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.

12 thoughts on “The Solar Topee And The Felt Hat.”

    1. Khaki was the more popular here too as white ones had a nasty habit of getting dirty too soon! Keeping them clean was quite a job in those days with primitive washing soaps and coir brushes.

  1. I have one of those Solar Topees in my hat collection. I think of it as African–same difference lol.

  2. Your cricket player graphic brought memories. When our son lived in Connecticut, for reasons unknown, he decided to try out for a company cricket team. He made it–the only American on the squad–and we enjoyed watching several matches, although we had only a foggy idea of what was going on.
    Gabbygeezer recently posted..How Terrible: Oil May Get Cheaper

      1. Just asked my son, Lee, for some details of his brief cricket career. Six cricket clubs formed a league in Connecticut and Rhode Island where his team competed. Lee’s team consisted of scientists employed by Pfizer, and many were from outside the U.S. Lee’s team included two Indians, a Brit, several Irishman, and an Australian. I also learned there is a six-team cricket league in the midwestern U.S.

        So, cricket is alive and well in America, although probably not played with the great skill seen in other lands having a long history with the sport.
        Gabbygeezer recently posted..How Terrible: Oil May Get Cheaper

        1. I was quite surprised but on doing some research and talking to some returned students from the US, I discover that the game is slowly gaining popularity in many places though the core support seems to come from the old British colonies and the UK itself.

  3. The only time I’ve ever worn a hat to protect myself from the sun is in Australia. The sun in Britain simply isn’t hot enough to bother about. Strangely enough, Aussies themselves seldom wear sunhats. Which probably helps to explain why they have such a high rate of skin cancer.
    nick recently posted..Shut up and kiss me

    1. While in Britain in winters, I had often worn a skull cap which I could unfold down over the ears to keep the cold out. But during the other times, I was also bareheaded.

  4. i have so enjoyed these stories! please don’t stop them!
    and the idea of taking one picture and relating the various things in it to different memories and stories… priceless and unique!
    i had to catch up with a few. i’m having computer problems. so couldn’t even be on it yesterday but a few minutes. so glad i could today to catch up with yours!
    tammy j recently posted..endurance

    1. One of these days, I will sit with some old photographs that can generate such stories and start the process. In the meanwhile, I shall keep you entertained with other posts.

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