Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Pretty Striped T-Shirt

I was going to write a longer post. Full of arguments, back and forth, on whether my wearing a salwar was appropriate... or appropriative. But then I remembered something. How could I forget -- I'd been working through the recipes in this book since Christmas.

Here it is. Taken from Madhur Jaffrey's Climbing the Mango Trees:

Kamal returned with suitcases full of fashionable gifts for all of us. I received a pair of pedal pushers and a black-and-white-striped T-shirt that practically became my uniform. She also presented me with a light tartan shawl and a sterling silver charm bracelet with the Eiffel Tower dangling from it. [...] I had yet to see the rest of the world, but, already armed with a pair of pedal pushers, the charm bracelet, and the Coke, I felt that phase of my life had to be just around the corner. (Jaffrey 237, 240)

That's exactly how I feel, and much more eloquently stated. It's interesting that Jaffrey chooses, for her book jacket image, a picture of her wearing the striped T-shirt and pedal pushers. Rather like my choosing the pretty blue salwar as the image for my blog. I have yet to see the rest of the world, but that phase of my life is just around the corner.

It doesn't completely solve the problem. That is, I still open myself up to criticism. I still find myself in a world that thinks this way (believe me, I would put up the YouTube clip directly if I could -- it's undergoing scheduled maintenance right now and I'll edit the post ASAP). I also... well, I also understand that there's a long history of cultural rape, exotification, forced assimilation, etc. behind this pretty blue salwar which wasn't necessarily behind Madhur Jaffrey's pair of pedal pushers.

But -- the salwar stays, for now. Here, at least, it stays. When I wear it in public, I'll let you know.

(Edit: Click here for part three.)


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Noel Lynne Figart said...

For what it's worth, I wear salwar suits all the time. I'm a computer applications instructor and many of my students are desi. I've never had anyone complain, though I've gotten compliments often.

I wear them both for their attractiveness and comfort. I have no religion, so it's not from exploring Hinduism or Islam. I just like the clothing because they're lovely, comfortable and elegant.

I'm pale and blue-eyed -- about as Northern European looking as you can be without being an actual Viking.

For pity's sake, if you like 'em, wear 'em.