The regimen to which some of us were subjected during our younger days is hardly in evidence these days. Our parents were disciplinarians and were fastidious about several facets of life including punctuality and dress codes.
We were not permitted to remain awake beyond 10 pm, and we had to be up and about latest by 7 am, even on a holiday. Drastic were the consequences of arriving home late from an evening at the movies or wherever. And such were the times that my sisters would have to follow even stricter schedules and dos/don’ts, even though our own parents were among the relatively less fussy ones.
Times have changed to the extent that urban families, in particular, hardly break sweat when their progeny come home past midnight. Nocturnal chatting is almost the norm nowadays for the gen-next, sleeping early is out of the question and they do not budge from bed the next morning till the sun is truly blazing downwards in all its glory. Parents have become more like friends of their wards than guardians these days.
But in no aspect is the current sense of laissez faire more apparent than in the permissiveness relating to dress codes. Till a few years ago, shorts and micro skirts were only to be noticed in the glossies and on the telly. In the present times they are on display in malls, halls and even in ‘chawls’!
While some schools and other institutions do make attempts, from time to time, to reign in the skirt clad and jean clad young lady, society at large appears to have accepted and even lapped up the filmy look that the girls of today don with pizzazz.
It is almost as if the Bollywood look has permeated to all parts of the country- cities, towns and even villages. The hairstyles and the apparel in vogue these days across India could give fair competition to similar fads in Europe or the Americas. In a way it is a sign that our society is maturing and is accepting global fashion as its own. In fact Indian dressing has undergone suitable westernisation too and a sari clad modern woman does not remotely resemble the sari sporting lady of bygone eras.
There is something appealing about Indian dresses that can never fade away though. And when the official dress code for an evening ‘do’ is stated on the invitation card as ‘Formal’ most ladies still turn up in Indian wear, though most gentlemen prefer lounge suits, unless the word ‘Indian’ is prefixed as well.
Dhotis have made a reappearance too, with elastic fitted ones available and being sported confidently even by teen-aged boys. What has happened is that Indian clothes, just like Indian food, have adapted well to the current times which encourage innovation and acceptance of mores that are different and perhaps would have galled onlookers even a decade ago.
Social drinking is another genie that is totally out of the closet now. Ladies whose families have been traditionalists to the ‘T’ have been partaking of wines and beers, as well as the stronger stuff. Gone are the days when even the company of a habitual drinker was considered to be undesirable.
Indeed, the act of breaking the rules seems to be the ‘in thing’ in several ways. And anyway, these rules, much like our archaic laws, were made at a time when the world was a very different and even diffident place. Boldness and even bravado are par for the course.
What should the Indian youth of today look forward to then? Should he throw caution to the winds and adopt each shade of global ‘newness’ that the internet presents before him? Or should he temper it with the age old wisdom of India that has stood the test of time so well?
My guess is that he would do well to balance his life and not be over swayed by the magic of the unexpected and startling. There is much to be said in favour of following the sage advice of elder kinfolk and staying firmly rooted to the ground even as he takes wings and makes a mark in the razzmatazz filled world of tomorrow.