Years ago, a tourist guide and I happened to accompany a British Member of Parliament (who was a visitor to Madras) to show around our temples. When we introduced ourselves he glanced at our hands to see whether we wore rings on our fingers. Noticing we wore more than one on both hands, he looked quite puzzled. Probably not able to contain his curiosity, he wanted to know whether we were married! Subsequently, we explained to him that married women wore a thali and toe rings which were symbols of marriage among Hindu women.
As we were travelling along he appeared excited at everything he saw through the window, right from the way our women dressed in a sari carried themselves and were going about their work with a smile ! What impressed him most was the sight of people sitting on the pavement engrossed in reading the morning newspaper and generally looking very happy and contended.
Suddenly turning to us, he said, why do you say there is poverty and illiteracy in your country, people seem to be so happy here and aware of things happening around unlike in our country where they wear not a smile but all their troubles on their faces.
Recently, I met a mediaperson from France who made a similar observation, adding why our women cannot stick to the Indian way of dressing which she found very graceful and elegant. Why do you have to imitate us? She asked.
N Meera Raghavendra Rao