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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Start branding a Gamcha first

Flashback. Early 90’s. Dhaka. When the city used to host SAARC summits and there were pictures of the nation heads and 7 South Asian country flags ornamenting the streets of Dhaka. Live session updates in the BTV used to bring along with it a few observations which I used to convert to questions and pester my father from time to time. Some of them which I still recall are as following.

1. Why does the King of Bhutan wears a frock/skirt and comes to visit a foreign country in such a high profile summit?
2. Why does the Sri Lankan president wear a white ‘lungi’ and attend such official meeting of high-ups?
3. I noticed the colourful special cap worn by the Nepali premier and the tight-fitting pyjamas, why so?
4. The Pakistani leaders used to wear their traditional shalwar-kurta with ‘koti’
5. Indian leaders used to wear their traditional wears, sometimes in dhuti, panjabi etc.
6. What is the national dress of Bangladeshi people? Female leaders wear saree ofcourse and male leaders wear safari suit, prince coats, suit etc. But what is actually our national dress?

I remember people saying that actually our national dress should be white payjama panjabi and black koti. Then some rejected this idea saying that it closely resembles to the party outfit of a leading political party. Then some said that our national dress is lungi and genji. For women, its saree. The bottom line is, I never got any one answer to this question. We have a national element for almost everything, national day, animal, bird, fruit etc. But what about dress? You might also argue that why do we need one? But I think we do, as an ambassador of the country, I would like to carry my identity with me and show it off from time to time. This is the generation R&G if you call it.

What you wear is something that communicates non-verbally to others around you about your identity. It can be a completely unique tip-to-toe outfit like a saree or a payjama panjabi or it could be a simple accessory which you could carry on you which would speak out loud your ethnicity. What is it for us?

I bought a pair of Shemaghs (which are very much a la mode these days) this evening and was wondering as I made my way to the underground that a Bangladeshi Bengali donning an Arab scarf taking a stroll in the heart of the cosmopolitan city of London, the capital of the United Kingdom….is this called globalization? Or I am just being a Londoner while in London? Don’t know much, but I always wondered why it never crossed my mind to promote a simple gamcha from amar shonar bangla? Even though Bibi Russell tried making a statement with her outfits that only she wears herself, although Grameen Check created bit of a stir, why did these never crossed the border? Did they fail to convince the style icons of Bangladesh? Do we think that gamcha is for 'khet gorib' people only? It made me sad after Googling ‘gamcha’ to realize that its actually an ‘Indian fabric’, mostly worn in Bengal, Assam etc. If saree is Indian, Gamcha is Indian, Shalwar Kurta is Pakistani, suits and ties are ‘Western’, what is Bangladeshi then?

I believe a time has come when we need to ‘accessorize patriotism’ somehow. If we love red and green, we should be doing more to wear it, flaunt it and make even others a fan of it. Hats off to Arabs who made their Shemaghs such a big hit around the world, ofcourse even among non-Arabs. Hope someday soon something uniquely from Bangladesh will be a hit fashion item to be worn by foreigners walking down the streets of New York or London. So along with branding a big concept like the country, lets start small by start something as small as a Gamcha.


Mickey said...

Same is true for me, when representing the country I would also want to identified as such and wear our national dress. Your situation is confusing indeed.

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Syed said...

The problem is that your looking for something 'Bangladeshi'....Instead we could start looking for something 'Bengali'.Since all Bengali restaurants in London ,NY are named 'Indian" for some reason....Another thing is that

We never wear Gamcha anywhere let alone formal occasions!

How many Bengali Men continue to wear 'Lungis'? We dont...

Could you imagine yorself going to your office wearing Gamcha,Lungi or even payjama ,Punjabee ? no.

On that note Pyjama-panjabi is accepted on national occasions, family functions such as Bye-holud etc.
What we can do is focus more on the Panjabi-Payjama-Shawl dress up if we can...

The Bangladeshi Shawl is very different from the Indian one..Its smaller,lighter and very user friendly. Its also cheaper.