Dhoti's descent

Call it dhoti, veshti or panche,  there are always a few stories to be told about this attire. 

Instead of remaining quietly wrapped around the waists of its wearers, the humble dhoti has once again hit headlines in the media, stirring a hornet’s nest. 

This time because a judge of the Madras high court was denied entry into a club for wearing a dhoti; or if you like, veshti or panche. While the jury is still out on the subject and a hue and cry continues on the sartorial preferences of clubs, I am inspired to recount some of my experiences with the dhoti and dhoti clad people. I was barely seven when the nun in the school I was studying in picked me among several others to participate in the annual fancy dress competition.  After some pondering, my mother decided I should don the role of a milkman. That was that. 

On the D-day, there I was on the sidelines of the stage sporting a dhoti, and a white towel tied around my head, carrying an aluminium milk can. When my name was announced, I walked gingerly, shouting ‘haalu, haalu’ (milk, milk in Kannada). Despite prior practice, midway the dhoti came in the way and I stumbled.  

The milk can slipped out of my hand and horror of horrors, the cover came off and water spilt instead of milk! A teacher quickly came to my rescue and walked me off the stage while the MC called out for the next participant to come on stage. Needless to say, I lost face as well as the prize! After that I vowed never to wear such a garb.Several years later, we attended a relative’s wedding in Mangalore, celebrated in traditional style with a band leading the bridal couple from the church to the groom’s house. Drinks were served and while the band played some upbeat numbers, a few danced to the music.  

Out of the blue, a man in a dhoti joined the dancers and performed solo.  Some of the guests, mostly youngsters, egged him on to continue by clapping and cheering. In his apparently inebriated state, he began to execute some brisk and bizzare steps, flinging his legs upwards and sideways, perhaps his own version of today’s ‘lungi dance’. Before long, his dhoti loosened and came off his waist, revealing his shorts and spindly legs. Some laughed, some blushed and some others looked askance while he danced away, his dhoti lying on the ground. Two elderly men dashed across and escorted him to a corner, forcing him to sit down.

Thinking about it now, I suppose a situation like the above mentioned one is what prompted some club officials to argue about potential embarrassing situations when members can easily lose their dhoti after consuming too much alcohol. 

That said, rules are rules and no matter what, clubs will stick to their sartorial embargo as seen in similar instances over the years. If one cannot abide by rules, including dress code, then it is best to give such places a pass as did the Father of the Nation decades ago.

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