A friend Marie has suggested that I learn these moves for my next command performance. Thank you Marie.
Our dialogue went something like this:
On receipt of the link I: “You are underestimating my skills!”
Marie: “Video please, video please!”
I think that I will oblige her. But not quite just now. I need to get myself properly organised by getting into a pair of trousers to start with, having been in a lungi for GOK how long. In the meanwhile, here is something that might just inspire Marie and others of her and my age group to get out and DANCE.
“When I close my eyes I see Rummy in a grass skirt doin’ a belly dance … hmmm. Do you celebrate Christmas? If so, ya might wanna wait to start an exercise routine.”
I could not resist the temptation to respond with this: “Maxi, I may stretch a point and do the belly dance on a dare, but wear grass skirts? No! It would be more likely in my lungi.”
For the uninitiated, here is a dance sequence in an old Hindi film where both the hero and the heroine are wearing lungis.
No Maxi, I don’t celebrate Christmas. I do not celebrate any festivals nor observe any rites/rituals. But my friend Neena up in Delhi has promised to bake me the largest fruit cake I have ever eaten, if I knock off ten kilograms before Christmas and I am hard at work at it.
My regular readers will be familiar with my preferred dress at home, the lungi. In fact, off blog and on blog, enough comments and responses have been exchanged on the subject, including one regular reader/commentator speculating whether I wore something under the lungi or not, for me to elaborate. For those who have not read my posts, you can read about my lungi habit here and here.
The following, highly amusing piece of writing has been sent to me by a bemused sister who is likely to be quite surprised at my posting about it again. Just some explanations for the uninitiated; Mallu is for Malayali, a resident of the state of Kerala, in the South West of our country. Bandh days are those days when various political parties of Kerala call for total closure of all shops, establishments, institutions and life more or less comes to standstill on. Bandh is also called Hartal in some other parts of our glorious country, particularly Bengal, which shares the honour with Kerala of maximum number of Bandh and Hartal days per year. I have always wondered if these two states are prone to such action because both relish rice and fish dishes besides the ubiquitous coconuts.
Here is a pictorial depiction of two gentlemen of Kerala wearing the white equivalent of the lungi, called Mundu in Kerala.
A toddy shop is a drinking establishment common in parts of India (particularly Kerala) where palm toddy, a mildly alcoholic beverage made from the sap of palm trees, is served along with food.
“The Legendary Lungi.
Just as the national bird of Kerala is Mosquito, her national dress is ‘Lungi’. Pronounced as ‘Lu’ as in loo and ‘ngi ‘ as in ‘mongey’, a lungi can be identified by its floral or window-curtain pattern. ‘Mundu’ is the white variation of lungi and is worn on special occasions like hartal or bandh days, weddings and Onam.
Lungi is simple and ‘down to earth’ like the mallu wearing it. Lungi is the beginning and the end of evolution in its category. Wearing something on the top half of your body is optional when you are wearing a lungi. Lungi is a strategic dress. It’s like a one-size-fits-all bottoms for Keralites.
The technique of wearing a lungi/mundu is passed on from generation to generation through word of mouth like the British Constitution. If you think it is an easy task wearing it, just try it once! It requires techniques like breath control and yoga that is a notch higher than sudarshan kriya of AOL. A lungi/mundu when perfectly worn won’t come off even in a quake of 8 on the richter scale. A lungi is not attached to the waist using duct tape, staple, rope or velcro. It’s a bit of mallu magic whose formula is a closely guarded secret like the Coca Cola chemicals.
A lungi can be worn ‘Full Mast’ or ‘Half Mast’ like a national flag. A ‘Full Mast’ lungi is when you are showing respect to an elderly or the dead. Wearing it at full mast has lots of disadvantages. A major disadvantage is when a dog runs after you. When you are wearing a lungi/mundu at full mast, the advantage is mainly for the female onlookers who are spared the ordeal of swooning at the sight of hairy legs.
Wearing a lungi ‘Half Mast’ is when you wear it exposing yourself like those C grade movie starlets. A mallu can play cricket, football or simply run when the lungi is worn at half mast. A mallu can even climb a coconut tree wearing lungi in half mast. “It’s not good manners, especially for ladies from decent families, to look up at a mallu climbing a coconut tree”- Confucius (or is it Abdul Kalam?)
Most mallus do the traditional dance kudiyattam. Kudi means drinking alcohol and yattam, spelled as aattam, means random movement of the male body. Note that ‘y’ is silent. When you are drinking, you drink, there is no ‘y’. Any alcohol related “festival” can be enjoyed to the maximum when you are topless with lungi and a towel tied around the head. “Half mast lungi makes it easy to dance and shake legs” says Candelaria Amaranto, a Salsa teacher from Spain after watching ‘kudiyaattam’ .
The ‘Lungi Wearing Mallu Union’ [LUWMU, pronounced LOVE MU], an NGO (Non Government Organisation) which works towards the ‘upliftment’ of the lungi, strongly disapproves of the GenNext tendency of wearing Bermudas under the lungi. Bermudas under the lungi is a conspiracy by the CIA. It’s a disgrace to see a person wearing burmuda with corporate logos under his lungi. What they don’t know is how much these corporates are limiting their freedom of movement and expression.
A mallu wears lungi round the year, all weather, all season. A mallu celebrates winter by wearing a colourful lungi with a floral pattern. Lungi provides good ventilation and brings down the heat between legs. A mallu is scared of global warming more than anyone else in the world.
A lungi/mundu can be worn any time of the day/night. It doubles as blanket at night. It also doubles up as a swing, swimwear, sleeping bag, parachute, facemask while entering/exiting toddy shops, shopping basket and water filter while fishing in ponds and rivers. It also has recreational uses like in ‘Lungi/mundu pulling’, a pastime in households having more than one male member. Lungi pulling competitions are held outside toddyshops all over Kerala during Onam and Vishu. When these lungis are decommissioned from service, they become table cloths. Thus the humble lungi is a cradle to grave appendage.”
(An anonymous piece)
It is a pity that this wonderful piece has come to me as having been written by someone who wishes to be anonymous. I salute the person for a highly entertaining piece of writing.
Last week, I had shared with my readers a story from my Delhi days which came back to revive a friendship after almost three decades. Today, I shall continue with another one from the mid-eighties, which too came back in a most unexpected way.
Some few weeks ago, I came to know about the passing away of Kader from Ahmedabad, for who I had a great deal of respect and affection. He was a customer of the company with which I was working in the eighties and one of the most honest and trustworthy men in a highly competitive field. Kader was highly respected by his customers in turn and in his passing away, one more interesting personality from my active business days had gone to make his peace.
I had known his family too and knowing that his son Jalal was already in the business, I sent a message of condolence to the young man with some references to his late father’s excellent character and reputation. Jalal in turn rang me up to convey his and his family’s gratitude for the most unexpected communication from me.
On the day that I had the meeting with my airport friend from Delhi, when I returned from the supermarket, I received another telephone call from Jalal to just hand over the phone to his family doctor who wanted to share with me his memories of the time that I had an accident in Ahmedabad, The family doctor had to be summoned to attend to me in my hotel, late in the evening. The family doctor was reminiscing about various people that he had met through Kader and he remembered me for that memorable night which was an experience that he had never had earlier nor since then. This is the story about that accident and a retired GP’s memories of that incident.
As Sales Manager, I was visiting customers at Ahmedabad and had checked into a hotel for the night. After checking in, the bellboy before leaving the room after depositing the luggage and turning on the Airconditioner etc, asked me if there was anything else that I required. I said no and sent him on his way with the usual tip.
I took a shower, changed into my off duty dress of lungi and kurtha and started to read a book when there was a knock at the door and the same page boy once again asked me if I wanted any other service. I told him that I would order for food from the room service and did not need anything, thanked him and shut the door.
After a few moments he once again knocked to ask the same question but with a sign language of “do you want to drink something?” Ahmedabad is in the state of Gujarath, the only state in India with prohibition of alcohol consumption in force with a thriving bootlegging trade. I had made my own arrangements and now having understood the keenness of the lad to be of service to me, I declined and sent him off.
After a few moments, the same lad appeared again with a sly grin and was just beginning to ask if I wanted some other service, when I lost my temper and decided to give him a good kick and send him on his way. I did, and the next thing that I remember is being flat out on my knees with a throbbing and bleeding forehead. I had forgotten that I was wearing a lungi, which is a cylindrical garment from waist down to the ankles, and had tripped over while executing the kick, but by some instinct turned around before falling down and hit my forehead on the sharp corner of the door’s latch.
The young man panicked and ran away and I got up to try and stem the bleeding with toilet paper and water but had little success. I rang up Kader and told him that I had cut myself and needed a doctor to come and put in a couple of stitches. He promptly rushed with his family doctor and it was done within the next half an hour. I still carry that scar on my forehead.
The doctor when told about how I came to cut myself like that, laughed his heart out and said that he was glad that he and Kader wore pajamas at home and not lungis. After all these years, he remembered that incident and was reminiscing with Jalal about that evening when Jalal decided to share the story from the doctor himself.
Since then a flood of memories of my visits to that beautiful town, has been visiting me. Ahmedabad is special for me for another reason in that I went to Business School there for two years in the sixties. I have many interesting recollections of those two years too. I may write about some of them later, but my next post will be on a really funny experience that I had there with the security detail at the airport on another occasion.