27th February 2000
By Ruhanie Perera
Ready to write this story - I sat down, leant forward, crossed my legs above the knee and after some time clicked my fingers. What does that say about me... that I am alert, energised and have had a burst of inspiration. Impressive, isn't it?
It isn't always though that your body language says nice things about you. If you're feeling depressed, aggressive or even inhibited, your body sends out signals that convey just those emotions. It's actually quite scary when you realise that your gestures, postures, facial expressions and even your walk convey your emotions, attitudes and thoughts! In fact today the study of body language is an accepted science called 'Kinesics'.
Tiny little actions that you don't think twice about can say so much about what you're feeling. Yawn and you are saying that you feel absolutely bored. Turn your nose up and everybody thinks you're a snob. Why? - because you are unconsciously saying "I reject this". Tapping your foot is a definite sign of impatience. Most of us don't even realise when we shrug our shoulders, but when we do we show indifference. If you crack your knuckles, you are nervous by nature. Sit on the edge of a chair and you are ready for action, rub your nose and you are nervous or puzzled, bite your lower lip and you are not confident - the list is endless. Before you know it, you won't be able to scratch your head in peace.
Learning how to interpret body language can be an advantage. It not only helps you understand others better, but it also helps you to be more aware of yourself. That way you can project any given image. Designer and choreographer Senaka de Silva has made a career out of correcting body language and bringing out the right image. "The right image is being relaxed," says Senaka who comes across girls who adopt all sorts of postures that correspond to their feelings. "Lots of our girls are inhibited and self- conscious," - and as a result some slouch or hunch, especially if they are very tall. Thus for the past twenty five years he's been teaching them the most important lesson of all...to relax, 'right down to their fingertips'. "Each person has an aura around them, they just need to light it."
So if you've never believed in the saying "actions speak louder than words", it's high time you did. The messages your body sends out can be deafening. The good news is you can use it to your advantage and project the image you want. But don't jump to conclusions when judging another person's body language. Confident that I was almost an expert on the subject I lectured a colleague on how she always adopted a defensive stance (since she crossed her arms across her chest), only to find out that she did it when she felt cold. Hmpf! I'm sure even Einstein had a bad day or two.
Love's more than a rose Now that the excitement of Valentine's Day has died and roses expressing love have wilted, Anoja sounded most unhappy when she met me. "Why does one give roses for Valentine's Day," she asked peevishly, "they fade so soon like love in a marriage," she added cynically. But I disagreed, a rose is just a symbolic expression and I am sure if those who exchange the flower think of the reality of love, its sacrifice and commitment, they will I am sure agree with the poet 'My love's like a red red rose'. Anoja was annoyed-she thought I was being frivolous! So I agreed that it needs more than a rose to sustain love. When two people get married and start living together it is so very difficult to adjust, especially to give up the habits one is accustomed to. When one is in love, everything seems possible, each one is so anxious to please the other. If one has an argument it is soon settled, for each is willing to let the other decide. But in a marriage that does not work. Suddenly the scenario is changed. The boy who would make special efforts to spend whatever time he could spare with his girl, now finds other demands, his work place, his friends, sports and his hobbies. He blissfully imagines now that he is married, the girl will understand. She on the other hand if unemployed, feels that she is spending her time slaving to cook, wash, iron and clean the house etc. If she is working yet she feels she has to prepare the dinner while her husband usually comes in, has a wash, watches TV and has his dinner, leaving her to wash up afterwards. 'Nothing like the liberated west,' said Anoja 'where the husband has to attend to the housework too!' I think he will do so here too if only she asks him. Instead, often she lets her resentment build up and then suddenly it bursts out, often over a very trivial incident and then the surprised husband gets irritated. That would not have happened if they had spoken to each other of their feelings. If she expressed how unhappy she was, he would certainly have understood. In any marriage I told Anoja, one of the most important things is the communication the husband and the wife have with each other. Neither should block the other, for a marriage means a 'togetherness'. The home should be the place where the husband and wife talk out their problems, usually solve them and 'where each one in the eyes of the other is ten feet tall even if they aren't'. Marriage means listening, talking and discussing together. It's been said 'to listen is to care, but caring is more than listening, to care I try to see your point of view, see through your eyes and sense what you want'.If a couple can achieve that caring, then their marriage will last.
The learning process begins!
The quest for a boarding house, which began way before university started, drew a blank. Not until I visited quite a few places myself did I realize just what kind of life it was.
Almost all of them were awfully stuffy, dirty, smelly, and messy, with three or four students sharing a tiny room. One could not even breathe, let alone study. Everything would be rationed. You either rough it or ship out. No complaints would be entertained.
I decided I'd rather go through the gruelling process of travelling daily than spend the next three years squeezed into a place like that. In spite of the hassle and the risk involved, it seemed a thousand times better than being stuck in unfamiliar surroundings. Besides, I knew my mother was happy and extremely relieved to see me come home in one piece at the end of the day.
After the early morning lecture on a Monday, we were jobless for a couple of hours till the next one started. Two of my friends and I decided to check out the gym.
It was teeming with guys. Although Chandi and Indu had second thoughts about hanging around this male-dominated territory, I was determined to play badminton.
The court was already occupied by four burly males who showed no sign of letting us in. My two partners offered no encouragement either. Unfazed, I put on my best smile and ventured, "Do you think we could play for a while?"
The guy whom I addressed shot me a look of extreme annoyance while the others looked at each other. Neither of my friends made any move towards the court. I was on my own.
There was no mistaking the patronizing look on his face when he offered me the racket. I could almost hear him say, "Here you go, girl. Now let's see how you're gonna keep up with three guys!"
Male chauvinism at its best!
Time flew past as we played a power-packed game of badminton during which I hit my partner in the face with the racquet (unintentionally, of course) and fell on all fours, trying to be too smart. After one and a half hours of vigorous play, we were good friends. No more hard feelings.
The other day I was power walking up the hill to make it in time for the 8 o' clock lecture. There they were, about half a dozen of them, grinning from ear to ear. Oh no, am I in for a 'treat'?
One of them shoved this leaflet into my hand and smiled broadly. What was that all about?
Posters of various shapes and sizes adorned the campus. Hard-hitting and very creative, indeed. It took me a few minutes to figure it out. The Student Union election was on the cards.
For the past few days we have had representatives of the "Front" and the "Foundation" barging in before and after lectures, explaining in detail why we should vote for their party and not the other. It all sounded like Greek to me, naturally. I couldn't make any more difference between them than I could between the PA and the UNP. The only redeeming feature, it seemed, was that these people behaved. At least, so far they had.
"The real drama is yet to come. After the election they pick on those who haven't voted for them," a friend disclosed during lunchtime. I almost choked on my food. There I was happily counting the days when the ragging season would be over and, hey, what's this?
I faithfully remembered those pieces of motherly wisdom. "No guys. No politics. Mind your own business and you'll be just fine." Of course, I laughed it off at the time. (What, you think I'm a 16-year-old or something?) But, as always, mother knows best.
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