When I visited Bali in January 2013, I wouldn’t have thought that my life had leapt out from a broken heart man to an elevated, enlightened one. At the time, Bali just healed from the wound of religiously motivated violent extremism. Tourism regrew its roots, and sprouts of hopes emerged from its soils. So, where else could you learn resilience? But it wasn’t Bali that healed my broken heart. It wasn’t a temple visit and blessing from a Hindu priest that elevated me from the downfall of humanity and regained my belief in human values.
Along the path of my journey, I’ve met many people from different walks of life. They all came to Bali for millions of reasons. They live from the island’s good regrowth of tourism. But because of them, I got up from falling. They show me what it takes for them to live dangerously while being gay or transgender. They’ve become my support system, my family. Hence, my travel memoir ‘Of fire water earth’ has never been about me, a story of a broken-heart traveller. I dedicated it to them. Many people whom I’d met in Bali and built a friendship when my world back home was crumbling.
But then, all of a sudden, something unforeseeable stroke me like lightning in broad daylight. It was Lee’s death in 2017. His death was in the times when we just mended and patched the hole in our friendship. I could have given both of us times to settle the troubled dust. I could have had time for everything. I could always get away from everything in my life. I just waited and did nothing because I always believed in time. Because people had told me many times that only time can heal this and that and so on. So I always thought that time would have always been on my side. I always waited for the right timing before making a decision. I always waited before the others start to call me. I always waited for everything. I always escaped, then stayed and waited somewhere. I always thought that time was infinite. Time would always here for me, and it was always forgiving. I misjudged. In fact, I miscarried many opportunities in my lifetime.
Lee’s death and many deaths of friends that followed afterwards changed my perception. Time isn’t infinite but limited. Time never healed my broken heart, as many people suggested. Time wouldn’t always wait for me. It never compromised. Never was always on my side. But time has been my real enemy all along. It took away and never returned the ones I loved. It turned my juvenility into adulthood. It stole my youth — time aged me unmercifully.
And here I am, picking up the last pieces of hope that one day soon I’ll be back in Bali — my spiritual home for long decades now. My university degree could teach me economics, critical thinking, and other academic causes and reasons. But here I am, reconciling with an intangible cause beyond any reasons. It is death.
So before my time too comes to an end, I want to understand death. I want to compromise with mortality. I want to understand what death is and how it is different from me, growing up in a materialistic Western country. I want to know how their spirituality helps them overcome grief and how they grieve over the loss of loved ones.
Now I can feel a ring of fires creeping up on me. Before I turn into ashes, I hope this one will be the last lesson of life Bali will ever teach me.