Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Bungklang Bungkling: Buku (Book) by Wayan Juniartha

Taken from ‘Bungklang Bungkling’, ‘Buku’, a column by I Wayan Juniartha, published in Bali Post, Sunday 27th March 2011. Translated by Putu Semiada.

Buku (Book)

I Made Pawah Layah (Have No Teeth) is very surprised having heard what his son wants to be if he finishes his school.

“I really would like to be a poet, and learn about arts. That’s why I would like to register at Balinese Arts Department, Faculty of Arts and Language, University of Udayana,” says I Putu Polos Alep (Humble Man).

I Made feel as if his teeth were dropping for his surprise. I Putu doesn’t want to be a doctor, lawyer, policeman/soldier, nor high ranking official/politician.

“Choosing the Faculty of Arts is already a really disaster, let alone, Balinese Arts Department, my son must be crazy,” says I Made quietly to his palm toddy association fellows who loves palm toddy, palm wine and chopped steamed eel.

The others just shake their head. They all can not understand why in this globalization-commercialism-modification-brokering era, one wants to be a poet. If one is not crazy, he will join the Faculty of Economy so when he graduates he will apply to be a civil servant at tax office like Gayus.

My son says that there are a lot of bright people, rich people, people with political power and also people who pretend to be in power and rich. The rare ones are ones who love arts and have commitment to promote teaching on goodness and telling people about good behavior to make the world be a peaceful place as well as to “cure” the “sick” world.

Everyone can not believe what they hear. Some because how a first grade senior high school student has such a very different perspective. Generally, most senior high school students just think about Saturday night, new motor bike, new mobile phone, how to flirt their girl friends and how to get condoms in drugstore.

Some are sorry for I Made. They guess that he must be upset for what happens to his son.

“It has never happened in history that a poet could make the world better, or make a change. Only the rich and powerful can change the world, or investors and politicians as well. The only thing that can “cure” the world is money. How can one help the poor if he doesn’t have any money? Can a book, hymn (kidung) or a poem save one from hunger?” comments I Nyoman Pragmatis Melengis. (Pragmatic Man)

Everyone nods. Everyone agrees that money is much more important than poems, or, one with lots of money is more important than a poet.

“So how can a poet give his contribution to the world, to the community? What he probably can give just a book which only tells about stories and his opinion; that’s if he might be lucky enough if a publisher is willing to publish his book. If not? There will no contribution at all,” adds I Nyoman.

Everyone agrees. I Made feels unhappy having heard that his son will not be able to make any fortune, buy car, decorate his house temple with gold leaf, build east pavilion (bale dangin) with teak post, hold big ceremonies (ngenteg linggih). He knows his son will give no contribution at all.

I Made is suddenly unconscious, in spite of no drinking at all.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Bungklang Bungkling: Lontar (Manuscript) by Wayan Juniartha

Taken from ‘Bungklang Bungkling’, ‘Lontar’, a column by I Wayan Juniartha, published in Bali Post, Sunday 20th March 2011. Translated by Putu Semiada.

Lontar (Manuscript)

Is there anybody in Bali who really has the commitment to look after the old lontar (manuscripts)?

The question comes from I Made Paling Pokokne (The Most Important Thing Man) who does KKN (rural-social-action-internship for advanced university students) in his village during the last week. He has visited the palm toddy stall and has been talking and suggesting that his village fellows give more serious attention to Balinese language and arts. Hence he talks about lontar for two hours before he gets drunk from Karangasem palm toddy and eating fish satay. There is an unwritten rule at the palm toddy warung that if anyone talks too much, he will be “hazed” by the senior fellows.

The topic of their discussion today is about lontar. I Made says that he feels very sad having seen the lontar in his village that has been neglected and that nobody cares.

“Don’t you know that lontar is one of important and invaluable in heritance,” says I Made sadly.

I Nyoman Legu Gendong (Cheeky Mosquito) the palm toddy association chief (klian) quietly pours the strongest palm wine into I Made’s glass. He recalls that there will be a live football match on television, and he thinks that if he lets I Made keep talking, they will not be able to enjoy it properly.

“Are you serious that the lontar are invaluable? If so I will sell all the lontars that my grandfather inherited. He was a powerful shaman: I might be able to buy a new motor bike, a laptop, a mobile phone and an iPad,” says I Nyoman Makelar Saplar (Greedy Broker).

I Nyoman is a kind of a “modern” Balinese: selling anything he can, or mortgage anything that can not be sold. If temples and gods can be sold, he would have done it. Given this, temples and gods are offered for tourist attractions and views for villas owned by investors for free.

“Is it true that lontar are very important inheritance? I’ve never seen a lontar, let alone read one,” says I Wayan Tuna Segala (Challenged Every Which Way).

I Wayan is correct: even though he is given a chance to see lontar, it will be completely useless as he can not read. He was a drop out from elementary school. He tries very hard just to read a simple sentence, like “Ini Bapak Budi” (This is Mr. Budi). He is only good at reading lottery numbers (togel).

I Made glares at everybody as he gets very upset having heard silly comments from his fellows; his face turns red. He might have drunk too much strong Karangasem palm wine (arak).

“What kind of Balinese are you? Don’t you know what things are mentioned in lontar? It describes about our founding fathers’ thoughts, their way of life, religious beliefs, curing methods (usada), architectural codes (asta kosala-kosali), agriculture , etc. Everything is there. It also mentions about Balinese custom and way of life, from Tri Kaya Parisudha (Three Ways of Good Behave) to Tri Hita Karana (Three Connected Relations between the God, Human and Nature). If lontar doesn’t exist anymore, how we can learn those things?” he asks loudly.

Meanwhile the football match on television has started. Nobody care anymore what I Made says.

“I don’t care if the lontar is gone. I don’t think we need lontar anymore. Why do we bother to learn about Tri Kaya Parisudha and Tri Hita Karana when nobody really behaves as what indicated in those teachings these days?”