Don’t go breaking my Bahasa!!
There is a phrase in Bahasa which can be seen written along roadsides, in bars, on billboards, on warning signs and outside shop entrances, at the foot of steep steps or hills, at the entrance to yoga studios and motorbike rental stores…basically in a hell of a lot of both public and private places, all over Bali. Not only is it written, but it’s used as an almost generic form of salutation when saying goodbye.
‘Hati-Hati’, quickly became one of my favourite things to say when I was travelling around the island, purely because it encompassed so many different meanings all at once, and still allowed me to feel as if I was speaking the local language and assimilating myself into the culture.
The phrase is used to exercise caution; to warn of imminent or potential danger; aiming to prevent difficulty or hardship, and to ultimately bring a person back to the reality of where they are and what they are doing as they hear it said.
‘Hati’, is the Bahasa or Indonesian word for ‘heart’. Literally translated, ‘Hati-Hati’ means ‘Watch your heart”, and can also be understood in terms of the spiritual and emotional translation as well as the physical organ – warning a person to take care where they invest their emotions, where they place allegiances and spend emotional energy.
The use of ‘Hati-Hati’ as an everyday phrase in Bali and the surrounding areas to warn against potential physical danger or accident is where the beauty of it lies – by telling another to ‘take care’, they are not only wishing them well on their travels, but wishing a sense of emotional stability and contentment upon them too.
‘Hati-Hati’ warns to exercise caution, but to be proactive about it – not to let the fear of a potential outcome overcome the desire or ability to carry it out or achieve a desire. It encourages merely an awareness of one’s current situation, location, emotional, physical, and mental state, and really succeeds in bringing us back to the important factors of these instead of losing ourselves in the heat of the moment or anxiety about what it may potentially lead to.
Taking care, but continuing as we are. Watching our hearts, but not closing them. Just being aware.