31 December 2011

On Chaddi Shopping

Buying chaddis is quite the tour de force in layers of gender and class hegemonies. When you buy a chaddi, you’re not just buying a piece of supportive garment: you’re buying into a host of intricate, well nigh seamless hegemonies.

This is painfully apparent from even a cursory consideration of the sort of advertising chaddi manufactures usually bombard their hapless consumers with. Going by the models on chaddi boxes and billboards, one would think only persons sculpted in certain very limited and limiting ways are entitled to underclothes. I don’t see many people objecting to this extremely insensitive piece of very-in-your-face public discourse: it’s almost as if you have to exercise and be ‘in shape’ in that particularly fetishised way globalising urban aesthetics demand to be entitled to something as simple and commonplace as a chaddi.

But then, what is simple and commonplace? The air we breathe is commonplace enough, but not so simple that just a slight shift in its parameters cannot easily wipe humanity out of the commonplace. Chaddis are commonplace, everybody seems to have them, but I suppose a percentage survey will reveal that much of humanity still lacks access to them, leave alone good and useful types of them. Of course, what is good and useful when it comes to chaddis is also open to contestation: ay, the very idea that chaddis are good and useful too is open to debate, but assuming that they are, the probable proposition that much of our kind is forced to survival sans them combined with the fact that those who are are exposed to such propaganda as inculcates a sense of doubt and insufficiency regarding their suitability to them is enough for one to question not just the praxis of chaddi advertising, as this article is doing, but the very idea of chaddi itself.

It will be clear to all discerning individuals – if, i.e., there are any individuals – that the mores of chaddi marketing are woven deep into the fabric of global and globalising geopolitical considerations. Chaddis are extended parts of the state apparatus that subsumes rebellious figures into tight-fitting, straitjacketed outlines. A visit to a hosiery shop will establish as much: the panoptical vision of the establishment achieves an inverted power dialectics in which the customer is being looked upon, assessed by an unending elasticity of ideologies. For in this case, the gaze, in looking, is not as much as looking on as looking in, looking on to look in in a way that negates its selfhood – that more or less solid sense of being with which we usually perceive the world – for a naturalised, standardised vision generated much too forcibly by a pre-designed, top-heavy volition of being. In that remarkable sense, it is not my eyes which look: I look, but through the eyes of the chaddi manufacturer in quite the same way s/he wants me to look.

Of course, one does accomplish the task, one does pick and choose, but that still doesn’t negate the functionality of these defining forces. For the choices one makes are as often dictated by availability as by feasibility and in making the feasible available only the sadly happy illusion of consumerism is strengthened. Shopping for chaddis is a simple task of knowing and judging, but what the basis of that knowledge and the parameters of that judgment are are considerations too often overlooked in the strapping desire to fit in.

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