(The New Indian Express, March 6: Khaki shorts to blue trousers, RSS set to discuss makeover)
‘I’ve always had a passion for marching,’ said Mohan. ‘I was the best marcher in school. After I left school, I took to marching up and down in my flat, but my family wasn’t supportive,’ added Mohan. He said it was a revelation when he first saw the RSS people marching. One look at their superb steps and nifty about-turns and he realised this was what he wanted from life. ‘I was really keen to join,’ he said, ‘until I looked at those hairy, spindly legs protruding from those billowy shorts.’ He shuddered, saying they should have shaved their legs before inflicting them on the public.
Other young people echo such sentiments. Madhav said he didn’t know what to do in the evenings and he thought he would make some friends at the local RSS shakha. ‘But after wearing those ghastly shorts for a month, I now spend my evenings getting drunk to forget the horror,’ he said.
‘I want to be part of a strong, tough group,’ said Sudarshan, quoting Shakespeare’s Henry V, ‘We few, we happy few, we band of brothers/For he to-day that sheds his blood with me/Shall be my brother,’ before sobbing loudly, ‘but those flappy knickers, how could I wear them?’ Keshav said he was ‘forced to choose between my nationalism and my loathing for the knickers and the knickers won’. Sadashiv said he wanted to be a proud Aryan but was worried his grandmother might see him in those chaddis and laugh. Madhukar said your clothes tell people who you want to be and the message from the RSS knickers was you wanted to be a police constable in British India.
But while everybody is hopeful the shorts will be dropped, what should take their place? ‘It isn’t just about replacing shorts with trousers, this is RSS meets the 21st century. What kind of trousers — cargo pants or khakis or corduroys? Flat front or pleats? Hemmed trouser bottoms or folded?’ asked a wannabe pracharak. He said a chic outfit is needed by the RSS because, as Giorgio Armani said, “Elegance is not standing out, but being remembered.”
Some want classic tan khaki chinos, others prefer black denim. A stylish group wants transparent lace shirts with decorative appliques worn with shiny pants, as in the latest Gucci show. Some suggest a military look, with belted trenchcoats, peaked caps and calf-length boots. Sadashiv wants pastel shirts with ruffles and tight trousers with a floral pattern. Madhav pointed out a cummerbund was nationalistic and better than a belt. Keshav wants slim fit wrinkle resistant shirts, blue polka dot socks and a cape. Madhav wants to know the sangh’s views on leather jackets and quoted Mark Twain, ‘Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.’ Baliram wants the sarsanghchalak to lay down the law on accessories, adding that bracelets, shades and ear-rings make for a smart look. He prefers a suede jacket for ideological reasons.
The world waits with bated breath for the new RSS look to be unveiled. Never before in human history has so much depended on dropping a pair of shorts.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed are personal