Bali, a coming together of different worlds.
People: “Do you like working in films?”
Me: “I LOVE IT, its like I found the purpose of my life.”
That’s what my response used to be when people asked me about my chosen career. Until I moved up the pecking order and realized that film production is not the purpose of my life, it’s merely a part of my life. Then what is the purpose of this whole drill?
Hello existential crisis.
Trying to keep my head above water, literally
I started waking up cranky and irritated without any motivation to head to work. I stopped meeting the few friends I had, although I felt very lonely. Do I need to start dating people? Have I subconsciously been craving companionship? Is my mom right? Is it time for shaadi.com already? What am I missing? When people asked me what I wanted, I told them I wanted to be Happy. That’s it. I met a man, connected soul to soul with him and got infatuated (well aware of the fact that he was married). But what can a girl with Daddy issues do? I took Psychology classes in Grad school and yes I am my own counselor. So this made things worse.
I can't go on, I'll go on - Samuel Beckett
Heartache? That’s your perpetual state of being, I told myself. 6 years in films and many men later, I realized I love traveling but hadn’t travelled other than on shoots. It was time to find some answers, and myself in the process. That’s when I decided to pack my bags and get the fuck out. What followed was an emotional rollercoaster that changed me forever - sharing stories with an Afghan in Bali, the kindness of strangers, arty streets, blue skies, blue sea, a clear head and a little healing.
Connected to mother earth
Me: “Mumma, please don’t be upset, Mi Bali la jaat aahe”(Mumma, I am going to Bali.)
Mom: “Kuthe aahe Bali?” (Where is Bali?)
Me: “Mumma, Indonesia.” (Indonesia.)
Mom: “Accha, South India madhe aahe mjahnjey (Oh, somewhere in south India), Kiti taasachi flight aahe?” (How long is the flight?)
Me: “12 hours.”
Mom: “India chya baaher challi ka? Itkya taasachi flight tar America chi aste” (You’re going out of India? 12 hour flights go to America.)
A simple life: a couch, a beach, hot men and beer
So tickets booked, currency changed and I was all set for my first solo adventure. I call it my first bag-packing trip, because I carried a big suitcase since I didn’t have a backpack. Also, my budget only allowed me to travel for a week but I carried 40 odd items of clothing (what if there was an emergency?) A day before my travel, I cried the entire day and almost cancelled my tickets. I was scared and there was too much pressure to be adventurous, I hadn’t researched or read anything about the place apart from the fact that it has visa on arrival. But I decided to go with the flow.
The ever-smiling Farhat, my first couch surfing host
Hello Bali. I met my first couch surfing host Farhat Batarfi and stayed at his place for two days. Farhat wasn’t home when I reached but his friends were and they were shy at first. They offered me food and asked me about my life. As soon as I told them I work in films they got really excited and started singing Hindi songs. They told me they love Shahrukh Khan and Ranbir Kapoor. They grew up watching Mahabharat and other Hindi TV shows and even named a few. Walking around the beautiful streets of Bali felt very much like home as strangers addressed me as “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”. Bollywood was everywhere. And here I was trying to escape the films.
Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence - Henry David Thoreau
I felt light and okay. I smiled more and I felt less burdened because I was a nobody and I liked it that way. I didn’t have the pressure to be a production controller, a friend, a daughter, a sibling, a girlfriend. I was just a human being. It was an overwhelming thought and it made me happy. With my new found wings and a sort of liberation from the self I wanted to do something adventurous. Although it was out of my budget, I decided to go scuba diving. For anyone who has not experienced this – your world view will never be the same after you have been underwater.
Accurate representation of my entire life summed up in one picture
After three days of this, it was time to meet my second host, Jawid Kosha, a 30 year old from Afghanistan. I was immediately fascinated. He lived in a hotel and we shared the room. It all sounds very shady but hello adventure! He was a tourism student with a twin bed. He promised to tell me stories like ‘The kite Runner’ and many more. I was hooked.
My dreamy little Afghan, Jawid
As soon as we reached the room I started looking for something. He asked me what I was doing. `Looking for AK47s and suicide bombs’ I said. Both of us burst out laughing. I apologized for the racist comment but it made us bond, one Indian and one Afghan In Bali.
There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul - Victor Hugo
Over the next three days Jawid showed me around, and gave me a peak into his world. I saw pictures of his family and videos of his sister’s wedding. He was a Hazara boy just like Hassan in The Kite Runner. He told me about his days at a Pakistani refugee camp and how his family fled and came back to Afghanistan a decade later. He was supposed to get married on his return to Afghanistan and invited me for the wedding. I told him about the Nirbhaya Documentary and beef ban in India. We reached a conclusion that everything and every country is more or less messed up. All this made me realize that at our deepest level we are all the same. We dance at weddings, we cry when we are hurt, we fight, we hate, we love, we live. We simply are. I sat amongst strangers and I felt whole.
At the edge of the world
The last two days I decided to hang out on my own. It didn’t feel lonely or abandoned. I went out for meals at little huts with locals and roamed the streets and the beaches alone.
In the blink of an eye, seven days were over. As I hugged a moist eyed Jawid and journeyed back to the airport I felt this chill through my spine. Was my existential crisis over? Had I healed my heart of my love ache? Was I a changed person? Was there a transformation so immense that people wouldn’t recognize me back home?
Peace is within, do not seek it without – Buddha
Had I found myself or had I lost myself? To the beauty that life has to offer. I lost myself to the lust to travel. To the hunger to know more about the world that I am a part of. It felt good being lost.
Learning to love
1. Locals love Bollywood, its a great way to bond.
2. Eat with the locals.
3. All of Bali isn't a beach. Cover up when you're at a temple.
4. Don’t be scared, go scuba diving.
5. Wear sunscreen. You're closer to the equator than you think.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Meetali Meshram
Photographs by Meetali Meshram