Baba Ramdev likes jeans – put that on a t-shirt and match with a pair of blue denims.The godman and businessman is all set to launch the apparel brand Paridhaan, which will include jeans and office wear. Going where no yoga guru has gone before, Ramdev is being trolled for his latest moneyspinning venture.
Ramdev approves of the garment even though many Indians have mixed views on its place in Indian culture. Are jeans the ultimate fashion statement and the symbol of modernity, as some filmmakers and singers believe?
In the Assamese song Jeans Pant, Anaya Brahma croons about how she wears jeans, rides a bike, wears mascara and (lo and behold) sings. A translation of the lyrics indicates the link between jeans and individual progress for Brahma: “In spite of the everyday struggle and my busy life, I dare to dream beautiful possibilities. Though I am a modern Assamese of the 21st century, I get ready for my everyday business wearing my tradition with pride.”
Jeans are more typically seen as a pernicious symbol of West-inspired depravity. Women in fitting jeans are assumed to have loose morals – an attitude that echoes across college campuses, towns and villages and finds singers and song writers in agreement. Girik Aman’s Saree Wali Girl video, starring Sunny Leone, has the singer stating his preference for women wrapped in six yards of modesty: “Mainu ni pasand yahi jean waliyan” (I do not like those girls who wear jeans.)
When worn by women, jeans can spark off vivid sexual fantasies, evident in such tracks as Radhe Shyam Rasiya’s Jeans Pant Khola Na. In the song Jeance Dhila Kara, Bhojpuri singer Ajit Anand asks the women to ”loosen her jeans to dance with him”. There is a version of the same song by Guddu Rangila, the Bhojpuri child prodigy who started singing when he was 11 years old.
Pity the men, for they can never read the minds of Indian women. In the hit song Chikku Bukku Raiyle from the Tamil film Gentleman (1993), lyricist Vaali complains that “If we come in jeans, you look for baggy pants. If we come in baggy pants, you look for the lungi-wearing types.”
They are probably not immoral in themselves, but jeans are certainly expensive, as Punjabi singer Ranjit Bawa points out. In Jean, which is not the name of a woman, Bawa eloquently argues that an entire family can be clothed with the money it takes to buy a single pair. His plea is aimed at a woman who smiles coyly in response and sashays down a muddy road.
One of the most popular jeans songs is neither offensive nor defensive. Pakistani singer Ali Haider’s Poorani Jeans celebrates a well-worn pair of trousers and the joy of old memories. The song is designed to take listeners back to their college campuses, where they can get misty-eyed about a time before dress code circulars, the moral police, and godmen who manufactured powders, potions and jeans.