Dream or Reality (27)
The story of the ngkik - ngkik ngkir
text and image by Hans Smeekes
Tu Tokeh, the gecko makes his sound eleven times. For us the sign he and his friend Tu Kodok will soon appear on the edge of the window in front of us in our dream room in the palace.
And there they are: happily jumping and that also counts for us as we are jumping on the big romantic bed, waiting for a new nice converation with these two animals in the middle of the night.
“Apa kabar?” is Tu Kodok’s first phrase.
“Baik, baik,” is our reaction.
“And you had a good experience today?” Tu Tokeh asks.
“This afternoon we were sitting on the verandah and listened once more to the birds.
Being no specialists on bird sounds, we can distinguish the different sounds, but we don’t know the names of the birds. So already some time ago we started to invent our own bird names.
Our most popular is the ‘jolly bamboo whistler’.
Fifi is often the first one to recognize this bird. But there are more, like the ‘sunshine cempaka jumper’ and the ‘don’t know how to finish screamer’.”
“Very funny, that you do like that,” Tu Tokeh says with his high voice.
“Yes and we have invented more names like for instance the ‘blue sky rapper’,” I continue.
“But there is one which puzzles us the most, because we never see the bird, not even a glimpse of it,” Fifi takes over. “So I started to call the bird the ‘you can hear, but cannot see bird’...”
“Also the sound is remarkable,” Fifi continues, “first there is a flat long tone, then it goes more high and then it goes down and more down. A mourning sound.”
“The prince joined us on the verandah,” I take over from Fifi, “and hearing the specific sound again we asked him about this bird.
He called the bird the ‘ngkik - ngkik ngkir’. And told us that in Bali people tell the story that when this bird is making this sound, the bird is giving birth (coming out from the back) and is dying at the same time and that is the reason the bird is making this sound of sadness.”
“Yes we know this story,” Tu Kodok reacts. “People are sad when they hear this sound.”
“The prince told us when he was a kid and could not sleep, his mother told him stories and this was one of those, which from our part we found remarkable to tell a kid a sad story like that, because then you can possibly not sleep at all anymore.”
“In Bali people like these kind of stories,” Tu Tokeh says.
“The prince left us alone and we stayed sitting quietly on the verandah. And then we heard the sound of the ‘ngkik - ngkik ngkir’ again. Now knowing the name and the story.
I tried to imitate the sound, trying to come in contact with the sad bird. To invite the bird in fact. And then I saw the bird to my surprise. With a remarkable orange belly. Not far on a branch of the tree. Looking at us and then the bird dared to make the jump. The jump to Fifi’s head. In fact the bird landed on the colourful crown on her head. The bird was attracted by the colours or maybe also thinking it was a nest?
That can be, because then the bird is not the only one. On the airport in Amsterdam, passing the passport checkpoint, the man asked Fifi: ‘Where do you go?’
‘To Bali,’ was Fifi’s answer and then he said pointing to the crown on her head, ‘watch out, birds can nestle in it,’ which made us laugh of course, but now this happens.
At first Fifi was frightened a little bit and apparently the bird noticed this.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ it was saying, ‘I just want to tell you something.’
So the ‘ngkik - ngkik ngkir’ started even talking to us. But already having the experience that we can have conversations with you two it was not a very big surprise.
The ‘ngkik - ngkik ngkir told us the bird is belonging to the cuckoo family ...
‘Aaah,’ I reacted immediately and starting to understand ‘in our countries the cuckoo also exists and it is well known that the cuckoo puts its eggs in a nest of another bird.’
‘Yes and this is what we also do here,’ the bird said.
And the bird continued: ‘It is our habit, we cannot do different, it is in our genes. So sorry I am demystifying the story but I had the urge to tell you this.’
Having said this, having made it’s point the ‘ngkik - ngkik ngkir’ flew away, disappearing in the foliage of the trees. Invisable like before.
“It can be that people tell this story on Bali,” Tu Tokeh remarks “because there might be a deeper meaning: Birth and death coming together.”
“Something like dream or reality, two sides of the same, you mean.”
“Yes like us, one moment we are here in front of you and the next moment we are not here anymore, like we have never been here.”
And to emphasize this, our two friends disappear.
Dream or reality?