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Of cultural cops & dress code

Brojendra Kumar Sinha

(Translated from Bishnupriya Manipuri by Ramlal Sinha)

When the Bishnupriya Manipuri writers run short of ideas and topics, they simply turn cultural cops and appeal to the girls of the community through their write-ups to be strict on preservation of culture of the community by strictly adhering to Bishnupriya Manipuri attires, as if the onus of preserving the culture of the community is that of girls or women only, not of the men folk. This essentially means that the men can wear any kind of dresses and do whatever they like, and that has nothing to do with the culture of the community.

Be that as it may, if the girls of the community are coerced into strictly adhering to the indigenous Bishnupriya Manipuri dresses, what dresses will the cultural cops prescribe for them? Should they prescribe leisa (fringe hair cut prevalent among the Bishnupriya Manipuri girls in yestercenturies), rings in ears and yaaberuni (a piece of cloth that had been worn by girls of the community in the chest instead of blouse) to go to colleges and offices? What would be the dresses for married women? Should the community members ask them not to wear blouse, but angaaluri (a mekhala-like cloth worn by the women of the community) up to the upper chest to go to offices and cinema? In fact, the way the women of the community wear aangaaluri, blouse, enaafi (chadar) nowadays is in conformity with the fashion of the times. Gone are the days when married Bishnupriya Manipuri women couldn't stain their hair-parting line with vermilion. Those who dared to use vermilion had to face taunts from their fellow members - naatakir kapaale sindurar foota/ baautaa policar madhurar gotaa (the vermilion that dazzles in the forehead of a fashionable woman provokes the lust of peripatetic policemen). But now, one can't think of a married Bishnupriya Manipuri woman without vermilion in her forehead. Why? Not to speak of those living in urban areas, Bishnupriya Manipuri women residing in far-flung interior areas too wear shalwar kamij, jeans, maxis and the like. Who can predict what fashion will follow in the days ahead? Women with long hair, porcupine spines (sedar kata) pierced through their hair buns and flowers on ears are scenes of yore. Boys' cut being the order of the day among the modern women, days are not far when devout listeners (audience) will be a confused lot for not being able to create a vivid picture in their minds when the esulpaas (singers) of the community will sing songs describing the plait (beni) of legendary Sriradha.

Fashion thy name is change. In Khajuraho and Ajanta, the upper bodies of girls were bare. The concept of dress and fashion of women has been constantly being redefined, regardless of the frowns among the aged. Japanese girl children were made to wear iron shoes in order to keep their feet smaller. Now Japanese girls wear European dresses. In the Padung area of Myanmar, long neck of girls was considered a sign of beauty, and which was why girls were made to wear brass rings in their necks. At the time of the Renainssance, a law was enacted barring the commoners from following the fashion of aristocrats. In 1418, women in France wore hair in such a high bun that the doors of Visine Fort had to be redesigned with increased heights. During the Tudor period, dress code for unmarried girls was quite different from that of married women as was the case in the Bishnupriya Manipuri community in yestercenturies. That nude Archimedes ran amok by shouting "eureka eureka" wasn't the behaviour of an absent-minded scientist is buttressed by the fact that nudity was a male fashion at that time. In Greece, remaining nude was a practice while jogging. Australian swimming champion Annette Kellerman was arrested in Boston Sea coast in the USA in 1909 for wearing a swimming costume that stuck to her body tightly. The US police considered the dress obscene as her shoulder up to the hands and the portion below the knees were bare. Nowadays males shy away when they see the dresses of women. In fact, both males and females have no way out but to accept the fashion and taste of the times.

The onus of preservation of the culture of a community lies not only on females, the males of the community too have to contribute to the cause. Male Bishnupriya Manipuris should go to offices wearing eraafis (a kind of indigenously-woven gamosas) and kaataalurir aachaalaa (a shawl woven with indigenously-spun cotton thread) for the sake of their culture!

Courtesy: The Sentinel 

Today is Erei (Friday)

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  1. Very many thanks to Shri Ramlal Sinha for untiring reports of every BM news in his paper the 'Sentinel'.And again it is a new 'Avtar' of translation of works of our renown writers.I would like to request him to report
    on works/write-up of youngsters outsideAssam/Tripura ie Mumbai,
    Delhi,kolkata and Bangalore
    Pune etc.
    I have read "Of cultural cop
    & dress code" twice or thrice and
    decided to express my opinion.
    First of all, the allegation
    made against Bishnupriya Manipuri writers are awful presumption.How many writers are there in our society? There is nothing wrong in
    reminding the B.M.women of their dress code in our society.
    In which century has this wrie up been written? This is a changing world and the dresses are revolving in a cycle to the society.The modern women are very much fond of wearing Aangaluri type topless dress in Metro cities.And the Leisa type hair style is in vogue among the teenagers in metro cites not in villages.In last century no one from BM went to office wearing
    'Khuttei'.So comparing of men and women is totally unwarranted.


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