David:

Would you like to be part of the company for a night?’ Bandem asked. He had been very patient explaining the dance and story to us.

Of course we would and it was arranged: we were to be at ASTI at 6.30 sharp on the following evening. `And there is no need to bring umbrellas’, Bandem said, `it will not rain’.

The rainy season was under way and there was every chance of rain, every night. Why did he think tomorrow would be dry? `We have arranged it’, he said a little roguishly.

The dancers must learn formulae to protect themselves while dancing, especially while in a state of trance, and they learn also old incantations to keep away the rain. It is a matter of everyday magic.            `On the next day, for the first time ever, Betty forgot to bring her umbrella. We were well on our way, under low, dark clouds, before she thought of it and there was no time to turn back to the hotel.

Anyway, we were running late. It would be a long night and we had decided to have a meal beforehand. We found what seemed to be the slowest restaurant in Bali. At 6.30 sharp, our meal was arriving at the table. We wolfed it and bustled through the crowded market to hire a pony cart, known as a`dokkar’. We found one with a pretty pony with bells on his harness, perhaps the slowest pony in Bali. We tinkled through the streets and our lugubrious driver assured us we were too late and it was no use.

Really there was no need to worry. In Bali, time is made of rubber. At ASTI, students were waiting on the veranda and a truck was standing in the grounds. We were not at all the last to arrive. We had half an hour to wait. When the time came to leave, all the lithe dancers leapt into the back of the truck and Betty and I made it in our own way. It was starting to spit rain – so much for incantations – so we worked our way subtly towards two doubters at the front of the press who were opening umbrellas.

The truck took us north on empty roads, through dark villages and between rice fields where water glinted dully. The rain stopped and in the truck was a feeling of warmth and happiness. Now and again a chorus of song burst out. Students came through the crowd to speak to us and two befriended us for the evening. One was a pretty dancer from Java, the other a Balinese boy with a gentle, sensitive face and an ambition to be a clown.

The company was to perform the Ramayana Ballet at the village of Batubulan (Moonstone). The truck pulled up before one of the village temples, we trouped inside and, after removing our shoes, into the centre of a large, square pavilion. As the others sat, so did we, cross-legged on woven mats. Food was brought to us, rice and spiced meat wrapped in banana leaf, and glasses of thick Balinese coffee, black and grainy. Under amused instruction from the sweet Javanese dancer and the clown we ate with our fingers, spilling rice all about and on our feet, which looked pitiful and pale amongst the firm, brown Indonesian feet. Our second meal of the evening was better than the first.

Betty:

At about nine o’clock the company retired to put on make-up and costumes. The application of the make-up was a slow and marvellous ritual. The costumes were elaborate; there were masks and golden head-dresses, beautiful sashes and sarongs. They all came out of a huge wooden box with intricate carving.

We were shown to our seats. The Javanese girl whom David so much admired, was not dancing and sat with us. We were favoured; we had front seats, on the platform and under the roof of the pavilion. Students came to talk for a while. The dalang of the dance at KOKAR brought a friend to meet us. He was a stocky man with a proud, direct gaze, a manly man, and he was to be the dalang for this Ramayana Ballet.

We waited: ten o’clock, ten-thirty. Suddenly, the hundreds of open air seats in the temple grounds were filled and a mass of little boys squatted and wriggled in front of our feet. The performance, Indonesian style, would go on into the morning; there was no hurry to begin.

The music began; drums, gongs and metallophones. The dance began; fluid movement and colourful costume. The crowd of children in the front of the audience applauded passages of both music and dance; they were wide eyed. Bandem, Dibia, the great Mario, all the dancers on stage, dancers through the centuries, had once belonged to that throng.

There was no interval. I was exhausted. We had been very busy in the last few days, then the journey to Batubulan, the waiting, the pair of dinners. Now and again a small boy would drop his head to his knees, or the shoulder of a friend, and sleep a little while. My head dropped the same way; but we were guests and prominently placed. We decided it was best to take a walk.

We walked out of the temple grounds and bought drinks and brown-sugar sweets at a stall. The scene outside was almost as colourful as the ballet itself, with light from oil lamps falling on the bamboo and thatch of stalls. A road led off into darkness under a skyline of palms. We talked with a stall holder about families and music. I was tired and David was pale and ill, breathing with difficulty.

The story of the Ramayana came to an end. Rama and Sita were happily together and the monkey general Hanuman basked in glory. Stall-holders lifted their tables onto their heads and carried them away, little boys stood and dusted their bottoms. The crowd drifted away slowly along dark roads. It was 3 a.m. We waited for the truck to take us back to Denpasar. We were tired, but we knew we were happy.

`It didn’t rain’. One of us said. It was a starry morning after all. In Bali everyone is a little artist – perhaps a little magician too.

In the early thirties, when the German painter, Walter Spies and the Dutch painter, Rudolf Bonnet settled in the Ubud district, a Belgian painter, Adrien Jean le Mayeur settled in Klandis, a small village near Denpasar.

His favourite model was a legong dancer, Ni Pollok, whom he married in 1935. Their house in Sanur has become the property of the Indonesian Government and, as The Museum Le Mayeur, is open to the public.

The le Mayeur house is as richly decorated as a Hindu temple or the instruments of a Balinese gamelan. Furniture is deeply carved, painted and gilded. On the walls are continuous murals, in the painter’s decorative style, of Balinese scenes, of Balinese girls. One face and figure is repeated again and again, the Legong dancer, wife of the artist.

And in the gift shop, we find the same face and figure again, Ni Pollok. In life, she was of course older than the figure in the paintings, but still serene, still beautiful. She allowed me to draw her and sat relaxed, without embarrassment. She was used to modelling.

The museum seemed dedicated to a love story.

`My husband taught me to write and we used a stick and wrote in the sand of the beach’, said Ni Pollok. `He was my teacher as well as my husband. And he was my friend.’

 

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Little Artists of Bali

Ayu, a small Legong dancer, at practice

David:

In the villages of Bali, everyday life is decorated with flower offerings to Hindu Gods, with carvings, ornate temple gates, the thatched roofs of family shrines behind compound walls. Almost every village has its groups of actors and dancers and an orchestra called ‘gamelan’. As Indonesia’s top painter, Affandi, said: `In Bali, everyone is a little artist’.

‘You should have been here ten years ago’, the old hands say. `Then the Legong (dance) was the Legong. Now it is shortened for tourists and is just an entertainment; then it was an experience.’

Now, there are thousands of motor-bikes, transistor radios, rock and roll, flared trousers and everything else that goes on in the world and travels by jet. Wolf-eyed agents lead sheep-eyed tourists, and business is good in the large hotels.

The traditions of Bali, in art and customs, have been handed down for centuries without notation. They come from ancient beliefs, animism and ancestor worship, and from the Buddhist and Hindu religions. Now, academies and societies face the enormous task of recording what exists.

The traditions of Bali, in art and customs, have been handed down for centuries without notation. They come from ancient beliefs, animism and ancestor worship, and from the Buddhist and Hindu religions. Now, academies and societies face the enormous task of recording what exists. In the Balinese capital, Denpasar, are the twin academies, KOKAR, the Conservatorium of Music, and ASTI, the Academy of Dance. Betty and I were invited to see the students at work.

 Betty:

We had just returned to Bali from Java, where we had spent six weeks. David had developed a lung infection and was as fragile as a leaf. Balinese friends touched him gently and exclaimed in alarm. He tottered where once he strode. So we made our way slowly to KOKAR and ASTI. The buildings stand side by side in a small street, great oblong pavilions with steep Balinese roofs and guardian stone giants at the doorways. Groups of students in sarongs and white shirts on golden skins regarded us softly as we walked between them.

We watched the gamelan and dancers in rehearsal, and I was amazed by their discipline. The leader who played the drum, the kendang, was a particularly attractive and gifted musician. He held the orchestra in the palm of his hand and, at the same time, seemed to carry on a pretty flirtation with one of the dancers. Her blushes and glances decorated the performance. In Jakarta, we had met I Made Bandem, a dancer of renown and lecturer at ASTI, Bali. Now we were able to take up his invitation to visit him at the academy.

For four years, I Made Bandem studied at the University of California, Los Angeles and graduated with his M.A. degree. In California, he became known as the Nureyev of Bali. In 1975 he toured in Australia with Indonesia’s Cultural Mission to this country but not as a dancer. He was director, organiser, and became cook as well, for the company found Australian food difficult to eat.

He is a small, slim man, vital, with a warm smile and direct manner. His training began in boyhood in his village. He told us how the boys would train their voices while they bathed in the river, how they would watch well known dancers in performance and, on the following day, practise the movements they had seen. Later, he had studied with the legendary Balinese dancer, Mario. He described for us the way in which the arts have come down through the centuries.

I was interested also in new work. Bandem talked about a new dance developed at ASTI. He described it as modern, with western influence, but still based on the traditional Cak dance, and the old, old story, the ‘Ramayana’. We had seen the Cak performed in Bona, the village of its origin. There, we had been swept into the magic and mystery of Bali. The moon and soft torch light shone on the brown bodies of a hundred men, the monkey soldiers, come to the aid of Hanuman, the monkey general.

Bandem said he would call a special rehearsal for the next day and we could be the audience. We were there promptly on time, putting our shoes amongst the others at the door. Bandem sat with us to explain the action. I Wayan Dibia, the creator of the new work was to conduct the rehearsal and dance the part of the monkey general.

About forty young men, stripped to the waist and wearing sarongs were the monkey soldiers. This was a performance without costume or lighting. Voices without accompaniment rose and fell and the voice of the dalang, the narrator, intoned the story in the old Javanese language. With shimmering hands, the dancers mimed the forest, pyramids of figures formed mountains, the wind was created in mime.

We were completely taken up by the sound and movement. ‘Cak-cak-cak-cak’, the voices said, and beside me, David’s drawing pen scratched out `cak-cak-cak-cak’ too, as he tried to capture it in drawing.

When the dance came to its abrupt end, the players received a standing ovation from both members of their audience, then, grinning widely, they clapped us.

Then Pak Banden offered an invitation…

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The Queen of the Southern Sea

David:

Parangtritis is a small coastal town close to Jogjakarta. You reach it by bus and two bamboo punts which ferry people across a river – you have to wait on a sandbank in the middle of the wide river for the second punt. Rormon came with us and, when we were over the river, he hired two bicycles. I rode one and he, the professional, took Betty on the luggage carrier of the other. The road was rough.

Parangtritis is a beach of black sand. Surfing is said to be extremely dangerous; we saw no-one doing it. Rormon kept far from the water-line:  Nyai Loro Kidul, Queen of the South Sea likes to snatch men from this beach and keep them as slaves in her realm at the bottom of the sea. The beach is long and, looking inland, the view is of terraced hills, a low range, cattle grazing, thatched huts.

A woman with a coconut and a wicked looking knife in her hands hung close to us. She wanted to sell us the coconut and at last we agreed. We thought we were to drink the milk and eat the soft flesh. No. She whacked away a part of the top, gave us each a sip of the milk and ran down to the water’s edge. The rest of the milk went into the sea as an offering to the Queen and the woman brought us a coconut full of sea water in return. She was very pleased, so were we in a way and so, I feel sure, was the Queen of the South Sea; though she may well have preferred Rormon as the offering.

Back we went, five kilometres by rough bicycle, a hundred metres on the two bamboo punts, a short paddle and from then on it was slow bus to Jogja. A group of cyclists rode just ahead of us for several kilometres; but the bus forged on bravely to overtake them.

 

 

At the bus station, Rormon hired a becak for the three of us. `Always hire an old tukang becak’, he said to me confidentially. `They are better.’ After that I always took that advice, when possible, and it was always right.

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Donald Friend in Bali

Betty:

In Denpasar, there is a cafe where tourists like to go for iced fruit juice, poached eggs and cheese and tomato sandwiches. We ordered banana pancakes and settled down to wait. The only other customers, a young Dutch couple, sat a couple of tables away murmuring to each other. Two pancakes arrived on a tray, but evidently not for us. They were taken to the Dutch couple. We craned anxiously in case there was some mistake; but no, they were attacked and devoured immediately.

We settled again.

About thirty seconds later the Dutchman poked the last end of pancake between his bearded lips, glared at the waitress and said loudly and crossly in English: `We did not order banana pancakes’, and again, with gesticulations `We … did … not … order … pancakes. Do you understand?’

Like the Balinese, we had been defeated by the Dutch. We could wait no longer and we left the cafe sad and still hungry.

In Jalan Kartini, we caught a colt with a capacity of eight and carrying a dozen, so we sat cheek to cheek. At Sanur, we were looking for the house of Donald Friend, the Australian painter. `You are looking for a friend?’ said a smiling girl, misunderstanding.

`Donald Friend.’ We laid emphasis on `Donald’. At the third try, her smile broadened.

‘Tuan Donald.’ She knew of him of course and showed us the way to go. `Ask anyone for Tuan Donald.’

From the main road, we walked through an ordered grove sad and still hungry.

palms were planted on straight lines and golden cattle grazed on green, green grass.

‘Tuan Donald?’ said a young boy, and he pointed to a small low built house. Tacked onto the garden gate was a notice which read that this was not a gallery, that paintings were not for sale, the visitors were not welcome during hours of work or sleep and no children were allowed.

Nevertheless, we had a letter to deliver. We struck a wooden bell that hung nearby, but this had no effect. We slid through the garden gate and knocked bravely on the door. The man who came had a kindly expression and a gentle voice `Donald Friend?

‘Yes.’

We handed him our letter.

`We are writing and would like to interview you.’ `When?

‘Five thirty.’

`Today.’

‘All right.’

`Thank you.’

David:

Next time we struck the wooden bell, a houseboy met us at the garden gate where the terse note hangs and he led us to the pavilion where Donald Friend was relaxing over a succession of drinks. The prototype for this elevated pavilion, which was surrounded on three sides by a shallow moat with carp and water lilies, was the pavilion of judgement at the old palace at Klungkung, a classic example of Balinese architecture.

`A serenely useless building’, says Friend; `that is, if you believe peace and quiet and the pleasures of contemplation to be useless … or conversation and cool drinks at sundown’.

The pavilion was placed on top of a plain rectangular, brick base. There were wood carvings, bamboo musical instruments and bamboo furniture scattered about. Nothing was present for the sake of ostentation. Again, there was texture and atmosphere and colours were muted. In the evening light, looking over the coconut grove, with a slight movement in the air, here was a good feeling of peace.

We sat and talked of magic, while a Balinese youth fielded empty glasses as they touched the table and just as smoothly replaced them refilled.

Donald Friend had lived in Bali for nine years and is matter of fact about magic. `For instance’, he said, `if I am going to have a party, I have a dukun, witch doctor, come in the morning to make sure there will be no rain’. He enjoyed our wide eyed wonderment.

`It works?’ we said.

`Oh yes. It can be raining everywhere else and all around, and here it will be dry. Of course, if you have an enemy, he might hire a dukun too, to work stronger magic.’

`Really?’ we said.

`Oh yes.’

`Do you want a formal interview?’ said Donald Friend, `or would you prefer to just sit like this and talk?’

We wanted to change nothing. I said: `You are fond of the Balinese. Are they fond of you?

‘I think so’, he said, `Because I don’t bore them. Balinese hate to be bored. They might think me a little mad. I do crazy things, but they like that. “Tuan Raksasa” they nicknamed me. They think of me as a benevolent Demon’.

If one of his employees must marry for the sake of an expected child, Donald Friend might be asked to provide a house. The boy who was serving the drinks so expertly and often, was given by his father to Friend as a servant, at the age of six. He was afflicted with a cleft palate and would not attempt to speak. In the village, his chances were slim. Donald Friend took him to Australia for a series of operations. The boy’s courage was admirable said Friend. To be in a strange country might be overwhelming; to be in a hospital ward amongst drip tubes and cylinders and bossy nurses, the like of which he had never imagined, must have been downright terrifying. Add to that the pain caused by surgery inside the boy’s mouth. Not once did he complain or show the fear he must have felt.

 Betty:

In the large room beneath the pavilion, we saw the painter’s own collection. He browsed over it fondly. Bronze Gods and Goddesses, animals, mythical beasts, small lively figures from the past, stand in sharp silhouette against white walls. Donald Friend has collected many pieces for the National Museum in Canberra, hoping they will be appreciated. A figure of elephant-headed Ganesa, Remover of Obstacles, God of Voyages, danced and displayed an elephant-sized erection. A unique piece, according to Friend. `Very Balinese. In Balinese art, the Gods, of course, are never mocked, but often teased. Even in the most sacred statues there are elements of wit and humour, in accordance with the idea that this life is a diversion, a joke played upon us. Like the Balinese themselves, the Gods won’t put up with boredom.’

Touching the rare piece I asked, `Where did you find it?’

His answer was characteristically Indonesian, with undertones to be left intact.

`It came to me.’

There were two bronzes of the Goddess Dewi Sri spreading plague. Rats emerged from her forehead. They were primitive, sinister, and according to Friend, made Balinese people feel uncomfortable. The small dark figures set in rows took on the look of written figures on white paper; and that is close to fact for those who can read the story. Also in the collection room were doors which Donald Friend commissioned a Balinese artist to carve. While he worked the carver lived in the house. He was asked to create something which represented the household. Donald Friend himself is there, painting; his ancient motor-car, filled with his caricatured servants; the pavilion being built.

 David:

Donald Friend loves rich imagery – in other’s work and his own. He showed us a few of his own paintings: Balinese figures, a boy with a guitar against a gold leaf background, a pair of lovers.

`It is the first time for years that I have used gold leaf’, he said.

I remembered gold leaf used in his Ned Kelly send-up: `One lump or two, Edward?’ said Mrs. Kelly, pouring tea.

Side by side with the restrained, sure drawing of figures, we saw wild little fantasies; small insect figures warring rudely; brash, funny, formless figures spread across the page. `Artists attacking critics.’ he said, probably on the spur of the moment. He said he was dreaming up an erotic book. I am sure that, like the doors by the Balinese carver, it will be busy, direct, humorous and beautifully executed. No wonder he gets on so well with Bali.

It was late. The thought of the notice on the gate made us feel guilty.

`I put that up because I just cannot be rude to people’, he said. `It might stop charabancs from arriving.’

A well-mannered boy lit us to the main road where we would catch a colt again for Denpasar. We looked back and saw Donald Friend making his way, without hurry, towards his house. A solitary man, living and painting in the way he wanted.

 

 

 

 Affandi,  Java’s Famous Painter

David:

Jogjakarta is one of Java’s most important centres of culture. Artists abound.

At A.S.R.I. (Akademi Seni Rupa Indonesia)the art school, I was placed in the care of a sweet, shy woman, to be shown through the departments. I liked the sculpture most of all and the woodcarving room where a young English girl was working alongside a youth from the woodcarving town of Jepara. She was a psychiatrist and told me interesting things; he invited me to Jepara, but I was not able to accept. By the time we had finished our tip-toed tour, my lady and l, we had both thawed a little and we talked about painting.

`Expressionism’, she called after me as I descended the steps, `I love expressionism’.

As our friend, Rormon, the becak driver, pedalled me through the town, I could understand why an expressionist painter would like Jogjakarta. It is full of texture, the sights, sounds and smells of humanity. It is like the tangled lines of Affandi’s painting.

Affandi is the Grand Old Man of painting in Indonesia, `Painter Laureate’ some say. And he lives in Jogjakarta. `Do you know Affandi’s house?’ we asked the hotel clerk.

`Yes, a most unusual house’, he said.

Rormon knew it too: ‘It is a house like you have never seen before’.

Betty:

Affandi’s house is a tree. The roof is a single leaf and the rooms are hidden in its fold; the roof and rooms are supported by two great branched pillars, between which is a tiled area with tables and chairs – a kind of open-air living room.

His gallery too is a natural shape, a stark concrete wall, like the face of an enormous boulder. Inside, there is a great space of tiled floor and plain wall where paintings in a thin irregular line, hang right around the gallery. There were paintings by Affandi himself, by his wife Maryati and daughter Kartika.

Affandi’s huge self-portraits are built of a wild mesh of fine brushstrokes; sometimes these heads are five feet tall. A reclining figure, most beautiful, was a portrait of the artist’s mother; she is dead.

Kartika’s paintings too are expressionistic and lyrical and Maryati works in bright wools – charming, vital pictures.

Affandi was not at home, we would have to wait to hear his explanation of the wonderful house. Maryati came out though, and she was sweet, showing a motherly concern, fussing over my badly sunburned shoulders and touching me gently. And just then, half cooked in a strange land, a little mothering was something I needed.

Affandi was in Bali. He would be back in one week. This gave us a good excuse to stay longer in Jogjakarta.

Quite a lot of time we spent with his daughter, Kartika. She has her own gallery where, as well as paintings, she sells artefacts, many from West Irian, and batik dyed materials to her own design. She is beautiful, warm and womanly. She and I were riding in Rormon’s becak. Another becak driver, passing by, called out to Rormon: ‘Take care of those two antiques.’

I was a little annoyed, but Kartika was delighted. `He was not referring to age’, she said, `he meant that we are beautiful and precious objects’.

From childhood, Kartika has travelled the world with her parents and now she holds exhibitions in Europe. In Java, she is considered something of a liberated woman. She divorced her husband, which is unusual, because she could not tolerate being one of several wives, which is not an unusual situation in a Muslim country.

 David:

Affandi is a small man with soft Chinese eyes and a whisp of beard.

`People say I am anti-social’, he said, `but as I grow older, I feel more need to work. I have not so much time left’.

We sat underneath his house drinking coffee. The house is a monument to a moment in his life. `I was sitting under a tree’, he said, `and I thought of how well the tree was protecting me. I made a drawing like this’. He borrowed my sketchbook and drew a simple little shape. `The roof is a leaf, the pillars are trunks.’ He puffed his pipe a little. `You know, if I were as rich as Rockefeller, I’d rebuild the whole of Jogjakarta.’ He puffed a little more and produced the mind shattering thought of an expressionist: `It would be just like a forest’.

Affandi loves Bali. `Everyone there is a little artist’, he said. A large retrospective exhibition of his work was being mounted in the Balinese capital, Denpasar. Affandi was returning there almost immediately. `If you are there, I will show you my Bali’, he said. This gave us a good excuse to go back to Denpasar.

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The Ijen Plateau

I stayed that night at Jember and next day went on my way to the Ijen Plateau. I spent some hours that day in sitting beside the dirt road that leads to Blawan, watching the cassava plants grow and a small group of harvesters move slowly across a tidy rice field. Now and again pony carts came past and stopped to ask me where I was going. `You’ll find a truck’, they assured me. A pretty mother from a roadside warung paraded her fat child before me and made him laugh. It was a landscape of plenty.

Eventually, a truck turned onto the Blawan road and stopped for me. The truck was carrying a load of furniture to Blawan on the Ijen Plateau. On top of the load were about a dozen school boys who had come for the ride.

It was a very rough road and the further we went, the rougher it became. Often, when we hit a rock, the whole load rose from the truck bed and we on top rose from the load and all would come crashing down again. `Awas Awas’ the boys yelled as we passed under a lone low telephone line that zig-zagged over the track. We climbed and the forest closed in until branches brushed the truck’s sides. When we stopped for a while, we saw monkeys.

In a small village we passed under a tree of huge green limes, and what the boys could steal from it, they divided up later. `Give some to Uncle. Give some to Uncle’, they all cried out, so I had the first pieces.

We crossed over a high range and descended steeply into an immense caldera and the boys yelled happily in fright. `Bring us a helicopter’, shouted one. Now the telephone line was on the ground and we passed over rather than under it; then it was: broken no worry at all.

We passed a police check post on the valley floor. Away to the right was Mount Ruang, higher than the rest. We travelled between coffee gardens, sheltered by acacias. Now and again workers emerged to watch us pass. When they were girls, the schoolboy’s cat called with great energy.

We came to a stretch of the wildest, most ominous country I have ever seen. Piles of jagged grey boulders, mile after mile hurled up by the unthinkable explosion which created the caldera in which the Ijen Plateau lies. `Come back with us to Kalibaru’, the, boys yelled. ‘if you stay here, Uncle, you’ll be lost forever.’

Although I hated parting with my new nephews, and although I too found the landscape frightening, I stayed. The manager of a plantation not far from Mount Ijen offered to put me up in the cottage occupied by his two young clerks and he took me there in his four wheel drive car. The two youths laughed and laughed at the thought of having a guest.

During the late afternoon, visitors came. One to rent me a horse to ride to the lake and another who scorned the idea of a horse. The latter was an old man with a furrowed face who never smiled during the short time I knew him. Later, when I was walking about the settlement, he invited me into his tiny cottage to drink coffee and listen to the radio. He had a care-worn wife and three young children. Only one of these, a small boy, emerged from the dark kitchen. While the two in the kitchen gazed at me through the door, he sat on a chair and gazed at me intently from close quarters. There was no laughter in the house and I had a feeling that life was not always kind to this worker and his family.

The coffee gardens are worked by labourers from the island of Madura. Ijen is part of Indonesia’s policy of transmigration, which settles people from overcrowded areas in more remote places. Here Madurese is spoken, women dress in the Madurese way and carry loads on their heads as is done on Madura. While I was on

the Ijen Plateau, I was referred to as a Belanda, Dutchman, and I was something of a curiosity. Girls carrying snacks on their heads, ducked, giggled and ran when they saw me.

My young hosts at the plantation treated me with a great amount of charm. We ate vegetable salad, gado gado, for dinner, drank pungent coffee afterwards and smoked clove cigarettes until late at night. The two clerks took great delight in searching their memories for English words, learned at school, and by the time we went to bed, they were on the way to speaking basic English.

That night the older of the clerks and I, both wrapped in sarongs, shared a double bed. To this day, I have a suspicion that the younger clerk was left with nowhere at all to sleep. When I woke in the early hours of the morning, he was wandering in and out of the room. I saw him sit on a chair, stand, sit again and comb his hair. He had the air of a bedless man. Another example of Javanese hospitality.

I was up at five o’clock to start for Kawah Ijen, the crater lake. I felt ill with asthma and my back was aching as though it might give way any moment and it seemed a foolish thing to climb up a mountain that I may be unable to descend. Still, I found myself, well before sun-up, climbing into a wooden saddle on a small and sturdy pony.

Matno, the pony’s owner was a young man, small and tough. He brought a friend along for the trip and they both walked beside me while I rode. This was an arrangement that made me feel slightly ashamed, but the truth was that in my state of health, I could not have made the trip on foot. Every now and again, we stopped for a rest and when we moved we did not hurry.

It was a beautiful morning. At first we travelled through coffee gardens, then through a forest of enormous trees. We crossed a rocky creek with a broken bridge, made our way over ridges and through thickets and at last came to the foot of Mount Ijen.

At the foot of the mountain is a police station, where I was obliged to apply for a letter of permission to go further, and within sight, above us, was another police station where I must deliver the letter. For a while, we climbed steeply, then Matno stopped. `From here’, he said, `it is steep. You go on alone. We shall wait for you’.

The path was very steep. In my state of health, I could make only a few yards without a rest. My asthma was becoming more severe and my back was sore. The hut seemed far away.

Men who carry sulphur down from the lake in baskets on the ends of poles passed me, strolling very slowly upwards. More and more frequently, I sat by the track, heaving for breath. Somehow, I managed to stagger into the police station and deliver my letter.

`Only two hours more’, the policeman said and he kindly gave me a cup of coffee. I went out to the back of the hut and sat down. It was obvious that I could not go further and I was bitterly disappointed. I sat at a fork in the track and thought of Kawah ljen as I had once seen it from the air. Now, within two hours of my destination, I must give up. I sat disconsolately, fighting for each wheezing breath, for perhaps half an hour, then I stood to make my way back down the mountain.

The amazing thing was that when I stood, I suddenly realised that I was feeling better. Then within minutes, I was not only feeling better, I was feeling well. My back ached no more, my breath was easy. I thought I should try to go a little way further.

Of all the walks I have enjoyed, I enjoyed that one the most. I walked quickly on a narrow rocky track that wound up the side of the mountain. Below me on the right side, the ground fell sharply to a wooded valley. I met men who were making their descent with baskets filled with sulphur blocks and we stopped for a while to talk. They were strong men, but their work was punishing.

When, at last, I came over the lip of the Ijen crater, I saw the lake from exactly the same angle as I had seen it from the air. From close quarters the water was the same opaque turquoise colour I remembered. It was a wonderful moment, standing so high and so alone, looking down at the steaming water in this living volcano.

I cannot describe exactly how I felt, but I do know that I was not the first to feel exultation while standing on this spot. When I looked down at the ground, I saw right at my feet, almost as if I had just carved it myself, one word in large letters, inspired graffiti scored deep into the soft rock: ‘TUHAN’  (‘GOD’)..

I walked briskly down the mountain. The view was beautiful and the air was cool. When I came to the place where I had left them, I found the pony tied to a tree and Matno and his friend, wrapped tightly in their sarongs, sound asleep.

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By way of Dampit

 

David:

Seen from the air the crater lake of Mount Ijen could be a blue gem, a round turquoise. And at sunset when the crater rim catches the sun’s rays, it is a turquoise in a setting of gold. Mount Ijen, a live volcano, rises out of the Ijen Plateau at the eastern end of the island of Java. Betty had gone ahead, so I travelled there alone. The province of East Java has its own character. Production is ahead of population growth, so Jakarta papers say; for family planning projects are working well in East Java. The countryside is lush and towns such as Malang, Jember and others are notably clean and tidy. Because this is not tourist country, there is not so much worry about prices and bargaining; I liked it very much.

Though I could have ridden a bus on the main northern road, I came east from Malang by the southern route, by way of Dampit. The bus was an old Chevrolet that took the winding mountain roads at little over walking pace. It was so crowded that a boy shared a seat with the driver. When we passed police posts, the

conductor yelled and the many standing passengers squatted low, ducked their heads and giggled. Above the driver was a notice that read: Maximum load – 36 sitting, 1 standing.

They were farming people mostly, who had gone in the early hours of the morning to the market at Malang and returned now to their villages. One man who squatted on a packing case at the front of the bus seemed to be the village wit. He wore a drooping moustache and a whisp of beard and he talked without cease to the amusement of everybody close at hand. He spoke in Javanese, or perhaps Madurese, the local language, so I couldn’t understand a word of what he said… until he turned his attention directly to me and made a change to Bahasa Indonesia.

‘Sir, he said `if you are seeking a wife, this one would be very good.’ He indicated a plump girl who sat nearby. The girl burst into giggles, hung her head down, and smiled and smiled into her bosom. `Truly’, the man said and looked around him in the fashion of a wise bird.

He was what we call a ‘hard case’ and he drew out the subject of marriage between me and the plump virgin for twenty kilometres or more. In the end, he trapped me. ‘Boleh? Boleh?’ which meant, `She may?’ I gave in and said ‘Boleh,’ and to my astonishment, the whole busload echoed me in one happy shout: ‘BOLEH!’

The hard case and the girl’s mother began to speak earnestly in Javanese and the plump virgin and I dared not look at each other. I began to believe I really had gained a travelling companion: The fact that I was already married didn’t seem to worry the Muslim wag at all, but I was wondering how Betty would feel if I brought home a pretty, plump girl.

When we reached Dampit and the hard case, the plump virgin and her mother alighted and I was relieved. They farewelled me nicely: even the plump virgin gave me a broad smile.

We passed close to the south of the holy mountain, Semer, a perfect volcanic cone. We climbed a jagged range textured with coconut palms. The road twisted in a series of hairpin bends and long loops. ”

At the top of the range at a small village, the driver stopped the bus, leapt down and invited me to follow him. I would like you to stay here at Picket Nol’, he said. `Here it is quiet, there is beautiful scenery, many kinds of orchids and from here, you can walk to Seemer.’

He introduced me to a friend of his, the head man of Picket Nol, who offered me the traditional `empty house’ of the village. But like all westerners, I was on the move and I was short of time. I promised that, someday, I would come back. The driver was sad; but no hard feelings. `Walk along the road a bit to see the view’, he said and he called a passenger out of the bus to walk with me.

We walked about a kilometre to a bend in the road. We looked down a sweeping gorge to the lava flow of Semeru, to the Indian Ocean, to the sky beyond and it was just as beautiful as the driver promised. After about a quarter of an hour, the bus trundled round the corner. My fellow travellers smiled at me. Nobody resented the delay I had caused while they sweltered in a crowded bus. They had kept my seat. They smiled at me and I loved them just for their politeness. I felt ashamed of my western way of wasting time by always hurrying along. I shall go back one day to Piket Nol.

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Villagers and a Slender Virgin

David:

Once upon a time … There was a slender virgin, a princess, who was wooed by a man who did not please her. She commanded him to build a great temple: if he could finish it in one night, she would accept him. The man worked in a frenzy and as morning approached, he had almost finished. In desperation, the slender virgin ordered that the drums which signalled dawn be beaten early and the suitor was confounded.

He was so furious that he turned the virgin into a stone statue of Durga, Siva’s consort, and there she stands today; the temple of Prambanan is known as ‘Loro Jonggrang’, Slender Virgin. The temple dominates the small town of Prambanan. Around its walls, is the Ramayana story, carved in relief, illustrations in stone with the immediacy of pen work.

By the gate, under wide coolie hats, crippled beggars huddle close to the ground. They chant a sad song and they endure. We were with Rormon, the tukang becak from Jogjakarta. His home is in a village close by and he had invited us to his brother’s wedding.

`Do the people of Prambanan come to the temple?’ l asked him.

`Only me’, he said, `And that is only because I am with you’.

At the cattle market of Prambanan, whips were cracking, beasts were bawling and there was a smell of fresh dung. White cattle were tethered beneath neat lines of trees. Men walked between them with the slow cattleman’s swagger and, like cattlemen everywhere, squatted on their heels to smoke and talk. But I have been a stockman too, so I borrowed a whip just to try it out. It was short, made of cane and fibre and it cracked sharply. Straight away, a man in a conical hat, black jacket and sarong swaggered slowly up to me and, while he gave me a long, hard stare, he cracked his own whip three times. I bowed my head slightly and he swaggered away.

We looked the cattle over. We watched a blacksmith beating out farm tools. Betty and Rormon sat in a warung and ordered tea; I squatted outside to draw. When I had taken out my pen and paper, all I could see was a ring of brown faces looking down at me.

Strolling musicians sang a good song for Betty. Rormon tried to look cynical. He hired small motor-bikes to take us to his village and we hurried along narrow roads passing the old temples, Sewu and Plaosan. We came into small lanes between low stone walls and we had arrived in the village of Grogol.

There were simple houses with walls of plaited bamboo, roofs of tiles, floors of mud. There were old women to greet us, taking our hands gently between their own, and Rormon’s wife, Saikem, smiling uncertainly. There were children by the dozen.

I started to draw the children almost immediately. They were shy and, though they stood before me to be drawn, when I looked at them they hid behind one another as though my eye were evil. When I had finished drawing them they hung over my shoulder and laughed and laughed. Rormon’s boy, Suradi, was certainly not shy. He postured with a cigarette. He was fourteen, too young to smoke, as I had been at fourteen, but would not believe me when I told him so. `What can you do?’ said Rormon.

Little girls gazed up at me and plaited their fingers and entwined their legs. Surani and Surati, Rormon’s tiny daughters wore identical dresses, a bright pink, which looked strange against their brown skins. A school girl in a drill uniform and selandang was pushed forward. She came to an abrupt halt and stood still. As she gained courage, she gained pride, even an air of defiance. She stood and looked at me as the cattleman had done, as though she defied me to understand and draw what was really her. And like the Javanese landscape, there were undercurrents and hidden forces; Javanese mystery with something sullen and resentful. Though she submitted to being drawn, she did not look at the finished drawing until I held it out to her; nor did she smile.

A young boy carried a baby, slung in a selandang. The older one was happy to be drawn, but the baby threw quick, frightened glances, then turned his face into his brother’s shirt. Saikem, Rormon’s wife, had gone away a little to sit alone and very still in the sunshine. She gazed straight ahead of her. Saikem was a worker in the fields and, though small, she was strong. Her soft kebaya and tightly wound sarong could not hide the muscularity of her torso and limbs.

On week-ends Rormon would ride his bicycle twenty kilometres from Jogjakarta to Desa Grogol. When once we caught him looking happy, he said: `1 am thinking of my wife’s massages’.

`My poor house’, he said, when we sat inside at the table. There were two rooms and, as well as a table and chairs, a large, cane, family bed. Rormon sent a little daughter scurrying to find his peci, the black cap worn by Muslems. He put it on solemnly. `This is Rormon, head of the family, when he goes to the mosque’, he said with a trace of self-mockery.

Meanwhile preparations for the wedding ceremony were going on. `Would you like to draw the women cooking?’ Rormon asked me. He could always pick subjects to interest me. One of the houses had been decorated with coconut fronds and banana leaves and behind this was a lean-to with a tiled roof. It was full of acrid smoke. Older women worked at clay cooking pots and black stoves. As we passed they touched us softly and smiled with both hospitality and affection.

One woman had stripped to her brassiere, which was respectable enough. When I asked may I draw her she was delighted. A lot of chaffing went on as I drew one then another. They could speak no Indonesian, Javanese was the language, so I understood nothing but tone of voice. Of course they must look at the finished drawing and they gave me thumbs-up signs. There was something sweetly coquettish about it.

Inside the decorated cottage, the young girls, young men and the old men sat around. The old men were dignified in pecis and long, checked sarongs. They sat behind the younger ones, smoked clove cigarettes deliberately and looked calmly through the smoke. There, we sat for a while and ate soft rice cake that came to us wrapped in banana leaves and we drank sweet soft drink through straws and answered polite questions of the young women.

And for a little while, we walked in the village. Betty and Rormon walked ahead while l became involved with a crowd of young boys. Suradi seemed to be their spokesman and, like his father, he was suggesting subjects. `Would you like to draw some cows?’ he said and led me to a pen which held two cows and a calf. I was pleased with the composition and, because I had Suradi taped as a cigarette cadger, I weakened and offered him one. He refused in a fairly righteous way and I wondered if this was the result of my earlier lecture.

In the distance was the holy mountain, the volcano Merapi, standing up high. Close by were green tobacco fields.

A man came along the lane carrying two great vats on either end of a shoulder pole. Rormon stopped the man, borrowed his load, borrowed his conical hat and struck a pose for me to draw. I never could make a good drawing of Rormon;  I don’t know why.

But now there was activity in the family compound. The bride and groom were coming. They came in procession with old aunts and young cousins. Two black umbrellas added pomp and protected them symbolically. The groom looked about him shyly and proudly. He was dressed up: small turban, batik sarong, a black jacket a trifle too large and a smart bow tie. He looked small and young.

The bride had been bathed and scented and dressed. Her hair was looped carefully and the hairline extended with black paint into three peaks on her forehead. There were flowers and golden ornaments in her hair. Her black coat was flower-embroidered and she wore a fine batik sarong. She gazed downwards to a point just in front of her feet. Not a slim virgin, she; already swelling with a baby. There was a tear below her eye.

They were so young and vulnerable. At the door of the decorated cottage they stopped for ritual. She washed his feet and with his feet he broke an egg. In the doorway was a double ox yoke; they stepped over it into the dim interior. They sat, side by side, and again there was ritual. He offered her rice in his fingers and she accepted it in her mouth. They must sit for some hours; children stood beside them with fans. Happily ever after? I hope so.

A meal had been prepared. We ate with Rormon, sitting under the veranda roof of his house. Saikem sat close by yet seeming far away. In the sunlight, the leaves of trees were of many different greens and on the ground were strong shadow patterns. Beyond the trees were the wide tobacco fields and far away, Merapi.

`It is beautiful here’, I said to Rormon and I meant it. He answered me bluntly: `This is not beautiful. This is just a village. And it is full of poor people’. Poor people, orang miskin. The Indonesian words have the sound of poverty.

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Meeting Rendra

David:

In Jogjakarta we heard the name ‘Rendra’ over and over again; `Have you met Rendra?’ and `You must meet Rendra’, and `Rendra is an interesting man’. And we began to mention the name too, to shopkeepers and becak boys, restaurant owners and waitresses. They all knew Rendra. Rendra, the rebel; Rendra, the genius; Rendra, the superstar.

Rendra is a poet. How different this is from Australia or Europe, where poets are obscure figures, reading their work to small devoted audiences. In the United Kingdom the man in the street might know of Dylan Thomas because of how he drank rather than how he wrote.

Rendra lives in a Kampung. We came silently by becak along a quiet, narrow lane where small houses were set amongst trees. His house is one in a compound of houses. We walked through a bamboo corral with high, capped gateways; the rehearsal space for Rendra’s Drama Group. There were no banners or signs to advertise its presence.

He was at home, nursing a tiny baby. While we sat, he paced lithely back and forth before us. I said: `I had expected you to be older’.

`I am old’, he said, `two wives, eight children – that is an old man isn’t it?’. One wife entered at this point and Rendra handed her the baby. He sat opposite us Java fashion, cross-legged on a chair. A fine boned face, a slim build, Rendra has long hair, greying a little when you get to noticing, he looked thirty years old. `1 am forty’, he said.

Rendra plays the game of conversation like a set of tennis. Our questions came as slow lobs and he slammed them back at us, tricky, complicated shots. `Do children have a place in the drama group?’ we asked.

`Children? Of course children, but why say children? This is not the west. Here children are liberated.’

`You mean there is not any distinction between children and adults?’

`Yes I mean that. We do not shut our children away. And crazy people; here they are free. We do not lock them up. They walk about like other people.’

Rendra is passionate and single minded. East-west problems interest him and he is wholeheartedly a Javanese patriot. He sees falsity in western philosophy, western technology and progress. `Yet many Indonesians are adopting western ways’, we said, `how do you feel about it?

‘The western ways they are adopting are already being questioned in the west. They are almost outmoded.’

`Everybody talks of drugs’, he said. `For ritual, drugs are fine. For uplifting the spirit, fine. But drugs to kill pain or drugs to prolong life – I don’t think that very good. Pain is part of life and so is death. We should realise that birth and death are belonging to the one thing, life’. Rendra was once a Christian but chose the Islamic faith and shows the zeal of a convert. One by one, established ideas fell before his attack. His logic was backed by amazing vigour. This vigour and also a good amount of courage are essential ingredients in his rise to fame. He writes what he believes without a thought for consequence. When there are difficulties, such as censorship, he ignores them and continues writing, rehearsing, performing. University students rise up in his defence and so do heads of faculties.

`Are you a rebel?

‘No’, he said vehemently, `no, I am not. I want peace. I do not approve of disturbances and demonstrations. I am called a rebel, but I am not’.

What Rendra writes is what he sees as truth. He has no intention to disturb anyone, though what he does write might disturb them. His poetry has been published in a thick volume from Oxford University Press, a thinner one from Queensland University Press. He has held Dutch audiences enthralled with his readings. He has been awarded grants to travel to America, Europe and Australia.

`Has technique had anything to do with it?’

Rendra dismisses technique out of hand. `What we are taught means nothing. Ideas are important, rhythm, yes. Nobody can teach us how to write or how to paint or how to act.’

Rendra was not built for compromise; not in conversation nor work. He is not rich, nor does he want to accumulate riches. Like many of the Indonesians we have spoken to, Rendra is keen on the idea of the spiritual – material link. `Accumulation’, he says, `brings death’. And with his flair for analogy, `a river accumulates and floods’.

`But you accumulate’, Betty said and indicated his bookshelf. He brightened, `But books are circulative’, he replied.

I sensed his bias coming through the conversation and it was towards the underdog. His comments on the Australian Aborigines were thoughtful, intelligent and sympathetic. Though a startling opponent, I think he might be a very good friend.

We were able to watch rehearsals in progress of Goethe’s, ‘Egmont’, produced in the rather static Javanese style. People From the Kampung came quietly to watch over the bamboo fence. Now and again, Rendra strode into the centre with advice or rebuke. His actors have the wild look of the avant garde. Though Rendra is no rebel, this bamboo corral had something the look of a brigand camp.

Mrs. Rendra, number one, is a composer and a singer trained in the western style. One day, she will compose the music for a mask drama. Rendra dreams of it; but first the right topeng masks must come to him.

`It is no use looking for them and buying them’, he says. `I know that the masks will be created and will come to me.’

As we left, he presented us with a poster, a large centre spread from a glossy magazine. It was a beautiful colour shot of Rendra playing Oedipus Rex. Rendra, superstar.

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 Lions and Monuments

 

Betty:

We were down town in Jogja having our evening meal at a rumah makan run by a friendly Chinese man – it was becoming a habit to eat and talk with him. He was born in Surabaya, had spent all his life in Java, but curiously thought of China as home. He saw his people as a race apart with important traditions they must struggle to keep. It seemed a philosophy of co-existence rather than a merging and sharing of common experience. We spoke of our meeting with Yasir Mazuki and were lamenting the fact we had not arranged to see him again when, at that moment, Yasir passed the restaurant, caught sight of us and he made noisy exclamations of greeting.   We happily drew out a chair for him to join us. He had been celebrating his first day’s shooting on the restoration of Borobudur and was on his way back to the site, a good hour’s drive from Jogja where shooting would recommence at daybreak. He was elated to be directing this documentary, for his book `Namo Buddhaya’ tells the story of his love affair with Borobudur and of his research on this most famous and greatest Buddhist monument, `a tremendous structure where not a single stone is accidental, where all is symbolic, with a well-planned purpose. Subtle yet demanding if one is to share its secrets’.

Our talk with Yasir made us keen to visit Borobudur; and of course a visit is a must on any tourist program.

`What did you think of Borobudur?’ is a stock question and a certain conversation starter. Not to see the shrine is tantamount to closing your eyes as you pass the Statue of Liberty. But we didn’t want the guided tour for fifteen U.S. dollars each, which included the comfort and isolation of the air-conditioned travel coach. Thirty dollars could be put to much better use and our visit spread over three months and included wide travel through Indonesia. We found we could make the trip, with a change of bus route, for three hundred rupiah each, (there were four hundred and fifteen rupiah to the U.S. dollar).

Heeding Rormon’s insistent warning `beware of pencopet (pickpockets), we kept our bags slung to the front as we melted into the crowd struggling for a seat on the bus. We were travelling by public transport, Indonesian style, and although the journey may be a bone-shaker, it is guaranteed to be a colourful, entertaining, maybe exciting event.

We struggled into narrow seats, the backs positioned to keep the spine rigid; three passengers on the right of the aisle, two to the left, and any number standing rump to rump. If the central back-door couldn’t close, well, there’s room for a few more, hanging on by fingers and toes. Bulky baggage is tossed on the roof, but no-one complains if fowls in a bag sit and blink at your feet. Vendors with baskets of hard-boiled eggs, fruit, pastries, sweets and cigarettes, do a brisk trade, as they offer their decorative displays at the bus windows. The boy with his `Es, Es, Es’ or ‘Telor, Telor, Telor’, (ices, eggs) is popular.. Close your eyes and listen and it’s a choir, superbly resonant and vocal.

We slid from the depot without a sound, sailed into a downgrade and round the block, but the driver hoping the battery would connect with the engine was disappointed. A boisterous group of boys gave us a final push back to our starting position. We waited and heard the pushing and prodding going on in the bus’s belly and then at some mysterious signal, I never found out what, we rose in a body, transferring in a scramble to reassemble in a new bus whose battered appearance gave visions of a past heroic effort.

We jolted and lurched from the starting position and gathered speed as we took to the streets of Jogja. Out into the country we flew taking the route to Borobudur forty-one kilometres northwest of Jogja. Our eyes took in every shade of green and colour of earth and sky as we looked to the volcanic range thrusting its peaks and uneven spurs to a near horizon. We were out in the country of a country more densely populated than any other in the world. There were always people. It’s no wonder people like people in Java.

Half-an-hour from Jogja, we swept over a long low bridge, crossing a wide sweep of river which had broken into a series of swift-flowing streams, cutting deep into the grey sand and black volcanic rock. I saw men at work, squatting in the dry river-bed, chiselling bricks from the black stone. I could hear their rhythmic tapping above the noise of our engine. The sun was hot, beating down on their bodies protected by coolie hat and short sarong. Many men were working, carving bricks from the stone and my mind leapt back to about 800A.D., when a similar scene must have been taking place. Thousands of men, coolies, masons, sculptors, painters worked for more than twenty years to gather the materials, transport them to the site, and build the giant grey, stone stupa that is Borobudur.

We ground to a halt on the far side of the bridge. Judging from the gesticulations and exclamations of the passing parade, it was obvious we had some spectacular trouble with the right front wheel. Again without a word, but by common instinct we rose as a body and deserted the bus. I saw that the wheel had come adrift and lay skewwhiff embedded in the sand.

People straggled away in different directions; we were the only Europeans and a good-looking Javanese boy befriended us. He escorted us back across the bridge and to a nearby village where he put us on a bemo headed in the right direction. He bargained with the driver and then, with wonderful generosity, insisted on paying the fare.

The man-made mountain rising from the Javanese plain of Ketan seemed unreal at first; but there it was, terrace upon terrace, each supporting many small stupas. Tourists, mainly Indonesian, Japanese and Indian, swarmed the central stairway, hundreds of high steps of uneven tread, reached the summit and spread on to its supporting terraces.

Real life was on the plain below. At the base of Borobudur, loudspeakers blared instructions and the latest hit song; beggars sat in the sun, sweating as they sang. Tourists haggled over the prices of hats and souvenirs in the dozens of small stalls that line the route to the Buddhist dream. Over and above was the haunting sound of bamboo spinning tops, humming in treble, alto, tenor, and bass. Singing bamboo tops, skilfully spun on canvas. We bought a dozen.

Then we struggled to the top of the man-made mountain, reached our arms deep into stupas to touch carvings of the Buddha, noted the restoration in progress since 1907 and gazed at the reliefs and carvings to do with the life of Prince Siddhartha on his way to becoming the Gautama Buddha. His previous incarnations and episodes from the life of the Bodhisattva Sudhana are also recorded there. We stood on the summit of the man-made mountain and looked to the real mountains beyond.

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