Disclaimer: The author of this is a certified Mallu® (pet name for residents of Kerala, God’s Own Country). Any retortions made against this article will be retorted back with coconuts.
Origami is a Chinese hobby of folding a square piece of paper in various steps to create different forms like animals or certain abstract art when you go wrong somewhere. Basically its one of the most tedious and least rewarding hobby you can find. You take a square piece of paper, fold it again and again, and you will get a shape and you will in all probability have to label it as a crane or a duck. Trust me, the crane can also be labeled as an Eagle or the very latest of American fighter crafts and we still would say ‘Oh yes… it does resemble a crane (or eagle or jet)’. After all how many of us would want to actually put up paper art in our shelf or mantles.
Origami though has found a remarkable patronage down south of India. The same principles of origami is used in Kerala (and other parts of South India), for one of the most versatile piece of clothing called Lungi.
The differences between Lungi and Origami are manifold. One of the immediate difference you can see is in the material; when Origami uses paper of predominantly a single color, lungi is made of clothes like silk and cotton which has colors that the regular graphics adapter in our Computers wouldn’t be able to display. (refer picture)
Another interesting fact about the lungi is its basic simplicity. It is a rectangular piece of cloth with no buttons, zips or stitches. Thus lungi brings out the artist in the wearer and the look that you get with a lungi is primarily the craftsmanship of the wearer and not an expensive tailor. Folklore has it that Gucci and Versace tried desperately to ape the lungi, but the Mallu® clan never gave away the secrets of the perfect lungi drape.
The lungi, unlike other clothes can be manipulated (or folded) to different forms to suit a marriage function or a street fight. Yes, the same lungi when folded in different ways brings out respect as well as fear. It can be substituted for a well stitched formal trouser as well as a very relaxed boxer shorts for you to laze around.
Kerala is an amazingly hot and humid place. Necessity always being the desperate mother of invention, thus forced the Mallu®s to find style and solace in a lungi. The basic ventilated system that a lungi provides is ideal for the climatic conditions found in Kerala. Though people from cold climates be warned, wearing a lungi in cold places will be like skiing downhill in your boxers. Nike’s AIR range of footwears uses a rather shoddy copy of the lungis ventilation. That alone should be proof for the superiority the lungi enjoys in comparison with other lesser garments.
The lungi is wrapped around your waist, with a little more taste than when you do the same with your bath towel, in its most basic form. Lift one of the bottom edges of the lungi up to your knees and the lungi magically becomes relaxed formals. This brand of lungi wearing can mostly be found in marriage functions when the lungi wearer adapts to the crowd that surrounds you for better maneuverability.
Lift the lungi from behind just pulling the cloth bit above your knees and the lungi becomes the perfect dress when you have to ride your bike. The way the ends of the lungi flap when you ride away to glory is bound to enthrall the senses of all the fairer sex who maybe watching you in admiration. The different folds of the lungi also ensure in this case that the lungi sticks to you without revealing too much. Ace circus artistes of Cirque du Soleil tried the bike riding stunt by wearing lungi and failed miserably.
The most relaxed and commonly found form of lungi is the boxer shorts lungi. In this form, you wear the lungi in its basic form, and then lift its bottom edge upwards and tie a knot with the two corners somewhere around your waist. This will basically halve the length of the lungi, and the lungi itself will take a rather puffed form around your thighs. This is best when you are lazing around in the comfort of your home. (refer picture, also note the Martian colors of the lungi)
The manifold (many ‘folds’) uses of lungi cannot be summarized in a small article. In fact there exists a Kuttan Ikka Encylopedia (available only in lungiback editions) dedicated to the history of lungi, art forms evolved from lungi and a discussion which actually states that origami is an inferior adaptation of lungi draping because the Chinese of that time haven’t discovered silk yet.
Lungi is thus an oft ignored and criticized art form which doesn’t have many takers outside of Mallu® land. Lungi bonds with the wearer more than regular dresses where the dress becomes more important than the person. All lungis might look the same, but then again, the artistry of the wearer makes it the classy or relaxed wear it becomes.