Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Beautification of badminton ?

Sometimes I wonder if , along with the Ice Age, Stone Age, and any other assorted ancient Ages, we are now in a Facetious Age. It might even be called Anything-goes Age .

I just read about the World Badminton Federation laying down the no-shorts-only-skirts rule.

I mean , you could do so many things to encourage the sport. Like sell shuttlecocks at subsidized rates, give grants for upgrading old badminton courts, or tie up with corporates to encourage badminton in schools and so on. Use your clout.

But no. They want to change a perfectly good sport, and make it market friendly. The actual rule on the Federation's site attributes the change to a suggestion from some marketing company they consulted, and the announcement is a masterpiece in fooling folks with big words. It is also relevant to note that the majority at the managing committee at the Federation, is male. Only 2 female members.

And my first impulse was to wonder if Sharad Pawar/Kalmadi /Lalit Modi had anything to do with the Federation, and whether someone's uncle/relative was now into sports clothes manufacturing.

But no. And so we will now be shown, TV closeups of skirts that ride up on a player, stretching on court to retrieve a shot. Watch what happens on tennis courts, when folks play in skirts. The simple commonsense , of maximizing degrees of freedom of movement for a player, only possible in a decent pair of shorts , is totally lost.

Having said this, one may think of many other situations where a change is dress rules in warranted. Of course, like in badminton, we need to specify locations where the dress code will apply.

---Like young girls in jeans, traveling in public transport, in Mumbai (Am not qualified to talk about other cities) , need to wear tops, that extend at least 12 inches below the waist, given the compulsions of standing in the aisle, and holding on to rods and loops above you. A raised vertical hand gives an unrestricted view of the skin show inside, made all the more shameless by compulsions of wearing jeans , low on the hips. What is worse, is that when they sit in a seat ahead of you and bend forward , natural partitions in the human anatomy manifest themselves. Not done.

--- How can we leave chaps behind ? Possibly, an apparel manufacturer decided on this after receiving a shorter roll of denim , necessitating shorter jeans to be made in the same amount of material. But the mind boggles at those who think this is fashion, and wear jeans so low , that you constantly worry about them falling off. Then someone decided that it was posh to show what color underwear you are wearing, and we get glimpses of that from a permanently descending pair of jeans. There needs to be a rule that jeans necessarily need to be worn at what a normal human being decides is a "waist", and underwear must remain under.

--The minute a person becomes politically relevant in India, he starts wearing white khadi . Apart from giving a false sense of "being clean" , the long kurta actually serves to cover the pant pockets, and if the pants are tapering, the pockets are built into the kurta. There needs to be a rule, that the pockets, need to be on the outside , and made of transparent material. So the general public can see what goes into the pockets.

---There must also be a rule for people sent to jails. Like all normal prisoners, those who are considered corrupt in scams etc, must wear the regular prison uniform. And when they make appearances in court, they must sport this uniform, whether it is a case for murder, or for giving or taking a bribe.

------The government needs to decide about the nurses uniforms. Based on practical considerations, and not because something looks good somewhere. Nurses in Mumbai have been seen in white sarees, white dresses, white salwar kurtas with medical aprons, then at one point someone decreed that not only must the color be a dull pink-brown, but that everyone must now wear frocks. Nurses groups have been known to agitate for decent uniforms . It makes sense to talk to the nurses, and not base your stuff on how someone can be given a huge order for nurse uniforms, earning someone else many things besides eternal gratitude.

There are also cases where the government doesn't really come in to the picture, except as an end result when something happens.

And the rules need to be self-learned.

The new fashion of leaving one shoulder bare with a prominently visible bra-strap, to say, clarify the situation. Sometimes both the shoulders are bare. Sometimes one wonders at sari blouses, that seem to have only sleeves and nothing else. There is a growing tendency of folks to wear outfits with massively cut necks, that kind of stop short of the waist. And all this covered by a clearly transparent saree, where the pallu is thrown over, like a towel thrown on the shoulder by a waiter in a Udipi Hotel, as he takes down your order.

At the moment there is a huge mismatch with the clothes and the occasions. Mostly encouraged by Bollywood movies where logic has never been a strong point.

I lived as a young person, at a time when the variety of clothes was less, there weren't so many readymades on offer, and there were assumed limits (regarding lengths and fashion cuts) on anything you got stitched at a a tailor's. We certainly played sports, but initially always did fine with what we had, and never rushed out for sport specific branded stuff desperately, as happens today. I've seen graceful swimming pool dives by ladies in innovatively wrapped nine yard sarees, girls wearing their brother's half pants to participate in kabaddi matches and kho-kh0 games, and women excelling at tennis and badminton in 6 yard sarees, firmly tucked at the waist, sweating it out.

There has always been a sense of trying to excel regardless of what you wore. Nobody decreed it. It came from inside, and it was encouraged by families. There was a sense of balance in that no one tried to swim in a six yard sari, or Victorian gown, and you didn't wear outfits with kaftan sleeves when playing games that needed your arms to move freely.

I once ran into a lady at our swimming pool, who otherwise was the epitome of conservative womanhood. You never saw her in anything but a saree with traditional fabrics, prints and borders, with all the traditional compulsory ornaments, like the mangalsuutra, nose ring, toe rings etc. She came to the edge of the pool sporting a frilled swimsuit with longish frills. She wore her saree blouse inside , so as to be free of worries about slipping swimming suit necks. Her mangalsutra and nosering kind of glinted in the morning Sun. She stood midpool along the length, and executed the most graceful dive I have seen. She came out of the water, and stroked her way beautifully to the other end of the pool, in an amazingly fluid display of the freestyle stroke.

I asked her where she learned swimming. And she said, that she lived in Benares as a child, and learned swimming in the flowing waters of the then clean Ganga. Those were the 50's and as a child she wore a a a long skirt, pulled between the legs and tucked at the back at the waist, along with an ordinary blouse.

Her powerful strokes were an example of someone who had learned to counter the strong river current.

Today, folks find it very convenient to drift along with the current, be it in fashion, politics or anything else.

The World Badminton Federation is following in the steps of the IPL folks, by trying to glamorize an already wonderful sport. Its not an earth shattering change, but its a useless change .

And yes, it is amazing to note that the National Commission on Women (NCW) in India has slammed the skirt rule and shot off a letter to the Badminton federation folks telling them that it is "reflective of reactionary and patriarchal mindset".....

I wish they had something to say about cheerleader gyrations and outfits in the IPL too....


  1. Kudos on this excellent post, Suranga!!! Don't have anything to add, as you have so eloquently covered it all!!!

  2. Surangaji, hilarious! guess the swimming pool incident has given me courage to go ahead and learn swimming in my shorts and t shirt :)

  3. I have enjoyed your post and this was only my first visit. I became a follower. I came here from Sylvia's blog. Happy days to you.

  4. writerzblock Thank you .

    R's Mom Thank you. But be careful. In earlier days you could wear anything decent at the pool and no one minded. These days they have rules about swimsuits. But the nine yard swimming ladies in my childhood were superb.

    Honest Abe Thank you, and I am totally honored by The Right Honorable Abraham Lincoln's visit to my blog ! I just left a comment on your blogpost about your car !

  5. I actually did a loud laugh at those low waisted jeans and related troubles as I am being a witness to those shows of human anatomy. :)

    Recently, I had been to a super market and I suddenly saw a flash of flesh - it was the butt of a boy - around 12 / 13 yrs of age. His pants were so low that his whole back was out of the pant. I seriously wondered how the pant held in its place in his body.... :) The prob is these ppl are not aware of such things or they are not bothered abt showing....