It has been a practice since time immemorial for humans to express themselves through their dress – from the colour of our clothing to the design on our jackets or jeans, it’s a statement that we all have our individual preferences and that is what makes us different from the others. There are many cultures and subcultures around the world which are characterised by the way their members dress. We have modern subcultures like the hippies, the goth, the punk rockers, and the heavy metal subcultures that are distinguished in large part mostly by the way the followers dress. To most people, dressing up is a big deal and to some, it isn’t, but whether or not a person likes to dress up, a person always has their choice of clothes that are definitive of who they are and what they stand for.
On 25th June, 2017, a Khasi lady by the name of Miss Tailin Lyngdoh was kicked out of an elite golf club in Delhi for wearing her traditional dress called ‘jainsem’. Miss Tailin Lyngdoh had been invited for lunch at the Delhi Golf Club when 15 minutes or so in, the manager, Ajit Pal, and Sumita Thakur, approached Tailin and asked her to leave the room, identifying her as a Nepali maid from the way she dressed and looked. Miss Tailin’s employer, Nivedita Barthakur, an entrepreneur from northeast India and Honorary Advisor of Health, Government of Assam, pointed out that Tailin was an invited guest and that the dress she was wearing is a cultural dress of her people, the Khasi people of Meghalaya. But even then, the people refused to change their opinion and others just stared and offered snide remarks.
In response to this disgraceful event, many people have taken to social media to support Tailin Lyngdoh and her cultural dress. In Bengaluru, the Northeast Solidarity and Student Christian Movement of India organised ‘My Dress is My Identity’, a get-together to support the case of Kong Tailin Lyngdoh. Held on the 7th of July at the SCM Centre, where quite a few northeasterns, as well as those belonging to other geographical areas of India reside, the gathering discussed on how to come up with ideas to prevent such discrimination in the future, as well as to create awareness about the northeastern people of India.
Humans must have the right to express themselves in ways they feel comfortable in and discrimination should not be tolerated, for India is a diverse country with a plethora of cultures, languages, ecosystems. Discrimination should be the last thing an Indian should indulge in. Through small gatherings like ‘My Dress is My Culture’, we can promote our culture in places that we live in and educate our neighbours about ourselves and our ways. With small and simple steps like these, we can aim to reduce and maybe even stop discrimination against minorities.
Written by Catherine Shadap.