The family I live with in Canggu are lovely. Together with my neighbor (who is here for yoga in the same center I go to) we have tried to figure out how the family works. There is Gede and his wife Kadek, and their child Mikaela. Since Gede is a first-born’s name (and Kadek is a second-born’s), I presume this house is his by inheritance. There is another young man around (a brother?) and two old ladies. No old men. One of the old ladies is Gede’s mother and the original owner of the house. The other is Gede’s aunt. She speaks to herself, cleans our rooms, and understands little English, but she is one of the sweetest people I have ever met on Bali.
The Balinese name their children according to birth order. There is no gender difference in the names. A first-born is usually Gede, Putu, or Wayan. A second-born is Kadek or Made. A third-born is Nyoman or sometimes Komang. And the fourth-born is Ketut. If the family has more than four children, the fifth will again be a Wayan or Putu or Gede, with the addition of Balik, “the other one”.
Unless one belongs to a specific caste such as the highest Brahmin caste. Here genders are denoted, but the parents have no choice: a girl is usually named Ida Ayu and men Ida Bagus, with “Ida” denoting the high priestly caste.
Gender is denoted by adding “I” in front of a man’s name, and “Ni” in front of a woman’s. A little like Mr and Ms.
So what if you stand on a busy street and yell “hey Wayan!” and half of the people on the street turn around and look at you? The Balinese have nicknames, which can be both pretty and less pretty. Wayan the Beautiful and Wayan the Fat are both common nicknames. Or the modern family just names their child Mikaela, like in the case of my homestay family. Easy, but less common.
Tonight my neighbor and I are having a night off the compound. The Balinese dance their beautiful dances to keep spirits appeased, and to keep a balance in the world. For us it is just an enchanting experience of which we understand very little. Just like we understand very little about the Balinese naming rationale.(Canggu, Bali, Indonesia; August 2018)