Tying up with a Tie and Coat


Dr. Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

16 Feb 2021 – Cultures, cuisines, modes of dress, religions and languages followed colonialism in the last several centuries. The principal colonial powers were Portugal, Spain, France and England. Belgium and to an extent Germany also tried to colonise but in comparison to the other European nations, their successes were much smaller.

In the east the main political power was Japan, especially when it allied with Germany during the World Wars.

On the religious front, Christianity was imposed and became the dominant faith that one can see across the globe even in small places like Goa on the west and Meghalaya on the eastern part of India. Subsequently, Islam spread very fast over the globe and today we have the second largest number of people adhering to this faith. The reach of Islam has spread over from Mid East, Asia to North West Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia. Of course, before Islam, Buddhism found millions of believers in its tenets from countries of India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Japan, etc.

Although England spread its power later than other European nations, its successes through its naval power, military might and strategy were immense from America, to south eastern part of Africa, to India, to Australia and New Zealand etc. As used to be mentioned, The Sun never sets on the British Empire.  Earlier, in the 16th century, a similar statement used to be stated regarding the Spanish Empire.

As indicated earlier, styles of dress, languages, and religion — mainly Christianity, spread to the regions that were colonised by the European powers. A witty remark had been made about this facet of colonialism. The British came and offered the Bible to local peoples in exchange for their lands and revenues.

One can see how mode of dress — mainly pant, coat tie hat for the adult males has become dominant today. Women’s dress remained partly traditional and partly was influenced by that of the European women. When the British ruled India, the dress of the British men consisted of a coat, a tie and hat even when it was hot and stuffy. This code was adopted by Indians who served in high positions under the British rulers. Gradually, other rich men adopted this dress code, as can be seen in Hindi language films made during the period 1950-1980s.

Of course today we see male politicians across the world  — USA, Europe, Japan, China, Australia etc, except India and a few neighbouring countries dressed in this attire.

As we know English language was imposed on the regions colonised by the British at the expense of tribal and local languages in Africa, America and other regions as a result of which Australia is English speaking. But in New Zealand fortunately a tribal language — Maori survives.

In India the traditional languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Punjabi and others are doing well. In Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, local languages are flourishing although English is also learnt and used. The number of Hindi speakers in the world is the fourth largest after Mandarin, English and Spanish. All these belong to Indo-European family. Not only languages but also traditional religions, faiths, customs, cuisines, etc. have not been suppressed in the above Asian countries.

Recently a Maori leader, Rawiri Waititi, made it to the headlines of some newspapers according to Reuters. On what grounds? He was ejected from the country’s Parliament for refusing to wear a necktie; he was wearing the traditional taonga necklace. He stated that, forcing him to a western dress code was a breach of his rights and an attempt to suppress his indigenous culture.

One wishes that other indigenous peoples would also take pride in their traditional ways of dress, languages and cultures.

After all, it is a personal choice what clothes to wear. Why tie up a man with a necktie?


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. ravipbhatia@gmail.com

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 22 Feb 2021.

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