The Feral Twins Of Pakisan, Bali

Beyond the city, island life crouches and sweats in the shade of ferns and palm fronds. Within the reclaiming forest and scribbled roadmap of Bali, there is all the enigma of a small nation. In the north western woods of Kintamani, the unlisted village of Pakisan is lost in folds of Bedugul’s many hills and ridges. At the end of one driveway, a sign reads Taman Kanak-Kanak, the little orphanage cautiously dubbed a children’s park. Yogic Nun Ibu Didi and 18-odd orphans hold a steadfast routine here, of yoga, meditation, chanting, singing, and delegating chores. Like runoff, the group came together at this spot in the valley, rescued or escaped from shacks in the surrounding area. Amongst these old souls are twin boys whom Ibu Didi calls yayang, her dearest or beloveds. Even the youngest of their peers would forgive Ibu Didi what seems like favoritism.  Having twins is a special thing here, in local lore. It was in part because of these beliefs that the twin brothers spent the first four years of their lives with a family of dogs in a shack in the remote hills.

An orphaned child eats rice and ketchup, Bali. Thanks to Asen Lee for the photo.

Sahadewa: like all children, the less you help him, the more he’ll surprise you – by holding his own fork, for example. (Photo: Asen Lee)

Now eight years old, Nakula and Sahadewa are walking upright, reverting to nipping at peoples clothing for attention and whimpering when stressed. Certain television programs and computer games will draw out excited catchphrases from the boys, otherwise their vocalizations are frantic and unclear. Having spent half of their lives on all fours, the boys’ movements are gangly and loose and they prefer to be carried than to walk. Though Nakula can eat vegetables, the boys have yet to adjust to anything but white rice and maybe a bit of black ketchup. Eating is a pacifying activity the boys both hurriedly savour, their eyes rolling back while they clean their plates.

Balinese orphan child takes lunch at small center in Bali, Indonesia.

Sahadewa likes martial arts films, computer games, and never vegetables. (Photo: Asen Lee)

Self-awareness for Bali’s Romulus and Remus is tangible only when they look especially frantic and confused and bury their heads in Ibu Didi’s clothes, their eyes again rolling back. In their bodies and bones adolescence is foreboding, and beyond that is an adult life of jarring confusion and struggle. The boys and their younger brother, Agus, are inseparable from this group, this shelter, Ibu Didi, and the volunteers and supporters at Taman Kanak-Kanak, Pakisan.

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