The Saronged king in his castle
Posted on January 23rd, 2012

Dr.Tilak Fernando

To find subject matter to entice a readership is not an easy task. To a greater extent readers “ƒ”¹…”feed- backs’ go a long way in helping a columnist to make the writing easier. Having studied, worked and lived in London I have come across many individuals, faced several situations and experienced and learnt a lot by intermingling particularly with our own kind in Britain. Such experiences and stories could at times be hilarious, now and again serious and few are original and innovative. Most of them are by far the most interesting to relate in lighter vein.

When one lives in London talking of home comfort becomes an important subject. An Englishman always treats his home as his castle.

Sri Lankan expatriate population in England has been on the increase seemingly over the decades. Among them are two schools of thought; one group who thinks that once you have emigrated to a foreign land, adaptation to the new environment is a must. Contrary to such ideology there are others who think that one must never forget one’s country, one’s own traditions and culture. So, “ƒ”¹…”home style’ becomes a common topic to all and, in fact, it turns out to be a state of the mind.

Out of these two Sri Lankan groups one section becomes very conservative about English customs and traditions and conduct themselves in daily activities accordingly, while the others take the view that it does not matter what you do, especially inside your own home unless you do not step out of the house beyond the front door bell or up to the kitchen to put the kettle on! In this scenario it is considered that men can relax comfortably in their Sarong while the women don’t have to put up with elasticised supportive systems!

Weekend relaxation

The week day torment of having to wear suits, and ties all the time and jumpers, overcoats, tights and “ƒ”¹…”Long Johns’ in winter can become a faint memory when the weekend arrives as many get into a comfortable sarong inside a heated house, however transparent and embarrassing it might look under megawatt electric bulbs; no one will bother to look at the crumpled shapeless shirt you put on either, but in Sri Lanka it is of course a different setting altogether “”…” dress to kill for many, whether they are inside or outside the house.

In London people wear ties, socks, tights, covered shoes, hand gloves and shirts with long sleeves to protect them from cold weather.

The moment sun comes up the whole scene changes when woolies are packed away and light attire coming to the forefront.

Even the management/executive types can be seen travelling in the underground tube trains in short sleeve-shirts minus the tie; the very prim and proper types are seen carrying their folded jackets in their hand.

Colonial adaptation

Unfortunately the pseudo colonial standards that are not suitable for our climate adopted still by part of our society tend to believe that if one does not wear a tie but walks about in the open wearing sandals then they are of a different breed altogether – to put boldly they are treated as “ƒ”¹…”from the gutters’! Fortunately those who adorn the national dress can escape from such gobbledygook.

Garments are basically meant to cover one’s nudity. OK, let styles and designs exist, but why on earth one section of the society is considered and treated inferior to others just because of a minority who are still being trampled by colonial boots? My heart goes for those marketing lads who go in the hot baking sun wearing ties, socks and covered shoes and carrying a multitude of gadgets to sell just to make a living. Surely a consumer is not going to be bothered or convinced from a salesman’s attire! What he/she will be looking for would be something that is money’s worth!

In the London scene some conservative types will never possess weekend relaxed style. They are considered by others as “ƒ”¹…”Black Englishmen’ who remain slaves to the pursuit of immaculate dress codes right throughout the weekend as well.

Imagine a Sri Lankan doing gardening wearing a three piece suit! Or sitting at the family dining table dressed up formally with a tie! “No! It’s not our style”, several friends tell me and confirm that even the English are increasingly coming out of their Victorian shells.

Some cannot get used to wearing a Sarong even in Sri Lanka. They would rather go for a pair of pajamas or shorts. In my thinking pajamas are the most uncomfortable night wear for men.

It just does not work and you may feel trapped and confined inside two cotton/silk legs with no flexibility, comfort or least of all ventilation one gets out of a sarong. Those who are in favour of wearing a Sarong say, “ƒ”¹…”If you are lounging around at home reading the newspapers or gazing at the television there’s nothing to beat a sarong’.

My friends tell me that the most sensible and practical thing to do on a Sunday is to “hang on to your comfortable Sarong” and sprawl inert like a sack of Basmati rice in front of your television, eyes glazed from serious programmes to mindless advertisements and be like a king in your own castle.

Few foreign tourists (men) who have been to Sri Lanka have mastered the art of wrapping a Sarong round their waist without using a belt either and woman wrap it as a beach wear.

So the message I am getting from my old friends in London is: “If you want to stretch out in your comfortable gear and air out your skin pores, hang on to your Sarong lads.”

2 Responses to “The Saronged king in his castle”

  1. Christie Says:

    Has anyone heard of Amude (loincloth or breechcloth) the national dress of the Sinhalese? If you live in London please read and see drawings and writings by British about Ceylon (the land of Sinhalese). It is the most comfortable dress if you want to cover your genitals in public for modesty in a humid and a warm climate. That was the men.
    Women wore a Redikaalla (piece of cloth) for the same reason. And they did not even need a string to hold it. When two men were living with one woman, the man will leave his Amude at the entrance to the house to indicate that he is engaged.

    The ‘so called national dress the “Veitti” is the symbol of Indian cultural imperialism in the island.

    One should read “Salalihini Sandesaya” a prescribed school text, some time back before the rise of the Veitti over the Suit and offcourse over the Amude.

  2. douglas Says:

    Dr. Tilak – What an interesting subject you have presented to us. Thank you and Christie.

    On the same subject, in Sri Lanka, when it was Ceylon, there was a class of people who wore trousers and over that wore a cloth to cover it, but showing the lower portion at the ankle with a jacket (coat) on the upper body. They also wore a hat and shoes. These people were all Government Servants. In the village they were called “Redda Asse Mahathaya”.

    Then we had another class of people who wore a garment called “Saruwalaya”. It was like a pair of shorts but had a “frill” right round the waist coming out from a string tightened to prevent the “Saruwalaya” falling.

    The women wore a clothe named “Kambaya” and the elite wore “Pata Kamba”- a more elegant quality stuff.

    How nice to enjoy a moment of reading like these. Thank you again.

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