The sartorial makeover of the RSS is a good one. The khaki knickers didn’t make aesthetic sense at all. The half pants were just too wide at the bottom, exposing too much of the legs of the man wearing it. The insiders who argued that these were putting off youngsters had a valid point. The full trousers would be less embarrassing for the newer lot. An old timer said half-jokingly that the earlier one allowed free movement of air. The generation can manage that small discomfort.
According to the decision taken at the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha of the organisation, brown will replace khaki. This again is a move in the right direction. Khaki is so dull. It resembled the attire of the police in some states. In combination with the lathi in hand it sent out a wrong signal to the uninformed and those unable to find the difference between half and full pants. Brown is much more regular as a colour, more pleasant to the eye. The roll-out will take a few months, the RSS says. Let’s wait for the result.
It’s a break from a 90-year-old tradition. “We are not rigid people, we keep changing with the times,” RSS general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi told the media. There was fear in a section that the Sangh members would lose brand identity without the khaki shorts. But they have made sartorial shifts earlier without much damage to the brand. Somewhere in the beginning of the 1940s they switched from all khaki to white shirt and then to leather shoes in the early '70s.
Critics have not been charitable to the decision though. The irrepressible Lalu Prasad, the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief, said the RSS was upgrading itself because it was in power. A defeat in the next elections would make them go back to half pants. In January his wife Rabri Devi had made fun of RSS oldies wearing shorts in public. A social media comment appreciated the move saying it would at least keep the hairy legs of sanghis out of public view. He called it indecent exposure.
The move could have some unintended consequences on social media. For one, it would leave the trolls in a state of confusion. Certain that the RSS is not going to part with its half-pant tradition, they have been calling the Sangh people ‘chaddis’. Now with the brown trousers in they will have to find a new word for them. The word ‘chaddi’ came into vogue possibly because of the regular visibility of the undergarment when the Sangh members went into physical exercises such as playing kabaddi. With the hemline getting longer there’s no such risk now.
In short, it’s a progressive move from an organisation accused of being buried in orthodoxy. Next we would like to see the lathis getting shorter and thinner or going away altogether. It does not make for pleasant viewing, particularly when you are in a pub or with your girlfriend in a public park.