Sunday

Cremation for Ketut Ngetis

As we approach the anniversary of October 12, western media warms up with its fear-driven ammunition to keep the world at home. Headlines read about further threats and hidden terrorists at bay in Bali. Of course, it's easy to believe what they tell you when you're sitting in your comfy chair in the west watching the world on a small screen, but here in Bali, life goes on very quietly. There are few tourists in town and even Casa Luna is almost empty. Now, do you really think a terrorist is going to waste precious weapons on a deserted island?

The scent of the frangipanis now in bloom reminds me of the sadness of twelve months ago. I remember collecting these moist blossoms in shades of white, pink and yellow with the children and gently placing them in the hands of our stone statues as if they might offer protection. I was intoxicated with the sweet fragrance that somehow relieved my deflated spirits. The guesthouse at that time echoed with an enormous silence that filled our hearts and hung above our heads, like the blanket of oppressive October rain clouds that gathered every day.

As Bali now prepares for anniversary celebrations, our family prepares for the cremation of my father-in-law, Ketut Ngetis. For more than a week, we have all been helping to make offerings and build the necessary decorations and paraphernalia for a send-off that would leave Hollywood reeling with envy.

As I write, more than a hundred men are in our driveway making a zillion satays and assorted fiery ceremonial fare. They have been here since five o'clock this morning and three hours later, are still working at the speed of a thousand noisy Kecak dancers. This is community bonding at its best and we all know that you only have to mention the word "Help" in Bali and you're instantly surrounded with a whole village eager to assist.

One of my Australian friends has been feeling a little shameful that, when his father died recently, he only buried him in a wooden box at the town cemetery and followed it with an Australian-style wake that evening. There was no month-long gathering making white and gold ornamentation, grass-rooved pavilions, coconut-leaf offerings, brightly coloured rice cakes or pork satay.

In Bali, every stage of life is celebrated and your departure is heralded with great fanfare. As children, your supreme duty in life is to farewell your parents with all the love and respect they deserve and my husband is certainly making sure that no stone is left unturned or rather, uncarved. Of course, it also helps if everyone liked you! It's the village way of paying homage to either the departed person or their remaining family. Does this mean they respect me too, I wondered, as I watched staff from Casa Luna and Indus twirling spiced, pounded meat onto bamboo sticks and grilling them over smoky coconut coals for hours on end.

Arjuna and Dewi, with one of the Casa Luna staff, placing offerings of food on their Grandpas grave at the north Ubud cemetery

The cremation will be held on October 2 and will probably start around midday from the Art Museum, across the road from Casa Luna. Everyone is welcome because in Bali more is always merrier and less is not enough!

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