Yesterday my sister came home, she found me reading a book. I was surprise and glad to see her. I am very happy when my sibling visits me. She saw my books in the shelf and said, “It is good making book as your friend”. I know what she refered ‘friend’ means girlfriend. I am in my forties still being single, and perhaps not getting married and books give me company.
I made her some tea and some cookies to nibble. She is the left one in the photo. She is small lean woman 58 years old, hard worker, talkative and strong at heart. I like her perpective about life even she never went to school but she indeed had learned through her hard life. She had raised her children well in the hard time and schooled them till senior high school.
She wants to keep money with my brother in case she could not work again in the future. She often had told us that her son neglects and hardly looks after her. Saving in the bank is not her option because she is illiterate. I feel pitty about it in the old age like now she is still facing hard life. This is the general life of people with lower income here. When they are getting old, mostly their children do not look after them.
She got married at the age of 17, it was hard period for everybody in the eighties. When many people ate rice only on Galungan day which happens every 7 months. We ate dried sweet potatoes every day, vegetables and often no meat, perhaps tofu or salted fish sometimes.
My sister sold herbal drink or firewood to get some money to serve food for her family. Her husband likely had lack of responsibility to their family and was unable to make good decision in critical situation. Many times she handled things well for their family. They had raised a son and a daughter whom give them grandchildren which the oldest grandson is 18 years of age now. For many years she have bad relationship with her husband’s family.
Like other parent my sister was working hard to run the family, providing food, sending her children to school, holding many rituals tradition, but she did not or could not afford to save money for the old age. Pension is only given for the one who works for government, while most of the people being poor farmer.
In our tradition every woman will get married and live with her husband and his family in the house compound. Here usually lives three to four men with their wives, children and grandchildren. Yes it is a big family. Balinese believes having many children is better, with the thought their sons and daughters can help the parent in rice field.
I imagine of a happy big family live in harmony in the house compound. But in reality is a little different. Living with many heads with different thoughts and emottions could be challenging. With difficulty of financial, thing could go wrong easily. When stomach is empty brain will not work properly. This is where the drama begun amongst the family members. Cold war of mother in law with daughter in law is classic problem around the world just like here. A son who treat his old parents badly, or fighting about family inherentance, and more domestic trouble. I heard these stories everywhere. And it needs huge understanding and compassion being in the family
It happens to my sister as well. In the cold war big family she had work hard to raise her children, giving the best she could do. But she still struggles to live and neglected by her son when she is no longer young.
I love my tradition, the rituals, temples, and our ways of life. It has attracted tourist around the world to visit us and seeing our culture. Life is moving forward and sometimes not toward the direction that we want. But I hope the value of our tradition not fading away.