Is it really that difficult to understand that a dress code carries a certain sanctity with it? In the armed forces, how you dress makes a major difference. Each uniform has a role and is worn with a certain unquestionable elan. It has a meaning, a certain sartorial arrogance that is necessary for morale.
But it seems that Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar was not aware of this when he showed up to commission INS Chennai, an indigenously designed guided missile destroyer, in Mumbai on Monday. Photographs doing the rounds on social media highlighted his casual attire, saying that he was dressed in a 'sloppy, slovenly rude manner.'
Imagine, you go to commission a destroyer and end up 'destroying' the ambience of the occasion. There you have a group of Admirals including the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba, and a retired officer of high rank dressed to the hilt for a ceremony that ranks as one of the most vital in the Indian Navy's history. In the same picture, we have Parrikar, dressed casually in chappals (slippers) as if out for a Sunday afternoon stroll.
What sort of a person goes on board a naval ship as the senior most VIP wearing chappals, with an untucked shirt hanging out of his trousers? Had he been dressed ethnically, one could have probably accepted the open-toed footwear; but sadly, that was not the case either.
When you go to a glittering ceremony where sailors are all lined up in their glorious best, proud to wear 'INS Chennai' on their caps and are cheering the commissioning of their floating arsenal and home, damn it man!, the least you can do is honour them for their brief, shining moment in the sun. Crisp marching, the sound of music and a chief guest in slippers!
Even the ladies invited on board were advised not to wear high heels or chappals.
This is not a grotesque version of the ‘see what a straightforward guy I am’ approach. It is actually an insult of the armed forces as Parrikar was conducting the ceremony to induct the third guided missile destroyer in the Kolkata class.
Didn’t anyone tell him about ethics, a code, a certain courtesy that you display to the officers who are honouring you. How can you not dress properly...or adequately.
This is not the first time he is doing it either. We have seen photos of him taking a guard of honour as if he was strolling down Miramar beach in Goa.
The point is that it is a big deal, it is really important and you are duty bound by the numerous perks and privileges you get as the defence minister – if nothing else – to rise to the occasion with grace and dignity.
Yes, there are those who will say, so what, it’s okay, there are bigger things in life. But disrespecting the armed forces cannot simply be ignored because we equate it with being spartan and spiritually ascetic.
You are shabby sir and it is not done. And it is not as if your prime minister is setting the low standard. On the contrary, Narendra Modi has become sartorially elegant and raised the bar ever since he assumed office. Suggest you do the same and follow your chief’s example before your ship sails away.
Until then, do not be derisive of our armed forces and their traditions.