Friday, June 1, 2012

I love Bali: Ubud: The Yogi’s playground

by June Arya on 2012-05-31
While the influx of foreign artists around the 1920s and 1930s brought the creative atmosphere to local young Ubud artists, the recent world fever, EPL (or Eat, Pray, Love) in 2010, almost a century later, did the reverse. Both, no doubt, have successfully brought in fame and money. Ubud’s transformation process, from “home of the artists” to “yogi’s playground”, is somewhat a cultural product innovation.

The earlier era produced more tangible products, like artworks and museums, for instance.

The following era is more provocative with its intangible products; this era sells the atmosphere promoted in
Julia Roberts’ movie, EPL.

The movie was the usual Hollywood drama, but which influenced so many women across the world to leave their job and come to dream in Bali.

Thanks to Oprah, as well, for the great support. Indeed, Bali, as love-finding or pilgrimage
destination has suffered a rise in its economic growth from EPL. Further, in the effort for these women to find their true love (the men just need to sit and wait for the falling star – isn’t it a reversal to the general rule of Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus?) they save on their money for tickets to Italy and India by devouring it all at once in Ubud. Love is blind, love conquers — these sayings in fact are true. Fortunately, though not as popular as now, Ubud already has some yoga institutions (or similar), therefore they make an easy profit out of these “pilgrims”.

The pilgrims, mostly women, fantasize about living like Liz Gilbert (the EPL author), learning yoga, or becoming a yoga teacher in Ubud, with occasional visits to Ketut Liyer, the healer who is now probably as famous as Osama bin Laden, not in terrorism, but in futurism.

The difference between a healer and a palm-reader does not seem to bother anyone.

Also yoga, which was originally an ancient Hindu teaching to exercise physical, mental and spiritual discipline for health and to reach liberation from the material world, thus becomes commercialized.

It isn’t new, but it has grown bigger. To enroll in a yoga class or a workshop in Ubud is not cheap. Some workshops are equipped with a full sound system for their nightly music concerts. Yes, a music concert, which is ticketed more expensively than the front row seat in Hanoi’s opera house.

Despite the loud call for yoga in Ubud carrying the name of Bali, the locals, local musicians, in general, have never taken part in these festivities; sometimes they have never even heard of such taking place in their area.

Their identity has been borrowed, but they were excluded from their own land. The case is quite similar to the apartheid of South Africa, where here, the Ubudese are divided into local Ubudese and foreign Ubudese, each with “their own line to queue”.

Foreigners have turned Balinese spirituality into a sporting event. Yoga is expensive, spirituality is unaffordable, one can gain awareness after spending one month’s salary in one day, or a week, if lucky.

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