by Thilak S. Fernando

Paduru party is the latest vogue in Sri Lanka. It came to the Colombo scene in a different but somewhat fashionable style, to middle and upper class society only a year ago. When one is invited to a Paduru party in Colombo these days, there are certain criteria and dress norms to follow both men and women wearing similar dress Sarongs and wrap-ups. Women wear their reddha just under the half blinking but nevertheless dancing belly button, exposing at times the latest belly stud yanked by a u-shaped pin; hatte fixed tight above the exposed obe theeraye or in certain cases the spare tyre. Men go for expensive psychedelic silk sarongs and neck-less short-sleeve tops with sandals or slippers.

In Paduru Party scenario there are no chairs to sit on but everyone squats on a mat or a padura as the name suggests. Of course, there will be music and singing to their hearts content, supplemented by the famous Scottish light pale liquid nourishment in the form Whiskey. Those who like reaction like a shot on their back go for a couple of Pol Arrak shots depending on the background of the meeting group. Similarly ladies go for their favourite glass of punch, the more daring ones for dry Gin and tonic, sporty types like a Bloody Mary or the bold ones prefer to enjoy a screwdriver!

Paduru Party is not a new invention at all. The history of this collective enjoyment of groups of men and women on a mat goes as far back as the Buddhas time in India. In Buddhist Jathaka stories it is mentioned that Prince Siddhartha became disinterested in life after having confronted four types of people- a beggar, monk, weak old man and a cortege carrying a dead body. When the Prince was in a depressed state of mind after witnessing this Sath Pera Nimithi and began to think how frail and impermanent human life on earth can be, his father king Suddhodana arranged a Paduru Party to cheer him up, where most beautiful women and dancers were brought in with musicians to make a merry din throughout the whole night. Despite such efforts when the Prince saw tired, dishevelled figures of the beauties with faking mak-up and their good looks becoming repugnant in the morning, his depressive feelings tormented him more to such an extent that he decided to give up his royal comforts including his own dear wife and baby son, Rahula, to go in search of self- enlightenment.

In short, Paduru partys origin goes back to many decades in India where it was considered a common occurrence among Maha Rajahs in various provinces. They organised those dos and invited only classical musicians and singers to entertain kings selective audiences. Even during the Indian lineage of kings, who ruled Sri Lanka and got married to Sri Lankan women, accepted Sri Lankan culture and traditions and maintained the countrys tradition, they managed to maintain the paduru party concept throughout.

Over the years this tradition has been seemingly become adulterated. In recent times the name of the paduru party was changed to locally known as Sajjayas in Sri Lanka where a well-known music maestro played the Serpina and the Golayas played the Tabla and Veena and the singers sang classical songs. Sajjayas were usually held at village weddings or when a female child attained her puberty to mark the occasion and turn the event into a jolly ceremony.

Some of the famous names that come to mind when one thinks back of Sajjaya days are Mohammed Sali , Shelton Perera and Romles Perera as musicians and W. D. Amaradeva, Mohideen Beig, Haroon Lanthra, H. R. Jothipala , Milton Perea and lately Nila Wickremasinghe as singers.

The first Paduru Partiya came to London in July 99 at Ilford where a selection of Sri Lankan thespians took part as special guests. The evening, which was divided into two parts, catered for the paduru crowd during the early hours and the latter half of the evening leaving to the youth and baila singers.

Among the special guests were Daya Alwis, Harry Wimalasena, Robin Fernando, Sriyani Amarasena from Sri Lanka and Lilani Perera, Anula Perera and Anura Hegoda all of whom who took part in the latest teledrama Ira Bata Tharuwa produced in London. A popular actress Gothami Pathiraja took part in singing with Sriyani Amarasena seated on a padura while Ranjan Ramanayake entertained the young crowed with baila singing.

A special bonus to the audience was the unexpected appearance of the most sought after actress in the Sri Lanka silver-screen, Swarna Mallawarachchi, who happened to be in London on a short holiday with her daughter. Out of all the unexpected events in the evening the biggest surprise was the sudden announcement by the compere of the show, Daya Alwis, about her birthday and started singing happy birthday to you, dear Swarna. Maintaining her seductive image of the characters she plays on the Sinhala cinema Swarna wore a sarong and a matching top displaying her body curves which conveyed the message that she is still in command on the silver screen, no matter what the type of character given to her or how difficult and equally daring it may be"!

Also taking a back seat and enjoying gracefully were the pioneers of the London cultural scene, G.D.L Perera who produced Rata Giya Attho and several other films for the big screen and Geetha Perera, actress, Namel Weeramuni the producer and the father of the London stage drama of yesteryear accompanied by his talented actress wife Malini.

Lilani Perera who organised the first Paduru Party in London was introduced to the acting world from the Radio Ceylons Muwan Pallessa radio play. She later appeared at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn as Kalu Hamy in Prof. Ediriweera Sarathchandras Elowa Gihin Melowa Awa stage play produced and directed by Namel Weeramuni in London. After making her first television debut in G.D. L. Pereras Rata Giya Attho she lately became a co-producer of Ira Bata Tharuwa teledrama filmed on London occasions, which is due to hit the Sri Lanka television screens in early March next year.

The theme behind a paduru party they say is just not to sit innate like a bag of Basmathi rice, sipping cans of beer and lubricating the gossip machine, but to put ones hair down and enjoy the evening in the comfort of a light sarong in the case of men - no matter even if it is too transparent, especially under the bright fluorescent light, or in the case of ladies whether they expose obe theeraya, spare tyre or the belly stud - who cares? - As long as you enjoy the fun of the evening.