I grew up watching my dad wear this funny garment that looked like a skirt. He’d twist and turn two ends, tie some kind of a knot and tuck it inside. I used to find it so weird. It all made sense when I was six years old and I found out why exactly my dad wears a ‘skirt’. I put it on the way he did and realised that this is the single most comfortable garment in the planet! Of course, after that I used his lungis for other purposes such as wearing it as a sash and pretending to walk on stage as Miss World, proving that lungis have more than just one use!
There are many things that come to mind when you think about Bangladesh- hilsa fish, water lilies, ek paecher shari, birds, green grass, aloo bhorta and so much more. But nothing brings the sense of home as much as the sight of a man in a lungi does!
Farmers, fishermen, rickshaw pullers, or even my good old dad- lungis have held a different kind of significance as a garment for men all around Bangladesh, and even Bangladeshi men abroad. Lungi defines a Bangladeshi man as good as anything else.
However, the trend of lungis was dying out. The newer generation was more about boxers or comfortable shorts at home. Recently, an awkward situation took place in the awkward city of Bangladesh. Lungis were suddenly banned in Baridhara Residential Area because while rickshaw pullers would fiddle around with the garment to fix it, it would end up offending some passers-by who would get a sneak preview of ‘that which must not be seen.’ Of course, in any other country, that would make sense. But come on, ban the lungi? In Bangladesh? Really?
This particular incident woke this generation up. Imagining these rickshaw pullers having to spend a big amount from the little amount that they earn, buying trousers, because they are not allowed to wear our traditional garment was something the youth could not bear and they rose to the occasion and made sure this madness was stopped. Boys and girls of all ages and from all walks of life joined hands, put on their lungis and fought for the right to wear the most comfortable piece of clothing in the world. Of course, along with the lungi march, came a lot of other hurdles like conflict with the police force and more, but even before the march, the voices were heard and the ban was lifted.
Soon after the march, the lungi became the ‘in’ thing after years of being suppressed to an audience consisting of babas, nanas and dadas. Pahela Baishakh was celebrated a little differently this year by people not just in the country but all around the world. A brilliant day to make its come back, the lungi was worn by boys in the country and abroad, proudly showing their identities and nationality off.
You can’t imagine a fisherman on his boat, singing the tunes of Lalon wearing trousers, you can’t imagine farmers, picking up fresh vegetable amidst the greenery wearing trousers, you can’t imagine rickshaw pullers all across the city humming the latest hindi item song in sewed trousers and I can’t imagine my dad walking around the house screaming cricket commentary in shorts or trousers either. So let’s not imagine any of that and let the people know- when in Bangladesh, wear as the Bangladeshis wear.