Posted on November 22nd, 2022

Sugath Kulatunga

The current topic of interest is the dress of a female teacher. I am reminded of Sunil Shantha’s lilting song mihikatha nalawala where he salutes the village school teacher the ‘Hela guru liya” with the words- Sudu hela sariya andala hada kota inga wata rali lelawa. He was probably referring to the Kandyan osariya which was the stately dress of Mrs. Bandaranayake. It must be conceded that the saree is an expensive and an inconvenient workplace dress although it is the working dress of the plantation females. I remember a few daring females in Peradeniya prided themselves in wearing the ‘coolie’ saree at lectures during the early fifties. It is not easy to wash an iron a saree and with the present high tariff of electricity it will become a costly task. It is also time consuming to wear where time is a constraint when a female teacher has to struggle with it in the morning. The issue has to be looked at without getting involved with extraneous considerations of culture and patriotism. A lady teacher’s dress should be convenient, economical and decent. One cannot consider a saree wrapped with a wide gap at the waist on a woman with bulging rolls of flesh and with a jacket covering only 20 percent of the back appeals to aesthetic sense. Neither can a hipster draped below the naval defying gravity and only 20 percent covered in both front and back called a decent dress for a teacher particularly in a mixed school. My preference is for the Salwar Kameez which is popular in both India and Pakistan. It is convenient, decent and more economical than the Saree.

The form of dress of women is never static. A whole industry has developed in changing it. Today it is rare that one can see a village damsel wearing a redda and hatte. Most young male workers have taken to jeans. With the present economic downturn a time may come soon for Sri Lankans to get into the unisex Mao dress worn in China after the revolution. Now the Chinese are in smart western dress.

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