seen college going girls smoking openly on the streets (in Bangalore) or in a coffee bar! In 5 years (compared to the growth in past decades) I literally could not digest it! It was a shock to see the change. Everyone here know it was because of the boom time, economy, movement of corporates, work culture (like BPO etc) that started bringing in more money and the access to what wasn't available to people earlier. Now who cares to be Indianised?!!

I guess I have too much to talk on this subject which would never be ending. I just leave the open questions for anyone else to fill in. I am stuck with my belief. I want India to be self reliant, self sufficient, truly a leader in all spheres, and a country that can be relied upon by the world on just anything. We must have answers to everything (well almost: being practical.)

If we have set our minds to MOVE UP only upto what other parts of the world has created, WE WILL ALWAYS TRAIL BEHIND.

I have talked to many people across the world. Most of them think in India, we eat monkey brains, we charm the snakes, we live in huts, we have no money, we all live in slums (now again thanks to Slumdog Millionaire,) we are somewhere in Asia (they haven't much heard about India,) our child marriages, our poverty, arranged marriage (un-understable to them)...list goes on. No one really knows about real us. That is what has been done by the great PRO of India.

Ek Pardesi Aurat said...

I get where you're coming from Suchin but I feel differently.

India has managed to keep many of it's traditions, religions, dress styles, cuisines, etc. for thousands of years. If you like at countries throughout the Mediterrenean and Middle East, you don't see that. The women in Saudi Arabia, underneath their black niqabs are wearing American style clothing. All the shops are filled with it. The only people who wear traditional Arab wear in the Arab world are poor, nomadic Bedoiun.

In India however, the poor, the rural, the middle class and the urban rich still wear saris. Although the majority of men in India seem to have renounced the ancient dhoti, women have clung onto the sari.

The ancient religions and their traditions of the Mediterrenean and Middle East have given way to Abrahamic faiths whereas India is still overwhelmingly Hindu.

You see the cup half empty whereas I see it half full.

Everything depends upon perception.

However, I will say this;

Regarding chudidhar as a traditional form of clothing appropriate for yoga is ridiculous.

The "pantaloon" chudidhar, salwar, etc came from the West of India. It is a Persian/Turkish sort of garment.

Traditionally both men and women in India wore only one piece of cloth, light clothing appropriate for their climate.

Probably the yoga-wear Shilpa Shetty wears in her yoga DVDs are more "decent" than what ancient Indian women wore. I'm sure you've seen the paintings and statues of old times. Many of the women were topless or wore a simple cloth around their chests which tied in the back.

That actually, with a loongi type bottom that was brought up from the front and tucked into the back, would probably be the most authentic yoga-wear for Indian women. How "decent" would the average Indian deem such an outfit nowadays?

I was thinking about yoga-wear last night in yoga class and the type of pants and tops that the West has designed are form fitting yet light, made from breathable cotton or other material, which makes it easy to do yoga in.

Turkish/Persian pants and kameez are just not appropriate for the kind of intense movement and sweating that accompanies a yoga work out. For meditation they are fine, but not for the various asanas.

We need something light, form fitting and movable, that does not get in our way.

Also, beedi smoking has been going on in India for eons. A few college girls smoking a cigarette in a cafe is just an extension of that.

I really don't see the need for alarm.

At my two groups here yesterday I discussed the current gender wars, class wars, culture wars going on in India. The people around me were fascinated because they have never been to India but many of them want to.

The funny thing with the people who are into yoga, buddhism and other Indian stuff here is that they assume because India is the seat of so much spirituality, that the people of India must be really spiritual - really open-minded, really kind and compassionate, really liberal, ... they assume they must be like they are.

And they also assume that because they worship Goddesses, that women in India have an honorable and respected place in society.

Unlike you who associated with people who think Indians eat monkey brains (never heard that one) and are backwards and mean, the people that I associate with (yoga and new age groups) assume only the best of India and Indians because they are tuned into India's spirituality.

I often have to burst their bubble.

In fact, India is getting alot of good press in USA at the moment - from television documentaries and travel shows to Time magazine write-ups and so many things.

Maybe at the time you were here you were here it was not like that, but now it is.

If anything, people are walking away with a better impression of India than it deserves, in my opinion.

I also want to point out the reason for India's lack of innovation at taking it's ancient heritage and modernizing it;

It is precisely BECAUSE India is so ancient and has such a long history of existence, culture and tradition, that it is not able to innovate it's own style.

You see, when people possess a long history and culture, they tend to cling to the old ways because they think they are so good.

Therefore, countries that lack such a long history and culture, countries and cultures that are new and based on looking forward rather than backward are the ones who will keep making new innovations and then the old countries/cultures will copy those because they were unable to move forward from their past out of attachment to the old ways.

Regarding the yoga shows on Indian TV catering to a minority of English speaking Indians, isn't Swami Rama the number one yoga guy on TV and doesn't he present it in Hindi???

If anything I would appreciate an English yoga TV show with an upscale background and young, attractive instructor because it serves to make yoga appealing to India's new generation of English speaking economic boomers who otherwise might brush it off as just some old, traditional, religious crap that their nani might be into, much like "puja".

Another thing I discussed in my groups yesterday was the Pink Chaddi Campaign and it's link with the concept of "lajja" or shame.

This was brought up because we were doing a sesssion on human emotions - both the progressive and healthy kind and the regressive and unhealthy kind.

On our chart "shame" is at the bottom of emotions because it is at a very low vibrational level. It is linked with suicide.

So then I contributed to the discussion about how "shame based cultures" have incidences of people committing suicide out of "shame".

I used some examples from the latest Indian news in that regard.

Shame is different than guilt, by the way. Guilt is generated from within whereas shame is generated from without - people around us, our society, etc.

You see, I feel that India has held onto ALOT of it's ancient traditions, much more than other countries in the East.

But that also has a drawback when it holds onto the negative stuff as well (such as it's concept of "lajja"/shame).

One thing to be examined is how much of this uptightness over what women wear is actually "Indian".

Before the Brits and the Muslims came in from lands West of India, Indians were wearing one cloth and many women were going topless.

The Sri Durga Sene chief and spokeswoman chided her TV interviewer for wearing a long kurta over jeans. Yet she herself was wearing a choli. If she really wanted to represent the ancient and traditional Indian sari than she would have been choli-less.

I'm afraid what these people don't understand is that if Indian men and women were to start wearing the REAL authentic Indian styles, those styles would be scandalous!

Men would wear dhoti without shirt and women would wear sari without any choli. They would also wear just a tiny gamcha/lungi around their hips, exposing their knees, and a single strap of thin cotton around their boobs, tied in the back.

That was the way Indians dressed in ancient times, because of their climate.

Then the Turks, Persian, Arabs came in and introduced their styles and we think those styles are "Indian" now. They are not.

Anyway, chello.

This is how the world turns.

Personally, I would prefer the simple styles of ancient India because whenever I am in India it is hot as hell, but I'm still expected to dress like it's winter time in a salwar kameez!

I'm not about to walk around India in a gumcha about my waist with a thin strap of boob cloth. God only knows what would happen to me, even though that is how the aam aurat of ancient India dressed!

So basically it seems to me that Indians nowadays are confused.

They don't know what they want.

They say women should preserve Indian culture and dress but they don't even know what that culture and dress is!

They complain about college girls in cafes smoking cigarettes but rarely will you hear complaint about men and boys smoking beedis.

How about smoking ganja? Weren't Indians doing THAT way before they were smoking tobacco?

Would that be OK then?

Really and truly, for me to figure out what Indians want is like a woman trying to figure out what men want or men asking, "what is it that women really want?"

Therefore I'm just going to be myself and continue with my yoga in my breathable cotton pants and sports bra!

Suchin said...

I greatly appreciate your writing. It is well embedded with valuable points. I am glad your group discusses topics about India, and our values. Also, happy that your overall talk about India makes me really happy. Let me add some of my views here:

1. certain yogasanas are not necessary for women considering the limitations. dont worry about shirasaasan. i did not say chudidhar is THE wear for yoga. i rather said, improvisation of this could have been done. i am surprised that you think i proposed wearing of loin cloth for women !!!! you probably can do that in a secluded area where no MAN has gone ever.

2. Ever since the pants, trousers, shorts were designed, it has stayed that way in the world. They havent undergone large change
in over many years. That means the limit of a design for these has
already been reached. There's nothing more you can do to it. Not entire India wore one piece of cloth in its history. There were 'Naaru madi', our women were well covered. We have history of queens wearing completely covering their body. The whole world started out with humans being naked. That doesnt mean Indians should continue to live naked. We had our own wears all the time.

3. I understand its the very basic instinct of human beings to expand and to adapt to all possibilities. fashion is one of them. i just wish India was creative in this field to have designed/produced a good outfit for the women several variations from saree and chudidhars. Whats the growth indigenously? Whats the growth of import of fashion?

4. I see the half cup empty because I know what we should be filling it with. Instead of waiting for someone else to fill it in for us, I wish we should do it ourselves. What are we waiting for?

5. I wear dhoti at home. I feel its very comfortable for me. I have even gone against my boss's rule that everyone in our team should wear Tie. His view that wearing tie, trouser, fullarm shirts will give one some sort of confidence and can makes you more presentable...i just could not accept it. why in the world shouldn't i feel even more confident and comfortable in dhoti. Would let you let me come to office in dhoti, i am ready to! at all international stages, politicians, scientists, industrialists must always represent india with their appearance, thoughts and culture. thats how india can excel.

6. india has smoked ganja, tobacco for thousands of years. and over a time realized it was harmful to the health. if we now decide to quit, its bad or good? should we say, since we have had this already, we can start smoking something even worse? drugs? nothing should stop india from becoming more civilized and health conscious. why not have a society with no alcohol and no drugs? (impractical? but nothing is impossible)

7. in india, until recently, no one ever wore a two piece on beach. it was only the visitors who did. the behaviour of the locals would be the same as how you would be looked at in a village in africa who wears nothing! its just the oddity that people gawk at. its new. its different. they are yet to get adjusted to that. and knowing very well, how conservative is india, visitors must be prepared to experience such reactions from the public. the other extreme of those visitors being nabbed or raped is something else out of this context. to a great extent the bollywood funded by underworld, has successfully endorsed wearing bikinis, revealing dresses on the women as something that must be accepted by people here. you keep showing them till they consider it to be normal. i dont know if its their sadist attitude or something that money brings into their culture, but they are just not bothered about the effect of such visuals on the young uncorrupted minds. we know this from other parts of the world too.

8. "saatvik" is indian. if you have refered to that word, obviously i have to talk in indian context. the context is also with respect to indian culture we have been talking about all along. In the same line you have refered to 'gita' too.

9. i dont vouch for SRS. but when its convenient to accept the countering against SRS, it would be good to balance by viewing point of SRS too. SRS says there were girls being videographed for adult movies behind the pub. i just wish this came in from the police department instead of home ministry. if there were of course illegal activities going on, the local people have the right to close down the pub. forget SRS, forget karnataka government. what about the 'facts'? who is finally going to bring it out? a public committee or the local committee are the right group to probe into this.

10. the naked babas do not threaten the public with their penises. they are just to themselves. you dont get them turned on with your presence. "They believe that when a person can be naked without an awareness of their nudity, and oblivious to sexual connotations, they have succeeded in going beyond the physical senses and have achieved a spiritual level of union with God." why is it that you do not know about this fact? Gomateshwara is worshiped by Jains. He lived naked! He showed the way to get out of this materialistic world.

please look into

11. I agree that we are stuck to our old roots. We love it that way. Because we value it. We just cant give up on it. Its true about us. And hence, the gap between the west and indian must actually be filled in sensitively without abusing the old customs, cultures and traditions of India which is what our generation have got into. I had friends who belittled India on every count and compared to the best of the west, when we were in US. I even stopped talking to them. There should be a way to deal with the 'pub cuclture' or 'valentines day' before it is accepted by the Indians completely. That has not happened. Valentines day, when it first came to India, happened overnight! And the liberty has already been misused. To say 'we do what we want, how we want...you should not dare to snatch our liberty' is a stuppid way of rebelling against a dominant culture. Instead, there must be a graceful way of bridging the gap between the ancient and modern culture, at a slower pace, and within acceptable limits. Let it take time! After all this is part of history. It has to go through a process. Aggression against those who say 'dont ruin my culture' is considered 'secular.'

13. I and you can design a wear for the women who can comfortably perform yoga :) You have ideas already, you seem to be thinking of what are the possibilities.

14. When women were topless in India, there weren't crimes. Men werent as bad as now. Just like a child growing up in the west watching the parents publicly kissing, showing affection did not ever mind it or consider it to be offending, our men too did not, in those times, found it to be sexual. Even today, there are poor women who cannot afford to wear the top but still cover themselves with one saree. People in their family do not consider that as voyuerism! Its part of their life. So connecting to how we were in olden times to justify it in present world, is not correct.
It doesnt mean now the women must still wear only one piece of saree, choli-less. Its easier for us to mix all ages of our culture to justify what we expect it to be to our tastes as of today. But it is not going in the right direction. Real Indian dress will still be 'kacche vaeshti' (dhoti with the longer end pulled from front and tucked in the back taking it between the legs) and similar one for women with perfect covering all over. Just tell me whats wrong with this?

Ek Pardesi Aurat said...

1. To answer your last question, nothing is wrong with wearing dhoti, either for men and women, in the way you describe. Gandhi said, "be the change you want to see in the world", so do it!
(that saying has become very popular in the West now, I'm hearing it everywhere)

2. As far as Indians giving up smoking ganja because it was bad for health. All over India I have seen "sadhus" and "babas", many of them naked or half-naked, toking away on ganja. They are supposed to be the example of India's spiritual values, it's yoga and it's holistic/health values, so my question is, why are these babas/sadhus smoking ganja by the millions?

3. Why give them a pass to go naked? It does offend some peoples' sensibilities and you know as well as I do that many of them are also having sex.

4. Mahadevi Akya went naked as well and some other female sadhus, yet you don't see that nowadays. Now it's just the men.

5. Shirasana not neccessary for women? You could say it's not neccessary for men either, yet people still do it. Why? Because people want the full yoga experience. If someone's yoga practice has brought them to the point where they can perform shirasana (not easy) then why should they not - just because they have boobs?

6. India is a country of 1 billion + and there are several centuries living there all at once. All kinds of cultures, languages, cuisines are living there all at once. Hence you will find people who do not want to smoke, drink, go to pubs, etc. And you will find people who do.

We cannot force people to live our lifestlye, we can only live our own lifestyle. If we don't want them forcing their ways on us, we cannot force our ways on them.

7. This habit of poking nose into what other people are doing and wearing, although it is common in India (and drives most of us crazy), I don't think it is congruent with India's spirituality wherein the focus was always on the SELF and SELF realization.

8. SRS may claim that porn biz was going on in that pub, but until there is physical proof, who will believe? And even if there was porn biz going on, the way they handled it was not the right way to do it.

9. Is porn illegal in India?

10. Your Indian friends in USA who hated India and were unable to find one redeeming quality about it should have mixed and mingles in yoga and new age circles. People in those circles are fascinated with Indians and think they are super spiritual and smart. That would have certainly boosted their egos. However, those types of Indians probably think the yoga and new age Americans are flaky hippies or something.

11. India has a hard time balancing. What I mean is that here in USA someone can be a yoga teacher and into meditation and all kinds of spiritual stuff BUT STILL go to a bar or pub for a drink after a long day and no one will criticise that. In India the people seem unable to make a connection between doing things like going to discos to dance or going to pubs to drink every once in a while and still being a spiritually inclined person.

The only people they let do this kind of thing with no criticism is those male sadhus/babas who are still respected for being spiritual to some extent and allowed to smoke ganja at the same time.

This is a problem I had in India. Becomes I am spiritually and religiously involved they expected certain restrictive behaviours and dressing styles from me. Hey, I just want to be myself. Just because I'm religious doesn't mean I don't like to dance, I don't like to date men, or many other things. Somehow Indians are unable to bridge the gap between being religious/spiritual and being a normal human being, at least for women.

12. As far as the scantily clad Bollywood actresses; wearing bikini tops with saris below their waists showing off their navels is actually more in tune to how ancient women wore the sari. Go to any museum in India and see the sculptures and paintings. ALOT of skin and navels were shown in India back in the day.

13. Please don't make John Abraham or Hrithik Roshan wear a shirt ;)

14. As far as Valentine's Day, you are probably happy to know that March 1 2009 will commence India's first celebration of KAMA SUTRA DAY. Some youth in India have decided to fill SRS's wish for more authentic Indian celebrations.
It's all good.

15. I wish to refer you to this particular article. Although you are an Indian male, don't take offense. More than a rant against Indian men, it serves to highlight a general trend of invasiveness that is ever present in India, if you life there as a woman. Like one of the commenters said, it is almost pathelogically impossible for Indians to adopt a "live and let live attitude". And that is precisely the reason I am residing in USA right now, though to be honest, I prefer India and her vibrant mix of cultures. The intensity of living under someone else's gaze all the time prooved to be too stressful and unhealthy for me.

I feel strongly that if India is to move ahead, it really has to learn to leave people alone.

Here is the article;


Suchin said...

We must talk about this for another 5 years. This blog space will be too less. Can you please add me on your gtalk? I am very excited to talk in depth on this topic, with an intention to really figure out 'whats next' to India. And you never know we can design something new for the young :) (maybe that includes you too)

Ek Pardesi Aurat said...

I forgot to mention one more point;

You say that whatever mainstream culture has evolved in the USA has done so organically and smooth. Read up on the feminist revolution and the sexual revolution (two different things, but intertwined) during the 1960s. The transition was not smooth.

Radical feminists did what was considered at that time "shocking" things, in order to garner attention and create change. They mainly came from middle class and upper middle class background, like the Pink Chaddi participants. However, the attention they garnered and the consciousness they raised at that time has trickled down over time into the lower classes of women and has made life better for them too.

Same thing will happen with regards India's upper-middle-class feminist movement.

People don't like change. Especially the older generation and men, if things have gone smoothly for them for decades, centuries, why would they want things to change?

Change is never easy. It wasn't easy for America and it won't be for India. However, as Buddha said, the only thing that is constant in this world is change.

Many people were against the drug and sex culture of the 1960s hippies, but you know what? It was these very hippies that made yoga, buddhism and other eastern (Indian) things popular NOW. It is because of them that America has a large population of vegetarian restaurants and many restaurants now have "vegetarian menus".

Those hippies were open-minded enough to look into the traditions of Eastern cultures and adopt some of the ways.

Several Indian swamis, gurus and yogis have those drug and sex induced hippies to thank for their worldwide fame and fortune.

My message to India right now would be; just because this is not easy and just because it may shock some of your sensiblities, don't dismiss it. Indian youth do not want to live in the split personality denial of their parents and grand-parents. Indian youth want to party and to pray. They want to do yoga and they want to kiss their sweethearts in the park. They want to wear saris and they want to wear bikinis.

They want balance.

For god sake, let them have it.

When half the world is bombing each other explosives, seeing a happy couple bombing each other with hugs and kisses should bring a smile to your face.


Here's a cartoon that probably sums up alot of feelings on Valentine's Day.


I don't have "g-talk".

Give your email address and we can continue there.