A recent online wave in Lady Shri Ram College for Women (LSR) highlighted a silent setback in the campus. Many students raised voices in unison, against the cancer of discrimination.

Lines along the Indian landmass were demarcated years ago, along linguistic isobars . Years later, linguistic lines lurk around the corridors of LSR, a difference which stands – one language pushes others to the shackles of exclusion. Language – a tool of communication fails its capability when the very tool of communication becomes the tool of division. A virtual pedestal is set in many minds, merely based on an entitled proficiency in a certain language.

The heavy words of empowerment, solidarity and strength lie as empty rhetoric while the ‘superior’ language is garlanded with appreciation. October witnessed an online ‘mini-movement’ when Overheard LSR drew light upon the issue of inclusivity in LSR. The initiative got a great response from students; turning out to be like a litmus test for the impending superiority which reigns supremacy in the campus. As the discussion progressed, a sharp turn took it towards language barriers. Overheard LSR asserted – “Life in LSR is complicated, to say the least. From the outside, it looks great. It shows you woman power and solidarity and makes you feel like you’ve found a place to belong in… However, for so many people LSR is exactly what it supposedly fights against… Everytime we convert a class of 18-year-olds into groups, into ‘us’ and ‘them’ – look around. What is it that’s right in front of us each day and yet we consciously choose to look right past it?”

Students, specially from the Department of Hindi and Sanskrit face a lot of problems in this regard. Simple activities turn out to be a huge weight on one’s bosom. A student from the Department of Hindi who did not wish to be named said, “I come from a very small town in Uttarakhand. At the very beginning I was excited about LSR, but eventually, language turned out to be a great barrier. Even when I got my subject for General Elective, I had to change it because my teachers used English as the medium for lectures which made the task of understanding very difficult. Eventually, I opted for Sanskrit as the language is not an issue in this case,”. She further added, “If I wish to talk to people from any other department, then English has to be a must; also  listening to them speak in English makes me feel that I thought of talking to the wrong person. Here, English is a ‘status language’ but I do face a lot of problem – whether it comes to the administration or professors. I feel like only talking to people from my own department”

Anjali Jha, another student from the Department of Hindi said, “I think our professors sometimes ignore students from the departments of Hindi and Sanskrit. We never said that we have any problem regarding the usage of English as the medium. However, our professor speaks in Hindi whenever she talks to us, it feels ‘weird’. Just because someone opts for Hindi or Sanskrit does not mean that she does not know English, it is only the fact that someone wants to pursue a specific subject.”

While alienation cannot be a neglected fact, a peaceful coexistence does find a place . Anusha Khan, a first-year student pursuing English Honours who has keen interest in Hindi and Urdu poetry had something to say, “I recently participated in the inter-college Hindi/ Urdu Poetry competition which was an overwhelming experience. It made me realise  how exquisite any language can be. No means of expression need any kind of validation from anyone.”

A student from LSR who wanted to remain anonymous said, “I am not sidelining the fact that discrimination is the harsh truth. But being a part of the college magazine, I must say that diversity is acknowledged. Recently, we shortlisted Language Editors- Assamese, Bengali, Kashmiri, Telegu; we have editors for many languages. An inclusive space is not absolutely obsolete.”

Thoughts have been highlighted but an emphasised change is awaited.

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives


Priyanshi Banerjee

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While buying an expensive khadi kurta from the largest brands in humongous malls, we tend to forget the real roots of our ethno-Indian outfits. Ever wonder why?

The University of Delhi (DU) is a hub for street style fashion which transcends all boundaries. Every day, as students, we bring out our best fashion game in college, and in the wake of a  recent epiphany, I believe that we have strayed into an obsession for ethnic clothing and accessories.

Kurtas, long skirts, suits, dupattas, stoles, jhumkas, nose-rings, neck-pieces, and even sarees have become very common in college. We spend lavishly on our outfits and accessories to look more authentic, grounded, and in a sense, more Indian. Many agree that the choice to wear Indian comes from a place of comfort. “Loose kurtas and palazzos are way more comfortable than wearing tight jeans and tops in summer,” says a student of a South Campus girls’ college.

However, in our wish to hoard more ethnic wear, we take part in the capitalistic tendencies of the market which bring out the hypocrisy of our world. While wearing a branded and expensive kurta with an equally expensive pair of jeans we call our outfits ‘indo-western’, which almost always are the products of elite stores in some bourgeois space. 

As students, we also tend to let go of the actual ethno-syncretic root of this supposedly traditional clothing. The dupatta or shawl, that we so suavely wrap around ourselves to look fashionable and traditional, were tools of suppressing female sexuality, and furthermore were a demand made by the marginalised suppressed women, who weren’t allowed to cover their breasts. Similarly, a septum ring worn oh-so-proudly as a fashion statement has a history of being a symbol of subjugation and suppression of women, who were often compared to the cattle who wear similar hoops around their nose. In delusion and denial, we end up distancing ourselves from our history, only focusing on the materialistic hocus-pocus of it all, which in this case is: fashion.

As per reports, Fabindia doubled its sales in 2019; BIBA aims to reach revenue of INR 900 to 1,000 Crore by next year, while Aurelia, Global Desi, and Anokhi are becoming more popular over time. More and more students use outfits by these brand outlets to connect with their culture, and end up just benefiting the market strategies of these brands.

Understandably, these brands also aim at building market phenomenon focusing on this set of the young crowd, making traditional clothing more alluring and enticing, while keeping away the ugly realities of their profit-margins and labour markets, under strategically planned wraps.

Our ethnicity should not be defined by our fashion statement or emphasised by a fake ring in our nose which is not even pierced (Guilty as charged!). It should come from supporting those who actually build on this craft, and hence, support the real history and culture of our country. Undoubtedly, the potters who sell handmade vessels are more culturally conscious and informed than us heading for our farewell parties in an expensive Indigo saree, paired with black metal jhumkas, and all set to post a thousand pictures with #EthnicDayOut. 

The Indian outfits to be bought from the craftsmen and weavers have been replaced with machine-made homogeneous print goods, exported to even other parts of the world. The same yellow ‘Om’ kurti is available in all stores by Anokhi, in India, and across the globe. So, next time we see a tourist roaming around in Rishikesh wearing that yellow kurta, decked with tons of rudraksha beads, and sporting a long red tika, think of how much of our ethnicity are we spreading, or how much of it are we losing?

Feature Image Credits: Namrata Randhawa for DU Beat

Sakshi Arora

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