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Dhoti in Tamil Nadu - the appropriate dress in public?

nabadip - Sat, 23 Apr 2005 12:10:11 +0530

Mantri: What’s a dhoti got to do with Tamil?
- By R. Bhagwan Singh

Chennai, April 16: What is the correct dress prescription for Dr R. Anbumani? While Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa believes the Union health minister should follow the example of his father, Dr S. Ramadoss, and wear a dhoti to uphold Tamil culture, Dr Anbumani feels he is every inch a Tamil, even in his three-piece suit.

"Dress has nothing to do with the promotion of language or culture. Not all who wear dhotis are out to promote Tamil, and not all who wear saris are Tamils," he said, reacting sharply to Ms Jayalalithaa’s recent criticism in the state Assembly about his Western style of dressing.

In his view, the Tamil Nadu chief minister by her comments was trivialising the debate on the promotion of the Tamil language and culture. Besides, the raising of such matters in the Assembly only lowered the standard of debate in the House, Dr Anbumani observed here on Saturday.

Taking a dig at the Tamil Protection Movement launched by Pattali Makkal Katchi leader S. Ramadoss, which has targeted Tamil films with English titles, Ms Jayalalithaa remarked in the Assembly recently that his son, Dr Anbumani, wore trousers while even the

Harvard-educated finance minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, chose to wear the Tamil dhoti.

Dr Anbumani, who came to the press conference he addressed dressed in immaculate grey pants and a smart white shirt, said he chose his dress to suit the time, place and occasion, and he did not have to wear his love of Tamil on his sleeves. He also pointed out that the vice-chancellor of a Tamil university was known for his preference for safari suits. "Is his love for Tamil any less because of his choice of clothes," he asked.

The health minister maintained that during Assembly sessions, Tamil scholars were found at the doorsteps of the MLAs’ hostel to pen poems which legislators could then recite in praise of "Amma (Ms Jayalalithaa)" in the Assembly.

While the aim of promoting Tamil was more important than the kind of dress someone chose to wear, such debates on clothes took place only to divert the attention of the people from more important issues, Dr Anbumani said. Side-stepping a question on whether his father’s agitation against Tamil movies using English titles was not just tokenism, Dr Anbumani said the larger issue was weaning the youth away from decadent cinema culture. He also faulted state excise minister O. Panneerselvam for "gloating" over the soaring sales of liquor in government-run shops while "showing no concern" for growing unemployment among the youth.