Aum Swastyastu ... Welcome to the Stranger in Paradise

(Published in the Hello Bali Magazine, September 2008)


There was another story but my prudish editor threw it out

Balinese Wickedness
People think that most Balinese are really nice.
Here is my story.


One of the Baris Jangkung dancers outside the Ubud Palace.

 


A yaksa demon guardian outside the Puri Dalem near the Ketewel cremation ground: Bali’s brand of Hinduism is big on Bhairawa, the worship of Siwa as the terrible.
Last year a gay expatriate friend of mine fell in love, for a brief period, with a handsome, young professional masseur called Nyoman, who had strong lean arms.
Nyoman said he was from the woodcarving village of Tegalalang (“Thus the strong, lean arms, and excellent pressure,” my friend explained) and spoke rather crass Low Balinese, which my friend, a stickler for etiquette, found a tad ‘off-putting’ but he put up with it due to the aforementioned strong lean arms. (See any Walter Spies’ painting of rice farmers in Bali in the 1930s, to fully get the idea).

As things happen, there came a hiatus of six months in 2007, during which my friend, let’s call him Frank, did not go to the massage parlour―there was a nuclear winter or something―and when Frank went back in May this year he was told that there was no Nyoman but that Wayan Emerald was available.
Emerald had strong lean arms too but was from the charismatic village of Manggis in East Bali; famous for its refined culture. Emerald explained how his father was a Javanese from Blitar (Indonesia’s answer to Newcastle) who had left his mother when he was young. Emerald spoke immaculate High Balinese; he admitted that he was really bisexual (“Unusual for a Balinese to admit anything,” said Frank) and had been in a relationship with Nyoman, who was now in Saudi Arabia.
Of course my friend fell in love, again.
It should be explained here that, according to Frank, the weekly massage was squeaky clean (there was a little lingering around the inner thigh but nothing worth writing about here) but the gossip got harder and harder. Wayan advised Frank to chat up two of the barmen because they were ‘100% gay’ and that Hadi, the boyish aristocrat from North Bali, also working as a masseur, on the night shift, was ‘on the turn’, due to frequent exposure to foreign gays.
My friend immediately booked Hadi and soon got into a protracted conversation about Nyoman and Wayan.
“They are one and the same,” Hadi explained, “he has been playing you like a violin. He’s from Gianyar, not Tegalalang or Manggis!”
Anyone new to Bali would be shocked by the extent to which Nyoman/Wayan had gone to create such a juicy myth―the lies about losing his erstwhile lover’s Saudi number, for example (“My phone was stolen on the night of the Euro Cup”) and about his co-workers sexuality, but any Balinese would see this story as a delicious example of the local predilection for wickedness of the first order.
The Number One favourite pastime of many Balinese tour guides, for example, is to make up myths about Balinese social behaviour―mostly to entice or titillate passers-by, rather than to confuse. Basically, many wicked young Balinese make it up as they go along, rather than die of boredom.
Hotel gardeners expertly putting hibiscus flowers on ixora bushes is another example; as is the painting of spots on white puppies and the dyeing of chickens bright pink.
Anonymous, public leg-pulling is a favourite public pastime.

•           •           •

I am so excited by the emerging Balinese wickedness of this ilk―which I see as a natural response to attempts, from all sides, to gentrify a basically hot-blooded fancy free populace―that I am about to volunteer to do the special sound effects for my hero Gung Aji Gerenceng, the Howard Stern of Bali F.M., to the strains of ‘Endless Love’ the Henry Mancini version. Gung Aji nightly takes the piss out of callers to his radio talk-back show with most beguiling surreal repartee.
We love Gung Aji Gerenceng because he bothers to be boldly Balinese and to take us to the places we’ve never been to before.
As did the Ubud royal family last month, at a series of traditional extravaganzas―starting  with a 50,000 man crowd at Bali’s biggest ever cremation―which climaxed with a tooth-filing ‘Day of the Dandies (see photo top) like I’ve never seen before (and Bali is the home of the male peacock). More of that in the column.
What concerns me most about Bali at the moment―aside from the genuine threat of real-estate brokers smothering the land with ugly villas―is the attempt by mental midgets to re-brand Bali as a nice place for sun-seekers.
BALI IS THE HOME OF BHAIRAWA SIWA-ISM, YOU DINGBATS―THE WORSHIP OF SIWA AS THE TERRIBLE. 
All these posters of men genuflecting in safari jackets as white as the driven snow and all these festivals for middle class mass tourism is just smoke and mirrors!

•           •           •

I want to hold an alternative Bali Writers’ and Readers’ Festival for Balinese creative writing (soft porn ideally) on S.M.S. As Expat. Poobah I will give out awards―to be called ‘Janets’―to the most wicked and the most original in the land. Who needs poncey little Nori Whatsit bouncing around the cocktail parties of the expat hill tribe homes when one could have seething, heaving masses of love-struck Balinese, thumbs raw from texting, at spooky coastal venues!!
Let’s put the ‘B’ for Bhairawa back into Bali, I say, and cut the crap.
“Don’t take the happy out of Hindu,” I hear myself screaming at Jakarta developers who want Bali to be more Presbyterian with ‘accessible glamour.’
“Get ye to Koh Samui,” I say to these non-heathens!
Now read on:


The incredible Baris Jangkang dancers from Klungkung, performing as part of the ceremonies for the soul-cremation (penileman) rites at Puri Saren, Ubud Palace.


27th July 2008: To the Puri Saren Palace, Ubud
Last month I wrote about the incredible royal cremation in Ubud that took the world by storm (front page on the International Herald Tribune).
Today I am invited to the palace for the climax of the soul-cremation rites, called penileman, that follow the cremation. As I arrive I see a troupe from Klungkung performing the rare Baris Jangkung in front of the long peyadnyaan (grandstand of the spirit-effigies). It is an amazing dance―all leathering limbs and heroic posturing―with the most magnificent costumes. A Gambuh Dance, from Singapadu, is also in progress―these ceremonial dances called wali (Sanskrit for offering) which is most probably the origon of the word Bali.

2 August 2008: To Taman Ujung, Karangesem for a memorial evening for the late, great Dr. Anak Agung Made Djelantik, son of the last Raja of Karangsem, (see Stranger in Paradise, ‘Bali Loses a Favourite Son’, November 2007) and his beloved Dutch wife Astri
Tonight le tout Bali and le tout Jakarta are gathered to honour one of Bali’s most distinguished sons and his beloved wife, Astri. All their offspring are gathered at their illustrious ancestors greatest creation, the Taman Ujung, to put on a special dance performance, for their father/uncle/grandfather, Dr. Djelantik, who in 1973, founded LISTIBYA, Bali’s cultural arbiter.
Italian Honorary Consul Pino Confessa and I have been asked, as ex officio members of Bali’s dance community to perform tonight. (Pino is ex comedia del arte; I used to busk as a tap dancer in Regent Street, Sydney, and was Bali’s first all-male, one-man scottish legong at the venerable dance Academy (KOKAR), 1979 – 1983.)
Pino is a polished professional but I am terrified as I wait in the wings―it’s the Peliatan gamelan playing no less!―with Madelief, Surya and Bulantrisna Djelantik, the real legongs.


Ni Limbur Bunglun in action

My performance, as the incredible smoking condong, Ni Limbur Haus Sek di Balik Kelambu misi plek-plek-an tain tjitjak, brings the house down, and me too. My knees are not up to channelling  Inul, Jakarta’s answer to Ana Margaret, and I am dragged from the stage in a heap of overweight, over-age outa-sight.
Famous dancer I Wayan Dibya and Pino come backstage to congratulate me as do the Djelantik sisters once they have finished their classical legong performance. I am elated beyond belief: I have finally lived up to the expectations of ‘Whimsical Wharton’, my paternal great grandmother, who had a great comedy act in Manchester in the old country in the old days.

•           •           •

Driving home along the empty by-pass with my dance guru Koming, and my make-up artist, Ida Bagus Yudistira making out in the back seat, I feel like Callas after a big night at La Scale. There is no feeling like being bathed in the footlights, with a football field of one’s enemies throwing tuber-roses at one’s feet.

•           •           •

I stay up for the Morning’s Bali Post.
Not a mention.

7th August, 2008: Still a glow!
I am edited out of the Jakarta Post story too (they disprove of Australians trying too hard)……….but my anthropologist hero Urs ‘Titillating Tenganan’ Ramseyer says I should go professional, and most importantly, the Djelantiks are thrilled!
Ubud sweater-girl Janet de Naffe has asked me to open the Writers’ festival―Ni Limbur Bunglun should pop out one of her signature mango pies she suggests―but I have turned her down.
Too much wickedness makes for a dull condong.




Images of Ni Limbur Bunglun
(Click image to enlarge)

 

Balinese Wickedness
As published in Hello Bali Magazine on September 2008

People think that most Balinese are really nice.
Here is my story.
Last year a gay expatriate friend of mine fell in love, for a brief period, with a handsome, young professional masseur called Nyoman, who had strong lean arms.
Nyoman said he was from the woodcarving village of Tegalalang (“Thus the strong, lean arms, and excellent pressure,” my friend explained) and spoke rather crass Low Balinese, which my friend, a stickler for etiquette, found a tad ‘off-putting’ but he put up with it due to the aforementioned strong lean arms. (See any Walter Spies’ painting of rice farmers in Bali in the 1930s, to fully get the idea).
As things happen, there came a hiatus of six months in 2007, during which my friend, let’s call him Frank, did not go to the massage parlour―there was a nuclear winter or something―and when Frank went back in May this year he was told that there was no Nyoman but that Wayan Emerald was available.
Emerald had strong lean arms too but was from the charismatic village of Manggis in East Bali; famous for its refined culture. Emerald explained how his father was a Javanese from Blitar (Indonesia’s answer to Newcastle) who had left his mother when he was young. Emerald spoke immaculate High Balinese; he admitted that he was really bisexual (“Unusual for a Balinese to admit anything,” said Frank) and had been in a relationship with Nyoman, who was now in Saudi Arabia.

Of course my friend fell in love, again.
It should be explained here that, according to Frank, the weekly massage was squeaky clean (there was a little lingering around the inner thigh but nothing worth writing about here) but the gossip got harder and harder. Wayan advised Frank to chat up two of the barmen because they were ‘100% gay’ and that Hadi, the boyish aristocrat from North Bali, also working as a masseur, on the night shift, was ‘on the turn’, due to frequent exposure to foreign gays.
My friend immediately booked Hadi and soon got into a protracted conversation about Nyoman and Wayan.
“They are one and the same,” Hadi explained, “he has been playing you like a violin. He’s from Gianyar, not Tegalalang or Manggis!”
Anyone new to Bali would be shocked by the extent to which Nyoman/Wayan had gone to create such a juicy myth―the lies about losing his erstwhile lover’s Saudi number, for example (“My phone was stolen on the night of the Euro Cup”) and about his co-workers sexuality, but any Balinese would see this story as a delicious example of the local predilection for wickedness of the first order.
The Number One favourite pastime of many Balinese tour guides, for example, is to make up myths about Balinese social behaviour―mostly to entice or titillate passers-by, rather than to confuse. Basically, many wicked young Balinese make it up as they go along, rather than die of boredom.
Hotel gardeners expertly putting hibiscus flowers on ixora bushes is another example; as is the painting of spots on white puppies and the dyeing of chickens bright pink.
Anonymous, public leg-pulling is a favourite public pastime.

•          •          •

I am so excited by the emerging Balinese wickedness of this ilk―which I see as a natural response to attempts, from all sides, to gentrify a basically hot-blooded fancy free populace―that I am about to volunteer to do the special sound effects for my hero Gung Aji Gerenceng, the Howard Stern of Bali F.M., to the strains of ‘Endless Love’ the Henry Mancini version. Gung Aji nightly takes the piss out of callers to his radio talk-back show with most beguiling surreal repartee.
We love Gung Aji Gerenceng because he bothers to be boldly Balinese and to take us to the places we’ve never been to before.
As did the Ubud royal family last month, at a series of traditional extravaganzas―starting  with a 50,000 man crowd at Bali’s biggest ever cremation―which climaxed with a tooth-filing ‘Day of the Dandies (see photo right) like I’ve never seen before (and Bali is the home of the male peacock). More of that in the column.
What concerns me most about Bali at the moment―aside from the genuine threat of real-estate brokers smothering the land with ugly villas―is the attempt by mental midgets to re-brand Bali as a nice place for sun-seekers.
BALI IS THE HOME OF BHAIRAWA SIWA-ISM, YOU DINGBATS―THE WORSHIP OF SIWA AS THE TERRIBLE. 
All these posters of men genuflecting in safari jackets as white as the driven snow and all these festivals for middle class mass tourism is just smoke and mirrors!

•           •           •

I want to hold an alternative Bali Writers’ and Readers’ Festival for Balinese creative writing (soft porn ideally) on S.M.S. As Expat. Poobah I will give out awards―to be called ‘Janets’―to the most wicked and the most original in the land. Who needs poncey little Nori Whatsit bouncing around the cocktail parties of the expat hill tribe homes when one could have seething, heaving masses of love-struck Balinese, thumbs raw from texting, at spooky coastal venues!!

Let’s put the ‘B’ for Bhairawa back into Bali, I say, and cut the crap.
“Don’t take the happy out of Hindu,” I hear myself screaming at Jakarta developers who want Bali to be more Presbyterian with ‘accessible glamour.’
“Get ye to Koh Samui,” I say to these non-heathens!
Now read on:

27th July 2008: To the Puri Saren Palace, Ubud
Last month I wrote about the incredible royal cremation in Ubud that took the world by storm (front page on the International Herald Tribune).
Today I am invited to the palace for the climax of the soul-cremation rites, called penileman, that follow the cremation. As I arrive, I see a troupe from Klungkung performing the rare Baris Jangkang in front of the long peyadnyaan (grandstand of the spirit-effigies). It is an amazing dance―all leathery limbs and heroic posturing―with the most magnificent costumes. A Gambuh Dance, from Singapadu, is also in progress―these ceremonial dances are called wali (Sanskrit for offering) which is most probably the origin of the word Bali.

2nd August 2008: To Taman Ujung, Karangasem for a memorial evening for the late, great Dr. Anak Agung Made Djelantik, son of the last Raja of Karangsem, (see Stranger in Paradise, ‘Bali Loses a Favourite Son’, November 2007) and his beloved Dutch wife Astri
Tonight le tout Bali and le tout Jakarta are gathered to honour one of Bali’s most distinguished sons and his beloved wife, Astri. All their offspring are gathered at their illustrious ancestors’ greatest creation, the Taman Ujung, to put on a special dance performance for their father/uncle/grandfather, Dr. Djelantik who, in 1972, founded LISTIBYA, Bali’s cultural arbiter.
Italian Honorary Consul Pino Confessa and I have been asked, as ex officio members of Bali’s dance community, to perform tonight. (Pino is ex comedia del arte; I used to busk as a tap dancer in Regent Street, Sydney and was Bali’s first all-male, one-man scottish legong at the venerable dance Academy (KOKAR), 1979 – 1983.)
Pino is a polished professional but I am terrified as I wait in the wings―it’s the Peliatan gamelan playing no less!―with Madelief, Surya and Bulantrisna Djelantik; the real legongs.
My performance, as the incredible smoking condong, Ni Limbur Haus Sek di Balik Kelambu misi plek-plek-an tain tjitjak, brings the house down; and me too! My knees are not up to channelling Inul, Jakarta’s answer to Ana Margaret, and I am dragged from the stage in a heap of overweight, over-age outa-sight.
Famous dancer I Wayan Dibya and Pino come backstage to congratulate me as do the Djelantik sisters once they have finished their classical legong performance. I am elated beyond belief: I have finally lived up to the expectations of ‘Whimsical Wharton’, my paternal great grandmother, who had a great comedy act in Manchester in the old country in the old days.

•           •           •

Driving home along the empty by-pass with my dance guru Koming, and my make-up artist, Ida Bagus Yudistira making out in the back seat, I feel like Callas after a big night at La Scala. There is no feeling like being bathed in the footlights with a football field of one’s enemies throwing tuber-roses at one’s feet.

•           •           •

I stay up for the Morning’s Bali Post.
Not a mention.

7th August, 2008: Still aglow!
I am edited out of the Jakarta Post story too (they disapprove of Australians trying too hard)……….but my anthropologist hero, Urs ‘Titillating Tenganan’ Ramseyer, says I should go professional and, most importantly, the Djelantiks are thrilled!
Ubud wonderwoman Janet de Naffe has asked me to open the Writers’ festival. Ni Limbur Bunglun should pop out of one of her signature mango pies, she suggests, but I have turned her down.
Too much wickedness makes for a dull condong.

 



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