March 3, 2011 – Providence smiled on Balinese seer Ketut Liyer the day US tourist Elizabeth Gilbert came to visit — her memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love”, would make him richer than he ever dreamed.
The fortune teller said to be aged in his 90s — no one knows exactly — was a poor man when he looked into Gilbert’s eyes and predicted she would live in Bali and find true love.
Gilbert worked her own magic and Ketut’s prediction became the stuff of Hollywood fantasy.
Now there is a line of camera-toting tourists waiting outside his home to hear their own fortunes told, at 25 dollars a pop. That’s a fortune for a man who is more accustomed to bartering his predictions for simple gifts from local villagers.
“From 8:00 am to 6:00 pm every day … 50 people on average,” said his son, Nyoman, who acts as a translator.
“It’s a great life,” he adds, as he checks the sequence of “clients”.
As black storm clouds rolled across the sky one recent Sunday afternoon, the courtyard outside Ketut’s comfortable wooden house was packed with visitors, male and female, from all corners of the globe.
“Look! It’s him!” said 26-year-old American Mary as she fumbled excitedly for her camera.
Songbirds fluttered in cages suspended among frangipani and orchid blossoms, as Ketut — wearing traditional Balinese cloth headware, a sarong and a T-shirt — sat cross-legged on the porch and held his 20-minute consultations.
Most of the sessions — which can involve readings or massages — seem to end in optimistic predictions of love and happiness, according to the customers surveyed by AFP.
“He told me the same thing he told my friend: I’ll be rich, happy, and I’ll have two children. OK … but at least I can say I met him,” said Mareyka, a 29-year-old South African.
Anna, an Australian, also came with a friend.
“I was here in 2005. This was before the novel and the advertising,” she said, pointing to a poster extolling Ketut’s powers.
“At the time, he made me read paragraphs from a big book. It was amazing. Today, he’s tired. There are so many people.”
As the sun set, the Western customers kept coming. Each new arrival frowned at the sight of those before them, as if they expected to have Ketut all to themselves.
And the Balinese customers?
“He saw them earlier in the morning and only accepted gifts in kind,” Nyoman explained.
The rain began to fall. The soothsayer took the opportunity to have a break. The tourists would have to wait.