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Thursday, 5 August, 2010

The Legendary Lungi

The Legendary Lungi

Never knew that there is so much to learn about what I thought was a simble Lungi!

Guess that I haven't interacted closely enough with enough Mallus!


The Legendary Lungi

Just as the national bird of Kerala is Mosquito, her national dress is
'Lungi'. Pronounced as 'Lu' as in loo and 'ngi ' as in 'mongey', a lungi can
be identified by its floral or window-curtain pattern. 'Mundu' is the
white variation of lungi and is worn on special occasions like hartal or
bandh days, weddings and Onam.

Lungi is simple and 'down to earth' like the mallu wearing it. Lungi is the
beginning and the end of evolution in its category. Wearing something on the
top half of your body is optional when you are wearing a lungi. Lungi is a
strategic dress. It's like a one-size-fits- all bottoms for Keralites.

The technique of wearing a lungi/mundu is passed on from generation to
generation through word of mouth like the British Constitution. If you
think it is an easy task wearing it, just try it once! It requires
techniques like breath control and yoga that is a notch higher than
sudarshan kriya of AOL. A lungi/mundu when perfectly worn won't come off
even in a quake of 8 on the richter scale. A lungi is not attached to the
waist using duct tape, staple, rope or velcro. It's a bit of mallu magic
whose formula is a closely guarded secret like the Coca Cola chemicals.

A lungi can be worn 'Full Mast' or 'Half Mast' like a national flag. A
'Full Mast' lungi is when you are showing respect to an elderly or the dead.
Wearing it at full mast has lots of disadvantages. A major disadvantage is
when a dog runs after you. When you are wearing a
lungi/mundu at full mast, the advantage is mainly for the female onlookers
who are spared the ordeal of swooning at the sight of hairy legs.

Wearing a lungi 'Half Mast' is when you wear it exposing yourself like
those C grade movie starlets. A mallu can play cricket, football or simbly
run when the lungi is worn at half mast. A mallu can even climb a coconut
tree wearing lungi in half mast. "It's not good manners, especially for
ladies from decent families, to look up at a mallu climbing a coconut
tree"- Confucius (or is it Abdul Kalam?)

Most mallus do the traditional dance kudiyattam. Kudi means drinking
alcohol and yattam, spelled as aattam, means random movement of the male
body. Note that 'y' is silent. When you are drinking, you drink, there is
no 'y'. Any alcohol related "festival" can be enjoyed to the maximum when
you are topless with lungi and a towel tied around the head. "Half mast
lungi makes it easy to dance and shake legs" says Candelaria Amaranto, a
Salsa teacher from Spain after watching 'kudiyaattam' .

The 'Lungi Wearing Mallu Union' [LUWMU, pronounced LOVE MU], an NGO which
works towards the 'upliftment' of the lungi, strongly disapprove of the
GenNext tendency of wearing Bermudas under the lungi. Bermudas under the
lungi is a conspiracy by the CIA. It's a disgrace to see a person wearing
burmuda with corporate logos under his lungi. What they don't know is how
much these corporates are limiting their freedom of movement and

A mallu wears lungi round the year, all weather, all season. A mallu
celebrates winter by wearing a colourful lungi with a floral pattern.

A lungi/mundu can be worn any time of the day/night. It doubles as blanket
at night. It also doubles up as a swing, swimwear, sleeping bag, parachute,
facemask while entering/exiting toddy shops, shopping basket and water
filter while fishing in ponds and rivers. It also has recreational uses
like in 'Lungi/mundu pulling', a pastime in households having more than one
male member. Lungi pulling competitions are held outside toddy shops all
over Kerala during Onam and Vishu. When these lungis are decommissioned
from service, they become table cloths. Thus the humble lungi is a 'cradle
to grave' appendage.