Pain in the neck – The Hindu


DEsmond Morris, in his most fascinating bookThe Pocket Guide to Man Watching, says “the tie, like so many details of costume, is unimportant either as a comfort device or a modesty covering. Instead, it operates as a cultural badge, slotting the wearer neatly into a particular category.”

Although the British left our country a long time ago, the tie has survived as a symbol of elitism and authority. For the business executive and the bureaucrat, it is a status symbol. Then there is the much-venerated school, club, and regimental tie, proudly worn as a badge to show one’s lineage or pedigree.

The tie proclaims the status and character of a person. A man wearing a colorful, printed tie can be placed apart from the man dressed in a sober plain tie. Besides the color, shape, and size of the tie, a man’s character can be judged by the way he ties the knot. A small tight knot high up the neck may indicate a conservative, introverted type of man. On the other hand, a broad loose knot proclaims a jovial extrovert, with a happy-go-lucky temperament. The tie has thus become an extension of a man’s personality and ego. A man who is wearing a tie out of tune with his personality can look uncomfortable.

Despite all the fuss over selecting the right tie, there can be little doubt that it is the most uncomfortable part of western apparel, and neither suitable for our climate nor conforms to our habits and customs. I have often seen “tied-up” executives and bureaucrats at meetings squirming and perspiring in their ties, particularly during power cuts. Even our honorable friends belonging to the legal profession (both on the Bench and those standing before it) insist on clinging to their black ties and jackets as if in perpetual mourning!

However, the worst sufferers of this obsession are the little schoolchildren in the so-called English-medium schools where education seems to begin with the compulsory wearing of the tie.

Perhaps, it is meant to make them feel superior to the children going to the Hindi or other local language schools. But it is pathetic to see them struggling with their ties, with little understanding of the need or purpose of this uncomfortable appendage. I once saw a four-year-old boy in school uniform walking in the hot summer sun, occasionally using his listlessly hanging tie to wipe off perspiration from his face. That, I thought, was perhaps the only practical use of this piece of cloth.

If we earnestly want to achieve the goal of building a classless and socialist society based on liberty, equality, and fraternity, let us resolve to untie this stifling knot and abolish the wearing of ties in our country. Once we do away with this archaic symbol of slavery, our stiff-necked brethren shall not only be able to breathe more freely but will also feel intellectually and emotionally more independent.

And their behavior with the common man may automatically improve and they may be able to function as true public servants.

madanathur@gmail.com



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