Truly, deeply, madly

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Beware of touts and pickpockets –

That was one thing that most internet info and tourist feedback on Bali had said to us prior to our visit to the Paradise Island. In these times of deficit trust, that was enough to put us on notice. So when a local biker suddenly stopped by us while we were on a lazy city stroll on the day after we landed, we put up our guard.

“From India?” the man asked, putting his hand out.

“Yes.”

‘Hindu?”

Ah, he knew that we had been to the temple, from the rice grains stuck on our forehead.

“Yes.”

“Welcome to Bali,” he said, beaming from ear to ear.

We spoke for a few minutes, about Bali and India, and our shared culture and traditions. When I inquired him about the decorations we saw on vehicles all around, he said it was a day of ceremony for them, one that celebrated implements and machines. A la Viswakarma Puja or Ayudha Puja of ours, I reckoned.  And off he went, wishing us well, but not before telling us he loved Amitabh Bacchan.

We had just made our first friend in Bali. No tout, no pickpocket – just a freewheeling Balinese tourist guide who made us reassess our habit of judging people from hearsay.

In the six days that followed, we met and made friends with a dozen or more locals – smiling, serving, sharing stories, taking selfies, helping us out of the way.

Eka, Syne, Dewi, Tika, Dewisri, Budhi, Wanda, Surya, Madhe, Ayu, Yan, Mur….

They reiterated with their adorable ways that one can love strangers without rhyme or reason. They convinced me that where there is no sense of ego or pride, there are no boundaries.

For the first ever time after a holiday, I miss the people more than the place. I have seen persons who are trained to be hospitable to tourists, guests and customers with plastic smiles and forced pleasantries. But not the Balinese. You can tell the fake from the real thing.

When our driver, Eka, said to us that he believed in the philosophy of ‘Aham Brahmasmi,’ (universal oneness), I knew – they are folks with their heart in the right place.

Many years ago, Julia Roberts had found true love in Bali.

So did I, last week.

It’s a Love that became immortal in six passing days. It’s a Love that will remain long after the faces and names have faded away.

Suksma, Bali. Thank you.

Tiang tresna rago. I Love you.

#NotesFlashFiction

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