Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Bungklang Bungkling: Raja (King) by Wayan Juniartha

Taken from ‘Bungklang Bungkling’, ‘Raja, a column by I Wayan Juniartha, published in Bali Post, Sunday 30 October 2011. Translated by Putu Semiada.

Raja (King)

The palm toddy warung looks different today. There are four decorative bamboo poles (penjor), hanging coconut leave decorations (paku pipid), and a carved chair in the middle of the warung.

I Madé Obsesi Megalomaniak (I Madé Full of Obsession) is sitting on the chair.

“Starting from today, I’m the King of Kediri for Bali, West and East Nusa Tenggara,” says he.

Next, he puts on a crown and a royal costume with golden trim which he has bought. He is so rich that he doesn’t even need to pay for the costume by ‘credit’ like one who claimed himself a king named Raja Kumis Babakan Pulé (King with thick moustache but has no money).

“My royal name is Abhiseka-Jayadini-Jayaditu I Gusti Ngurah Nyem Lalah Demen Nampah,” he adds.

Everybody claps their hands. The association members are democratic people. There has been a rule that only the chairman should be elected by voting. Anyone who wants to claim himself as king or priest is welcomed as it is their personal right and must be respected.

“Why King of Kediri, instead of Sriwijaya which is more historic, or a Chinese King with lots of fortune,” asks I Wayan Campah Kelur (I Wayan Never Thinks Twice Before Talking).

“Well, Sriwijaya has no close relation to Bali. Actually I prefer Majapahit. Majapahit is still much respected by the Balinese.”

I Madé is right. A lot of Balinese are still amazed by the golden era of Majapahit Kingdom. They want the golden era back. They might not understand that, if it came back, they would become common people and will be oppressed by the king and local rulers as well.

“Besides, there is already one who claims himself as King of Majapahit for Bali area.”

“And Kediri has been chosen as it is much older than Majapahit.

“So I will be the highest one in Bali. Most of Balinese Kings are descended from Majapahit Kingdom. I’m ‘descended’ from Kediri.”

Everyone claps. I Madé has given them a packed rice lunch each, palm toddy and beer for free and a T-shirt, plus transport allowance. The Balinese are quiet happy when they are treated like that.

What is it special for you to be a ‘king’ when you don’t have your own people nor kingdom? Who do you expect to recognize that you are a king? Who would believe you?” asks I Wayan again.

“I’m sure you do not really understand the current situation. You can ‘buy’ anything you want as long as you have money, including ‘recognition.”

“You can pay journalists to get yourself be featured in newspapers. If you are featured in newspapers every day, you can go here and there to do your job as a king. At the end people will believe that you are a king.”

“You can even cheat the gods. If you come to the spooky temples every night, give some donation and pretend to be in trance, and when you are in trance, say that you’ve got messages from many different gods that they have approve you to be a king; eventually the temples’ custodians (pengempon) would believe you.”

“If you are often featured in newspapers and in trance, you will soon become popular. Even though you are from lower caste or not really smart, you will look like a smart one; from nothing to something.”

“You already have everything, Madé; you are a successful businessman, you have lots of wives and lots of money; why do you want to be a king?”

“Today, the most important thing is ‘status’. No matter how much money you have, it won’t guarantee that people will respect you. No matter how bright you are, if you are from a lower caste, nobody will listen to you.”

“And the Balinese are a bit feudalistic. Everyone will listen to the person as long as he is from higher caste and all they can say is ‘yes’ (nggih).”

“That’s why I want to be a king. Nobody wants to be an ordinary person in Bali. Most want to be a ‘king’. The thing is that, some say it frankly, others don’t.”

Everyone laughs. Actually everyone wants to be a ‘king’. It is much better indeed to be a king compared to an ordinary person, like Pak Minta, the gardener who was caught by the president’s personal guards as he passed riding a bike in front of the president during an event in Bali.

“If Pak Minta were a president, the guards would respect him.