Genuinely don’t know how many of you would peep into dictionaries and search in text books, to grasp the meaning of pheranisation. Many of you might feel, I am obsessed with polemical work of Yoginder Singh’s Modernization or Sriniva’s Sansktitisation.
Anyway, let’s get out of this war based on, thematization of sociological thought and perception. JNU as a vibrant institution is not only known for its intellectual environment, debates, activism or food culture but this awe-inspiring campus, provides place to confront with happenings that take place at national and international level.
In winters JNU not only looks a wonderful bride of thoughts, decorated with mist, thick and persistent layers of fog, prevalence of unbeatable chill but also a place to know the cultural contexts and lingual diversities. JNUities do come from different cultural, religious and ethnic back grounds. So winter is the right time to encounter with cultural differences. In winters, it is treat to watch how people from different parts of the world are dressed.
Native students not only get to know about the political and economic conditions of western countries from their foreign counter parts, but also, there is an exchange of discourse on cultural matrixes and technological advances as well. Looking at the routine of campus life, one can easily make out, that life tends to find a reason to live more than the copiousness. Thus winters are matter of breathtaking and gripping prettiness.
This winter is special not only in sense of ruthless cold but the way people try to battle the intensity of harsh and life taking freeze. Many laden with lots of warm cloth, others wearing fur jackets and bundled with gloves etc. But above all, one thing that was unavoidable for public gaze was how pheran is being preferred over other conventional ways of keeping yourself warm. Pheran like cloak, loose but long hanging down the knees.
Generally, made in wool, embroidered with floral motifs, to make it more charming and appealing. One side of this phenomenon could be that societies are opening up and concepts like multi-culturism or cultural intrusions are visible, as never before or mastery in art and craft of local community is being cherished.
Even markets of New Delhi are flooded with Pheran which simply speaks demand for this special kind of garment. One can find wide range both in color and design. Shoppers are deeply engrossed in purchasing winter stuff. only valid concern is that neither they are handmade nor they are made of original fabric or wool, insufferable for working and labor class both in terms of cost and reputation. More importantly, over the past few years pheran has attained popularity in other parts of india and more specifically in northern india where fashionable pheran is coming up as feminine apparel. Also the traditional pheran, at times meets comparison with snuggies , blanket with sleeves, designed in western world.
Pheran is not only a piece of cloth or layer of shield, to protect, but perhaps more than that.. In a culture like Kashmir, which is formally acknowledged as a birth place for this beautiful creativity, it is symbolized as an object of warmth, affection and care.
Elderly people do hide the small ones inside the wideness of Pherans which is both delightful and worth remembrance. Women pheran is not only colorful and sensibly embroidered but hemmed with a border, hanging down in awkward folds and perhaps, more expensive then the menswear. Youth also wear pheran along with white fleet shoes and brings ecstasy while stepping on un- walked masses of snows It is an apt weapon to defy the dangerous designs of chilia kalan (the sever phase of winter in Kashmir).
Pheran is spacious in a sense one can accommodate kangri( earthen pot filled with hot embers) inside it. Thus Pheran , in popular discourse is interchangeably used for kangri, in a sense both suffice each other.
So keep your fingers crossed and don’t get baffled, next time around u might see Delhities wearing Pheran and carrying a kangri within it to keep themselves warm. Wearing pheran means a subtle beauty of winter is promised, even if it is harsh and adverse in nature.
The article was written in 2011.
Basarat Hassan is pursuing Phd in JNU. His research area is anthropology of Dal lake and surroundings. Email: Basarathassan@gmail.com