Ibu and Bapak

I watched as she descended the driveway to the small street, turned and disappeared around the corner past the next house. Barefoot, though sure-footed, her thin frame 80 years young.

I call her Ibu. Mother. Not mine, Ibu is the mother of my great friend here in northern Bali.  I’ve known her 10 years already. Two days ago she scolded me for cleaning dishes in the kitchen. Told me to get out. And when I ignored her, she came in and slapped me on the arm for being a naughty child. Tried to chase me out, and then laughed, along with everyone else.

Long ago, as a young girl she worked on a small roadside stall, selling drinks to travellers and transport workers. Local trucks moved fruits, vegetables, and other goods, to the small city of Singaraja down on the coast.

Those early trucks were the type that had the winder at the front. The off-sider would turn the motor over with the winder until the driver could fire the ignition and get the motor running. These men worked hard, and were fit and healthy.

The roving eye of one such man spied the young girl when the driver stopped to buy a drink. From that day forward, the truck stopped regularly so the 2 men could buy a drink at the stall. Eventually, she began dating the off-sider, and they married.

Had he survived, their first child would be 60 now. Sadly he was one of 5 that succumbed to the harshness of life, yet 10 others survived. Today, those 10 have their own families, and the parents find it hard to keep track of all the grandchildren.

Bapak, as I call him out of respect, is now 90. Father. After an operation a few years ago, he has less energy, and doesn’t walk as much as previously. Still, life is fulfilling.

Like his father before him, he has become a Pemangku, a local Hindu priest. He tried to avoid it, preferring to follow other pursuits. Of course, if you are naturally Ngiring, a spiritual person, there is no escape. By 1976, he was conducting ceremonies for local people. He continues this work today, assisted by his wife of 60+ years.

Ibu Niluh Ciri, and Bapak Ketut Mariada are both well known and respected in their home village of Gitgit. Wherever they go, locals wave or stop and say hello. I feel they have partially adopted me as their son, and I am welcomed by their entire family. I recently spent a whole week in their village, staying with one of their sons and his family.

When I think about these older people, I now more fully realise the struggles of what their early life must have been. Trying to raise children, finding work and food, building a home on the hillside where no road exists, and everything is carried in by hand. One can only have the utmost respect for people such as Ibu and Bapak.

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