by Mahesh Abeyewardene
Sri Lankan-born Sudesh Muthu has captured the world record for longest male dreadlocks, measuring at six feet, three inches, according to Guinness World Records in the United Kingdom.
Growing the dreadlocks was a labour of love for the past 23 years, says Muthu, who owns a plastics recycling company in Canada. The hairstyle was subject to breathless comments over the years with detractors saying his hair was not genuine. This month, Muthu traveled to London for Guinness to set the record straight; his hair was real and longest in the world.
Perhaps it will take much longer to convince his mother, who after 23 years refuses to change her position on the dreadlocks.
"Now that you have the record, you can cut it," she told Muthu over the telephone from Sri Lanka.
In the lead-up to his wedding in 1999 the dreadlocks triggered a stand-off between Muthu and his mother and at least one other relative. They refused to attend the wedding unless Muthu cut his hair. In return the stubborn groom threatened to call-off the entire wedding.
Cooler heads prevailed, the ceremony went ahead with his mother in attendance and the dreadlocks remained intact. His bride, Irosha was fine with the hairstyle and was captured beaming in a red Kandiyan sari at the wedding.
He began growing dreadlocks at the tender age of 17 while studying at St. Matthew’s College Colombo 9 in Sri Lanka. Captivated by the lyrics of Jamaican musician Bob Marley, he decided to emulate the star by growing his hair. Though a life-long Buddhist, he began learning about the Rastafarian movement.
Later, Muthu become a sailor on a cargo ship that navigated across the world and migrated to Canada with no friends or relatives to greet him in 1995. "I only had my shirt and trousers and a few dollars," he said.
During those years he turned to Bob Marley’s music and lyrics and says his favourite song was "Who The Cap Fit". "I like that song, especially the meaning of its lyrics."
A few years ago Muthu played in the band "Reggae Colour" led by Sharman Ranaweera in Colombo. The group was invited to play at an official party to welcome the visiting West Indies cricket team in Sri Lanka.
Muthu has been a long-time supporter of Sri Lankan musicians, ranging from new-age to classical genres. Every year he travels to Sri Lanka to attend the "Ridee Reyak" musical show, where he relishes a chance to meet his favourite stars.