This book is open access under a CC BY 4.0 license.
This book investigates the impact of vote buying on the accountability of democratic institutions and policy representation in newly democratic countries, with a focus on Indonesia. In doing so, the book presents a wide-ranging study of the dynamics of vote buying in Indonesia’s young democracy, exploring the nature, extent, determinants, targeting and effectiveness of this practice. It addresses these central issues in the context of comparative studies of vote buying, arguing that although party loyalists are disproportionately targeted in vote buying efforts, in total numbers —given the relatively small number of party loyalists in Indonesia— vote buying hits more uncommitted voters. It also demonstrates that the effectiveness of vote buying on vote choice is in the 10 percent range, which is sufficient for many candidates to secure a seat and thus explains why they still engage in vote buying despite high levels of leakage.
Vote Buying in Indonesia
The Mechanics of Electoral Bribery
Authors: Muhtadi, Burhanuddin
- Open Access
- Investigates the impact of vote buying in Indonesia
- Explores the nature, extent, determinants, targeting and effectiveness of vote buying
- Argues that in total numbers —given the relatively small number of party loyalists in Indonesia— vote buying hits more uncommitted voters (Read more here.)
By Seno Gumira Ajidarma
Respected Ulema was not a shaman, not a fortune-teller and neither was he a magician. Respected Ulema was simply a theater actor. To be precise, a former theater actor, one who had transferred his acting skills from the stage to everyday life.
From the way he behaved, the way he arranged his facial expressions and from his body language, he managed to convey the impression that he was a truly wise person. This was clear from the large number of people who believed in him without realizing that what they believed in was a character that was being played.
That’s how it was, day in and day out. And after many years, Respected Ulema had finally managed to trick even himself. That he actually was really wise, clever, intelligent and knowledgeable. He really did think that with just the powers he wielded, he really was able to show the way to the truth that every person was searching for. What’s more, the responses of all the people around him confirmed this completely.
The only thing was Respected Ulema had started to become sick and forgetful. But not even one person believed it. Respected Ulema himself had never been to the doctor about his illness. Because he thought that if he went to the doctor and had a blood test from a medical laboratory, people wouldn’t trust him anymore.
“How can a person with special power go to the doctor?” That was the response he wanted to avoid.
That was how it was. There were just more and more people who arrived to ask for guidance. So many that it wasn’t possible any longer to serve all of them one by one. The crowd at his house was so large that if it was made to line up, it would be too long. It wouldn’t have gone down even in 24 hours because the people just kept on arriving.
So Respected Ulema made a decision. The solutions for problems wouldn’t be handled for each person one by one, but rather in bulk. There would be one piece of guidance for all the people, and each would have their own interpretation of it.
That day, Respected Ulema sat cross-legged in his usual place, a rectangular box which in the theater world was called a “level”. It was enough to have a level that was covered with a cheap woven pandanus mat. That way he would be raised up higher than the people who were gathered in the room. The higher position for him was necessary because it would give the impression he was higher than everything, everything both inside the room, and in the world outside.
In the world of the theater, the stage is the center of the world, and that room was his stage. The theater group he had founded had long since dispersed and the people had now forgotten him. The public now knew him as a person with special powers who was able to answer questions about anything appropriately and correctly, precisely and accurately, so long as he or she was capable of interpreting his guidance.
Everything that came to pass demonstrated the powers of Respected Ulema. Everything that did not eventuate indicated the ignorance of the interpreter. That was the law that applied in the world of Respected Ulema.
From his past life, there remained only that level. He only needed the one. It was more than enough to make him higher than anyone who entered his house, his stage in the real world — and that day there he was, cross-legged, eyes closed, with his head bowed, and his body hunched over. It was not too clear whether he was meditating or dozing.
He himself did not understand why it was that the older he became and the greyer his beard grew that it became easier and easier to doze off. But it was more important for him that the older he became, the more respected he became, even though it wasn’t too clear to him whether he was respected because he was considered wise, or just because he was old.
The morning breeze blew in through one window, and out again through another, making the air cooler, even though the wooden walls were beginning to radiate the golden rays of the sun. They had been waiting since early morning, since before Respected Ulema had woken. After taking a shower, and having breakfast, Respected Ulema appeared, stretched out his hand to place it on the foreheads of the guests, then sat cross-legged on the pandanus mat.
People waited for a very long time. Outside, more and more people were arriving. They couldn’t get in before people inside came out. Word went round that Respected Ulema had not said a word for a long time.
“Ulema doesn’t always say something,” said someone.
“Maybe Ulema won’t say anything,” said another.
“Of course Ulema doesn’t need to say anything,” said someone else.
“Ulema will provide signs.”
As if receiving a way out, everyone waited. If he did not make an utterance, Respected Ulema should provide a sign, as had been interpreted up till now by the seekers of guidance. Whereas if he spoke, Respected Ulema’s words would not provide guidance directly, becoming signs in themselves.
As a result, in addition to referring to Respected Ulema, those seeking guidance had to take advantage of the services of the sign readers around him. It was not at all clear how they could spring up and become part of the phenomena of Respected Ulema, who clearly sometimes the cost of remuneration for these sign readers was far greater than the voluntary remuneration for Respected Ulema. How much? While Respected Ulema had never said a word about remuneration, the sign readers always said, “The amount is up to you.”
In order not to make a mistake, the people who needed the guidance of Respected Ulema would give a payment larger than appropriate, which was on occasion accepted with a grumble.
“You all said you needed help, and Respected Ulema’s guidance will solve your problems, why are you so tardy about providing a payment. Don’t expect everything to be all your way now…”
Respected Ulema suddenly started to cough. Some thought he was ill, but the readers of signs begged to differ.
“Get ready! Get ready!”
“Record it! Record it!”
Hundreds of people took out their cellphones. And Respected Ulema’s coughing was recorded while no one assisted him. Only when Respected Ulema himself was forced to mime a person drinking, did someone fetch him some mineral water.
After having a drink, Respected Ulema looked calmer, although his chest was still heaving up and down. Nevertheless, people had begun approaching the sign readers who immediately started to discuss this sign which took the form of coughing.
“Please, how many times did Respected Ulema cough?” asked one sign interpreter.
A recording was played so the coughs could be counted.
“I count forty-one?”
“Hey! Why are there different numbers? It has to be correct. Different numbers will have different meanings!” commanded an interpreter of signs.
To achieve the same number among hundreds of people was obviously not going to be easy. It took a long time to reach agreement. Respected Ulema had coughed 45 times.
“Wow, such a big difference. If you had tried to interpret the meaning before, it would have been wrong, hey?”
So, what does Respected Ulema’s 45 coughs mean?
One of the interpreters of signs said, “Because the meaning is for every person, and because each problem is different, every person is to receive a whispered interpretation which must be kept secret. Do not ever reveal this secret, because it’s good luck will immediately disappear.”
Each interpreter conveyed more or less the same thing to the people surrounding him. But as it happened Respected Ulema started coughing again, and despite the fact that his coughing was very severe, so severe that Ulema collapsed onto his stomach suffocating, people were more inclined to respond to it as if it were merely a series of signs.
“Record it! Record it! Record it!”
“Don’t miss even one movement!”
It is true that someone did hand him a bottle of mineral water as they massaged his back, but his coughing did not stop this time until Ulema’s eyes began to bulge and his tongue hung out when his coughs merged together without any more pauses and transformed into one extended suffocation.
A strange noise emanated from his throat, like a loud exhaling, to a casual onlooker it was like the snoring of someone asleep.
Then Respected Ulema did not move anymore.
“Did you get it all?” asked one of the interpreters of signs.
“Praise be to God… Got it!”
Years later, people would continue to visit the tomb of Respected Ulema seeking guidance and searching for signs. Every sign originating in the events of his death was said to have the power to overcome most problems, if not every problem, thanks to the successful interpretations of the sign interpreters. Life and death – was there a meaning of greater significance than that?
Until today, people still visit to climb the hill, heading for the tomb of Respected Ulema which is located under a tree and deliberately isolated from the other graves. People spend the night in the area, light frankincense or incense, then surrender themselves to nature.
According to the people who believe themselves the recipients of guidance, they have received the signs from Respected Ulema from the stars in the sky, the rustling of the wind or the falling of the leaves carried on the wind. Can there be anything richer in the universe as a source of interpretation of all meaning?
A caretaker is now present at the tomb. He can help resolve the meaning of any sign, and really has earned a great amount of money.
There are also those who have told of Respected Ulema appearing in their dreams and how he has become overjoyed.
Even though it was mentioned earlier, Respected Ulema was not a shaman, not a fortune teller, and neither was he a magician. Respected Ulema was merely a humble theater actor – something not many people know about. (*)
(Villa Cendana, Kampung Utan, Saturday, 15 December 2018, 5.00 p.m.)
Respected Ulema (Kiyai Sepuh) was published in Jawa Pos on 6 January 2019. Seno Gumira Ajidarma is an Indonesian writer, novelist, and film critic. Retrieved from LakonHidup.com
Recently a lot of people have been talking about this one documentary film. The Blue Indonesia Expedition team and production house WatchDoc Documentary say they’ve been keen to make the final installment in the series based on their recent year-long expedition traveling throughout Indonesia. After producing many films in the series as a result of their expedition, including films such as Samin vs Cement (2015), Kala Benoa (2015), The Mahuzes (2015), Asymmetric (2018) and many others, comes the latest most talked about addition, Sexy Killers: a Documentary (2019). (Read more at “Review ‘Sexy Killers’, Film dan Isu Terseksi Tahun Ini” Kompasiana 15 April 2019)
The full movie is now available here.
Featured image comes from https://www.instagram.com/watchdoc_insta/.
Lihat juga Hari Sexy Killers Sedunia, Sexy Killers coal documentary goes viral, Indramayu halts ‘Sexy Killers’ screening for alleged hate speech, Documentary film Sexy Killers probes Indonesian candidates’ ties to Big Coal, In ‘Sexy Killers,’ journos probe Indonesian candidates’ ties to Big Coal, Quick counts suggest Jokowi has won. What happens next?, Energy Minister Responds to WatchDoc’s Sexy Killers Documentary.
By Seno Gumira Ajidarma
A discrete young couple is engrossed in an animated argument about bitter beans. In fact, they have just finished a dinner that consisted largely, among other things, of bitter beans.
“Just imagine if there were no bitter beans in the world,” muses the young man.
“Well, what about it?”
“If there were no bitter beans in the world, the poor wouldn’t have anything to make them happy. Imagine! Wouldn’t it be dreadful if the only thing that made the poor happy was owning a Mercedes Benz and working in an office? We’re lucky to have bitter beans! Every individual bitter bean makes a huge contribution to the total sum of human happiness. It’s about time we realized that the bitter bean is one of Indonesia’s most important national resources.”
“But the image of the bitter bean doesn’t fit the image of the newly rich city-living office worker, the collar-and-tie look. It’s obvious that the bitter bean just isn’t, or at least isn’t very, well, cool. You can hardly be proud of the smell! After all, these days people are only happy if they have something to be proud of.”
“To be proud of, or, to be arrogant about? Look at us. We’re happy eating bitter beans. Try smelling my breath.” The young man exhales, “Phew!”
The young woman waves a hand in front of her nose. “Yuck! What a revolting smell!”
“Well, of course it smells! But the embarrassing smell of bitter beans is only an image problem. Something has to be done to change its image. You can’t deny it. It does bring joy to millions of people, people who can only afford to find happiness in eating bitter beans. That’s the first thing. And another thing, aren’t they also good for you? According to a friend of mine, they’re good for your kidneys. They help you piss. And the problem of the smell? Ah! The smell can even be turned into… a unique national symbol! I might even write a letter to the newspaper suggesting, yes, that the Director General of Tourism start an advertising campaign promoting the smell of bitter beans as… `The Smell of Indonesia’. What do you think? Do you like that?”
The attractive young girlfriend is silent, blinks and listens to her excited boyfriend’s ideas. Out of affection she usually tries to agree, even though she does think this suggestion sounds a little odd. There is no way in the world the bitter bean is ever going to amount to anything of world importance. Not like crude oil, or nuclear energy. It’s just a fact that bitter beans will probably only ever be important for the little person, to the ordinary man and woman in the street.
“I don’t think you’re actually wrong,” she says, “but do you really think many people will be able to get what you mean?”
“Well, of course. What’s so hard about it? It isn’t complicated. It’s getting harder and harder to make a living. The measure of success is becoming more and more difficult to achieve. And that means too many people will feel like they’ve failed in life, that their lives are worthless if they can’t live up to this measure of success. These are the defeated people, the unfortunate, those who despite having worked and worked are never going to strike it big. These people have to be entertained…”
“And how is that going to happen?”
“Oh! I can’t believe you haven’t got it yet!”
“You mean they have to be made to realize that happiness can be achieved, not by having a white-collar job, but by.. eating bitter beans?”
“You mean grilled bitter beans, don’t you?”
“They could also be fried.”
“What about raw bitter beans?”
“Not interesting enough.”
“Now, that’s a little better. But what would be exciting is beans mixed with milk.”
“A bitter bean nog! Not milk, egg, honey and ginger, but milk, egg, honey and bitter beans! Ha ha ha!!” they laughed together.
“Then, you could also have bitter bean juice.”
“Wow! That’s a great idea!”
“Now you’re getting silly!”
“If the meaning of life can only be found in eating bitter beans, what would be the point of going to school and getting a good education? Surely the achievements of human civilization can’t be measured by the happiness that someone finds by eating bitter beans. It wouldn’t be right for bitter beans to be so important that nothing else made people happy.”
“Hang on! Do you actually believe that? Look, the central business district of Jakarta, Jakarta’s ‘Golden Triangle’, is just the tip of an enormous pyramid and just a mere handful of people ever get to enjoy the bright lights. If everybody tried to climb to the top of the pyramid, it would be a disaster! Most people are going to roll back down again, or fall off, or get pushed off and become poor again and then they are going to end up believing that there isn’t any point to life.”
“You’re so cynical.”
“What do you mean cynical? I have great hope.”
“You mean hope in bitter beans, that the only thing that will make Indonesians happy is eating bitter beans?”
“You can make an Indonesian happy with a tie, and you can get millions of ties from Sogo department store.”
The pair chatter on excitedly, as the distinctive aroma of bitter beans sprays from their mouths with every enthusiastic breath.
Having explored every aspect of the bitter bean for more than an hour, they finally realize that they are very tired.
Eventually, all that is left is for them to kiss passionately.
“You reek of bitter beans,” says the young man.
“You smell of bitter beans yourself,” replies the woman, as they each depart for their homes.
Arriving at his home, the young man kisses his wife.
“You smell of bitter beans,” she greets him.
“Yes, I did have some at a food stall.”
“You’re always eating those things!”
“No, I’m not. Only now and again.”
“I’m amazed. I’ve told you before, but you just don’t learn, do you?” says the man’s wife. “If you eat bitter beans, everyone in the house has to put up with it. You know no one else in the house likes them besides you. I don’t like them and neither do the children. Whenever you eat bitter beans, the smell goes everywhere, from the toilet out back to the gutter in front of the house. The smell gets into everything. It’s embarrassing! The neighbors will say, “Err. The people next door are eating bitter beans again!” Try to cut down a little, will you? Try to show a little consideration for someone other than yourself, all right! So you honestly enjoy them, but you have to realize, only poor people eat bitter beans, darling.”
After that, she doesn’t say anything else. But before going to bed, she suddenly remembers that her bitter bean-munching husband in fact gave them up before they were married fifteen years ago. But lately, over the last few months, she’s noticed that he’s started eating them again. She can’t understand why.
“Maybe he needs a little variation,” she thinks.
(Jakarta, October 1990.)
Bitter Beans (Petai) was published in Kompas Daily in December 1990.
By Seno Gumira Ajidarma
Only her eyes are visible. What can one see from a pair of eyes that radiate the enchantment of the world with every blink?
That is how enchantment projects from the eyes being watched to swallow the eyes watching, which are instantly dazzled and instantly stunned, as if struck by a blaze of heavenly light that completely obliterates the self and every desire, leaving the body devoid of all thought, except that of surrender and willingness in the yearning to be enslaved in the sacrifice of the soul.
“That’s enough! Stop standing there like that,” says his wife. “Let’s go home.”
But he no longer knows the words go home. Gone is home, gone is wife, gone is family. Vanished is all the cheerful chatter of children filling his life like the crashing of surf filling the silence of the universe.
He leaves his shocked wife, who grabs his arm only to have him to jerk it away, who can only look at the man who is her husband, who is the father of her children, vanish into the crowd and disappear…
Who would ever have thought that happiness was so fragile, the miracle of love so transitory?
From a distance, he continues to follow her. She steps without ever looking behind again, even though in all the reflections of all the glass at the intersection, in the shop windows, or in the side mirrors of motorbike taxi drivers waiting for passengers, she can see how he has been following her since the market.
She realizes he’s been walking along the sidewalk constantly following her at a distance. If she turns into a lane, he follows her into the lane. If she climbs onto a bus, he follows in a minibus that travels the same route. If she gets into a taxi, he follows her on a motorbike taxi or in another taxi. If she catches an electric train, she knows too how he is in the same carriage, and immediately follows her when she gets off at whatever station she’s going to.
Later when she arrives at her house, she kisses her husband’s hand, takes the little one back from the hands of the babysitter. Then from behind the window with the curtains that are always closed, she needs to look through and she can see the outline of her stalker dart into the small cafe down the road. She’s certain that from inside the cafe he’s constantly staring, waiting, hoping. Dreaming.
She and her husband look at each other. The little one is asleep. The babysitter has left.
From the small café that’s closing up, a pair of eyes stare out at her dark house, and sip coffee.
From day to day he moves around the daily life of the woman whose eyes alone are visible. It isn’t enough to follow from behind, sometimes he pretends to pass her accidentally.
It’s when they pass that he stares at her eyes and at whatever else apart from her eyes he can see. And it’s when they pass each other that his chest heaves, his heart comes alive and something will pound more quickly than usual.
What can be expressed by a pair of eyes whose brightness excites, with a gaze that pierces and grips, that conquers? What can a pair of eyes say? It seems so much, but how can one be sure?
He hopes those eyes will recognize him, and if they recognize him then pay a little attention to him, and if possible, not only pay a little attention, but still more also hope for something in return from him. But not just hope for something in return, also crave for something in return.
Is it possible that what he has hoped for, that what has never existed in the relationship between the two of them, can happen? But those eyes seem to be saying everything! They seem to be paying attention, appear to be hoping for something. They even seem to be craving for him…
Over the days his suspicion seems to be becoming a reality.
One day when he follows her, she turns around and looks straight at his eyes.
He thinks, she’s looking for me! She wants to know if today I am following her! She wants me to follow where she’s going!
He quickens his pace, drawing nearer. But she doesn’t turn around again. After a time just walking behind her, he ventures to speed up and draw alongside her.
They walk together, against the current of the surging urban humanity sweeping along the streets. Who among so many people in this world would think that something so important has happened between the two of them?
With all these feelings flowering in his heart, he still is not able to be sure of anything.
How can he be sure of anything just from the look of someone’s eyes, even though it has certainly been proved that the blaze of a radiant pair of eyes has captured and uprooted him from his old, comfortable, serene, problem-free life to enter a world that, despite being uncertain, still promises the happiness of a heaven like the one created by the glow of her eyes?
The waves of humanity continue to sweep around them. He observes their eyes, and it seems that not one of them pass with the glow of the eyes of the woman beside him. How is it possible?
How is it possible that all these people flowing past from the front can miss so blithely the shining radiance of the most beautiful eyes? Are the eyes of city people any blinder than when they are looking for something fake which in fact has never existed? But they are there in front of him!
Walking alongside her he cannot see anything, up until it is dark, and the woman is gone. He searches everywhere and does not find her…
The house lights have to be switched off before she looks through the curtains and sees that he is in the small café, his glare penetrating the night directly in her direction. She closes the curtains quickly as if that stare were a flying arrow, able to pierce the glass of the window, penetrate the window and pierce her heart. But then she parts the curtains again. He won’t be able to see her. She can see him. There are many people in the cafe, but his back is turned towards them and he’s staring in her direction. A slight feeling of sadness passes over her, but just for a moment. She’s used to disregarding her own feelings, for the sake of the larger interest that she believes in.
She turns in the direction of her husband, who’s reading verses from the holy book to their son before going to bed.
Her husband raises his head, looks at her, and nods.
The dark cloudy sky surged as, for the umpteenth time in as many months, he follows her some distance behind. She glances back just before disappearing into a lane. With a gaze that shines brightly, fleetingly, but which takes complete possession of the soul which cried and worshiped for so long craving a reply. He feels how his feet are so light as he weaves between the thousands of people in the street to follow her. He wants to never lose her again, even though he can always return to the cafe in front of her house.
Rain thunders down the moment she reaches the back of the lane. She is waiting there, leaning against a wall, soaked to the skin, and staring straight into his eyes. He is frozen. What he is used to experiencing as a hope and a yearning makes him giddy as it becomes a reality.
Not only stare. She takes his hands, pulling them in the torrential rain that makes every other person disappear from the streets, vanish from the lane, and leaves only the two of them breaking through the rain holding hands. Although the rain is so heavy the water from the sky feels like the rubber bullets that hit him randomly as he watched the demonstration, he cannot remember them.
A door opens and they enter a dark room. He inhales the odor of old metal, but what is he going to worry about when in the darkness his wet clothes are no longer covering his body, and hands as soft as cotton carry his hands to the other unclothed body?
In the darkness and the thunder of the rain, he cannot hear the sounds and sighs, but he can feel everything.
He carries a backpack on his back. As ultimate service what is there that he will not do? He does not even feel the need to ask what is in the pack. He does not want to worry about that out of fear of losing the one who has mastered him.
His feelings are still those feelings as the world suddenly disappears from his consciousness when the bomb in his backpack explodes destroying everything. Everything. Buildings, ants, and humanity…
The Slave of Love (Budak Cinta) was published in Kompas Daily, 20 January 2019. (Retrieved from lakonhidup.wordpress.com)
Seno Gumira Ajidarma, born in Boston, United States, June 19, 1958. Now serves as Chancellor of the Jakarta Institute of the Arts (IKJ). Seno became better known after writing his trilogy of works on East Timor, namely Saksi Mata (collection of short stories), Jazz, Purfum, dan Insiden? (novel), and Ketika Jurnalisme Dibungkam, Sastra Harus Bicara (collection of essays). In 2014, he launched a blog called Pana-Journal (www.panajournal.com) about human interest stories with a number of journalists and professionals in the field of communication.
Oetje Lamno, born in Yogyakarta on May 31, 1978, completed his art education at the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) Yogyakarta. He has participated in various art exhibitions in several places, including overseas. In 2010, he attended Beijing Biennale # 4 at the National Art Museum of China. In 2017, he returned to exhibit in China on “Silk Road, International Festival Art, Xi-an”. Oetje was a finalist of the 2015 Indonesia Art Award art competition, whose works are on display at the National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta.
By Wawan Kurniawan
He would not have swallowed the poison if yesterday’s incident hadn’t happened. A week earlier, he’d had a dream about a woman dressed in red with shoulder-length hair who came to him on a beach he did not recognize. Without the chance to get a clear look at her face, the woman had straight away hugged him from behind, so tightly that his bones felt like they were going to break.
Only on hearing a cracking sound, along with the feeling of excruciating pain, did he then wake up.
He saw the clock on the wall still showing forty-two minutes past three. Only the sound of the clock ticking could be heard. He decided to close his eyes again and remember absolutely nothing of what had happened in his dream. But the pain in his back was still there making him change his sleeping position several times.
He managed to fall asleep and woke again at ten in the morning. Usually, he woke up in the afternoon after staying up late translating some of the manuscripts that were on his laptop. The pain in his back made him wake up early. Even though his sleep had been disturbed earlier in the day, he tried to look for possible causes of the pain.
“Maybe my sleeping position was the problem.”
“Hang on, just maybe it’s because I was sitting for too long working.”
“No, it seems to be because last night I didn’t drink enough water.”
Among the possibilities, it didn’t enter his head for a moment about his dream.
While thinking about the pain, he suddenly remembered his promise to Eka, the publisher who wanted to print his translation. He had twice asked for an extension to work on improving the translation. And in six days’ time, the deadline would expire. He also didn’t want to ask for an extension, but on the other hand, he still felt as if he wasn’t finished the translation.
While struggling against the pain in the back of his body, he walked slowly toward the bathroom holding onto the wall of the house. His steps were exactly like those of an old man who had lost his walking stick, one hand on the wall, the other on his back massaging his own lower spine.
“What’s happen? Why do you have to be sick like this, Lord?”
There wasn’t a soul in the house. In the past, he had kept a cat and it had been given the name March — the month of his birth, as well as several his favorite authors. Now, the distance to the bathroom felt like a long way for him.
He took a few steps back and dropped himself onto a brown sofa in the space that was his office. He took a deep breath returning to the quest for the correct position to ease the pain. Sitting in the chair made him feel better.
He then lifted a book from the small table next to his chair. At the table, there were several novels which he was reading and a thin notebook with a white cover that had no pictures. There were also two fountain pens he often used to take notes or make lists in his book. If not used for making notes, the fountain pen often became a way of relieving anxiety by using the end to tap on the table.
The book he was reading still had around a hundred and twenty-three pages to go before it was finished. His felt better after sitting down and reading a few pages of the book. He leaned back and let his back be swallowed softness of the chair.
All of a sudden, he felt that he wanted to do a wee but the comfortable position made him feel like not getting up. To his right, the window hadn’t been opened, so the sun’s rays weren’t fully entering the house. But he could feel a warm sensation around his thighs after he allowed himself to urinate where he was. He closed his eyes, feeling the warmth of the flow of his urine.
He only left his chair when he had finished the book.
After returning to read his translation, he lay down on the floor. That afternoon, after contacting his friend William who worked as a doctor at a health center, he was told not to sleep on a mattress. He didn’t want to go to bed yet, but the pain in his back was becoming worse. The only way to feel better was to lay down. Before going to bed, he once again tried contacting his girlfriend Nadira.
Two days before, Nadira had left to return to Selayar Regency to organize their wedding which was scheduled to take place in the middle of the year. But Nadira just didn’t pick up the phone, or even respond to his WhatsApp chat messages.
The day before Nadira left, the weather in Selayar had turned extremely bad causing an interruption to the signal. Yesterday, Nadira had still been able to message, she had mentioned that the weather looked as if it was becoming worse and that communication might be interrupted.
In a media report from Selayar, he saw strong winds and continually pounding high seas. There was no news from Nadira. That night he began to have a strange sensation, a sense of dread over something. His pain was sometimes forgotten when he went back to looking for news of Nadira. As he waited for a miracle, he read the chat on WhatsApp from several days before.
Reading it made him smile, then laugh to himself, until, unwittingly, he fell asleep that night holding his cell phone.
And once again, the dream reoccurred, over five consecutive nights. In the end, everything that happened in the dream was clearly recorded in his memory. He was able to remember what happened but could not recognize who the woman was or where the beach was where they were.
That night too, before going to bed he again tried to contact Nadira, to tell her about his dream and the worry that he had been holding back for several days. But again, a bad feeling pressing in on his chest. Something might have happened. The news reporting about Selayar still had no new reports after the extremely bad weather of the last few days.
The pain in his back then spread towards one place, his tailbone. That same night, he could no longer sit. He allowed himself to lie down on the floor. He looked at the ceiling of his room, noticing the lights that appeared to be glowing. The lights in the room then went out and instantly his whole body became completely paralyzed.
A few moments later, the lights came back on. Again he saw the figure of the long-haired woman dressed in red who had appeared in his dreams. Only the difference was this time he could see her face, and the woman was Nadira.
His chest felt tight, not because he was scared, but instead because the bad feeling he’d had the whole time, seemed to be coming true.
Something had happened to Nadira. The figure disappeared quickly, in just the blink of an eye. Right then he thought his body was normal again and he stood up, despite the pain in his tailbone.
His laptop was still open, the text of his translation was still not complete. There was still no news of Nadira. The pain was becoming more and more unbearable. As he rose resisting the pain, he grimaced. He felt as if his life was in chaos. A voice in his head asked him to go straight into the kitchen. A bottle of insecticide was stored behind the back of the kitchen door.
The figure he had just seen was indeed possibly his girlfriend Nadira. Death has taken her before him. He wasn’t able to translate events as well as he translated the manuscript on his laptop.
He took stumbling steps towards the bottle of poison. Now as he started to draw near, it was me who then hugged him from behind until everything in him was crushed, while it was me who had embraced Nadira before him in the high pounding waves.
Why had he not translated me first?
The Death of a Translator (Kematian Seorang Penerjemah) was published in Kompas Daily, 24 March 2019.
Wawan Kurniawan, writes poetry, short stories, essays, novels, and translations. Joined the Kompas Daily short story writing class (2015), published a book of poetry entitled Persinggahan Perangai Sepi (2013) and Sajak Penghuni Surga (2017). One of his novels entitled Seratus Tahun Kebisuan (A Hundred Years of Silence) is a Unnes International Novel Writing Contest 2017 Novel of Choice. Check out https://www.instagram.com/wawankurn/
Nyoman Sujana Kenyem, born in Ubud, Bali, 9 September 1972, Nyoman studied at STSI Denpasar (1992-1998). His solo exhibitions include A Place Behind The House at Komaneka Gallery Ubud, Bali (2016), Silence of Nature, at Lovina, Bali (2015), and his solo exhibition at G13 Gallery, Kelana Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia (2013). See https://www.instagram.com/artkenyem/