School Moms’ dress code and ‘Miss Buriyani’
“At first glance, you would be forgiven for thinking it was a page from a cheap
fashion magazine. The poster on display outside St Joseph’s College - one of
Colombo’s elite private schools - has no text of any sort. Instead it shows 16
pictures of women in a variety of outfits, with tick marks against half and
crosses against the rest,” the BBC’s Ayeshea Perera explains why people in the
capital Colombo are so outraged.
This cat has not gone to Maradana recently nor is she in the Facebook ménage but
she believes that the said poster outside this boys’ school and a similar one in
its sister Catholic boys’ college in Bambalapitiya “is generating heated debate
on social media” as an informant emailed her. Of course anything and everything
is grist for discussion on Facebook, Twitter et al. This cat’s opinion is that a
board like this should not cause alarm, although it does show that there is a
tendency now to be more obviously censorious. She saw a picture of the said
poster with the goody goodies in saris, trouser suits and long skirts while the
pictures with crosses against them had women baring shoulders, miniskirted and
In this cat’s time of teaching in a leading girls’ school in Colombo, it was
taken for granted and voluntarily observed by teachers that they dress decently,
meaning no transparent sari blouses, no sleeveless blouses, no hair let loose
unless it was very short.
In fact, this cat a sari wearer even in the evenings at home (so conservative
was her Kandy upbringing) had two blouses for each sari - one with sleeves for
wearing to school and one sleeveless for convenience elsewhere. When she started
teaching in a conservative girls’ school in Kandy, she wore her hair in a pony
tail often tied with matching ribbon. She had gone through a spell of
substitute-teaching in a primary school and teacher training with this ponytail
hair style. Three days into teaching in the school had the principal summoning
her and solemnly proclaiming: you will get more respect from your students if
you wear your hair up.
The instant answer at the tip of the tongue was to say she got respect
notwithstanding the pony tail, but of course silence ensued; one never spoke
back to school principals.
Then started a battle at home to get the hair up and staying there until she
finally mastered the art of tying a kondé with a wig made from her own hair by
Palingu, the village wig maker who spent a day combing out the collected hair
and then tying it into a long wig. Mama Cat got new wigs made each time her hair
turned greyer! Palingu and her breed are no more. Visakamals came to the rescue
but this cat’s ma never permitted the use of bought wigs - “which dead body was
scarred to get that hair?” was enough of a hint to abhor bought wigs to tie a
kondé with. Notwithstanding all the indicated and unexpressed strictness, sari
wearers who draped their six yards of material in the Indian style bared much
midriff. The belly button was clearly seen in a Burgher colleague who wore sari
and draped it hipster-style. No reduction in the baring nor in the exposé, so
much so that the students’ nickname for her was ‘Buriyani.’ Maybe the strict
Principal was too much a lady to let her eyes go down a teacher’s body and
dress. Yours truly loved polka dotted material so she had a couple saris which
she tailored Kandyan style with dots of varied sizes. Her earned nicknames –
Dottie and Bolawathie!
We gloated over this story which went viral verbally along the gossip grapevine.
She of the fabulous upswept hair and thick lipstick was reported to have gone to
the primary school of a major boys’ college in Colombo to attend a
Parent-Teacher Meeting. She came in a short dress and walked boldly through the
college gate to be stopped in her tracks by the gatekeeper. He managed to
weather her withering look. “You cannot go inside. You have to please come in
Here she was, too noveau fashionable to even don a lungi and blouse; western
clothes were her forte. So she scathingly asked the man that oft repeated
question: “Do you know who I am?” “I am sorry,” he replied. “Whoever you are,
you have to obey the school rule.” Wifey promptly took out her cell phone -
expensive it sure would have been since her hub is and was illustrated in
cartoons with a cell phone in hand or round his neck.
She summoned the man, deeply offended as she was. (This was before this man
became a minister of state but was important - self plus by the then leader).
Hub tore to the place in his expensive vehicle.
The outcome: the adamant gatekeeper kept his stance. “I have to listen to and
work according to the Headmaster’s rules.”
It was not known whether she came back suitably dressed to pass muster with the
gatekeeper or sacrificed her son’s welfare to save face.
The debate continues: was the harassment or worse - rape - caused by the victim
wearing provocative clothes; displaying too much body; behaving immodestly.
It really is hard to decide on this issue. Yes, girls do dress to attract and
usually it’s the baser nature that is attracted and aroused.
But clothes and a girl’s behavior are definitely not to blame for rape. It’s the
beastliness of man. Consider what dread fate befell that Indian girl who got
into a bus with her boyfriend after a film and was tortured so cruelly it seemed
non-humans had been in the bus.
People must not get too censorious about what women wear, or even take off for
that matter!! In this country there is modesty and decorum observed. Which
statement brings to mind how whipping with a skate’s tail was threatened by no
less a person than the President at rowdyism exhibited at a show with a foreign
A bra was thrown on stage. What an uproar resulted. As this feline pointed out
then, it could easily have been brought in by a naughty boy and thrown on stage.
No woman or young girl would have wriggled out of her undergarment in public in
this land of ours, even in darkness or at the height of mass revelry!