Friday, 9 July 2010

Bungklang Bungkling: Temporary Vegetarian (Vegetarian Kejep-Kejep).

Taken from ‘Bungklang Bungkling’, ‘Vegetarian Kejep-Kejep’, a column by I Wayan Juniartha, published in Bali Post, Sunday 4th July 2010. Translated by Putu Semiada.

Temporary Vegetarian (Vegetarian Kejep-Kejep)

Everyone is surprised with I Made Tahu Tempe (I Made Tofu and Soy Bean Curd)’s behaviour. He just shakes his head when he is offered tuak and brengkes (steamed pork wrapped in banana leaf). He usually just grabs anything available in the warung, from crackers to his friends’ cigarettes.

‘Are you ok, ? Why do you look so tired?” asks I Wayan Alkohol Metanol (I Wayan Bootleg).

I Wayan is a bit worried due to the epidemic of some diseases, such as Rabies, Dengue, and HIV/AIDS which means that there are many ways to die. In fact, in old times, most Balinese died due to black magic.

I Made shakes his head. Suddenly he speaks, very loudly.

“I’m a vegetarian now.”

Now it’s his friends who shake their heads. They don’t understand what a vegetarian is. They are villagers, so the words familiar with them are ‘Ariel, Luna Maya, Cut Tari and Waka waka Samina mina.’

“Vegetarian is one who doesn’t eat meat,” says I Made.

They are all very surprised. They know that I Made likes meat very much, especially suckling pig (be guling) but now he is a vegetarian. What a big change, they think.

“You must join one of sects from India. But you know, by joining a sect, it doesn’t guarantee one to be spiritual,” says I Putu India Nehi-Nehi (I Putu Say No to Anything Indian).

I Putu hates anything Indian. He once had a bad experience with an Indian who claimed himself as yoga guru. What happened to him was that he was cheated — his money was gone and his wife was seduced by the Indian. Since then, he always tells his friends that “never trust Maha Rsi from India, but trust local priest instead.

“You know, when you just take a breath, it kills ‘innocent’ bacteria. When you walk, you ‘kill’ a lot of ants. You stop eating meat but you make food that looks like and tastes like lamb satay, beefsteak, etc. Doesn’t it mean that you still think of meat. Do you think it is spiritual?”

I Made shakes his head. “I don’t follow any strange sect. How come I join a sect when nobody trusts me to be a ‘cooperative’ member?”

“So, it is health reason behind all this? Are you afraid of too much cholesterol in your body or afraid of getting stroke? You do want to live longer, don’t you?” asks I Wayan.

I Made just shakes his head. “As a real Balinese, I don’t want to live long, I’d better die soon because of having too much cholesterol than living longer without eating pork crackling (kulit guling), pork fat soup (be genyol), Balinese vegetable with bee (lawar nyawan), smoked duck (bebek betutu), sausage (oret, urutan).”

Everyone claps their hands. Everyone is proud of I Made. He dares to sacrifice himself to maintain the tradition, including food that contains fat, blood and fried food.

“You know, most Balinese don’t live long. Whether he is a vegetarian, they live for 60 years maximum. There are some ways of how they die such as, through black magic, poisoned by greedy brothers who want to share ‘inheritance’ from their parents. Otherwise, they get stroke, or being too tired and not much sleep because of ‘ngayah’ (preparing offerings in temples).”

“So what makes you to be a vegetarian?”

“I become a vegetarian not because of spiritual reason nor health.”

“I become vegetarian because of the World Cup.”

The fact is that I Made bets on Italy. He lost Rp. 2 million. He even can not afford to buy rice and meat. He’s been starved, no money at all, and his wife expels him from their house. That’s why he is at the warung now.

“Many of our brothers become vegetarian because of economic reason: they don’t eat meat because they cannot afford to buy it. So they become vegetarian not by choice,” says I Made.

Everyone agrees with I Made. Finally, each of them gives him some money which means that he is no longer a vegetarian. He then starts to grab the steamed pork (brengkes), meat crackers (krupuk be), steamed chopped eel (pesan lindung) and palm toddy available in the warung.