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106. The Sola Hat

Gandhiji had a strong predilection towards the sola topee (hat) as a protection against the sun. He considered that hat as one of the real boons that the Western civilization had given to the tropics. He declared his views on the subject as follows:

"My narrow nationalism rebels against the hat, but my secret internationalism regards the sola hat as one of the few boons from Europe. But for the tremendous national prejudice against the hat, I would undertake to become president of a league for popularizing sola hats. In my opinion educated India has erred in taking (in the climate) unnecessary, unhygienic, inelegant trousers and betraying general hesitation to take up the sola hat. But I know that national likes and dislikes are not governed by reason. The Scotch Highlander will run the risk of being singled out by his kilt as an easy target by the enemy, but will not abandon the awkward kilt. I do not expect India to take kindly to the sola hat. It is in reality an easily portable umbrella that covers the head without the necessity of one hand being occupied in carrying it. The Calcutta policeman who shades his head from the fierce sun by sustaining an umbrella in his belt puts himself in a double handicap when pitted against his European fellow member. I may here draw the reader's attention to an indigenous and effective equivalent of the hat that is very generally worn by the poor farmers of Malabar. It is an umbrella without the handle, made of leaves with a bark hoop to fit the head. It is cheap, thoroughly effective and in no way akin to the hat and yet almost just as serviceable."