Tag Archives: History

Short Story: Bitter Covid By Seno Gumira Ajidarma

Bitter Covid

By Seno Gumira Ajidarma

“Which one tastes bett’a, Kab, bitt’a coffee or bitt’a cofi’?”

Sukab grins from ear to ear on hearning young Jali, who has taken the opportunity to rest his motorcycle taxi at the food stall rather than continue the endless daily roar of collecting food and delivering it.

“Ain’t you workin’ because of the lockdown, Li?”

“See ‘ere, this lockdown ‘as made online fried tofu and fish dumplin’s sell like ‘ot cakes, Kab.”

“So, how comes you is still ‘angin’ aroun’ ‘ere, then?”

“One by one them regular customers is dyin’,” says Jali, taking off his baseball cap as if out of respect. “Left an’ right, front an’ back, in every ‘ouse, there is someone depar’in'”

“Depar”in’?”

“Depar”in’ this world, Cor!”

“Oh gees, yeah, sorry. So..?”

“What people who is still at home is still bein’ infected like, lookin’ for oxygen cylinders, which is real ‘ard, see. An’ if they looks ‘ealthy, like, it turns around they is still OTG anyway, infech’ted but without no symp’oms.

“‘at is the gravest of dangers, i’n’t it.”

“That is when they is the most infetchious!”

“Is that why you don’t wanna go out? Ain’t motorcycle taxis right popular jus’ now?”

“Fact is, there ain’t no orders, Kab. Ain’t jus’ the people who’s buyin’ food what’s ‘eadin’ to the gates…”

“The gates?”

“Oh, Sukab! Headin’ to them pearly gates, ‘ken ‘ell!”

“Ah! Snuffin’ it! Look yous keep changin’, see!

“Yeah, not jus’ the buyers even. Plen’y of sellers it is ‘ho ‘as also shuff’led off…”

“Shuffled off? You mean croaked it again, right?”

“Yaapp! Now you knows, ok, why I been sittin’ ‘ere playin’ chess, rather ‘an run aroun’ all confused like, ‘n all not knowin’ what I outta be doin’?”

Yati shouts as she holds out a packed of fried catfish and peanut sauce. “What the hell! Deliver this. And fast. Then get straight back ‘ere, ok? It all ain’t no use neither that people sellin’ food is shippin’ out…”

“Shippin’ out? Dyin’ too?”

“Hey, stup’id, the importan’ thing is I don’t wants no one who is still ‘ealthy dyin’ o’ ‘unger, right…”

Jali grabs the packet and climbs straight onto his motorcycle like a cowboy climbing up onto his horse.

The stall was quiet again then, though the motorcycle taxis are still queuing. Waiting for Yati’s food packets. With all the constant coming and going, Sukab gets to thinking. “With being right at the bottom sure is lucky we is still making a little somethin’.”

“It may be goin’ all right,” he thinks, “but the worst thing is, Christ, the lives…”

“If there is a collapse, like, you’re gonna collapse too…,” says Yati, who has joined every type of online groups. WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, and Twi’er. They are all confusing people and making them panic, even if they aren’t wrong.

“The ambulance drivers are all exhausted. The grave diggers feels likes they ain’t got no hands left. The preachers is all praying 24 hours a day. The  doctors is havin’ to pick from dozens of dyin’ patients layin’ all around the place in the emergency tents. Then there’s the health workers, helpin’ theirselves to the vaccines… What else is it if it ain’t a collapse… a break down, a crash…,” says Sukab, as if he is in a sort of theater drama.

It’s true everything that was happening. At the food stall you hear every neighborhood announcement from the speakers at the mosques, the ones close by as well as the ones way off. There’s no end to the speakers wailing Inna Lillahi, etcetera and ending in the news that some body or other is going to be taken directly from the hospital to the graveyard. Bodies are being lost, bodies are being swapped, their souls flying up and not being able to say nothing to their relatives who are praying in front of the wrong body’s grave.

Yati shakes her head and just stares at her cellphone.

“It sure is like that. The people who ain’t passed are saying they’re almost goin’ crazy just because they ain’t been to the mall…”

“Pass?”

“Like, it’s everything from before: croaks, goes up to that big house, goes to them pearly gates, shuffles off, departs this world… does I really have to say dies? All right, so, passes on…”

Sukab picks up his mask and takes a mouthful of his corn coffee.

“What it’s called is running outta energy, from being a volunteer, all the worry by itself is.., just real hard…”

“But, you ain’t gonna run out, right, Kab?”

“Of what?”

“Of what you says. Of energy.”

“Gees! It ain’t not enough to just pray!” Then Sukab points to his forehead.

“Your human brain has gotta really work good, like!”

He stands, grabs his hoe and dustpan.

“Where is you goin’, Kab? Ain’t there a lockdown?”

“‘ell, who is gonna bury all them people ‘ho croaks?”

***

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.

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

Lotus Poems: Ode to a Huge Flood By WS Rendra

Ode to a Huge Flood

By WS Rendra

Between three mountains
embracing the moon.
From a broad arm of steel
emerges one thousand hands.
……………………….
In a huge flood that is unexpected
people survive
not because of strength,
not because of intelligence,
but because of the element of chance.
Of the strong and the intelligent
many die helplessly.
The pure small children
although they are powerless
survive the disaster
And saved also are those
who once more become young children
and dissolve into the universe.


WS Rendra, Ode to a Huge Flood (Syair Banjir Besar), Lotus Poems (Syair Teratai), Sinar Harapan Daily, 19 April 1975 (Accessed from Armin Bell, Kumpulan Fiksi Blog, Collected Fiction Blog.)

Indonesian Translation Service NAATI Certified Translators
Photo by Charl Durand on Pexels.com

Lotus Poems: Emptiness is Full of Power By WS Rendra

Emptiness is Full of Power

By WS Rendra

Habit is not personality
Personality is also not a delusion
about ourselves.
Personality comes from emptiness.
When we are empty
we are agile and alert.
In emptiness,
we can respond to anything,
according to the circumstances
and not based on habit.
The full are rigid and lumbering –
often even have no power.
The empty are in fact full of power.


WS Rendra, Emptiness is Full of Power (Kosong Itu Penuh Daya), Lotus Poems (Syair Teratai), Sinar Harapan Daily, 19 April 1975 (Accessed from Armin Bell, Kumpulan Fiksi Blog, Collected Fiction Blog.)

NAATI Certified Indonesian Translators Borobudur Morning