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Ready-Made or Reddy-Made

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
January 2015
Ready-Made or Reddy-Made

SATYALOGUE
with PostModern Gandhiji (PMG)

An advice column offering the Mahatma’s perspective on modern dilemmas

 

Dear PMG,

This is more of an economics question rather than one of ethics.

My father, who is frugal about most things, insists on having his kurta-pyjama made by the same tailor, a Mr. S. Reddy, on our biannual visits to Hyderabad. Years back, this made sense because Reddy Tailors was far less expensive than going to a shop and purchasing ready-made clothes. But nowadays, the equation has flipped, and Mr. Reddy is a luxury.

Still, my father insists on supporting his “old friend.”

I know Gandhiji believed in khadi cloth, but did he also have any pronouncements on custom tailoring?


Dear Friend,

“The object that we set before ourselves was to be able to clothe ourselves entirely in cloth manufactured by our own hands. We therefore forthwith discarded the use of mill-woven cloth, and all the members of the Ashram resolved to wear hand-woven cloth made from Indian yarn only. The adoption of this practice brought us a world of experience. It enabled us to know, from direct contact, the conditions of life among the weavers.” (M. K. Gandhi)

Gandhiji’s autobiography has an excellent series of chapters on this topic, beginning with one titled “The Birth of Khadi.” While few have the time or inclination to read every word penned by M. K. Gandhi, these chapters are must reading to get at the gist of your question, to get at the understanding that there is nothing more ethical than a sustainable economy, and nothing more economical than sustained ethics.

Khadi—cloth hand-woven on spinning wheels—was, during India’s journey to Independence, a symbol of two intertwined concepts: swadeshi (made in India) and swaraj (self-rule). In today’s pro-globalization, post-colonial era, it would seem that the Ashoka Chakra (dharmic edict) that is at the center of the Indian flag has trumped the Gandhian Charkha (spinning wheel) that was on the pre-Independence versions of the flag. But in truth there is mutuality between the Chakra and the Charkha, just as there is between ready-made and Reddy-made clothing.

If India (or any other country) is to be a part of the global economy, it must take heed of what philosopher and statesman Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan wrote about the Ashoka Chakra: “The wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change, it must move and go forward.” Hence, the universal argument for modernity, industrialization, and … ready-made clothes.

At the same time, if Indian civilization (or any other culture) is to retain a sense of its identity, it must actively support the work of artisans and not relegate them to dusty museums of the past. Hence, the local argument for tradition, craftsmanship, and … Reddy-made clothes.

The key phrase in the Gandhian quote above is “direct contact.” One must balance contact with the outer world while remaining in touch with the inner world.

[Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at raj.oza@sbcglobal.net.]

 


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