Eat, Pray, Pay? Or, Eat, Pray, Love? Certainly, when I first set eyes on the famed Medicine Man from Elizabeth Gilbert’s best seller, ‘Eat Pray Love’, there was Eating, or, more appropriately, Drinking. Breakfast – a milky concoction easily digested without the need for him to chew with the few teeth he has left.
Thanks to the advice of my Balinese guide and friend, Kadek, I arrived at 7am to be first in line. One does not make an appointment to see Ketut; you simply arrive and take a number. Luck was on my side, and, upon Ketut’s invitation, I cuddled up next to him as the first visitor of the day.
Lucky indeed. As his family worked like busy bees within the richly adorned compound, I spoke with Ketut, via intermittent translations with Kadek, about his one remaining front tooth, his kidney stones, his need to shower and dress before the arrival of the masses, and about the state of my own teeth, which he examined and pronounced to be very healthy and clean.
Over-sized butterflies fluttered above my head, landing gracefully on manicured plants, lizards sauntered across cool, shaded tiles and a spider expanded its web, precariously, deliciously, close to my head. The busy bee workers smiled each time they wandered by and Ketut’s ever-ready laughter sliced through the sweat-inducing humidity of early morning, as a rain storm gathered force on the horizon.
“I have very bad life, you have very good life,” Ketut said, while massaging his stomach, his eyes twinkling on their exploration of my face, “but now, I go and make myself handsome, yes? But me very ugly, yes? You be my wife, but my wife will be very jealous. She very jealous.” He laughed, a warm, belly laugh, extending and echoing among the decorative walls of the compound. “You cover legs, or you make me dangerous.” This, coming from a 99, 98 – who really knows – year old Medicine Man.
Kadek and I laughed. Ketut chatted with Kadek about Kadek’s village. Joviality, peace and a deep sense of ‘the present moment’ reigned. Until the first of the masses arrived…
Japanese tourists, American fans, Australian yoga fanatics, German sightseers, all taking numbers from the famed hook on the wall. All seeking their fortunes. All ready to pay for an insight into the unknown.
And did they receive it? No, I don’t think so. Ketut has catch phrases, honed by repetitiveness, such as, “You’re lips are like sugar,” and, “You will live until 100,” and, “You are a Queen and very influential.”
I discovered this, only when I, being number one in line, was called for my reading, (after waiting a further two hours for him to shower and meditate). Having done my Google research, I was well versed in the experiences of others, and laughed as he launched into his ‘Eat Pray Love’ role. Laughed in a good way.
Afterwards, collecting 150 000 Rupiah as a matter of standard business ($15), his eyes glazed as he looked towards the next tourist. Where was the man I’d sat with for over an hour, chatting blissfully about life’s mundane issues, as he turned them into a comedy sketch worthy of the world’s funniest comics?
Does he make people feel happy? Yes. Undoubtedly so. His spirit is infectious. I can only imagine that, before the ‘Eat Pray Love’ phenomenon, his reputation as a Medicine Man within the community was well founded. And, in fact, better put to use than the farce that has now been created for the sole purpose of the tourism industry. But, if you’ve travelled to Bali, experienced the poverty, smelt the decay of an ineffectual economy, you can only smile at the profit gained by Westerner’s insatiable need to endorse and ‘be touched by’ celebrity.
Was it worth it? Resoundingly, yes. There was Eating, there was Praying, and there was a feeling of Love. Just get there early to see the man, then the illusion is obvious. Therein lies the lesson.