Dress, in context of aesthetics and design, is fashion. Dress, with a backdrop of religion is a controversy, a debate, and clash of civilisational viewpoints. However, dress with a purpose is worthy of a salute. One such great, underappreciated, functionally brilliant and highly valuable piece of clothing, with nearly no name, and hence my term, the secular mask, deserves our attention and respect.No one can be sure how and when it has entered our lives. Within no time and with no specific backer, or interest, or patron, it has conquered our lives. Men and women of all ages and classes and spread across the spectrum on every line of divide, have endorsed it. It comes, truly amazingly, in every texture and size, at any level of cost, and any colour, hue or shade.
This piece of clothing that the city folk drape around their head and face protects them against the sun and wind, dust and smoke.Most motorists in the city cover their faces and lo, you can see nothing more than their eyes, sometimes further covered under a helmet with a pair of specs or goggles. They do it while riding their bikes, or riding as a pillion passenger, in autos or while standing roadside waiting for a cab. This wonderful small piece of clothing reverses the power equations – they can see you, you can’t see them.So we live in a city where it is impossible to see faces of others anymore as you drive past the streets. Everyone seems to have a physical mask. I hope there is nothing beyond that. No one knows how this was born, who its creator is and how it spread. But it is there and we are enriched by it, and perhaps, in a way, impoverished too.
Numaish, the annual Hyderabad Industrial Exhibition which takes place in the city every year from January 1 to February 15, interestingly features new variations of the same. Sometimes a zip is added. Other times, a velcro strip is. But a greater piece of fashion peaking in its value was perhaps not created in the last few decades.
TAILPIECE: There is actually a product called Smuff, created to add even greater fashion value to this all-encompassing, all-covering, multi-purpose wear; So see it coming, the revolution and soon everyone would be just a face covered, and lots of lovely colours and designs. I am sure we can expect the organic, the pure cotton, raw silk and the designer variety too in the stores soon. Perhaps the New Year will full herald this fashion. Wait and watch.
(Sriram Karri is author of the bestselling novel, Autobiography of a Mad Nation. He writes for international media such as The New York Times and BBC besides organising debates at Hyd Park)