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更新时间:2018-7-17 20:16:24 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The woman with an unspeakable name

I’d like to introduce you to a wonderful old woman whose age is indeterminable and whose name is unspeakable.


It’s not that she’s at all sensitive about her age. She was born in Bali at a time – perhaps 80-odd years ago – when births were not accurately recorded. Sometime around Indonesian independence in 1945, she was issued with an ID card, but she lost that many years ago and it wasn’t worth getting a replacement since she never strays more than a few hundred metres from her home in Pekutatan, a fishing village on Bali’s remote south-west coast.

并不是因为她对其年龄太过敏感。她可能在80多年前出生在印尼巴厘岛—— 当时没有出生的准确记录。大约在1945年印尼独立早期,这位女士获得了身份证,但多年后又丢失了。对于她来说,身份证丢失并不需要特意去补领,因为她只生活在离家几百米范围内,她家位于巴厘岛偏远的西南海岸的佩库塔腾(Pekutatan)渔村。

She’s not deliberately mysterious about her name either. These days, the entire community calls her simply Nenek (grandmother). I’m not superstitious at all, but my long familiarity with Balinese customs means that even I would shudder to use her name. You see, the gods are said to have a list of people who are due to be summoned into the afterlife, and to speak Nenek’s name aloud could alert them to the presence of someone who’s been overlooked.


In a country where the unifying language of Bahasa Indonesia is spoken by almost the entire population, Nenek is one of only a few remaining people who can only communicate in a regional language (in her case Balinese). While my Indonesian is more than sufficient for conversation with the rest of Nenek’s brood, I’ve never learned more than a smattering of the local Balinese. The fact that, in recent years, Nenek has become increasingly hard of hearing has further stymied our attempts at communication. Lately, however, I’ve been charmed to notice that Nenek seems content to communicate more and more with hugs and simple, silent hand-holding.

在一个几乎全民都在使用统一的印尼语(Bahasa Indonesia)的国家,祖母属于只能使用地区语言(于她而言,即巴厘语)与人交流的少数人。虽然我的印尼语足以与祖母的家人进行对话,但当地的巴厘语我只是懂一点皮毛。近年来,祖母的听力越来越差,使我与她的沟通更加困难。然而,最近我十分欣喜地发现祖母似乎更喜欢与人拥抱,或者干干脆脆地与你握手。

I lived with Nenek’s family for a year around 15 years ago, and am so fond of them that they’ve become my adopted second family. So now, let me take you on a visit to their family home.


As we step off the sunlit lane, glowing with bougainvillea and perfumed with the sweet tang of jasmine, the first thing you’ll notice is the guardian shrine that protects the house. The next thing you’ll see will be Nenek, or her daughter-in-law Ketut, emerging from the kitchen with a Balinese sing-song Hindu greeting – “om swastiastu” – and an invitation to have coffee.

当我们走下阳光明媚的小巷,迎面而来是勒杜鹃的鲜艳夺目,空气中弥漫着茉莉花的甜蜜芳香,你首先留意到的是保护一家平安的守护神龛。接下来你看到的便是祖母,或者是她的媳妇克图特(Ketut),两人从厨房里走出来,唱着巴厘岛印度教的迎宾歌 - “欢迎您的到来”(om swastiastu) - 然后邀请你品尝咖啡。

It is virtually impossible to visit without drinking a glass of the kopi that was harvested locally and roasted at a house just down the road. And why would you refuse? Ketut’s sweet, strong, black coffee is some of the best in Bali and is such a delicious caffeine- and sugar-rush that you must force yourself to stop before you reach the half-inch of grainy mud at the bottom of the glass. Long before you’ve reached that stage, Nenek will have emerged again from the kitchen with a little plate of sumpit (rice-flour dumplings steamed in banana leaves) or bantal (rice, groundnuts and banana steamed in young palm leaves). If there are no sweet snacks, there will, at least, be some freshly harvested pisang emas. These so-called ‘gold bananas’ are the most deliciously sweet bananas in the world.

你若是拜访巴厘人家,你不喝一杯在当地采收并在路边一间屋子里烘烤的咖啡(kopi,指咖啡),几乎是不可能的。而且你为什么要拒绝呢?克图特煮的既香醇又浓郁的黑咖啡可以说是巴厘岛最好喝的咖啡,它是咖啡因和食糖的完美结合,所以在你喝到离玻璃杯底部还有半英寸的颗粒状咖啡渣之前,你必须强迫自己停下来。而早在你快喝完那杯咖啡前,祖母就会从厨房里出来,带着一小碟甜点,sumpit(用香蕉叶包着蒸熟的米粉饺子)或者是bantal(用鲜嫩棕榈叶包裹蒸熟的米饭,花生和香蕉)。如果没有甜点,那么至少会有一些新鲜收获的金香蕉(pisang emas,巴厘语中指金香蕉)。这些所谓的"金香蕉"是世界上最美味的香蕉。

Ketut will have prepared the food in her old-style dapur (kitchen). Traditional kitchens of this sort are rarely found even in the remotest communities on the island these days. Back when I first lived with the family, Nenek’s grandson Kadek (a dive guide on the reefs off eastern Bali) had recently built a new house for them, right next to the old one. But old habits die hard here, and neither Nenek nor Ketut ever trusted the shiny, tiled kitchen. They gave it a suspicious glance and promptly went back to their customary cooking position, squatting beside a driftwood fire within the slatted bamboo walls of the old dapur. Neither did they sleep in the new house, until, 15 years later, the leaky roof of the old house finally threatened to cave in entirely.


Dreams are considered of momentous importance in Bali: “My dreams are more delicious when I sleep in the old house,” Nenek’s son Sudana (Ketut’s husband) once told me.


You might still be sipping the coffee when Sudana himself comes down the steps from the road. Depending on the hour, he’ll either have been cutting grass as fodder for his four pink buffalo or he’ll just have returned homeward along the black-sand beach from the two rice paddies he leases from a local landowner.


A couple of years ago, I came up with a plan that would combine the presence of the enchanting pink buffalo with the beauty of that beach, and give Sudana what I hoped would be an easier retirement plan for his old age: I had a colourful cart made and Sudana spent some time training his buffalo so that he could shuttle surfers between Pekutatan and the famous surf-break at Medewi. Things didn’t work out as planned, however. Within a short time, the female buffalo had to retire on maternity leave, and now all that remains of our briefly famous ‘beach taxi’ is the pair of brightly painted cartwheels that adorn the walls of my own house in the village.


Sudana joins us for coffee and we chat about the ever-changing conditions of the rice paddies – a perennial preoccupation in rural Bali. Nenek sits nearby, silently but contentedly occupied with her chores. It’s said that in rural Bali that more than half of a family’s income is spent on the endless cycle of temple ceremonies, and both Nenek and Ketut seem to fill every spare minute with preparing the little offerings that are the spiritual bread and butter of the ‘Island of the Gods’.

苏达那和我们一起喝着咖啡,聊着稻田的耕耘和收割 —— 这是巴厘岛农村终年不断的繁忙劳作。祖母坐在旁边,安详而又满足地操劳着她的家务。据说,在巴厘岛的农村,一家人的收入一半以上是花费在无休止的神庙仪式庆典上,祖母和克图特两人似乎只要有一分钟的空闲时间,都要用来准备小小的供品,那是属于“岛屿上的众神们”的精神食粮。

Nenek, occasionally smiling at us, staples intricate little leaf saucers together using splinters of palm stem. She’s so accustomed to the work that she barely needs to look. These saucers will often be used to present coffee to the spirits that act as temple guardians, to keep them alert for the demons that haunt the beaches. At other times, she might be busy weaving ketupat, the tiny latticework baskets that look like Balinese Rubik’s Cubes. They’re so complicated that I’ve never known a foreigner to succeed in making one, yet both Ketut and Nenek are able to complete one in less than a minute. (Ketut’s record by my stopwatch was 28 seconds.)


These ketupat are reserved for bigger ceremonies. They’re half filled with rice and boiled for several hours so that the rice swells into a solid block. It’s unusual if a week goes by without a large ceremony somewhere in the immediate neighbourhood.


Sudana plays in the local Balinese temple orchestra known as the gamelan and practices at least once a week at a neighbour’s home, serenading us late into the evening. If it’s your first visit to his home, Sudana might offer to show you around their small family temple: behind delightfully moss-laden walls adorned with the Hindu swastika stand the various stone shrines that protect the house. Beyond the temple is a little grove of coconut, cacao, banana, papaya and coffee trees, and you might hear the grunt of a pig that is destined to become a ‘guest of honour’ at some forthcoming ceremony, when it’ll be served up as babi guling. Literally meaning ‘turned pig’, babi guling is roasted on a spit over the course of many hours and could be considered the Balinese national dish.

苏达那是当地被称为甘美朗(gamelan)的巴厘神庙乐队中的一名乐手,他每周至少在邻居的家中练习一次,那美妙的乐声会让我们沉醉其中,不觉黄昏已至。如果这是你第一次来他家作客,苏达那可能会带你看看他们的家庙:在装饰有印度教吉祥标志万字符(swastika)满是青苔的墙壁后面,是保护一家平安的各种石头神龛。家庙外是一个小树林,种植着椰子,可可,香蕉,木瓜和咖啡树。你可能会听到一头猪的咕噜声,这头猪注定要在某个即将到来的庆典中成为“贵宾”,作为babi guling献给神灵。babi guling在巴厘语的字面意思是“旋转烤猪”,因为巴厘人把整只猪叉到铁枝上旋转烧烤数个小时。烤猪肉通常被视为巴厘人的国菜。

It’s late afternoon by now, and Sudana, with typical Balinese hospitality, will almost certainly invite you to stay for dinner. Ketut might have prepared her deliciously spicy nasi goreng (fried rice), and there will be some vegetables in sauce. There might very likely be some sea-fish satays, barbecued using a clever invention that avoids the endlessly finicky turning of satay sticks: instead, a whole bunch of sticks are impaled in a hunk of banana tree so Sudana can simply turn the entire batch all in one go. There might be some shreds of chicken in sauce if there’s been a ceremony in the street lately, but that’s the only time meat is likely to be on the menu.

现在已是傍晚,拥有着传统的巴厘式热情的苏达那,一定会邀请你留下来吃晚饭。克图特可能已经准备了可口的辛辣炒饭(nasi goreng,巴厘语指炒饭),并且会有一些蔬菜汤汁。很可能还会有一些沙爹味的海鱼烤串,这道菜利用一个巧妙的方法来烧烤,避免了不厌其烦地翻动沙爹竹签。苏达那会将一大堆竹签插入一大截香蕉树干,然后只要转动香蕉树干就行了。如果最近街上有庆典举行,可能家里会剩下一些酱汁鸡肉,只有庆典之日巴厘人的菜单上才會见到肉类(meat,海產不包括在內)。

Fridges are a relatively recent arrival here so the community still has the habit of sharing among the neighbours. Ketut will offer you a fork and spoon to eat with, but a beaming smile is sure to break out on Sudana’s face if you decide to ‘go local’ and eat with your hand: “Lebih enak!” he chortles happily – more delicious that way.

冰箱在巴厘岛是新近才有的生活用品,因为没有冰箱无法保存食物,所以在社区里仍然有在邻居之间互相分享食物的习惯。克图特会为你提供一把叉子和一个勺子,但如果你决定"当一回本地人",用你的手吃饭,你一定会看到苏达那脸上灿烂的笑容。如果你再说一句,“这样更美味哦!” (Lebih enak!),他會愉快地笑出声来。

Nenek will sit close while you eat, silently happy to be in company. As a visitor, you’d assume that Nenek is Sudana’s real mother. In all senses apart from the biological one, she is. You see, Nenek never had a son and her only daughter moved to the east of the island when she got married. This meant that when Nenek’s own husband died many years ago, she would have nobody to look after her in her old age. So, with the typical practicality of the Balinese, Sudana’s parents (who had several children) and lived nearby gave him to Nenek to raise as her own. It’s a common system here with no stigma attached, and it continues even today.


Little Ayu, the baby of the family and at 11 years old one of the village’s most talented traditional dancers, was also given to the family, by her father (Sudana’s brother) when she was still a baby. Ayu’s biological parents were having trouble making ends meet with the children they already had, and Sudana’s sons had already grown and left home. So Ayu now has two sets of parents. She delights in spending time with her biological mother and father (who live in the same street), but it’s clear that Sudana and Ketut’s house is ‘home’ to her.


Once when Lucia, my 13-year-old daughter, visited from Spain where she lives with her mother, she accepted an invitation to a sleepover with our Balinese family. She slept squashed in a bed with Ayu, Ketut and Nenek, and was squatting contentedly by the dapur fire eating rice with her hand when I arrived to collect her the next morning. It’s a sign of the easy-going charm of this delightful family that without a word of the same language in common, Lucia was able to fit right in.


Nenek seems to have a talent for communication. Long experiences seem to have shown her that often a hug is all it takes.