25th August 2002, Volume 9, Issue 06
Go to heaven
while you are alive
By Ranee Mohamed
She hands me a large turquoise towel and says
softly "Please remove your clothes." A little while later
she is walking on her palms on my back as I lie on a soft mattress on the
floor. All I can see are silk cushions and three white Araliya flowers
nestling near bottles of fragrant oils from Shirley Price.
It is my first visit to a spa and this Balinese massage
makes me wish that it is not the last.
imagine that The Sanctuary spa
is in some island far away. But Jawatte road is by no means an island. Busy traffic whizz by and almost opposite is the Department
of Registration of Persons which issues identity cards by the hundreds
everyday. But people who come to The Sanctuary ironically lose their own
identity as they are sunk in luxury, pampered with comfort and care.
spa which opened its jacuzzis, saunas and steam baths to customers is the
brainchild of Johann Peries of The Cutting Station fame. The Cutting
Station is a salon that caters to an upmarket clientele and is situated
next to The Sanctuary spa.
Peries works as a director there.
From race track to spa
But behind the scenes remains K. Omprasadham
who is the chairman. A successful businessman and an electrical
engineer by profession, Omprasadham is the deputy chairman of Speed
Development Lanka Pvt Limited. And from his racetrack profession,
Omprasadham has changed highways to a slower outlook on life. "In
this place, you can get lost. You can forget your troubles and let
yourself be pampered" he says calmly.
Strangely the Sanctuary's concept seems to work in
conformity with Omprasadham's very nature. Soft spoken, serene and kind,
he walks, talks and gestures very softly and gently. It blends beautifully
with his Sanctuary.
His wife Veronica joins us. She brings us gourmet cuisine
from Keith Sparr, the chef of
the Sanctuary spa. Bringing
in fresh melon, pineapple and papaya juices she also orders generously
from the Spa's menu. Chicken liver on toast and cheese sandwiches make
their way to the comfortable lounge meant for customers to relax and have
lunch in between treatments. Not only is Veronica an excellent host, but
has been a customer at spas worldwide. She seems to know this subject
"My wife knows all about spas, but I don't think I
know that much," says Omprasadham modestly.
The Sanctuary's menu does not consist of health food. But
foods that are good for one's health and well being. Hence, most of the
wholesome foods like tuna mayonnaise, smoked chicken and salads are
delicious. Served to customers who have been massaged with fragrant oils
and soaked in salts and vibrating waters, the meals are really the icing
on the cake.
A different world
The Sanctuary's telephone no. 501269 starts to ring now
and then. But even the rings are muffled. The staff here speak softly and
tip toe around all over the place as if there were babies asleep here..
The spacious salons consisting of several rooms, with inviting beds are
lit with candles. "We limit the artificial light here and we use
candles in our salons because it relieves stress and is very
soothing," explains Omprasadham.
The staff here remind one of Florence Nightingale. They
walk around gently with candles in clay containers, whispering and
soothing tired bodies.
There are special rooms with bathtubs for mud-treatment.
And the kind of mud used here are not what society generally uses to sling
at one another. This mud is soothing, curative and regenerative.
Aromatherapy treatments range from therapies aimed at
curing aches and pains, reducing cellulite, stimulating circulation,
eliminating fatigue, combatting jetlag, helping one to rest and reducing
stress. There are also aromatherapy baths and aromatherapy facials.The
flower petal bath sounds fascinating, letting one soak in the outside in a
tub of water floating with fresh, coloured petals.
"This is a hideaway. Anybody can come here even
during the lunch break and get pampered for an hour and perhaps have lunch
too," suggests Omprasadham.
But the real treat will come in the form of a day or a
half day spent here when The Sanctuary will let their therapists decide
what you really need.
Of all the treatments, the Balinese massage with
florally-fragrant oils, done by Yatrien from Bali, Indonesia deserves the
bouquet. Yatrien's expert hands can give the massage 'hard' 'medium' or
'soft' - anyway you like it.
One would expect this kind of place to be expensive. But
therapies range from Rs.500 to Rs.3,500 and is affordable and deserved by
everyone in our society today. Even housewives ought to seriously consider
visiting The Sanctuary, for it is a refuge for the body and soul.
Outside, pools made to nature's recipes ripple and on the
sides are waterfalls meant for customers to sit under. The stones that
adorn the borders of the pools are from Java and coloured in sky blue and
cream. Long lounging chairs and cream coloured stones from Indonesia
heighten the sense of comfort and luxury surrounding this natural pool.
"We hope to start yoga sessions here in the evenings," Peries
Greenery, water, natural food and human kindness are all
put together under one roof to make this Spa a true heaven. Many of us
lead stressful lives. So obsessed are we with work and our commitments
that we forget our commitment to ourselves - to be well and happy, so that
we will be able to do things better for a longer period in this lifetime.
It is time we opened our eyes to places like The
Sanctuary: and close our eyes the moment we enter there.
The invisible empires
By Shehara Samarasinghe
Are you tired of always spending your well-deserved
holidays and hard-earned money in the same places? Why not visit the
charming Principality of Freedonia for a change? Or explore the sights and
wonders of the Republic of Lomar? Perhaps you could do a round trip of the
Kingdom of Talossa - I hear it's lovely this time of year! Despite the
alluring prospects of travelling to some exotic location, prospective
travellers should be warned: local travel agencies probably do not offer
any special deals to these destinations, in fact, they are not likely to
know of their existence. However, this is not a bad reflection on the
quality of their services because the Principality of Freedonia, the
Republic of Lomar and the Kingdom of Talossa are three of the growing
number of micronations which exist, for the most part, only online.
Empires that cannot be found on any map are rising up in
cyberspace and challenging the current definition of a nation. Hundreds of
new communities - ranging from purely internet-based societies to those
that have both territory and wealth - now claim to be sovereign states.
Many are little more than games, simulations at best, which provide
adolescents of all ages with a forum to play 'government'. Others aspire
to greater things and have their own constitution, government, flags,
passports, currency, stamps - even their own language and culture. Whilst
some are content to stay unplottable on the geographical map, a few
micronations are campaigning for international recognition as cyberspace
redefines civilisation and defies the chief historical prerequisite for
nationhood: the concept of physical territory.
Could the world accept a micronation whose sovereign
territory is a URL? "I don't think the world is ready for virtual
nations just yet", says Farhan Haq, a spokesperson for the United
Nations Headquarters in New York, but admits that it is foolish not to
recognise that cyberspace, as boundless as the universe and equally as
unexplored, has wide-ranging implications for the notions of power and
community. There has never been a non-territorial sovereign state but the
Vatican, for example, derives its authority from its 'spiritual territory'
rather than from the spot of land it actually possesses in Rome. As Prince
John I of the Principality of Freedonia puts it: "the idea of
creating a new nation based on some high principles is not really any more
ridiculous today than, say, in 1776 when the American founding fathers
decided to do just that and form a new government and a new nation based
on the political philosophy of their time".
Freedonia is one of the larger and more ambitious
micronations. It has almost 200 cyber-citizens and is a constitutional
monarchy that can be traced to the prince's college dormitory - officially
the embassy of Freedonia. The micronation is working towards territorial
nationhood and has explored the possibilities of a floating platform, an
artificial island and a ship. It was created with the idea of a capitalist
paradise in mind (small wonder, Prince John is studying finance) and wants
to "practice a system of government that would be welcoming to
corporations and manufacturing concerns of the world."
But what would attract big businesses to Freedonia? With
an abundance of states in the world, most of which, unfortunately,
practice capitalism, the prime reason for creating a new state is to evade
certain laws. Thus Freedonia, if recognised, could become a sort of tax
haven. This is one of the premises on which the Freedom Ship International
is based. Still no more than an idea, this 'country' is simply a big boat
- a modern, luxurious boat that is nearly a mile long and 25 stories high
and was designed to promote an unprecedented lifestyle: a sea-based,
mobile, residential, commercial and resort community. The Freedom Ship
would spend most of its time in international waters and citizens would be
able to purchase duty free items from the on-board mall. Instead of paying
taxes, citizens simply have to pay a flat monthly fee.
A high proportion of micronations have tax evasion and
the bending of their birth nations' rules at heart. The Freedom Ship would
also contain medical facilities that women living in countries where
abortion is illegal could utilise. In this sense, micronations are being
used as valid forms of protest, calling to legalise things like abortion
or marijuana. They are also used in a less noble manner as smokescreens,
behind which one can break the law. However, before you decide to turn
your own bedroom into a sovereign state and indulge in all manner of
dubious dealings, beware: it may be easy to create a new nation - one can
proclaim pretty much anything to be pretty much anything else on the
internet - but in order to transcend fantasy, other nations, most
importantly your own, will have to recognise you as being.
King Robert I turned his bedroom into a separate state in
1979 but outside the Kingdom of Talossa, he remains simply Robert Ben
Madison, a high school debate coach from Wisconsin. He has written
declarations of sovereignty to the US State Department several times but
has received no answer, and although he deems this to be de facto
recognition of his kingdom, it is clear that were he to break any rules or
stop paying taxes to the American government, that is, then America would
most definitely invade and most likely seize Talossa. His fellow Talossans,
so King Robert says, might be "as independent as we possibly can be
without breaking any laws, but of course in the big picture, that means we
are not very independent at all!"
So why bother? Micronations that openly profess they
break the rules of their 'host nations' only survive if their operation is
too small to be significant and even then they could effectively be shut
down anytime. On the other hand, micronations attempting to form
alternative communities are unlikely to be internationally, or even
nationally (by which, again, the host nation is meant) accepted. Is there
any future for the myriad of micronations, or should they remember that
they are but social experiments, political playgrounds on which new
theories can be tested?
The mass proliferation of micronations is the response to
a pressing need: many people today are questioning the values of the
society in which they live. They bemoan the loss of a real community and
feel alienated as bureaucracy grows. How many people living in democracies
truly believe they play a role in the government of the country? And how
much choice do people have in shaping and determining the nature of
government? Just as a country without a king was unacceptable a few
centuries ago, countries are only 'cool' if they conform to the standard
democratic, republican, capitalist concept.
The suggestion box for 'feasible socio-economic and
political structures' is at present rather starved. More and more, Western
capitalism is seen as the only way, not least because it has a knack to
crush alternative societies, who simply cannot keep up in terms of pure
profit, but also because of the tendency to regard poverty as failure -
nothing more than the inability to compete in what is deemed to be a fair
and open system. Alternative forms of societies, such as nomadic and
tribal cultures are labelled primitive and the great Communist experiment
is seen as only possible in utopian conditions. In fact, Cold War
propaganda has survived long enough to make the most ardent communist and
even some socialists, feel like idealists. Of course the USSR had problems
- the government was corrupt, the people were deprived and terrible crimes
against humanity were perpetrated but one must remember that this list
includes nothing that has not been done, and often done better, by
capitalist societies. It is only natural that people, who realise the
glaring gap between their ideals and reality, will attempt to develop new
lifestyles and political structures.
Yearning for a new type of nation can be reduced, in
spirit, to wanting to change the world - how much easier it is to try and
create your own state than attempting to change ones that already exist!
In reality, this may actually be the only way forward. Current states
generally provide freedom in one form: 'freedom from'. Citizens are
guaranteed freedom from being harmed in accordance with the international
definitions of human rights.
However, genuine freedom combines both 'freedom from' and
'freedom to'. In capitalist societies, freedom is considered to be a
product of property - it amounts to the citizen's body and material
property rights being protected from invasion or aggression. This
definition of freedom has inherent flaws. In such a society one cannot
legitimately do anything with or on another person's property if the owner
prohibits it (this includes the government and its property) and thus, an
individual's only guaranteed freedom is determined by the amount of
property that he or she owns. A person with no property has no guaranteed
freedom beyond the freedom not to be physically harmed, as their body is
their only property and it becomes clear that some people are more free
than others because freedom is equated with property.
It is to protest against this system that many
micronations have been formed. The Republic of Lomar, for instance, is an
altruistic, humanitarian micronation. Administered by a handful of young,
hi-tech professionals, it claims to be the world's largest micronation
with 4,000 cyber citizens in 80 countries who believe in the motto
"empowering our citizens and partner states through knowledge,
technology and development". Lomar has issued its own passports to
refugees who were finding it difficult to gain legitimate asylum and is
also selling stamps to raise money for the Tibetan government in exile.
Chancellor Laurent Cleenewerck, one of the founders and a dual citizen of
Lomar and France, believes that "this is an unstoppable phenomenon.
Cyberspace is evolving into something that is beyond the national
concept.the whole concept of Lomar is that the sense of being a citizen of
something - the right to participate in government - should not be
restricted to where you are. Society is much more fluid than before and we
can move beyond national boundaries at this point in history. The Republic
of Lomar was legally incorporated in 1998 as a non-profit organisation in
America and unlike Freedonia, it seeks recognition strictly as a
non-territorial organisation. Which is a shame because I was planning to
spend my holidays there - it sounds like a lovely place!
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