“Lets keep our pretty saris to times when we just have to eat, pray, and love, cause we are tomorrows’ MILs.”

Sharing a comment by Anonymous to ‘The sari is the best way of showing global companies that these are Indian women managers?‘ 

My response in italics. It’s possible that I did not quite understand the comment in some places. 

Anonymous: Firstly lets dig deep into our history and try to figure why sari alone describes indian-ness in women.

IHM: Sari/dhoti describes Indian-ness only for some Indians, and only when women are wearing it. If it was really about Indian-ness they would be asking Indian men to wear dhoti and turban [etc] too.

Anonymous: Could be because it covers the full body, from your head-to-toe blah blah, and dates back right from the time when women did not even have the freedom to go veggie-shopping.

Centuries rolled and saris got “westernized” along with women. Now we have the munnis and the sheelas and their fans who love to show their bodies in their saris n strut it. I do it too.

IHM: The traditional sari covered less and there was no concept of covering from head to toe or of wearing a blouse or petticoat in most parts of India.

Today, sleeveless blouses are seen as modern and revealing, and some ways of draping the saree face criticism for showing too much skin, but women in villages in many parts of India, wear backless blouses, or blouses that are not covered by a ‘pallu’ – that’s their ‘traditional’ dress, so nobody notices. 

So skin showing doesn’t really seem to be the issue, it seems to be more of a fear of women being able to choose what to wear and gradually going ‘out of control’.

Anonymous: My point here is the current sari is in its modern form as well just as the Indian women are. So arent we contradicting ourselves here by saying that saris are traditional.

IHMMy mother is 72 and she (and other women her age and older), have been wearing the current-sari the same way for the past 50 years. There are some who wouldn’t approve of my mother’s sleeveless blouses, but she hasn’t changed (or modernised) it for the past 50 years. 

The saree is worn in different ways by different people in different parts of India  (and generally the wearer has little choice in how it is worn). Since not allowing women choices is a part of our culture, maybe ensuring it is worn in certain ways is seen as the ‘traditional’ thing to do?

Anonymous: Moreover saris are not even conducive to today’s age and climes. so whom are we kidding! Lets keep our pretty saris to times when we just have to eat, pray, and love and certainly not when we have prepare reports and give out presentations. and lets keep it that way cause we are tomorrows’ MILs.  🙂

IHM: Are ‘we’ tomorrow’s MILs?  Do you think today’s generation of men and women should see themselves as tomorrow’s Fathers in law and Mothers in law? That’s only possible if everybody gets married and has children, and those daughters and sons get married too…

And why is keeping it that way better for tomorrow’s MILs?  Would you say that the future MILs  control what Indian women wear in future? 



The sari is the best way of showing global companies that these are Indian women managers?

Why does wearing a saree (or some other formal wear  if they prefer) turn into a discussion about the ( fast disappearing) Indian-ness of Indian women?

President of IIM-A Alumni Association, Ahmedabad chapter, believes ‘the sari is the best way of showing global companies that these are Indian women managers’.

But then, how do the rest of the Indian people show global companies that they are Indians?

Here’s a comment, amongst many others,

“The only way we can get today’s Indian girls to wear sari is to have the Americans wear them and have the Indians copy it.”

Sari makes a comeback in placement interviews at IIM-Ahmedabad

Sari makes a comeback in placement interviews at IIM-Ahmedabad

The sari disappeared from placement interviews some years ago as more women students started wearing business suits, considering the convenience factor. They also wanted to present a more global image. Mathur asked the placement committee to recognise sari as formalwear and got the nod…

Professor Kirti Sharda, chairperson of the placements committee said, “We ask students to come in business formals for interviews. What they consider formal is up to them.”

The sari shift has come at a time when women form 17% of the students this year, compared to 11% last year. Nayan Parikh, president of IIM-A Alumni Association, Ahmedabad chapter, believes the sari is the best way of showing global companies that these are Indian women managers.[Read the article here.]

What exactly are Indian women typically supposed be like and why is it so important that they do not change? (And any change is seen as becoming  westernised, which is seen as negative.)

Related Posts:

Be a wife like Sita, wear a sari but don’t get abducted.

Why do Indian women like to wear western clothes?

The Modern Sari: Some Facts and a Question.

A Sari to make you a Respectable Indian Teacher.

Said Noodle Strap to the Sari – I

Can’t end marriage over sari 😉

Adarsh Bhartiya Nari – Ideal Indian Woman… !!!

“A 28 year old, independent woman who dreams big does not really fit the definition of an ideal Indian DIL.”

An email: He says what am I expecting out of this marriage if I cant even make him happy.

I received this email this morning.

I chanced upon your blog few days back and have been reading all the posts since then…
I should say reading all these has helped me a lot. I would like to take some help from you and all readers whether am going in right direction. I got married 2 years ago. We like each other initially because we found we both had the right mix of modern and traditional beliefs, but now i feel he is very traditional and i am not sure i want to do many of the things that is enforced on me!. As soon as we got married, he insisted that i wear the bindi all the time since otherwise he feels like he is dead!! I rebelled for a few days but later thought whats the big deal and I wear it now all the time. Then slowly he started saying that am wearing boring clothes at home and he doesn’t feel interested because of that. He restricted me from wearing nighties so I started wearing loose comfortable pants and shirts. Even that he doesn’t like and said I need to wear well fitted clothes… so I actually used to come back from office, change into something which he might like, be fresh, wear lipstick etc etc when he comes back home… then he started complaining that am not wearing saree even occasionally… so I started doing that…now its like he says why are you not wearing saree everyday at home? you are a married woman… you should behave like one … not just wear pants,skirts which is not looking sexy… I have told him that i feel as a sex object if i do all that… but he says whats wrong with me trying to behave in a manner he would like… he says what am i expecting out of this marriage if i cant even make him happy…
Another thing is I pray to god in my mind and its usually when i retire to bed…but he wants me to put flowers to god every day, light the lamp and pray and put kumkum and go…after a lot of fights i actually started doing that also everyday… but if I forget even a single day, he shouts and screams a lot saying he has done me a favour and he had to put the flowers himself… I said how can it be a favour…what’s is wrong in his putting flowers to god on some days?? He says  how can I even question him like that…he is only angry that I didn’t pray to god that day..previously his mother used to pray for him and he used to get whatever he wanted …now he wants me to do that for him since am his wife!!!
Overall the last 2 years i feel I have become very subdued and submissive…. every few days he keeps telling that I should do better…. I should have done this or that… first 1 or 2 months my cooking was not good… he basically said without even knowing cooking how can I be a good wife… then slowly I started cooking very well.. and he said just cooking alone is not sufficient… you need to manage the household… so everything from bill payments, taking care of maids, driver, our house related problems-plumbing, electricity etc, filing all  docs etc.. it came to me… I did that as well… then now he is saying am just doing all tasks only and am not showing him any attention!! Every 2-3 days he keeps saying I don’t show him attention, he had so many expectations, am not even trying to make this marriage work!!! I am just tired of it all…. I don’t want to be a “good” wife anymore!! In fact I want to say go to hell… I need freedom!
Am I right or wrong??
– Not a good wife.

The Modern Sari: Some Facts and a Question.

Sari as daily wear for women (who are not forced to wear it) is no longer the norm in big cities. Most women who wear it every day, do it either because they are used to it or because they are not allowed to wear salwar kurta or western wear, like in traditional Joint Families or in some workplaces.

For many others, wearing a sari at home is so unusual that if they wear it, they are asked what the occasion is.

Since wearing of sari is often a compulsion, not wearing a sari is seen as an indication of a woman being allowed to make personal choices. This also applies to symbols of marriage, like sindoor and mangalsutra.

I knew one woman who wore jeans when her in laws were away and switched to sari when they were around, she said she did this to show them respect. These days many women are allowed to show respect to their in laws in whatever they are comfortable wearing, and women generally seem to be proud of such in laws.

Also, married women who are not forced to wear sari (or symbols of marriage) are seen as being luckier by women who don’t have such freedom.

Those who prefer to see women in saris often criticize women in western wear as ‘liberated, modern, westernized’ women.

Many women who have to wear a sari, switch to synthetic saris because they are easier to maintain and drape. However synthetic saris are fire hazard, specially while working in the kitchen.

Some women are allowed to wear the nightie or maxi (a full length night dress) and they wear sari only when they are dressing up, preferring the nightie/maxi most of the time at home, and often even outside.

Sari is still very popular for festive and formal occasions.

The way the sari was worn traditionally, without a blouse or a petticoat, was more suited to Indian weather conditions. The modern blouse and the petticoats were introduced by the British (a western influence). The modern 6 yards sari, very gradually over the past many decades, has been replacing the traditional saris worn in various parts of India.  This popular modern version might evolve further, maybe into something worn only for special occasions.

And the question: Why do you think are Indian women (and men) choosing to wear modern clothing? Why aren’t we wearing the traditional turbans, dhoti/mundu and saris, lehengas in our daily lives, the way our grand parents did? If you wear sari/dhoti-kurta everyday, then what makes you do that, if you don’t then why not?

Men in the cities gave up traditional clothing a few decades before women started doing the same.

Related posts:

The way a woman dresses…

A sari to make you a respectable Indian teacher.

Can’t end marriage over a sari.

Shashi Tharoor : Sari fate ? – by Amodini

Sorry no Saree Part I – Careless Chronicles

“So why do we wear clothes again??”

‘I wish one had the liberty to slap these kids to senses and send them back to kindergarten to be taught…”Why do we wear clothes again??”’ (From J’s comment here)

So why do we wear clothes?

1. For protection from heat and cold? Most civilisations that did not need protection from cold did not have rigid rules for body being covered up.

Did traditional Indian clothing have blouses or shirts? Men and women wrapped a dhoti or sari, children generally wore nothing. Body was decorated with flowers, ‘alta’, turmeric, sandal wood paste, kohl and jewelry, wanting to look good was not considered inappropriate.

When invaders arrived from locations where clothing was necessary for protection from extreme heat or cold, they also brought along the concept of ‘shame’ and modesty. In ‘Chokher Bali‘ the newly wed refuses to wear a blouse with sari, because it was too British (modern).

Once the society starts covering women up, Margaret Atwood describes how the threshold for what is found sexually attractive changes, soon even a glimpse of an ankle becomes sexually provocative.

One example: Pakizah has the hero falling in love with Meena Kumari – after he sees her beautiful feet. Was that love?

2. Do we wear clothes to look better – to look sexually attractive?

Was there this fear that if women did not cover up, men might stop finding a mere glimpse of a part of a woman’s body attractive? (Margaret Atwood, Handmaiden’s Tale)

Mr Balvinder Singh’s experience in Nagaland shows making rules about covering up a woman’s body, is the beginning of objectification of women, to ensure ‘excitement’ does not ‘turn into monotony’.

“The men wore only a loincloth and the females wrapped just a shawl below their waists. The women folk of all ages were seen working in the fields, carrying fire wood or hay for the animals, pounding barley, washing clothes at village water points, knitting on hand looms (almost every house had a hand loom where the women would knit shawls etc) or attending to other such daily chores of life, wearing nothing on top.

While a small cleavage visible under the thin dupatta or through the pallu of a woman’s saree is certainly a pleasant sight for any man worth his salt, without harbouring any malafide thoughts in the mind, but there in the villages of Nagaland it was an anti climax to see the dangling pairs of bare boobs, available to look at in abundance in all shapes and sizes. Initially they were a cause of some excitement, which was natural , but gradually the excitement turned into monotony. I was reminded of the words of a famous poet that the ‘beauty that is veiled looks more beautiful’.” [Click here to read the entire article]

3. To prevent offending the sensibilities of those who think covering up is a religious/social/cultural/safety requirement?

This is extremely subjective.

Some people find even the glimpse of a woman’s eyes offends their religious sentiments, some find sleeveless blouses offensive, for many only traditional clothing no matter how much it convers or reveals is acceptable.

Some think it’s okay to wear anything so long as one can ‘carry  it off’.

Most people simply resist any change. So in most places,  there are rules regarding not just skin, but also how much of which clothing should not show.

So the sight of boxers and bra straps offends some people.

For many other people’s legs (shorts, bermudas), calves, arms (sleeveless) and knees (skirts), midriffs (saris, lehengas), shape, curves (fitted clothing) are offensive.

In  India showing one’s back and midriff is acceptable when one is wearing a sari, but not if the outfit is Western. Nigeria disagrees! Read Nita’s post – ‘Sari an immodest garment?’

So it seems what’s okay in some societies is not acceptable in some other societies and the rules change with times, all the time. Most societies seem to accept and rigidly follow their current – generally unwritten norms.

How do these norms get created? And how do they change?

How is it that more of these rules apply to women?

Could these rules be a means to control women’s sexuality?

Why do you think do humans wear clothes?

Related Posts: 

The way a woman dresses.

No Jeans for an Indian daughter in law.

Not just a pair of jeans.

All teachers except Indian women can do their job well enough in Western clothes?

A Sari to make you a Respectable Indian Teacher.

A local government college in Bhopal has banned jeans pants for lady teachers instructing them to wear saris while in the campus.

A spokesman of the management of Sarojini Naidu (Nutan) College said that the decision was taken to instil Indian culture in the college.

He said that till now, teachers were wearing salwar suits, kurtas and jeans due to which it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between them and students.

The spokesman said that a similar decision on enforcing a dress code for students would also be enforced from the next session.

“A dress code for students cannot be enforced during the middle of an academic session,” he said.

Or watch the news here.

“There is a personality of a teacher. You are standing wearing anything, or jeans that look vulgar, that is not right. Even students do not respect you as they think. So, this is very important,” said Pandit. (A teacher)

Should colleges be telling the students that traditional clothing can make a female wearer look ‘respectable‘? And so not wearing a sari does exactly the opposite?

Why is a salwar kameez – very much a traditonal Indian outfit, less respectable?

One assumption could be that the sari makes a woman look older. Also traditionally, in some parts of India, all married women must wear sari. I have blogged about meeting someone who thought that married women who do not wear sari are doing it behind their in laws’ and husband’s backs.

Bombay High Court held that a marriage can’t be ended over a sari.

The college could to be trying to say that a teacher in a sari is seen as older and ‘respectably married’ (or at least marriageable).

This is how stereotypes are created.

Is it okay for a college to ask the students to associate ‘respect’ (or honor!) with sari and vulgarity with Jeans?

“In thousands of ways, our culture has conditioned us to anticipate rape as a natural consequence of violating social norms”. These misconceptions are responsible for women blaming themselves for sexual crimes against themselves (…makes it easier for those who don’t care to take action).

The male teachers are not expected to wear dhoti and achkan. Doesn’t the college think the students need to respect the male teachers too? Why teach the students that double standards and gender bias are acceptable?

Has the college really given this a thought? There are many who think sari is ‘sensual’.  Jeans are actually seen as comfortable and easy wear, and saris as ‘dressy’ by many others. Many others feel sari is not easy to maintain or move in, and not weather appropriate, while jeans and salwar kameez are.

Also consider why is it so essential for the female teachers (if at all) to look ‘different from students’? What if a teacher continues to look like one of the students (i.e. young and unmarried) no matter what she wears?

And most importantly, shouldn’t an adult female wearer (like the rest of the population) be trusted to decide what is appropriate for her to wear?

Compare this news from Bhopal to this news from Lahore,

Jeans, Body Hugging Dresses Banned in Lahore College fearing Terror Threats.

Related Posts:

Not Just a Pair of Jeans

No Jeans for a Indian Daughters in law.

The way a woman dresses…

Provocatively Dressed.

Can’t end marriage over sari ;)


This post was in the drafts  and was a result of this news,

‘Can’t end marriage over sari’

MUMBAI: Sari may be a bothersome garment, especially compared to ‘Punjabi dress’, but a marriage cannot be ended over it, Bombay HC has held.

In the petition, the wife cited several instances of cruelty to which she had been subjected, including husband’s illicit relationship with another woman. One of her grievances was that she was forced to wear sari by her in-laws.



He prefers Sari, you like Punjabi Dress?

Education has gone to your head I guess!

He wear trousers, you complain?!

From such comparisons please abstain!

He’s your husband!

Please apologise.

Girls should know their place

Guys will be guys.

Marriage is sacred in my view,

Can’t end over such a trivial issue.

Aim a little higher!  Understand this,

There’s a little point that you missed.

He too can’t end marriage over a sari 😉

So go ahead and wear jeans you Bhartiya nari.



Edited to add:

Other cases,

1.  “Lousy cook, mother? No reason for divorce.” (Thank You Suranga)

2. And here divorce was not granted, although  “His mother filed an affidavit that she works 8 am to 8 30 pm, but does ‘no additional work’ at home.




Lucky to be treated with respect?

An elderly friend once said her only prayer for her daughter was, “God grant her good luck (naseeb)”. She said she had seen women who were beautiful being treated cruelly, she had seen rich girls with huge dowries being treated like ‘maid servants’, she had seen highly educated girls being treated like they had no minds of their own – and she had seen ‘average looking, ordinary girls’ living like princesses.

Some girls are lucky, they wear what they like, their husbands love them, their in laws respect them, they visit their parents whenever they like…

I didn’t agree. If it depended on luck then we were left helpless. I thought one could expect to be treated with respect from those one treated with respect. Wasn’t it supposed to be mutual?

Now I feel it isn’t luck but self confidence that ensures respect. Legal rights and being born in a Democratic country helps  tremendously.

And then today I read this,

‘In laws insistence on the daughter in law wearing a sari does not amount to cruelty, says Bombay High Court’.[Link]

And what about being beaten if she does not wear a sari – does that amount to cruelty? [Click to read]

I don’t know how many Indian women would actually go to court for their right to be treated like intelligent adults. Any mention of such rights would be seen as unreasonable – even radical. Most women accept this (and more) as their destiny while their ‘luckier’ friends and neighbors, and other family members go on living their lives without having to take permission for every little personal decision. Sometimes  there are two sisters in one family – one leads a ‘lucky’ life. One doesn’t. We accept that as their destiny.

This friend doted upon her daughter and she grew up into a confident adult. When she was 22 she confided in me.  She was going to marry a class mate her parents didn’t yet approve of. They eventually did approve and now her mother blesses the son in-law for all the good luck he brought her. She doesn’t realise the good luck was given to her  daughter when they gave her the confidence that made her say, ‘They don’t approve of him YET, but I know they would eventually. They know I won’t want to marry him unless  I was sure he was really so right for me 🙂 “.  She didn’t want me to speak on her behalf – she needed no go-betweens. She knew she could speak to her parents about anything.

Hundreds of adults like this young couple in Kanpur who committed suicide by jumping in front of a speeding train probably did not have the ‘luck’ she had. Maybe they feared that their decision as two adults would not be respected, even though no matter what the  Khap Panchayats say, the law was on their side.

Related posts: The symbolism of a saree at Careless Chronicles.

The way a woman dresses…

…is everybody’s business.

A woman once asked if my husband and in laws did not object to my wearing sleeveless blouses with saris. She was not being rude, she really could not imagine how any in-laws, could be okay with sleeveless blouses. My mother wears sleeveless blouses, so I could not understand how sleeveless blouses could be found objectionable.

We have so many Indias that what may appear ‘too much exposing‘ to one Indian might be just fine for another.  I think we Indians really need to learn to live and let live, especially when it comes to what women wear.

A woman’s clothing is used to control her. What she wears is treated like a symbol of her respect for tradition, culture, family values, religion, family honor etc. Nobody notices that clothing should be comfortable for this wearer too.

In hot, humid weather, some married women (mainly in joint families) have to keep their hair covered all the time (specially in North India)…  How does covered and sweat-soaked hair at 40 degrees Celsius protect a culture or show respect? Isn’t wrapping of heads in pallus and dupattas during the summer months uncomfortable, and even unclean?

In winters the sari is not the most comfortable thing to wear. Imagine washing clothes wearing a sari in cold winters at less than 9 degrees Celsius? And women do this all the time.

Sari is also difficult to wash, dry and iron, which is why we find beautiful cotton saris replaced with synthetic ones amongst those who wear it the most. These synthetic saris are also responsible for many fire accidents in the kitchen.

I feel eventually the gorgeous sari will be worn like lehengas, sherwanis, and formal gowns, mainly at festive and formal occasions. But many Indians think wearing a sari is the only way to be a virtuous bhartiya nari. Bollywood reinforces this.

Some Indians disagree, they think the sari exposes too much. A larger number thinks salwar kurta is too modern, most Indian women are not allowed to wear salwar kurta once they are married.

Some think skirts are wrong, some think jeans are wrong.

Denim jeans, easy to maintain and move about in, are practical and versatile. Jeans can look Indian when teamed with a Khadi kurta. A pair of jeans can be an inexpensive way to dress comfortably. When one has small kids nothing can beat the convenience of a pair of comfortable jeans (sometimes cropped into capris or shorts).

But jeans, when worn by women, are seen as a threat to Indian culture.

This is difficult to understand because all other Indians can wear whatever they find comfortable without threatening the survival of their culture.

Only when it comes to women, do we excuse violent criminals if they claim the woman was not suitably clothed.

Edited to add: All teachers except women can do their job well enough in a sari?