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 scrambled against each other. But it isn’t so important for me to relate this.

The train continued on and on, and on reaching the town of Rembang began to turn southward then traveled 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

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Portret van G.D.A. Jonckbloet, S.J.

Father G. D. A. Jonckbloet – Noto Soeroto, 1918

Father G. D. A. Jonckbloet

By Noto Soeroto

On 26 September 1918, Father Jonckbloet hopes to commemorate the day which marks 50 years in the Order of Jesus Christ. The grey priest who celebrated his 70th birthday on 28 August, spent 20 years of his working life in India. He will undoubtedly count many friends among our readers and we therefore consider it a privilege that on the occasion of his jubilee we are delighted to express our congratulations.

Godefridus Daniel Augustinus Jonckbloet was born on the 28 August 1848 in Eindhoven. After attending high school at Sittard at the high school, on 26 September 1868 he joined the Order of the Jesuits at Mariëndaal at Grave (North Brabant). He studied philosophy at Laval in France and theology in Maastricht, and was dedicated to the priesthood in this city on 8 September 1881, and subsequently studied at Sittard. In 1886, the young scholar contracted a lung disease which required him to stay for a year in Davos. Thanks to regular outdoor treatment, he recovered from the dangerous disease and in memory of this wonderful healing at this blessed place Davos he gives thanks till the present. After a few years in Maastricht where he was busy with literary studies, Father Jonckbloet left for India, where he set foot at Batavia on 6 November 1890. In turn, he stayed at Semarang, Weltevreden [Jakarta], Buitenzorg [Bogor], Magelang and Surabaya and finally became a priest in Malang in June 1897. He soon came to love the country. His major interest was mainly the monuments of Old Java, which is the reason he visited the Borobudur, Méndoet – and Prambanan – temples numerous times and travelled from Surabaya to Bali and Lombok. He once dreamed of writing not an archaeological dissertation about Borobudur but rather an epic poem. Unfortunately, the outline of this great poem has gone and sadly the poet has turned away from the idea.

It is to Malang, however, that Father Jonckbloet has deployed his greatest energy in the service of his priestly labors. A beautiful church, a parsonage and a guesthouse for the Ursuline sisters, all built by Father Jonckbloet, bear witnesses to the work of the beloved cleric and stand as a demonstration of the great love that the priest had for the town and its parishes. Over the years, Father Jonckbloet has acquired countless friends in India, both among the Europeans and the Javanese. Great goodness and human love, gentleness and a spirit of sacrifice are the fundamentals of Jonckbloedt’s character which mark the priest a true Christian.

[206] Add to that a very congenial manner in his dealings with others, and it does not surprise us, that Father Jonckbloet has many friends and admirers in both India as well as the Netherlands.

No wonder, too, that many friends have joined together to honor the man who has done so much for his church and his society. The intention is to establish a fund called the “Jonckbloet Fund”, which will provide training in the Netherlands for Catholic Indonesians, for different positions and relations in general, but for the priesthood in particular. Contributions for this fund will be received at any time by Dr. J. G. C. Vriens, Secretary of the Committee, Paulstraat 1, Nijmegen.

Apart from sanctifying his friends, Father Jonckbloet is mostly known as a man of letters. From his youth, literature has been his favorite study which he has demonstrated by his numerous works, among which we mention the likes of Isaiah which is an interpretation in Dutch verse of the entire book of Isaiah’s prophecies, a work carried out in the face of numerous pressures. Besides this, he also produced smaller works of a purely religious character.

Even in India, the learned Father has always combined the literary life with the life of the clergy. In India he wrote two fine collections of literary critiques Uit Nederland en Insulinde, his study of Multatuli and his collection of poetry Lief en Leed. His extraordinary productivity is evidenced by his many articles in journals like “De Java-Post” [The Java Post], “Het Bataviaasch Nieuwsblad” [The Batavia News] and “Studiën” [Studies].

Due to throat cancer, Father Jonckbloet left India on 18 June 1908 arriving on 9 September 1909 in The Hague where he settled in the parsonage Da Costastraat to the present. Although the Indian years and serious ailments aged him, the friendly grey man is still the epitome of a young and enthusiastic mind. His pen still moves with a youthful fire. After 1909, several monographs including Lady Anna de Savornin Lohman, In Memoriam: Eugène van Oppen and very recently a collection of poetry Refloruit Cor Meum [Blossomed Heart]. Still appearing in “Studiën” and other periodicals are articles by his hand which abound in fresh enthusiasm.

It was true that attempts were made by the Catholic side to collect a compilation of all Father Jonckbloet’s works which are spread far and wide in many collections. This would be an asset for the literature of the Catholic world. A very interesting book would also be the same, but the literary work of Father Jonckbloet coincided with the great reversal here of these lands of the 1880s and following years. It is remarkable to see how one educated in the ideas of the early 1880s slowly begins to turn in his old age to so beat that he sometimes lauds the most modern poets with a sound as loud and possibly even louder than the exuberance exuded by their own sympathizers. An example of this could extend to the six very detailed and elaborate articles which he published in “Studiën” two years ago on the socialist poet Henriette Roland Holst.

Finally, I allow myself to say a personal word of thanks for the attention and the wide-ranging testimonial in “Studiën” which the grey priest wished to dedicate to my own work. Thank you also for the friendship he has shown me. How beloved must be this true Christian, this noble man and this loyal friend by his own fellow believers!

For many years now, countless friends and worshipers have been allowed to press his trembling hands, behold his venerable face and hear his always friendly voice, made hoarse by a previous throat operation.

‘s-Gravenhage 18th September 1918.

Multatuli by G. Jonckbloet R.C. Priest and Pastor in Batavia

Multatuli by G. Jonckbloet R.C. Priest and Pastor in Batavia (http://resolver.kb.nl/resolve?urn=urn:gvn:MULM01:BR-OM-1894-L4)

 


Source:   Netherlands-India, old and new (year 1918, volume 003, issue 007)

On the career of Noto Soeroto see Mirror of the Indies: A History of Dutch Colonial Literature, Robert Nieuwenhuys, p. 184.

For background on Indonesian students in the Netherlands in the early twentieth century see Indonesian Identities Abroad: International Engagement of Colonial Students in the Netherlands, 1908-1931.

Background on the Catholic community of Malang

Image of Father G.D.A. Jonckbloet, S.J. and other material held by the National Library

For a good list of Jonckbloets writings

Najwa Shihab of MetroTV's Mata Najwa Globe Asia Cover "99 Most Powerful Women"

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 can only be described as something that was going to be pretty unpleasant to read. The letter that I received went 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.

Netherlands-India, old and new

RM Hario Soerjo Soebandrio – Noto Soeroto, 1918

The Funeral of R.M. H. Soerjo Soebandrio

By Noto Soeroto

On 13 November 1918, Raden Mas Hario Soerjo Soebandrio, the younger brother of Z.H. Prince Mangkoe Negoro VII, passed away at the Hague at the age of 29 years, a victim of the current influenza epidemic.

On 15 November the funeral took place in a rather Javanese ceremonial manner, with the Committee of the Indian Association (Perhimpunan Orang India) acting as master of ceremonies. The funeral procession attracted the attention of those present because of the particular decoration of the coffin which was painted ivory. The middle part of this was covered with a white sheet on which were hung traditional Javanese flower arrangements. In addition, many wreaths of flowers filled the carriage, including those of Mrs. van Deventer, Mr. Abendanon, the Indian Association, Minahassans and Sumatrans, Solonese princes and many friends and countrymen. Five carriages of the closest friends who had already gathered at the house of the deceased at Fahrenheitstraat had already left in advance.

At the Old Oak and Dunes Cemetery, a number of Indonesians and interested people waited who wanted to pay their last respects to the deceased. After that his countrymen, all wearing white mourning armbands, carried the coffin from the funeral wagon, preceded by the wife of Mangoenkoesoemo, Noto Soeroto and Surya Ningrat, carrying respectively a bowl of flowers, a vessel for incense and the Quran, the coffin was placed in the van Deventer family crypt.

After the usual spreading of flowers and the reading of texts from the Quran by one of his Islamic compatriots, a brief eulogy was given by the chairman of the Indian Association, Dr. Goenawan Mangoenkoesoemo, who described the deceased as a quiet and serious man who was driven only by the desire for greater knowledge of Europe. Everyone who knew him, knew how friendly Soerjo Soebandrio was, how extremely kind and gentle he always was. The speaker described how not only here at the grave side, but also on his deathbed, his countrymen had surrounded him and that this could be seen by Soerjo Soebandrio himself with his own eyes. And now the beloved is not on strange soil in the family tomb of Mrs. van Deventer. 

Then a few words were then said by J. Oudemans representing the Minister of Colonies, Dr Tumbelaka on behalf of the Minahassans, Mr. Dahlan Abdoellah spoke on behalf of the Sumatrans in Malay, Mr. Soenario in Javanese, Mr. J. H. Abendanon and Mr. W. J. Giel. Soerjo Soebandrio’s teacher Mr. Herman Middendorp also spoke in moving words how the relationship between teacher and student had quickly become a relationship of two friends. Then how he had grown to know what Soebandrio was like: so good, so clever, so sincere and so straightforward. But that it had been in this simplicity that the depth of his soul had been revealed.

2017_09_30_14_03_26_Nederlandsch_Indie_oud_en_nieuw_year_1918

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Netherlands-India, old and new (year 1918, volume 003, issue 008) (Stoomvaart-Maatschappij “Nederland.”. Nederlandsch-Indie oud & nieuw)

Indies Association (Perhimpunan India), 1918

Indian Association (Perhimpunan Orang India), 1918

 


Source: Netherlands-India, old and new (year 1918, volume 003, issue 008)

On the career of Noto Soeroto see Mirror of the Indies: A History of Dutch Colonial Literature, Robert Nieuwenhuys, p. 184.

For background on Dr. Goenawan Mangoenkoesoemo see Goenawan Mangoenkoesoemo, Sang Visioner: Usia 15 Tolak “Politik Dinasti”.

For background on Indonesian students in the Netherlands in the early twentieth century see Indonesian Identities Abroad: International Engagement of Colonial Students in the Netherlands, 1908-1931.

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

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

Graffiti

Poem on a Young Woman and the Boss

By W.S. Rendra

What you’re touching me with however you like,
Where this is going, I’ve already got a pretty good idea.
I’m no rocket scientist,
But it’s already fairly clear
What this groping means…

Damn the education I got.
I was taught to count, type, do foreign language,
Office management and administration.
But they forgot to teach:
What if you’re grabbed from behind by your boss,
Then what am I supposed to do!

Now don’t just grab me however you like.
When not even my boyfriend would be as bold as that.
I already know clear enough where you’re going.
When you brush my tits,
I know what that means…

They taught me to hate sin,
But they forgot to teach me
How to look for a job.
They taught me lifestyle,
With accessories that don’t come from the environment,
That are controlled by the bosses,
Make up, air conditioner,
Synthetic vitamins, tonic,
Every kind of soda and a school diploma,
Education tied me
To their markets, to their capital.
And now that I’m grown up,
Where else am I going to run,
If it ain’t to the world of the bosses?

Don’t grab me however you like.
I’m no intellectual,
But I know enough,
All the work on my desk
Is going to head in that direction.
Don’t, mister, don’t!
Don’t grab me however you like!
Ah. Oh.
The money you slip into my bra
Is my education diploma.
Your fat belly
Presses against my stomach.
Your foul smelling mouth
Kisses my mouth,
As if everything you do
Is just perfectly normal.
Every member of the community helps you.
They all kiss your ass.
They spread my legs wide
While you climb over my body.

Yogya
10 July 1975


Poem on a Young Woman and the Boss (Sajak Gadis dan Majikan), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 30.

#DaruratDemokrasi

Poem on Young People

By W.S. Rendra

We are the stammering generation
Who are babied by the haughty generation.
We don’t get official education
About justice,
Because we aren’t taught to be involved in politics
And aren’t taught about the fundamentals of the law.

We only vaguely understand what a person’s character is like,
Because we aren’t taught about the heart or psychology.

We don’t understand clear thinking
Because we aren’t taught philosophy or logic.

Weren’t we supposed
To understand all these things?
Were we only prepared
To just be tools?

This is the average picture
Of young people graduating from school,
Young people entering on their adulthood.

The foundation of our education is obedience,
Not the exchange of ideas.

What’s taught in school is rote learning,
And not practice explaining.

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

We understand the reality of the world only dimly,
Signs that are visible everywhere,
Are dots we can’t join.
We’re angry with ourselves
We’re frustrated about our futures.
Then finally,
We just enjoy life of stupidity and comfort.

As we stammer,
All we can do is buy and consume,
We aren’t capable of creating.
We aren’t capable of leading.
But we are able to use authority –
Exactly like our fathers.

The 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 serve as the tools of what?
We just become the tools of bureaucracy!
And a bureaucracy that’s grown bloated,
Totally useless –
A parasite.

Darkness. All I can see is darkness.
Education doesn’t provide enlightenment.
Training doesn’t provide jobs.
Darkness. My agony is darkness.
The people who live in unemployment.

What is this happening all around me?
Because we can’t work it out,
It’s easier for us to lose ourselves in dope poetry.
What is the meaning of these complicated signs?
What does this mean? What does this mean?
Ah, inside spaced out,
Face covered in blood
Looks like the moon.

Why do we have to put up with this life?
A person has the right to a medical degree,
Is regarded as an educated person,
Without any test of their understanding of justice.
And if tyranny runs rampant,
They don’t utter a word,
Their job is just to give people needles.

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

We’re inside a kaleidoscope
That is magic and inscrutable.
We are inside a prison of fog that befuddles.
Our hands reach out searching for something to grab onto.
And if we miss,
We hit and claw –
at thin air.

We are the stammering generation.
Who are babied by the bastard generation.
Life force has been replaced by avarice.
Enlightenment has been replaced by repression.
We are the dangerous generation.

Penjambon, Jakarta
23 June, 1977

 


Ode to Youth (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