31 March 2005

For the pleasure of my nostalgia, how long do people have to swat flies on dusty roads?

YOGYAKARTA, Melia Purosani Hotel lounge - First impression of Yogyakarta: the buildings and cityscape quite charming. The aged red-tile roofs reminiscent of my old primary school during childhood days in the '80s. The five-times-a-day prayers over the public speaker indicative of a place less fast-paced and efficient than Singapore. The rows of sleeping feet sticking out from trishaws comical. The barefotted man reading newspaper intently by the side of the road nostalgic.

But the pleasure of my nostalgia - to what extent is it dependent on a standstill, a non-modernization of a people's way of life? For the pleasure of my nostalgia, how long do people have to swat flies on dusty roads? How long do they have to put up with cramped living conditions, take loans from exorbitant local moneylenders in order to maintain my charming little pushcart of mie soto...?

Ramayana dance

YOGYAKARTA - The sequined multitude of colours. The little monkeys. The measured steps. The exquisite gestures. The precise execution of the foot cloth flicks. The ascension to heaven. The flames. The painted faces. The economical affixation of the white monkey's tail to the headgear. The angle of the fingers, the waist, the upheld bow. The catching of the arrows. The arm band distinguishing the two brothers. The incesen offering to the four corners of the stage. The aroma. The sonorous music emitting from the orchestra stand. The curt rejection of the devil king.

So why does Princess Sinta need to prove her purity? And why is a long-haired, pot-bellied man mountain not instead a long-haired pregnant woman mountain...?

30 March 2005

Borobodur Buddhas

YOGYAKARTA - The majesty of ancient monuments is always awe-inspiring. If Borobodur were still mired in the jungle, it would probably feel like Tikal. (The colours are similar.) But with the clearing and landscaped lawn, it feels almost too sanitized a la Chichen Itza.

Going up the steps of Borobodur is supposed to symbolize the attainment of nirvana from samsara. The exquisite carvings on the lower realms were detailed and full of sensual women in their natural, beautiful nude state. It is hard to decided which I prefer - aspiring to the peaceful zen state at the pinnacle, or remaining in thee samsarically beautiful but also samsarically painful lower realms.


In the end, I climbed straight on. I am not sure if I did so out of curiosity or a desire to be closer to the Buddhas. The pinnacle was surreally beautiful. So many stupas, with so many shy Buddhas, awaiting, hiding.

One could only stand in awe and pray. I prayed to Buddha to watch over this land he oversees, to inspire us all to enlightenment.

Circumabulating the stupa in the rain, the raindrops fell pitter-patter on my 40-cents rented umbrella. "I", the rain, the umbrella - we are all one.

Turning around, I noticed a lightning rod running down the main stupa. Did they not trust the many Buddhas to protect the very abode they resided in? But the many headless Buddhas provided the stark answer. Man is greedy, the world is harsh.

Is Buddha omnipotent? Or at the least omnipotent enough to protect himself? Or maybe he is too compassionate, just yielding to the needs and wishes of man. What is a head anyway if it can bring some warm food to the looter's dinning table?

The rain turned into a torrent. Water gushing, jeans wet.

What a mighty shower of blessing.