Vandana Shiva has worn jeans exactly once

The shortcomings of the West and its clothes, Indian feminism, the virtues of traditional agriculture, a repentant nuclear physicist explains what she means by “right” development.

The words of Vandana Shiva, an Indian woman and a repentant nuclear physicist, feminist activist and ecologist: “It was my mother who gave me my first lesson in economics”, she reminisces. “I was about to turn six and she asked me what I wanted for my birthday. This was in the late 1950s, my girlfriends wanted nylon dresses and I copied them. “My mother thought it over and then said, ‘If you want a nylon dress you’ll have it, but know that the evening you get it, a business man will get his next Mercedes. Whereas choosing a dress woven by hand on the khadi – the traditional loom preferred by Gandhi – would provide the next meal in the house of a poor woman’. I was given a traditional dress and learned a valuable lesson from Mahatma’s teachings. Because every one of us chooses how the world progresses, from a very young age”. This woman, who now prefers to wear brightly coloured saris, has turned her traditionalism into a rallying cry: “The only time I had to wear jeans was when I arrived in Canada, on the day I was enrolling at university. I’d travelled on the cheapest airline and my luggage got lost. I was forced to quickly buy a pair of jeans to have something to wear.

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