Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The furore over gowns, robes and other signs of being an official

According to a news item http://preview.tinyurl.com/yh8kkj2, the Union Minister for the Environment, Shri Jairam Ramesh, has created a furore by taking off his ceremonial robe during the actual convocation ceremony at the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), in Bhopal, on Friday, April 5, saying "Why do we have to come dressed up (in) barbaric colonial relics"?

He clearly does not understand anything about the significance of robes and gowns.

Not only that, he is proud of his ignorance, and thinks his ignorance is something to be displayed!

I invite him to consider that a policeman's uniform means that, if he or she arrests someone, the arrest is not being made by any odd individual but by an authorised representative of the law.

It would be unacceptably inappropriate for a pandit to perform a puja wearing a suit.

Or for a Hindu woman to be married wearning a white sari - or, for that matter, under the open sky.

Similarly, wearing the janoi or Yajnopavita (sacred thread) is inappropriate for a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jain - or indeed for anyone who rejects caste.

Every Sikh is enjoined to wear, among other things, a turban and a kachha (particular sort of underwear).

Sadhus are supposed to wear, at most, a simple single-coloured robe - though they should really wear no clothes at all, as indeed many do not.

But if the Minister were to wear no clothes, my guess is that he would soon be relieved of his post.

Not just that. Far from commissioning graduates of the IIFM to manage forests, he might have been thought fitting for him to have been encouraged, for the rest of his life, to wander in those very forests.

He may find, therefore, that there may be something to be said for wearing appropriate clothes for every occasion.