Thursday, October 05, 2006
Desa Kala Patra
Timing is everything. It's the day before the festival. Dina and I arrive at Denpasar airport, are garlanded with fragrant leis of frangipani and transported to Indus restaurant, which will be the main venue for the event.
We meet the conference organisers; Janet de Neefe, owner of Indus and Casa Luna and author of memoir/cookbook Fragrant Rice, and Finley Smith whom we were in close e-mail contact with in the run-up to the festival. They both look amazingly cool considering all that is on their shoulders. We're just in time for the press conference, which we hadn't planned to attend.
And then Dina gets herself coopted onto the panel facing the journalist in the press conference by Nasir Tamara (Senior Expert at the United Nations Support Facility for Indonesian Recovery (UNSFIR) in Jakarta) who is the moderator. It's helpful to have a second speaker of Bahasa Indonesia up there to help field and interpret the questions and responses. (So there's our Dina sitting next to Madhur Jaffrey and William Darymple in the picture.)
We hear how the Ubud Readers' and Writers' festival was created after the first Bali bombing in 2002 to encourage healing and economic recovery. Last year there was a second bombing just a week before the festival. It seemed even more important that the event should continue. The 2006 theme for the festival was Desa-Kala-Patra a Balinese/Hindu term that has been translated as Place-Time-Identity.
Afterwards we have a star-struck conversation with the writers. William Dalrymple wants to know about the political situation in Malaysia ("Well ummm ... there's UMNO ... and there's ...."), and I get a chance to tell Madhur Jaffrey that's she's been living in my kitchen for many years, to which she graciously replies "Well, I'm sure I'm very happy there." (I don't tell her that she's covered in splashes and stains and her pages are stuck together and scribbled on.)
It is also such a privilege to meet Joesoef Isak who was the publisher of the great Pramoedya Ananta Toer's books. Without him, quite simply, none of Pramoedya's books would have been circulated. The books remain officially banned, although available in the bookshops. (And how sad I am that we did not get more of a chance to hear Pak Joesoef's story at the festival ...).
We get swept along to a wonderful many coursed dinner where we meet more writers and lovers of books, and William Darymple, Anita Desai and famous Indonesian poet Sitok Srengenge read for us. Bliss.
Timing is everything. Desa - Kala - Patra.