> “Will you please put off the light? It is past mid-night.”, the missus complains. I switch the light off and go to bed. Dame Sleep condescends to envelop me only after a few long hours. And a fantasy unfolds before my closed eyes. >
> Achilles is standing before his mother wearing just a VIP Frenchie. Gandhari, his mom, a dark ribbon covering her eyes, is caressing his body. And then, she dips him in a gleaming river to make his body impervious to any weapon. He, in no time, grows up, fights and wins great battles. His cohorts are rejoicing over their victories in a no-holds-barred celebration.. Soon the revelry turns sour. They begin to fight among themselves and end up killing each other. Achilles is depressed. Holding his flute he goes to the forest to await his end. Along the way, he picks up a peacock feather and adorns himself with it. A hunter shoots a poisoned arrow at him. It hits his Achilles’ heel,, the ankle that his mother had held him by, while dipping him in the strengthening waters of a sacred river. He leaves his body. I wake up. It is half past six in the morning.
> The chimes sound. I get up from my bed and open the gate . It is the colony watchman. He is holding a long register and a pen, He is on his rounds to collect the colony-maintanance-contribution for the current month, from the colony residents, at least those who pay the money without fuss.
> I am surprised to see the way he is dressed. He, in turn looks embarrassed. He is wearing a pair of Levis jeans and a thick cotton rock-wash shirt, a drab grey in color. They are mine. My favorites. The jeans are very loose for his thin, short frame. The pants’ legs are folded up at the ankles into three or four layers. In the absence of a belt he has tied a thick cotton string around its waist so that the pants do not drop off his slender waist. I sigh, pay off my contribution silently, sign in the register, and dismiss him.
> As I said, the clothes belong, or rather belonged, to me. I had worn them for over a decade, and would have continued wearing them, had not the antipathy of the missus for ‘the rags’ , kept on increasing with time. It evidently culminated in her gifting them away on the sly, to the watchman. I am livid at this, but do not choose to take it up with her. >
> Aside from the losing of my favorite pair of denims, I am more concerned with the weightier anthropological considerations, which disturb my mind, since I saw the fellow wearing his outlandish outfit. For, it was the first time in a decade and a half, that I have seen the man wearing anything other than a short dhoti and a cotton vest. And his dhoti never was anything like the four or five yards of luxurious cotton drape that one finds our politicians stylishly wear these days. It is a short piece of thin white cloth (angavastram) draped around his waist and thighs, in the manner of a pair of tight knee-breeches. But being of a thin cloth, it looked more like a,’ transparent diaper’, described by Bapsi Sidhwa, in her novel ‘Crow-eaters’, set in pre-partition Lahore. >
> Yes, Denim Levis. have been obliterating the distinct and distinctive sartorial styles of the native cultures around the world, just as modernization has been steamrollering in, all across the globe, a mono-culture of Mammon >
> The name Levi Strauss, the inventor of the Levis, brings to one’s mind another great personality bearing the same name. I mean Claude Levi Strauss. An eminent anthropologist, who died about three years ago just a few months before he was to have completed his 101st year. He was the celebrated propounder of the theory of structural anthropology and the author f several books on a dry subject in beautiful prose which read like fiction. He decried the obliteration of native cultures, by a massive monoculture across the world. He chided his western cohorts about their, ‘own filth, thrown in the face of mankind.’ Ironically, he found a common thread of inherent human nature, running through the various mythologies of different cultures spread across the world. >
> There seems to be hope still for the preservation of native cultures. While the juggernaut of modernization, globalisation and mass civilization is relentlessly wiping out old world cultures, a sense of nostalgia and a longing for the hallowed practices of yore continue to propel people, to take a fresh and ardent look at their ancient histories and discover and adopt hoary rituals long forgotten. >
> Take for example the Athirathram, a 12 day long ancient ritual that concluded on Wednes Day, the first of May, at Yetipaka near Bhadrachalam, a place where Lord Rama is believed to have roamed in search of his lost spouse. TheYagam, an elaborate set of facinating rituals, intended to bring about an environmental balance in the country, was conducted in accordance with the methodologies stipulated in the ancient Hindu religious scriptures, the Vedas.The spectacular ceremonies were performed by Nambudiri priests versed in the practice, who had come all the way from Kerala, ‘The God’s Own Country’. The Yagam was conducted on a 12 acre site, near the place where the great bird Jatayu was believed to have laid down his life fighting Ravana, the demon-king of Ramayana. >
> Coming back, I wonder whether it would be right for me to expect the watchman to go on wearing the transparent knee-breeches for ever, when he could as well switch to wearing the stylish, Levi Strauss’s faded Jeans. >