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 walked 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.

“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…) was published in Kompas Daily in May 1990.

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Asimetris

Poem for a Bottle of Beer

By W.S. Rendra

Downing a whole bottle of beer,
I stare at the world,
and what I see is people starving.
I light some incense,
breath in the earth,
and listen to the thunder of the rioters.

The cost of hitting the town for one night,
is equivalent to the cost of developing ten villages!
What the hell kind of civilization have we created?

Why do we build huge cities,
and ignore the culture of the villages?
Why does development lead to hoarding,
rather than distribution?

Huge cities here don’t grow from industry.
They grow from the needs of foreign industrial countries
for markets and their need to buy natural resources.
Large cities here
are a means for Europe, Japan, China, America,
Australia and other industrial countries to accumulate.

Where are the old back roads?
The ones which connected villages with other villages?
They’re now abandoned.
They’re now ditches or potholes.

The roads today
represent the colonizer’s planning of years ago.
They’re just a means of distributing foreign goods from
the ports to regional centers, and natural resources from regional centers to the ports. Roads are created specifically for,
not the farmers,
but the middlemen and the Chinese businessmen.

Now we’re swept away in a stream of civilization that we don’t control.
Where we can’t do anything except shit and eat,
without the power to create anything.
Are we going to just stop here like this?

Do all countries that want to advance have to become industrial countries?
Do we dream of having endless factories,
which ceaselessly produce –
have to forever just produce things –
and finally force other countries
to become markets for our products?

Is the only option apart from industry just tourism?
Does our economic thinking
suck only on the breast milk of communism and capitalism?
Why is our own environment not considered?
Will we just be swept away
in the power of accumulating things
which spread pollution and degradation
of nature both without and nature within people themselves?

We have been taken over by one dream
to become someone else.
We have become foreign
in the land of our own ancestors.
Villagers are skittish, chasing the dream,
and enslaving themselves to Jakarta.
The people of Jakarta are skittish, chasing the dream
and enslaving themselves to Japan, Europe or America.

Pejambon, June 23, 1977

 


Poem for a Bottle of Beer (Sajak Sebotol Bir) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 62.

Featured image: ASIMETRIS (full movie)

Waterval met roofvogel

Poem for the Condors

By W.S. Rendra

A mountain breeze sweeps down, creeps through the forest,
then blows across the surface of a vast river,
coming to rest finally among the tobacco leaves.
Then its heart is filled with compassion
On seeing the sad fate of the peasant workers
Planted in soil that is so rich, so fertile,
But which provides no prosperity for its people.

The peasant workers,
Living in windowless shacks,
Plant seedlings in the fertile soil,
Reap abundant rich harvests
While their own lives are full of misery.

They harvest for rich landlords
Who own beautiful palaces.
Their sweat turns into gold
That is collected by the fat owners of cigar
factories in Europe.
And when they demand income equality,
The economists adjust their ties nervously,
and respond by dispatching condoms.

Suffering overflows
from the trenches lining the faces of my people.
From dawn till dusk,
the bedraggled people of my country trudge, striving,
turning to the left, turning to right,
in an effort that is uncertain.
At sundown they turn into a pile of garbage,
and at night they are sprawled across the floor,
and their souls are transformed into condors.

Thousands of condors,
millions of condors,
flocking toward the high mountains,
and there gain respite from the loneliness.
Because only the loneliness
Is able to suck out the revenge and the pain.

The condors screech.
In anger they scream out,
Sound out in places that are lonely.

The condors scream
On the mountain crags they call out
Sound out in places that are lonely

By the millions the condors scratch at the rocks,
Snap at the stones, peck at the air,
and in the cities there are those who prepare to
shoot them.


Poem for the Condors (Sajak Burung-Burung Kondor) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 58.

Featured image: [De Rivier] Waterval met roofvogel

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

Novel Baswedan

To Be Empty Is To Be Empowered Fully – Lotus Poems

By W.S. Rendra

Habit is not character
Character is not a fantasy
About ourselves.
Character comes from being empty.
If empty
we are agile and alert.
In emptiness
We can respond to all things,
According to the situation,
And not according to habit.
Those who are full are rigid and slow –
Often even powerless.
The empty are actually the fully empowered.


WS Rendra, Empty is Fully Empowered (Kosong Itu Penuh Daya) Lotus Poems (Syair Teratai), Sinar Harapan Daily, 19 April 1975 (Sourced from Armin Bell, Kumpulan Fiksi Blog)

Novel Baswedan

Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigator Novel Baswedan, center, who was injured in an acid attack by unidentified assailants, sits in a wheelchair as he leaves the general hospital where he was initially treated in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim) (Time.com) Novel was subsequently treated in Singapore for 10 months, before returning to work in Jakarta in early 2018.

For background to Mr. Novel Baswedan see ‘I Don’t Want to Be Sad’: Indonesia’s Top Graft Buster Talks to TIME From His Hospital Bed and Pak Jokowi, Bentuk Tim Independen untuk Ungkap Kasus Novel!

Petai

De ‘witte hadji’ Snouck als avonturier

Java Post

Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje

Deze islamoloog en arabist was een van de eerste westerlingen die doordrong in Mekka. Later streek hij voor onderzoek neer in Java en Atjeh. En steeds weer schreef hij voorbeeldige etnografieën.

Door Dirk Vlasblom

Snouck Hurgronje in Mekka

Philip Dröge heeft een scherp oog voor intrigerende, weinig bekende stukjes geschiedenis dicht bij huis. Dat bleek eerder uit zijn boeken Moresnet (2016), over dat vergeten buurlandje van Nederland, en De schaduw van Tambora (2015), een huiveringwekkend verhaal over de vulkaanuitbarsting van 1815 in Nederlands-Indië. Met Pelgrim, een biografie van de Leidse islamoloog en arabist Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, heeft hij alweer een boeiend onderwerp te pakken dat niet is opgenomen in de vaderlandse geschiedeniscanon. 

View original post 1,065 more words

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.

Catatan Najwa Untuk Sumpah Pemudah

Ain’t No Night Fair #6

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 3

We left before dawn to make our way to the station. We queued to buy tickets. The train traveled along the coast, skirting the Java Sea. Sometimes the train would race cars and we watched the sight anxiously. The dust thrown up by cars – dust mixed with every kind of horse dung, human excrement, human snot and spit – billowed up and came to rest on our skin. Sometimes we caught sight of children cheering as they held out hats begging. And this situation had persisted from the time the railway line was opened and trains raged along its rails. Whenever anyone threw food scraps, the children would scramble against each other. But it isn’t so important for me to relate this.

The train went on and on, and when it reached the town of Rembang began to turn southward traveling through teak forests and rice fields. The closer we got to the town of my birth, the more vivid became the images in my mind of its narrow lanes, of its people living in poverty and, of my father. From time to time deer could be seen darting frightened by the hiss of the train, running into the undergrowth with forelegs and hind legs almost crossing over and tight stomachs appearing to almost float up.

The conductor checking our tickets was still the same conductor who had been there when I was young and would often travel to Rembang to visit the beach when the holidays finally arrived. But the conductor was now old and no longer recognized me. He paid no attention to the people on the train, interested only in their tickets.

I glanced over at my wife and said, “Look, the forest is so beautiful.”

Quietly my wife popped her head out the window, then she pulled her head in again and nestled into the corner of the carriage seat.

I gazed at the beauty of the forest. I had gone into that forest once long ago, before at a time when as a scout we had visited the grave of Raden Ajeng Kartini. Her grave was not far from our train then. Suddenly a canyon unfurled before my eyes and I called spontaneously.

“Look at the canyon! It’s so deep!”

I looked at my wife. She lifted her eyelids, and then lowering them again slowly she closed her eyes once more.

I sighed.

I wanted to show off the beauty of my own area, with its canyons and forests, deer and monkeys. Yes, I wanted to do that so much.

Our train passed through stations and stops which were now no more than solitary platforms, passed lime kilns and piles of teak logs, and it all brought memories back to me of my childhood when we would often go on trips by bicycle in and out of the forest. Yes, what a wonderful childhood it had been, which was now past. Now my memories sang sweetly of its beauty.

As the train entered the outskirts of the town of Blora, I noticed open blocks of land. Land where once buildings had stood, and suddenly it dawned on me. These buildings had been flattened by the war. Desperate to know what had happened, I put my head out the window.

Cepu Destruction 10 January 1949 by J. Zijlstra

Then all at once I said, “I hope the telegram did get there. And hopefully someone will be there to meet us at the station.”

My wife opened her eyes, and as our eyes met I said, “We’re here at Blora now.”

She tidied herself, and I did likewise, then the train came to a halt at Blora station. Once more I poked my head out the window, but my eyes were not able to catch sight of the person I had hoped would come to meet us. So it was true, the telegram hadn’t made it.

We carried our things. Then, traveling gently just as it had once before long ago, the horse and buggy carried us to the house I had left all this time. The driver constantly nudged his horse with whip and commands only out of habit. Many of the buildings along the road were destroyed. The Post and Telegraph office which had been the pride of the residents of the small town of Blora was now no more than a crumpled stack of concrete pillars. I drew in a long breath. The statue celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the reign of Queen Wilhelmina was still standing, though its former glory was gone and it was now painted a pale red.

And I did not understand why. Maybe a red militia had painted it when they occupied our town.

Thus when our buggy drew up in front of the house I had left behind so long ago, my young brothers and sisters yelled excitedly, “Big brother’s here! Big brother’s here!”

But they did not want to approach. In fact those who weren’t adults distanced themselves. Possibly their shyness was due to the fact I was now married, and that my wife was now standing beside me. I didn’t really know. Only the brothers and sisters who were now grown up came to help us carry our bags.

When I went into the house, I bumped my head on the roof beam, and it made me think. I had grown taller now. When I had left this house, the roof beams had still been far above my head.

Cepu Destruction 10 January 1949


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

National Library Photo Collection of the work of J. Zijlstra

Cover photo credit Mata Najwa

Tanganku Mengepal: The People's Land, Resist Land Theft

Poem on Hands

By W.S. Rendra

These are the hands of a student,
Undergraduate level.
My hands. Oh my God.

My hand reaches out,
And what I grab is a beautiful hostess’s petticoat.
What an idiot. My hand goes limp.

My hand knocks on the door,
But no one answers.
I kick the door,
And the door swings open.
Behind the door there’s another door.
And always:
There’s a sign with the opening hours,
Which are short.

I shove my hands in my trouser pockets,
And I go out and sojourn.
I’m swallowed by Great Indonesia.

Dozens of hands used in life
Suddenly appear in front of me.
I hold out my hands too.
But they look out of place among the thousands of hands.
I’m worried about my future.

Farmers’ hands are covered in mud,
Fishermen’s hands are covered in salt,
I pull back my hands.
Their hands are full of struggle.
Hands that are productive.
My hands are anxious,
They don’t solve any problems.

But the hands of businessmen,
The hands of bureaucrats,
Are calculating, nibble, and very strong.
My anxious hands are suspected,
Brushed aside.

My hands close into a fist.
And when they open again are transformed into claws.
I reach out in all directions.
At every desk in every office
Sits a soldier or an old person.
In the villages
Farmers are just laborers for landowners.
On the beaches
Fishermen do not own any of the boats.
Trade goes on without supermarkets.
Politics only serves the weather…
My hands close into a fist.
But there’s a brick wall in front of me.
My life has no future.

For now I have my hands in my pockets.
I sojourn from place to place.
I scrawl obscenities
On the chancellor’s desk.

Jakarta Arts Center
23 June 1977


Poem on Hands (Sajak Tangan), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 34.

Image comes from https://www.instagram.com/p/BZYRUiSBrrtd13aM9EKfg8l9E5nrXfm3pJFNys0