This short trip to Bali presented a set of varied and interesting experiences. I had heard from friends and family about the quaint Balinese worship rituals and sure enough, the carved stone statues and beautifully decorated offerings to the Gods and demon spirits were everywhere. So was the tourist-oriented commerce with its plethora of souvenirs and knick-knacks, though the large number of designer clothing and accessory stores with high quality products and tasteful displays were the icing on the cake during our sojourns through Seminyak and Kuta. And, of course, there was the glorious sea!
We had done little advance planning for this trip, and I had the sense of floating from experience to experience over the three days we were in Bali. And because we had known each other so long, we were able to laugh at the imperfect decisions just as well as we savored the ones that turned out well. Which is just as travel ought to be, spontaneous and rich in detail, and stress free to boot! Presenting a set of small stories from our Bali sojourn….
The kindness of strangers
Bali offered us the perfect escape into anonymity, allowing us to have a reckless element to our capers on the beach. One evening, a couple of us were caught in strong currents and taken a tad further out to see than we had anticipated. Reaching the shore rather breathless (and a bit shaken) after a strenuous swim back, we were touched to find that the man from whom we were renting our deck chairs was already in the water, genuinely concerned for us and ready to get help!
Laughing at ourselves
One night, we ventured into Kuta to sample the nightlife and got lost trying to walk our way to Hard Rock Hotel. Now this is hard to do in Kuta, which is small and linear, but clearly we have talent! After resorting to an exorbitant cab ride to get to our destination, we caught the last one and a half songs of a talented rock band at Centrestage, in Hard Rock Hotel. After the band wound up and we downed the drinks we had hastily ordered, we moved to Hard Rock Café, only to find that the live band there, the one producing screechy noises in a language that was hard to identify, was also on its last song. And so, much amused by our pathetic attempts to enjoy Kuta’s nightlife, we spent a few silent and awestruck moments on the beach, watching the bright moon and sparkling stars reflected in the rhythmic waves, before heading back to the hotel.
For happy senses, go to the local Warungs
With two vegetarians in our midst, one of them prone to a number of allergies, we were slightly skeptical about food. We need not have been. We delighted in the local Warungs (equivalents of dhabas in India) as well as the streetside cafes and restaurants we found. The Warungs specialised in local Balinese and Indonesian food. Our first meal, in the tiny Warung opposite our hotel, was chosen from a limited menu but was deliciously prepared, happily customised and served with side dishes of conversation and friendliness! My favourite meal in Bali it was. Warung Ocha in Seminyak allowed you to pick what you wanted from a buffet and the most tasteful dishes were the salads and veggie stir fries.
There’s also a lot to be said for the highly developed sense of aesthetics in Bali and the sinple Warungs capture this well. In Ocha, the landscaping and interplay of indoor and oudoor spaces would put most high-end restaurants to shame! Warung Damar in Kuta was more upmarket and the beef redang and veggie gado gado were memorable. Dinner at La Sal, the Spanish eatery down the road, with its sense of space, stood out for its careful preparation and assembly.
Unexpected celebrity status
That Indian cinema is popular worldwide is not news. Two young girls who offered us a share of the their offerings at Tirta Empul giggled about Salman Khan and Shahrukh. But we were all rather surprised that soap operas from Indian television seemed to really capture the Balinese imagination.
Wayan, our taxi driver for the day trip we took to Mount Batur, had me down as his contact person. Even as we discussed how common his name was in Bali, he expressed how delighted he was to have met a person called Mukta in person! Now this was a bit strange, as mine isn’t a particularly common Indian name. He murmured something about Mukta being a character in a daily Hindi soap called Utaran that he watched (dubbed in Bahasa, of course). At the buffet lunch we ate that day, our server Putu (another common name in Bali), was ecstatic when I introduced myself. She beckoned to her friends in excitement, pointing to me and saying “Mukta Rathore, Mukta Rathore…” once again referring to the character in the soap. I sure did not expect to be a celebrity in Bali!
Making the most out of quick work trips is an art. I’d like to say I’m rather good at it. In the first week of January, I made an overnight visit to Mumbai for a meeting. I was fortunate, since the meeting was in Cuffe Parade, to be out up at the quaint old-world Sea Green Hotel right on Marine Drive.
Bombay, especially the central and southern parts of the city, is a big part of my growing up years and always has the effect of sending into a wave of strong and happy nostalgia. Marine Drive and Worli Seaface are those iconic places in the city that are on every Bombaywalla’s list of favourites. Mine too.
The Queen’s Necklace is regal and sweeping, its panoramic view and feel having the effect of slowing down your heart rate and making you open your eyes wider as you feel your face ease into a broad smile. And so I found myself waking up in eager anticipation early enough to get in a morning stroll along Marine Drive before I needed to leave for work.
From eager fitness enthusiasts, to cavorting canines. From excited shattering tourists to practiced office goers who looked like they had just stepped off the train and were catching their moments of calm before plunging into the madness of the day. And lovers, everywhere. Young couples lost in themselves, their backs to the world, their gazes out at sea. Exchanging gifts and silences. Sharing conversations.
A city of love, a city of excitement and noise and energy, and of poignant silences too. Bombay, it’s impossible not to love you.
If you live by the water, you have no idea how those of us who live in landlocked places long for the open sea. No matter what age we are, no matter what state of mind, just take us to a beach or jetty and watch us go wild!
One morning in Goa, this past week, we were out to fill fuel in the car and decided to visit Miramar, which is a beautiful stretch of beach next to Panjim, Goa’s capital city. Within minutes, the children had walked out into the waves, sat in them, jumped in them, rolled in them, and well, thoroughly soaked themselves into the experience of being on the beach. I walked around in my shoes (why was I wearing them exactly?) collecting shells, which Aadyaa really wanted but didn’t have the patience to collect, preferring to frolic in the water instead. Udai wore a silly grin while Rahul had a beatific smile stuck on his face. I took pictures of my beautiful family as we all thoroughly enjoyed some peaceful time on a nearly deserted beach!
After a hiatus, it’s back in my life, A Word a Week Challenge on A Word in Your Ear!
Boat. One of the first words a child latches on to in utter fascination. That marvellous object that bobs upon the water, that potentially carries us far away, into the realm of adventure. As grown ups, of course, we associate a boat with serenity, a welcome lack of anchor for a while, before the rhythm of life reclaims us. Here is a collection of boat pics from various travels…
The best part about my friend Rachna’s apartment in Mumbai is the view. It looks out at sea past the endearing clutter of Sewri and you see these enormous ships like little dots in the distance. The less I say the better, for here are the various moods of the sea from Rachna’s living room balcony! Udai, who spent a week with her all by himself is vouching for the restorative powers of this view, which he clearly enjoyed to the fullest!
Yann Martel’s ‘Life of Pi’ is an incredible story. Fantastical and a commentary on life, the meaning of existence, etc etc. Ingredients for a runaway hit. Ang Lee’s film does it tremendous justice, but in a very different way from merely retelling the narrative. It is certainly the first 3D film I have seen that actually justified the use of this technology.
When I read the book, I thought for days about many abstract and existential aspects of life. I wondered about whether man was less or more selfish than animals. I wondered about our need to believe in something greater than ourselves. I wondered about faith and doubt and the wonderful inter-relation of these two disparate points of view. I mused about my childhood years and being conflicted between the strong influence of two ultra-religious grandmothers and my atheist father and how I have set this question of faith aside, for the most part. Some day, it will come and loom large in front of me and shall have to decide to let my life move ahead. But for now, it doesn’t bother me too much.
The movie was whole other experience from the book. I disagree with those who say the movie is a faithful imitation of the book; it wasn’t for me and it never is; how can it be, the mediums are so so different, one relying on each individual’s power of visualization and the other visualizing it and merely opening the visuals for interpretation?
But it was good. So good. I loved the way the 3D brought alive the zoo. And the technology that could create the sheer magnificence of Richard Parker! I loved the ethereal quality of the scenes out at sea and the sheer glory of nature. I want Udai to see it, for it brought back to me memories of how wondrous the world appeared as a child. How intriguing the world is, and yet how we accepted the vagaries of our lives as perfectly normal. I wasn’t touched as much as I thought I would be with Pi’s tremendous loneliness and his faith, but it’s hard to achieve everything when all you have to work with is a landscape, one human, a boat and a computer-generated animal! Suraj Sharma’s effort is commendable though and he is beautiful in the film. Certainly, he brings a freshness to the film that a known face simply could not have done.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of watching the film. Its beauty and effects mesmerized me. But I have not brought the film back with me in my head the way I carried the book around. I will re-read the book though…and that’s something!
After my head had nearly split listening to the incessant squabbling, tattling and whining amongst the kids, I thought I had had enough. Mostly the older kids would hang up against Aadyaa and she would lash out at them. With everyone else busy today with Arnav’s Upanayan ceremony, I was dealing with the cousin gang by myself. Boredom usually results in squabbling. It was the same when we were kids, I kept telling myself. It was ok. My headache would not go away, however, apparently not responsive to reason and logic.
Eventually driven by the need to give the kids some occupation, I drove them to Miramar Beach. The exquisite sunset, the cool sea breeze and the easy bonhomie that water creates overtook us all like magic. The headache ebbed and i watch fascinated as the kids squeal, jump, laugh and bond beautifully with each other. it’s monsoon and the sea is rough. I watch over them keenly but I revel in their enjoyment of nature. The crowds notwithstanding, they interact with the water and knead the soft wet sand. This is bliss. This is life.