In praise of the humble Kerala mundu

Kerala’s bureaucracy has a unique knack to kick-up controversies. And now they have clinched their fists firmly on our ubiquitous mundu, the white dhoti that is not to be confused with the colourful lungis.

We make an art out of mundu: Not for us the Tamilian’s easy way of sliding a stitched one over our head; nor do we  tuck it into our posteriors like the Bengalis and have an extra bit hanging between our legs.
We are straight, smart and smooth, when it comes to wearing one. I, for one, vouch for the khadi ones; the single dhotis. Not only are they naturally air-conditioned, it doesn’t slip off your waist like the polyester double mundus that came into vogue following the Gulf boom.
Time was when you could identify if a Kerala household had a Gulfie just by looking at the mundu their men wear. Those Gulfies, who would come on vacation, would flaunt their silky doubles, from beneath which would also stick out like a Mammootty in a new-generation movie, their colourful undies.
I swear, I am not kidding. Green, violet, pink, red and of course, the ubiquitous Tantex and VIP branded ones, preferred by the desis.
Rao Bahadur MV Dhurandhar’s
1928 painting ‘A Nair Lady’ 

For us, the mundu is also a declaration of our religious beliefs. If you are a Hindu or Christian, chances are that you tuck into on to your right, and if you are a Muslim, it goes ulta, also the practice in Tamil Nadu.

Forget the historical significance and cultural relevance of the mundu: in fact, it is a whole load of hogwash. We just found it more convenient to wear an unstitched cotton clothe than stitch it precisely into two cylindrical holes, bind it with a zip or buttons and then go through the rigorous process of climbing into it. No wonder, the British are such complicated people.
And of course, in our hot weather, the mundu was the best bet. Now with the sun shining even more fiercely in Kerala, there is all the more reason to chuck away your Peter Englands and go for Kitex or MTR dhotis.
But no, our moral police, literally, are out on the streets. Their target: The struggling auto drivers, and that too, in the district of Waynadu.
The district police and RTO are determined to have the auto drivers wear trousers. They say auto drivers wearing mundu “makes women uncomfortable.”
Pray, which girls found the hirsute legs of the auto driver sexy?
Very soon, you will want our coconut climber to wear pants, because come to think of it, the simple towel he uses to cover his loins is prone to more exposure than the average auto driver.
Now that migrant workers from Bengal, Orissa and Bihar have come to Kerala to do our backyard work, and since they wear pants, our wives and mothers and daughters can be saved from the mortal fright of having to watch the poor Gopalan chettans and Avarachans slogging out in their lungis.
Really, our morality hinges on this piece of clothe? And do the Kerala police believe that lifting the mundu is easier than unzipping the trouser?

At the risk of sounding risqué, as an Arab friend told me now, it is easier to claim innocence after an indecent exposure if wearing trousers than if you are in a mundu. Unzip, zip and all you need is to put on a plastic smile.
Pity our state and our bureaucracy. If you really want to enforce morality in our state, maybe we should start with ordering our politicians to wear trousers. After all, the hallowed halls of our democracy have seen more indecent exposure than all our auto drivers and their skinny legs put together.
ENDS 
Rao Bahadur MV Dhurandhar’s 1928 painting ‘A Nair Lady’ from here; redirected from this fantastic blog

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