Short Story: Karyamin’s Smile

leftphotoBy Ahmad Tohari

Karyamin measured careful deliberate steps. The weight bearing down across his shoulders was a long supple bamboo pole with woven rattan baskets full of river rocks swinging pendulum-like from each end. The steep dirt track leading up the river bank was wet from the sweat that had dripped from Karyamin and the other workers as they trudged up and down the bank hauling rocks from the river to the storage bay at the top.

        Long experience had taught Karyamin that he could make the climb to the top all right if he kept the center of gravity for his body and the load either on the right, or on the left foot, and if he shifted it very carefully from one foot to the other. He had also learned that to maintain his balance he had to concentrate on each breath and every movement of his arms.

        Even so, Karyamin had slipped over twice that morning, collapsing in a heap and tumbling back down the trail followed by the rocks disgorging from his disheveled baskets. Every time Karyamin’s fellow rock collectors had doubled up in fits of laughter, pleased for the amusement that could be extracted from laughing at one another. This time Karyamin crept up the bank more cautiously. Despite his trembling knees, he gripped the earth with his toes as he went, every ounce of attention focused on maintaining his balance. The tension was visible on his face, sweat covered his body and poured through his shorts. Ridged veins bulged from his neck under the strain of the weight bearing down on his back and shoulders. (Continue reading here.)


Karyamin’s Smile (Senyum Karyamin) by Ahmad Tohari was published in the daily newspaper Kompas in July 1987.

The wily Malay MOUSEdEER

The Wily Malay Mousedeer

By The Asian and African Studies Blog of The British Library

Many cultures celebrate an animal who, while not the largest or strongest, outwits all around him. In Europe this is Reynard the fox; in the Malay world of Southeast Asia it is Sang Kancil the mousedeer (pelanduk). Malay folklore is full of accounts of how the mousedeer gets the better of the other animals by his intellect and trickery. But in addition to oral tales and childens’ stories there is also a written epic in Malay, the Hikayat Pelanduk Jenaka or ‘Tale of the Wily Mousedeer’, probably dating from the 15th or 16th century, which is a highly sophisticated literary composition.   (Read more…)

kancil

Sumatran mousedeer. Drawing by a Chinese artist in Bengkulu, between 1784 and 1808, reproduced in William Marsden, A history of Sumatra, 3rd edition (London, 1811). British Library, NHD 1/8. Source: The wily Malay mousedeer – Asian and African studies blog

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