I had been on the road for the first few days of my stay in Bali, experiencing the many facets of the island state, beaches, mountains, nightlife. The energy—virtually insatiable. And plunging into the depths of the sea just gave another dimension to life here.
It takes a moment for the eyes to get used to the various shades of blue. The sky and sea merge, as little sails pop in and out of the water, adding a dash of colour to the horizon. I was all excited for my first scuba diving experience. My husband and I were right in the middle of the ocean, with our instructor teaching us how to breathe under water. I tried telling him in vain that I didn't know to swim. The next moment I know, I was in the water with him, bobbing in the waves, feeling the surge of excitement and anxiety—both at the same time. I popped my head one last time above the water to look at the bright blue sky with cotton candy clouds, my husband was nowhere in sight. Then I lost myself to the world beneath.
The colours startled me as the creatures of the sea swam along. The fish nibbled at the pieces of bread I fed them. As I reached the ocean floor I saw my husband surrounded by a school of fish, the sight took my breath away! Some fish swam with me while some lay quietly in their little corners. The riot of hues below was in complete contrast to the blues of the sea above. There was a dash of purple, a montage of orange and crimson and tinges of green and yellow. Almost like a palette of colours originating from the life deep under. I could have stayed there longer but my lungs were unable to sustain further and in a moment, I sprung up to the surface, to the world more familiar to me.
Wandering through Bali, I found the cultural landscape of the island very similar and yet so different from India. They say there are more temples than houses in Bali. And as you enter every home, the first piece of architecture that greets you is the ornate shrine dedicated to spirits of the ancestors. Traditional Balinese houses are vast with open spaces, backyards, lotus ponds, gardens and with several smaller buildings housing various members of the family. I caught sight of one bright orange door that brought my journey to a halt. When I tried to capture the image in my camera, the door creaked open and the family welcomed me into their home. I noticed that the huge compound wall virtually shut the outside world to the inmates.
As our mystical journey around Bali continued, I figured that the music too was familiar to the one back home. The beats were energetic and one would almost tap their feet and seem to sing along with the verses. As the tempo built up, I realised I was chanting the Gayatri mantra, in its remixed form. “You know this song?” interrupted the driver, handing me the Balinese version of the rendition, “We call it Gayatri mantra.” He looked puzzled and smiled.
The car stopped in front of a street lined with traditional sarongs and scarves and I was told to wear one before entering the temples. Securing a scarf around my head, I walked up the ancient steps, carved with delicate apsaras smiling back at us. The trail lead us to a 1,000 year old cave, Goa Gajah, where I was met with the ferocious glare of the door guardians, one of them even holding a weapon up in the air. A massive goblin like creature engraved at the mouth of the cave looked right into my eyes as I gawked with relief that it was only a stone. Goa means cave, [pronounced here as Guha] and Gajah means elephant. Yes, you’ve guessed it right—the cave is dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Inside the cave was an idol of a Balinese Ganesha clad in bright attire.
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