In many areas, Kerala is a step ahead of the rest of India – but when it comes to dress sense and dress code, she lags way behind. It took a government order in 2008 to permit the use of salwar suit for teachers in school. This order does not cover colleges. So many colleges, particularly private colleges, insist on sari and only sari for teachers.
The reasons cited are many.
o It is the traditional dress
o It lends dignity to teachers & it is modest.
o It helps distinguish young teachers from students
Is sari the traditional dress of Kerala? NO! Mundu and neryathu – or the set mundu as it is now called – comes close to being the traditional dress for the women of Kerala. Among Christians, it is Chatta & mundu. I know of an occasion when a few young teachers in a private institution planned to dress in the truly traditional manner, and came to college in set mundu. They were pulled up by the Principal who sent them back with the instruction never to come to college in fancy dress!
One can imagine what would have been their fate if they’d decided to come in chatta and mundu!
I have a question. Why doesn’t this argument apply to male teachers. Why is it that they can come in trousers or mundu & jubba or whatever they please and take their positions behind the desk without inviting the ire of the management?
Does this mean that it is the woman on whom is invested responsibility of being the custodian of tradition?
About dignity and modesty – well. These are very subjective issues. A well made salwar suit can be as modest and dignified as a sari. And a sari too can be worn in the most undignified and immodest manner. With the ample scope it provides for exposure of the midriff, of the back with deep cut cholis etc etc. I know many people who can convincingly argue that the sari is the most seductive of all dresses!
About distinguishing young teachers from students – doesn’t the same problem apply to male teachers too? Why should only the lady teacher be shouting out her credentials all the time? As for that matter, why should any teacher do it? A good committed teacher does not need the aid of accessories to earn respect from the students.
Am I anti sari? Well, not really. But many a time the sari has landed me in trouble. It once got in the way while I was jumping into a jam packed KSRTC bus, and I fell forward hitting my shin against the step. Ever had your shin collide with the metal beading of the step? That’s the day when I understood the meaning of the idiom ‘blinding pain”. I can quote any number of sari related mishaps, but this is not the time and place for it.
Those who constitue the managements which still cling tenaciously to the sari- for- teachers rule should just once be made to travel by bus in a sari on a rainy day. I’d like to see how they’ll manage the umbrella, the handbag which a teacher must necessarily have and the sari, all wet at the bottom and getting in the way of feet movement and has to be hitched up while clambering on the slippery, wet and dirty steps of the transport and private buses. The latter, more often than not, will have a kili blocking half the width of the narrow steps.
I suggest this extreme step ‘cos no amount of explaining seems to convince these decision makers that sari is the most inconvenient dress for the fast lifestyle of the day, and that there are equally respectable outfits available.
Strange, how people whose concern should be to get the best out of those in teaching profession should be so mulish about dress code for teachers, and spend so much time and energy enforcing inconsequential rules which cause maximum inconvenience to employees.