Open Letter to the Goan Minister
The controversy over a Goa cabinet minister’s demand to ban mini-skirts and bikinis in order to “protect Goan culture” refuses to die down, with designer Wendell Rodricks asking him to to wear a loin cloth to work, skip chillies, tomatoes, potatoes, and stop using a table and chair at work if he believes in shunning Western influences and culture.
Dear Mr Goan Minister,
I write this as an open letter to you and for the wider knowledge of the Goan people.
As a professor of World Costume History and the author of Moda Goa: History and Style, a book that documents the history of Goan costume, I would like to place certain facts in perspective.
Since you have commented on Indian culture and dress, the following garments cannot be worn by you as they are not Indian culturally: Shirts ( European) Pants/ Pyjamas ( Chinese/ Central Asia), socks, T- shirt and baniyan; yes your underwear too
( jersey was invented in Europe), Kurtas ( Central Asia, Ottoman, Moghul). That leaves you with a kashti or pudvem and a shawl or cloth to cover your torso.
Will you agree to go to your ministry office in this attire? By the way, it was not in Indian culture for Indian women to wear a bra or a sari petticoat.
The former came from the France, the latter from Victorian England. Also, when the coloniser came to Goa, there were no cholis, except for the devadasis who used a kind of choli. Till today we see older generation Goan ladies and tribals in villages, drape their sari navari style ( please note, no petticoat) and drape the paloo loosely around a torso without a choli.
Now onto international technology that we use despite them not being Indian invented… When you get to office, cut off the power, throw out the table, chairs, computer, telephone, cell phone, aircon, teacups, Rolex watch, Mont Blanc pen. All paper and files too ( both invented in China).
Sit on the floor, mat or patla. Now please work on our Goan needs that need your attention… drains, garbage, water supply and sewage treatment for our creeks and rivers and also for the boats, casinos, tourists boats that polythene river. It used to be said in ancient Goa that a dip in our holy rivers granted purity and many incarnations. Today a dip can only make us sick.
Since we are on the topic of Indianess, you will have to also stop eating potatoes, tomatoes, chilli, cashew, chickoos, pineapples and many other fruits, vegetables and spices that were alien to India.
I hope I have made my point. We live in a modern, international world and take from other cultures so that our Indian culture in turn is improved and celebrated.
Beyond all of this, is a very important issue at hand.
Your utterances are making all of us Goans seem non progressive, archaic and dangerously right wing, which we are not. The fact is that we have a more progressive mindset than many states in the country. Opinions expressed should not be made until there is a knowledge of history and culture.
We are a tourist state. Please do not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. And do not ruin the name of our beloved state and people in the eyes of India and the world.
With every good wish for Goa and Goans.
( The writer is a fashion designer, writer and environmentalist) Wendell Rodricks