It’s Not About The Chaddis

Sagarika Ghose, in her latest column, speaks out against The Pink Chaddi Campaign. “[S]ending pink underwear to perverts is pretty undignified,” she says, and argues that “[w]hile the ghastly cultural hoodlums must be dealt with sternly by the law, the lifestyle norms we choose, especially in public, must be attuned to our surroundings.” She writes:

Young people choosing urban lifestyles that are desi imitations of Sex And The City, is hardly a matter of celebration. Fears about ‘westernisation’ are so deep that with the exception of U.R. Ananthamurthy, few of Karnataka’s galaxy of public intellectuals have come to the defence of the young women drinking at the Amnesia Lounge in Mangalore on January 24.

Ghose misses the point here. What supporters of The Pink Chaddi campaign are defending is not an “urban lifestyle” that is a “desi imitation of Sex And The City,” but the right to choose our own lifestyle—any lifestyle. Ghose speaks with admiration of “the Nehruvians of the 40s and 50s” who “drank, smoked and romanced, yet were discreet”, and she is welcome to live as they did. Indeed, the members of the Sri Ram Sena should also be free to live their lives in a manner of their choosing—as should women who want to go to pubs and hang out with members of the (gasp) opposite sex. The issue here is not lifestyle choice—it’s freedom.

There are too many of us who support freedom only if they approve of what is done with that freedom. So when Ghose says that “the lifestyle norms we choose … must be attuned to our surroundings,” I wonder at her choice of language. “Must be attuned to our surroundings?” Why?

I think the gesture of sending pink chaddis was a far more effective one than sending bangles or chappals or suchlike. It grabbed attention. And the support it got virally sent an unambiguous message out to both the bigots and the detached bystanders. “We will not let you terrorise us,” that message said. “Here, have a chaddi.”

Meanwhile, in unrelated news, the Sri Ram Sena has called off the protests it had planned in Bangalore in Valentine’s Day.

(HT: Aadisht, who also blogs about a bunch of fine gentlemen who, “[a]rmed with red chillies and pepper, … have announced that they would be lying in wait across Delhi on February 14 to take on those opposing and obstructing Valentine’s Day.” Heh.)