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Taman, Bali, Indonesia
I am just a 38 years old fellow from a small village named Taman, on the island of Bali. There is nothing that is too special about me. I am not a person with degree but I always love to have opportunity to learn new things in my life. I am working just as a driver and tour guide for Bali and I have been happy doing it for more than 16 years now and it might be the only things that I can do for the rest of my life.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Balinese Subak

Subak is a traditional rice farmer association in Bali. It is very well known and well astonished around the world, and now it is getting pushed aside among the mega development on the island. Productive rice field is getting less because it has been taken over for houses, hotel development, golf courses, etc. we can imagine what Bali is going to be without its spectacular rice terrace view. Our next generation will only see the beauty of Bali’s famous rice terrace view from all the postcards and documentary photograph that have been taken by the tourists who by chance have visited this island of thousand temples. There will be no more stories about Bali’s famous irrigation system, scarecrows for keeping the birds away, duck shepherd who always come and feeding their ducks with the left over rice from the harvesting, and the whims of the local people during the harvesting time. Well, let’s take a look at a light story below.

Once long time ago, there was an old rice farmer who lives in a small village on the island of Bali. He was died at the age of 96 years old. He was spending his entire life working on the rice field to do rice farming. Even when he was born, it was in a little hut in the middle of the rice field amongst the sniffing of the cows and the chicken’s crowing. His childhood, teenager, adult, after married, having children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren he was spending by being a rice farmer. He was really devoting his entire life of being a rice farmer. He is almost being on the field the whole day or even till late at night to look after his irrigation system to make sure that everything is going right. He was still picking up tomatoes from his garden five hours before he was leaving this world forever.
Of course there was nothing really special about this old rice farmer died. After the Kulkul(the wooden bell) in the village was beaten, it’s forwarding the news to the entire villagers that an old guy has finished his duty in this real world and now is heading to the next world. The whole villagers were coming to his home to prepare the entire thing for his cremation ceremony, and then his body was cremated in a very simple cremation ceremony.

But the death of that old poor rice farmer was becoming unusual when his soul went to get an eternal union with the almighty god. On the front of the heaven’s door, all the heavenly angles and the brave handsome heaven’s soldiers welcomed him. They were welcoming this old rice farmer’s soul with a great happiness and praiseworthy songs. Surely it made this poor guy being so astonished by the great welcoming ceremony as during his life he had never treated that way. And behind himself, there was a soul of the high priest was on his turn to enter the heaven, but the heaven’s soldiers got on his way and said,” you have to go through the interrogation room".

That priest was having his protest to the soldiers as he had devoted almost a half of his life for the sake of the spiritual glory of the human being in the real world. If we try to compare the poor rice farmer, of course that priest that should go to heaven without any interrogation or inspection. The soldiers told him that the poor rice farmer was an honest, innocent, simple and never complaining even protesting. His entire life’s energy and work he had devoted for the sake of the human being. But the priest himself, before he was becoming a priest, he was a common human being who had ever cheated his friends, cheating his business partner and it was enough making other people annoyed. He was not paying off his debt to the others, so that he has to be interrogated before entering the heaven. He has to responsible to his behavior during his life. That was the excuses of the soldiers.

The old rice farmer was being confused, so the main reason of a good deed and glory in the heaven and the real world was not really the same. He was the one that working hard on the filed to provide food for the sake of the prosperity of the human being then the reward of his hard work he’s now enjoying it in the heaven. What a long journey and time that he had to go through in receiving all the reward of his good karma for almost a hundred years of living on earth.

The above story is surely not trying to convince people that the only way to go to the heaven is being a rice farmer. It’s also without any intention of overrating the task and function of the farmers. But among the Balinese community, farmers are the poor people where lack and hardship, subordination, honest, and strenuous are always filling their lives. They are the people who always consider life as a work. Selling their crops besides what they need in providing food for their family, they never have an intention to get multiple profits.

Anyhow, aren’t there many rich farmers? Instantly those Clove, coffee and vanilla farmers. Honestly, they are not a genuine farmer anymore, but they have been acting more like a merchant that always emphasize a multiple profits. If we hold up to the above story, the deities of god who are judging the souls in the heaven, they are surely having a curtain rule and definition for this group of people.

However for the Balinese people, a strong friendship among the farmers, individually and as group are very strong. Every rice farmer is a member of the Subak, a group of very religious social-economy that’s traditional farmers. Anywhere around the world, there must be a group of farmers but the Balinese Subak is known to be very unique with its religious principle. Subak is also being admired for its comparative.

There were thousands of scientist have come to Bali to examine the Subak system. There are so many theses and dissertations were made from the examination. The Subak’s doctrine and theory have become a form and model for the group of rice farmers in South East Asian countries and Africa, and Subak has been praised by the people round the world. But why is the famous Subak association couldn’t prosper the rice farmers? Why are there still many rice farmers who are living very poor even they have been becoming a rice farmer for many years? It’s probably because of being so honest and moderate that is making them still becoming flabby low class community. Subak is very well known for its perfect water irrigation system but surely they are not great in marketing and wouldn’t survive in competition. They are no more being a model and example. Even there were so many worlds’ group of rice farmers and scientist from round the world that examined about Subak but it’s limited only because of its strong friendship and religiosity. Apparently, Subak is very weak in the position of bargaining.

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