Singer Yesudas has suddenly made it to every woman’s hate list after his extreme remark about jeans being anti Indian culture and that women should abstain from wearing it. Before you start formulating your thoughts about commenting on this let me just ask you to pause a bit. This post is not exactly about Yesudas, his comment or women’s attire. In this not so frequented blog, I want to discuss something else.
And “something else” is all about how people are reacting to Yesudas’s comments. Besides, the general outrage there are comments that have questioned about his right to comment on “Indian culture” . The reason being that he is Christian! And then there are those who have clarified saying that he is not a Christian as he has accepted the Hindu faith and it is therefore natural for him to comment to about Indian culture. And yet again, there are those who feel that Islamist groups and their support for the singer’s comments are misplaced as Islam is not about Indian culture.
All these thoughts and beliefs that people seem to have about Indian culture is making me very confused . Now someone please educate me, what is this thing called Indian Culture? Is it like what the Hindutva groups say a proxy for Hindu culture- therefore placing Christians, Muslims and other non Hindus out of itself?
If culture can be defined by religion then why is it that Hindu women in the northern part of the country cover their heads while going to a temple while this practice is followed only by the Christian women in Southern India? If culture is about food then how is it that all religious groups in a geographical region generally follow the same food habits irrespective of religious affiliation? For e.g why do Hindus, Muslims and Christians in Southern India have rice as their staple food? If culture is about language then why is it that churches across the country have services in local language along with English. And yes, I would also like to know if all Hindus ( even the twice born) can read Sanskrit shlokas in Devanagari and understand it ? Their plight is probably similar to that of the Muslim from Tamilnadu who struggles to recite the quoran-written in a language with words that sit uncomfortably on his tongue!
If culture is about customs why is it that Hindu marriages in the north of the country take place at night while in the south the marriages are held during the day? Why is it that the later part of December is considered inauspicious for celebration of Hindu marriages in the south while most Hindu marriages in the north take place exclusively during that period. And incidentally, I must mention here that most Christian marriages in Kerala also take place during that period!
Can we say then that Christians in the south follow some Hindu traditions from the north? Or Hindus in the north might be following some other religious traditions not observed in the rest of the country?
If we say that it is the Muslim or British influence that is causing aberrations in a pan Hindu and therefore pan Indian culture then I suppose there might be Muslims and Christians is parts of the country who might say that it is the Hindu influence that is making them wear saris, veshtis and mundus! So folks, doesn’t it appear that it is getting more and complicated to understand this elusive thing called culture?
But despite all the exclusions and drawing of boundaries for defining identities the one thing that seems to be synonymous with culture today is the way people invoke it in order to exert control over everything about women. How we dress, who we marry, how we should behave, all require some sort of cultural sanction. While I do not agree with the senile singer’s comments about jeans being anti Indian in terms of culture, I must say he has through his comments about women’s dress, exhibited his true affiliation to Indian culture as we understand it today!