made me realize that soaking dress in sweat alone should suffice, why either of the hapless inner wears face the same ordeal. It occurred to me later that I was being water wise, letting one apparel less into the washing machine. Sharing my newfound wisdom with friends revealed that there were handful of others who were unknowingly been water wise for quite a while. Why didn’t they share such an eco-friendly practice with others? Not worth publicity, they argue, yeh andar ki baat hai! Being optimistic about transforming our water future, I sat down to estimate its cumulative impact should a sizeable population were to join ‘shun the inner wear movement’. I was warned against making suggestions on how must people treat themselves in their privacy. There are numerous other ways of being water wise, should people care to make a difference! Why would men take it serious when women haven’t been kind to the burn-the-bra movement of the 1960s? But I suspect men are differently wired!
In the comfort of my predilection, should I care what others may say about me being one apparel short on my daily wear? Come to think of it, how will anyone ever get to know this, and why should it matter to anyone at the end? In a country that has more have-nots than haves, life is surely more about getting two square meals a day than bother about those two pieces of inner wear which are anything but a reflection on peoples’ discretionary spending.
I thought I had rested my case, little realizing that my inner wear preference has far reaching implications beyond the confines of my wardrobe. I might have shun a piece of inner wear out of choice but there are large numbers of fellow countrymen who are doing so out of compulsion, for not being able to spend on it. So what? The fact of the matter is that their inability to buy inner wears has pushed currently estimated Rs 27,931 crore Indian inner wear market on a downward spiral, casting a dark shadow on the overall state of the economy.
How a slowdown of briefs can put brakes to an economy? All I have learnt is that back in 1970 US Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan had conceived the so-called ‘men’s underwear index’, its upswing reflected economic growth whereas a decline in the sale of men’s inner wear proved the opposite. The Greenspan’s logic seems simple. If men hold back from making new purchases on essential items like inner wear, the disposable incomes must have shrunk significantly.
That indeed has been the case as the sale of top inner wear brands has declined drastically, with a brief warning announced on falling stock prices. Shrinking disposable incomes as an aftermath of demonetization and economic slowdown is glaring. The men’s inner wear market that is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 10 per cent over next decade is now in doldrums. What seemed andar ki baat is now out in the open!
With all this, should I not reconsider my decision to hold the economy from sliding any further? At one level, I feel proud to be making a personal contribution to the national economy but at another level I wonder why the onus of reviving the economy rest on what I may or may not wear. Wonder, why was Greenspan gender-biased in developing such a curious index? Surely, there is some andar ki baat that needs men’s serious attention!
(Sudhirendar Sharma is a writer on development issues based in New Delhi, India)