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Dear Delhi Pub Management, Your Colonial Hangover Is Obvious When You Bar Customers In A Saree

Posted: March 16, 2020

A woman being denied entry into an upmarket Delhi pub because she was in a saree is a symptom of our colonial hangover, up there along with our obsession with fair skin. 

As all humanity struggles with the impact of the Covid 19, nothing else seems as important. But then comes a news article that forces you to think and reflect.

As I was browsing through a news website, I came across one item saying a woman Ms Nag was denied entry into an upscale pub in Delhi because of her ethnic attire.

My heart sank instantly. As someone who struts around in the said ethnic wear, I imagined being denied an entry anywhere, and how that would make me feel. I re-read the headline to confirm that this was indeed in Delhi. It was. My heart sank again. This just did not feel right.

The definition of being an Indian woman is rapidly changing. Throw in class into the mix and it becomes impossible to generalize. But, despite everything, I still feel that some things will always stay constant.

Policing a woman’s choice of her attire, her values, her choices.

And if Indian wear makes one ineligible to enter a customer serving entity like a pub, in India, we have to spend a moment on mulling over this. The incident is as incredulous as the first Haagen Dazs outlet in India allowing people with only foreign passports. What is the point being made here? That these places are so globalized that they find not want to have anything that could take away from the modern global construct.

There is a lovely Tamil movie called Kaaka Muttai that subverted this elitism through two little coal picker boys who long to taste a slice of pizza and are denied entry into a Pizza hut like pizzeria despite having the money to buy that pizza. A few years later an exactly similar real life experience happened at a McDonald’s Pune outlet when a young woman tried to buy a Fanta float for a street kid.

The upscale Delhi woman’s experience may not entirely be similar but  these instances point to wilful discrimination. The fictional movie aided by some brilliant political satire leads to the children eventually managing to get that slice of pizza by getting into the pizzeria.

And Ms Nag rightfully shared her experience and frustration on her social media account.

The pub management’s response is disappointing too.

I wish they had owned up and explained why they felt the need to have a dress code in a place meant for unwinding and relaxing. If people have the money to splurge and are not causing any inconvenience, why should their attire even matter? But is there a nuance that we are missing that they could have clarified? I don’t know, but the response is not that.

As for me, I will continue to dress in my kurta and kurtis, hoping that I will never come across a day the staff at a five star hotel, or mall, or wherever, does not deny me an entry owing to my ethnic attire and less than impeccable dressing. Or someone doesn’t undermine my personality and abilities on the basis of how I look.

And I will of course continue to hope that our world becomes a place where ragpicker and street kids too are attended to and met with grace and dignity.

Image source: Twitter/ YouTube

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Writer and technologist currently based out of Bangalore

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