Category Archives: History

Poem: Night Time in the Mountains By Chairil Anwar

Night Time in the Mountains

By Chairil Anwar, 1946

 

I wonder: Is it this moon that makes
the cold, makes the houses pallid and freezes the forest?

This is the first time I’ve been so completely able to respond
to the desire: Hey, there’s a little kid playing tips
with her shadow!

 


Pantja Raja, No. 1 Vol. 2, 15 Nov 1946, p. 482.

Poem: 64 By Emha Ainun Nadjib

64

By Emha Ainun Nadjib

 

My God
one among the thousands of faults
that ensnare the history of our life
is the error we fall into when deciding 
how much backwardness is contained in our progress
how much failure is contained in our success
how much destruction is contained in our improvement
how pressing is the darkness contained in our wakening
how enormous is the backwardness contained in our advancement
and how much war is contained in our call for peace.

My God
in our eyes so full of arrogance
ever greater grows the confusion of
what is to be left behind and what embraced
what is of the heights and what of the depths

 

 


Emha Ainun Nadjib.  99 untuk Tuhanku [99 For My God],  Pustaka Bandung  1983.

 

Short Story: The Story of a Pair of Shorts By Idrus

The Story of a Pair of Shorts

By Idrus

Right on the day that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Kusno’s father bought him a pair of shorts. 1001 twill pants, Made in Italy.

Kusno’s father was politically illiterate. He didn’t know how important the attack was. He only knew that his son no longer had proper pants to wear. Everyone around the world who more or less knew about politics frowned, out of revenge, out of worry, out of anger. But Kusno’s father smiled happily that day. He had succeeded in doing something that at first he thought he wouldn’t be able to do. Buy Kusno a pair of shorts.

At the time Kusno was 14 years old. He had just finished elementary school. Now he wanted to apply for a job. And with the new pants it seemed to him that any job was open. He would prove to his father that he was a child who knew how to repay a kindness. In short the Kusno family that day rejoiced as never before. And the news of Pearl Harbor did not resonate in the slightest in the hearts of these simple people.

That’s telling the truth as it was only the big people who wanted war, the simple people only wanted peace!

But Kusno did not find a job as quickly as he thought he would. The offices knew what the attack on Pearl Harbor meant. They were not taking on any new workers either. Black clouds were gathering over the offices and through the gaps in the clouds peered the face of the angle of death.

Kusno was forced to lower his selling price, from clerk to porter, and from porter to postman. And after going up to ten offices he finally succeeded in obtaining a job, as a postman, with a salary of ten rupiahs per month.

Kusno’s father was worried. He himself was a postman. Did his son have to become a postman too? And were Kusno’s children to become postmen also? From generation to generation becoming postmen? He had never aspired to this, his family becoming a family of postmen. But like other villagers in difficult circumstances Kusno’s father remembered God: people strive but it is God who determines the outcome!

Kusno worked diligently but his 1001 twill pants were becoming faded because they were being washed so often. Every month he hoped he would be able to buy a new pair of pants, but his ten rupiahs was not even enough for food. So naturally the 1001 twill shorts had to be washed all the more often and every time they were washed, they looked all the more distressing.

All of Kusno’s thoughts were on those pants. What would happen to him if he couldn’t wear the pants anymore? Every day he prayed that God would not make it rain. And when it rained Kusno looked down at his pants as a mother looks at a child about to be sent onto the battlefield.

1001 twill. 1 multiplied by 1 is equal to 1. And what is 1 minus 1?

This is what went through Kusno’s mind as he thought about the 1001 pants. Especially as there was no money to buy soap. Even though the pants were dirty.

No, the simple people did not want war. They just wanted to live a simple life and live free from the fear that tomorrow they would not have any pants.

But the high and mighty people wanted war. One side wanted war for democracy and the other wanted it for the common prosperity of Greater East Asia.

Kusno did not know the meaning of democracy, and the expression prosperity was very interesting to him. He in fact remembered his pants. Prosperity for him was pants. And because of that he welcomed the Japanese soldiers with hugs, kisses and handshakes.

And as most of the Indonesian nation lived in the hope of independence, Kusno lived in the hope of new pants, hoped continually for three and a half years.

But like independence the pants too were unthinkable. And when Kusno gave up his hope, the 1001 pants were not like pants anymore. In places they were threadbare and what had once been white was now a blackish yellow. Because of that they were no longer fit to be worn by a postman. When Kusno summoned the courage to ask for a pair from the head of his office, he was yelled at so severely that he lost heart at once.

He arrived at the office a few days later but in the end the shame overcame the salary of ten rupiahs and he asked to resign.

Although the following days were dark for Kusno, he was now free of the shame that was etched on his face. He knew that a dark and dreadful day would befall him. But God was merciful and gracious. That was Kusno’s belief.

One day Kusno had a headache. He knew that the headache would soon go away if he could fill his stomach. For two days and two nights he ate nothing but tree leaves. It crossed his mind to sell the 1001 pants, to buy just food that was fit for humans to eat. But he quickly rejected the thought. If he sold the pants his stomach would be full for a few seconds, but after that what would he cover his nakedness with? Once also he thought about stealing someone else’s property but God said stay away from stealing. And Kusno’s family had for generations feared God, even though he had never seen him.

So that is how Kusno came to not sell the pants, to not steal, to often suffer from headaches, and to live from tree leaves. But he lived on, miserable indeed, but he lived with pride.

About the 1001 twill pants there is nothing more to say. At some point they must have disappeared from the face of the earth. And could they have disappeared from the face of this earth together with Kusno?

But be that as it may Kusno would not lose hope. He was born in misery, lived with misery. And even if his 1001 pants disappeared and became rags, Kusno would continue to fight against suffering even if only to obtain another pair of 1001 twill pants.

The only thing Kusno was not yet able to understand was why there were still always wars. Kusno felt like someone who had been sacrificed.

 


The Story of a Pair of Shorts (Kisah Sebuah Celana Pendek) was originally published in the current affairs magazine Gema Suasana, Number 1 & 2, 1 January 1948 [Retrieved from (Gema Suasana, 1948) Cerpen Idrus: Kisah Sebuah Celana Pendek https://kumpulanfiksi.wordpress.com/2020/01/08/gema-suasana-1948-cerpen-idrus-kisah-sebuah-celana-pendek/ 2 January 2022]. Reprinted in Indrus, Dari Ave Maria Ke Jalan Lain Ke Roma: [ed. Malaya, Chet. 1]. Kuala Lumpur: Pustaka Melayu Baru, 1963. Print.

Indonesian Translation Service - The Story of a Pair of Shorts By Idrus 1948
Indonesian Translation Service – The Story of a Pair of Shorts By Idrus 1948

Featured image credit: From Historia.id, Celana Pendek Pendiri BangsaMenteri Penerangan Amir Sjarifuddin, memakai jas kedodoran, celana pendek, sambil merokok, berpose bersama presiden Sukarno, wakil presiden Mohammad Hatta, dan para menteri kabinet pertama Republik Indonesia di halaman rumah Sukarno, di Jalan Pegangsaan Timur No. 56 Jakarta, pada 4 Oktober 1945. 

For some interesting background see: Celana Pendek dan Cerita Pendek By Deddy Arsya Jan 2018; and Shorts and Starvation by Thea Yantra Hutanamon

Decolonization, violence and war in Indonesia, 1945-1950: KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies

Decolonization, violence and war in Indonesia, 1945-1950

KITLV / Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies Project

Decolonisation, violence and war in Indonesia, 1945-1950 is a large-scale, joint inquiry carried out by KITLV, the Netherlands Institute for Military History (NIMH) and the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The project has been made financially possible by the Dutch government, due to its decision on 2 December 2016 to lend its support to a broad inquiry into the events of this period.

f1b13645-a88e-4794-8d7d-d947be1dd222The programme comprises nine subprojects and aims to answer questions regarding the nature, extent and causes of structural transborder violence in Indonesia, considered in a broader political, social and international context. In this context, detailed attention will be paid to the chaotic period spanning from August 1945 to early 1945 – often referred to as the Bersiap – and the political and social aftermath in the Netherlands, Indonesia and elsewhere.

It is expected that KITLV will be responsible for the synthesis and will carry out the subprojects Regional Studies and Bersiap. For these projects the group, together with Indonesian colleagues, will carry out research in several Indonesian regions. These subprojects will be the continuation of the KITLV-project Dutch military operations in Indonesia 1945-1950 that has run since 2012.

The programme has a strong international character. There will be cooperation with researchers from Indonesia and other countries involved and sources originating from Indonesia, Australia, United Kingdom and the United States (United Nations) will be used more than previously was the case. Furthermore, the programme explicitly includes the opportunity for witness accounts from the Netherlands and Indonesia to be presented. Witnesses can come forward themselves or will be traced by researchers, in order to allow them to document their personal accounts for future generations.

The three institutes stress the importance of broad national and international support for the programme. In order to achieve this, the institutes have appointed an international scientific advisory board and a Netherlands societal focus group (Maatschappelijk Klankbordgroep Nederland).

For more information see: https://www.ind45-50.org/en

Witnesses

For the purpose of this inquiry, it is important that those involved are seen and heard. If you have material or more information about Indonesia in the 1945-1950 time period and are willing to contribute to our research, please contact: getuigen@ind45-50.nl

Short Story: Bitter Covid

Bitter Covid

By Seno Gumira Ajidarma

“Which one tastes better, Kab, bitter coffee or bitter covid?”

Sukab grinned from ear to ear hearing young Jali who had taken the opportunity to park his motorbike taxi at the food stall, instead of the usual daily roar of collecting and delivering food.

“You not working because of the lockdown, Li?”

“Look, the lockdown makes online fried tofu and fish dumplings sell real well, Kab.”

“So, why are you still hanging around here?”

“One by one the regular customers are croaking,” said Jali, taking off his baseball cap as if out of respect. “Left and right, front and back, in every house there’s someone who’s departing…”

“Departing?”

“Departing this world, gees!”

“Oh yeah, sorry. So?”

“The people who are still at home are still getting infected, searching for oxygen cylinders which is real hard, and if they look healthy, well, it turns out they’re O.T.G., infected with no symptoms.

“That’s the most dangerous, right.”

“That’s when they are most infectious!”

“That what’s making you feel like not going out? Aren’t motorbike taxis real popular right now?”

“The fact is, there ain’t any orders, Kab. It ain’t just the people buying food who’re heading to the gates…”

“The gates?”

“Oh, Sukab! Heading to the pearly gates, hell!”

“Ah! Passed away! Look you keep changing!

“Yeah, not just the buyers. Heaps of sellers have also shuffled off…”

“Shuffled off? You mean died again, right?”

“Yesss! You know now, ok, why I’m sitting here playing chess rather than running around confused not knowing what I should be doing?”

Yati shouted out as she held out a package of fried catfish and peanut sauce. “What the hell! Deliver this, and fast. Then get right back here, ok? It ain’t good neither that people selling food are shipping out…”

“Shipping out? Dying too?”

“Hey, stupid, the important thing is I do not want people who are still healthy dying of hunger…”

Jali grabbed the package and climbed straight up onto his motorbike like a cowboy climbing onto his horse.

The stall was quiet again, though the motorbike taxis were still queuing, waiting for Yati’s food packets. With all this constant coming and going, Sukab got to thinking. Being down at the bottom, it’s lucky we’re still making a little.

“It may be going all right,” he thought, “but the worst thing is, gees, the lives…”

“If there’s a collapse, well, you’re gonna collapse too…,” said Yati, who had joined all sorts of online groups, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. They were all confusing people and making them panic, even if they weren’t wrong.

“The ambulance drivers are exhausted. The grave diggers feel like they’ve got no hands left. The preachers are prayers 24 hours a day. The  doctors have to choose from dozens of dying patients scattered all around the place in the emergency tents. Then there are the health workers, helping themselves to vaccines… What else is it, if it isn’t a collapse… a break down, a crash…,” said Sukab, as if he were in some drama.

It was true everything that was happening. At the food stall, you heard every Neighborhood announcement from the speakers at the mosques, the ones close by as well as the ones a long way off. There was no end to the speakers blaring Inna Lillahi etcetera and ending in the announcement that some body was gonna be taken straight from the hospital to the graveyard. Bodies were being lost, bodies were being swapped, their souls flying up not able to say anything to the relatives who were praying in front of the wrong person’s grave.

Yati shook her head as she stared at her cellphone.

“It sure is like that. The people who haven’t passed say they’re almost going crazy just because they haven’t been to the mall…”

“Pass?”

“Well, it’s everything from before: croak, gone to the big house, gone to the pearly gates, shuffled off, departed this world… do I really have to say died? Ok, so, passed on…”

Sukab picked up his mask and took a drink of his corn coffee.

“What it’s called is running out of energy, from being a volunteer, all the worry by itself is, really very hard…”

“But, you can’t run out, right, Kab?”

“Of what?”

“Of what you said, of energy.”

“Yeah! It’s not enough to just pray!” Then Sukab pointed to his forehead.

“Your human brain has got to really work!”

He stood up, grabbed his hoe and dustpan.

“Where are you going, Kab? Isn’t there a lockdown?”

“Well, who’s going to bury the people who pass?”

***

Pondok Ranji, Thursday 15 July 2021


Bitter Covid (Kopid Pait) was published in Panajournal, 15 July 2021. (Retrieved from https://www.panajournal.com/2021/07/kopid-pait)

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 PanaJournal (www.panajournal.com) about human interest stories with a number of journalists and professionals in the field of communication. For other work by Seno Gumira Adjidarma click here.

Kopid Pait

The author’s blog is available at The World of Sukab.