That Crucial Ring of Confidence

Do you have a green stone at home? The same colour as that, said the Mangku (Wiseman), indicating the Bintang bottle on the table glowing bright with candlelight.

My mind trawled unrewarded through a few meagre little collections of worthless “treasures” in our villa, then flitted into a packing crate stored deep in the south of Western Australia and fixed on the brilliant green stone. It’s in Australia and it belonged to my mother-in-law, I offered.

I can see it, said Mangku. It’s a big stone this shape, he said, drawing a long rectangle. It’s in a ring and you must bring it to Bali. When your current period of indecision about your future is over, it will bring paying guests to your villas.

He was spot on with the details of the ring, but despite his earlier considered advice that The Playmate (husband) and I should buy land on The Bukit, build villas and make our fortune, I remain unconvinced that we are even vaguely equipped to face the rigours of building on Bali or the demands of accommodating anyone outside of our expanding circle of very close friends and relatives from around the globe who have universally acquired a passionate love of Bali and an apparently inexhaustible affection for ourselves.

Admittedly, though, Mangku’s accurate vision of the forgotten stone (yes, and his decree that it would attract success), coupled with his other intriguing insights, have made me carefully consider all wisdom that he offers.

The Playmate and I were dining at an Ungasan warung (cafe) when I first spotted Mangku Pak Nyoman, looking spiritual, regal really, in flowing white robes as he offered huge sticks of incense and prayers to the warung’s temples around which surfers swilled Bintang and plant-life shimmied to loud Western Rock.

He joined us after his first round of temple duties, and I felt special. Over our almost five-year residence on Bali I’d often toyed with consulting a keeper of Hindu wisdom and practitioner of traditional Balinese medicine but was cautious enough to want an introduction. Cold Calls can be icy.  Now, I felt, this Mangku had found me. So we began to get to know each other, with what I hoped was a mutual curiosity.

This journey is taken through a complex weave of other activity, a lot of it comic.  At one regular Thursday night session at our warung, as the great guitar duo beat out La Bamba, the Russian at our table failed to control his giggling fits at every chorus. Whats up? We prodded. In my language, he spluttered, “Ariba! Ariba!” means “I am Fish! I am Fish!” And we all broke up and sang “I am Fish! I am Fish!” at every chorus.

I have a friendly snake in my garden, said the Russian. We had a snake on our wall on Tuesday, I contributed, recalling the generally retiring Playmate’s alarmingly sudden, broom-wielding dash up the stairs to encourage the reptilian intruder to move on.

If a snake visits your home, began Mangku, then you will get bad news about your family or yourselves. The bad news had already come, unexpectedly on Wednesday, the day after the snake’s visit. Our kind and beautiful young niece and goddaughter was facing a possibly serious health threat. The news rocked us. Damn that snake! Mangku inched up a rung on the ladder of respect.

You must call your mother in Australia, said Mangku. She is dreaming about you. I did. She was: Yes, said Mum, I dreamt about you when you were young. That’s younger please, Mum. Younger!

Mangku tells of a Dutchman who calls him frequently from Holland, crying with thanks for being able to walk again. He had legs like an elephant and a huge stomach, says the Wiseman, who seems to have a constant stream of people in need of help with personal, health or commercial problems calling at his home. Senior police officers, he says, consulted him successfully in their attempts to track down the suspected murderers of two foreign women in separate incidents within the past year.

When I help people, says Mangku, they say to me: Nyoman, why (how do) you know this? How do you know, I venture? If I am helping you, he discloses, I will use my spiritual to call on my ancestors and on your own ancestors from before. Together they will guide me. Often, I can’t remember what I have said, but people always say to me: Nyoman, why you know this?

I can see everything that has happened to your body since you were young, he imparts. Drink a large glass of water every morning and wait one hour until you have coffee. Pepper is no good for you. Sugar is no good. Use corn sugar. I would like to help make your time in Bali happy.

We are happy here, Mangku.

Then I would like to make your time in Bali more happy.

The Playmate and I look forward to the journey.

The band calls for requests. “I am Fish!” shouts Mangku, sending the gathering into fits before excusing himself to attend once again to the temples.


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