Priyanka meets PM: Can respect be measured in yards of clothes?

One of Maxim’s “Hottest Women of the World” and a successful actress, Priyanka Chopra was massively trolled on Twitter for ‘inappropriate dressing and sitting posture’ while meeting our PM, Narendra Modi in Berlin in a coincidental set-up where both happened to be in the city around the same time. While PM was on his official tour to Germany where he also met the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel; Chopra’s presence in Berlin was mainly to promote her movie, Baywatch, ahead of its India release, and attend its screening.

However, all Twitteratis could focus on was not their meeting or their talks but her printed summer dress, her bare legs and the way she sat in front of the PM. The fact that Chopra asked for an appointment with PM Modi made her receive even more flak as she had the time and opportunity to decide her outfit and styling.

While some tweets shamed her by saying “she should have covered her legs as she was meeting the PM of the country”, there were others that offered her the advice of how she should have dressed in a traditional Indian attire like a salwaar kameez or a sari, especially because Modi was wearing a bandhgala. Her attire and sitting posture was constantly compared to his.

One tweet even compared her dress to the trench coat dress she wore in the Met Gala, making it look like the length of the dress shows how much you respect the person you are with while wearing it.

There have also been some who wrote lengths on why she should respect formal dress codes and should have dressed more appropriately according to the occasion and the designation of the person she was meeting, some even saying that “PM Modi is higher in authority than her, both age-wise and in his designation.”

But this is not the first time Indian women have been asked to cover up. From the time they set their foot in school and their uniform changes from skirts to salwar kameez to their college days when they are leered, irrespective of what they wear, to some universities and workplaces coming up with dress codes for women, that mostly restricts their clothing to something that ‘covers them up’ and apparently does not “offend or distract anyone.”

While Chopra herself stated in an interview with AFP last year, “for so many years, women were told to act a certain way, to dress a certain way, to think a certain way, even not to think at all,” she has now become the latest target for those self-proclaimed ‘well-mannered’, ‘well-behaved’ Indians who love offering advices at the slightest pretext, telling her “to dress and act a certain way”.

What I fail to understand in this entire episode and such like incidents is how a few yards of fabric offer ‘respect’ or the lack of it shows disrespect? Isn’t respect a thing to command and is best expressed in the way we treat another person, our talks, gestures, tonality and actions?

Even as PM Modi’s international visits brings our country closer to different views, cultures and ways of living, we are stuck in the old school thought of measuring respect with sitting postures and length of attires. What is even sadder is the fact that had it been Shahrukh Khan or any other Indian male actor whom PM Modi would have met abroad, people’s rulebook and their bunch of advices would not have been this harsh or strict. They would have rather focused more on their talks and the fact that two Indians met abroad in an unlikely but pleasant coincidence. Moral policing mostly is meant for women as far as India is concerned.

Wearing a dress, however, does not imply that a girl has adopted American ways and has lost her Indian touch or “forgotten her roots”, as claimed in the trolls. It only means she dresses the way she likes and believes in comfort and style when choosing her outfit.

It is ironical how most women prefer to wear shirts and trousers (a western outfit) to interviews in India, however, many of them decided to troll Chopra on why she was not wearing anything Indian while meeting the Indian PM even though she was not in India.

While we tend to give a little more importance than necessary to the unwritten dress codes and have guidelines for them depending on the occasion, they have also come into picture to bring a certain sense of comfort and confidence and to exude one’s impressionable personality through the choicest of clothes. But, there too the choice is yours as to what imprints of your meet-up you want to leave on the other person’s mind. Nowhere does the idea of showing respect to your interviewer or your date or your friends while dressing for a party comes into picture. Then how have respect’ and ‘manners’ come to be the only topic of contention for those trolling the meeting between a top actress and a political leader, especially by talking about the actress’ outfit and posture?

Speaking of posture, it is by and large the body language that subtly expresses your interest or disinterest in someone’s company. Chopra’s ‘cross-legged’ posture does not show her disinterest (had she shown a bit of disinterest, it could have been ideally construed as disrespect) in meeting or being in the company of our PM.

Besides, trolls have conveniently assumed it to be a formal meeting since the PM is involved, however, coming to think of it, did it even occur to the ones trolling that it could well have been a casual meeting since both of them happened to be at the same place, same time?






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