Tag Archives: Pandemi

Short Story: Bitter Covid

Bitter Covid

By Seno Gumira Ajidarma

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Departing?”

“Departing this world, gees!”

“Oh yeah, sorry. So?”

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

“That’s the most dangerous, right.”

“That’s when they are most infectious!”

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

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

“The gates?”

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

“Ah! Passed away! Look you keep changing!

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

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

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

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

“Going home? Dying too?”

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

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

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

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

“If there is a collapse, well, you’re going to collapse too…,” said Yati, who had joined all sorts of groups, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. They were all confusing people and panicking them, even if they were not wrong.

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

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

Yati shook her head as she stared at her cellphone.

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

“Pass?”

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

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

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

“But, you can’t run out, right, Kab?”

“Of what?”

“Of what you said, of energy.”

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

“Your human brain has got to really work!”

He stood up, grabbed his hoe and dustpan.

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

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

***

Pondok Ranji, Thursday 15 July 2021


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

Seno Gumira Ajidarma, born in Boston, United States, June 19, 1958. Now serves as Chancellor of the Jakarta Institute of the Arts (IKJ). Seno became better known after writing his trilogy of works on East Timor, namely Saksi Mata (collection of short stories), Jazz, Purfum, dan Insiden? (novel), and Ketika Jurnalisme Dibungkam, Sastra Harus Bicara (collection of essays). In 2014, he launched a blog called PanaJournal (www.panajournal.com) about human interest stories with a number of journalists and professionals in the field of communication. For other work by Seno Gumira Adjidarma click here.

Kopid Pait

Obit: 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.

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 terms about 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 was 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.