The Right Thing?

Jairam Ramesh threw off his robes. As a minister for environment and forests, he was making no point, but by discarding the convocation robes at a function, he did send out the right message.

However, he made some wrong points:

“Why can’t we have a convocation ceremony in simple clothes? With the flowing robe and hat, it’s like being decked up like medieval vicars and popes. This practice started in 13th century Oxford. This attire can be stifling in this season...You can come to the convocation in shirts and trousers. Why the robe? The hat is worn only so that it can be thrown up in the air at the end of the ceremony. Why do you wear a hat if you have to throw it?’’

Throwing the hat is symbolic. We throw a lot of things during religious ceremonies…often as purging. This denotes some sort of freedom. As regards Oxford, we flash such credentials at every given opportunity.

“I’ve still not been able to figure out why we stick to such barbaric colonial relics.’’

Colonial it is, not barbaric. In fact, it strived for a specifically stifling dress code to portray a civilisational mode of pomp and pageantry as opposed to savage crudity. It is ceremonial attire to confer a degree, to accept an achievement into the hall of fame. While we must understand that these clothes do not seem appropriate now, there is the more crucial question about how education itself has become a downgraded and ‘barbaric’.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced education for all as a basic need. It is honourable in intent, but where are the questions: why do people drop out? Where are the schools in the interiors? Who sells question papers in the open market prior to exam? How has technology intervened in the cheating process?

Also, what about the farce of honorary doctorates being given to ministers and actors and celebrities?

What after discarding the robes? Some more thinking.

- - -

What is this?

The caption says:

In this handout picture released by The Press Information Bureau on March 31, 2010, Incoming Chief of Army staff General V.K. Singh (R) shakes hands with outgoing Chief General Deepak Kapoor (L) in New Delhi”.

I am surprised. I am not sure about the specifics required, but for a profession that talks about protocol and how mandatory it is, why is the Chief of Staff seated? Isn’t it expected that he should stand up? It is not as though some minion is paying respects to him.

If not as protocol perhaps courtesy?


  1. FV, I suspect protocol overrides courtesy in such cases, though I won't be surprised if the protocol was adopted in a completely ad-hoc manner, along the lines of (in some fictional history book we could have read, but didn't):

    "In 1937, Gen ABC of the Indian Imperial Army hurt his knee playing tennis on the morning he was to take over the Army from his predecessor Gen XYZ..and since Gen ABC was such a great guy, it only stood to reason that the quirk of that ceremony became tradition until the end of time"

  2. The outgoing chief got the incoming chief to sit on his chair and then wished him luck and bid goodbye - its as simple as that. IOW, the outgoing chief participating in and acknowledging the seating of a new chief in his former position.

  3. Al:

    Historian you are not. That's for sure. But a satirist you could be.


    It makes sense. Yet, I would expect man-to-man that the Gen stood up. The former chief was not handing over the chair literally, you see.

  4. FV, I am distressed that you do not value my inner historian. :-) This insult is going to make him take out his frustrations on my inner child.

  5. Al:

    That would be tautology :-)


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