Like any good house party, the morning after the day before tends to bring with it certain undesired responsibilities, including a major cleanup. Cremations are no different. Except that, instead of overturned champagne glasses and beer bottles strewn around, instead of streamers dangling from the ceiling and cushions stained with red wine, there are plenty of leftover Chinese coins, offerings, massive bamboo platforms that must be untied and chopped up, reams of burnt holy cloth and plenty of charred remains – of bull statues and funerary towers.
I passed by the site shortly after 6 a.m. yesterday, partly to survey the necessary and expected damage. Here’s what I found: I noticed (because it’s hard to miss) that the watilan (covered gathering pavilion for meetings, musicians and tourist bus drivers who need a rest) was all abuzz. Posters, plastic chairs, tables, offerings, signs and more signs. Some particularly humorous ones, Balinese caricatures drawn to explain the process. It was, after all, Election Day across Bali! Offices were closed (as were some restaurants and shops) while people headed to the polls to elect a new Governor.
The rest of Ubud showed signs of election day as well; though for the run-of-the-mill tourist these signs would have largely passed unnoticed; a mere flint to the fireworks of the day before. But I noticed those signs too; in the pavilion across the palace the polling clerks were dressed in traditional garb, lined up, each holding lit incense sticks, gathered in prayer before taking up their official duties. Offerings sat alongside ballot boxes. All signs of the cremation had disappeared from sight. The sacred and the profane. The spiritual and the political. One day weaves seamlessly into the next. Always with acknowledgment of a higher power. Of our connection to the divine, to the inexplicable, to the forces of nature. Bali just might have it right.