I was exposed to a culture shock of a different kind as I entered the hallowed portals of a Medical Faculty in Colombo today. Culture Shock and university entrance seem to go almost hand in hand in Sri Lanka and the plethora of Sinhala literature woven around this issue is testament to this. Usually these 'great' literary works include a innocent village lass coming to Uni in Colombo and being led astray by a boyfriend from the city who takes advantage of her etc.
My first day of university was associated with a different kind of culture shock... I suppose you could say it was a 'reverse' culture shock Having being born in Kandy and brought up in Colombo by upper middle class parents, my image of university was shaped by the glossy pictures seen on the cover of university prospectuses from other countries. Little did I know that Sri Lankan Campus life was very different.
Instead of the smiling boys and girls sitting on a university lawn decked out in trendy casual wear, what I encountered was segregated groups of boys and girls. Boys wearing formal attire similar to what junior executives wear and girls wearing gaudy long dresses and a variety of conservative tops. Formal attire it seems is compulsory, why I do not know...
True in another five years we would be doctors etc. who are expected to dress formally but right now I am only 20...LET ME HAVE SOME FUN FOR GODSAKE!!!
Oh and if the formal clothing is not enough I was told that my hair was too long and that it should have a side parting... I can't even remember parting my hair for school, what is the big deal about my hair anyway, it doesn't have any connection to my academic performance or student discipline.
Facial Hair is a big no-no as well as my friend found out, one should be clean shaven; no sexy George Clooney style stubble allowed here.
If all this injustice was not enough the girls are allowed to wear anything as long it is up to their knees and is 'covering'. I personally do not see anything wrong with a woman dressing conservatively but then again it is upto her to dress in whatever she likes. It is not the job of the faculty to dictate what we should wear, after all we do not have some kind of cultural police in this country, or do we?
The flip side of the issue is this, while girls can wear anything guys are forced to don uncomfortable formal clothing in the hot and humid Sri Lankan climate. What is the logic behind this?
Seniors actually demand respect, I do not know why... maybe some kind of inferiority complex etc . True, I realize that our Sri Lankan values tell us to respect our elders etc, but to demand it and especially when they are only a couple of years older than us. As if it was some kind of wizardry on their part that granted us a seat in university.