By Elizabeth Henzell
For The Bali Times
UBUD ~ On April 17, 1984, Dewa Gede Sigit Purnomo was born in Surabaya, East Java. His mother, Sri Setyawati, from East Java, had fallen in love with Dewa Ketut Janji, a Balinese man from Klungkung.
Sri was a devout Muslim but she converted to Hinduism and moved with her husband and young son and his older sister to Klungkung, Bali. They had two more children, a daughter and another son, and they all grew up to be healthy, happy children in this truly beautiful area of Bali.
Sigit, as he was affectionately known, was a young man on a mission. He had a special connection with animals and it wasn’t long before he was working with Bali Street dogs at the Yudisthira foundation in Denpasar. It was, however, the good fortune of the Bali Animal Welfare Association – BAWA – that when his contract was up, Sigit sought work closer to his home in Klungkung and applied to BAWA.
On Saturday night, March 28, Sigit’s young life was cut short. He was killed while riding his motorbike to Denpasar.
Why? There are no reasons and we will not hear of it being “your fate.” To lose one as beautiful as you due to fate is too difficult to contemplate.
Some of your friends met your family for the first time on Sunday but we will all join them on Monday when they bury you – their beloved son and brother.
How do we say goodbye? You left us too soon and we had no time to tell you all the things about you that we have come to love.
We dare not think of a life without your beautiful smile.
We dare not think of the loss your leaving will mean to those without a voice, those tiniest of puppies and kittens, those dumped and mangy ones, that you lovingly nurtured and bought through the toughest of times and those little ones who died too soon but who had lived, even for their short lives, in warmth and love due to your care.
Dr. Kadek cannot believe you will not come back to the clinic. His eyes were red and his pain is apparent. He spoke quietly of your friendship, one based around a mutual love of animals and a pride taken in the work that you did together. He said you had three qualities he most admired: you were dedicated, a man who loved dogs and cats and a loyal friend.
You have achieved so much in your short life, Sigit. You had made so many friends, friends who admire your ability to calm a frightened dog, who admire your compassion and convictions to stand up for rights of animals, and friends who admired your loyalty throughout the tough times during your working life at BAWA.
Your title of “the dog whisperer” was one given to you by BAWA founder Janice, a label not given lightly because we have all laughed about those who think they have this ability but we know you truly did.
On Monday, March 30, the staff of BAWA joined Sigit’s family and the community in Timuhun to bury Sigit.
Janet De Neefe wrote in her book Fragrant Rice about an expression in Indonesian, suka-duka, which translates as “together we share in your happiness; together we share in your sadness.” We are all the better for sharing in the happiness that Sigit bought to this world.
Sigit’s smile was legendary and behind it there was a spirit so generous that he was loved by all who worked with him. To be around him was a joy.
We have now shared in the sadness that Sigit’s death has bought to his family and his friends. His mother’s grief is too painful – there can be no worse ache than that of a mother and father who lose one of their children. There were more than 200 people who came to be there for his burial, to support his family in this time of their grief.
Sigit will be cremated when his parents can afford the ngaben. In the meantime he is buried in one of the most spectacularly beautiful areas in Bali, on the side of a hill in the village of Timuhun in Klungkung.
The number of people killed in Bali in 2007 was reported to be in excess of 700 – more than two human beings per day – and of course many more maimed for life.
The terror on the roads of Bali is far worse than anything the Bali street dogs will ever cause on this island and yet there is no visible law enforcement on the roads and streets of Bali. The speeding, motor cyclists without helmets, the texting whilst driving or motorcycling and many other traffic offences go unchecked.
Sigit’s death was not his fate; it was due to the lack of enforced road rules. A loss of life is tragic, especially the loss of a young life, but to lose someone as wonderful as Sigit to a preventable motorbike accident is a crime.