Published: 13th April 2019
Why not teachers wear capes in schools? The debate is if they are getting the respect they deserve or not
This topic was explained in a news item, titled "Stop when 'Your Lordships'" pass, says Allahabad HC Registry’s order to officials — widely published in the media on April 5, 2019
“I like me better naked. I don't mean that in a vain way... When you put clothes on, you immediately put a character on. Clothes are adjectives, they are indicators. When you don't have any clothes on, it's just you, raw, and you can't hide”.- Padma Lakshmi (b1970). Padma Parvati Lakshmi Vaidynathan, known professionally as Padma Lakshmi, is an American author, actress, model, television host, and executive producer. She was married to Salman Rusdie (2004-2007).
I am using this quotation for its shock value before I recommend capes to be worn by teachers while on school premises. For the uninitiated, a cape is a sleeveless outer garment, which drapes the wearer's back, arms and chest, and fastens at the neck. In full evening dress, ladies frequently use the cape as a fashion statement, or to protect the wearer or the fine fabrics of their evening-wear from the elements, especially where a coat would crush—or hide—the garment. These capes may be short (over the shoulders or to the waist) or a full-length cloak. Readers with nodding recognition of politicians would recall that the late Jayalalithaa always wore a cape over her saree.
What provoked me to choose this topic is a news item, titled “Stop when ‘Your Lordships’ pass, says Allahabad HC Registry’s order to officials” - widely published in the media on April 5, 2019, and excerpted here.
Officials should stop and pay their "highest respect" to the judges whenever they see "Their Lordships" passing galleries of the Allahabad High Court, according to an order issued by the court's Registrar General. "Any deviation in this regard shall be viewed seriously," the office order said on April 3, 2019. "It has often been noticed that while Hon'ble Judges pass through the galleries for sitting in Court and also retiring to Their Lordship's Chambers, the officials/officers passing in the way do no stop to wait for the Hon'ble Judges to cross them, which is clearly an act of disrespect," it said. "It is, therefore, directed that the officers/officials while passing through the galleries meant for the movement of the Hon'ble Judges shall stop whenever they see that the Hon'ble Judges are passing through the galleries and pay the highest respect to Their Lordships," the order said.
Reacting to the directive, Rakesh Pandey, president of the Allahabad High Court Bar Association, said, "It is not only about judges. Courtesy, respect and discipline are the foundations of every civil society.... Every person should be given respect... It is not right if somebody feels that he is not being given due respect, whether it is the advocates, judges or officials of the registry. Everyone should be respected and should behave in a disciplined manner." (Going through the quote, discerning readers will note that the advocates are also angling for the respect being sought for the judges!).
Now let us shift the scene to the school/college campuses where scores of teachers and hundreds of students crowd the corridors. The teachers make their own way through the throngs of students. In higher classes, especially colleges, the distinction between the teachers and taught is not always obvious in the way they dress.
This is where the cape comes in. In churches when lay people have to go to the sanctuary to do Bible reading, solo singing, etc, all such devotees, male or female, have to wear capes, with the same colour and size. I think our teachers deserve the same respect on the campuses as the judiciary is asking for on court premises.
Such capes should be unisex and compulsorily worn by teachers on the campus. And the culture of respecting the cape wearers will get stabilised over time. They could be the common property of the school and, being an over-the-clothes garment, would not need frequent washing and such washing could be done on the campus itself. It should have unisex colour avoiding, for instance, pink, indigo and saffron.
Finally, according to Random House Webster Unabridged Dictionary, the capa (cape) of a bullfighting matador is meant to induce and guide the charge of the bull. In these days of campus violence, internal and external, the cape of the teachers can be turned into a weapon of defence or offence instantly. Caning is banned. They will take some time to make out a case for banning capes as a weapon. So, the cape should not be of flimsy material.