The Hidden Foot  


 John Michael Gorrindo



All the girls thought of Indah as the real sweetheart of the crew.  She was the one whose cheery disposition could be counted on as a constant.  And in deed, she was always thinking of the others.  She regularly brought traditional confections to work with her that she had baked in her tiny kitchen, making sure everyone shared in the treats she so loved to offer.  It was Indah who would run home to grab some medicine if one of the girl;s was sick.  Their concerns were her concerns, and she was always there for them.  Indah was one of those rare souls who treated everyone equally and valued them all the same.

Indah’s kost was next to the railway station and across the street was where she and the girls worked.  Convenience was important to Indah as she was always busy with some project or another, and simply walking across the street to work was her preference. 

Never mind the shaking of the earth beneath her feet nor the rattling of her flimsy boarding room walls each time a train rumbled into or out of the station; nor the screech of  brakes as a train slowed into the station platforms.  None of it ever bothered her in the least, and she even found pleasure in watching her bottles of lotions, creams, and other make-up dance to the vibrations atop her vanity as she made up her face in preparation for each night’s work when the eight o’clock train trundled past.

Working at Hotel Pariwisata wasn’t such a bad job.  The owner was a Chinese man who had better things to do than to meddle in the girls’ affairs beyond a simple accounting for the number of clients they entertained each night.  He was courteous as a general rule, and made sure the manager-on-site treated the girls decently.

Originally the owner had bought the three story hotel with plans to operate it as a conventional tourist establishment, but the political upheavals of the country following the monetary crisis of 1998 put an end to that.  The flow of tourists was reduced to a trickle, and the lost revenues forced him to shut down indefinitely.

His attempts to sell the massive building failed, and he felt it necessary to bring in the girls as a last measure.  His other business concerns were being affected by the hotel’s failure, and he couldn’t suffer any more losses.

Some of the girls lived at the hotel as boarders, which they had to pay for, of course.  And all of the girls could use their rooms for entertaining their clients.  In fact, that was the owner’s preference.  The proceeds were split evenly between the hotel and the girls.

It was a simple system, and didn’t require a lot of management.  Other boarders rented out rooms as well, but the owner let them rooms in a separate part of the hotel, somewhat removed from the nightly action.

The operation’s overhead wasn’t too dear for the owner, but he had to keep up good relations with the local police chief in order to keep the pay-offs in line.  He was always careful to suspend operations on religious holidays and keep the girls off the street in front of the hotel when the chief alerted him to the periodic sweeps of the area around the railway station.  The chief, too, had to keep up appearances of doing his job.

Otherwise, the girls would congregate each night in front of the hotel around 9 PM.  Business was never very brisk, and there was no pressure to show up on time.  In fact, not showing up at all was always an option.  The owner knew many of the girls’ histories such as the details concerning their family lives.  Most of them were a little older and had children who often lived with relatives in another city.  The girls would routinely send money back home, and often commute out of town to see their children a couple of days a week.  As long as a dozen or so would report to work each night, the owner was satisfied.  Keeping everyone happy made for better business and a lot less headaches.  Family was everyone’s primary concern, and the owner respected that.  As long as the girl’s communicated clearly concerning their comings and goings to the manager-on-site, the owner would almost always allow the girls time off to take care of family business.

Sitting out front of the hotel every night from 9 PM to 2 AM on plastic chairs, or leaning up against the hotel’s wrought iron fence wasn’t ever too comfortable, but the girls got used to it.  Almost all the girls routinely wore dresses and carried a purse.  But Indah favored dark pants and a long black frock.  She had chubby legs for one thing, but she was a little cold blooded as well.  Even in the tropics, she was cold at night without a coat.

Indah was not a sleek, well-proportioned beauty, but rather squat and a little pudgy.  What her body didn’t possess was made-up for by a large, inviting face and a beautiful head of thick, curly black hair, and she gave plenty of attention to her hair styling and make-up.  It was better she covered up her body and draw attention to her greatest assets- her large, lustrous eyes; spacious, endearing smile; and alluring curls.

Along with these attractive features, Indah would draw in her customers with a patter of friendly salutations and good-natured chatter as if calling out to an old friend.  Her cheeriness and natural love of people were her true calling cards, and why not make business as casual and enjoyable as possible?  On the contrary, many of the girls were dour acting and sour-faced, readily expressing contempt for their work and the men who browsed and inspected their personal goods on the streets in front of the hotel.

Yes, the girls all loved Indah, and didn’t mind her ebullient style being so different from their own.  They were fortunate to call her one of their own, and they knew it.

Whereas most of the girls had children whom they would call on every week or sometimes just on occasion, Indah never did visit her eight year old son.  Most of the girls hailed from hometowns outside of the city, relocating in order to keep the true nature of their work secret from their families and friends.  Many of their common difficulties had to do with leading a double life.

But Indah’s son and the aunt and uncle who took care of him lived just across town.  Indah had decided it was best to sever relations.  Maybe it was due to the shame, and maybe, too, the pain of having been violently attacked by her husband, leaving her in fear for her life.  But he was dead now, and could no longer be considered a threat.  Still, after she fled from him bearing knife wounds to her neck and shoulder, she could not face ever returning home.  All this and more continued to hold her back from reuniting with her son.

Clients would often notice and inquire about the scars on her neck and shoulder.  She would always freely tell then what had happened.  Privacy in such delicate matters wasn’t valued by the culture anyway, and Indah felt unencumbered in revealing the details of her past to almost any inquiring client.  Foreigners in particular she found to be drawn to her more closely after the intimate sharing of her life history.  As a result, they would often become repeat customers, and this was crucial to her economic survival.

If Indah developed an ongoing relationship with a client, he was almost always foreign.  The locals didn’t have the money to bear such an expense.  And Indah would do all she could to talk the foreigner into having relations off work hours at her kost, offering them the warmth of a home environment.  That way she didn’t have to share the proceeds with Hotel Pariwisata.  This was a practice strictly frowned upon by the Chinese owner, but Indah’s need for money drove her to it.  She valued her independence, and felt she could only have it if she lived in her own room away from the hotel.  This independence came at a cost, as it was significantly more expensive to rent an outside room rather than stay at the hotel.  Besides, the Chinese owner liked her.  She was valuable to him.  Indah took her chances according to these calculated risks.

Across the street from Hotel Pariwisata was Hotel Kota, an older colonial-style establishment whose decorous interior was stately after its own fashion.  Catering mainly to foreign tourists and traveling businessmen, the hotel’s quiet hallways passed by rooms with louvered wooden doors and tiled en suite landings comfortable both for sitting and dining, cooled by large ceiling fans the size of old-fashioned airplane propeller blades.  Tiny tropical birds chirped away, perched inside large cages tucked away in corners of the hotel, and darkly-tinted translucent roofing filtered just enough sun light into the hallways to provide for the healthy growth of potted plants and flowers.  Amongst it all was set a small fountain which merrily gurgled and flowed.  There was a hushed ambience to the hotel that gave guests a sense of privacy and peace.

Hotel Pariwisata’s kupu-kupu malam- its butterflies of the night- were allowed by management to fly in and out of the Hotel Kota, as long as they did it quietly and discretely.  The hotel front desk allowed them access, and the girls kept up good relations by tipping them each time they dropped by to call.

Basil had flown in from Jakarta early in the morning, and taking a taxi to the hotel from the airport, checked into Hotel Kota around 10 AM.  Upon check-in, he quickly had the front desk book him a seat in a chartered van in order to visit the great Buddhist temple of Borobudur the next morning.
Basil was no stranger to Yogyakarta.  As a cultural anthropologist who held a post as lecturer in South East Asian studies at a major university in London, his expertise in Central Javanese culture and history had brought him to the city many times before.  This trip had a particularly serious purpose.  Basil had come to collect hundreds of photographs of Borobudur’s stone relief carvings.  Of the temple’s ten series of reliefs carved into the balustrades and galleries of its lower four tiers, his department’s photographic collection was incomplete, lacking the upper panels of the first tier.  These reliefs depicted the tales of the Lalitavistara, which detailed the story of the Buddha’s own path to enlightenment.  Basil’s skills as a photographer were greatly admired by his colleagues, and he was chose by quick consensus to do the job.

Retiring to his room, Basil unpacked his camera bag, checking to make sure his camera, lenses, and accessories were all accounted for and intact.  He always carried the precious equipment in the sturdy carrying case keeping the strap slung across his shoulder, even when seated in an airplane.  He would check through the entire contents before leaving one hotel and upon arriving at another without fail.

Basil hoped Hotel Kota was as safe as reported.  He had never stayed at the hotel before, but was persuaded to by a fellow colleague who claimed the hotel possessed some colonial charm.  But Basil was most interested in security, and the hotel did have a safe.  The hotel staff seemed exceptionally friendly and accommodating, as well.  There were times he would have to secure his camera bag in the hotel’s safe, and he would not have stayed if he hadn’t been shown the safe himself.  The staff was happy to personally show him the safe in the back office. 

It was critical Basil catch an early ride to the great temple, as he needed to arrive during the morning hours in order to take light meter readings of the first tier’s galleries.  The temple’s four sides orthogonally faced each cardinal direction.  The east-facing entrance was directly in the path of the rising sun, and the series of reliefs started there, the panels set according to a narrative sequence running clockwise around the square base of the temple’s pyramidal structure which consisted of ten separate levels reaching skyward some thirty-five meters. 

Basi would make several light readings on the first day, along with dozens of test photos with a digital camera along all four sides of the lowest tier.  The play between light and shadow that change constantly as the sun arced across the top of the temple provided a technical challenge Basil had to suss out.  The tall balustrades complicated matters considerably, as many of the reliefs were thrown into half or full shadow depending on the sun’s position.  The goal was to render each panel photographically equivalent in terms of contrast, saturation, and color balance.  Basil could get away with less than this as he could edit the photos digitally, but he wouldn’t be satisfied as a purist who prided himself on attention to detail and control of photographic parameters.

The van arrived to pick up Basil promptly at 8 AM the next morning, and with a few other tourists already on board, the group was driven out of Yogyakarta through the heavy morning commute along a long, straight stretch of highway, much of it bearing multiple lanes of traffic all the way out to the turn off to the temple.

Pulling into the vast parking area that was shared by concessionaries whose canopied spaces and vending shacks were concentrated near the main path leading up to the flat crest of land upon which the temple was built, the tour group alighted the van, only to be rushed by a dozen or so venders selling what they carried- including postcards, T-shirts, books, wooden Javanese puppets, and stone-carved replicas of the temple and Buddha.  A few of the tourists became caught up in the hawker’s onslaught, but Basil simply cut his way through as if they didn’t exist, and made a bee line for the long, tree-lined path ascending the hill to the temple plot.

Once at the base of the steep, stone staircase accessing the first tier’s galleries on the temple’s east face, he was met by a few tour guides, all of whom spoke good English.  Again, he bustled past them, rejecting their offers by briefly saying, “No thank you,” in a sing-song manner, leaving then standing in their tracks.

It was precisely 9 AM, and the sun was shining directly in between the high balustrades of the first tier’s galleries.  After squarely fitting a hat atop his head, Basil took out his light meter, his digital camera, and note pad; and began to take readings, note their measures, and snap test photos with different combinations of shutter speed and focal lengths.

He worked quickly, methodically repeating the three-stage process every ten meters or so along the gallery’s circumference until he had circumnavigated the entire temple, returning to when he had started.  It was a journey of between one and two hundred meters.  Taking out his water bottle, he drank a few long gulps and the noted the time- 10:55 AM.  The sun had moved and now shown more directly on the second and third tiers.  The first tier’s interior gallery walls now threw their shadows down onto the reliefs of the exterior walls, and Basil proceeded with the second circumnavigation, doing precisely as before,

By the end of the second journey round, his work was becoming more difficult as the number of visitors had swelled, and he had to work around the increasing number of people who walked along the first level’s gallery.

It was well after noon, and the tropical heat was beginning to take a toll on Basil’s energy.  The van would be weaving at 2:00 PM, and his first day’s field work was essentially done.  He would return the next day with an afternoon tour, and complete two more rounds of the temple’s lowest gallery taking measurements and test photos according to the afternoon light. 

Basil descended the temple’s east stair case from the first tier down to ground level and began to slowly walk along the dirt path that led down to the parking lot.  Once he stood at the top of the long staircase that was the entrance to the pathway down, he stopped for a moment, realizing that in his excited determination to accomplish as much work as possible, he had yet taken the time to admire the great temple, a sight whose beauty he sometimes became inured to over years of repeated visits.

After a few minutes of standing back and reminding himself that this was the largest Buddhist temple ever built, and the largest temple of any kind in all the southern hemisphere, his mind suddenly turned to not what loomed before and above him, but what lie buried and hidden from view.

How Basil wished he could view that eleventh series of panels, carved into the face of the so-called Hidden Foot.  In an effort to save the temple from the subsidence and sliding of the earth beneath it, the ancient architects of Borobudur had retrofitted a foundation of sorts.  But in keeping with the temple’s symbolic meaning whereupon each level was representative of a unique stage along the Buddhist path of enlightenment, the Hidden Foot occupied the lowest level, and hence had carved into its face depictions of mankind’s basest desires and passions.  Scenes of debauchery, the ribald, and licentious narrated on these reliefs had been unearthed by an early restorer of the temple in the nineteenth century, but today only a handful of the panels were left exposed to give the public a taste of what lie hidden and buried.

Basil wondered if the buried panels covering Borobudur’s Hidden Foot would ever be allowed to be systematically uncovered and photographed.  They would certainly provide a unique insight into the culture of the little known Saliendra civilization, one of many invading outsiders who flourished for a short time on Java.  Most importantly they had introduced Buddhism most forcefully into Central Java, and with the completion of the Borobudur temple in the mid-ninth century had succeeded in leaving an enduring reminder that Buddhism, along with most of the other world’s dominant religions, had contributed to the development of Javanese history and society.

As would naturally occur to a cultural anthropologist, these thoughts along with many others passed through Basil’s mind as he stood facing the great temple in the tropical heat of early afternoon.  The sweat trickled down his brow from underneath the bill of his hat, prompting him to walk back to the parking lot and catch his lift back to Hotel Kota in downtown Yogyakarta.

On that fast, straight stretch of multi-lane pavement that lie between Borobudur and Yogyakarta, the van carrying Basil and a few other tourists moved at high speed.  Basil was once again amazed at the reckless behavior of so many drivers who frequented this portion of highway.  Though the lanes were clearly marked- a feature rarely included in most Indonesian highway construction- no one took them seriously, and traffic carved out whatever lane space it desired if an opening presented itself.  Larger vehicles ruled the roost, meaning truck and buses forged ahead at will, pushing aside slower and smaller vehicles in their wake.  Though many motorbikes could keep pace and in many cases weaved in and out, around and past much of the traffic, several were burdened with as many as four people, and these bikes were invariably forced off to the highway’s shoulder.  Not infrequently entire families would be seated atop a single motor bike- a tiny tot in the lap of the father who drove, and a second child wedged between him and his wife who often rode side-saddle behind.  Rarely did all four have helmets available to wear.  Basil couldn’t count how many times he had seen a bus rush up from behind such a vulnerable family of four in the slow lane, and it was simply the motorbike’s responsibility to quickly shift position onto the shoulder or be dispatched to kingdom come by the unmerciful aggression that was the signature of every bus driver Basil had ever seen in Java.

Once back at Hotel Kota, Basil showered and dressed in fresh clothes.  He was very hungry, but took the time to review some of the day’s photos before heading out to find a restaurant.  In the relative darkness of his room he could best appraise the quality of the digital photographs, and was quite happy with the qualitative differences he had so hoped would be rendered given his careful control of the parameters.  There was immense satisfaction to be had from employing the scientific method to the physics of light at play in a camera, and the relative arbitrariness of his cultural studies often limited that enjoyment that Basil so dearly loved to experience.  The fact that his colleagues had entrusted him with this photographic expedition meant the world to him, and he was bound to prove his worthiness and return with results that would exceed the high expectations invested in him.

Basil was very fond of Padang cuisine- that Sumatran fare that allowed the diner to have a dozen or so plates and bowls of different food placed before him at the table, and choose to eat from those desired while leaving the rest untouched.  Basil had the front desk lock his camera bag in their safe and then walked a long distance from the hotel- all the way down Jalan Marlioboro to its very end where it teed into Alun-Alun Square and the Sultan’s palace before locating a Padang-style restaurant to his liking.

It was well past 5 PM by this time, and the sun was about to set as Basil sat down to eat.  He devoured a sampling of fish, beef, and chicken hearts, all flavored with three different hot, spicy sauces that was the signature of Padang cuisine, along with the staple white rice and three different types of vegetables.

Though he dared not smoke tobacco back in England, Basil allowed himself the enjoyment of clove cigarettes while in Indonesia, and after dinner he paused to smoke two over a cup of Sumatran coffee.  He ran the length of each cigarette a few times under his nose before lighting up, breathing in deeply the sweet scent of cloves whose oil had spotted the cigarette paper with dozens of delightful dark brown spots having soaked through from the enclosed clove-tobacco mixture so tightly packed that the cigarette lasted two to three times longer than the average mass produced, pedestrian variety.  Like the cigar aficionado who feels free to express his indulgence in a great stogie from Havana, Basil smoked his kretek with equally smug satisfaction.  It was moments like this that Basil felt most viscerally alert and alive.

After expressing his thanks to the restaurant’s proprietor and his wife, Basil walked back up Jalan Marlioboro.  Marlioboro is Yogyakarta’s center for shopping, and though he never cared much for browsing, this street’s best shops located in the store fronts as hidden behind the endless outdoor vending stalls set-up on the sidewalks in front were a constant source of interest for him each time he strode the length of Yogyakarta’s most important and colorful commercial row.  The book stores were of particular interest, as they were some of Indonesia’s best.

Literally scores of horse drawn carriages and carts- in addition to bicycle-powered taxis- crowded the entire length of Marlioboro.  The batik hawkers whose job it was to draw unsuspecting tourists into back alley galleries where unscrupulous art dealers did the bidding for Yogyakarta’s well-known batik mafia were out in full force.  Basil had seen it all before and had been tricked more than once by the faux-batik syndicate’s imaginative sales tactics.  He could only smile and enjoy his elevated mood as a foreigner who had survived the hazing rituals exacted upon the initiates of Marlioboro’s culture of trade and so return to triumphantly enjoy the city as a journeyman whose experience had taught him how to navigate the street’s pitfalls of commercial deceit.

Returning to Hotel Kota, he stopped by the front desk to pick up his key and asked the receptionist if there was an internet café nearby.  She smiled and said, yes, one could be found only one hundred meters down the road.  Basil took his key and camera bag and retired to his room to rest a while.

Two hours later, Basil showered once again and emerged from his room.  He exited the hotel and crossed the street, immediately finding himself in front of Hotel Pariwisata.  It was a little after 9 PM, and the girls were out in full force.  At least fifteen of them either stood or sat in the darkness all along the hotel frontage.
Basil was taken aback by the sight, having no idea that Hotel Kota was a stone’s throw away from such an establishment.  Throughout the day he had been in full command of every moment as his anticipations always befit every circumstance set before him.  But to be suddenly thrust into a throng of prostitutes without expectation momentarily unhinged his thinking and stopped him in his tracks involuntarily.

If Basil had simply continued walking, there was a good chance none of the girls would have even tried to draw his attention.  But there he stood, dumbfounded, staring in the dark at the large group of women.  Most returned his dumbfoundedness in kind, but he heard a voice from a dark corner call out, “Oh, hello Mister!  How are you?  Please!  Look!  I’m over here!  Please!  Come!  Over here!”

Peering over to his left, he spotted a short woman in a long frock with a huge mane of hair stand and wave, her person more visible now as she stepped forward into the soft, warm light of a vendor’s lamp that dimly lit the display of food as set on a shelf behind a piece of protective glass built into the cabinet of a food cart.

When it came to such circumstances, Basil was neither repelled nor necessarily attracted.  As a male of the species, he was neither a prude nor a lady’s man when it came to women- whether they be ladies of the night or otherwise. As a cultural anthropologist he was openly interested in human behavior.  The two factors melded meant he was not averse to mixing with such a crowd, but experientially, he was neither a man about town nor a man who knew his way around the streets, especially at night.
Basil had been married once when young, but it had been short lived.  Now in his mid-forties, he hadn’t even stopped once over the years since his divorce and given thought to the pursuit of even a short term relationship let alone marriage.  His work had captured his attention thoroughly, and had been of primary importance in helping him smooth things over during and after his divorce.  His work had so succeeded in quelling his loss that the ensuing years of aloneness elapsed with an immeasurable quickness. As a proxy of sorts to love of a woman, his love of academics and the secure world of university life had provided him with all the stimulation he had ever seemed to want or need.

Even if it were in all false affectation, Basil hadn’t heard a woman call out to him in such beseeching terms for years, and like a cat suddenly taken by the force of curiosity, he stood frozen, his head trained towards the sound and sight of this strange creature; eyes unblinkingly locked onto the source of this astoundingly foreign stimulation.

“Please, Mister!  Over here!  Come and sit next to me!  Duduk, silahkan!”  The woman patted a red plastic chair that stood empty next to her.

Basil caught himself short, and thought it best to walk on.  He had business to take care of.  But the woman in the frock coat was persistent.  “Oh Mister, please!  Come and sit and relax next to me.”

There was an endearing quality to her voice- not at all like Basil would have expected from such a woman in such a place.  Warmth enveloped his senses; warmth he hadn’t felt in years; warmth his rational mind could not deny though the circumstances should have refuted it otherwise.  A reawakening was burgeoning in a neglected corner of his being, and he stood in self-reflective wonder at the pleasureful feelings flooding his body.  He no longer felt in control.

Without saying a word he took a step forward in the direction of the woman and her voice.  “Oh, yes honey, over here.  A seat here for you next to me.”  The he took another step.  Two of the other girls stepped aside to let him pass, and finally he stood next to the short woman in the long frock.

“Hi honey.  That’s right.  Here- relax.  Please sit here!  So what’s your name?”

Basil sat down in the red plastic chair slowly, his nerves beginning to jump.  His mouth was dry and it was difficult to speak.

“So what’s your name, honey?  I am Indah.”

“Basil,” he replied stiffly.  “Pleased to meet you.”

“Oh, you so handsome, honey!  You here alone?”

Basil found great difficulty in knowing what to say.  “Yes.  I’m here on business.”

“Oh, really, honey?  Where you stay?”

“Hotel Kota,” he said, his voice cracking a little.

“Oh, iya, honey!  Very nice!  And I think maybe you tired after business today.  I think you like massage, yes?”  Indah reached over and gently grabbing onto the flesh of his left shoulder, began to purse it firmly between her fingers.  “Oh yes, that relax you honey!”  Indah leaned forward and attempted to fully engage his attention, but he faltered in the heat of the moment’s persuasion and at the sight of her smiling lips painted ruby red.  He lost his nerve and looked away shyly.

Basil diverted his attention by staring across the street for a moment, and then back at the Hotel Pariwisata looming sinister in the unrelieved darkness behind them.

“Do you live here?” Basil asked.

“Oh, no, honey. I use room here.  I can take you there now.  You like that, yes?”  Indah’s eyes and smile flashed like beacons.  The vending cart lamp was all the light she needed to do the job.

“It’s a dreadful place.  Who would want to step foot in such a place?”

“Oh, don’t worry, honey.  We use room at Hotel Kota.  No problem!”  Indah once again reached over and gently worked her short, stubby fingers into Basil’s shoulder muscles.

Basil managed a wry smile.  “It’s a sight more comfortable, I’m sure.”

“What’s, honey?  More comfortable?”  Indah threw her head back, tossing back her gaggle of curls and laughed girlishly.  “Oh, yes- I make you so comfortable.”

Basil began to allow himself a little enjoyment, and laughed a little.  His throat was so dry that the snippet of laughter broke up in hoarseness.  Indah’s expression suddenly turned into one of motherly concern.

“Oh, honey!  Mau minum air?  Please, drink water!”  She reached into her purse and pulled out two coins.  Turning to the food vendor, she asked for something while handing then over.  The vendor reached into the storage cabinet of her cart and produced a clear plastic pint of Aqua and a straw.  Indah took the pint and pierced the sealed top with straw’s sharpened end.

“Here honey!  Please drink.  Panas sekali disini, iya!  It so hot here for you.  Honey- please drink.  You feel so much better.  Indah take care of you.  You know you need someone take care of you!”  She leaned forward and placed one hand on his thigh while offering the pint of Aqua with the other.
Basil unconsciously accepted the Aqua and held it up without taking a sip.  For the first time during their conversation, he stopped to engage Indah’s eyes, putting aside his shyness and fear.  He was strangely ready to believe her- to believe she actually did want to take care of him.  The night melted away for a protracted moment, and Basil found himself wallowing in the warm depths of Indah’s large brown eyes- so illuminated with concern and maternal affection.  He couldn’t remember a pair of eyes showering him with such soothing gentleness.  Certainly not his mother’s- nor his wife’s.  He had yet to draw the straw between his lips.

“Minum, sayangku, minum.  Drink, honey, drink.”  Indah coaxed him gently and placing her finger tips under the bottom the pint of Aqua, tipped it towards his mouth.  Basil allowed her to do so, and taking the straw between his lips began to draw the clear, cool liquid into his parched mouth.  Indah continued to keep her fingers in place supporting the base of the plastic pint of water and Basil continued to sip, and with increasing vigor until the pint was empty.  Indah followed each sip with unwavering attention until the last drop had passed through Basil’s lips.

“Oh, Indah so happy, honey!  That so good for you, now!  You so thirsty!”  Indah withdrew her hand from the Aqua but kept her other hand in place on his thigh. Basil hadn’t stopped looking into her eyes the entire time, much as would a baby who locks eyes with its mother while breast feeding.  He slowly lowered the plastic pint from his mouth.

“Yes, quite so.  Very thirsty.  Thanks so much for that.  Terima kasih.”

Indah slowly withdrew her hand from Basil’s thigh and along with the other clasped the top of her purse which sat on her lap.  She smiled and cocked her head a little.

“So now, sayangku, are you ready to relax with Indah?”  I will take very good care of you in your room at Hotel Kota.  Say you want it.  Please, saying, kita akan bermain.  We can play together.”  Indah’s smile slowly turned form one of motherliness into that of pure suggestion.  Little did she know that this would snap Basil out of his reverie.

“Maybe another time, Indah.  So sorry to disappoint you.  You really are a very gracious lady.  Please don’t take offense.  I have some catching up to do with email.”  Basil smiled politely, but firmly.  He rose to his feet, and though Indah pleaded playfully, Basil brushed her entreaties aside and waving, walked away.

Basil didn’t think too much more about the interlude with Indah the rest of the evening, but was certainly cognizant of her location.  Upon finishing up with emails at the internet café, he decided to avoid having to pass by Hotel Pariwisata, and took the pains to walk all the way around the block in order to return to his hotel.  He collected both his key and camera bag at the front desk, and retired to his room.

Basil once again viewed some of the day’s test photographs, and then felt a sudden
exhaustion overtake him.  He fell asleep, his camera bag left unpacked and the room lights ablaze.

At 8 AM, a soft knock at his door awoke Basil with a start.  “Your breakfast is ready, Pak,” a voice called through the door’s wooden louvers.

“Oh, yes, quite.  I’ll be right there.”  Basil quickly dressed and opening the door stepped out onto the en suite landing where he found his breakfast neatly served on the top of his table.  The air was already thick and sticky, and he turned on the large ceiling fan that hung several feet above.

Over a breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, orange-pineapple marmalade, and a pot of coffee, Basil jotted down notes and reminders in a small spiral notebook, organizing his thoughts concerning the day’s upcoming activities.  After breakfast, he recharged his digital camera and did some reading.

At noon, his van called, and Basil was off again for the Borobudur temple.  It would be a long afternoon of work taking dozens of photographs walled in by the superheated stone balustrades of the temple’s first gallery.  Basil’s enthusiasm didn’t carry the fervor it had the day before.

Upon arrival, Basil found the heat and humidity worse than the day before.  The surrounding jungle’s canopy was clad by a viscous layer of air.  The vast lawns that
sloped away from one face of the temple hissed in the torpor of the early afternoon sun.

Basil was slow to hit his mark of customary efficiency, but half-way into his first circumnavigation, he came into full stride, and was able to fulfill his day’s plan of making two circuits of the first gallery.  He had successfully completed his preliminary photo tests, and could now begin an analysis of how best to proceed with assembling photographs of the Lalitavistara reliefs.  This could be done in the comfort of his hotel room.

Two days of exposure to the elements had been taxing.  Basil mused he was getting older, but also knew he hadn’t given himself much time to acclimatize- if such a thing were possible in the heat of a tropical jungle.  He very much wanted to ascend the temple and take in the grand view from where the giant stupa stood atop the tenth and final level, but he hadn’t the time as his van would be leaving soon for the hotel.  Nirvana would have to wait.

Instead, Basil simply descended as customary down the east-facing stairway.  As he trudged along the dirt path holding on to the strap of his camera bag, he allowed his mind to drift now that the day’s work was done.  His thoughts turned once again to the Hidden Foot, and he realized its exposed panels lie just ahead.  There they stood in isolation, set in a small depression- four panels the UNESCO restoration team had saw fit to leave exposed.  One panel teamed with naked bodies in orgiastic embrace, slithering over each other like a school of fish enmeshed in a feeding frenzy.
Basil stopped to study the panel and wondered at whether such scenes were at all a product of ninth century Saliendra civilization, or whether it was purely symbolic.  His imagination then began to run away with him, and he tried to picture an ancient day orgy- and what it would be like to participate.  Basil rarely indulged in sensual fantasies, and almost always directed his imagination elsewhere, but he now stood somewhat apart from his conventional self, and found himself allowing permission.  Maybe it was the exotic locale, or his body made putty by the sun.  Maybe the erotic stone carving itself as found in its natural settling had delivered him from his carefully maintained boundaries beyond which he rarely desired to explore.  At a certain moment in time, he let go of self-reflection, allowing for a kind of self-evacuation- his usual sense of self pouring out of his skin mingled with his sweat.  He stared intently at the stone carving and the relief’s naked bodies began to writhe before his eyes.

He suddenly imagined himself in a beautiful bedroom of antiquity, lying on a circular bed whose sheets were silk;  his hands groping the smooth skin of nubile female bodies surrounding him.  A shaft of moonlight played across their bodies, and a mild breeze swept across the bed, carrying with it the scent of jasmine whose delicate white flowers floated in a shallow basin of well water set upon a marble table top.

Basil next envisioned his hands caressing the hair of a woman, her black curls tangled between his fingers.  Then visions of her moist, parted lips- followed by her eyes then cheeks- flashing by as if edited in cinematic fashion; the singular beauty of each portion of her face isolated in close-up filling the window of view that was his mind’s eye.
The sweat poured down his face, leaking from under the bill of his hat.  He imagined the hot steamy passion of sex had bathed him so, and his breast swelled with the blood that pressed to the surface.  His breath rose, and his chest began to heave ever so slightly.

Basil suddenly heard the sound of footsteps approaching.  Startle, he looked up.

“Pak, harus pergi.  The van is leaving now.”  It was his driver.

“Oh- quite so.  Sorry about that.”  Basil looked at the man in a daze.

The two walked together down the long stairway and paved pathway that led to the parking lot.  The other passengers were already seated in the chartered van, and Basil smiled meekly while apologizing for having kept them waiting.

Basil sat by the window and stared at the traffic.  The weight of his head sank into his hand which was propped under his chin.  Listlessly his eyes followed the trucks, buses, and motorbikes that whizzed past.  The van’s air conditioning began to evaporate the shroud of sweat covering his head, but the sweat on his chest simply turned into a swampy chill.

By the time the van dropped him at Hotel Kota, all he cared to think about was the need for a shower.  The van’s rear door was opened by the driver and Basil was met with a blast of hot, moist air that brought on a moment of vertigo.  He gingerly stepped out and walked the few short steps into the hotel’s entrance.  The receptionist handed him his key, and he walked through the deserted hotel lobby and hallways on to his room.

Basil had accomplished a tremendous amount in two days, and at a physical cost.  A thirteen hour flight followed by two days of long exposure to the sun within seventy-two hours of departure from London would wilt most men, and it certainly had Basil.

“Mad dogs and Englishmen,”  muttered Basil under his breath after closing his room’s door behind him.  He had no idea if he were hungry, though he hadn’t eaten in hours.  All he wanted to do was shower and sprawl out on his bed.

Hours later Basil awoke, having no idea the time.  He still wasn’t very hungry, but thought it best to eat.  He dressed quickly, hoping there was some decent place still open nearby.

Exiting the hotel, the dogged heat of day had yet wore off, even though it was after 10 PM.  Basil hadn’t remembered ever being so bothered by the tropical weather.  It peeved him that he took so to complaining to himself about it.  “So this is how one knows old age is setting in,” he thought out loud.

It wasn’t until after he crossed the street that he suddenly realized he was about to pass by Hotel Pariwisata.  “Oh, Christ!” he muttered to himself.  “Hopefully I’ll make it past.”

But he was not successful.  From the same far corner, he heard a women’s voice calling out, “Oh honey!  Honey!  Honey!  Here I am!  It’s me, Indah!”  This time, Indah walked out to meet Basil on the sidewalk.  The other girls milled about, looking on with an interest born only of boredom.  It had been an exceptionally slow and unrewarding evening so far.

Basil felt like continuing straight on, just as he would a pesky vendor on Marlioboro, but he found he didn’t have the heart to do it.

“Oh, Indah, yes; well, listen- I really must get something to eat.  I hope you understand.”  Basil found it within himself to be polite, but firm. 

“Yes, and Indah can help you.  Please let me help you.  I know the good, clean restaurants.”

Indah had said the magic word- clean.  This was a tempting proposal for Basil, and a friendly one as well.  She looked up at him with a quiet smile, awaiting his reply.  Basil had been easily won over.

“A recommendation for a clean restaurant with quality food would be much appreciated, Indah.  And please be my guest as well.”  Basil smiled.  It felt good to invite her along.

As Indah showed the way, she elaborated on cleanliness.  “Oh, honey, you see Indah is orang Muslim.  We know which restaurants are kept clean and food cooked Muslim way- food must be halal.”

Basil took Indah’s remarks seriously.  Surprisingly, he found himself realizing he needed to reorder some possible misconceptions.   He had seen Muslims wash their feet, hands and face in the tiled washing stalls of Mosques before prayer.  This pre-prayer ritual he understood.  But he hadn’t really thought much about its ramifications.  The truth was, even though he was a cultural anthropologist, and had visited Indonesia several times, he hadn’t ever really spoken at length with any Moslems concerning cleanliness.  It just never came up or else he was just too busy researching in archives and visiting ruins.  Their attitudes concerning cleanliness he had overlooked.  He had never eaten a meal with a Muslim family in their home.  Whatever reading he had done concerning the Muslim practices surrounding food preparation and hygiene in general he had lost track of somewhere through the years.  The filthy drainage running through the open culverts along the streets and alleys of Indonesian cities figured much more prominently in his assessment of hygiene in the world’s most populous Muslim country than any other single factor.  The filth and stench in the streets; the piles of garbage and thoughtless habits of wanton littering; the sight of both men and women forcefully clearing out their nostrils in public- these were the sights and smells that had always led him to believe that cleanliness was on a low order of priority in the country.

But Basil had to admit upon reflection that he had never been offended by the body odor
of an Indonesian.  He couldn’t be completely sure of what that met, but maybe there was a contradiction at work between concepts of public versus private cleanliness.  But wasn’t that true in most countries?  As for the English, it was still quite common for his fellow Brits to forego bathing but for once a week.

Certainly Indah took great care both in her personal appearance and cleanliness.  Her clothes were not only clean, but pressed as well.  It was more than Basil could say for his own apparel.  He hadn’t bothered to put on a fresh pair of pants and his socks slouched down round the tops of his marred and dusty loafers.

Basil motioned for Basil to follow her into a small restaurant across the street from the main entrance into the railway station.  A woman greeted them warmly.

“Assalamualaikum,” she said smiling.

“Alaikumsalam,” Indah replied.

Indah offered to order for both of them. The food was already prepared, sitting in several serving dished displayed on the three long shelves of the restaurant window.  Basil was happy to have her take the responsibility.  He watched in satisfaction as Indah purposefully directed the woman as to which foods were to be served, and how to assemble them on which types and sizes of plates.  Basil had never taken the trouble to study how best to order food in this type of restaurant, and it was a luxury to have a native take care of the ordering.

Both Indah and the proprietor shuttled over several dishes including rice, vegetables, soup, chicken, fish, and goat meat.  Soon followed a sprite, coca cola, and two glasses filled with ice.  Basil began to feel at home.  His feelings turned warm and uncaring.  Somebody was actually showing interest in him.  Someone seemed to care enough to see to his being properly fed. The empty coffers of appreciation began to fill within him.  The table finally set, Indah sat down, and the two began to eat.  For the first time, Basil turned his unqualified attention to Indah.

“Are you from Yogyakarta originally?”

“Yes, honey.  I am always living here.”

“If I may ask, do you live with your family?  You told me you didn’t live in Hotel Pariwisata.”

“No, sayangku.  I live in kost across street next to railway station. I no want to live in hotel like many girls.  You visit me there anytime you want during daytime.”  She looked up from her soup and smiled coyly.

“Quite so.  Well, thanks for the invitation.”  Basil smiled warmly and blushed a little.  “If I may inquire, Indah, are you married or have children?”

“I married one time.  My husband already died.”

“Oh, my condolences.”

“It no problem, honey.  Really.”

“Did you have children together?”

“Yes, one son.  I have one son.”  Indah’s eyes turned down in sadness.

“Oh, I see.”  Basil paused for a moment.  He studied Indah’s face intently.  “Is he with you?”

“No, honey.  He live with my sister and husband.”

“Do you ever see him?”

Indah stopped eating and looked up at Basil.  “No, sayangku, I cannot see him.”  Basil finished swallowing a mouthful and the two looked at each other in silence.  It was Indah who finally broke the conversation which had reached critical impasse. 
“Begini, honey.  Like this.  I twenty years old when married.  Husband and I have son two years later.  Then husband start to drink so much.  He lose work and start to strike me so hard with hands.  I gave son to sister for her to take care.  I very afraid for him.  Maybe my husband begin to strike him, too.  My husband very angry for I took away the son.  One night he so mabuk- drink so much alcohol.  He strike me so hard, and then attack me with knife.  I run away.  Soon again he left to Kalimantan to be fishermen.  He then sick with malaria.  Never see the doctor because no money.  Not for obat either. He come back to Yogya, then die.  Basil found it difficult to know what to say in response.  He simply acknowledged the tragic story by lowering his head as if in a moment of prayer.  He began to star a bit at his plate of food.

Indah reached out for Basil and placed her had on his forearm.  She smiled with confident warmth.  “It OK, honey.  Really.”   

They now attended to their food with greater intent.  Basil mulled over several thoughts and remained silent until having finished eating.  He reached for some tissue from a plastic canister that held a roll of it.  Tearing off a piece, he cleaned the corners of his mouth.  Setting the crumpled tissue down on his plate, he folded his hands in front of him on the table.  He looked up at Indah with sudden resolve.

“How much is your fee?”

“What honey?  You mean money?  Well, up to you!”  She flashed a smile that glistened in the restaurant’s florescent lighting.

“No, Indah.  Give me some idea.  Trust me.  This is not a negotiation.”

“Well, for short time, 200,000 is OK.”

“Listen, Indah, I have a proposal.” 

“You ready now to play with Indah?”  She tossed back her hair and laughed girlishly.

No, not now, Indah,” corrected Basil.  “But I will pay you for your time here with me tonight.  In return, though, I want you to accompany me tomorrow morning as I will be doing some work out at the Borobudur temple.  I will pay for your meals and transportation, of course.”

Indah stared back at Basil in wonder.  “You invite me somewhere, honey?  Really?”  This was far from ordinary, and felt both strange and sudden.

“Well, I know it might be an unusual request for you.  But you probably don’t have much chance for leisure outside the city I imagine.  Consider it a friendly invitation.  Have you ever visited Borobudur?”

Oh, no, honey.  Tidak pernah.  Never.”

“I’ll make sure you get back in the afternoon in time to rest and then get ready for work.”

Indah smiled and was too overwhelmed to answer immediately.  “Oh, honey, I don’t know.  Maybe,” she said after thinking for a moment.

“Indah- really; it would be my pleasure.  Borobodur is very beautiful you know.  A van will pick us up at the Hotel Kota at 8 AM.  Just think, Indah.  IT will be something new and different for you.  It’s a very special place and an important part of your culture.”  Basil spoke with cheerful expectancy, and Indah didn’t know what to make of it all.  She hadn’t seen this side of him.

“Well, Pak, I will see if I am not too tired.  8 AM is early for me.  I cannot promise.”

“Fair enough, Indah.  Here- take this for now.”  He drew out four 50,000 rupiah bills from his shirt pocket and hiding them in the palm of his hand slowly reached across the table and offered then to Indah.

“Please take this, Indah.  You have been very generous with your time and help.”

“Oh, honey….but you must want me to come over tonight.”  Indah’s eyes turned warm and glassy.
“Maybe another time, Indah, but I must go and get some sleep.  Now let’s get going, OK?”  Basil’s smile was firm but sincere.

The next morning, Basil waited in the front lobby after breakfast for the van to arrive.  He sat patiently writing notes to himself while sitting at a white marble-topped table.  From there he had a view of the hotel’s tiny parking lot.

Just as the charted van appeared, from across the street Basil caught a glimpse of a woman squeezing her way in between the stalled morning traffic that choked the road every morning rush hour.  It was Indah crossing the street, her curls flouncing about as she hurried afoot towards the hotel.

Basil hurriedly gathered his things and met the van’s driver at the hotel entrance.  Indah stopped short on the sidewalk out front, standing a distance away, wondering if Basil had noticed her.

“Make that two passengers, driver,” said Basil.

Basil motioned for Indah, and called out for her to meet him at the van.  Indah’s eyes lit up and an excited smile burst upon her face.  She approached and waited for Basil before getting inside the van.

“Go ahead now, in with you!”  Basil said good-naturedly, taking hold of her elbow and nudging her along in the direction of the rear side door.  Indah slid into a back seat and Basil sat along side.  “So good of you to come!  You won’t regret it,” he said.

The European tourists who shared the van stole glances of the couple, as they looked decidedly odd together.  Basil and Indah simply smiled and enjoyed the hour’s ride to the temple without speaking. 

Upon arriving, Basil showed Indah the pathway up to the temple plot and with prideful enthusiasm slipped into his didactic self.

“He we are, Indah- and there it is!  Borobudur!  Magnificent, isn’t it?”

“Oh, Tuhan!  Itu indah sekali!  So beautiful, yes!”

“This is why I have come to Yogyakarta, Indah- to take photographs of the temple.”

Indah stopped and stood breathlessly looking up at the temple.  “And maybe you take my photo, too?” she asked.

“Yes, of course.  I’ll print it out for you, too.”

Indah wriggled her nose in delight and primped the black curls aside her head for a moment with the outstretched fingers of her hand.

“I will only ask you indulge me as I want to show you a few things about the temple.  It is an important part of your local heritage and history, you know.”

“OK, honey.  I be happy to hear you,” Indah said politely.

For the next two hours, Basil led Indah from one gallery of carved reliefs to the next, trying his best to present an understanding of the temple’s design.  But this required explaining the Buddhist path to enlightenment as the temple’s ten levels represented
those levels of ascent to Nirvana.  Indah strained hard for a while to follow as best she could.  The Buddhist themes perplexed her, as it was foreign to her Muslim upbringing.  She feigned her interest which became increasingly difficult as the dark volcanic stone which surrounded them began to radiate the heat of the morning sun.  Basil’s pedantic enthusiasm wore her down.  The three thousand reliefs covering the balustrades of the first five tiers quickly became one jumbled tangle of carved imagery that merged into a meaningless morass of forms and shapes that only served to confuse her.

Finally on the fifth tier the balustrades fell away and the view of Borobudur’s natural surrounding came into resplendent view.  It was a great relief for her to see the dense expanse of coconut palms foresting the nearby hills and the beautifully manicured lawns that spread out from the temple’s base, reaching far out into the distance down a hillside onto a flat below the temple grounds.  Levels five through eight represented the Spheres of Formlessness along the path of enlightenment, but for Indah, it only meant a view had opened up, delivering her from the claustrophobic galleries that had walled her in below.

The upper two levels included a broad flat space decorated with seventy-two small latticed stone stupas, each of them hollow and containing a meditating Buddha, eyes closed and sitting in the lotus position.  A final set of stairs approaching from all four sides brought the temple visitor up to the temple’s crowning structure- a Grand Stupa that was fixed atop the pyramid.  The Grand Stupa was one massive, bell-shaped piece of carved black stone, representing Nirvana, the Void, and transcendence from this earthly existence.  As a form which represented formlessness and non-being, it left behind the chaos that was the world below as contained in the three thousand stone reliefs.  It was a chaos Indah was glad to have left behind.

Once reaching the pyramid’s summit, Basil wondered how he might best explain Nirvana to Indah, but was saved the trouble as she became reinvigorated upon climbing the last few steps up to the base of the Grand Stupa.

“Oh, honey, please take my photo here at the top!  It is like we are out of this world!”  Indah was thoroughly enchanted by the panoramic view.

Basil finally awoke to the fact that he had taken his role as self-appointed tour guide far too seriously.  He pause, looked out at the surrounding lushness of palm forests and mountains stretching out as far as the eye could see, and then peered back at Indah who stood above next to the Grand Stupa.

“Yes, out of this world indeed, my dear.”  Basil smiled, bowed his head, and from beneath his hat shook it back and forth.  “Out of this world and then some,” he muttered softly.

Basil climbed the staircase to join Indah and positioned himself rightly in order to take Indah’s photograph.  She posed; her body fully erect in posture, its energy revitalized.  Basil took her photo four times, one from each cardinal point as corresponded to the pyramid’s four faces.  He requested she move ninety degrees clockwise in succession, taking each photograph from an angle that would include views of the surround trees and mountains.  The compilation would capture the panorama of Borobudur’s natural surroundings.

Standing next to the ultimate Buddhist form representing formlessness, Indah’s feminine curves resonated with those of the stupa, drawing attention to its bell-like curves rather than accent its abstractness. As Basil peered squinting through his camera’s viewfinder at Indah’s own form, he could not help but notice her face’s transcendent delight.  She was a beautiful creature of nature whose own life force had powered her short legs to circumnavigate several kilometers of tiers below filled with worldly chaos, delivering her skyward to the Grand Stupa where the pyramid comes to its vanishing point and the temporal meets the eternal. 
Basil wondered if Indah’s life could have possibly taken a different course if she could have only visited the great temple and ascended to the Grand Stupa when she was much younger.  It was a gratuitous speculation he immediately understood to embody his growing care for her, and nothing more.  But he couldn’t help but truly wonder.  He reckoned however rightly or wrongly that the average Indonesian mind would unlikely countenance such a “what if.”  Opportunity and forks in the road where the individual need make a free and informed choice which would determine one’s future path was a construct largely foreign to this culture where life’s lot was often considered to have been cast at the time of birth.  And how could remorse or the haunting awareness that a horrible personal misjudgment had been made cast a pall over one’s life when fate and destiny were equally powerful agents of cause and effect?  The Buddha had said life was suffering, and that one has to decide firmly to free oneself from that suffering.  And the gods could never help in that process.  That was not their bailiwick.  These were things Basil doubted Indah could possibly understand or agree to. 

Through Basil’s viewfinder he saw the greater impression of Indah in jarring juxtaposition to the massive stupa.  There she stood, next to a great and silent volcanic stone once an explosive projectile having burst from the superheated bowels of a cratered cone; and having tumbled until coming to rest, cooled and lay quiet for a geologic eon; then selected, split, hewn and shaped by the hands of slaves and erected into an immutable symbol of the Buddhist reverence for the perfection of the soul- a soul that would eventually be delivered from the wheel of suffering.  This stone that embodied the primary enumeration of the four noble truths; fixed in its definitive symbolism that all things are impermanent, including itself- she stood next to it- a fragile form with a disadvantaged life that had known great suffering.  There she stood abreast to Nirvana, pulsing with blood and warmth and a readiness to move along a path that took her from chaos to enlightenment and back again without a conscious understanding of what it could mean; what it does mean; that it might mean anything at all.  And was the nature of  her own state of divine blankness one that could protect her own immutable nature from the crushing weight of fate and exploitation at the hands of an unmerciful world; from the soiled hands of men who bought her for a moment’s carnal pleasure?  Basil’s view finder began to steam and blur.

He hoped that for at least this brief moment of time she had been stolen away from the confines of her life’s tightly circumscribed pattern whose pathways criss-crossed between a mousetrap boarding room, a foreigner’s hotel suite, and a ratty brothel cubical.  Again he doubted.  He doubted she saw it that way at all.  But therein lies the beguiling beauty and mystery of cultural differences that makes ultimately inscrutable those values from the other side of the world.  Basil was peering through the looking glass, and no matter how much he had devoted his life to studying the ways of other cultures, none of his education could have helped him to suss out any of what stood on the other side.

That such a woman who had nearly been murdered by her drunken husband and given up her child in order to spare it the fate that befell her own life could stand atop Borobudur in transcendent delight if only for a stolen moment of time seemed more an inspiration to Basil than the three thousand carved reliefs that crowded the great temple’s lower galleries.  He did not know if there was any effectual difference between the blankness of the Buddhist void versus the divine blankness of Indah’s indifference that buffered her spirited love of life while allowing her to accept the fate foisted on her by the forces of evil that drove men to destroy women.  Didn’t the chanting Buddhist monk achieve a temporal Nirvana that alluded to and inflected the eternal version?  Confined to the “Wheel of Samsara,” the monk did his best to disembody and achieve an eternal state of transcendence if only for the duration of the chant.  Indah had the same ability to escape the lot of her life, but it was through the love of her heart beating out its rhythm and its train of pulses that moved that warmth through every part of her body that this transcendence was made possible.

Through the lens of his camera, Basil began to see a hidden truth in a land where the invisible was more important that the visible.  The elegance of Buddhism and its notion of the perfection of the soul left no room of definition for creatures like Indah.  She was an incommensurate measure; impossible to quantify.  She could no doubt be likened to many of the thousand year old carved human likenesses on the panels of worldly chaos in the temple’s lower levels- beings whose incomprehensibility to their society had become objectified for their shortcomings and had their worth abstracted away.  The civilization to which they belonged had relegated them the panels of the Kanathado which depicted the lowest level of existence; to the Hidden Foot of Mount Meru, the cosmic mountain as represented by the great temple of Borobudur.  And so ashamed was their civilization of them, their representations were buried, even though they were so carefully rendered as part of a much greater expression of religious art.
Basil had seen all he needed to see.  And now he was ready to descend with Indah down and away from seeing the world on high; down the steep stone stairways with their narrow treads and tall risers; descending down from the Sphere of Formlessness into that of jumbled, entangled forms; back into the chaotic world of living flesh.

Basil took Indah’s hand and helped her down each successive stone stairway until they reached terra firma.  She panted a bit but smiled sweetly the entire way, thanking Basil after planting her feet firmly on the ground.

“I have one more thing to show you, Indah,” Basil said.  It is over here at the corner of the temple.”

The couple walked slowly to the south-east corner to where the four panels of the Hidden Foot lie in a depression.

“This is the lowest level, Indah.” 

Indah stared at the panels for a quiet time.  She finally peered up at Basil with querulous wonderment.

“What do you think of it, Indah?”

“It is picture of so many men and women together, playing, and they have on no clothes and they look beautiful.”

“That’s what I see, too.”

“But why, Pak?  Why do they put these stones here?”  She looked at him with childlike confusion.

“Do you like these carvings?”  Basil avoided answering.

“Yes, honey, I do.  But the stones are hard to find, put here below ground.  Why do they not move them?  Nobody can find them here.”

“Where should they be put, Indah?” Basil led her shamelessly, like a mule.

“Well, if they don’t care for them, I will bring then to my kost- to my boarding house.”  She suddenly broke into laughter.

And so did Basil.  They laughed until the tears flowed while the sound pealed across the top of the temple and lifted by the breeze, swirled into the trees and wrapped its vibrations around the petals of flowers in the adjoining temple gardens.  It brushed across the stubby shanks of grass freshly cut that morning in honor of this, Indonesia’s supreme piece of classic architecture.
“But now you take me home, honey?”  Indah looked up at him expectantly.

“Yes.  The van is leaving soon,” he assured her.
“And now, honey-really you must come with me and let me relax you.  I know you work so hard.  Please, honey mari kita istirihat, we rest together.  Saya capék sekali.  I so tired.  Come on honey, we go now.”  She looked at Basil with pleading eyes.  “you are so good to Indah, and Indah want to take care of Pak Basil, my honey.”

Basil’s expression never faltered from that of cheerful comradery.  “When we get back to Yogyakarta, let’s eat first.  I want to treat you to Padang style at my favorite restaurant on Marlioboro.  We can talk about it over a good meal.”

“Talk about what?” Indah suddenly demanded.

Basil blushed and chuckled.  “About love and money,” he said sheepishly.

“Don’t say that, honey!” she protested, smiling.  “Indah never talk about love when she eat, and never about money until after the love.”  She playfully gave Basil a shove.  “You remember stones we see here.  You think people in stones think about money and love?”  She started to laugh and goaded Basil on.

Basil became wistful in tone.  “No, I don’t think so, Indah. Neither do I.”  He looked
down for a moment, and then raised his eyes to meet those of Indah which suddenly teared.

Basil was upset with himself.  “Oh, please don’t cry, Indah.  Please, my dear lady.  Don’t cry.  Look, we will go to the van now.  Don’t bother yourself with me.”

“But you so sad, honey.  Don’t you love before?”  She implored and wouldn’t let go.

“To be honest, I must say no.  And I brought you here to teach you about your own history and culture, but now I can see it is your turn to teach me.” Basil tried to get it out whole.

“Teach you, honey?  Teach you what, sweetie?”

“About love, Indah.  The shoe is now on the other foot.”

“You talk so funny, really honey.”  Indah cocked her head and stared at Basil with her lips parted in a confused, half-smile.  “I never know a man like you.”

“It’s because I have nothing more to hide.” He replied.  “Come, let’s go.”

Basil reached for her hand.  She took it without hesitation.

The couple walked away, leaving the Hidden Foot behind.