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Musical ‘choon paan’bread trucks

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by Zinnara Ratnayake

For years, the sound of Beethoven meant bread in Sri Lanka. Now, years after the island’s mobile bread vendors disappeared, they’re being revived to help during the pandemic.

I was young when I first heard the music. It came from the earthen road outside where a man was selling bread from a tuk tuk. Unlike other colourful three-wheeled vehicles, the back of this one held a glass display cabinet piled high with neatly stacked baked goods. “It’s the choon paan man,” my father told me.

“Choon paan” loosely translates to “music bread” in Sinhala. During my childhood, the fresh-off-the-oven kimbula (“crocodile”) bun we bought from the choon paan man for evening tea gave me bliss. This beautifully fluffy, buttery, home-baked bun was sprinkled with sugar and twisted into a slender, crocodile-like shape. Half of it was for me, the other for my father.

Twice a day starting at 06:30, choon paan trucks would drive along the dusty path near the paddy fields of my family’s rural village in Kurunegala, 120km north-east of Colombo, selling loaves of bread. Early in the morning, the men circled the roads with fish buns and sausage rolls made at small bakeries. They reappeared in the afternoon around 16:00, bringing sweet buns for tea. Some were buttery, round-shaped buns dotted with raisins. Others were stuffed with jam or sprinkled with sugar.

For us growing up on the tropical island, Beethoven meant bread

For years, these small trucks all played the same, tinny recorded music. When I heard the faint hum of the breadman from a distance, I would run to the dusty path and call my father. Years later, during music classes in school, I realised that this familiar tune that we Sri Lankans just called “choon paan music” was actually Beethoven’s 1810 classic Für Elise.

So, how did this classical composition written in Austria come to symbolise fresh-baked confections in Sri Lanka?

When tuk tuks became increasingly popular in Sri Lanka in the early 2000s, many bakers used the three-wheeled vehicles to take their bun business on the road and sell to distant neighbourhoods and villages. This was also around the time when mobile phones became popular. Just as an ice cream truck’s jingle alerts residents that it’s approaching, these mobile bakers started playing their mobile phone’s ringtone through a horn speaker to let residents know the choon paan truck was near.

Of course, one of the most popular ringtones from the early 2000s was Beethoven’s iconic masterpiece, Für Elise. So, whenever people in Sri Lanka would hear it, we’d head out to wait for the “music bread” truck to arrive. Ever since, for us growing up on the tropical island, Beethoven meant bread.

After relocating to the city of Kandy for high school, I still heard Für Elise every day. Even when I was already late for class, with my school tie loosely hanging around my neck and my hair braided into two with white ribbons, I ran after the choon paan truck to catch it for morning fish buns. Stuffed with canned fish, spiced potato and chopped vegetables, they were a treat with a cup of piping-hot ginger tea.

Six years ago, I moved again, to Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. In the six years I’ve been here, I’ve seldom seen a choon paan truck nor heard the familiar tune I grew up with.

Sri Lanka’s famous music bread trucks have made a comeback, thanks to an unlikely reason: the coronavirus pandemic

According to Colombo-based baker Padmini Marasinghe, that’s because it has recently become much more fashionable – and even a status symbol – to be able to buy baked goods at a traditional bakery than to buy bread from a truck. As a result, Sri Lanka’s once-ubiquitous music bread trucks have now largely disappeared.

As Marasinghe explained, many urbanites were convinced that breads from chain bakeries were of better quality than those from mobile trucks. “But choon paan products are from home bakers. They are better than mass-produced food in large bakeries,” Marasinghe said.

She also added that people complained choon paan goods were too expensive given their small, mobile operation. “They reduced prices and curtailed the quality to make marginal profits. There was less filling in a fish bun or little butter in a kimbula bun, so they lost their clientele,” Marasinghe said.

Then in 2017, the former government banned loud music from mobile bakeries, which further led to their demise. Some trucks circled the roads without music but failed to make a profit. Without Beethoven notifying the neighbourhood that bread was coming, it seemed that residents wouldn’t rush to the street.

In recent years, cities and tourist towns have also seen a rise in home delivery services. “People would rather order fish buns from an upmarket bakery on Uber Eats” Marasinghe said. “This put choon paan out of business.”

Marasinghe admits that the idea of starting a choon paan truck had always seemed tempting to her, but by the time she started her small bakery in 2019, nearly all the bread trucks were gone.

Yet, in recent months, Sri Lanka’s famous music bread trucks have made a comeback, thanks to an unlikely reason: the coronavirus pandemic.

As the virus began sweeping across Asia, Sri Lanka imposed an island-wide curfew to slow its spread. The government ordered restaurants, bakeries and all “non-essential” businesses to close. Marasinghe had to shutter her business, too. Yet, the government did permit the door-to-door sales of baked goods.

Many of these mobile bakeries are now back on Sri Lanka’s streets, with residents listening for the familiar ringtone sounds of Für Elise

“With no way to salary my bakery staff, I decided to start a choon paan truck as home delivery of bakery products [was] termed an ‘essential service’,” she said.

Unable to find a tuk tuk, Marasinghe’s husband borrowed a friend’s mini lorry and turned it into a makeshift choon paan truck to operate in Hanwella, about 30km from Colombo. “We played Für Elise so it would send the message: the choon paan man is back!” Marasinghe said.

She is not alone. Many of these mobile bakeries are now back on Sri Lanka’s streets, with residents listening for the familiar ringtone sounds of Für Elise and rushing to their gates for loaves of bread. In fact, almost overnight, bakers dusted off their old choon paan trucks and created a delivery network of tuk tuk bread to ensure that housebound islanders could get their buns.

“They’ve found a new appreciation,” said Colombo-based journalist Amalini De Sayrah. “Perhaps we didn’t realise how valuable it was, but now stuck at home with no way to go out, people are realising the value of choon paan.”

Arul Kogilan, a physician volunteering as part of a Covid-19 prevention task force, appreciates the return of choon paan drivers as essential-service providers. “With bakery goods being delivered to their gates, people can stay home avoiding the risk,” he said. “But we need to acknowledge that they are putting themselves out there at risk for us.”

While the curfew was relaxed late last month, islanders are advised to stay home except for obligatory work.

Now that I’m sheltering in place back home where I grew up, at around 07:00 am every morning, I wake up to the sound of choon paan. The truck travels past our house as the rattling Fur Elise eventually fades into a vague hiss. When I get up, my father has already bought bread. In the late afternoon, when I hear Fur Elise from a distance, I cry out for my father.

It’s as though I’m young again, waiting for the classical ringtone and the simple joy of a sugar-sprinkled choon paan kimbula bun.

One half for me, the other for my father.



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Features

The Boss Up Story

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Boss Up isn’t merely a brand name. It’s a manifestation of resilience and inner power in the form of a branding and social media marketing agency. Hafsa Killru, the Founder of Boss Up has a personal story and determination to ‘boss up’ that propelled her to launch her own venture to empower entrepreneurship, especially among small businesses.

Beginnings

The environment one grows up in has a remarkable effect on a young child’s mind. Watching two strong women in the family redefine the role of feminine power, a young Hafsa grew up ambitious too. Although brimming with the desire to create a change, her childhood was fraught with challenges that plague many children today – bullying. She was subject to severe bullying since the tender age of 10 at her places of education, which affected both her mental and physical health.

“I never fit in anywhere. I was never welcome among the cliques. But I didn’t let it affect my confidence. Keeping my circle small helped me stay focused on my studies. I’d spend this time alone in school libraries, often reading encyclopedias,” says Hafsa. “The bullying worsened in my teenage years. I was lonely but it worked out in my favour because I was never, and still not, someone who worries about ‘what will others say’ — a key obstacle in many people’s lives. Not having many friends meant I was not under peer pressure. This allowed me to be my authentic self.”

Hafsa’s writing career began quite unexpectedly when she was 17. Not only is she a content writer but also a poet who writes evocatively about mental health, healing and empowerment. But this didn’t come by easily either.

During her higher studies, those she considered to be her friends tried to crush her growth mindset, which eventually took a toll on her. It was only when she managed to remove herself from such environments did she become more self-aware and regain her confidence, thanks to the solitude it brought into her life.Yet again, a new set of obstacles awaited her in her early 20s. In 2019, she was turned down by over 20 companies within three months alone, which led to deep frustration and self-doubt. Although she had freelancing opportunities, the lockdown only added to her troubles.

But that’s when something clicked into place – an idea so obvious, so big and so right for her that Hafsa knew it was what all these adversities were pushing her towards. She realised the lockdown was putting undue pressure on businesses and it needed a solution. Especially small businesses were struggling to go online and create a sustainable brand, and that too at an affordable rate. How could they compete with incumbent brands with massive budgets and breakthrough technologies? She sought to give them the edge they needed and thus, Boss Up was born in October 2020.

“Inviting change, taking charge of the situation and choosing to do something on my own has to be, although scary, the most liberating decision I have ever made,” admits Hafsa. “The lockdown wasn’t the time for businesses to go silent. They needed business and marketing solutions that would help them overcome the situation.”

In today’s contemporary business world, a business of any size will only be running a losing race if it hasn’t developed a strong social media presence or a clear brand strategy. Hence, Boss Up ensures equal opportunities are given to entrepreneurs from all walks of life.

One and a half years into the business, Boss up is now global with its wings spread across countries like the UK, Canada, Dubai, Qatar, the Maldives and Australia, and is backed by a strong team of young and passionate minds.

The Purpose

Boss Up’s primary goal is to uplift entrepreneurs. The brand is also a strong advocate for inner power, confidence and resilience — the three main driving forces of ambition. It intends to help people who hail from struggling backgrounds; the ones who are inundated with a lack of support, seek self-sufficiency and are hungry to design a unique identity for themselves.The brand also strives to treat everyone at work with compassion and empathy whilst leading with kindness as it is crucial to reform work cultures that are hazardous to oneself.

Reach out to HAfsa via Instagram @hafsa_killru @bossup_srilanka or email bossup_srilanka@gmail.com.

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The Switch of Trend in Fashion After the Pandemic 2022

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There has been an immense change in the Industry of Fashion after the pandemic struck us all hard. Currently, the trends of fashion have also taken a big turn towards affordable fashion trending styles and outfits. The Fashion boom has grown to become steadily slow for the seasonal styles and basic needs of clothing as well.

The current scenario of fashion life is always at a peak, and even after the Covid-19 pandemic, we have still seen slow growth in the need for fashion. There are of course certain aspects that have affected the industry and declined surplus. However, fashion and clothing have become a BASIC need for humans across the globe.

From shopping high-end couture to higher brand apparel, the trend has shifted to move on to sustainable clothing and organic clothing pieces. For example, we have become more aware of locally produced clothing brands and organic fabrics of our country. Made in India clothing and brands are emerging at a higher graph.Let’s take a look at the Current Change in Fashion Trends due to Pandemic 2022

Sustainable Outfits After the Pandemic

This is something most have been finding a basic need in clothing. Spending over and over again on the same kinds of clothing has and will reduce in the future. Buying clothing and fashion pieces that last for longer is the key to saving more than before. Buying pieces like basic Tees, Pants which may be styled over and over again is what the trend is shifting towards.

Budget Range of Fashion Brands are Accepted higher

Since the ban of Rowme and Shein-like brands and online websites in India, other national brands have started to make affordable fashion pieces for their customers. Styles and trends of fashion in the budget are what the people will be looking out for since the economic growth of people has dropped. Investing in fashion will never end until there will be a supply, the only difference is the budget range brands have a huge change of acceptance now since the pandemic.

Change of Styles worn to Work or Office Fashion after the Pandemic

Since the depression, people may have just stopped feeling happier may want to take the effort to dress like before. Styles of fashion in a simple and classy fashion will emerge largely than before. Choosing Plains or Solids overprints and pattern or neutrals over new trending colors and the print patterns is being seen for workwear fashion.

Change of Trends and Styles for Indian Festival Wear after the Pandemic

In the same way as the above point mentions, dressing special occasions will take a shift. Looking at the financial conditions currently, customers will be buying lesser for Festive wear than before. Styling the same pieces with a change of new additions of budget festive wear will be trending. Sarees and salwar suits in silks, choosing cotton, and linen kurta sets over the designer trends are to be seen this year during Indian festivals.

Choosing Budget Wedding Wear Over Designer Wedding Wear

When it comes to weddings, the cost goes to the highest for any customer. But the pandemic has changed how weddings will be taking place. The cost of weddings has declined drastically and shopping for Indian weddings has grown to choose mid-range wedding wear over high-end designer wear. Saving more during weddings, styles of lehengas, sarees, shalwar suits, or sherwanis for weddings that are in mid-range is a new trend.

From styling men’s kurta suits styles for the basic function of weddings to choosing classic or budget range sarees and suits for the bride’s ceremonies will take up a new fashion trend look. Making a choice of ONE heavy wear Lehenga and Sherwani may be what the soon-to-wed couples be looking for.Designer wear which can be restyled or reused and worn for other occasions and weddings is also a trend to grow rapidly. Saving much more for the bridal and groom’s outfit looks.

Shopping Online Increased for clothing after the Pandemic

The safer way to buy clothing has become a focus for all customers going towards online shopping. The percentage of online buyers has rapidly increased for clothes after the pandemic. From casual wear shopping online to fashion shopping for festivals and weddings, all have become much easier and more convenient for consumers.

Websites and businesses are working to grow even wider with Online Shopping. Connecting with customers personally for their shopping experiences to taking a new addition in budget clothing varieties for the customers is what’s taking place.

Online shopping has become a trend We have set an all-new trend for our customers It brings more trust and safety to customers. Shopping for wedding wear online only gets comfortable for all when sitting back home and shopping Fashion Shopping after the Pandemic via on-line shooping is what keeps all customers happier.

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Life style

Captivating streetwear for today’s fashionable girls

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The latest street fashion brand Girls by Dillys under the umbrella of Dilly’s was launched recently introducing trending new pieces to help girls carry the distinct personality and style to be the fashionable girl of today.

Girl by Dilly’s is a creative street fashion brand that focuses on vibrant colors, textures, and prints to bring out the youthful exuberance of today’s girls. The brand has emphasized on contrasting color combinations. The ethos of this brand is creativity and having fun. Girl by Dilly’s is dedicated to the free-spirited girls who have their own super powers and a bold attitude. Girls are encouraged to mix and create unique styles to introduce their own identity in a creative and playful way.

This brand is the new lifestyle for confident girls who love to enjoy freedom, youth and individuality. The brand has different style combinations from casual to evening wear to make the overall look fashionable and completely their own. The brand tagline ‘All about a Girl’ is a reminder to every girl that she is unique and beautiful.

To ensure glam and comfort, all Girl by Dilly’s products are crafted using quality fabrics and technical know-how. The brand offers a wide range of stylish ready-to-wear pieces, from tops, skirts, pants, shorts, dresses, rompers, jump suits, crop tops, and t-shirts. The brand has introduced batik into the collection with a fabulous finishing touch to elevate its signature styles. The brand is also introducing a comfortable t-shirt collection with inspirational slogans and line art to share a positive message with society.

Dilani Wijeyesekera – Director of Girl by Dilly’s stated, “We became aware of a notable gap in today’s market for fashionable streetwear clothing for girls. Today’s new generation of girls have a different youthful energy about them. They are fun, bold, carefree and energetic and they want the whole world to see that. Girl by Dilly’s is perfect for such girls as it helps them find their own identity through our collection of vibrant colours and creative styles that they can mix and match to come up with eye-catching outfits. Every piece of Girl by Dilly’s has the look and feel of fun and vibrancy.”

With the launch, Girl by Dilly’s is providing an introductory offer to all loyalty customers where they can avail themselves to a 15% discount on all products until 7th August 2022, both on online and at the flagship store. A selection of special giveaways has also been lined up in the coming weeks for all social media followers.

For the latest Girl by Dilly’s updates and new releases, follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok using @dillyandcarlo. The latest Girl by Dilly’s collections are available at the Flagship Store on the website www.dillyandcarlo.com.

Dilly’s was established in 1987 to cater to Colombo’s desire for high-end designer wear with a local twist. As the company grew, Dilly’s introduced its second brand to the market, this time to cater to menswear. Carlo was established in 2007 and exemplified stylish men’s clothing for all ages. The brand is housing its distinct designer ranges to cater to the entire wardrobe requirement of modern men and women.

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