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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Ain’t No Night Fair #5

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 2 (continued)

… Suddenly those thoughts died as my eyes fell on one small hamlet in the middle of rice fields surrounded by bamboo thickets and trees. I knew the conditions in this hamlet all too well. At that time, the hamlet had been under the control of a gang of outlaws. Once with my platoon I had been on patrol there and made a detailed report. The report would now be lying buried in some cupboard. I had become acquainted with one very attractive woman in particular. As the hamlet was owned by a large landowner, the thought occurred to me that the woman would have to have been mixed race. But that didn’t matter and her father had made me an offer, “If you marry my daughter, I will no longer need to work. There’s a sizeable amount of land here and you can take half of my fields.” I was completely intoxicated by the offer as I listened. At the time, poverty always circled in the sky ready to swoop down on your head. Yes, the thought of the offer made me smile at the time. But the patrol was to last no more than a day and a night and before long our platoon made its return to base.

I did return to the place later though, but the beautiful woman had been kidnapped by the gang of bandits. I would return home again filled with regret, but happy also that I had not sold myself out. Nevertheless, the beauty of the woman and her fate would continue to haunt my thoughts.

Then in my heart I told myself a story which went like this.

“The woman was now living contentedly with the bandits who had kidnapped her. She would by now have given birth to two young children and her body was adorned with silk and gold and diamond-studded jewelry.”

The train thundered on at high speed. The hamlet too vanished, from my view, and from my memory.

I coughed.

“You are too close to the window,” said my wife.

Dutch war train

We changed places. I drew the collar of my coat up tightly around my neck then I leaned back against the seat and closed my eyes. I dropped off to sleep, but my sleep was not to be secure as the train was beginning to fill with new passengers. Then I drifted back to sleep once more. Arriving in the district that had only recently been cleared of the threat and terror presented by the Darul Islam movement, we could see damaged telegraph wires, tangled and twisted around their poles which were lying bent, strewn on the ground.

“Well, not a chance the telegram has arrived there,” I said.

“No, the telegram couldn’t possibly have arrived,” my wife echoed. The train roared on, and on. And on, all the way to Semarang.

We slept the night at a hotel and although the hotel was grubby, we were nevertheless able to sleep soundly.

Dutch patrol at Semarang, Java, 23 July 1947

(Continued)

 


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

National Archive Photo Collection

Mata Najwa Globe Asia Cover Photo Credit

Mata Najwa "Generasi Antikorupsi #KitaKPK"

Ain’t No Night Fair #4

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 2 (continued)

… My memory circled back again, the sheep transformed into a person, and that person was my father.

I sighed.

I could feel a shudder in my chest and I moaned.

“What’s wrong?” my wife asked.

“I might be coming down with a cold,” I answered.

“Put on your coat.”

I slipped on the coat I had taken off previously after putting up our suitcases at Gambir station. After that effort I had felt very hot and the feeling of having a temperature added to the pressure of the fear that we wouldn’t get a place to sit.

I fastened the buttons.

“You catch colds quite easily,” my wife added.

Coldly I didn’t respond to her reminder.

Now in my mind there appeared the sight of a grave, the final resting place of every person, despite certain people sometimes not finding a place in the womb of the earth. Yes, sometimes sailors, or soldiers in times of war, often they do not find a final resting place. And in my mind I imagined that it was my father who did not find a place.

I shuddered.

My eyes misted. But not enough for tears to fall.

“Ah, I do not want to listen to every thought in my head,” I screamed to myself.

And I thought. If only I could win the lottery. What a sweet dream that was. And that dream was ended by an old idea, the idea that at the end of the day every person passes away. Death. Sickness. And sickness brought my thoughts back to my father.

Once more I sighed.

“Hopefully your uncle should have waited before writing that letter,” my wife said. “Hopefully your father’s condition isn’t as bad as he described.”

Again I looked her straight in the eye. They were eyes that were now no longer of any interest to me. This time she lowered her head and rearranged her hair which was moved by the wind.

“Hopefully,” I said.

I turned yet again to stare out the train window. Rubber plantations chased each other. Small towns which I had often passed before I was once more going through again. And dozens of memories, some of which were bitter and some of which were happy, with a force I could not control assaulted my mind. And at that moment I became conscious. Sometimes people do not have the power to resist their own memories, and I smiled at this consciousness. Yes, people unknowingly are too strong and repress their awareness. I smiled again.

“What time is it, brother?” my wife asked.

I swung my eyes in her direction and again my gaze landed on her eyes, those once wonderful eyes that now held no interest for me. Just for a moment. Then I dropped my eyes to my watch.

“It’s almost nine o’clock,” I answered.

“Maybe he’s already received the telegram.”

“Hopefully he has,” I said.

And I swung my gaze to stare out the window again. The telegram now appeared in my mind. Just maybe the telegram which had said “Tomorrow arriving with my wife” would be of some comfort to my father. In fact this hope had not even been my own.

The previous night a friend had said, “You’ve been in prison so long. Two and a half years! And all that time your father was definitely wanting you to come home. And not only that. He was definitely worrying about how you were too.” And that is what had made me send him, I mean, have somebody else send him, the telegram. That friend had also said, “You have to go. Maybe you visiting him will make him feel better, help him recover.”

(Continued)

1940s Netherlands Indies Government Lottery Semarang

1940s Netherlands Indies Government Lottery, Gang Pinggir, Semarang (Source: http://reklamejadoel.blogspot.com.au)


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

National Archive Photo Collection

Mata Najwa Generasi Antikorupsi #KitaKPK Photo Credit

Jihat Anti-korupsi Mata Najwa

Ain’t No Night Fair #3

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 2 (continued)

… I swung my head, and my eyes too, from her stare and gazed out the train window again.

We were at Lemah Abang now.

All at once an old memory shimmered into my mind. Before, four years ago. Completely out of the blue, the Dutch had rained shells on our defenses from three directions using between eight and ten Howitzers. The number could be worked out by the fighters who had previously been soldiers in the Netherlands East Indies artillery. The people had panicked and run out in the direction of the rice fields. I still remember the time. I cupped my two hands and shouted, “Don’t run! Get on the ground!” But there were too many of them, and they were too confused, too frightened, and they were incapable of hearing my voice. And when I fell to the ground behind a large tree I was able to see one, then two, three, four, five artillery shells explode among the mass of scattering people. Bodies. Corpses. And my mind ran through the blood, injuries, bodies, to the letter, my uncle, and finally, to my father.

I sighed. My heart ached. I was indeed sensitive. And my family was full of sensitive creatures.

I closed my eyes tightly so I couldn’t see the scene around Lemah Abang. But the remnants of those memories would not leave my mind. The extraordinary achievement of the Dutch shooting, four sheep killed in front of their pen. And this is what was so upsetting: one old sheep, pregnant, eyes gazing into the sky, head resting on the rail of a pen post, with its two hind legs kneeling and its forelegs standing up straight. And the sheep was dead. I rocked the body of the sheep slightly and it tottered to the ground. It didn’t move. Really, it was dead. A friend suggested, “Let’s just cut it up.” I stared at its eyes which were open and pallid. I could feel a shiver run down my spine, and I ran all the way home. It was three days before I could get the vision of the sheep gazing into the sky out of my head. The sheep! My memory circled back again, the sheep transformed into a person, and that person was my father.

I sighed.

(Continued)

Karawang sector, 23 July 1947

Karawang sector, 23 July 1947. A convoy of the Dutch 7th December Division in the town Cikarang on route Karawang. http://www.gahetna.nl


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

National Archive Photo Collection

Anti-corruption Jihad photo credit

Burnt out car of a Brigadier A W S Mallaby

Ain’t No Night Fair #2

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 2

… Early that morning the first train flew along its tracks from Gambir station. Now there was only a quarter of the number of the tall red earthen mounds left which I had seen everywhere before during the Japanese occupation each time I returned to Blora. Settled by the rain. Chipped away. Dragged off by the rain. Then suddenly a horrible feeling came over me as I noticed all of the mounds of red earth at Jatinegara station. Aren’t the lives of all of humanity chipped away every day, squeezed down, and dragged off like those mounds of red earth? And as I was married, and because my wife was sitting next to me, I turned briskly to look at her.

“We’re not going on a honeymoon. We’re going to visit someone in hospital this time,” I said.

Gambir Railway Station Jakarta

Gambir Railway Station, Jakarta 1945

The roar and hiss of the train that had started to move off once more prevented me from hearing her reply. Her mouth was all that I could see opening and closing.
“We get to Blora tomorrow at twelve midday,” I continued.

I watched her nod, then turned back once more to gaze from the carriage window. The morning mist was beginning to thin and then Klender station appeared from the window. The carcasses of Dutch armored pantserwagen, British brengun carriers and old trucks still lay scattered across fields and along the sides of the main roads, English weapons which had been disabled by the groups of youth militia fighters, and disabled too by their own old age. Then suddenly I recalled: the youth militia fighters who had been under pressure from the wealth of firepower of the foreign forces had made it to the other side of the Cakung River.

The train then passed through Cakung station. I had so many recollections of this tiny hamlet. Cakung, among the rubber plantations, where the situation had changed so often, youth militia fighters pinned down one minute, then the foreign forces the next.

I drew on my cigarette. Now the morning cold and cool breeze weren’t as unpleasant as before. Barren empty rice fields and rice fields whose harvest time had all but arrived exchanged places chasing each other through the window. And before in those fields, there were occasions when single-prop Dutch warplanes had dropped hand grenades on farmers. There were times too when planes had landed in those empty fields and stolen goats from villagers. Yes, I recalled all of these things now. And in that grass too there had been friends then defending the line of the railway track who had fallen sprawling, their blood spraying over the ever green grass.

Dutch warplane

“What time will we arrive at Semarang?” my wife asked.

“Four.”

And I returned to my memories. Kranji station, Tambun. Cikarang. These were a series of defenses before the first military action. And the train continued roaring along. And suddenly I again remembered the letter from my uncle, “has already vomited blood four times!” And my recollections stopped and circled in on that word blood. Then I recalled as well how his letter had continued:

I feel that our father can’t be expected to recover. You can come home, can’t you? Surely, you can come home.

I shivered all over, like someone with malaria. And the military performance disappeared from my head. My father once more filled my thoughts.

“We can’t stay in Blora too long,” said my wife.

I looked at my wife. I could feel my forehead creasing deeply and I replied sharply, “We’ll see how things are first.”

For a moment the memory of my father vanished.

“If we’re there too long maybe I might have to go home ahead of you.”

I was annoyed.

I stared at her. Before. Before when we were still engaged, I had felt her eyes were so completely wonderful. But the wonder had gone now. Yes, her eyes were now just the same as the eyes of anyone else, without any affect on my heart. And I answered her gaze. Perhaps it was my eyes which were awful, as indeed I had known since I was a child, no longer having any affect on her heart either.

I answered, “That’s entirely up to you.”

I swung my head, and my eyes too, from her stare and gazed out the train window again.

We were at Lemah Abang now.

All at once an old memory shimmered into my mind.

(Continued)

Pantserwagen in action in Weleri

Pantserwagen in action in Weleri 1 Augustus 1947 http://www.gahetna.nl


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

National Archive Photo Collection

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 really wouldn’t have cut me up so bad if only, before it arrived, I just hadn’t send that letter of my own. My letter contained what I can only describe as something that was going to be pretty unpleasant to read. The letter I got read like this:

Blora, 17 December 1949

My beloved child!

There is no more profound a joy in this world than the rich joy felt by a father who gets his child back, his first born child, the child who carries all his swelling pride and his honor, the child who’s been kept away from contact with normal society for so long and been separated from the ordinary life of decent human beings.

My child!

I am able to picture the suffering in your soul. I can picture your suffering in that cramped place because I experienced that myself during the rebellion of the Socialist Youth militia, when I was moved to three jails in two weeks. From that time until now, every single night, I beg the Lord Almighty for safety and happiness for our family and for our future generations. I pray that He will forgive the sins of our family.

Yes, that was the start of the letter I received after being out of jail for two weeks. With me sending such an angry letter, and with me getting this reply, well, tears just welled up in my eyes. And I just promised to myself: I’ve got to not be so disrespectful.

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

If you can, please come home to Blora for a couple of days. Your father isn’t well. First it was malaria and a cough. Then he also got hemorrhoids and finally they figured out he’s got tuberculosis. Your father’s now in the hospital and he’s already thrown up 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 was I going to get the money to go home? And this is what made me hit the streets of Jakarta, hunting for my friends, and debt.

It was hot! And the tens of thousands of cars threw up dust all over your sweaty body. And it was dust that contained a mixture of all sorts of things: dried snot, horse shit, pieces of car tire, bits of bike and becak tire and probably also some of my own bike tires that the day before had flown down the same streets I was riding down now. And the dust mixture stuck with your sweat 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, none of this would’ve happened. At that moment I also thought, people who do own cars sure cause a lot of trouble for those who don’t. And they don’t even know it.

About half an hour after the sunset prayer time, I succeeded in acquiring the debt. If that decent friend hadn’t been able to hold out the money as he said “you can use this money for the time being”, I’m sure I would have been a bigger wreck than before. The angry letter I had sent first made me rigid with the feeling I had done something terribly wrong. And to make that go away I had a duty to go see my sick father. That’s what my heart told me.

Among the darkness and violet and the sun setting in the reddening west, my bike sped down the small streets near the president’s palace. The palace. It was bathed in the rays of electric lights. Who knew how many hundreds of watts it used. I didn’t know. I just figured that in my estimation the palace’s electricity couldn’t be anything less than five kilowatts. And if anyone had thought there wasn’t enough electricity, someone just had to pick up the phone and the palace would get more.

The President was, after all, 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 also weren’t a minister, and you wanted to get forty or fifty more watts of electricity, you had to have the guts to pay somebody off with two- or three-hundred rupiah. This was really very impractical. And if those in the palace wanted to go out and head for A, or for B, everything was ready – airplane, car, cigarettes, and the dough. And to get to Blora I had to go all over Jakarta first and acquire some debt. Living like that was really very impractical.

And if you became president, and your mother got sick, or, take your father, or take any other member of your close family, the tomorrow or the day after that you’d already be able to go visit them. And say you were a low-level civil servant with a wage that was only just enough 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’ve got the same rights as anyone else. And democracy means you don’t have to bow or scrape for 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 so long as it’s 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’re allowed to buy whatever things 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 some person was caught in a difficult spot.

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 DA 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.

Tugu Tani

Poem for a Student Meeting

By W.S. Rendra

The sun rose this morning
Sniffed the smell of baby piss on the horizon,
Saw the brown river snaking its way to the sea,
And listened to the hum of the bees in the forest.

And now it starts to climb into the sky
And it presides as witness that we are gathered here
To investigate conditions.

We ask:
Why are good intentions sometimes no use?
Why can good intentions clash with good intentions?
People say: “We have good intentions.”
And we ask: “Good intentions for who?”

Yes, some are mighty and some are humble.
Some are armed and some are injured.
Some have positions and some are occupied.
Some have plenty and some are emptied.
And we here ask:
“Your good intentions are for who?
You stand on the side of who?”

Why are good intentions put into practice
But more and more farmers lose their land?
Farms in the mountains are bought up by people from the city.
Huge plantations
Only benefit just one small group.
Advanced equipment that is imported
Doesn’t suit farmers with tiny pieces of land.

Well we ask:
“So your good intentions are for who?”

Now the sun is rising high in the sky.
And will indeed be enthroned above the palm trees.
And here in the hot air we will also ask:
All of us are educated to stand on the side of who?
Will the knowledge taught here
Be an instrument of liberation,
Or of oppression?

Soon the sun will go down.
Night will arrive.
The geckos chatter on the wall.
And the moon sails out.
But our questions shall not abate.
They shall live in the people’s dreams.
Grow in the fields that recede into the distance.

And on the morrow
The sun shall rise once again.
Evermore the new day shall incarnate.
Our questions shall become a forest,
transform into rivers,
And become the waves of the ocean.

Under this hot sun we ask:
There are those who cry, and those who flog,
There are some with nothing, and some who scratch for something.
And our good intentions
Stand on the side of who?

Jakarta
1 December 1977

This poem was presented to students at the University of Indonesia, and performed in the film “Yang Muda Yang Bercinta” directed by Syumanjaya.

 


Poem for a Student Meeting (Sajak Pertemuan Mahasiswa), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 38.

Image source is Yang Tegak Berdiri Kokoh dan Yang Lunglai Meleyot-Leyot: Tentang Patung, Ruang Publik dan Kekuasaan

Tugu Tani Today

Tugu Tani Today (Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BXhI9dYAb9J)

For background on the history and controversy surrounding Tugu Tani see Matvey ManizerKisah Di Balik Tugu Tani: Patung Pahlawan,  Banyak Ormas Menuduh Patung di Tugu Tani di Jakpus Sebagai Lambang PKI and the following article from The Jakarta Post ‘Tugu Tani’ a hero statue, not farmers statue: History book .

National Peasants Day 2017

National Peasants Day 2017 (Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BZarEQAnIRt)

Shu Li Peasant Heroes 1945 NGA

Shu Li, Peasant Heroes, c. 1945 NGA

#DaruratDemokrasi

Poem for Young People

By W.S. Rendra

We are the stuttering generation
who’ve been treated like children by an arrogant generation.
We haven’t been given official education
in relation to justice,
because we’ve been brought up to not get involved in politics,
and haven’t been taught about the basics of the legal system.

We find it hard to see a person’s true character,
because we haven’t been taught about the soul or about psychology.

We don’t get an explanation based on clear thinking,
because we haven’t been taught philosophy or logic.

Aren’t we supposed
To understand all of that?
Have we only been prepared
To become tools?

This is the average picture
of youth graduating from high school,
young people nearing adulthood.

The basis of our education is obedience,
not exchanging ideas.

School learning is rote learning,
and not learning how to explain something.

The basis of justice in relationships,
and understanding of how humans behave,
as groups or as individuals,
isn’t considered a subject worth studying or testing.

The reality of the world is only dimly visible.
We can’t connect all the signs,
which are visible everywhere.
We are angry with ourselves.
We resent what the future holds.
Then finally,
we just enjoy our ignorance and comfort.

As we stutter,
all we can do is buy and consume,
without being able to create.
We are not able to lead,
rather all we can do is rule –
just like our fathers.

Education in this country is oriented to the West.
Over there children are prepared
to be the tools of industry.
With their industry that rolls on endlessly,
But here we’re prepared to become tools of what?
We just become the tools of bureaucracy!
And bureaucracy has become bloated,
no use at all –
parasites in the trees.

Darkness. All I can see is darkness.
Education doesn’t provide any light.
Training courses don’t provide any jobs.
Darkness. My agony is darkness.
The people are living in unemployment.

What’s happening all around me?
Because we can’t work it out,
it’s easier for us to run and hide in dope poetry.
What is the meaning of all these complicated signs?
What does this mean? What does this mean?
Ah, in drunkenness,
a blood splattered face
is going to look like the moon.

Why do we have to put up with living like this?
A person with the right to a medical degree,
is thought of as an educated person,
without being tested on their knowledge of justice.
Meanwhile, if tyranny runs rampant,
he doesn’t say a word,
because his job is just to give needles.

What the hell? Are we going to continue being silent?
Law students
are just considered decorations for ceremonies,
while the law is stabbed in the back again and again.
Economics students
are just regarded as plastic flowered,
while people go broke and corruption runs wild.

We’re inside a kaleidoscope
that is magic and inscrutable.
We’re imprisoned in a fog that befuddles.
Our hands reach out grasping for something to grab.
And when we miss,
we hit and scrape –
at thin air.

We are the stuttering generation.
Who have been treated like children by the arsehole generation.
Life force has been replaced by lust.
Enlightenment has been replaced by repression.
We are the dangerous generation.

Penjambon, Jakarta
23 June, 1977

 


Poem for Young People (Sajak Anak Muda), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 18.

Image of #DaruratDemokrasi from https://www.instagram.com/p/BZGoo6DFQg4.

Amuk Massa Di Kantor LBH Jakarta

tirtoid.id Sunday evening (17/9), a crowd surrounds the offices of Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) following music performances, poetry readings and stand up comedy. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZOKecmhnsm

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 ones always being invited onto Metro TV’s talk show Mata Najwa. (Showing off a little here 🙂 ) What’s for sure is there were a lot of supporters both for and against me appearing on the show. Why? Because Najwa would ask the hard questions and would fish and box me in when the viewers suspected me of, thought I was giving the impression I was guilty or lying. For me, [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, the Mata Najwa show allowed me to appear just as I am, and definitely to say it as it is. Facing questions, and the Mata Najwa gaze, there was only one key. 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 would 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

Nervous waiting to interview Ahok

Notes from Ahok on Twitter

A note from Ahok on Twitter


Cars at Tjililitan Airfield at Batavia (circa) 1930

The Ambition

By Muhammad Yamin

Night has fallen, cool and still
The breeze is so gentle and soft;
The ocean heaves, murmuring quietly
The smooth surface glistening and glinting.

Out stretched hands reach into the night air
Unsteadily withdrawn, by a heart without joy
Because of the “wish”, remembered so often
So brilliantly, beyond words.

Every star shines brightly
Finally aware is this body of mine
The desired is reaching through nobility.

Who can doubt, can not believe
That we are always guided
By God, the Lord who is so rich?

On the Indian Ocean, June 1921

Gezicht over Tandjong Priok, de haven van Batavia

Gezicht over Tandjong Priok, de haven van Batavia  Deze foto is genomen vanaf het spoorwegstation van de Staatsspoorwegen (SS) in de haven Tandjong Priok bij Batavia (Jakarta). Rechts is de “Eerste Binnenhaven” te zien.

The Ambition (Tjita-Tjita) was first published in Indonesian in the Dutch-language journal Jong Sumatra : organ van den Jong Sumatranen Bond, Batavia, June 1921. It was republished in Pane, Armijn (ed), Sandjak-Sandjak Muda Mr. Muhammad Yamin [The Young Poems of Mr. Muhammad Yamin], Firma Rada, Djakarta, 1954, p. 6.

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