At the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games yesterday, the Indian team looked much better than it has looked in a very long time. The male athletes carried off the off-white sherwanis and orange-red stoles much better than do the average Indian male. The heart soared to see such a well-dressed squad.
Then the discordant note – Sania Mirza’s black trousers! Sania often wears Indian clothes in real life and carries them off with much more grace than does the average Bollywood actress. Why then was she in pants and a sweatshirt?
To make matters more intriguing, there were a couple of saree-clad women in the contingent – the green of their sarees picking out the third colour of the national flag. It was quite obviously what the female contenders were supposed to wear at the flag-march - why then were two of the five women not in their proper costume?
One paper today had the answer – apparently, Sania Mirza and the other lady contender needed help with draping the saree, and since the officials couldn’t find anyone to help, they were given permission to show up in their competition uniforms.
Shameful, is the only word to describe it – was there not a single Indian woman in the entire city who could be co-opted to help the two ladies with their sarees? No female Embassy staff, or wives of Embassy staff? No female reporters, or female officials in the contingent? Had they really wanted to, I am sure they could have found someone who could have helped.
But why blame the officials in Beijing? Why did anybody, Sania included, not think of the problem before they left India? The clothes that the men wore fitted them too well for them to have not been custom made. Presumably, the same was done for the women – why then did anyone not think to find out if the contestants knew how to drape a saree, and send pre-draped sarees for the ones who were not confident of being able to do so. Any why have sarees at all – could not some other dress have been found that represented Indian culture as well as the saree did.
Do we not, as a nation, realize that by not presenting ourselves well in the flag-march we are letting ourselves down in full view of the entire world? It is bad enough that a nation of over a billion people has such low expectations on the medals front – do we have to compound that by proving how hopelessly disorganize we are?