November 07, 2015

India: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh knickers in a twist

The Indian Express - November 5, 2015

Wear the pants
Be bold, RSS, for change is long overdue. That's the long and short of it.

While liberal India gets its knickers in a twist over the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the “cultural” organisation is girding its loins to leave its trademark knickers behind. It will be heartrending to cast off the khaki half-pants that have served so ably for 90 years. Half-pants of such amplitude that they eclipse the bell-bottoms of the angry young men of the 1970s. They are bell-bottoms that flare buoyantly at the waist, directly beneath the spare tyre, rather than at the knees. They are half-pants you do not put on. Legend has it that you snap them open, stand them upright on the floor and step into them. And then they rise, magically.

And yet, they must be left behind in favour of trousers, for the RSS seeks to recruit the youth, and they wouldn’t be caught dead in bell-bottomed knickers. While hemlines are known to rise and fall with market cycles, trouser length is not changeless, either. Whoever designed the RSS uniform had borrowed freely, with no regard for political prudence. The word “khaki” is Farsi, and the colour was first worn by the Corps of Guides of the British Indian Army in 1848. The cut of the shorts is colonial/ planter and the belt, shirt and shoes that go with it are part of the global attire of the human worker ant.

So, a second thought is a good idea. The RSS could raise platoons of sevaks if it took the heart-stopping leap to distressed denim. While it makes up its mind, the only certainty is that with five lakh uniforms at stake, somewhere in the bowels of Nagpur, some unknown tailor-master is waiting to make a killing.
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