Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Bungklang Bungkling: Nyepi (The Day of Silence) by Wayan Juniartha

Taken from ‘Bungklang Bungkling’, ‘Nyepi’, a column by I Wayan Juniartha, published in Bali Post, Sunday 13th March 2011. 
Translated by Putu Semiada.

Nyepi (The Day of Silence)

There is no Balinese holiday with h a preparation as long as that for Nyepi, or the Day of Silence.

“Look at the young boys — they have been busy for three months already,” says I Putu Pengamat Kene Keto (Observer of Many Issues).

“Some of them seek donations for making ogoh-ogoh (giant effigies). It is funny though, that the more donations they get, the more time the completion of ogoh-ogoh takes.”

“When they’ve already got some friends, they will spend it for barbeque, beer or palm toddy and peanuts, says I Wayan Milu-Milu Tuung (Always as a Follower).

“After having a barbeque, they usually drink and have fun until midnight and fall asleep. That’s what they do each evening. Hence the ogoh-ogoh will not be complete until the morning, one day before Nyepi.”

Actually it is the boys who have commitment — and know how to make it, who will make the ogoh-ogoh complete, the rest will just drink and get drunk, but they don’t want others to know that they are drunk. They still want to be able to carry the ogoh-ogoh; and spoil the neighbor’s ogoh-ogoh or attack the house of a person (krama) that they don’t like.

“Once they are conscious from being drunk”, they will make a list of “enemies” or krama that need to attack during the Ngrupuk (one day before Nyepi),” adds I Wayan.

The list can be a long one: it may include the nearest neighborhood with whom they have had a conflict on village borders; or people from their own neighborhood who do not donate for ogoh-ogoh (or for beer, palm toddy etc.); or one who has donated a small amount; or one who has donated a lot but declines to pay ‘illegal’ levy for pecalang or village leader (bendesa); or one with black magic power; or one who has two cars (rich), or one whose face makes them upset; or one who has just renovated his house temple, etc…

“What a ‘big’ job it is; they have to make the ogoh-ogoh, have a barbeque and drink every night, and then make a long list of ‘dissidents’ as well.”

Everyone nods.

Besides the young: the mothers are quite busy too. They get panicked in preparing things for Nyepi: when to cook, (what will be the menu); are cakes, snacks, french fries and soft drinks enough?

“They have been thinking what they will do during the Nyepi day as all of them will be at home during the day and night. On other days the children are busy with their extra lessons; the father works overtime and the mothers go to social gatherings. They act as if they didn’t know how many meals they need daily.”

Given the above, it can be understood why they rush to supermarkets, traditional markets, warung, alfamart, indomaret and Circle K to get food and drinks…….as if there is no tomorrow. No wonder that their large fridges become full.

The fathers are busy as well: some attach carton or paper on the windows and ventilations so that they can’t be seen from outside when the light, AC or computers are on at night.

Meanwhile others will buy Chinese and domino cards and try to find a way — without being seen by the pecalangs — to gather with their friends during the Nyepi.

“The radio broadcasting doesn’t work, nor does television, and the lights must be off too. So what are we going to do? Only telephone and internet work. But whom am I going to give a call? I can’t use a computer, let alone internet. So what I can do is to play Chinese cards (ceki) because there has been no prohibition not to play Chinese cards (Amati Ceki),” says I Made Blandang Blolong (Illegal Gambling Operator).

Everyone laughs loudly. They realize that the Balinese don’t like being silent: during the Nyepi, when they are supposed to be quiet just for one day, they get very busy.