You meet him at the florist down your street. Then at a house party. And then you bump into him in the park where you two are the only ones walking in the sweet-tasting rain.
He is charming. He is intelligent. And he knows how to impress a woman. He can hold a conversation without making it all about him. He can woo you with his knowledge about the world you don’t know of. He can make you crumble with his smile.
He still comes to the park every time it drizzles, with the hope to see your glistening face. He watches the rain kiss your virgin skin before he can. Wet locks cling to your neck and he doesn’t move them. Your conversations go on for hours. You never have a closure to your meetings. It’s always a see-you-later, never a goodbye. His smile is so warm that it touches your heart and cuddles it. His voice so deep that you leap into it and glide by the syllables. He isn’t the most handsome and the most successful man around. He isn’t too tall or too dark.
But he is just… perfect, for you.
You both love Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra. Rom-coms make you cringe and he loves that unconventionality. Tarantino’s movies leave you squealing and holding on to his muscle-y arm (like a real girl), and that’s when he high-fives himself. He leaves little love notes on the bathroom mirror and on the car door to remind you of his love for you. Your Sunday afternoons are conversation-less, with nothing but the crisp crinkle of the pages of both your books. Your bed is a place only to make love and sleep.
He is not your soulmate, but a mirror of your own self. One that’s continuously growing in his own way, just like you, and holding your hand while doing so.
He can’t grow without you. He is your miracle.
My sister has always been a bully. Not in a dramatic, ‘let’s call child services’ sense, but in a way that makes me want to do better things.
Going back to 2008, when my sister (let’s call her TD from here on), started her blog, I was the loser who was trying to kill time during those post high-school and pre-university days. It was only because of her bullying and a weird kind of peer pressure, I decided to start this baby. Trust me, if you go back to the first ten posts, I am guaranteeing you cringeworthy gramatical errors. Joy! But point is, TD has always wanted me to be a better writer, a better cook (Ha!), a better dancer and a better human being. So amidst all that bullying, forcing, elder sister arrogance, yelling and arguing, comes this post.
She bullied me enough to write about something I’m not sure why I’m writing about. If you understand the ‘why’ by the end of this, please do report back to moi.
TD wrote a hilarious post on The Ten T’s of her life (her name starts with a ‘T’), in response to Marketing’s Ten P’s. And then forwarded it on to me, so I can write about the Ten S’s of my life (considering the initial of my name). Tough gig, I tell ya. But if you’re lovely (bored) enough to have continued reading this far, might as well tag along for the rest of the post, oui?
Seasons: It’s a worldwide-approved topic of small talk and boy, isn’t it wonderful? People just can’t get enough of how the weather was, what it is and what it is going to be like. Is this part of my life? Sure it is, you duffer. I loathe the winter season with all my heart, autumn is an acquaintance, summer is my all-time lover and spring is the one I have an affair with. I could sit in spring’s arms forever, make passionate love to summer, walk in the park with autumn, but winter.. winter is someone whose nose I’d like to break.
See how much I can bullshit about the weather? Exactly, my point.
Sunrises and Sunsets: Ask me to show you my Instagram page, and all you’ll find is a crowd of sunrises and sunset images. I’m a disgusting romantic when it comes to the routinely entry and exit of the Sun. I can’t get enough of it. C’mon, the sky manages to look different every single day. How amazing is that? Plus, living on the beach makes my addiction even more difficult to curb.
Salary-week: Don’t diss it, you love it too. Salary-weeks are amazing, because guess what, you get paid! You’re few hundred dollars richer for that given day… and don’t even begin to question what happens post that. Retail, you sneaky bastard!
Shrieks: If you’re reading this and you have met me before, you’re allowed to nod to this. For those unaware, I am a very loud, shrieky person; be it a happy or sad moment. As soon as there’s an overwhelming emotion, my high-pitch voice resonates the room. Sadly, I can’t do anything about it. This is who I am, consider it a warning.
Sangria: Alright, I might be cheating here a little, but I love wine and sangria has wine, so this automatically makes the cut. Wine makes me happy, so so happy. Get me two glasses and watch me giggle like there’s no tomorrow. Bring me a bottle and watch me dance on table tops at bars. True story!
Solitude: Without stating anymore than I already have here, here and here, I’m just going to say that I’ve had a lot of this ‘S’ in the past six years of my life. And it has made me a very strong woman; mostly emotionally. But I can punch, don’t discount that factor of my strength.
Salsa: I’d sell my limb to learn salsa professionally. The dance, not the dip. Having been a trained in contemporary jazz and ballet for nine years, I don’t understand any professional dance form where there are no rules or someone yelling 5, 6, 7, 8. I want to understand them; wear big, flouncy skirts and dance with Columbian men. Any teachers out there?
Shopping: Call me superficial, but shopping makes me happy. Very, very happy. It drags me away from the dreary stiffness of a computer screen and social media and let’s me create my own story inside a store. I can be whoever I want to be and be pretending to shop for whosoever. And shopping is in its best moment when done alone, in the vicinity of racks and racks of steam-ironed fabrics and you! No friends, no annoying sales assistants and no mobile phones. Roll your eyes for all I care, but this therapeutic activity is like meditation for me. Om!
Style: I was a fashion student and worked as a fashion journalist for two years. But it’s not only the style via the means of fashion that appeals to me anymore. Style for me is all about the precision in interiors, the dribble in food photography, the architecture of a beautifully-dressed dapper man walking down the street, the messiness of my work table, the montage of produce in my local organic grocer. Style is a way of living and there’s nothing more that defines me, than my very own style (even on bad hair days).
Sydney: A city that stole my heart when I was visiting her four years ago, and today, I am lucky enough to call this home. I owe every giggle of mine to this beauty, and that’s saying something.
There’s something about this adjective that’s special. It’s not ‘beautiful’s’ PG-13 cousin and neither is it ‘charming’s’ older sibling. It’s a word that’s destined to destroy every grown-up woman’s self-esteem and pride.
When you say something is ‘cute,’ I instantly picture you looking at a baby seal, covered in oil and splashing in a tiny bucket of bubbles. And if you say ‘cute’ when looking at a girl in her mid-20s (or even 30s), it’s a crime.
At the risk of taking this topic too close to home, I’m going to say that the latter makes me cringe. I get called ‘cute’ a lot. A lot! It’s not just said in an innocent way by uncles, aunties and my mum’s best friends, but by coworkers, friends, neighbours and men. Yes indeed, I did just classify men in their own, exclusive category (lucky you!), but I have a reason for it, which I’ll come to later.
Due to the confusion caused by bubbles, cuddly animals and battery-operated toys, I feel the need to understand the actual definition of ‘cute’. What the hell do you have to say for yourself, Oxford Dictionary?
1. Attractive in a dainty way; pleasingly pretty: a cute child; a cute little apartment.
2. Appealing and delightful: What a cute toy!
3. Affectedly or mincingly pretty or clever; precious: The child has acquired some intolerably cute mannerisms.
4. Mentally keen; clever; shrewd. noun
So, am I perceived as an apartment or do my manners translate to be of an intolerable child? I’m a little confused.
I’m certain that majority of times the word ‘cute’ is blurted out as a compliment, or the incapability of knowing any other words in the English language to praise a lady. But when men label mature, well-dressed and intelligent women as ‘cute’, does definition #4 imply to… the woman? Men, explain yourself. Why do you call your woman cute? What about words like: sexy, beautiful, attractive, stunning, gorgeous, talented, glamourous, vivacious or witty? Have you seen a magazine named ‘Cute’? Exactly! There’s a reason why all the Vogues, Cosmopolitans and Glamours in the world exist.
Women don’t want to be in the same box as a nursery rhyme character.
Tinker Bell was cute. We don’t want to be.
There’s a brilliant post written by a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Mary Oliver, who especially hates the word “cute” when used to describe animals and plants. She writes:
“Such words – “cute,” “charming,” “adorable” – miss the mark, for what is perceived of in this way is stripped of dignity, and authority. What is cute is entertainment, and replaceable. The words lead us and we follow: what is cute is diminutive, it is powerless, it is capturable, it is trainable, it is ours. It is all a mistake. […] We live, I am sure of this, in the same country, in the same household, and our burning comes from the same lamp. We are all wild, valorous, amazing. We are, none of us, cute.”
Her point being that ‘cute’ portrays anything but flattery. If you’re labelled as ‘cute’, then you are “replaceable, powerless, trainable and diminutive,” according to Oliver. Why would you want the world to think of you as someone who is so fragile and delicate that you might flutter and fall apart with a slight nudge? Modern woman’s nightmare – right here.
Sometimes I wonder, does my five-foot-nothing frame, petite silhouette and extremely loud, mind-blasting personality have anything to do with the adjective sticking on with me as I grow up? For goodness sake, I am a strong, independent woman who doesn’t even need a shoe anymore to kill cockroaches (Yeah baby!), so what’s this ‘cute’ business? I work for a respectable magazine, write for publications that have a mature audience and don’t own a single item of clothing from Supre. Apart from that doing good to the fashion industry, why am I still considered ‘cute’?
I remember being called ‘cute’ when I was a child with super chubby cheeks – photo evidence below – and that’s completely acceptable. But those layers of face fat have shrunken to defined cheek bones now, if I may say so, and by no means is the architecture of my face comparable to this dreadful adjective.
But honestly, I do want to know, do you exclusively use this adjective for toy dogs that bark and flip, or do you use it to define someone’s sexuality or physical appeal?
Should ‘cute’ be vetoed from all dictionaries that are applicable to women between the ages of 20-45 (YES!)?
And if you’re a man reading this, do you like your ladies calling you their ‘cutie pies’?
Seriously, tell me.
Until then, save your “you look cute!” remarks for when I get a puppy. I bet her fluffy little tail would love to hear that from a human!
Disclaimer: All the narcissitic references to my own self in the post above are merely there for example purposes. I want you to think over this with your own life experiences and next time when you call your furry cat ‘cute’, make sure your even more adorably-cute girlfriend and/or boyfriend doesn’t hear you.
“South Bali is like a mini-Australia,” said Wayan. “They drink lots and get drunk lots, we Balinese have no problem with that. Why should we?” said my toothless driver while I was on my way to spend the weekend in Bali’s party heaven, the beaches of Seminyak and Kuta. The one that everyone knows of.
As you would have read in my last post (shame on you if you haven’t), I started my Balinese holiday in Ubud, known for its incredibly healthy and chilled lifestyle. There are very few bars and even those don’t have doof-doof music. Of course, they don’t. Ubud wakes up at 3 a.m. to practice yoga and trek up to volcanic mountain tops, all alcohol-free.
I didn’t want to become a hippie with BO by the end of this week-long holiday, so I decided to take a step back from all the nature loving, raw food, cycling and 6am starts and visit friends in the party hub of the island. Guess that bikini might just make an appearance – maaaayyyybe!
Not going to lie, I was a little excited about stopping my two-wheatgrass-shots-a-day routine for the weekend and getting some alcohol in my system (sorry dad!). Wouldn’t have minded a drip of matini, or even an injection, perhaps? Okay, too far! I wouldn’t touch a syringe here, I’m not that crazy, Jeez!
On reaching Seminyak, my first word was ‘ew’! No kidding. There were too many things on its tiny streets, and I come from India, so I know what ‘too many’ means. The people, okay let’s talk about these people. There were hardly any locals to be seen, maybe you’d find them in a spa or an Indonesian restaurant. Otherwise, it was just a sea of tourists, all doing backflips in cringeworthy Bintang singlets. I curse the day those ridiculous tees went to print. Who is responsible for such awful fashion? Bali anyway doesn’t know what ‘fashion’ and ‘trends’ mean, and I don’t expect it to, but those alcohol tees, kill me now, will ya?!
Now if you are serious about going to clubs in Bali, here’s a fun fact for you – Leave your alcohol-branded t-shirts in your closet. Most ‘nice’ bars and clubs don’t allow those dreadful things through their doors. The definition of ‘nice’ is very subjective here. Unless, you call women on bar tops with laser lights sticky-taped to their body parts, grinding the air, as ‘nice’. In that case, you’d fit perfectly in – no judgements there!
We were asked to venture out to the main street in Kuta to find the “hottest places in town”. Okay, take me there, I urged!
Mind you, this is the same street where 10 years ago, the awful and sad bombings took place, targeting tourists only! Incredibly sad, mainly because people come here with the hope to have their Balinese love affair and drink alcoholic beverages that would cost them less than a cup of coffee in Australia.
I wonder how much Bintang is produced and bottled on a weekly basis here? That number would be incredible to comprehend. For those unaware and living under a rock, Bintang is the local beer here that I’m told tastes pretty “local”. Well surely those who say that haven’t drank cobra’s blood? That shit is as local as one can get.
Seminyak and Kuta were disappointing. Not just the sight of lady-boys trying to grind you from behind and Aussie bogans small-talking about cricket to every random they see, it was just like being at the Valley in Brisbane, except hotter (temperature-wise), and with escorts roaming freely outside bars in some serious heels.
Becky Wicks, an English author and a friend of mine, recently wrote a book on Bali called Balilicious, which I just finished reading. If you’re serious about visiting this island, trust me and buy this book. You will thank your lucky stars that you did because Becky talks about Bali from the eyes of a once-sceptic traveller, and how the island slowly converted her into being someone that actually cares about what goes into making Bali a tourist spot. She still parties and has numerous affairs (jealous!), but somehow makes it all sound very special. The writing is incredibly witty and you’ll learn so much more about this island, than you ever will even when you put all the travel guides of the world together. It’s a seriously good book!
In the book, Becky calls Seminyak, ‘Semin-yuk’. Amen, sister! It’s seriously YUCK! The beaches are brown, the water is not quite blue, there are too many middle-aged women screaming ‘massage miss! massageeeee’ in your face and too many children. I’m sorry, I just don’t like children peeing and pooping on the sand, right in FRONT OF ME. Shame on your parenting.
It’s so yuck and commercial that we couldn’t even find a spa here. It’s Bali – how is there no good spa on the main street here? A spa that wouldn’t give you some sort of insane disease or a masseuse that wouldn’t inject you with illegal marijuana while releasing the lactic acid from your muscles. The coconuts here don’t have meat. Don’t laugh! The coconuts are the shape of a grown man’s face and they don’t have meat, what sort of ridiculousness is that? There is no crowd in one of poshest bars in town on a Friday night; Ku De Ta, looking at you. The shops sell racist and potty-mouthed posters. Not even kidding, I have photo proof below. The beaches are filled with newly-wed couples who I will call, ‘choode-wali-aunties’ from hereon (all Indians reading this, I hope you giggle). The surfers here aren’t hot, and like I said, I live in Bondi, so I’ve seen HOT SURFERS. What’s the deal, beaches of Bali? Why do you seem so alluring when you actually have nothing good to offer?
My three night stay here became more bearable due to the fact that I was with friends, and we found happiness in throwing fresh flowers in the pool of our villa. And of course, spending one night getting spritz with ocean water at the most stunning and unique bar on this island called The Rock Bar in Ayana Resort & Spa (Google it! I promise you’ll drool).
But this isn’t what Bali is about. It’s not about sitting in the infinity pool of your luxury villa and sipping Mai Tai’s while watching the sunset (damn, that does sound amazing!). But point is, Bali has more culture to it that is yet to be discovered by all the tourists that flock here with their beach hats and sarongs. It has more love to give than via leg grinding at a sweaty club that can’t get enough of Taio Cruz’s Hangover (seriously, that song is ruining my life. May it burn in lyrical HELL).
I’ll say it again and again until the message gets across – Seminyak and Kuta isn’t what Bali is about. Go to Ubud and I promise you a 120 minute massage for $12.
How’s that Lonely Planet? Put that in your guide book, eh eh? Or hire me… muhaha!
P.S. In case you were wondering, sure you were, that bikini did come out of the suitcase. ooooh-yeah!
“Pack your bikini,” said a friend as I announced I was going to Bali. Coming from Bondi, I highly doubted that the beaches of Bali would spell any magic on me. Call me a smug, but the beaches of Australia have spoilt me and my standards are set very high. Unless you bring me a beach with turquoise-hued water, unicorns in the air and glistening sand, I will not raise a brow. Oh, and no children helps too. Have you got that all noted?
So, I did pack my bikini but thought about how it’ll probably be sitting at the bottom of my suitcase, along with the running shorts I packed. I was going for a holiday – surely I wouldn’t be exercising!
What really happened was, bikini stayed underneath the mess and running shorts were sent to laundry three times.
Tourists come to this island to stay around the water and surf in the amazing currents it has to offer. Maybe an odd adventurous lot would make a day trip to the north of the island to see the two active volcanos (I KNOW!) but dare they leave their 40-inch flat screen TVs, the clubbing district of Kuta and the overpriced spas behind for more than a few hours. Oh the horror!
How I started my holiday was contrary to what Lonely Planet suggested. I started in the heart of Bali, in a little town called Ubud. The town is known for its rice paddy fields, tree-hugging yogis, overly healthy food and wet, humid weather. Oh, and after staying there for the past week, I’ve also found out that it’s known for its scary reptiles that you can’t recognise and its really dead streets post 9pm. No nightlife here, folks! It’s no Kuta or Seminyak; it’s a century far from it, in fact. I don’t think it could handle all those lady-boys on bikes and Chris Brown on repeat. Ubud would have a heart attack and so would all its geckos.
It’s a slow paced town which you hear a lot of in Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling book, Eat Pray Love. In fact I’d say more than half of its tourist attraction comes from women oohing and aahing after reading the book. Everyone wants a love affair in Bali, and she promises you that (LIES!)
If you haven’t read the book, I’m assuming you would have seen the awfully directed movie starring Julia Roberts. The pretty woman makes Bali look oh-so-serene and lovely with its playful monkeys and non-existent reptiles to wake you up in the middle of the night with their loud gossip sessions. How rude! Reality is that Bali has ferocious monkeys and zero Brazilian hunks who will crash into you and sweep you off your feet. Trust me, I looked!
What Ubud has is a lot of smiling people; a ton of them. You see them all, from wide eyed confused smiles, to toothless ones from old grandmas and even some creepy ones from farmers, but you can generally avoid the latter. Also, there’s more spirulina here than in the warehouse of a health food store in Bondi. From spirulina cupcakes to spirulina quiches, the amount of green I’ve eaten in the last week, I wouldn’t take offence if you compare my insides to Hulk’s. The amazing part is that Ubud loves its raw and vegan food, and thanks to that it made my turning-vego-for-the-holiday pretty freaking easy. Just bring me some raw blueberry cheesecake and I’m yours.
I’ve been cycling, a lot, here in Ubud. I hadn’t sat on a bicycle for over 8 years until day one in the town. I hired a cycle with a basket (totally living my Parisian dream in 40-degree heat, so what?). Apart from scratching a car, falling over a million times, dragging my bike up massive hills and looking like as red and confused as a chicken who just ran a hundred miles sans its wings, it was so much fun! Yes, I did have my, I-am-Julia-Roberts-bitches moments, but those didn’t last very long, as I was splashed with muggy rainwater and dogs chasing me down the side streets. I got to see the town in its true essence with no one trying to sell me sarongs or offering me “transport” which is a cue for taxi ride here in Bali. If you ever come here, make sure you do the Banyan Cycling Tours. It’s one that’s not to be missed, especially if you want to cycling past the Komodo Dragon and fall in rice paddy fields where there are snakes! Okay, let’s not scare you – it’s amazing! You cycle for about three hours, cover 25-30 kilometres in and around Ubud and I say there is no better way to enjoy a new place than by doing that. Apart from my really sore bum (sorry for the overshare!) and calf muscles, I had a ball of a time trying to dodge motorbikes, four-legged creatures and chickens on the main road. Actually, I was chasing the chickens away; they run really funny. Almost like a wave-your-hands-in-the-air-like-you-just-don’t-care move, but coming from a chicken… ha ha!
Gibert talks about reaching this balance in her book where she found her soul, found the sense of being and challenged herself to living the city life, post her enlightenment, with utmost ease. I’m not sure if a week anywhere in the world would be able to give you that. Most certainly not when you decide to take a break from all the earth-loving and party with Indonesia’s prime gay community (yeah baby, I went there – more on that later!).
I didn’t come to Bali to get tanned (damn, have you seen me?) and neither I came here to “find” anything. I’m not sure what this trip was about. Well apart from travelling solo and eating one-coconut-a-day, I guess this trip to serene Ubud was like a house inspection. I’ve checked out the place, saw if I would fit in its vicinity and if things changed in the future, the stock market of my life sustained its shares, then who knows, I might return here to write a book one day (I want Anne Hathaway to play me, dear director). Maybe even learn how to do black magic and voodoo (evil vs good spirit is a HUGE thing in Bali. They believe in ghosts, damn straight!). I might not return to be a hippie or become one, not at all, I don’t think I could pull off the no-underwear situation. But I might come back to uncover my already-found self. And this is completely going by the fact that I have found myself and what I want from life elsewhere. Where is that? Damn, I don’t know! Don’t ask so many deep questions.
Ubud makes me want to be a happy person with its numerous smiles and angry dogs. It makes me want to be creative and do something, as opposed to lying on my stomach in a bikini and letting the sun burn my brain cells.
When I was leaving the town last night and heading to the airport, the peachy pink sky peeped from behind the dark grey clouds from the heavy afternoon of showers. That sight of hope and assurance that shone through the lush green blades of grass in the rice paddy fields is what made me think, “I’m going to come back here… if not to find someone or something, then just for its chickens, smiling locals and to live amidst REAL Bali minus the loud tourists for another week… or a few months”.
Speaking of which, I have two more yoga classes to do at the Yoga Barn, and I’ve already paid for them. Need to come back for that – if anything!
And until then, I’ll try to find solace and enlightment on the beaches of Bondi, where I actually like the feeling of sand between my toes and the ocean breeze kissing my hair strands. No cringing or whinging required!
Below are some of the photos from my time in Ubud… your chance to take a glimpse of the REAL Bali.
Have you ever assessed what you get true happiness from? Is it from being in a circle where everyone loves you or from being completely alone?
So alone that you know the rhythm of your breath, the echoing melody of your footsteps on a quiet street, you have an acquaintanceship with your own looming shadow…
I’m talking about being alone in a very positive way here, as opposed to sitting alone on the couch of an empty apartment on Christmas eve and crying to the sexiness of Michael Buble’s carols.
Being alone. By yourself. Without anyone. In a true moment of solitude. It’s challenging, yes. Especially these days. You can’t get your own physical space on a train in Sydney, for crying out loud, getting that in life is rather ambitious.
So what do you do when this isn’t available? You start seeing the word a-l-o-n-e as a spiteful, heartbreaking and depressing word. Instead of it being ‘by myself’, it becomes ‘lonely’. It becomes a negative term that basically wants to commit suicide and die a pitiful death. I mean, look at Eric Carmen, he wrote a record-breaking song about the freaking word and fuelled everyone’s mind with ‘all by myself’ being a bad thing!
Why? Why can’t being in your own space, finding your own aura and coming to terms with it just be defined as happily-alone?
Without the intention of patronising anyone readying this, 32 of my best friends/acquaintances have gotten engaged in the past 12 months (and yes, I counted).
These are people my age: 23.
Are these engagements purely out of panic of being without a plus one for life? Or are they out of the equation of serious, passionate, mind-boggling and earth-shattering love? I’m scared for those that belong to the former.
Wouldn’t loneliness be better than being stuck in something where you’re suffocated? Wouldn’t you rather be alone than be sharing the bed with someone who is intermediary towards every move, decision and choice of yours?
Don’t get me wrong here, though. Bless you if you’re not in a relationship or courtship where you don’t feel any of the above.
Being with someone gets you closer to them but also might simultaneously take you further away from who you are as YOU! What if you don’t know who are as an individual… what’s the point of being with someone as a false version of you? You’re probably a moulded version of how they’d like you to be in their head.
I’m going to quote from a book I’m currently reading, ‘Essays in Love’ (which is brilliant by the way!). Author Alain de Botton writes, “The problem with needing others to legitimate our existence is that we are very much at their mercy to have a correct identity ascribed to us”.
The idea of someone ‘completing’ you is infamously trademarked for the final climax scene of a soppy romcom. Reel life has sensationalised the quote and real life wants to squeeze the truth from it. What was missing, to begin with, that needs to be completed is what I haven’t figured out just yet.
If what someone sees in you, defines you, then were you characterless prior to finding your one? If they find your jokes funny, you’re funny for them. If they find your post-dinner flossing hygienic, you’re a sparkling clean person for them. They are smitten by traits of yours that mean nothing to you, or add zilch to the relationship, but mean the world to them.
If loneliness has a frightening effect on you, then perhaps you’re doing it wrong. Perhaps you’re not using it as a tool to find what you are as a ‘one’ before attaching yourself to a ‘plus one’. Perhaps you’re just scared of solitude overwhelming you and freeing you beyond measure. That’s for you to ponder on.
As for me, I just ordered lunch for one in my outdoor office in Ubud overlooking a patch of turquoise blue swimming pool strategically located in front of a patchy rice paddy field. The rain is bantering against the chlorine-rich water and the smell of wet soil is enveloping me in its arms. Mmmm!
Excuse me now while I enjoy my Tempeh stir-fry with a fresh young coconut, all by myself!
What people think about you when they first meet or see you… does that every bother you? Do you care that someone might be judging the way you eat or the way you scratch your nose as they first plant their eyes on you? Does it bother you that almost 97 per cent of this world’s population makes an instant decision on whether they would be your friend or run for their life the minute they see you (Warning: This statistical data is purely out of my head, bad journalism – I know, but you know what I mean, right?).
Just as we are judgemental about people, we are judgemental about countries, about cities.
The whole “first impression is the last impression” cliche – yep, it exists.
An acquaintance of mine went to Thailand to get her body fixed. She returned with bigger assets (ahem!) and smaller respect for mankind. All she could talk about was how there were flies everywhere in Phuket, women just baked on the footpaths and how it was “so-third-world-oh-em-gee”. She judged and as Karma would strike back, she is probably getting judged by people in the luxuries of her first world now.
But point is, and I do have one, is that you judge the moment something appears in front of you. People, food, clothes, fashion trends…
Four days ago, I landed at the International airport of Bali. I stepped out of the aircraft and the humidity-filled air gushed through the strands of my perfectly straightened hair (P.s. They’re great friends now, my hair is in love with the bastard). The driver who drove us from the aircraft to the terminal flashed the cutest toothless smile at me as I took my seat beside him. It was adorable! He probably drives a few hundred tourists a day and assuming that he smiles at all of them, that’s a hell lot of free ‘welcome to Bali’ smiles. He should be the official representer of this island; no one could ever hate this place. I mean why would you?
So I got out of the airport and landed in traffic hell. I have to say, the city did not impress me at all. There were too many motorbikes, too less road space and was way too humid. But then again, there was a sense of familiarity. I could spot enough helmets to be able to create a mental art piece out of them. It was kinda therapeutic. I see a map of Australia in the sea of helmets… ooh la la.
I asked my driver, Kumar, to put on a local radio station, just so I could get a real sense of Indonesian culture and get diverted from this bumper-to-bumper situation. He followed my command and put on 93.2 FM which blasted Katy Perry, Jessie J and Coldplay. How perfect! I am stuck in a crazy traffic jam that doesn’t seem to move and Chris Brown doesn’t want to be woken up! Is this Bali?
Perhaps not… I didn’t know what it was until much later (more on that soon).
But my first impression of the island… wasn’t quite the first! It was home to me. Home in its literal sense. I was taken back to the streets of New Delhi where I would perhaps be stuck in a similar jam, with an International pop song on the radio and a visual of five adults sharing the space on a single motorbike. Same to same!
My first impression of Bali was a very old one, and that is what made the 2.5 hour drive to Ubud so very special!