Lotus flowers in the garden of Ketut Liyer.
So I have just returned from a beautiful holiday in Ubud, Bali. I was lucky enough to share this holiday with a group of family and friends who joined my partner and I in celebrating our marriage. But more on that another time.
Let’s talk about Ketut Liyer; or Ketut Liar as he became known in my circle. He comes across as a sweet, happy little old man with a huge grin which displays a remaining two or three teeth. Upon arrival to his traditional family compound the first thing I notice is just how well off this family is. My family and I had been to visit a typical Balinese family compound only days before and they seemed to be lacking the flat screen TVs, shiny surfaces and immaculate gardens of the Liyer residence. There were beautiful little lotus ponds and more birds in cages then I had ever seen outside of an overstocked pet shop.
We were greeted and each asked to take a number tag from a little hook on a post. I got number 5. We were then directed to take a look around the grounds; there was guest accommodation at the back of the compound and some cleared land where some building work was soon to take place. After a quick look around, we decided to take a seat in the waiting area which consisted of a couple of comfortable lounges underneath some framed photos of Ketut and family with Julia Roberts on a little verandah with a view to Ketut on the opposite side of the compound. He was sitting cross legged facing a Japanese tourist who seemed to be listening intently and laughing along with Ketut at all the right times. It was at this point that my father decided he no longer wanted a reading. “It’s too commercial”, he said. “It’s not what I expected”. “Fair enough”, I said, “I see what you mean, but he did come recommended by a local guide”. You see, we had not gone searching for the acclaimed Ketut Liyer of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ fame; no, he had been recommended to us by a local guide without any prompting. My thinking was that if a local is recommending him, he must be good. Regardless of this, dad gave his number (8) to another member of our group who was initially only along for a sticky beak. By this point in time there were quite a few more tourists waiting. Mostly Japanese and Korean and one lone European girl who had the aura of a free spirit on a spiritual quest who had been driven all the way from Kuta.
I was the first of my group to meet with Ketut. I approached the verandah and started to take my shoes off. “250”, a younger man (possibly a son or grandson) stated while holding out his hand. “250?” I repeated. “Yes, 250”, the man confirmed. I was a little taken aback. You certainly aren’t asked to pay upfront for this type of service in Australia. A good psychic knows that it’s not always possible to give a reading to every single person who books an appointment, plus it’s a rather hefty sum for any service offered in Bali. In Australia, this would have sent me packing immediately, but I just put it down to cultural differences and handed over my 250,000 rupiah while swallowing my feeling of being cheated.
The reading itself went something like this: He looked at my left hand and squeezed it so the palm was all squished up, “You so lucky, everything you do success, are you married?” Yes, I say. “You so pretty”, he says while touching parts of my face and ears, “You so lucky, everything you do success, you married?” Yes, I say. This continues for quite some time. All the while he is reading either my left palm, face, back of neck, legs and left arm. About 4 or 5 minutes into the reading; and probably about the same number of questions regarding my marital status later, my nostrils are invaded with an intense smell of urine. Oh dear, I think they may have an adult nappy on him. At this point I am feeling concerned for the poor old man. Is senility starting to kick in? Does he have a choice in whether he participates in this ‘fortune telling’ scheme?
Three more family members visited with Ketut after me and were told almost exactly the same. Lucky, successful, pretty, long life, marry soon, etc.
I think Ketut Liyer is a people pleaser. At an age when most family elders are left to their devices, sitting on the verandahs of their huts within the family compound, chewing betel nut and slicing bamboo or slowly whittling wood with arthritic fingers, Ketut is not only contributing to his family in a huge way, but he is also sharing laughs and smiles with hundreds of local and international visitors each week, all of whom are coming specifically to see him. I can understand how he must feel pressured to give the people what they want.
I certainly hold no ill will towards the old man. He seems to simply be playing the card he was dealt. That being said, I certainly will not be recommending a visit to Mr Ketut Liyer to anyone looking for anything more than a simple celebrity encounter.
Good night and I wish you long life, good luck and success in everything you do. 🙂