Friday, October 12, 2012

Dolly in Bali

The most energizing experience in recent times... our trip to Bali.

Taking off from the buzzing and colossal Suvarnabhumi and landing in a homely little airport at Denpasar I thought we had come to a retreat for rejuvenation and rest. No running around, no passionate search for things to buy- just a peaceful interlude between two stages- the end of our superb stay in Thailand and the beginning of our rehab on native soil. We were in a state of limbo and were enjoying being in no man's mindspace(read were stupid when we thought that in this low season we would be a few of us on the beach with hibiscus flowers behind our ears and some striking red beads around our necks, with Bintang beer and curried crab for company. And the biggest bottle of 50 SPF sunscreen next to us, because we the wheat-complexioned, smooth skinned Indian women (and also men, though they hate to admit it!) do not like to mess around with our derma. Sun tan oil is on the other side of our spectrum.
How different it turned out to be...
And but really! We were in a place so full of surprises and so full of action even in low season.There was the beach, and there was the beach, and then there were oh so many more beaches.Whether it was Kuta, or Nusa Dua or Seminyak or Jimbaran or Lovina, (and some lovely names which I cannot pronounce or spell) there was always a spectacular sunrise and a stunning sunset. And we had to catch each such spectacular episode somehow, often missing it by seconds because we browsed too long at a painters' gallery in Ubud or hung around too long at the 11th century Pura Desa temple. But ultimately managed to see it all, thanks to our guide.

Ah! the guide....Our dear and humble guide was one of the finest we have met; and we have travelled quite some. He had a smile and an attitude which endeared him to us instantly, and his advice was so well researched that we never had a moment of regret or "why did we go there and waste our time?"I felt like a connoisseur when I went to check out the batik village and the wood carving village.... the artists themselves were so unassuming and so respectful, they just did not know or realize what a goldmine they had in their hands (read fingers). Artists so profound in any other part of the world would have laughed out loud at me for my stupid questions, or maybe even decided not to pay attention. I educated myself at the expense of these simple islanders and brilliantly right brained wizards in Bali who taught me the difference between crocodile wood, hibiscus wood and ebony..... without taking advantage of my ignorance. They had magic in their fingers. And you only had to peer into their eyes to see the crystal clear heart and soul.

The Balinese attire was so utterly comfortable for the hot weather, I could just go on wearing the sarongs and the net blouses with the bright little tank tops. And I did not look so fat in them either....the myriad strings of coloured beads did the trick when I wore an encouragingly low neckline long dress made of balinese batik. The lulur massage had anyway brightened up my skin and in the candlelight at Potato Head I glowed. Flattered to the core, I had my fill of pasta and No-jito!(the non alcoholic mojito, as the menu at Potato Head proclaims). And glowed some more.

Development has touched Bali but synergistically. It has not upset the nude charm of island flora and fauna.The aircraft landing on a runway made on reclaimed land was a breathtaking experience, and now you know why I always, always take the window seat. If I just sat there and looked out it was like I was skimming on water in this big fat aircraft, only when I peered deep down could I see the strip of land. Take off was a repeat delight, but lets save that for later.

The houses that Balinese residents live in were straight out of storybooks... the carved niche, the wooden lace bordering the lintern and the hand carved tiling frames around the house, the vivacious touch of gold and dalliance with vibrant colors all added to the magic of all my moments. Believe me, the Hinduism I experienced in Bali is very different from the Hinduism I experience in India, the home of Hinduism. In Bali, Hinduism is peaceful, a karmic journey to pure joy, expressed in the simplicity of lifestyles and mutual behavior and interaction. It is not differentiation, structurization as we seem to have interpreted it in India.(I think I have coined a new word here, guys, but 'structurization' exactly expresses what I want to say.... even my Scrabble dictionary does not ratify this word, but I beg to use it, nevertheless).

So the synergy of positive natural instinct and urban development or modernization has made the average Balinese life very comfortable. Relying on tourism as the main source of foreign exchange with integrity and hard work, the Balinese woman complements the man, is very hardworking and supportive for her family. It is good to see a balanced man woman turnout at work. However, most of the fine craftsmen I observed were men; the sculptors and painters we met while there, were mostly men. The girls soft-spoken and dignified, were specially gifted in performing arts and engrossed in music and dance.

An interesting event known as the kecak (pronounce kechak)fire dance told me the epic ramayana in a way that I had not seen in India. Equivalent to the "Ramlila", the fire dance or Kecak dance was a recital and dance combo. Ravana, who is the brute and the bad man in India, looked sad and old; Hanuman was so handsome; and Mareech, the rakshasa disguised as the golden deer to captivate Seeta's heart was such a winner. He cavorted and pirouetted and looked so cute, it was impossible to hate him for what he did. The story was the same; victory of good over evil. But then, don't all religions teach us the same?

As all islanders, the people seemed contented and very proud of their island. Our guide would speak of every tourist attraction with such pride, it was touching. The roar of the waves was majestic; they would thunder ashore and literally shake the ground with sheer force. I sat on the shore and felt the power. I went into the water and felt the comfort of the warm waves. I sat in the patio and felt peaceful. Never for a moment did I get any negative vibe or unsettling emotion. What else do you want on a holiday? Some beer perhaps? and a hibiscus behind your ear?