Aum Swastyastu ... Welcome to the Stranger in Paradise

(Published in the Hello Bali Magazine, May 2001)

Easter Dharma Bunnies

What about Goldie Hawn's Hindu greeting at the Academy awards! I mean what is it that brings out the Budhha in the bimbo?? And will the world's current Feng Shui frenzy lead us all from plain old good taste? Bali style is popping up all over the globe too (see "Bali Style goes Ballistic" Stranger in Paradise, January 2001 and this page, top right; a third generation Four Seasons derivative, via Banyan Tree Hotel, Bintan). In the first two weeks of February I traveled around the world documenting trends in gloBALIsation: I found Bali lamps in Manzanillo, Mustique, and Marakesh. In a Marbella real estate magazine I find an advertisement cashing in on both Californian fried Buddahism (The Dharma Bunnies' sect) and Bali Style architecture, complete with leaking building water feature and ceramic pretty litter. Even Basil's Bar, that quintessential Caribean hideaway, now comes with avenues of umbul-umbul banners leading to its front door. (See box opposite) My coming book "Architecture of Bali - A source book of traditional and modern forms and finishes" will be out soon to hopefully, mercifully, remind people what real Balinese architecture looks like.
On another tack: Has anyone else noticed the explosion of "Indonesian Spas" around the world? I mean who would have thought that those mercy hand-jobs on the beach in the 1970s would one day grow into a multi billion-dollar industry. Mercy me.
Now read on:

The new brilliant english TEMPO'S inspired March 20-26,2001 cover. Boy has EFORMASI made a real different to the media and art world!

28 March 2001, U and Non-U Hindu in the Motherland
In Calcutta one of my clients asks for a Hindu Balinese shrine, in the Majapahit style, for his farm's garden: my office packs the pieces and I arrive at Calcutta airport with six mysterious crates. "You see" I tell a fierce customs' front line "1000 years ago your people took Hindu to Bali…and now I'm bringing it back". They were not amused. Indeed I've found that Indians have different senses of Hindu humour than the free wheeling Balinese. U and Nou-U Hindu issues differ too. They share eating implements between castes (strictly nou-U Hindu in Bali). Beliefs such as the headache- inducing potential of ducking under an underpant-strewn clotheslines do not exist amongst my Indian friends. For most modern Indians the folk aspects of their religion disappeared many centuries ago, as have the folk aspects of Christianity in, say, England. In Bali the folk aspects - dances and trances-are bigger than Ben Hur. And long may it stay that way!

This month's glossary
Dharma: the road of righteousness.
Karma: Actions, deeds.
Karma-pala: you get back what you give out.
Dharma Bunny: New Age, born-again Hindu/Buddhist (usually female).
Karma-kola: Writer Gita Mehta's pivotal, seminal 1965 book on the West's shallow fascination with Eastern philosophies. Hysterical.

1 April 2001, Hong Kong:
Now and then one sees a little piece of Bali mirrored in Chinese heritage and culture. Today, ogling a friend's 19th Century carved ivory collection, I find a perfect Balinese Janger head-dress on the chinese goddess of compassion, Kwan Im. But perfect. In another carving I'm reminded of the debt Balinese pavilion architecture owes to its Chinese ancestors.

This month Diet/Karma Kola award for truth in advertising.

" Bali has some really stunning architecture and I basically wanted to share it with everyone," says Michael Bretag, director of Immobilien Plus. "Seeing that we have a great concentration of international residents here, I thought Marbella would be an ideal place to establish such a development. I think the type of people who live here can appreciate this unique culture. Feng Shui for example has become increasingly popular with international residents, and there is growing interest in Eastern arts. The idea behind both these developments is to incorporate these elements, tranquillity, harmony and Feng Shui, and thus create something which is truly a visual and sensual living experience."
(Heaven help the Orient)

Balinese penjor banners have been spotted in Mustique, the billionaire's playground in St. Vincent, West Indies. These fluttered on the road to the Raft Restaurant. The popular night spot of the former Iseh "It" boy Basil Charles, (which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Half of Legian's Kopi Society plans to attend).

Mengwi, 11 April 2001:
My secretary the long-suffering Sri Sudewi, martyr of Mertasari, is at long last married - to a cousin of Dewa Marissa Berenson the spiritual custodian of the Four Seasons Jimbaran gardens. It is a joyous occasion: three bus loads of staff members hit the wedding trail. Tributes flood in from around the globe: from Lady Victoria Waymouth in London, from Annie Kelly in L.A., and Basil Charles in Mustique, all of whose Bali lives Sri orchestrates in between sessions in the bear pit with moi. A North Bali girl with a heart of gold and the thick skin of a rhino, Sri Sudewi deserves all the happiness in heaven in her new life.

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