Threads of Life

We are stopped at a road junction. Ketut is asking directions, since we are taking backroads to an interesting temple in the mountains. I noticed an old woman sitting in the morning sun. How old is she, I asked. Ketut translated that they say she is about 100.

Oh wow.


Would she mind if I interviewed her about her life? After asking, the woman studied me from a distance, then agreed. I said I would be back later in the day.


On my return, she was sleeping. It was 2 mornings later that Ketut and I returned. Ibu Luh Suwati was born a twin, but her twin died. 


About 80 years ago ( author note – based on arrival of Japanese soldiers in 1942 to Bali). I became an orphan. I think I was only 10 years old. I didn’t go to school. I helped to make cloth. We would weave fibres together by hand.


(Author’s note – cloth type translates as cotton, though this was introduced to Indonesia and Bali much later).


I made clothes to sell for food. Japanese soldiers would come to our village. They would take half of the harvest. It didn’t matter if it was rice, or fruit or vegetables. They took half. Always.


People were always hungry. After the Japanese took so much, there was never enough left. Growing crops was very hard back then. Rice grew slowly and we didn’t have all the new fertilisers or pesticides.


Sometimes the farmers would try to hide some of the harvest from the Japanese soldiers. You could really only do it with rice. It got wrapped up carefully and buried in the fields or the forest. People had to be careful. If the soldiers found out, they would burn your house down.


Anyway, we didn’t have much rice and not much meat. For our food, we used to mix rice with fruits or vegetables. Sometimes mangoes, sometimes beans. Whatever was available.


Yes, I grew up here in Bebitin. Born here too. I was about 16 when I married. We had 7 children. 4 boys and 3 girls.


We had a house made from red brick. But it wasn’t built so good, and had many problems.


I was a member of a ladies dance group. We travelled around the area during times of ceremony, performing traditional Balinese dances at many of the temples and celebrations each year.

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