Unswerving but Blinkered Village Devotion

By Hannah Black

The lifecycle of Silakarang reared its head this past week, causing huge amounts of work and stress for the whole village.

Island-wide last Monday was a one of the last auspicious days before the holy day of Galungan on May 12. Everyone was prepared for a big day, but in my village they had no idea what lay ahead.

Preparations for two weddings were well under way when a neighbour died far prematurely in his mid-40s. The family decided to cremate him straight away so a great deal of manpower was necessary for the building of the cremation tower and bade (the animal that holds the body).

Added to that, food, huge amounts of offerings and processions were made for the workers and to accompany the deceased on his way to the afterlife.

It was an awful week for the pigs in the village as meat was needed for all of the ceremonies and garlic, onions and spices were in short supply in the local market.

When on the day of the weddings and cremation an old man died, families ended up having to spread themselves thinly across four compounds.

For family of the departed it must have been especially tiring. After days of helping in other compounds they had to hold the burial in the early hours of the morning.

Family and friends were spread out all over the village, gambling and drinking coffee to keep themselves awake.

At this point family members had come from across the island to the various ceremonies; so bikes and cars lined the streets of the whole village. For days it was near impossible to get in or out of the village and traffic started backing up down the main road as well.

No one could go to work, except the pemangkus (village priests), who were on the move non-stop for days. My father-in-law, a pemangku, hardly came home for three days, and when he did he looked worn out, mentally and physically.

When I got home from work on Tuesday I was surprised to find the action hadn’t stopped. It turned out another elderly neighbour had passed away and more preparation was under way for her burial.

After a burial or cremation, family and friends stay up for three days and nights and then hold a ceremony again at the end of the third day. It doesn’t even stop there, because 12 days later they have yet another small ceremony.

It seems almost too much sometimes in the village – like no one could possibly make any more offerings or wake up at 3am for another day; but you never hear anyone complain.

Watching the community come together in times like this never ceases to amaze me and is one of the most wonderful things about living in Bali.

However, it was the end of the week that really had a profound effect on me. After a whole week of togetherness and the community working so hard together, I saw how it could also ignore things that are right under its nose.

A dog belonging to one of my neighbours was in the street and in a pretty bad state. It was having trouble standing and was obviously very disoriented as it was walking in circles.

My family said not to worry; it would die soon. But after a day and a night I couldn’t stand it any longer and called the dog shelter.

After all the warnings about rabies, not a single person in the village felt worried or sorry enough for the dog to call someone or at least put it out of its misery. I found two neighbours laughing riotously while poking it with sticks and kicking it.

I will never claim to be savoir of animals, but kicking a dying dog isn’t my idea of Sunday afternoon fun.

Villagers come together so fluently for human occasions, but when faced with something that could be a danger to the community, they do nothing.

Picking and choosing when to get involved and when not to is something I’m working on, but still finding a true challenge.

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My Compound Life

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