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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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Life style

The return of the mighty mini

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The mini-dress has a new lease of life – but why now?

It’s an old cliché that when the stock market goes up, so do hemlines. So why, given 2019’s tempestuous social, political and economic climate, are we in the throes of a miniskirt revival?

With skirts being styled with everything from neat tweed jackets to oversized skater hoodies, it is a distinct change in pace for the hard-edged androgyny of recent years, says Celenie Seidel, senior womenswear editor at luxury-fashion platform Farfetch: “Women are revisiting a more exuberant, playful and optimistic way of dressing again, and the miniskirt revival is a big part of that.”

Beyond the catwalks, UK chain Marks & Spencer reported that it sold 300,000 miniskirts over the winter – in no small part due to brand ambassador and TV presenter Holly Willoughby’s predilection for minis. The miniskirt is the “dominant skirt silhouette” sold by online retailers, and currently accounting for 45% of skirt sales in the UK, says Kalya Marci, market analyst at retail consultancy Edited. Marci adds that searches for miniskirts have increased more than 50% in the past three months compared with the same period last year.

An understanding of the miniskirt’s place in fashion history gives some context to its surge in popularity today. The social and cultural impact of the mini forms a major theme in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Mary Quant retrospective, which runs until 16 February 2020.

We have reached the point where our hemlines are free to be as macro or micro as they please

Opinions differ on who invented the abbreviated garment – Cristóbal Balenciaga, Mary Quant and André Courrèges have all been credited. What is undeniable is that the miniskirt’s launch-pad was 1960s Swinging London, and it was local designer Quant who took the garment beyond the rarefied world of high fashion.

“The miniskirt came to symbolise freedom, empowerment and an increased confidence for the younger generation, who refused to conform and follow the stifling rules of their mother’s generation,” V&A curator Stephanie Wood tells BBC Designed. It also came to embody the broader social and cultural freedoms being fought for and gradually experienced by many women during the 1960s, she adds, “as more women entered the workforce, gaining their own independent wealth, and women began to gain more autonomy over their own bodies with the introduction of the contraceptive pill.”

Over the decades, the miniskirt has been subject to criticism by some feminist campaigners, and associated with an over-sexualised female stereotype. The current revival counters the recent gravitation towards more “modest” dressing, which has favoured longer lengths and looser silhouettes. The simple explanation is the cyclical nature of fashion trends: as midi and maxi lengths hit the mainstream, early adopters seek out something new.

Symbol of defiance

Meanwhile in 2019, we have reached the point where our hemlines are free to be as macro or micro as they please – but in the #MeToo era, when women’s bodies are increasingly politicised, the miniskirt is once again a symbol of defiance. “Fashion has a long history of representing political and social ideas, specifically because fashion is a powerful and very visible form of communication”, says Wood. “Perhaps the renaissance of the miniskirt can be linked with women feeling the need to reclaim their own bodies”.

While the miniskirts of the 1960s were a defining part of social shifts triggered by the so-called teenage “youthquake”, in 2019 it is notable that the trend has no upper-age limit. The Instagram feeds of Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner and Rihanna are peppered with miniskirts, but the garment is also favoured by high-profile women in their 40s and beyond, such as Kate Moss, Chloë Sevigny, the Spice Girl Emma Bunton and Quant herself.

‘Sexy’, skin-baring items like the miniskirt have found new context – Alice Gividen

When it comes to ageism, fashion’s tectonic plates are shifting: Christy Turlington, 50, closed the show for Marc Jacobs at his New York Fashion Week show in February; Patti Hansen, 63, was the star model at Michael Kors. Simone Rocha cast several 40-something women in her London show including 1980s favourite Jeny Howorth, and Marie Sophie Wilson. Yasmin Le Bon, 54, declared earlier this year that she wears miniskirts more in her 50s than she did in her 20s or 30s.

“There’s a new narrative building around traditional, feminine items,” agrees Alice Gividen, fashion and beauty editor at trend consultancy WGSN. “‘Sexy’, skin-baring items like the miniskirt have found new context in a time where we can celebrate femininity and sexuality, in line with ‘fourth-wave’ feminism, and with the goal of simply dressing up for ourselves.”

Mary Quant sponsored by King’s Road is at the V&A, London, until 16 February 2020 (BBC)

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Why is jewellry important in fashion?

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Jewellery has the ability to add beauty and style to you and whatever ensemble you are wearing. Whether it is costume jewellry or fine jewellery it is the wearer’s delight as it further highlights their personality with the look that it adds to your ensemble. You’re all dressed up and on your way out when you glance in the mirror and realize… something is missing. The outfit is flawless and the shoes are perfect, and then you spot it: A gorgeous bib necklace will make you look even better in that dress! Whether you’re on a date with someone sweet or dressing to impress a potential boss, you can use statement je ellery to transform your wardrobe.

“Jewellery has the power to be the one little thing that makes you feel unique.” — Elizabeth Taylor

The human love affair with all things sparkly has a long history Jewellery has always made a fashion statement.

Some of the earliest statement jewellery was found in Egypt. Collar necklaces, dangling earrings, and thick, cylindrical rings were all prevalent in Egyptian jewellery boxes.

The Romans loved their jewels too, but they preferred rings. These rings were made with heavy stones for winter and lighter, more delicate materials for the summer. Regardless of composition, the important characteristic of Roman jewellery was history, not value. As is the case today, in ancient Rome, a bauble could be priced higher if it had an illustrious history behind it.

Coco Chanel began creating her own elaborate jewellery in the 1920s, using crystal or coloured glass in varying sizes as the Egyptians had. Coco is often credited with popularizing the concept of “costume jewellery,” creating seasonal items that mixed real and imitation stones and pearls.

Vivenne Becker, an antique jewellery veteran, talks about “The Cocktail Style” in her book, Fabulous Costume Jewellery: History of Fantasy and Fashion in Jewels. Popular during the ’30s and ’40s, this jewellery era was all about big, jewellered rings, multi-strand pearl necklaces, and extensive use of gilt metal and rose gold. She describes “cocktail jewellery” as “bubbly and extravagant, like the alcoholic concoctions from which it took its name. It was assertive, bossy, jewellery to show off in.”

While making a statement in the ’50s meant throwing on a charm bracelet, jewellery in the ’60s had a bit more punch. Designer Paco Rabanne fully embraced statement jewellery, experimenting with cheap materials like plastic and PVC and using bright colours. He said, “I made jewellery for the alternative side of women’s personality, for their madness.”

It’s a crime to talk about statement jewellery without discussing the woman whose accessories always have something to say: Madeleine Albright. In her book, she tells the stories behind some of her favourite pins. In one tale, she recalls the first pin she wore to send an intentional political message. The pin was a gold snake wrapped around a branch, which she wore after being referred to as an “unparalleled serpent” by the Iraqi press. Dr. Albright still enjoys collecting pins, though she mentions she receives many as gifts

Modern day statement jewellery is big, bold, and full of many elements from previous decades. Today, we love pieces that incorporate the glitz and glam of the ’30s and ’40s, and the colours and materials of the ’60s. Most of all, we love statement jewellery’s eternal ability to make heads turn.

Fashion trends constantly evolve, but jewellery steadfastly remains an accessory that women turn to. Nothing can make an ensemble shine quite like jewellery can. It also makes the perfect statement for self-expression.

Jewellery changes the way your outfit ‘works’. Whether you wear an extravagant ring, or a simple necklace, a statement bracelet or subtle stud earrings, your choice of jewellery has the power to elevate your look to a whole new concept. In fact, fashion designers and jewellers have long since been working together to create various styles. Also, gemstones are no longer simply embellishments – they are pieces of art. Jewellery is definitely a big part of fashion. Here are some reasons why:

New look every day

Love your white shirt and end up wearing it too often? That’s ok! Make it look different each time with different jewellery! For a formal look, pair it with gold studs or drop earrings; for a Boho look throw on some chunky bangles and stack rings, or look casual and laid-back with tassel and pom pom earrings. You can also wear your pieces to match your mood.

Sparks conversations

Certain pieces are called conversation starters for a reason. Bold or quirky, intricate or chunky, such pieces of jewellery naturally draw attention and spark friendly discussions.

Accentuates your personality

Jewellery is a great way to express yourself, so select pieces that match your personal style and personality. It also allows your creativity and individualism to shine through and speak for themselves.

The biggest question probably is, how to choose jewellery that will complement your look, your mood and your personality. Also, how to style the pieces so they will enhance your wardrobe. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you dazzle!

Jewellery styling tips

. Define the focus of your look: jewellery or clothing?

When you start dressing, decide on this first. A simple outfit can be transformed into something spectacular with the right jewellery, or a statement piece. If the focus is on your clothing and it is bold, then choose small, subtle pieces as highlights, such as the Bliss solo stone bracelet with a mother of pearl.

Layer and stack

Experiment with layering your necklaces and stacking your earrings, rings and bangles! Mixing different lengths, shapes, textures and colours and seeing what works is a lot of fun! Layering necklaces of differing lengths can bring focus to your face. You can also stack rings in different gemstone colours or combine ear cuffs with hoops for an interesting look. Mixing your jewellery on your wrist can create a friendly jangle as you move your arm.

Experiment with mixing metals

Wearing a silver necklace? You don’t have to pair it with other silver jewellery as a rule. Contrast your pendant colour with its chain, or stack rings with different metal or gemstone colours. Try the same with your bangles and bracelets. If it looks good and makes you feel confident, just go with it!

Don’t follow trends blindly

Evolve your own style. Whatever accessory you choose, own it, flaunt it, be confident wearing it. Pick jewellery that suits your style, looks good on you and complements your colouring, and mostly, your personality.

Don’t overdo it

When you’re enthusiastic about jewellery, it’s easy to sometimes over-accessorise. So just watch out to make sure you’re not cluttering your look with excess. For instance, if you’re drawing attention to your neckline with a statement choker or layered necklace, don’t stack too many bracelets that compete for attention. Or, if you’re wearing bold pendant earrings, then a simple, matching necklace should be enough – or even no necklace.

How to match jewellery with your outfit

If you’ve ever been stuck wondering what jewellery to pair with which outfit, then this is for you! Just go with these handy hints:

Selecting jewellery

Consider where you’re going and what you’ll be doing, when selecting your jewellery If you’re dressing up for work and will be using your keyboard most of the day, avoid jangling bangles and hanging bracelets. Wear the longer, dressier earrings for formal events and parties and the more flamboyant pieces for casual outings.

Choose jewellery that

complements your skin tone

Jewellery is a great way to highlight your skin tone. Warm skin tones go well with yellow so gold is a good choice. Silver and white gold illuminate natural tones.

Pair busy patterns with

simple jewellery

You get a confused, gaudy look when you marry a busy print with loud, ornate jewellery.

Instead, consider simple, solid pieces.

Highlight your face with

earrings

If you want the spotlight on your face, then don a pair of statement earrings. Go for the flashy, glittering ones that make your eyes sparkle! Also, consider the shape of your face when choosing your earrings. For instance, studs and triangular earrings look best on an oval face.

– ToI

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From runways to red carpets, clogs are making a major comeback

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In case you haven’t noticed, clogs are having a moment – and we’re here for it. These ’90s “it shoes” have been popping up everywhere, from runways (Alaïa, Givenchy and Gucci to name a few), to social media, and even on the red carpet (Justin Bieber wore the Balenciaga Hardcrocs to the Grammy’s.) Although they may seem like a relic of the past, the folkloric footwear have been reimagined time and again with modern twists. This time around, designers chose rubber materials, unconventional colours and cozy textures as some of the ways to update the traditional style.

Even if your aesthetic isn’t all about the ’90s, clogs make the perfect shoes for any occasion they’re stylish and comfortable enough to wear all day long and easy to slide on and off. But they also add an interesting element to jazz up your outfits as the new season starts.

Whether you choose to pair them with a flowery dress or a pair of oversized jeans, there’s something about the quirky slip-ons that people can’t get enough of.

Clogs have emerged as one of the top footwear choices for pandemic living. They function like a slipper (comfortable and easy to get into), but with elevated style (and height) — and soles sturdy enough to wear for hours.

Doctors and nurses rely on them for long shifts, as do chefs and anyone else who stands at work all day.

They look cool, giving off equal parts art teacher, with-it parent, and fashionable ceramicist. Clogs are popular from the stylish ones worn by famous people to the hippie-ish ones preferred by men.

If you’ve seen a celebrity in clogs, chances are those clogs were from No.6. It’s the brand worn by Claire Danes, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, and Maya Rudolph, who wore several pairs in her Amazon show Forever.

Although No.6 clogs are no longer trendy, they’re not passé either. The brand has become so ubiquitous they’re practically canonized. Its clogs come in a bunch of different styles, including sexy high heels, flat heels and come in different colours and patterns .– Hello

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