A sojourn in Amed and a meeting with a Balinese Yoga Master

16 Comments

boy-made-copyIncongruity is celebrated on the eve of the Balinese Festival, Galungan, in the form of a band playing cover songs at a small warung on Jalan Monkey Forest, Ubud, to a lively eclectic group of customers who appear to be propositioned by the band to partake of a surrealism that defies logic. The song that permeates the sinews is Sweet Home Alabama. I sit at the bar and order a double Water of Life on the rocks. The cold sweet taste comforts me as I slowly relax. The massage at Spa Kalangan on Sangiganan has slowed down my metabolism and given one a sense of peace.

This is Bali. And it gets even better…

As the night wears on to a string of songs played threadbare, the bartender gently reminds me that I have to leave early next morning for the few hours’ drive to the North East coast of the isle to meet with a Yoga master (I had instructed him to stir me to reality if I submerged myself in the nuances of paradise). I pay my bill and walk home breathing like a steam engine. The famed Ramayana cigars from Java help with the wheezing.

Early next morning the vehicle weaves its way along the road hugging the coastline. Headless chickens in the form of youngsters riding motorcycles run amok on the Sanur Bypass to Candi Dasa and beyond. Soon Amed appears on the horizon like a mirage. Fortunately, what you see is what you get and I am soon lying horizontal on a pool side bed with Nyoman (my favorite masseur) kneading my muscles to pulp.

I am staying at Wawawewe II which is well known for its bohemian guests and hospitality.

Ever since one discovered Wawawewe II a small hotel situated on the beach at Bunutan, Amed, it has become a place of sanctuary from the cacophony of a burgeoning tourist economy. The Proprietor, Made Donge Sudana (pronounced Maaday), is an obliging chap with a deep sense of priority like welcoming you with a thousand year smile and a hand shake that would dislodge any notion of “is this reality?”

Later in the day when the sun is less offensive, I telephone Boy Made, a thirtyish Balinese chap who runs a small shop on Lipah beach a short distance away hawking silver trinkets and semi-precious stones to meet me with his latest ‘collection’.

Boy Made arrives with a disarming smile and a conniving look on his face. He has been a yoga teacher for the last two years. Every so often he buys ‘exotic’ looking stones from Javanese traders and when he has a range he calls me to Amed for a look see and my opinion which is short and sweet for it begins and ends with the question, ‘what is the price?’.

Boy Made or Kacut Made was born on December 10, 1974, to a family in Singaraja that were living on the edge of poverty. A few years in primary school and many stints washing utensils in restaurants drove him away from home to Amed in 1997 in search of a better life. He began working for Warung Brith on Lipah beach and after a year or so moved to Wawawewe I (Café) which is nearby. It was here on Saturday nights when the band from Amlapura would play mangled versions of popular western songs that he met many fair faces from foreign lands that had come to Bali to find themselves (whatever this means). The ensuing decadence was invigorating at first but then it digressed into a monotony that brought on ennui with a vengeance. His life shuttled between the ebb and flow of tourists. Emptiness gripped him and soon he withdrew from the ‘high life’ and crawled into his room every night to avoid the revelry that punctuated the nocturnal hours. Made’s dreams became very colorful and often he would awake to the loud rhythms of the spirit world. It appeared that he was stranded between two worlds – Sekala and Nishkala – the Seen and Unseen.

His predicament was short lived for on a full moon night in walked Ram, a visiting Indian Yoga Master who was traversing the isle for a short while before heading back to the banks of the Ganga in Northern India. Ram recognized Made’s anguish and to heal this lost soul he shared his knowledge with Made and also taught him yoga.

In 2007 Made fell in love and married Ni Anik, a pretty Balinese lass. A year later a baby boy was born to them. He is called Putu.

Made practices and teaches three forms of Yoga, Pranayama, Hatha and Suryanamasker, to Indonesians, expats and tourists. He has taught over 500 people till date.

“So where do you want to go from here, Bli (it means brother in Balinese)?” I ask expectantly.

“I want to set up an ashram and teach my own brand of Yoga – Ishwara Yoga. My spirit tells me that I have to help all the people who come here to Amed like I have been helped by Ram. The problem most people face is that they are too caught up in the material world. I want, I want, I want, is all that they ask for. Many have become lost in their own wants. Once we have stopped ‘wanting’ and begin giving and sharing not only our wealth but also our love, affection and friendship without expecting anything in return, will we achieve inner peace.” He replies.

“But why set up an ashram in Amed and not anywhere else in Bali?”

“Amed is very special to me for it has five natural springs next to a small shrine dedicated to the Goddess at Toya Masem. It is a few minutes’ drive into the nearby hills to village Bangli. The energy I feel whenever I make offerings and the curative powers of the five kinds of water (salty/sweet/sour/sweet sour/bitter) that I collect from the springs helps me help others who come to me to learn Yoga and meditasi,” he replies in a quiet voice as if contemplating on every word.

I get up and beckon Made to follow me down to the beach which is strewn with rocks and pebbles. A few tourists can be seen snorkeling in the reef in front of the hotel.

“Do you have a message for the readers of Maxx-M?” I ask.

“Bli what do you want me to say? Huh? Come to Bali to find yourself? Yes! Come to Bali and make a mess of the environment? No! As you probably know Bali is being polluted by all kinds of materials and lifestyles that create problem for all of us. People must understand the Balinese concept of Tri Hita Karana – harmony between Human and God, harmony between Human and Human, harmony between Human and the environment. How can we become spiritual if we desecrate our environment by throwing plastic everywhere? Look at this beach you can see for yourself all types of plastic waste. We should ban all plastic bags and begin a cleaning up operation in Bali. If we don’t do this immediately the Gods will do it for us and we will perish. So my message to all – please don’t use plastic bags,” he replies in a high pitched tone.

I’ll sign off now as the sun is setting and the full moon is rising over Lombok. Wish you were here dear readers to join me for an Arak attack and kacang goreng pedas.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

Advertisements

Mad Hatter in Wonderland

2 Comments

sanur-beach-spirit-cafe

Welcome folks to Wonderland!

The Mad Hatter will now bombard you with frangipani, serenade you with Kecak and then take you on a guided tour of the subterranean world called Wonderland.

The journey begins through the portals of deluded minds past apparitions of elderly women dressed like teeny boppers. These images assault the senses at every turn of the corner…Halloween the year round.

It is a waistland here. Some sport pot bellies like Vietnamese pigs, other decorate them with rings, beads and tattoos afraid they may misplace their waistland or allow aliens to infiltrate their personal air space.

The plumage of the Wonderlanders range from the conventional (sarongs preciously draped for the right look) to shorts that leave nothing to the imagination…biceps and triceps  in various formats guaranteed to enthrall first time onlookers.

Often one may witness aerial displays of matted tresses riding a two-wheeler and the captivating ‘art installation’ of a comforting cup of herbal tea delicately balanced between filigreed fingers and pierced lips.

However, there are divisions in this society and it is not by age.

Caution: Age should never be mentioned here for retribution is swift – like being bludgeoned by a pork spare rib or worse still by having a baguette strategically placed to give the offender maximum physical discomfort.

Participating in the numerous rituals is essential to becoming a part of the ‘loose talk’ that every now and then creates a flutter among the Harts or elsewhere. In both cases, damage is superficial as the attention span of the perpetrator/s is limited to normally two martinis or four beers. This depends on the generosity of the person footing the bill.

Wonderland society is divided into basically two parts – Haves and Have-nots. The Haves are the seasonal folk who are akin to migratory birds. They roost here for the winter and flee home come summer. The Have-nots are the scroungers who are, in a manner of speaking, limpets that sustain themselves by latching onto ‘various schemes and dreams’ to earn megabucks or money for the next month’s rent.

A sub-division of the Haves are successful business persons who had graduated from Have-nots by tenacity, ingenuity and optimal use of brain power.

In Wonderland one must be prudent not to make genderisations. One cannot always assume that one is speaking to a male or female. Individuality borders on a sublimity that questions the tenets of an ordered society.

Over indulgence is the stream of consciousness which carries endless emotive aspects that constantly erupt all over the land like pimples on a teenager’s face. In essence its adults with raging hormones.

There is always someone, somewhere being verbally vandalized, exonerated or exalted. In fact, every living moment, stone, color or event is analyzed, dissected and bisected to obtain a significant meaning to one’s life. An ordinary day does not exist in this world.

And now to top it all are the culinary concoctions that intoxicate the pheromones and create a mystical rendition of excess and in excess. Every twist and burn generates another reaction to all that prevails in Wonderland.

The rouse to circumnavigate sensibilities always ends in being juxta- positioned between sanity and insanity.

Wonderland is a place that is cocooned in the Universe; everything, everywhere including the denizens remain unique and insular to the bigger picture.

If you are here and now in this place then you are blessed. For nothing is more exclusive in a strange sort of way than being part of this world.

For me Wonderland is the neutrality shelter of co-existence in a swirling world of political and religious intolerance.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

Poem – Three Love Songs

Leave a comment

web3-copy.jpgThe following love poems are dedicated to three special women who knew and loved me. Thank you for coming into my life.

After Manon

Tonight shall remain

A part of the day

When thoughts are scrambled

Like brain fry at an Indian café

The band vomits a version of Get Back

Stragglers gaze into overflowing ashtrays

And leftovers on plates

While a couple dance in death throes

It begins to rain

Everything is washed

The dirt, the lies and the hopes

All mingling in the slush

The feeling, touch and belonging

Lost in a haze of cheap perfume and sweat

Manon has left a day before

To frolic in the sun

It is the night of the dark moon

When I am left alone

For the demons to come

To possess my soul

To Mary

This is not the time to cry

It is the time to die

To burn in passion

And fly away into the night

Love is but an orgasmic trance

From which we emerge

Blinding ourselves with illusions of trust

When all along it’s simply lust

There will never be a hello or goodbye

Just suppressed subtle nuances

That surface time and again

To moments of momentary lust

 

For the mother of my son

Was it love or was it trust?

Was it passion or was it ‘mast’?

How can one say after all those years

Of sharing and hoping and caring for us?

The warm summer nights

The long silences of tenderness

The sweet breath of an embrace

All erased with just a wave

Who was right or who was wrong

Where was love when we needed it most?

Questions remain of what was true

When all we should have done

Was to be together through and through

Poem – Eight Degrees – Love Poems

1 Comment

fishfish1

This is a fragmentation of thoughts poorly disguised as poems. Humor me and read them. Then if you so desire consign them to the recycle bin.

Oh Radha!

Visions of love and passion

Drifting ashore at dusk

Announcing the night to lust

On crumpled sheets of lost thoughts

She sat on the beach

As darkness crept up her feet

And covered her in a cloak

Of twilight madness, eating her soul

Krishna had left with the tide

Leaving her forlorn on the shore

Holding her spent dreams

Afraid of them being washed to sea

The moonlit charcoal waters

Raced between her toes

Flowing up her legs

And drowning her sorrows

She waited long through the night

For Krishna to dance into sight

But there was only music to behold

Mermaids serenading him in the depths below

Wayfarers

I came in sheltering from the storm

Cloaked in loneliness

Carrying the pain and sorrow of a lifetime

Soulless, loveless and barren of thought

I called out to the wilderness surrounding me

You heard my wailing in the hills

And came to my door holding out your lips

For me to caress and your arms to rest

You left behind a warm home of love and children

Opening your self for me to enter

To hide my aching heart and dry my tears on your lips

You too cried in joy as we became one

Days have passed and with it many joys

Lying in each other’s arms resting our souls

Hiding from realities of living

Clutching desperately to the belief that things will work out

Sadly nothing remains the same

Time changes and so do people

Are we just wayfarers meeting between lives?

Or lovers destined to be apart?

Kuta Blues

Watching Kuta sunset, hues across the sky

Cascading like his thoughts fading into twilight

He had come to know the wonders of paradise

That could destroy his soul instead of giving it life.

Sunrises and sunsets, blessings in the cosmic trance

Of memories and joys dissolving into the dark

He frantically reached out to grasp the love

Waiting in the clouds above and wonders of a childhood’s end.

But he found to his dismay spirits riding the waves

Sending messages of farewell of goodbye kisses and reminiscences

He strode the shore through the night gasping for breath, a hint of life

Hiding beneath the foreboding waves

Beckoning him to another hell.

She saw him walking by the sea entranced by the lonely scene

She held him by the hand and asked, stranger what make thee

He looked at her and saw himself through the darkness and torment.

She placed her palms on his face

To calm the rising anguish

Whispering thoughts of belonging

Of love and longing, and yes pain again.

The night began to day bringing with it all the joys of yesterdays

But for them there was no sign

Except for the bloody knife.

Farewell

She said good bye today

Wiping away his joys and hope

A small message by her phone

Passing through the ether waves.

He looked to the sky and wondered why

The love she brought and took away

Made him feel so sad once more

Of being deserted again and again.

Mother, he cried, carry me away

From all this sorrow and pain

To a quiet haven faraway

Where joy and love were alive again.

The night descended across the sea

Darkening the land and he

To the sound of temple bells

On the shores of Gethsemane.

He quietly left to search the land

For love and lust and hope again

He found it in a gutter by

Whimpering, hurt and a terrible fright.

Now she has become a part of him

A little creature called sin

Licking pawing and whining for joy

Bringing him back to life again.

Sisters of Mercy

(A dedication to Gwen and Nia)

I came into your life like an abscess on your gums.
Bringing a host of uncertainties
of love, life and whatchamaycallit
the cigar smoke, the whisky and
complaints of a lifetime.

I stayed in your home
bitching and crying

weeping and laughing
to the tune of my own voice.

The change of seasons, the rain
and the wind howling outside
brought with it a joy of belonging
of being accepted with all the iniquities
carried from Bardez to Wales.

The food smelt of love,
the writing of hope
and the wine of forbidden
sex to the sound of Cohen.

Nothing, nothing was more pure
than the sisters who showed their mercy,
placing their soothing palms on my troubled soul.

I shall carry this wherever I go,
remembrance of the joy of having
been loved and cared for and
never being forsaken by true friends.

Wherever you are today
nestling between someone’s thighs
yearning for the ultimate joy
keep this blessing close to your heart
for your karma can do you no wrong.

Life Sentence

She was marooned

Eight degrees south of the Equator

In a life devoid of love

Scampering between beds

And men and hell

Furiously searching for herself.

She had come to this isle

Thinking it was paradise

To absolve her from the past

And start a life anew.

In days she found a man to hold

In innocence to make a whole

And children did she tried to beget

To the silence of dying hopes.

Years have gone by with the tides

Now she sits by the riverside

Crying for her lost soul

Floating down to sea.

She wants to begin her life once more

To the sound of what she knows

For though she was born free

Still she imprisons herself.

Strangers on the Shore

He held her close so she could feel

The fears and tears on the stranger’s cheeks

He swallowed hard and spoke aloud

To the quiet rippling waters

and the moonlit dhows.

She looked at him for she could feel

The fading beats in his breast

She kissed his lips and tasted life

Ebbing from his side.

Stranger, she said, I will love you forever

While gently stroking his thighs

Forever, he said in a dying breath

No, there is no forever.

He kissed her forehead and bade farewell

Turned his back and went.

Alone she stood on the moonlit shore

Gazing at the stars afloat

And with a heavy sigh

Walked into the waters by.

Full Moon

She called him to say goodbye

Nonchalantly uttering the words

The passing traffic drowning out her voice

Trembling he put down the phone

In the distance drums are beating

Cries and shouts in the air

Of ceremonies of the lunatics

Maidens dancing to rhythm of the night

The full moon is up readying itself

Casting shadows in darkened doorways

Waking up the slumbering souls

To another twist of fate

She was the big little woman

The goodbye girl lost within herself

Tasting the moonbeams on his lips

Then moving on to another life

The ethereal light wrapped him in joy

Returning the wayward spirits of the past

Igniting the night with fireflies

That carried his soul away

Made Boy and the Goddess of Toye Masem

2 Comments

What started as a journey to escape the confines of one’s own mind turned into an enlightening encounter with a young Balinese man and an enchanting tryst with the goddess of Toye Masem.

Everybody’s talkin’ at me

I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’

Only the echoes of my mind

People stoppin’ starin’

I can’t see the faces

Only the shadows of their eyes…

Everybody’s Talkin’ (Echoes) by Fred Neil

He began the night drive to Amed feeling like the protagonist from the movie, Midnight Cowboy, on his ‘end’ trip who reaches his dream destination only to arrive dead.

The following morning, after a sleepless night in his favourite room at Wawawewe, he walked down to the beach to catch a fishing boat out to sea. As he sat in the vessel in the warm glow of the sun waiting for the fisherman to check the motor and sails, thoughts of madness echoed in his mind. The agitated sea taunted him by rocking the boat and the errant wind blew his cap into the air.

Suddenly he heard, above the raucous wind and sea, a shout, “Useless…Mark Useless”. Striding purposefully towards him along the pebbled shore was Made Boy.

“Made says you not go to sea. Also, sea take you…you wearing green. Today full moon, you come with me to Toye Masem near Bangle Village. My wife prepare offering with chicken especially for you. Come brother we make offering and do meditasi”, he said breathlessly.

Made Boy is a friend. He runs a small shop selling semi-precious stones and sacred stones, and assorted pieces of silver jewellery. He is married to a pretty Balinese woman and is the proud father of Putu, a five month old boy. Made’s long black hair, lithe body and goatee beard gives him an air of serenity personified. This soft spoken individual’s pronouncements on Hindu Dharma and the all embracing Karma to visitors who chance upon him, endears all to him.

Reluctantly, Useless followed Made back to the hotel and put the offerings into his jeep. Then they drove into the hills to Toye Masem.

At Bangle Village he parked the vehicle on a narrow hill road and carried on foot. Nyoman, an acquaintance of Made’s from the village, joined them on the trek to Toye Masem., where there is a shrine and five holy springs.

They walked along a dusty path strewn with boulders, across dry stream beds, rice fields browning in the sun and under overhanging bamboo trees creaking in the wind. The land lay expectantly for the rains like a virgin anxiously awaiting the night of the nuptials.

When they reached the small shrine of the goddess, Nyoman swept the area in front of the shrine of dried leaves and chicken feathers (remnants of previous offerings). Useless at the bidding of Made washed his face and hands in the small spring. Made then poured spring water into a glass and gave it to him to drink. “You take this and sit quietly. Take all bad feeling you have and throw away. Don’t keep them,” he said in a whisper as if not to disturb the deity. Useless drank the sour tasting water like the wine he had sipped while serving mass at the Carmelite Chapel in Calcutta. The water tingled on his skin and in his mouth. He felt a sudden urge to weep. And he wept uncontrollably. He remembered that the festival of lights. Diwali, would be celebrated on October 27th by his son, once again without him. The Laxmi Puja, the silver coins on Paan leaves and the colourful sweets were now ethereal images. He could not smell, feel or touch them anymore. He could only dream them. The past had become the future continuous. Tomorrow would never come in this lifetime.

“Useless it is good to cry. If you don’t you will carry all the sorrow in your heart and it will kill you one day. What you want from life? Tell me now so that when we begin to place offering before the goddess I will speak on your behalf in Balinese,” he said with his hand on Useless’s shoulder.

Then they sat down in front of the shrine. Made handed Useless a Sok Kasi (a woven square basket filled with fruit, Bukakak Siap Pangang (a specially prepared chicken), flowers and burning incense sticks and told him to place it on the altar. After he had done this, he sat cross legged beside Made who began to chant a haunting prayer to the goddess asking her to favour him. The urgency in his voice, the folded hands, the gurgling of the spring and the intermittent thumping sound of ripened cashew fruit dropping to the ground from the surrounding fruit trees cast a comforting cloak over Useless. Ever so gently the goddess had touched his soul. He felt comforted by the gentleness that permeated the air around him. Shakti slowly began creeping into his sinews.

“Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om”, sang Made as he ended his prayer for Useless.

Then he got up and threw spring water over Useless and placed flowers from the offering on his head. The spiritual encounter had ended for he could feel the goddess departing from him leaving behind the beginnings of kindness, love and forgiveness.

Made, Nyoman and Useless sat on the nearby Bale and ate the chicken, fruit and sticky rice in silence.

After the ‘feast’, Nyoman disappeared into the trees and returned with a handful of sweet, succulent cashew fruit and gave it to Useless to eat. He sucked on them reminiscing of Goa and the foul smelling highly potent Fenny (liquor) that is made from this luscious fruit.

As the sun set and shadows emerged from the enveloping darkness the three men returned to the vehicle.

That night , when Useless sat beside the infinity swimming pool gazing out at the full moon cleansing the sea in its silvery light he felt the goddess of Toye Masem pass through him. He was not afraid for he knew then that the path of his life had finally changed course to the sublimity of loneliness..

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti om