The saree conundrum at CWG: It's comfort over convention for quite a few
The tradition of saree will make way for the "comfort" of blazers and trousers for India's women athletes at this year's Commonwealth Games opening ceremony and quite a lot of them are happy with the departure from convention.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on February 20 decided to replace the saree with blazers and trousers as the ceremonial dress for female athletes, a move which the governing body claimed, was dictated by the feedback received.
While some like Olympic silver-medallist shuttler P V Sindhu, Olympic bronze-medallist wrestler Sakshi Malik and shuttler Jwala Gutta are against the decision to break away from tradition, quite a few are happy that comfort has won over the convention.
Among them is 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games air rifle gold-medallist, Apurvi Chandela, who feels blazer and trouser will come across as graceful as saree.
"I respect and honour the decision of the IOA. Like saree, even blazer and trouser would also look graceful. So we are happy about it and looking forward to the Games," the 25-year-old experienced shooter, who has been named in the Indian shooting team for the Games in Gold Coast in April, told PTI.
2016 Rio Olympian race walker Khushbir Kaur went to the extent of saying that the move is another step towards achieving gender equality.
"I feel the ceremonial dress for both men and women should be the same. Why should women wear differently? I welcome the move," said Khushbir, who is also bound for April 4-15 Gold Coast CWG.
"I wear blazer and trouser quite often. It is easy to wear during a march past. I don't know how to wear a saree and it is uncomfortable to drape it. I would love to wear a blazer," said the 24-year-old Punjab athlete who has taken part in one Olympics, one CWG and one Asian Games.
Asked about the traditional value of saree, she said, "but looking from the point of view of comfort, I would definitely love to wear a blazer than a saree."
Teen pistol sensation Manu Bhaker said: "I am more comfortable in blazer and trouser. I don't prefer wearing suit or salwar or saree. It's good for me and it will certainly look nice. I am excited to wear the new dress at the Games ceremonies."
Another promising rifle shooter, 17-year-old Mehuli Ghosh, is upbeat about wearing a blazer and trouser during the opening ceremony of the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Australia.
"I feel saree looks amazing, our athletes have always worn saree in the past as part of tradition and culture. But the world has changed now and things can be a little easy.
"Keeping that in mind, I think this move can be looked in a very positive manner. And personally speaking, I don't wear saree, and I think I will look pretty good in blazer, shirt and trouser," she said.
Mirabai Chanu, who recently became the first Indian weightlifter to win a gold in the World Championships, however, feels that saree has a distinctive traditional value and should have been retained.
"In multi-sporting events like the Olympics, or the Asian or the Commonwealth Games, most of the countries wear their distinctive traditional dresses and for me, I would have loved to wear a saree rather than a trouser," said the 48kg category lifter.
"I am not used to wearing a saree and I have not participated in any opening ceromony in 2016 Rio Olympics, 2014 Asian Games and Commonwealth Games as my event falls the next day each time. But I would prefer a saree than a blazer as saree is our traditional attire. I feel showcasing our tradition in these big international events is important," said the 23-year-old Manipuri lifter.
For legendary long jumper Anju Bobby George, her experience of wearing a saree in many multi-sporting events, including two Olympics, has been forgettable.
"During the 2004 Olympics, I was the captain of the Indian contingent and walking with the flag wearing a saree. It was a difficult task and at every step, I thought I would fall down. It was visible, my face was too stiff. I even forgot to wave my hands because of this tension," she said.
"It is all right if you want to showcase traditional dress but a lot of athletes are not used to these traditional dresses. The focus of athletes is something different. It is very difficult to take part in the march past with a saree," said the 2003 World Athletics Championships bronze-medallist.