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A World Without Strangers.


I was at the usual carwash this afternoon and I sometimes had the usual formal chit-chat with the woman who owns the carwash there.

We know each other because I’ve taken my car several times there, but we don’t know each other’s names or anything like that. She always sits behind the counter, doing nothing – just watching her staff washing the customers’ cars.

Today, though, the conversation became unexpectedly deeper when I thought. She was saying that she needed to exercise because she was putting on some weight, and I suggested walking. She said it wouldn’t look right for her to go for walks because of how people would perceive her.

Now, that sounds odd, I thought.

So I asked her to explain what she meant by that.

Apparently she is descended from a generation of priests and she has been trying to delay her ‘calling’ as one of them for as long as she can try, but it seems that now it has become a matter of life and death – if she keeps on delaying her faith, she will soon meet her maker. So she has started to maintain a certain image as being a priest it will not allow her to be like the commoners – including doing something simple like going for a walk. She even said she would probably buy one of those treadmills so she could exercise at home.

A part of me thought “This woman is all hokum” but the more we talked, the more she surprised me. She looked like an average woman – wearing loose fitting clothes, messy bun and no make up, and if you met her on the street you wouldn’t think much of her – but she is probably the wisest and most educated Balinese woman I have ever talked to in a long time.

Her husband happens to work at the same hotel where I work and she said her husband would soon replace her to take care of the carwash business because she had to focus on being a priest, and being a priest requires her to be more patient and kind; she is no longer allowed to be angry or be negative, even if it’s just for five minutes because it will give her a headache. Ever since she started responding to her ‘calling’ as a priest, there have been several people who feel threatened by her and spreading bad rumours about her.

I told her that sometimes I deal with the same thing at work, and it pisses me off so much that I can’t help but feeling angry even when I think about it.

Her response was, “We Hindus believe in Tatvamasi. You are me, and I am you. If you say something hurtful to me, it’s because you’re hurting inside, and if I can understand that, then I will no longer feel hurt about what you say. If you are me, and I am you, saying hurtful things to me is like hurting myself. So we must also be careful of what we say to others.”

“Whevener you feel angry, you have to take a deep breath and learn to let it go. People will say bad things anyway. But remember – they are you, and you are them. If you can understand this, you will find peace.”

“Nowadays we are living in the Kaliyuga era. The era where people lose their morals and the good are being mocked and ridiculed, whereas the bad are being worshipped and admired. There are a lot of people who will test your patience, but you must be able to control your anger, otherwise you will lose your mind. However, those who are evil will get their karma very quickly.┬áLet God and Karma do all the work. You don’t need to do anything.”

“I am more afraid when people are praising me. Because it means I will have more enemies – more people who feel threatened. But if they mock and ridicule you, it means you are not seen as a threat. You can continue to do great things without worrying about others feeling jealous or threatened.”

“If you are a good person, just keep being good and just keep doing good things. You reap what you sow.”

We talked some more about politics – and she continued to surprise me of how well she knew of it – most women her age wouldn’t care of such things. We mourn about the future of Bali and how it will probably end up like Jakarta.

Our conversation ended when my car was all prettified. After I paid, gave some tip for the guy who did my car, I bid my farewell and drove off.

Then I realise – I still don’t know her name. But strangely though, I feel ten times lighter and content. Perhaps she is what she says she is.