Somerset Maugham once said that tradition is a guide and not a jailer. But tell that to the authorities of an all-girls’ school in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas and they will promptly hand over a list of do’s and don’ts to you. Tradition is a non-negotiable instrument for the authorities at the Krishnanagar Balika Bidyalay. Kasturi Sen has contested the school’s unwritten rule that teachers have to wear sarees inside its premises. Salwar-kameezes are a strict no-no. The reason: tradition — the whole six-yards of it — must be upheld.
In her defence, Sen, who uses public transport to reach the school, says it is difficult to manage a saree. That should have been that. But it’s not. Interestingly, the state’s Education Department has not banned salwars in school. So legally, Sen is in no danger of at least upsetting the law. Tradition is, after all, what you make of it and the school would do well by not thrusting the saree down the throats — pardon the very untraditional mixed metaphor — of its teachers. After all, ‘tradition’, for some people, could jolly well mean Sen and her wards stay at home.
We also applaud the fiesty Sen for that other ‘radical’ gesture: by donning the ‘north Indian’ salwar she’s broken out of a regional stereotype.