said Orientals don't kiss?
In the eyes of the West, I am an Oriental. I am
the Other. I am the Stranger, the Unfamiliar. I live in a world
elsewhere, different from the ordinary sentiments and values of
the world known to the Self, (the West).
Edward Said the West has framed me, the Oriental, into "something
one judges (as in a court of law), something one studies and depicts
(as in a curriculum), something one disciplines (as in a school
or prison), something one illustrates (as in a zoological manual)".
(Orientalism Edward Said, New York:Random House, 1978).
I am the mirror
image of what is alien to the West. I am "irrational, depraved
(fallen), childlike, different" unlike the Westerner who is
"rational, virtuous, mature, 'normal". Rudyard Kipling
in Kim, shows me as the contrasting image of the West by portraying
me as duplicitous and untruthful ("Kim could lie like an Oriental")
I am the opposite of the "open-spoken English folk". I
am deficient and abnormal ("all hours of the twenty-four are
alike to Orientals", "he had all the Oriental's indifference
to mere noise").
Yet, for others,
for authors like Flaubert, Milton, Marlowe, Shakespeare and Cervantes,
I am a dream figure. In their eyes I live in a fabulously rich world
filled with half-imagined, half-known monsters, devils, heroes;
terrors, pleasures and desires. They associate me with the Sphinx,
Cleopatra, the Genii, the Magi and dozens more.
My world is
filled with gorgeous colour in contrast to the grayish tonality
of the Western provincial landscapes. It is filled with adventures
instead of humdrum routine. This is how Flaubert describes its grotesquerie.
"To amuse the crowd, Mohammed Ali's jester took a woman in
a Cairo Bazaar one day, set her on the counter of a shop, and coupled
with her publicly while the shopkeeper calmly smoked his pipe..."
(Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour, trans, and ed. Francis
Steegmuller (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1973)
In the mind
of the Westerner, my world seems to be always associated with the
freedom of licentious sex. To women like Emma Bovary, imprisoned
in their drab, bourgeois lives, day dreams of unrestrained sexual
experiences come packed inside Oriental cliches; "harems, princesses,
princes, slaves, veils, dancing girls and boys, sherbets, ointments,
and so on."
Like a pendulum
the value the West places on my world, the Orient, swings from one
extreme to the other. It is at times over-valued for its pantheism,
its spirituality, its stability, its longevity, its primitivity
and so forth and at times undervalued for being lamentably under
humanized, antidemocratic, backward, barbaric, and so forth.
had come across me today I wonder if he would treat me in the same
way he treats Kuchuk Hanem, the Egyptian courtesan who never speaks
for herself, who never shows her emotions, presence or history.
He speaks for and represents her, for he possesses the facts, which
give him the right to dominate her - he is foreign, comparatively
wealthy and male. He therefore, not only possesses Kuchuk Hanem
physically, but also speaks for her and tells his readers in what
way she was "typically Oriental".
For, to the
Western mind I would always be "first an Oriental, second a
human being, and last again an Oriental".
their eyes I will also, always be seen as an inhabitant of a post-colonial
society, who according to Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen
Tiffin speaks and writes "english" which is different
to the English of "the erstwhile imperial centre" - Britain.
("The Empire Writes Back", Routledge, 1989). My English
is a "lesser" variant of the Standard English used by
when teaching English literature, to students who belong to a post-colonial
nation I am expected to come across cultural stumbling blocks not
related to science and technology and their by-products, for nowadays
everyone knows what a flush toilet is, but blocks to quote Charles
Larson, "related to culturally restricted material". Larson,
in The American Scholar, 1973 writes that when he began to teach
Thomas Hardy to a class of 19-year-old Nigerian boys he had realized
"all of (his) students had no real idea of what it meant to
kiss". It was much later that he had learnt that "Africans,
traditionally at least, do not kiss... Not all peoples kiss".
Sri Lankans, traditionally at least. But when I began to teach Thomas
Hardy to my students who could not have been older than Larson's
Nigerian boys, and came across passages where characters got flustered
when they were kissed, no student sought my assistance. I was relieved
they already had an idea about what it meant to kiss. For, how could
I have discussed a Hardy novel with all those kisses if they had
kept asking me "What does it mean 'to kiss?'"
Not just for beauty but for health
Ruwanthi Herat Gunaratne
Bergamot, chamo- mile, ylang ylang
Exotic names that form the very essence of aromatherapy.
Hidden at the
very end of a crowded street in Colombo is an unobtrusive board
by the side of a quiet gravel lane. 'The Clinic' is a short walk
down. The stairway that leads to it is covered in dry twigs. Heavenly
fragrances waft gently down to the entrance. Aromystique, the door
proclaims and we've entered 'Aroma Heaven'.
is a health and beauty clinic established for the practice of aromatherapy,
reflexology and their latest addition, mud therapy. "Aromatherapy
is the use of essential oils to promote health and well being of
the mind and body," smiles Kishani Gunewardene, a passionate
aromatherapist and the owner of Aromystique.
oils have been used many thousands of years ago, even before the
time of the Egyptians, to promote health and well being. Their use
dwindled in the 1800s when the civilized world learned how to synthesize
accountant by profession, Kishani always wanted to do something
different. "An aunt of mine who was working as a nurse in England
had obtained a degree in Aromatherapy. And before I knew it, I was
in the UK studying for the Body works Certificate at the world's
largest school in aromatherapy - Shirley Price, Aromatherapy Ltd,
Kishani who completed her two-year course in 1996 it is mainly medical
doctors and nurses who are interested in pursuing courses in aromatherapy.
"What most fail to understand is the fact that aromatherapy
is not only a 'beauty thing'. It is an alternative medicine as well.
We had to study subjects such as Anatomy and Physiology in order
to obtain our degree."
It was when
she got back on completion of the degree that Kishani opened her
clinic seven years ago.
relies heavily on the use of essential oils. But what is an essential
oil? Essential oils are extracted from plants by various processes,
normally by distilling the plant matter and extracting all the volatile
properties. They can be extracted from any type of plant and from
different parts of the plant. Eucalyptus, for example, is taken
from the leaves whilst ginger is taken off the roots. As each oil
is a combination of natural chemicals they are distinctly unique.
In the modern
world essential oils are extracted using a method called steam distillation.
This method uses steam to extract the oils in the plant and after
careful condensation lets it mix with water. It depends on the density
of the oil extracted as to whether it will float on water or sink
a highly concentrated oil which consists of chemicals such as phenols
and alcohols that are the result," says Kishani, "Most
often, the constitution of the oil is then changed and the oils
are used in the food and perfume industry." But what Kishani
found during the course of her studies is that essential oils were
also a part of the treatment offered in Maternity and Children's
Wards in Hospitals. "And that is due to their therapeutic effect."
effect relies on the purity of the essential oil. Synthetic substances
are generally quite successful for cookery and perfumery, but it
cannot be stressed enough that for the purpose of aromatherapy only
the best and purest essential oils will give the desired effect.
"Obtaining a pure unadulterated quality oil is an expensive
process. 100 kgs of eucalyptus yields about 4 litres of oil while
100 kgs of rose petals would yield only 20ml of oil."
It is through
entering the body that the oils can help. "The universal method
is that of inhalation. Essential oils vaporize readily and can therefore
enter the body via the air through the nose and the bronchial passage.
Adding a few drops of essential oil to a tissue or to a bowl of
water releases the vapour, which is then inhaled." An aroma
can have an immediate effect on the mind and the body. "The
faster the stimuli can reach the brain, the faster the effect will
take place. This method is ideal for those suffering from coughs,
congestion and sinusitis."
of use is by a bath. Here 6-7 drops of the required oil or required
blend of oils is added into a warm water bath.
But the most
well known of aromatherapy techniques is that of massage. What must
be understood is that the key factor of an aromatherapy massage
is the use of the correct bland of oils that would suit each individual"
movements can vary from light feathery strokes designed to relax
the muscles and nerves to heavy pounding and kneading designed to
break up fatty areas. An essential oil is massaged onto any part
of the body in a blended form. "This is due to the high concentration
of the oils when they are being stored in their respective bottles."
As each molecule of essential oil is very small, they enter the
body through the skin to give the desired effect.
treatment, Kishani insists on having a brief chat with the client.
"The beauty of aromatherapy lies in the fact that each person
is treated using a blend or mix of oils made especially for her.
Therefore I conduct a short question and answer session where I
can gauge what physical or mental aspect of the client should be
concentrated on." This begins with a lifestyle and medical
analysis. Once that is completed Kishani moves on to the reflexology
test. "Reflexology is an ancient Chinese therapy with a modern
American name," says Kishani. It is based on the principle
that all our organs are represented at various points, and connected
through energy lines on our feet. When pressure is applied one can
identify the points of disorder on a client.
cannot specifically provide for the disorder, but will give the
aromatherapist a foundation with which to work on. Treatments vary
according to the needs of the client. The Clinic is open only to
addictive? "No," smiles Kishani. "Essential oils
comprise of energetic natural chemicals such as turpines, alcohols,
ketones and phenols. This composition keeps changing depending on
the needs of the body. The needs of the body too keep changing.
Therefore one cannot get addicted to a specific oil. The blend that
I'd use on you today would be different to the one I'd use on you
At the moment
it's mostly ladies in their late 30s and early 40s who visit the
clinic on a regular basis. "Aromatherapy offers a range of
natural remedies that will help soothe and ease discomforts suffered
during pregnancy. Another treatment that we have now introduced
is aromatherapy for children, to alleviate common childhood ailments."
Any other plans
in the pipeline? "I've started workshops during the weekends
to introduce people to aromatherapy and to teach self-help and family
remedies," says Kishani. "There's also a three-month course
in aromatherapy and health."
Can you practise
aromatherapy on a daily basis? 'Definitely, I use it to cure myself
of every ailment. Be it a headache or stress. The most important
element is never to compromise on quality and purchase the best
oils available." (See box for suggested oils)
also introduced "Mud Therapy" to the Clinic. The products
for mud therapy are obtained from the Neydharting Moor in Austria.
As a 100% herbal substance it works in an extremely natural and
gentle way to first cleanse, heal and finally strengthen the body.