"Every one of my books have killed me a little." ~ Norman Mailer

National Geographic

He asked;

What did you get from Ubud?

If he wasn’t oh-so-slightly condescending in his tone, I might have happily answered the Timekeeper. “I got you a ceramic teapot! I got Inong a sarung. I got a tan. I got…” – and I would have insulted his intelligence and would never be allowed to travel by myself ever again.

You’re never an adult in the eyes of your own parents and tutors, man, no siree.

The Timekeeper didn’t want simple answers. It was a TRICK QUESTION because what he actually meant was “What have you learned from a week in Bali that you couldn’t have learned in two years of living with me and our wall-to-wall book collection?” - Because that trip to Ubud was under his holy permission, you see?

What Ubud Puffy Festival was about;

I couldn’t resist the temptation to sniff atSeno Gumira’s graying locks and inhale Wole Soyinka’s breath. It’s a changing moment when you smell beer and two-days of expensive pillowcase off mythical demigod famous and Nobel Prize winning writers. (But hey, after Obama, hmm.)

I wanted to be unstarstruck. I wanted to see writers in the flesh so that I can identify with a writers’ humanity. What genes to they have that I don’t?! How could they, and I couldn’t?

After a few days of seeing writers mingling with wannabes, the stardust wore off and the half-expected disappointment took place. It's easier to be cynical when you see how normal and tired and old and bored full-fledged writers are. Ever read stories by Hari Kunzru, Angelo R. Lacuesto or Nelden Djakababa? No? That's okay.


So, while I wasn't sinking into the possibility I might never make it as a writer anything, there's still the Timekeeper to answer to.

There's still the horror that the time and money and friends made and conversations exchanged in Ubud – for a WEEK, yessir - might have piled up into nothing but a scratch on my royal wannabe butt.

What I should’ve said;

Soyinka was asked; in what way that imprisonment for his work had effected him. The old man rolled his eyes and said “It didn’t.”

In return, Seno once compared writing with carpentry, that writing as layman as any other kind of job. Nothing to brag about. Nothing to feel ashamed of.

Seno and Soyinka summed up the writer’s curse. That a writer just does what he had to do. And if he had to do anything else, he probably wouldn't be any good at it.

That it doesn’t matter whether or not you get paid and published for giving birth to a half-good book or blog articles. Writers are supposed to break their glass ceilings and expectations, because writing is just another demanding, annoying, unforgiving slab of stone or unholy child. Writers are supposed to write for the sake of writing. To have the story told.

Prosecution, jail terms, ashes of failure and obscurity – well, damn those uninsurable job hazards.


Unfortunately, by the time the answer took form, the Timekeeper was already busy receiving his guests and I didn’t have anyone to answer to anymore.

Which is why I had to take my seat and…write it down.

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