Giant Turtle, Kartini Beach Jepara

The Sufi Teacher Passed By…

By Seno Gumira Ajidarma

One ordinary sleepy day a sufi teacher landed in Jakarta on his magic carpet at the gates of the toll road leading from Jakarta to Cengkareng International Airport. He hopped down and strolled into Jakarta as his magic carpet flew off again back up into the heavens.

It happened to be a Friday and at midday the sufi teacher went looking for the nearest place to perform his Friday prayers. He went into the office block he was passing and on the ground floor found a small prayer room. The usual plastic prayer mats were laid out ready for Friday prayers but the room was still empty. A man who seemed to be the prayer room attendant was getting ready to perform his prayers, so the sufi teacher asked, “Prayer room attendant, isn’t it Friday today and shouldn’t everyone be here performing their prayers?”

kebenaran

“True. Usually there are lots of people here on Fridays to pray. The office workers in this building prefer to pray here on the ground floor rather than go out and look for a mosque.”

“But prayer room attendant, why isn’t anyone at all here today even though it’s time for prayer?”

“Ah, they’re all praying on the ninth floor.”

“And why is that?”

“Because.., it’s air conditioned. They say the atmosphere there is more conducive to prayer, and it’s nice and cool on the ninth floor, while down here it’s hot and sticky.”

“Ah, I see,” replied the sufi teacher in English, nodding.

And so he and the attendant performed their prayers together by themselves with the attendant leading the devotions.

When they had finished, the sufi teacher continued on his way looking for Gus Dur, the director of the Islamic community organization called Nahdlatul Ulama. He wanted to ask whether Americans could use the English phrase ‘good morning’ instead of the Arabic greeting ‘Assalamu alaikum’.

A month later the sufi teacher was again going past the same building and as it happened to be right on time for midday prayer he once again entered the building.

It turned out that this time there were dozens of people preparing to pray in the small prayer room. There were so many in fact that they were spilling out of the prayer room into the lobby as the fiery sermon lambasted the spread of worldly greed.

The sufi teacher again asked the attendant, “Prayer room attendant, why are there now so many people praying here, so many that they are overflowing into the lobby? What has become of the air conditioned prayer room on the ninth floor?”

“Sojourner, the office workers have come back here to pray because the air conditioning is out of order, and the room which used to be so nice and cool is now unbearably hot. Because of the humidity on the ninth floor, they now want to pray here; if they are lucky they might catch a passing breeze.”

The sufi teacher again nodded, saying in English, “I see. I see.” Then he continued, “Well then, take note prayer room attendant. Reflect on this question: Is there any difference between those who pray in an air conditioned room and those who do not?”

The prayer room attendant was silent, and, after midday prayers were over, forever more followed the sufi teacher wherever he went.

One day on their travels they arrived at the edge of a river somewhere in Central Java where there was no bridge. To cross to the other side it was necessary to use a small bamboo raft. The raft landing on the other side was not directly opposite and had to be reached by using a punt some way along the bank before crossing over.

Punting along the edge of the river the sufi teacher noticed a man fishing at the edge of the river who didn’t seem to be using any bait. But even though the fisherman wasn’t using any bait, the fish were just jumping from the water by themselves and landing in the man’s basket, filling it to overflowing. As the basket filled, the local people emptied fish into their own baskets and carried them away to their homes. The villagers flocked to the fisherman’s basket.

Amazed at this sight, the sufi teacher asked the raft keeper, “Raft keeper, who is that man by the river fishing without any bait?”

“That’s Saint Jagakali.”

“Who’s he?”

And so the raft keeper told the sufi teacher the story of the fisherman. It was said that long ago in that village there had lived a fisherman who lived solely from the fish he caught. Every day he would take his catch, return home and cook and eat it. One day one of the fish he caught was flapping gasping on the ground near him when it had begun speaking to him.

Mesjid Cikini Raden Saleh Jakarta 1947

Mesjid Cikini Raden Saleh Jakarta 1947

“Fisherman, please let me go. Grant me a great blessing and throw me back into the river. What good can I be to you? The small amount of flesh on my tiny bones will hardly fill you.”

The fisherman was astonished, but replied, “Talking fish, why do you speak to me this way? Does a fisherman not have the right to eat a fish he catches? This is the way it has always been, and the way it always shall be.”

“But life is like a wheel,” replied the fish. “What would happen if you should die and be reborn as a fish?”

The fisherman laughed aloud and threw the speaking fish into his basket.

Finally after the fisherman had died he was indeed reborn as a fish. On the other hand, after passing away the talking fish was also reborn, but as a fisherman.

One day the fisherman who had once been a fish caught the fish who had at one time been a fisherman. The fish who had been a fisherman was also able to speak.

“Good fisherman, I beg you to let me go because I am just a small fish and life means so much to me. My small body will hardly provide you with enough. Please throw me back into the river and set me free.”

The fisherman who had once been a fish happened to recognize that the fish he had caught was the fisherman who had once caught him.

The fisherman said, “Talking fish, do you not remember that once you were a fisherman and that once you refused to grant the request of a small fish. I am that very fish, and now you must experience what I felt that day.”

“No! Please! Haven’t you thought that one day you might be reborn yet again as a fish and I as a fisherman who might catch you? Remember that life is like a wheel, spinning around and around and around.”

“I don’t care; I desire vengeance. Aha ha ha ha ha!” responded the fisherman as he threw the fish into his basket. The fish flip-flopped backwards and forwards with slowly weakening flicks until it was finished.

In its next life, the fish did return as a man and the fisherman too returned, this time as a fish. The man who had once been a fish who had once been a fisherman did indeed become a fisherman who loved fishing more than anything in the world. But he did not forget that once he had killed a fish and had finally as a fish himself been killed by a fisherman despite his pleas for mercy. Full of reverence, he resolved to return the fish he had caught to the river.

Hence forth the fisherman fished without using any bait. The strange thing was that ever since he had decided not to use bait the fish had just leaped from the water by themselves into his basket. Even then he couldn’t bring himself to eat the fish so he allowed the local villagers to take them. As there were more fish than a fish factory the local villagers took them gratefully.

The fisherman would sit by the river day and night fishing, refusing to use any bait. He did not want to eat any of the fish and he lived solely from the dew that formed on his lips in the morning, chanting the mantras of the poet Sutardji Calzoum Bachri:

How many centuries must pass,
How many watches must stop,
How many signs must appear,
How many steps must I take,
Before I am able to reach You?

Over time, the fisherman had been given the name Saint Jagakali after the great Muslim mystic of Central Java, even though the fisherman himself had acknowledged no creed.

When the sufi teacher and the prayer room attendant arrived at the other side of the river, the sufi teacher thanked the raft keeper and together he and the prayer room attendant continued on their journey to East Java.

The sufi teacher wanted to meet the chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, Kiai Ahmad Shiddiq, to ask the venerable teacher what he would think if Michael Jackson and Jean-Michel Jarre were to record Arabic devotional songs.

After that, the sufi teacher wanted to summon his flying carpet and return to Isfahan. He was planning to drop into Qom and let Khomeini know that wisdom had spread to every corner of the earth. But then he remembered, the Great Teacher was already dead, so he changed his mind.

The sufi teacher next planned to fly from East Java to Japan, but first he wanted to take the prayer room attendant to the modern Islamic boarding school at Gontor in East Java so he could learn English. After all, a prayer room attendant in an office block in Jakarta’s ‘golden triangle’ central business district crowded with the offices of foreign investors needs to know English.

When he arrived in Japan the sufi teacher planned to go straight to Kyoto, find a Buddhist priest, and find out how he practiced Zen.

(Jakarta, February 1990)


The Sufi Teacher Passed By… (Guru Sufi Lewat…) by Seno Gumira Ajidarma was published in Kompas Daily in May 1990. It also appears in Ajidarma, Seno G. Dilarang Menyanyi Di Kamar Mandi: Kumpulan Cerita Pendek. Jakarta: Subentra Citra Pustaka, 1995. Print.  Kesadaran Mitis Seno by Aprinus Salam, Humaniora No. 10 Jan-Apr 1999, p. 91.

Dilarang Menyanyi Di Kamar Mandi

Dilarang Menyanyi Di Kamar Mandi

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Ain’t No Night Fair #7

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 4

We relaxed in the front guestroom. My younger siblings who weren’t grown up yet, who still appeared so wild, now began to draw near and we talked a great deal, about Djakarta, about Semarang, and about cars. Conversation wasn’t boring, it made me happy, and it usually carried on for a long time.

And at one point I asked, “How’s father’s health?”

Suddenly everyone went quiet; not one person was looking directly at me. Suddenly the animated joyful conversation was gone, replaced by an air of seriousness.

And I asked again, “How is father’s health?”

Carefully and slowly my sister answered, “We received the pills and the blanket you sent for father. I also received the money order and we used it to buy milk and eggs, just as you instructed.”

My wife and I listened silently. She continued, “I also collected the shirt for father from the post office. And I took the blanket, the shirt and the pills to the hospital. But father said, ‘Just take them all back to the house.’ So I brought them home again.”

I was surprised and asked, “And the pills?”

“He has finished one container.”

I was a pleased a little.

“And the milk and eggs?” I asked again.

“Father didn’t like them. ‘I’m bored with eggs and milk,’ he said.”

I was lost for words. I looked at my wife, but in her face, I did not find an answer. I glanced outside the house. I noticed the orange tree which father had long ago planted. It was dry now and almost dead.

“And father’s health?” I repeated my question.

My younger sister didn’t reply. Her eyes reddened with tears.

“Why don’t you answer me?” I asked fearfully.

“Yesterday and up to yesterday father just smiled, smiled a lot. But then, then…”

She was silent. I did not force her to continue what she was saying. I didn’t say anything either. Both of us sat for a time with our heads bowed. My youngest sister, who had just begun to speak to me, now wouldn’t say a word. The time was only just half past twelve in the afternoon and the sound of frying could be heard clearly coming from the kitchen.

My younger sister continued, her voice still slow, foreboding and careful. “…and then this morning father wasn’t smiling anymore. His voice was weak and almost inaudible.” Her voice trailed away.

“And what did the doctor say?” I asked.

“The doctor has never said anything to us. There is just the one doctor here. And there aren’t enough medicines.”

Then my younger brother, who by chance was home with leave from his commander, said, “I’ve discussed father’s illness with the doctor too. He said, ‘I already know about your father’s illness.’”

“Is that all he said?” I asked.

“Yes. That’s all. Then they told me to go home.”

The atmosphere turned serious once more. Everyone sat silently with their own feelings and their own thoughts. Then without realizing it, my younger sister changed the subject of the conversation to a new topic. She mentioned that my third younger sister, the one who was married, was currently in Blora too. Straight away I asked her where she was.

Her hand pointed to the door of one of the bedrooms. All eyes followed the direction she indicated. In my mind I could see my sister’s face and I imagined she was thin. I knew it; she had to be sick. But I opened my mouth and said, “Tell her to come out.”

My younger sister went over to the door and opened it carefully. Every eye was on her. She disappeared into the room, then she emerged red eyed and said, half crying, “She’s still asleep.”

We talked about other things. But the image of my sick younger sister filled my mind. It was because of her I wrote the letter to my father, the unpleasant letter, for allowing her to become sick. But at the time I was still in gaol. My father had replied:

Yes, my child, throughout my life of fifty-six years I have realized that people’s efforts and means are very limited. For my part, I wouldn’t have allowed your sister to become ill if only I had some power over people’s fates. She became sick when she was detained by the red militia in an area that was swampy, an area rife with malaria. And maybe you can understand yourself the situation with medicines in a war zone, and especially if you yourself are not a soldier.

That reply melted my anger. The question had been clear in my heart, “Did I sin by writing that angry letter?” The answer had come back by itself, “Yes, you have sinned.” And it had been because of that answer I had felt up to this time that I had sinned. Before seeing father again. But that long wandering conversation had removed these terrible memories. I looked at my six younger siblings surrounding me, surrounding my wife and I, starting to be free of the atmosphere of seriousness, while I was still stuck with so many thoughts and memories pressing in.

I noticed my watch. We had been talking for an hour. Then looking at my smallest sister I said slowly, “Please look in on your big sister. Maybe she’s awake.”

She got up, went to the door and called out in her childish voice, “Sister, sister. Big brother’s here.”

She vanished into the bedroom.

No-one was paying much attention to her and the conversation broke out again. But when my smallest sister emerged, the conversation halted. She approached me and whispered, “Sister’s crying.”

I took a deep breath.

Slowly I stood up and went over to the bedroom. And there sprawled on the iron bed devoid of mosquito netting, half blanketed by a light cotton sheet, was my little sister, covering her eyes with her arm. I lifted her arm and I beheld two eyes looking up at me, red and moist. I hugged her. She started to cry and I too wept, and among the sobs, I could hear my own voice ask, “Why are you so thin?”

Her crying subsided and she composed herself, so she was calmer. And I did the same.

“I’ve been sick for a long time, brother,” I listened to her broken voice.

“Have you been to the doctor?” I asked, my voice cracking too.

“I’ve seen the doctor, but my condition just stays like this,” her voice still breaking.

“Maybe it would be better if you went to a large city. There are a lot of specialists there,” my voice still breaking.

There was just sobbing.

“Do you have any children, sister?”

“Yes, brother.”

“Where are they?”

Our crying had subsided, but my sister now broke out in tears again. She answered without emotion, “He passed away, brother. He’s not here anymore.”

She snatched back the arm I was holding and covered her eyes again. I took out my handkerchief and wiped the tears running down her face.

“What do you mean not here,” I asked.

“I gave birth at six months. He cried a lot. I could hear him crying. Then God took him back again.”

Once more I started to weep openly and she too sobbed uncontrollably. All I could hear now was the storm heaving in my chest. And all I could see was her thin body, the single cloth sheet, the small mattress covering only half the bed frame, and the iron and the bamboo slats protruding next to the mattress.

“You’re still young, little sister, you still have the chance to have another child,” I said to comfort her.

“Where’s your husband?”

“He’s doing training in Semarang, brother.”

Our crying, which had filled that room, now subsided and eventually died.

I straightened the blanket, kissed my younger sister on her cheek and I said, “Go to sleep.”

She took her arm away from her eyes. She was calm now. Slowly she closed her eyelids. Once more I kissed her on the cheeks, cheeks that had once been so full and which were now so drawn. Then I left the room.

(Continued)

Duduk Duduk


Source: Ain’t No Night Fair (Bukan Pasarmalam) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Dinas Penerbitan Balai Pustaka, Jakarta, 1959.

Featured image: After an interval of 11 years, rock band Efek Rumah Kaca play in Pare-Pare, South Sulawesi, December 2018

Kooa Cigarette Label

Fujinkai

By Idrus

The Women’s Association(*) of a nondescript village was holding a meeting. The day before the meeting, Mrs. Scholar had been in quite a flap. She looked as if she was organizing her own daughter’s wedding, borrowing chairs from here and there, dropping in and out of homes to invite members. For Mrs. Scholar, Women’s Association meetings were very important events in her day-to-day life.

“She really is enthusiastic,” said one member to a friend.

Mrs. Scholar rose to her feet and spoke to open the meeting. With the voice of a cold, shivering cat, Mrs. Scholar explained that she was in receipt of an instruction from her superiors to hold a meeting to discuss a number of matters.

A member sitting directly across from Mrs. Scholar muttered, “Well, you wouldn’t dare do this without being ordered to.”

As she spoke, Mrs. Scholar glanced at the member with a sour face. The other member’s face twisted into a mocking look.

Trembling slightly, Mrs. Scholar continued what she had been saying. She spoke for a long time, she had not finished everything that she’d been ordered to say by her superiors. All the members yawned, like soldiers on a silent battlefield.

Ten minutes… twenty minutes, Mrs. Scholar talked on and on. Her mouth moved like the snout of a squirrel, puffing up and down like a bellows. Her nostrils flared widely, like a fishing net ballooning in the water. The hairs were visible, dark like a squid. As she spoke, saliva oozed from her teeth and rolled down her chin like a small child’s snot.

Shyly a member rose to her feet and said, “Mrs. Scholar, please excuse me, but I have to leave to go home. I have a lot of things that need doing at home.”

Mrs. Scholar felt offended and in an angry tone asked, “What is the matter, Mrs. Waluyo? The meeting is not over. We’ve only just begun. At home you work for yourself, but here, we are working for the common good.”

Mrs. Waluyo appeared thoughtful, and then said firmly, “That’s a shame Mrs. Scholar.” She looked at her watch, small like a beetle, and continued what she was saying, “At six sharp I’ve arranged to meet the chicken seller. To exchange for some tatty clothes.”

Mrs. Waluyo bowed her head respectfully to Mrs. Scholar, and to the other members, then departed. As soon as she was outside, she said between clenched teeth, “For the first and the last time.” Then contemptuously, “Huh… the common good.”

The other members appeared most uncomfortable, as if they had come face to face with someone just widowed.

Mrs. Scholar went back to what she was saying. She continued to talk about events that had been reported in the newspapers recently. She thanked the Japanese Navy which had won a great victory in the waters east of Taiwan. She expressed admiration for the dashing Japanese soldiers who had fallen in action on Peleliu Island. She thanked the Empire of Greater Japan for Indonesia’s forthcoming independence, and she was grateful that the military government had managed the smooth distribution of rice so that everyone was receiving a fifth of a litre of rice each day.

Then another member stood up. Obviously a real village person, her Indonesian was stilted and sounded like a very old woman’s. Her blouse was faded and tattered. Her chest was as flat as the waters of Lake Toba, waveless. Every now and again she coughed.

Very gently she said, “Mrs Scholar, it isn’t even as much as a fifth of a litre. And you can’t find any extra anywhere. My husband can’t work anymore. The Japanese cut off his hands, because…”

Her heavy heart stopped her finishing the sentence. But she was desperate to make Mrs. Scholar feel sorry for her. Just maybe, Mrs. Scholar would be able to help her. She gathered her strength, and between her coughs, she continued, “…because he took a litre of rice from his employer’s house. Because he had no choice, you see. Salim is really an honest man, but he was desperate. Please help me, madam. I have two children, they have big appetites.”

All the members felt sorry for her.

But sternly Mrs. Scholar said, “Mrs Salim, I can not help you. It has already been decided. We have to do what we are told. It is different now compared to before.”

“Before we could argue with decisions from higher up, but the present era is a time of obedience. This has great benefits because in previous times everything took such a long time. Imperial Japan is different. Everything is fast. In only two years, we have obtained our soon-to-arrive independence. We have to work, Mrs. Salim.”

Looking as if she was about to start to cry, Mrs. Salim said, “So we get a fifth of a litre? Down again from a quarter? Well, in that case please excuse me, but I’m just going home. There’s a lot to do at home.”

As slowly as the announcement of a defeat by Imperial Headquarters, Mrs. Salim moved towards the door. When she arrived at her house, she cried.

Mrs. Scholar laughed. Mocking Mrs. Salim she said, “That’s what happens when a village person gets involved in a meeting. They talk about inappropriate things. They ask the wrong questions. Ha ha ha!”
Sitting some distance from Mrs. Scholar, Mrs. Djoko and Mrs. Surya were deep in conversation.

Mrs. Djoko said, “My husband Djoko now looks quite pale. I feel terrible when I look at him. Every day he works hard, but when he gets home all there is to eat is rice porridge. I’m a little better off. Whatever food sellers go past the front of the house, whether it’s peanut salad or fried soybean cakes, I buy to help keep the hunger away. Sometimes we spend as much as one rupiah per day. Poor Djoko.”

Mrs. Surya on the other hand wasn’t having so much trouble paying for things. Her husband was a member of the regional advisory council. Rather proudly she said, “For us, our life is just the same, not much has changed from before. My husband Surya has a permit to travel anywhere. When he comes home from Banten he brings coffee. When he comes home from Cirebon he brings home rice and Kooa cigarettes. Usually the rice he brings is more than the two of us need. Well, what else can we do, we sell the left over. Sometimes it sells for as much as two rupiah seventy-five cents per litre. Yes, it even covers the cost of going sightseeing at Warnasari.”

Mrs. Djoko stood and said to Mrs. Scholar, “Mrs. Scholar, is that all that’s going to be discussed at this meeting? I just want to say that I am very grateful. Excuse me, I have to go home.”

Mrs. Scholar was surprised, from her leather bag she removed a piece of paper and in a chilly quiet voice said, “Just a moment, Mrs. Djoko. That was only the introduction. The real reason for this meeting is…”

Mrs. Scholar opened the folded sheet of paper. She continued her address.
“This. The 8th December will mark the third anniversary of Japan declaring war on America by attacking Hawaii. This has to be commemorated. It has been decided that the Women’s Association has a responsibility. Together with the Women’s Associations from other villages, we are to go and visit Japanese soldiers who are sick. For this we are going to make them cakes. And to make the cakes will incur a cost. We are to show our thanks to those who have fought for our interests. Ladies, allow me to abbreviate my address, and to say that the reason for this meeting is to ask for your generosity to volunteer, if you could, a financial contribution for the making of these cakes.

“At the least two and a half rupiah from each family. I feel that this is not too much for you all. Two and half rupiah is not much. Just look at it as if you are giving a litre of rice. I’m sure it won’t feel like too heavy a burden. About when we will begin to work, I shall provide further details in the near future.”

The members of the Women’s Association of a nondescript village whispered to each other. One of them said, “And about the two and half rupiah. That’s not the main thing. Why did you deliver such a long-winded introduction just to tell us that we are going to have to dig deeper into our pockets yet again? Just cross my name off the membership list of the Women’s Association. I don’t even care if everyone talks about me not having the right spirit.”

Now scared and shaking, Mrs. Scholar said, “Mrs. Samiun, please don’t become angry so quickly. We have to be patient in the present age. You really are jumping to the wrong conclusion. I feel forced to tell you then, even if it is a secret, that everything I have been saying I was ordered to say by my superiors, which all arrived together along with the order to hold this meeting. I went to a great deal of trouble yesterday, memorizing all of this by heart word for word, Mrs. Samiun.”

Mrs. Scholar wiped the perspiration from her brow. The meeting dispersed successfully.

(*) Fujinkai


Published in Pantja Raja, No. 16 Vol. II, 1 July 1947, p. 551.

(Use was also made of a translation published in Indonesia, No. 2 (Oct., 1966), pp. 125-134 published by Southeast Asia Program Publications at Cornell University, https://www.jstor.org/stable/3350757)

Batik maker

Mother Indonesia

By Sukmawati Soekarno Putri

Although I am no expert in the law of Islam
What I do know is the chignon of mother Indonesia is most beautiful
More elegant than your chador

So perfectly folded is the hair
As perfect as the fabric that enfolds your form
Her endlessly diverse creative senses
Fuse with the essence of the world around
Fingers with the scent of forest resin
Perspiration touched by sea breezes
Look, mother Indonesia
As your appearance grows more alien
So you can remember
The natural beauty of your nation
If you wish to become beautiful, healthy, virtuous and creative
Welcome to my world, this earth of mother Indonesia

Although I am no expert in the law of Islam
What I do know is the sound of the lullaby of mother Indonesia is most beautiful
More melodious than your lilting call to prayer

The gracious movements of her dance is holy service
As pure as the rhythm of divine worship
The breath of her prayer combines with creation
Strand by strand the yarn is woven
Drip by drip the soft wax flows
The wax pen etching holy verses of the heavenly realm
Behold, mother Indonesia
As your sight grows dim,
So you can understand the true beauty of your nation
For ages past, the story of this civilized nation has been love and respect for mother Indonesia and her people.


Small amount of background:  Islamic groups report Indonesian politician for reciting ‘blasphemous’ poem   Former Indonesian president’s daughter sorry after blasphemy outrage over poem   Sambil Menangis, Sukmawati Soekarnoputri Minta Maaf.

Wikibackground on the author

Featured image: Batik maker applying melted wax to fabric, Sultan’s Palace (Kraton), Yogyakarta by Rahiman Madli

Maria Ullfah

Maria Ullfah, Mother of Indonesia’s National Women’s Day – @PotretLawas

Dutch East Indies Students in Holland, 1932. Maria Ullfah (right) would go on to become the first woman bachelor of laws from the Dutch East Indies.

Dutch East Indies Students in Holland, 1932. Maria Ullfah (right) would go on to become the first woman Bachelor of Laws from the Dutch East Indies. (Source: @Potretlawas)

Maria Ullfah was the daughter of Kuningan regent R.A.A. Mohammad Achmad. Maria entered the Faculty of Law at the University of Leiden in 1929 and graduated in 1933.

A friend from the same faculty and boarding house, Siti Soendari (left), who was also the sister of Dr. Soetomo, followed by taking a Bachelor of Laws the following year. On her return to the Dutch East Indies, Maria Ullfah worked in the office of the Cirebon regency government, however, this was only to last several months because she chose to study German and government at the Muhammadiyah school in Batavia. It was probably here that Maria Ullfah’s involvement in the nationalist movement began.

The causes which Maria championed included a fair marriage law, which she proposed at the Third Women’s Congress. Maria then became the head of the Agency for the Protection of Indonesian Women in Marriage. Her goal was a marriage law which was based on the principle of equity of rights and responsibilities between men and women.

22 December was declared Women’s Day at the Third Women’s Congress which was held in Bandung from 23 to 27 July 1938. Women’s Day in 1953 was a gala celebration as it was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first Women’s Congress. However, as a national day Women’s Day was not made a public holiday until 1959 with the release of Presidential Decree No. 316/1959.

Some of Maria Ullfah’s other important roles included the inclusion of human rights articles in the 1945 Constitution as it was being drafted by the Body Investigating Steps for Preparedness for Indonesian Independence (BPUPKI). Maria was one of its members. It was Maria who strongly protested when the early draft made no mention of human rights. Drs. Mohammad Hatta played the same role.

After independence, Maria Ullfah became Minister of Social Affairs in the Second Sjahrir Cabinet in 1946. It was under her stewardship that the Office of Workers’ Affairs was born which was the forerunner of today’s Ministry of Labor (@KemnakerRI). She was part of the fight for workers’ rights through her drafting of the social affairs law which aimed to improve the conditions of workers. This draft became law in 1948.

So it was that after this long record of nationalist struggle in 1959 Maria Ullfah proposed that Women’s Day on 22 December be made a national day. At the time Maria was Director of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet office during the administration of Prime Minister Juanda.

Her dream was simple, that women would always be aware of their responsibilities as mothers of the nation.

Hari Ibu, 1939 (Source: @Potretlawas)

Hari Ibu, 1939 (Source: @Potretlawas)


Source: Various tweets from @potretlawas.

Asimetris

“Asymmetric” (Asimetris) – WatchDoc Image Documentaries Trailer

This is the trailer for “Asymmetric” (Asimetris), the ninth documentary film in the ground-breaking Blue Indonesia Expedition series (Ekspedisi Indonesia Biru) on contemporary Indonesia following the acclaimed documentaries:

1. Samin vs Semen
2. Kala Benoa
3. The Mahuzes
4. Baduy
5. Kasepuhan Ciptagelar
6. Lewa di Lembata
7. Huhate
8. Gorontalo Baik

The whole film will be uploaded this coming March.

Source: WatchDoc Image Documentaries


The full movie is now available here.

Ahok

Poem for Mother

By W.S. Rendra

To recall mother
Is to recall dessert,
Wife is the sustaining main
Girlfriend the side dishes,
And mother
The perfect final,
In the great communal feast of life.

Her countenance is the sky at sunset:
The grandeur of the day that has completed its work.
Her voice the echo
Of the whisper of my conscience.

Remembering mother
I look on the promise of the best in life.
Hearing her voice,
I believe in the good in the human heart.
Looking at mother’s photograph,
I inherit the essence of the creation of the world.

Talking with you, my brothers and sisters,
I remember that you too have mothers.
I shake your hands,
I embrace you in fraternity.
We don’t wish to offend each other,
So we do not insult each other’s mother,
Who always, like the earth, water and sky,
Defends us without affectation.

Thieves have mothers. Murderers have mothers.
Just as corruptors, tyrants, fascists, journalists on the take and members of parliament for sale,
They too also have mothers.

What sort of mothers are their mothers?
Aren’t their mothers the dove soaring in the sky of the soul?
Aren’t their mothers the gateway to the universe?

Would a child say to his mother:
“Mother, I’ve become the lap dog of foreign capital,
Who makes goods which don’t do anything to reduce the people’s poverty,
Then I bought a government mountain real cheap,
While the number of landless villagers goes through the roof.
Now I’m rich.
And then, mother, I also bought you a mountain too,
To be your resting place one day.”

No. This is not something a child would say to his mother.
But how then will a child explain to his mother his position as tyrant, corruptor, forest scourge and mouse plague overrunning rice fields?
Will the tyrant declare himself leader of the revolution?
Will the corruptor and lap dog of foreign capital announce that he’s the hero of development?
And will the forest scourge and rice field mouse plague label himself the ideal farmer?

But, then, what of the beaming gaze of his mother?
Is it possible for a mother to say:
“Child, don’t forget to take your jacket.
Remember to wrap up against the night air.
A journalist needs to stay healthy.
Oh, yeah, and if any fat envelops come your way,
Just pick me up some fried prawns.”

Mother, now I really understand your value.
You are the statue of my life,
Not a fake statue or a white elephant like Monas and Mini Indonesia Park.
You are the anthem Great Indonesia.
You are the rain I watched in the village.
You are the forest encircling the lake.
You are the lotus flower of meditation’s peace.
You are the song of the simple people.
You are the arrow of my conscience in all I do.

Pejambon, Jakarta
23 October, 1977


Poem for Mother (Sajak Ibunda) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 52.

Ain't No Night Fair Cover Illustration By DA Peransi

Ain’t No Night Fair

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 1

The letter wouldn’t have upset me so badly, if only before it arrived I just hadn’t send my own letter. My letter contained what I can only describe as something that was going to be very unpleasant to read. The letter I received read like this:

Blora, 17 December 1949

My beloved child!

There is no more profound joy in this world than the rich happiness felt by a father who has his child returned to him, his first born child, the child who carries all of his swelling pride and honor, the child who for so long has been denied contact with normal society and been separated from the ordinary life of decent human beings.

My child!

I can imagine the suffering in your soul. I can picture how you suffered in that cramped space, because I experienced that myself during the rebellion of the Socialist Youth militia, when I was moved between three prisons in two weeks. From that time until now, every single night, I have begged the Lord Almighty for safety and happiness for our family and for our future generations. I pray He will forgive the sins of our family.

Yes, that was the start of the letter I received after I’d been out of gaol for two weeks. With me sending such an angry letter, and with me receiving this reply, well, tears just welled up in my eyes. And I promised myself, I wouldn’t be so disrespectful.

I never had any idea my father had been held prisoner by the communists too. Then six months later there arrived another letter from Blora. This time it wasn’t from my father, but from my uncle.

If you can, please come home to Blora for a couple of days. Your father isn’t well. At first it was malaria and a cough. Then he also developed hemorrhoids and finally they figured out, he’s got tuberculosis. Your father’s in the hospital now and he’s already vomited blood four times.

To start with I was in shock reading the letter. My chest felt tight. Then I couldn’t say anything. In my mind I could see, first, my father, and then, the money. Where would I find the money to go home? And this is what sent me wandering the streets of Jakarta, hunting for my friends, and for debt.

It was hot, and the tens of thousands of cars sprayed dust all over your perspiring body. And it was dust that contained a mixture of all sorts of things – dried snot, horse shit, bits of car tire, pieces of bike and pedicab tire, and probably also some of my own bike tires which the day before had sped along the same streets I was riding along now. And the dust mixture stuck with your own perspiration like glue to your body. I couldn’t help swearing just a little, to myself.

Yes, if only I owned a car. If only, I said, then none of this would have happened. At that moment I also thought, people who do own cars certainly cause a lot of trouble for those who don’t. And they don’t even know it.

Approximately half an hour after the sunset prayer time I had succeeded in acquiring the debt. If that decent friend hadn’t been able to hold out the money while saying “You can use this money for the time being.” I have no doubt I would have become a bigger wreck than before. The angry letter I had sent first made me rigid with the feeling that I had done something terribly wrong. And to make that go away, I had a duty to visit my sick father. That’s what my heart told me.

In the violet darkness and the sun setting in the reddening west, my bike sped along the small streets close to the president’s palace. The palace. It was bathed in the rays of electric lights. Who would have known how many hundreds of watts it used. I didn’t know. In my estimation I just guessed the palace’s electricity couldn’t be anything below five kilowatts. And if anyone had believed that it didn’t have enough electricity, someone only needed to pick up the phone and the palace would receive more.

After all the President was a practical person, not like those people struggling to eke out a living every day along the side of the road. If you weren’t the president, and nor a minister, and you wanted to get forty or fifty more watts of electricity, you had to have the courage to pay off someone with two- or three-hundred rupiah. This was really very impractical. And if those in the palace wanted to go out and visit A, or B, everything was ready – airplane, car, cigarettes, and the dough. And to get to Blora I had to first rush all over Jakarta, and acquire some debt. Living like that was really very impractical.

And if you became president and your mother became sick, or, take your father, or take, any other member of your close family, then tomorrow, or the day after that, you would already be able to visit them. Then suppose you were a low-level civil servant on a wage only just sufficient to breathe on, even asking for leave to visit someone sick would be difficult. After all, it makes those two-bit office bosses feel big if they can hand down some dictate that stops their officials from doing something.

All of this was just getting me worked up. Democracy is one truly beautiful system. You’re allowed to become president. You’re allowed to choose whatever job you like. You have the same rights as anyone else. And democracy means you don’t have to bow or scrape to the president or a minister or any other lord or noble. Truly. This is one of democracy’s victories. And you’re allowed to do whatever else takes your fancy, just as long as it stays within the limits of the law. But if you ain’t got no money, you’re screwed. You can’t move an inch. In a democratic country you are allowed to buy whatever goods you like. But if you haven’t got any money you’re only allowed to look at the things you want. This is also a sort of win for democracy.

All of this filled my heaving chest as I pedaled along with the borrowed money in my pocket. And, yes, debt too was a good thing, a kind deed even, when a person was caught in a difficult place.

Debt! President! Minister! Lords! And sickness! Cars! Sweat and horse-shit dust! My heart cried out.

(Continued)

Ain't No Night Fair Cover Illustration By DA Peransi

Ain’t No Night Fair Cover Illustration By D.A. Peransi


Source: Ain’t No Night Fair (Bukan Pasarmalam) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Dinas Penerbitan Balai Pustaka, Jakarta, 1959.

For more background on DA Peransi see Indonesian Visual Art Archive.

Graffiti

Poem on a Young Woman and the Boss

By W.S. Rendra

What you’re touching me with however you like,
Where this is going, I’ve already got a pretty good idea.
I’m no rocket scientist,
But it’s already fairly clear
What this groping means…

Damn the education I got.
I was taught to count, type, do foreign language,
Office management and administration.
But they forgot to teach:
What if you’re grabbed from behind by your boss,
Then what am I supposed to do!

Now don’t just grab me however you like.
When not even my boyfriend would be as bold as that.
I already know clear enough where you’re going.
When you brush my tits,
I know what that means…

They taught me to hate sin,
But they forgot to teach me
How to look for a job.
They taught me lifestyle,
With accessories that don’t come from the environment,
That are controlled by the bosses,
Make up, air conditioner,
Synthetic vitamins, tonic,
Every kind of soda and a school diploma,
Education tied me
To their markets, to their capital.
And now that I’m grown up,
Where else am I going to run,
If it ain’t to the world of the bosses?

Don’t grab me however you like.
I’m no intellectual,
But I know enough,
All the work on my desk
Is going to head in that direction.
Don’t, mister, don’t!
Don’t grab me however you like!
Ah. Oh.
The money you slip into my bra
Is my education diploma.
Your fat belly
Presses against my stomach.
Your foul smelling mouth
Kisses my mouth,
As if everything you do
Is just perfectly normal.
Every member of the community helps you.
They all kiss your ass.
They spread my legs wide
While you climb over my body.

Yogya
10 July 1975


Poem on a Young Woman and the Boss (Sajak Gadis dan Majikan), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 30.

The Najwa Gaze

A Note From Ahok

A Note from Ahok

For Metro TV Show “Mata Najwa” and host Nana.

Indonesian Police Mobile Brigade
Headquarters Prison, 16 August 2017

I was one of the people always being invited onto Metro TV’s talk show Mata Najwa. (Showing off a bit here 🙂 ) It’s clear there were a lot of supporters both for and against me appearing on the show. Why? Because Najwa was going to ask the hard questions, was going to fish, and box me in, at a time when the viewers suspected me of, or thought I looked like, I was guilty or lying. I think the host of the show Nana is a professional person and doesn’t try to win the argument all the time, or give the impression of cornering you. Nana only wants her viewers to get the truth from insightful questions, of course with that classic Najwa gaze. I’m grateful because the Mata Najwa show let me appear just as I am, and definitely to say it as it is. There was only one key to facing her questions and that Mata Najwa stare. I had to answer according to what was in my heart and conscience. My mouth and brain had to connect. By doing that, Nana and the viewers were going to accept all my answers. I pray that Nana is successful and full of joy wherever she serves. The Lord bless you, Nana.

Signed BTP

Nana

Nana

Nervous waiting to interview Ahok

Waiting nervously to interview Ahok

Notes from Ahok on Twitter

A note from Ahok on Twitter


Salawaku

Salawaku Trailer – MIFF

 

The remote wilderness of Indonesia’s Maluku Islands provides a magnificent backdrop for this gentle journey of youthful discovery.

In a secluded village in Indonesia’s beautiful Maluku Islands, ten-year-old Salawaku’s older sister has gone. Salawaku takes it upon himself to find her and sets off on a grand journey into the wild heart of his country. Joined in his travels by the son of the village chief and a tourist from Jakarta carrying her own heavy burden, Salawaku will learn to see his sister in a new light after discovering that the world of adults is more complicated than it seems.

From rising star of Indonesian cinema Pritagita Arianegara comes Salawaku, an eye-opening and heart-stirring road movie set in a stretch of the world where roads barely exist. Nominated for eight awards at the Indonesian Film Festival, including Best Film and Best Director, it is a film of surprises and wonder, where difficult secrets and glorious landscapes combine into a tender and morally complex whole.

CLASSROOM DISCUSSION POINTS
Double standards for men and women in different cultures, attitudes towards sex and family, how romance is depicted in cinema, the divide between the country lifestyle and the city lifestyle, knowing how to behave ethically.

MIFF recommends this film as suitable for ages 10+
Very mild themes about unwanted pregnancy and abortion, all of which is mostly indirectly implied through dialogue, and none on which is shown. Some very mild impact scenes depicting characters being pushed around and slapped. One scene where adult characters get drunk.

Source: Melbourne International Film Festival

 

Mesjid Cikini Raden Saleh Jakarta 1947

Arctic Tuti

By Chairil Anwar, 1946

Between happiness now and in the future yawns a great canyon,
My little sis, lapping up an arctic ice dessert;
This afternoon you were my love, I decorated you with eclair and Coca-Cola,
My wife in training: we made the clock tick stop.

You’re really good at kissing, there’s a cut I can still feel
– When we rode our bicycles I took you home –
You’re blood’s so hot, how fast you became woman
Visions vivid flying high into the sky

Every day you meet your choice, every time changing;
Tomorrow we’ll pass in the street and we’ll totally blank each other;
Just playing for a moment is heaven.

I am like you too, everything passes away quickly
Me and Tuti and Greet and Chinese Honey…… souls abandoned,
Love’s a joy that fades so quickly.


Arctic Tuti (Tuti Artic), Pantja Raja, No. 1 Vol. 2, 15 Nov 1946, p. 482.


Featured Image: Tjikini moskee aan de Raden Saleh te Jakarta, Indonesië (1947) Fotograaf: Cas Oorthuys Vervaardigingsjaar 1 januari 1947 tot 28 februari 1947 http://resolver.kb.nl/resolve?urn=urn:gvn:NFA02:cas-10031-11