The Solar Topee And The Felt Hat.

3 mosquitoes

This will be the last post on the soliloquy based on the above photograph. There are just two items left in the photograph that merit some reminiscing and nostalgia.

Solar Topee Pith Helmet

The first one is the Solar Topee, depicted there by my brother Arvind wearing his uncle’s. His uncle, the same who experimented with the thought of adopting me, was the Garden Superintendent of a very big estate and had to supervise farm workers on the open fields more than sit under a fan in an office. Some of my older readers will recollect these hats as being favoured head gear by both English and French colonial officials who had to spend some time in the open under the blazing sun of their empires.

In India, these were quite popular and I distinctly remember my uncle wearing it somewhat incongruously combined with his dhoti and kurta as shown with the headless figure in my post The Theosophical Society, Adyar, Madras. Another person I remember was a schoolmaster named Mr. Roberts who used to escort students in our school bus. Despite being protected from the sun, by sitting inside the bus, he never did remove the topi in all the time that I rode the school bus till I was considered old enough to ride a bicycle to school navigating the traffic filled roads of Madras. Besides these two, during the time that my father was in the Home Guards, I saw a couple of Anglo Indian officers wearing these and conducting the parades.


But the story that should tickle Manjiree and all my cricket loving readers is the hero of our days Mohinder Amarnath who braved some of the most aggressive short pitched fast bowling ever, wearing just the solar topi. These were the days before the helmets now preferred were worn and you can read here as to why I consider Mohinder the greatest person who ever wore the solar topi. Compare that heroism with a batsman of today shown on top, who is minus another armour, not shown here, the arm guards.

Appa, Graham, Felt hat

Now for the last item on the photograph – the felt hat that I am wearing there. That belonged to my father who cut quite a dash wearing it. There are a lot of his photographs with it on his head but I choose this one because of his fondness for automobiles as well.   Here he is wearing the hat while standing next to his Graham.  That hat lasted a long time and I suppose, disintegrated somewhere in the village.  I bought and  wore one as an adult in Hyderabad during the summer of 1968 when I was based there as a salesman.  I distinctly remember that being the last felt hat that the shop had, all the rest being straw ones.   I lost it in a bar there one evening and never forgave myself for that lapse. Unfortunately I don’t have a photograph of mine wearing it!


The last time I wore a hat was with Manjiree and Ranjan escorting me in Mahabalipuram two years ago. We bought a cheap nylon one to give me some protection from the blazing sun and it was discarded on our return to Pune. While Ranjan also bought one for himself, Manjiree did the wiser thing and had opted for a cloth flop hat.

So, Manjiree’s starting off the soliloquy with her question about the three musketeers, finally ends with her contribution to the story too.


“We now know that memories are not fixed or frozen, like Proust’s jars of preserves in a larder, but are transformed, disassembled, reassembled, and recategorized with every act of recollection.”
~ Oliver Sacks.

Cheerful Monk can occasionally zap me with her suggestions. Here is a specimen. in my blog post What Is The Point?, she commented – “Don’t give up on the soliloquies, just spare your daughter-in-law and share them here in your blog. Some people will be interested and others can easily skip them if they choose. At any rate, you will be sharing yourself with your friends.”

She achieved two remarkable things with that one comment. She made a BFF out of me and more importantly out of my daughter in law Manjiree as well!

Here is another soliloquy to start off this series as suggested by CM. Please click on the image given below to get a larger resolution.
3 mosquitoes

This photograph was taken circa 1948 when the fourth sibling had not been born. The three young lads in the front are, from left to right, my brothers Arvind and Barath with me at the right extreme. I am wearing my father’s favourite felt hat and Arvind my father’s elder brother’s solar topee, or pith helmet as it used to be known. The two adults in the picture are, just behind me, my fahter’s younger sister and behind Arvind, her husband Dr. Kumaraswamy. You can also see my father’s Ford V8 standing right at the back,

Arvind has got the largest collection of our family photographs having had my late mother living with him the longest and having hijacked my late father’s collection of photographs from my home when my father was spending his last days with me. He chose this photograph to share in our family group mail to remember Dr. Kumaraswamy’s connection to us. Dr. K, just short of a hundred years old passed away on the day before this photograph was shared by Arvind.

On seeing this photograph, Manjiree wanted to know if the three young lads were the famous three handsome musketeers of the family!  I suspect that she needs new prescription for her glasses.  They are more like three mosquitoes.  And her question again almost made me take off on a soliloquy about the characters in the photograph, the car there, the headwear, the house seen on the right of the picture and the reason for the solar topi and so on and so forth, but refrained from doing so, so that I could share it with Cheerful Monk and my other readers if they will be interested in such a soliloquy.

Should I?