Notting Hill Riots

Teddyism in South Asia!

O’ Teddy, my  cruel and heartless lover, she sang!

Well before Britain started growing and exporting chilies to India and Pakistan, it cried victory over Teddyism, the youth sub-culture of the 1950s, enthusiastically lapped up by Pakistanis. Its remnants, buried deep in Britain, still flourish in Pakistan.

In the early sixties, boys strutted with their feet in pointies, legs in narrow bottomed, tight trousers, chests in tight shirts and Brylcreamed duck-tail hairstyles — after all, Teddyism and Preslyism overlapped in time. The smell of Old Spice and King’s Men after shave made the girls hide their smiles.;

Dolly liked it, though she hid her smile as best as she could.

After all, actually being caught smiling was considered ‘forward’ or too ‘modern’ for a Pakistani girl.

Yet, although South Asian women never directly adopted Western styles of clothing, girls themselves were not immune to the influence of this style on their traditional couture.

The indirect influence was clearly visible in the Ladies’ Teddy Suit of form-fitting pajama bottoms under mini-kameezes or kurtas inspired by Mary Quant’s mini and micro skirts while diligent back-combing was de rigeur.

We are, of course, referring to the hello jee western-educated urban middle classes.

This look was exemplified by the Pakistan International Airlines flight attendants’ new uniform designed by Monsieur Pierre Cardin in 1966, respectfully called Pir Khair Deen by many.

Anyway, the dopatta long scarf over a teddy suit was draped in different styles reflecting the wearer’s degree of emancipation. Some girls discarded it entirely, shocking people out of their business. But that wasn’t the only outrage about the teddy fashion.

Since their birth, the parental generation had been used to seeing white and brown Englishmen both wearing shape-hiding shorts and trousers that flapped around the legs. They were suddenly confronted with this shape-showing fashion, and in fact were most worried about the possible consequences on their growing children’s feet stuffed into narrow pointed shoes.

But all to no avail.

Teddyism took hold, spurred by Nazir Begum’s song Teddy Balam, hai zalam in the 1963 film Chooriyan, the first Pakistani Adults Only film.  Tufail Farooqi’s lilting composition and Nasira’s gyrations gave the lie to Kipling’s “East is East and West is West and ne’er the twain shall meet.” East and West met with a box office bang in this song:


Mein rang rangeely teddy

Mérà piyar vee har dum ready.

I’m a multi-colored teddy

I pant for my love is ready

To top it all, the melody was interspersed with English words like welcome, fashion, position, aeroplane, my darling kiss my hand to make Pakistanis dream and view themselves differently.

The sharp, short sound of ‘teddy’ had a welcome impact on the Pakistani ear, the word slipped into colloquial language, and is still thriving.

In 1961, Pakistan had adopted the international decimal system, with 100 paisas to a rupee. As the one paisa coins were very small in diameter they were promptly dubbed teddy paisa. The name has stuck.

Someone of short stature, even in a shalwar kameez was called Teddy.  The word even unnaturally united academia and the military. One of the Punjab Regiment’s best drama artists was Lance Corporal Salim a.k.a.Teddy, and one of the best known professors of English Literature at Forman Christian College, Lahore was also Salim a.k.a. Teddy. One was in khaki, the other one zigzagged across the leafy campus in a dark, tight-fitting teddy suit. Neither was aware of each other’s existence, except perhaps to one of Professor Teddy’s former students who just happened to be the Lance Corporal’s Company Commander!

Through both Salim Teddies the army and academe united in an ironic recognition of this little understood British movement.

In the 1950s a section of British youth decided to revive the fashion of King Edward VII’s era from 1901 to 1910 with an influence measured until 1917.

“Originally known as Cosh Boys, the name Teddy Boy was coined when a 1953 Daily Express newspaper headline shortened Edwardian to Teddy.”

The first youth group in England to call themselves teenagers, they helped to create a youth market.  They also distinguished themselves in the 1958 Notting Hill race riots in London by beating up helpless West Indian immigrants before they discovered their manly pride in paki-bashing.

Just as the word Jugni originates from Queen Victoria’s Jubilee it was appropriate for Teddyism to be institutionalized within this Punjabi musical form:

Ik din Teddy gayi darbar

A’ap andar té burka ba’ar

Ohnoon pawé Data’a di ma’ar

Ohé pir méréya Jugni kehndi aé

Té na’am Ali da,

Ali da

Na’am Ali da layndi aé

Teddy went to Saint Data’s shrine

She found herself inside

With her burka covering outside

May she be struck by Saint Data

O’ my saint so Jugni says

As she takes the name of

The name of

Takes the name of Hazrat Ali

But at the end of the day, believe me, Dolly in a teddy suit was worth a million teddy paisas!