DRESS UNDRESS CIVIL & MILITARY
Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
The Cambridge University, UK, has deviated from its age old tradition. It has permitted the women students on its rolls to wear pants. Who wears pants in the house? That used to be a sarcastic question and the answer determined who was the boss of the house. The one who wore pants gave orders and the orders were obeyed without fail. It needs no underscoring that one who wore pants in the house was invariably a Male. No wonder the Cambridge University did not allow their female students to wear pants on the campus.
Alas! The centuries old tradition has been thrown to winds. Girl students will now sport their pants and not only assume importance but also exercise authority. Now that the tradition is broken, let the women students have their way. The traditionalists need not crib nor lament loss of power.
The male students also asked for a deviation from the tradition of wearing pants. Believe it or not, the boys opted for skirts, the traditional outfit of girls. They pressed for it and got it. The strong point that went in their favour was the traditional wear of Scotsmen called Kilts that look like skirts from a distance but are not skirts as such. Kilts are worn by soldiers and civilians alike. Both the foot soldiers of rifle regiments and bandsmen equally love to wear kilts on parade and off parade.
The Scottish bandsmen of their Army wear kilts and play bagpipes and drums and reel with their traditional songs like the Highlander, Step and Reel and so on. The Pipes and Drums of the Indian Army play all Scottish tunes but do not wear kilts. Of course, lately many Bhartiya tunes from the high hills and Himalayan habitats have been set to tunes by the Indian military musicians and are played by our Rifle Regiment bands marching on the Rajpath, now Yogpath, for the Republic Day or at the Vijay Chowk for Beating Retreat.
The Indian Army is meticulous about uniforms of various regiments of the line as well as the Rifle Regiments. The officers and troops have different dresses laid down for different occasions. Any deviation, howsoever minor, is frowned upon. In good old days, a particular mess dress was called an Undress. Despite wearing pants, shirts, qamarbands and sporting miniature medals it was still caleed an Undress since the jackets were done away with. Indeed the Army has a sense of humour.
The cadets at the National Defence Academy, Kharakvasla and Gentlemen Cadets at the Indian Military Academy Dehra Dun get used to wearing one form of dress, unwearing it and quickly putting on another type of uniform within a specified period of time. It is called Puttee Parade and the Cadet-Sergeant on duty ensures that those awarded Puttee Parade as a form of punishment di the job within a specified period of time. Thus the mild punishment had a hidden agenda of training for the cadets. We, therefore, say that the Army has a method in its madness!
The lady officers of the three Armed Forces of India are encouraged to wear pants. On duty, it is a part of the prescribed uniform. Off duty, the women officers love to wear pants as a showpiece of gender equality. Of course, there is an exception for lady officers of the Army Medical Corps who are permitted to wear Saris both on parade and off parade. Indeed the colour of former is olive green and the latter depends on the whim and fancy of the wearer. Obviously, there has been no agitation or protest by ladies in uniform for wearing pants unlike the one in the Cambridge University.
Will the Oxford University follow suit? It is kind of hard to tell. There is a keen competition between the Oxford and the Cambridge, be it a boat race on the river Thames or a Rugby match anywhere. However, there has been no news so far about women students of the Oxford University exercising their vocal chords asking for the right to wear pants.
The new charter of Rights of students all over the world is as important as the historical Magna Carta of the British history. The battle cry is: YOU ASK FOR IT; YOU WILL GET IT!
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