City Style – The Turban Sartorialist, Gurgaon
Easy lies the head.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Sometimes, certain sartorial codes are so deeply rooted in the protocols of a person’s daily life that it is unimaginable for that individual to negotiate compromises with them.
Farmer Maya Ram, for instance, never ever goes around the world bareheaded.
“It is unthinkable for me to emerge out of my home nanga sar (head uncovered),” he declares. Sitting in a Gurgaon bus shelter waiting for a connection to his nearby village, Mr Ram asserts he always has something or the other covering his head. “Usually I wear a turban, but it has started to get warmer. And so, this morning, I tied a tauliya (towel).”
In his 70s now, Mr Ram had started wearing the headdress as soon as he finished school. The elderly gentleman is left with dim memories of his former days when he would appear publicly without the turban. “Like the other boys of my age, we would play nange paav (barefoot) and nange sar (bareheaded).”
Remembering his childhood, he shakes his head in disapproval, as if those turban-less days were tainted with a sort of scandalous “nangapan” (nudity).
“I inherited this tradition from my father who inherited it from his father…”
Clothed in a graceful dhoti and kurta, Mr Ram, however, is no turban extremist. He accepts the fact that his sons have done away with this headgear. “They can’t wear it because of their jobs… one is a driver in a company, the other is a fauji (army man).” Nevertheless, he himself is aware of the grace that a turban can give to a man’s persona. The farmer vividly recalls a long-ago trip to Qutub Minar in Delhi “where a group of angrez (foreign tourists) were so impressed by my pagdi that they all clicked me with their cameras!”
Some moments later, Mr Ram suddenly takes off the towel, revealing his close-cropped grey hair. Knowing his notions about the headdress, it is profoundly unsettling to see him in this state. Next instant, he puts on a wooly cap. The normalcy is immediately restored.
His head-dress tradition