Bali: A Vibrant Picture Book…

Bali, your story dances between  light and darkness, dreams and reality, gods and demons, chaos and order.  Dipping into your vibrant picture book, I gaze in wonder, horror, fascination and awe at the astonishing and beautiful, the grotesque and exquisite…

I turn your pages to find chickens and dogs eating offerings on the side of busy roads, a pig being bled in the street – blood gathering blackly in a plastic basin – thick squeals filling the air, the acrobatic silhouettes of monkeys at dawn stealing fruit from shrines in Jalan Hanuman and perfect pink lotus flowers painted on the side of a garbage truck or floating in scum.



I find the bent knees and petal fingers of small girls learning to dance and the patient eyes of their teachers – gently turning hands and lifting shoulders.

 I find the painstaking craftsmanship  of silver makers, batik painters and the weavers of cloth and baskets.  I paint mangoes with a young artist. His brush ripens them to perfection…

Amongst a thousand shades of green I find the stooped backs of padi farmers,  dozens of ducks puddling among rice plants and the calm face of the rice goddess, Dewi Sri. My heart tightens at the sight of one tiny figure in the distance tracking with hoe and bucket across an endless emerald sea of terraced rice fields…

I find views carved into hillsides and patched across valleys…temples and rice barns – too beautiful to look at for very long – and women picking flowers and chillies under a relentless blaze of sun. How long does it take to gather a full basket?

I find a throng of children in hot pink uniforms screaming in delight as cars roll through a flood of chocolate water, the rintik rumble of men’s voices and towers of sajian glowing bright with fruit and  flowers. Sitting side saddle daintily poised on a motorbike, back straight  one arm around her offerings a wife gently clasps her husband on the way to temple…

 I find water buffaloes lying on the dusty earth of Tenganan, fluorescent pink and yellow chickens  and ordered rows of fighting cocks in  upturned baskets.

I find leaves and flowers placed lovingly in a basin of water on a doorstep or verandah and the elegant insouciance of a young waiter, as graceful as a dancer, carrying a tray of drinks to a group of loud, large tourists.

I flick through chapters redolent with roasting coffee, trays of spices  drying  in the sun (cloves and nutmeg, lemon grass, ginger, saffron, vanilla, pepper and cinnamon) and the haunting fragrance of sandalwood incense. My nostrils fill with the perfume of ancient treasure and my eyes are dazzled by a swarm of festival colour – gold and cream, duck egg blue, deep crimson, aubergine , dove grey, apricot, blush pink , marigold, lime, sharp white, royal blue and rust red…

On other pages  I find a street side temple ceremony next to a clogged drain where men play music and a youth splashes his face delicately with holy water. I find cremation processions, swaying bamboo penjor and the ever present black and white checked wrap of poleng on statues, tree trunks, rocks and buildings reminding us of the eternal struggle between good and evil.

I find people and clothes being washed in water that flows from Mt Agung as a toothbrush and sandal floats away from the gods.

And somewhere, deep in the heart of your story, I find the spirit of Barong goodness and the evil of Rangda. I hear the sweet notes of a gamelan orchestra and listen to a chorus of men chanting in the voices of monkeys.

I find the sacred symbol Om graffitied in unlikely places  and Ganesha sitting “elephant wise” in the dimness of an ancient cave…remembering all.  A silent witness…




© Anita Patel, 2017



















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