by Mark Ulyseas
In Gethsemane: Transcripts of a Journey www.amazon.co.in
The Tandava dance continues on the hour every hour ever since one set up home in Camelot. Eastern mysticism pickled in western sensibilities and spiced by parasites in paradise. Seasons mingle with ceremonies, colorful pageantry and cuisine that never ceases to tickle the taste buds.
My village Ubud is at the crossroads of culture, religiosity and an enchanting decadence. Its ethos permeates all living things with delightful and sometimes unpredictable results. The rain drenched kebayas, exquisite offerings, sweet whisperings and smiles jostle with the rhythm of the Gamelan. The symphony of the saints is all pervasive. Some see it, some do not but all feel it within…the wretchedness of existence sugar coated by the vibrant living breathing sensuality that is Balinese. It is the essence without which one cannot savor the luscious fruits of Bali.
The numerous eateries on every street offer a variety of temptations and the rice field views of subsistence farmers toiling the good earth seduce many a lotus eater away from the reality of the daily struggle for survival. And the evenings of salsa, jazz and rock music ignite the senses of aliens in Camelot.
Behind the veil of the obvious are a people who have withstood the onslaught of invasive ‘cultures’ by the process of osmosis. Evolution of the arts has been one of the side effects, so are the connubial connections – cross fertilization of thoughts and genes adding a vital ingredient to the never ending story…a tale of beauty, love, family and homage to Gods and Goddesses.
The languid days and humid nights lying breathless across perfumed sheets dreaming forbidden dreams with the wind blowing through the trees like a lover’s hand through one’s hair; and the crowing of cockerels in the dark make up the kaleidoscope of my life in this village of green and gold.
But this is not heaven nor is it hell. Ubud is the prime meridian between good and bad, excess and in excess, love and hate, beauty and the beast, benign spirits and malevolent forces. However, there are moments of esoteric enemas and enlightenment that possess unsuspecting outsiders. Some survive the taunts of the demons and blossom like frangipani; others retreat to the confines of draught on tap, morphing into overflowing amphorae; while a select few fade into the verdant surroundings like chameleons hiding from predators.
Serendipity is being shaken by the malignancy of ‘wanting’ slowly creeping into the sinews of the village, a need to progress with the sterility of modern toys like hand phones.
Will ringtones drown out the sound of the Gamelan? And will the incursions into the membrane of this society like rice fields being sold to outsiders jeopardize the way of life in the village? What about the Balinese language that is slowly slipping into oblivion with street jargon crowding the ether waves?
The answer to these questions probably lies in the corner stone of its prevailing culture – Tri Hita Karana. Exponents and practitioners stand firm against change by adhering to its basic tenets. This is heartening for it is in these people that one seeks refuge from unbridled consumerism that has infiltrated homes through the medium of the massage…television.
What better entertainment can there be than live Gamelan and Genjek, Kecak and Jangger, visits to the local market, cooking classes or chilling out sipping kopi Bali and playing chess?
Let’s not talk about walks in the rice fields, please. For every so often when people walk through them, more fields of my village green and gold are bought by the highest bidder for villas of vanity.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om