The Localist

The Good Sri Lankan Girl: An everlasting tale of exemplary morality and extraordinary charm

Disclaimer: The following article is only 80% fact. The rest is fiction.

She’s beauty and she’s grace, but most of all she’s chaste. Like a good book that can be judged by the appeal of its cover, the good Sri Lankan girl can be spotted from the decency of her attire. Clad in loose fitting garments and layers of under-garments that cover all her womanly assets to the point of non-existence, her long black hair is tied back to ensure no wandering lusty eye gets blown away by the seductiveness of a few stray stands of free flowing hair, or worse, coloured highlights. She embodies femininity through a single pair of gold ear studs that her parents got in order to distinguish her from a baby boy. Extra piercings, fancy jewellery and god forbid any tattoos can only symbolize a shameless or rasthiyadu upbringing.

Speaking of shame, the good Sri Lankan girl is brought up with lajja-baya (shame-fear) that is re-enforced through the patriarchal society. She is soft-spoken and delicate at all times, doesn’t speak out of turn or display any tomboyish behaviour. She worships elders simply because they are older, and never talks back to any adult even if she is being unjustly treated. She lives to fulfil her parents wishes, and as a friend of mine correctly pointed out, “she bases her life not only on her parents’ wishes, but also her neighbours’, parents’ friends’, parents’ friends’ friends’ and neighbours’ friends’ wishes” (Thank you Cris Clayton for that insightful observation!).

Well to name but just a few of these archetypal wishes, a good Sri Lankan girl must never date someone who isn’t approved by 99.9% of the Sri Lankan population that have her best interests at heart. She should never consume alcohol, but should readily whip up some ‘bites’ for her male household members and visitors that they can savor while they sip their drinks. She should then quietly shy away from their vicinity once the serving is done. Good girls also never ever gallivant about on solo trips – this could range from a trip to the convenience store, or in the case of those beyond redemption, to exotic places overseas – because a) they could get raped and killed or b) their wanderlust could easily be misinterpreted as sexual promiscuity. They should also never laugh out loud, and as the old Sri Lankan saying goes, good girls need to master the art of smiling without showing their teeth (Sina nomasen dasan dakwa).

The typical Sri Lankan girl is both simultaneously asexual and a sex-diva. She does not think, speak, dress or act in any way that remotely questions her chastity. This includes having no boyfriends and preferably no male friends either. Nor does she make any display that highlights her sex. For instance, if she were to walk into a shop and buy sanitary pads, the shopkeeper would cover the product in opaque paper to ensure the fact that she menstruates once a month remains a well-kept secret. On the other hand, early Sri Lankan works of art, from the paintings of Sigiri Apsara to poetry and literature, paint an entirely different picture of the perfectly modest Sri Lankan girl. Let me give you a little example. The following extract from Davy (1821:110) depicts a perfect female body from early Ceylon:

“Her hair should be voluminous, like the tail of the peacock; long, reaching to the knees, and terminating in graceful curls; her eyebrows should resemble the rainbow; her eyes, the blue sapphire and the petals of the blue manila-flower. Her nose should be like the bill of the hawk; her lips should be bright and red, like coral on the young leaf of the iron-tree. Her teeth should be small, regular, and closely set, and like jasmine buds. Her neck should be large and round, resembling the berrigodea. Her chest should be capacious; her breasts, firm and conical, like the yellow cocoa-nut, and her waist small — almost small enough to be clasped by the hand. Her hips should be wide; her limbs tapering; the soles of her feet, without any hollow, and the surface of her body in general, soft, delicate, smooth, and rounded, without the asperities of projecting bones and sinews.”

Sounds pretty sexy for a Sri Lankan good girl? On second thought, maybe this was a premonition for a character from Avatar 5!

The classic (and modern) Sri Lankan good girl is appropriately knowledgeable. She can make a killer parippu curry, she bakes, she sews, she has a green thumb, she plays the piano and has at some point taken Kandyan dancing lessons. She is educated, ideally up to a Bachelors degree. Female doctors are a source of pride but the ghastly hours spent on night shifts at hospitals when she could be at home caring for her own loved ones is a waste of life. With every additional academic qualification, her hopes of finding a suitable groom only diminish. An unmarried girl is inevitably a burden; not to one’s parents but to that other 99.9% of the super concerned friends and extended family that find the time in their busy schedules just to highlight this fact. A mister, not a Masters therefore should be her priority. Don’t even think about a PhD, as years of research would only lead to her making snide remarks at the absurdity of contemporary society. Or worse, she might even write about it!

However, what everyone fails to notice are the amazing karmic benefits that one receives from being a good Sri Lankan girl. A good girl doesn’t have to do any tedious manly tasks such as carrying heavy groceries, changing tires or fixing light bulbs. She gets to cherish the benefits of benevolent sexism to the point that she is well looked after by her husband, brothers and father.

In all seriousness though, the quintessential Sri Lankan gentleman is burdened with the breadwinner role to the extent that the slightest deviation places unimaginable pressure on his masculinity. On any given day, I’d gladly be a Sri Lankan girl. After all, every Sri Lankan girl, good or bad, inevitably grows up to believe she is the epitome of goodness. And so when she becomes a pseudo white-clad devotee, she dedicates her time and energy to finding out if her friends’ friends’ daughters and neighbour’ friends’ daughters are appropriately dressed, educated and puppeteered. She ensures that every young girl abides by these golden good girl rules.





Acknowledgements: A big thank you to all my friends who contributed in coming up with a good girl list. Thank You Dilini, Prageeth, Achini, Ms. Madhavi, Zaynab, Rochelle, Cris, Sachika, Savandie, Ms. Sriyani, Kushan Aiyya, Menaka, Neeliya, and Yasangie.


16 Responses to The Good Sri Lankan Girl: An everlasting tale of exemplary morality and extraordinary charm

  1. shashi says:

    you just read my mind! good one virandi. keep up your good work!!!

  2. Chashika says:

    nicely depicted.. proud of Sri Lankan girls.
    but this is the past. not present or future of Sri Lanka.

  3. ajitddr says:

    I love the sarcasm laid out here,
    On a more serious note there has been some progress at least among the urban crowd


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