A recent use of #Sindhicore on social media platforms like Instagram in reference to pictures of anyone who is excessively “blinged-out" or is a walking-talking billboard of luxury brands because of the designer logos they are flaunting, has truly irked me.
It’s not just because I belong to the Sindhi community. It’s simply not fair to stereotype any community in this age of inclusivity and diversity. Frankly, it’s tone deaf to narrow one community, be it Punjabis, Marwaris or Gujaratis, or any group of people, to a certain characteristic. It is inappropriate.
The anonymous Instagram account, Diet Sabya (every fashion-inclined person’s guilty pleasure), was among the first social media accounts to use #Sindhicore—most recently, as a caption on an image of actor Kiara Advani (she has Sindhi roots), who walked the ramp in an embellished bubblegum pink bralette and a thigh-high skirt for designers Shane and Falguni Peacock in Delhi. To me, it was more Barbiecore than “Sindhicore".
I have taken the use of “Sindhicore" rather personally. Some of the most impeccably dressed women I have known are Sindhi, and as a journalist, whenever I have approached them to be featured in a magazine for their style, they have always declined the opportunity. These women taught me how style is about whispering and not shouting.
Sindhis are born bon-vivants. “There are very few communities that have recovered from the trauma of Partition like the Sindhis (during Partition, while states like Bengal and Punjab were split, Sindh was in Pakistan, leaving countless community members homeless). And it just so happens that when people lose everything and have to migrate and then remake their wealth, they tend to want to show it off as a sign of their own progress," says designer Tarun Tahiliani, a Sindhi.
I remember my grandfather, who was in Karachi, telling me he always imported shoes, even in the 1930s because he liked to go ballroom dancing. My grandmother, who belonged to Hyderabad, told me that her family booked the whole “theatre hall" to watch a film. I’m not sure how true these stories are, but both were proud to talk about their “shaukeen" (loosely translating to living the good life) roots. They both had to cross borders, were married in Mumbai, and started their married life in a new country with no safety net—like many others—as their wealth, home and many of their friends had been left behind.
Historian-author Aanchal Malhotra, who’s the curator of the Museum of Material Memory, a digital repository of material culture of the Indian subcontinent, tracing family history through heirlooms, collectibles and objects of antiquity, says, “I had not heard the term (‘Sindhicore’) used before it was used for (actor) Ranveer Singh during the promotions for his new film (Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani)."
The Sindhi actor, Singh, is among the few people in the Indian film industry who experiment with fashion. Known for his flashy sense of dressing, he’s managed to change the rules of fashion by pushing the style envelope with a special dose of showiness.
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Since, for many, fashion is, unfortunately, only viewed through the lens of Bollywood, it’s worth noting that Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and Kareena Kapoor Khan, both regulars on most stylish lists with their elegant and practical sense of dressing, have a Sindhi heritage.
There is, however, no getting away from the fact that even before the term “Sindhicore" was coined, Sindhis were known for their glitz and grandeur.
For her book, In The Language Of Remembering: The Inheritance Of Partition, Malhotra had interviewed artist-educator Nina Sabnani. Malhotra recalls: “There were stereotypes attached to being Sindhi— flashy clothes, lots of jewellery. Sabhani had said, ‘After Partition, Sindhis migrated all over the world, which made us a people who adapted easily, who acclimatized to different places. We wore what everyone else wore, we spoke the languages of the cities we lived in."
Malhotra notes that Sindhis, with a long history of being traders, have been influenced by the trade routes across western Asia, using not just fabric but often trinkets and shells to embellish their garments. In a way, from Malhotra’s observations, Sindhis sound like the first proponents of contemporary Indian dressing. When you speak to designers who started their labels in the 1990s, they will say that not only were non-resident Sindhis their first clients but also their first muses.
The desire for bling is not just restricted to Sindhis, says designer Karan Torani, who belongs to the Sindhi community. “We are a country of celebration, festivities, and flamboyance. I sell clothes for a living... the number of Marwari, Punjabi, Gujarati and Muslim women asking me to add more sparkle to the threadwork lehngas I make for them is unfathomable. The concept of ‘more is more’ and ‘heavily adorned’ looks at weddings remains and always will, in India."
Perhaps what makes some Sindhis stand out is that they make no apologies for enjoying the good life, adds Torani. “They own their exuberance and don’t shy away from putting it out."
Now what can be more stylish than owning who you are. Our upbringing and conditioning, of course, do play a role in how we approach fashion but, at the end of the day, a person’s style is a personal choice. Let’s not put community labels on fashion.
Dress Sense is a monthly column on the clothes we wear every day.
Sujata Assomull is a journalist, author and mindful fashion advocate.
- FIRST PUBLISHED22.09.2023 | 01:41 PM IST