This morning, Ubudians were greeted by the unusual sight of a bright and sunny day; skies a perfect shade of blue that augurs well for people living in the tropics – and who’ve suffered under the weeks-long strain of relentless rains. It gives them (me included) space to breathe, a chance to hang clothes outside to dry, and to walk a few blocks without being pelted by sheets of falling water.
After too much time spent under grey skies and near-constant threat of downpours, thunder showers, flooding and power outages, this day’s dawning came as a welcome break.
Undoubtedly, for many people in and around Ubud (primarily tourists) this sudden shift in weather came as a surprise. Not at all to me. Although I am far from religious, my spiritual inclinations (and appreciation for the quirks of Balinese life) lead me to some uncanny knowings: For example, I simply KNEW that the sun would shine today. So much so that I would have bet my eye teeth, life savings and future earnings on this outcome. I might have even counseled others to do the same.
I don’t claim to possess a direct WhatsApp line to the source up there. Rather, it all boils down to what the royals want.. because a royal cremation was held here today (apparently the first such ritual honouring a foreign-born member of royalty: Ibu Nelly Sukawati (nee Luchsinger), wife of one of the late Tjoks / princes of Ubud.) And I had a hunch that the royals wouldn’t want a flooded sendoff for Nelly’s recently-deceased spirit.
The weeks of rain leading up to today’s cremation made the time-consuming and pedantic work of building the bamboo platforms, colourful bade and lembuh (bull, where the body is placed) a daily challenge; soaked male villagers took refuge under tarps, and under royal pavilions protected from the drizzle.
Even though rain is at times considered a good omen, downpours still make for a messy procession and smudged makeup, and it doesn’t bode well for the female royals who even under perfect conditions often look as if they’re about to topple off stilettos as they parade down the main road towards the cremation site. Adding a rain shower and umbrellas not only floods the roads, but seriously dampens the otherwise celebratory mood. Yes. Celebratory. For a cremation. Sort of. You had / have to be there / here…
My guess is that one of Nelly’s relatives poo-pooed the idea of letting nature run its (current) course; and called out the big guns. Which, in such a case, means cloud-busters – aka rain-stoppers.
They were in fine form today, these clouds-and-rain-interveners. The normally thick and threatening, low-lying grey formations were nowhere in sight. If you watched movements in the sky, you could almost notice clouds hovering afar, then moving back into Ubud’s atmosphere – but only once the corpse had burnt to a crisp and the flames died down; once the relatives came and went – and had collected precious remains; and once all the balloons had been purchased and the food consumed.
By late afternoon, certainly by 5, as the sun began its descent towards the horizon, the clouds rolled in overhead. It’s more than likely that sometime overnight, we’ll receive the brunt of whatever was held back from being unleashed today from the holy heavens of Ubud…