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No saris please, so what if we are Indian - The Times of India

Radha Basu ()
24 December 1996

Title : 'No saris please, so what if we're Indian'
Author : Radha Basu
Publication : The Times of India
Date : December 24, 1996

Two trendy young women layers were denied entry into a city discotheque last
weekend for violating its unwritten dress code. They weren't wearing scruffy,
torn or dirty clothes. Nor were they skimpily dressed; quite the contrary.
"You cannot enter," Kavita Khanna and Meher Anlesaria were told, "simply
because you are wearing saris".

The scene, the women insist, was something straight out of Ripley's.

"I just couldn't believe my ears. I mean, whoever heard of a ban on the
national dress?" an irate Kavita remembers. "I had attended a formal dinner
with a few of my colleagues and was, therefore, dressed in a sari. In no
other country would a person dressed in her national costume be denied entry
In a public place because of what she is wearing."

Those who run the disco evidently think otherwise. Savio Rodricks, manager
of 'Madness' disco at Khar where the two women were refused entry, attempted
to explain the method in this dress code madness: "Many of our patrons feel
uncomfortable sharing the dance floor with women in saris. They probably
don't believe in the adage 'when in India do as the Indians do'. We have
received many complaints on the issue. So we made the rule disallowing women
in salwar kurtas and saris."

"Besides," Mr Rodricks added with a flourish, "we're not the only disco which
has such rules. Similar dress codes are very common elsewhere. We simply
want to keep our patrons happy."

Indeed, 'Madness' is not the only disco with such illogical 'rules'. The
trendy J49 at juhu also closes its doors on 'traditionally' attired women.
The disco's public relations manager Gaurav Issar attempted to defend what he
said was 'management policy': "Indian clothes wouldn't fit into the western
ambience that prevails in discos." He was at pains to clarify that the
authorities did not mean to "insult the national costume" in any way. "A
woman herself wouldn't be very comfortable dancing in a sari," Mr Issar

Replying to a query on whether this constituted discrimination since it was
the woman's prerogative to decide what she should be wearing, Mr Issar said,
"Oh no, we don't want to discriminate at all. In fact, we even have men
coming in dressed as women. They are allowed in.

"We could always bend the rules," he later conceded. "It would depend on how
presentable the woman looks in a sari." And what if one wore a decidedly
'unpresentable' skirt? "oh, with skirts we have no problem. You'd still be
allowed in."

A random survey of city discotheques by this newspaper has revealed that the
discretion to allow or deny entry depends solely on the staff who either
issue tickets outside the discos or admit members. Sources said the
eligibility criteria depend largely on subjective parameters like what the
staff may find 'respectable' or 'presentable'. Depending on their mood, they
retain the option of 'bending' the rules.

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