Graffiti

Short Story: Bitter Beans

By Seno Gumira Ajidarma

A discrete young couple is engrossed in an animated argument about bitter beans. In fact, they have just finished a dinner that consisted largely, among other things, of bitter beans.

“Just imagine if there were no bitter beans in the world,” muses the young man.

“Well, what about it?”

“If there were no bitter beans in the world, the poor wouldn’t have anything to make them happy. Imagine! Wouldn’t it be dreadful if the only thing that made the poor happy was owning a Mercedes Benz and working in an office? We’re lucky to have bitter beans! Every individual bitter bean makes a huge contribution to the total sum of human happiness. It’s about time we realized that the bitter bean is one of Indonesia’s most important national resources.”

“But the image of the bitter bean doesn’t fit the image of the newly rich city-living office worker, the collar-and-tie look. It’s obvious that the bitter bean just isn’t, or at least isn’t very, well, cool. You can hardly be proud of the smell! After all, these days people are only happy if they have something to be proud of.”

“To be proud of, or, to be arrogant about? Look at us. We’re happy eating bitter beans. Try smelling my breath.” The young man exhales, “Phew!”

The young woman waves a hand in front of her nose. “Yuck! What a revolting smell!”

“Well, of course it smells! But the embarrassing smell of bitter beans is only an image problem. Something has to be done to change its image. You can’t deny it. It does bring joy to millions of people, people who can only afford to find happiness in eating bitter beans. That’s the first thing. And another thing, aren’t they also good for you? According to a friend of mine, they’re good for your kidneys. They help you piss. And the problem of the smell? Ah! The smell can even be turned into… a unique national symbol! I might even write a letter to the newspaper suggesting, yes, that the Director General of Tourism start an advertising campaign promoting the smell of bitter beans as… `The Smell of Indonesia’. What do you think? Do you like that?”

The attractive young girlfriend is silent, blinks and listens to her excited boyfriend’s ideas. Out of affection she usually tries to agree, even though she does think this suggestion sounds a little odd. There is no way in the world the bitter bean is ever going to amount to anything of world importance. Not like crude oil, or nuclear energy. It’s just a fact that bitter beans will probably only ever be important for the little person, to the ordinary man and woman in the street.

“I don’t think you’re actually wrong,” she says, “but do you really think many people will be able to get what you mean?”

“Well, of course. What’s so hard about it? It isn’t complicated. It’s getting harder and harder to make a living. The measure of success is becoming more and more difficult to achieve. And that means too many people will feel like they’ve failed in life, that their lives are worthless if they can’t live up to this measure of success. These are the defeated people, the unfortunate, those who despite having worked and worked are never going to strike it big. These people have to be entertained…”

“And how is that going to happen?”

“Oh! I can’t believe you haven’t got it yet!”

“You mean they have to be made to realize that happiness can be achieved, not by having a white-collar job, but by.. eating bitter beans?”

“Exactly!”

“You mean grilled bitter beans, don’t you?”

“They could also be fried.”

“What about raw bitter beans?”

“Not interesting enough.”

“Steamed then?”

“Now, that’s a little better. But what would be exciting is beans mixed with milk.”

“You mean…?”

Udang Sambal Petai

“A bitter bean nog! Not milk, egg, honey and ginger, but milk, egg, honey and bitter beans! Ha ha ha!!” they laughed together.

“Then, you could also have bitter bean juice.”

“Wow! That’s a great idea!”

“Now you’re getting silly!”

“Why?”

“If the meaning of life can only be found in eating bitter beans, what would be the point of going to school and getting a good education? Surely the achievements of human civilization can’t be measured by the happiness that someone finds by eating bitter beans. It wouldn’t be right for bitter beans to be so important that nothing else made people happy.”

“Hang on! Do you actually believe that? Look, the central business district of Jakarta, Jakarta’s ‘Golden Triangle’, is just the tip of an enormous pyramid and just a mere handful of people ever get to enjoy the bright lights. If everybody tried to climb to the top of the pyramid, it would be a disaster! Most people are going to roll back down again, or fall off, or get pushed off and become poor again and then they are going to end up believing that there isn’t any point to life.”

“You’re so cynical.”

“What do you mean cynical? I have great hope.”

“You mean hope in bitter beans, that the only thing that will make Indonesians happy is eating bitter beans?”

“You can make an Indonesian happy with a tie, and you can get millions of ties from Sogo department store.”

The pair chatter on excitedly, as the distinctive aroma of bitter beans sprays from their mouths with every enthusiastic breath.

Having explored every aspect of the bitter bean for more than an hour, they finally realize that they are very tired.

Eventually, all that is left is for them to kiss passionately.

“You reek of bitter beans,” says the young man.

“You smell of bitter beans yourself,” replies the woman, as they each depart for their homes.

Arriving at his home, the young man kisses his wife.

“You smell of bitter beans,” she greets him.

“Yes, I did have some at a food stall.”

“You’re always eating those things!”

“No, I’m not. Only now and again.”

“I’m amazed. I’ve told you before, but you just don’t learn, do you?” says the man’s wife. “If you eat bitter beans, everyone in the house has to put up with it. You know no one else in the house likes them besides you. I don’t like them and neither do the children. Whenever you eat bitter beans, the smell goes everywhere, from the toilet out back to the gutter in front of the house. The smell gets into everything. It’s embarrassing! The neighbors will say, “Err. The people next door are eating bitter beans again!” Try to cut down a little, will you? Try to show a little consideration for someone other than yourself, all right! So you honestly enjoy them, but you have to realize, only poor people eat bitter beans, darling.”

After that, she doesn’t say anything else. But before going to bed, she suddenly remembers that her bitter bean-munching husband in fact gave them up before they were married fifteen years ago. But lately, over the last few months, she’s noticed that he’s started eating them again. She can’t understand why.

“Maybe he needs a little variation,” she thinks.

(Jakarta, October 1990.)


Bitter Beans (Petai) was published in Kompas Daily in December 1990.

Box of Petai

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Monash Asia Institute (MAI)

Masculinities in Indonesia & East Timor – Monash Asia Institute

Event Time: Tuesday, 9 May 2017, at 2:00-4:00pm

Elizabeth Burchill Seminar Room, E5.61, Level 5 Building 11 (Menzies), Monash University, 20 Chancellors Walk, Wellington Road, Clayton, Victoria 3800

Ariel Heryanto (Monash University) will be discussing multiple masculinities with members of a new generation of scholars who are completing separate research projects on the topic:

• Hani Yulindrasari (The University of Melbourne

• Noor Huda Ismail (Monash University)

• Benjamin Hegarty (The Australian National University)

• Sara Niner (Monash University).

Julian Millie (Monash University) will offer concluding comments

Contacts:

Ariel Heryanto <Ariel.Heryanto@anu.edu.au>

Julian Millie <Julian.Millie@monash.edu>

Hosted by Anthropology/School of Social Sciences

FACULTY OF ARTS, MONASH UNIVERSITY

GUEST SPEAKERS

HANI YULINDRASARI is a lecturer in the Early Childhood Teacher Education Program, Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia in Bandung, Indonesia. She is currently completing her doctoral thesis on “Negotiating masculinities: the lived experience of male teachers in Indonesian early childhood education.” By examining gender narratives among male teachers, the research examines the diversity of masculinities in Indonesia including a range of ‘nurturing masculinities’.

NOOR HUDA ISMAIL focuses his research on the Indonesian foreign fighters, hegemonic masculinity and globalization. His internationally acclaimed documentary film Jihad Selfie (2016) traces the steps of a young man from Aceh as he was about to go to Syria to join ISIS. In his work, Ismail contends that the ‘masculine’ is not only a personal practice but a political decision which requires the struggle for limited resources, the mobilization of power and tactics.

BENJAMIN HEGARTY is completing his doctoral dissertation on the changing possibilities for queer intimacy and the feminine transgender body in authoritarian Indonesia (1966-1998). He will share with us his insights on changing notions of being a complete man (laki-laki komplit) as the New Order ideology of marriage and household is an increasingly difficult path to follow and new sites of pleasure and possibilities for economic success induce a different and more ambiguous future of masculinity in the post-authoritarian period.

DR. SARA NINER is an expert in the field of gender and development with a long-term interest in those issues in the post-conflict environment of Timor-Leste. Her current research explores gender roles in the post-conflict setting of Timor-Leste (East Timor), focusing on the implications for change and continuity in constructions of masculinities over time.

HOSTS

Associate Professor Julian Millie is ARC future fellow in the Anthropology, working on publicness in Indonesia’s regional Islamic spheres. His forthcoming book Laughing, crying, thinking: Islamic oratory and its critics will be published by Cornell University Press.

Ariel Heryanto is the new Herbert Feith Professor for the Study of Indonesia, Faculty of Arts. His latest book is Identity and Pleasure; the politics of Indonesian screen culture (2014).


Source: Monash Asia Institute, Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Performing Arts
Monash University, Caulfield Campus, Building H, 900 Dandenong Road, Caulfield East  Vic  3145, Ph: 61 3 9905 2929, MAI-Enquiries@monash.edu

Graffiti

Event: Two films on transgender issues in Indonesia

07 February 2017

Film screening

The first screening of the ‘Framing Asia’ film series will focus on transgender issues in Indonesia. Two short films Renita, Renita and Accross Gender  will be followed by discussion with Intan Paramaditha, Indonesian author and lecturer in media and film studies and one of the filmmakers, Anouk Houtman.

Films

Renita, Renita (15min)

Tony Trimarsanto

Trapped in a male body, Renita wanted to be a doctor and a woman since she was a child but her parents forced her to study at a Islamic school where she was bullied and ostracized. She rebelled by becoming a prostitute in the hope of finding freedom but instead, found that it came at a cost — she experienced brutality and was discriminated against by her family and the Indonesian society in which she lived.

Across Gender (24min)

Anouk Houtman

What is it like being transgender in Yogyakarta? There is no single answer to this question. This film aims to show different ways of negotiating visibility in the Indonesian society when one ‘crosses gender’. The difficulty of this negotiation becomes apparent through the anti-LGBT sentiments and actions in early 2016.

Discussion

Anouk Houtman is a young filmmaker with an MA in Visual Anthropology of Leiden University. She graduated with a film and thesis researching the visibility of transgenders in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Currently she is pursuing a second MA in Gender Studies and University Utrecht.

Intan Paramaditha is an Indonesian author and lecturer in media and film studies at Macquarie University, Sydney. Focusing on contemporary film practice in Indonesia, her research explores the relation between media, cultural activism, and sexual politics in the convergence and tension between national and cosmopolitan trajectories.

Time 19:30- hrs Venue Faculty of Humanities, Lipsius building, rom 028 Cleveringaplaats 1 Leiden Netherlands Google Maps

Source –http://iias.asia/event/two-films-transgender-issues-indonesia

Event: Women’s Resistance Through Arts and the Media in Indonesia – Intan Paramaditha

image

Praktisch: Free entrance
Doors open: 19:30
Met
Intan Paramaditha
Women’s Resistance Through Arts and the Media in Indonesia

The discourse of sexuality is inseparable from the tension and polarization that characterize politics and culture in Indonesia. Last year, after a series of anti-LGBT statements were publicly expressed by government officials and public figures, “pro-family” groups proposed to outlaw non-marital sex and homosexuality. This is not a sudden turn as debates around sex, bodies, and morality have been a national obsession for the past two decades. Sexuality is a contested sphere that reflects the fractured nature of the post-authoritarian nation.

Growing conservatism in Indonesia, as elsewhere, entails the attempts to regulate and censor women’s bodies. …

Source – http://intanparamaditha.org/event-womens-resistance-through-arts-and-the-media-in-indonesia/

Dartmoor's tors

Tahun Baru Di Dartmoor

Tahun Baru Di Dartmoor

Oleh Sylvia Plath

Ini adalah kebaruan: setiap halangan murahan
Kecil yang terbungkus oleh kaca dan ganjil,
Berkilauan dan berdenting dalam suara falsetto seorang santo. Cuma kamu
Tidak tahu bagaimana memahami kelicinan mendadak itu,
Kemiringan buta, putih, seram yang tidak teraih.
Yang tidak dapat didaki dengan perkataan yang kamu tahu.
Tidak dapat didaki dengan gajah atau roda atau sepatu.
Kita hanya datang untuk melihat. Kamu terlalu muda
Untuk menginginkan dunia di dalam topi kaca.

Biljartzaal van sociëteit De Harmonie te Batavia

Ayah

Ayah

Oleh Sylvia Plath

Kamu tidak lagi pas, kamu tidak lagi pas
sepatu hitam
Di mana aku sudah hidup seperti kaki
Selama tiga puluh tahun, miskin dan putih,
Hampir tidak berani bernafas atau bersin.

Ayah, aku sudah harus membunuhmu.
Kamu meninggal sebelum aku ada waktu–
Berat seperti marmer, sekarung penuh Tuhan,
Patung mengerikan dengan satu jari kaki kelabu
Sebesar anjing laut Frisco

Dan sebuah kepala di dalam Atlantik aneh itu
Di mana hujan deras berwarna hijau kacang di atas biru
Di perairan lepas Nauset yang indah
Aku dulu berdoa untuk mendapatkanmu kembali.
Ach, du.

Dalam bahasa Jerman, di kota Polandia itu
Terkikis datar oleh penggilas
Perang, perang, perang.
Tapi nama kota itu umum.
Sahabatku orang Polak

Katanya ada selusin atau lebih.
Jadi saya tidak pernah bisa tahu di mana kamu
Menginjakkan kakimu, akarmu,
Aku tidak pernah bisa berbicara denganmu.
Lidah terjebak di rahangku.

Lidah terjebak dalam jerat kawat berduri.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
Aku hampir tidak bisa bicara.
Aku pikir setiap orang Jerman adalah kamu.
Dan bahasanya kasar

Sebuah lokomotif, sebuah lokomotif
Bergemuruh membawaku seperti orang Yahudi.
Seorang Yahudi ke Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
Aku mulai berbicara seperti orang Yahudi.
Aku pikir mungkin aku adalah orang Yahudi.

Salju di Tyrol, bir jernih dari Wina
Tidak begitu murni maupun benar.
Dengan leluhur perempuanku seorang Jipsi dan keberuntunganku yang aneh
Dan pak kartu Tarotku dan pak kartu Tarotku
Mungkin aku sedikit Yahudi.

Aku selalu takut padamu,
Dengan Luftwaffemu, omong kosongmu.
Dan kumis rapimu
Dan mata Aryanmu, biru terang
Manusia Panzer, manusia Panzer, Oh Kamu–

Bukan Tuhan tetapi swastika
Begitu hitam sehingga tiada sedikitpun langit dapat mengintip.
Setiap wanita mencintai seorang Fasis,
Sepatu bot di muka, orang kejam itu
Hati brutal dari orang brutal seperti kamu.

Kamu berdiri di papan tulis, ayah,
Dalam gambar kamu yang aku punya,
Celah dalam dagumu bukan kakimu
Tetapi itu tidak mengurangi kesetananmu, tak juga
Mengurangi sifatmu sebagai orang kulit hitam yang

Menggigit hati merah cantikku menjadi dua.
Usiaku sepuluh ketika mereka menguburmu.
Pada usia dua puluh aku berusaha mati
Dan kembali, kembali, kembali kepadamu.
Aku pikir tulang pun akan cukup.

Tetapi mereka menarikku keluar dari karung,
Dan aku ditempel kembali dengan lem.
Kemudian aku tahu apa yang harus kulakukan.
Aku membuat model kamu,
Seorang pria berpakaian hitam berpenampilan Meinkampf

Dan sayang pada rak dan sekrup.
Dan aku berkata ya, ya.
Jadi ayah, aku akhirnya putus.
Telepon hitam itu mati pada akarnya,
Suara-suara itu tetap tidak mampu merayap keluar.

Jika aku telah membunuh seorang pria, aku sudah membunuh dua–
Vampir yang mengaku sebagai kamu
Dan minum darahku selama setahun,
Tujuh tahun, kalau kamu ingin tahu.
Ayah, kamu dapat berbaring sekarang.

Ada pasak kayu dalam jantung hitam gemukmu
Dan penduduk desa tidak pernah menyukaimu.
Mereka menari dan menginjak-injakmu.
Mereka selalu tahu itu kamu.
Ayah, ayah, bajingan kamu, putuslah aku.


https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/48999

Sylvia Plath, “Daddy” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1960, 1965, 1971, 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. Editorial matter copyright © 1981 by Ted Hughes. Used acknowledging all applicable rights of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source of English: Collected Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1992)

Images: http://www.geheugenvannederland.nl/nl