You could never imagine a Tamil Nadu politician without a ‘veshti’ on his hips. The traditional veshti is such an integral part of the political culture here that there is every chance of someone getting dismissed as fake, if he calls himself a party member without the white cloth wrapped around the waist.
Apart from the status symbol that the veshti is made out to be, a politician would tell you that the simple attire also has other utilities.
The act of pulling the other man’s veshti (alternatively called vaeti), what in Tamil is termed ‘Veti Uruvarudhu’, is an indispensable strategy deployed when men of different political hues come to blows on the streets. Once the veshti is pulled off, the shaming is considered authentic.
However, the veshti to be a status symbol has one important requisite. It has to be as white as milk, without even the tiniest of stains. If your veshti is not as white as it should be, you are considered a political nobody.
Ask any politician roaming around in different party offices in the city, you would understand how costly a battle it is to keep the veshti white.
V Shanmugasundaram is someone who frequents Satyamurthi Bhavan, the Congress headquarters. He says he is a bruised soldier of the battle to keep the veshti crisp and clean.
The man provides a glimpse of the travails that veshti users face. As he is a Congressman, he prefers wearing the khadi. Probably the only reminder that the Mahatma was once part of this outfit.
While many consider veshti to be low maintenance, Shanmugasundaram says for washing the veshti at the laundry he spends a whopping `60!
“The cost of the cloth itself is just about `250. On an average, it is dry cleaned five times a month, which works out to `300 a month. Just think about my plight” he says.
Following his shocking revelation, City Express set out to check if the price he quoted for cleaning the cloth was true. And it turned out to be on the dot.
An inquiry with Metro Dry Cleaners, a famous laundry shop in Mylapore, revealed that ordinary wash, which now involves use of certain chemicals and bleaches along with the starch for the crispness, costs `60 per wash. Dry cleaning of ordinary cotton Veshtis is charged `30, but here too, the khadi is charged double as it requires a “double cleaning.”
Santhakumar from Villivakkam, whom this reporter met at the DMK headquarters, says politicians in Tamil Nadu, especially in the middle and lower rungs of the party hierarchy, fear the election season like none other. And veshti is one of the biggest reasons.
“During the campaign, we politicians speak at least on two platforms a day. One in the morning and one in the evening. Every time we climb the stage, we wear a fresh veshti as we cannot look dirty in front of the voters,” he claims.
With a quick calculation, he says he spends about `2,000 a month for washing a veshti. In election time, it could spike. Another DMK member points out that MLAs have very little expenditure on this front as they usually send it to the laundry at the State guest houses. Party heads on the other hand get hundreds of veshtis as gifts every day.
“So it is mid-level politicians like us who spend a fortune because of the veshti culture that prevails. This is one of the reasons why many are moving to the easier option of pant,” he says.
Also read: Do Chennai Girls Like Men in Veshti?