Minister’s fuss over ceremonial gown

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By Shyam Sundar B. Via e-mail

I read with interest on the Internet the news that Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh, who took off his ceremonial gown during the convocation at the Indian Institute of Forest Management saying it was a colonial relic.
The objective behind donning gowns at university convocations is to add dignity, solemnity, and sanctity to the august occasion. The word “convocation,” a Latin word which means “calling together,” refers to a group of people assembled for a special purpose.
Without a special dress and paraphernalia, the very purpose will be lost and it would look like any other ordinary function.
The Minister’s suggestion that the ceremonial gown is medieval is unwarranted. A convocation is a proud and solemn occasion in the academic life of a student. There is nothing wrong if it is conducted in a ceremonial style.
If we have to discard everything that is “colonial,”  what about the English language, parliamentary democracy,    the postal system, the railways and heritage structures like the Bombay Victoria Terminus (CST), the Kalka-Shimla railway line, etc.
Should we stop using trains, automobiles, modern science, postal service, English, computers, cinema, cake, bread, spoon, fork, knife, dining table, democracy, ice cream, tailored clothes, radio, television and toilets?
If a piece of attire or anything else is inconvenient, throw it out. But why make a fuss about doing away with colonial relics, unless we are willing to live in ashrams on goat’s milk and peanuts?
Convocation is a much-cherished occasion in everyone’s life. Why should students wear simple, casual dresses? Convocations are held only for a couple of hours in a reasonably cool and comfortable place.
It was improper on the part of the Minister to describe the ceremonial gown worn at convocations as medieval.

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