Bali, Postcards

A Wall of Greeting: Sanur, Bali, Indonesia

I walked by a few days later when no one was there.

Just behind the towering Bali Inna Beach Hotel on Sanur Beach- a bold new vision for tourism back in the mid-1960s and a sad anachronism now- is the rolling green of the golf course and the cranes and high fences of yet another development.

Here along a service road toward the golf course I walked my friend’s dog, and saw this hand painted greeting card for the important ritual of Galungan, the Balinese holiday celebrating the victory of dharma- what should be done- over adharma- what should not be done. Galungan, with all its natural pageantry, traditional sacrifices and offerings has a dignified reverence marking the time when the ancestral spirits visit the Earth. The last day of the celebration is Kuningan, when the ancestors return to their eternal home.

The day I noticed the scrawl for the first time was because on the concrete loading dock underneath were two middle aged men, smoking aromatic cigarettes, sipping black coffee and completely immersed in a game of chess. They were focussed, languid and defiant against the muggy heat. Even if I had a camera, I still would not have captured the scene. It belonged to them and I was just a passer-by. I had no right to claim their moment as my own.

The sign is for all to see- it is as permanent as a building can be in Bali. Just as the tides wash the fishing boats in and the detritus of today out into the ocean, buildings come and go at a rhythmic pace.

The greeting sign on the old building probably won’t be there when the development is finished. It reminds us of what we don’t want to see anymore.

Each of us has what is called svadharma– that is what we should do; our duty. We don’t all believe in the fate that life has presented to us- some of us believe we have the ability and right to decide our own. Life is not a series of duties and obligations decided by our birth and position in society- it is for our own choosing.

But with choice comes responsibility. Do we have the strength to accept to consequences of our choices? If we choose our own destiny, should we expect others to help us if we made the wrong choices?

The chess players have accepted their fate, and do so gladly. They are at peace with one another and with their world.  

And on that day, at that moment, so had I.

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