Tag Archives: Religion

Rustle of the Ulla Grass

By M. Adil, 1935

Ulla grass, I often listen to your whistling rustle,
If the soft wind swirls around you;
Your heads lowered as if in homage,
You bow singing of grief which cuts the heart;

While shivering grips your long stems
Straight and bowed declaring your praise –
          Completely pervading my conscience,
Because your song makes an agreement with my sorrow.

          In the shade I often lazing sit
Gazing at the waves which gently undulate,
Escorting the song of your sighing siren leaves
Serene, at peace, unperturbed
I recede me into a wave of ecstasy
Into your oneness mystic soaring oblivious to time,
          Caught in the stream as if in a dream,
          Prostrate to intercede for God’s mercy divine.


Desau Pimping, From Panji Pusaka via Pujangga Baru II/9, March 1935. Republished in Jassin, H. B.  Pujangga baru : prosa dan puisi / dikumpulkan dengan disertai kata pengantar oleh H.B. Jassin  [Pujangga Baru : prose and poetry / collected and accompanied by an introduction by H.B. Jassin] Haji Masagung Jakarta  1987, p. 34.

 

 

Image credits: Themeda gigantea (Cav.) Hackel ex Duthie [as Anthistiria gigantea Cav.]   Cavanilles, A.J., Icones et descriptiones plantarum, vol. 5: t. 458 (1799) [A.J. Cavanilles]  Drawing: A.J. Cavanilles  http://plantillustrations.org/illustration.php?id_illustration=240997; Bromo Midnight Tour and Travel; Savanna Valley, Whispering Desert Mount Bromo

Short Stories: Two Creeping Geckos

By S. Prasetyo Utomo

Setyawati threw back the blankets and got up. She went over to the small table and drank down the last of the coffee from her cup. Every last bit. Head thrust right back, her mouth gaped wide open. The last wet, muddy granules of coffee were like cold lava flowing into her mouth. I like this least about her. She chewed the final granules of ground coffee, the dregs, which to the tongues of most ordinary humans would have tasted bitter, with an energy and pleasure that could only be generated by her own mouth.

She stretched out her tongue and licked every last granule from the edge of the cup.

“You’re used to swallowing the bitter,” I teased.

She continued licking the last granules as she watched the geckos crawling along the wall.

Then Setyawati declared, “I’m very used to swallowing the bitter things in life – at home. It isn’t easy having a husband who isn’t as capable, who has no taste for beauty, but who’s into being in control. I’m tired of doing what he wants. Sometimes he thinks he’s the best, always right, knows everything. Ah, I get so mad!”

The two geckos on the wall approached each other nudging together, then scampered after one another. In the corner of the ceiling, right in the corner of the ceiling, the larger of the two geckos pounced on his quarry. Setyawati laughed aloud, shoulders heaving up and down. She turned on the light, illuminating the whole room at once, then blew out the candle. The scent of molten wax and burnt wick lingered.

Outside tree branches and casuarina leaves damp from the drizzly wind scratched against the window.

“My husband wants to show his power through his job,” said Setyawati opening the window and allowing the cold fog and drizzle to blow into the room.

****

“Come on!? Let’s go for a walk.”

“In the middle of the night?”

“Sure. I want to look at the fireflies, feel the mountain breeze at night, listen to the distant sound of the river.”

Without giving me an opportunity to resist Setyawati closed the previously open window. She took up her jacket and sank her two beautiful arms into it.

The pair of geckos were still snuggled against each other in the corner when Setyawati closed the door of the hotel room. We went down to the lobby and stood before the meeting room that was being used for the seminar. Filled with the sound of endless debate from morning till night, the room was now silent, only the proud microphones stood on the moderator’s table.

Gently and with conviction, Setyawati bid farewell to the hotel security guard and set off on foot. Despite his initial blank unseeing look, the security guards still managed a nod and a smile.

It was as though the road set Setyawati free from the evil thoughts of the geckos, from their laughter at mankind’s fumblings. I breathed in the misty night air, the scent of mountain soil, and the heavy scent of casuarina trees. In the darkness, I followed as Setyawati led through the quiet of village lanes, past irrigation dikes, rice paddies, meandering vegetable gardens, coming at last to a river, clear, cool, refreshing.

There were no fireflies. Only gatherings of people with guns in the village night watch huts. People greeted us as we passed, suspicious. But Setyawati’s gentleness protected us from the roughness of the armed villagers on night patrol. Passing a mosque we could see a number of the faithful still murmuring prayers, chanting the holy verse even at this late hour. Geckos crept along the walls of the mosque. To what other hidden mysteries did these geckos bear witness in their own tongue?

But it seemed that Setyawati didn’t notice the geckos on the mosque walls.

“Isn’t it strange,” whispered Setyawati. “People on guard suspiciously in the hut.”

Setyawati’s step was becoming uncertain, fearful. However, propelled by a desire to understand the situation and squeezing my arm tightly she went on. There was no moonlight. A dog barked in the far distance and the torch lights of the patrolling villagers’ cries crossed up and down the lanes in the paddy fields and over the vegetable gardens.

Suddenly one of the villagers called out from a rice field. People began to run towards him, far from the road in a vegetable field not far from the bund of a paddy field. Torch beams darted. Then the commotion grew to an uproar. As the commotion grew, Setyawati tugged at my arm and we moved towards the excited gathering.

Forcing her way into the tightly packed crowd of people shining torches at something, Setyawati screamed, “Ah! Two dead bodies lying in the mud – like two dead geckos!”

The bodies lay face down half covered in the mud. When they were turned over, wide slash wounds yawned across both their chests.

****

Placing her hands over her face, Setyawati couldn’t hide the horror. She held back tears. In the hotel room far from the bodies lying face down near the paddy field bund half covered by the mud, Setyawati restrained her terror with no more than a pair of hands. But even so, her hands weren’t strong enough to bear within themselves the upheaval in her soul.

Unconsciously, and I will be convinced forever it was unconscious, she nudged against me, gently pressing her head to my chest. Her arms were strong around my waist. She had forgotten the two geckos were still crawling along the wall. Were geckos, to Setyawati’s mind, incapable of comprehending the language of human sadness?

“I am terribly frightened my husband or I will be slaughtered like the two people we saw in that field,” whispered Setyawati. “My husband has a great many enemies. A man once came to the house carrying a knife and threatened to kill us.”

I didn’t want to comfort her; I wanted to leave the trembling fear until her own courage returned. She was so tired and sleepy and her eyelids were closing when she dropped off, arms tight around my chest.

The two geckos had long since moved far apart, each scurrying after its own prey. But Setyawati was searching for a feeling of peace, seeking the sense of tranquility she had lost, by falling asleep, head nestled in my chest, like a newborn child slumbering soundly as it suckled it’s mother’s nipple.

“I think I had better head into town now,” she whispered, rousing, smiling and finding her inner quiet.

“It’s still dark, and what’s more there are interesting sessions all day.”

“I’m not interested anymore. Say goodbye to the others for me,” Setyawati declared in front of the door to the hotel room as she straightened her hair. Her eyes were warm. “The pair of geckos on the wall are laughing at me, aren’t they? And you think I’m like a little girl, don’t you?”

I walked Setyawati down to the lobby. She returned the key and climbed into her car which was covered in dew. In the remaining darkness and enveloped in the damp misty air, she left, leaving behind a roaring silence.

I entered my own room again and on slamming the door, two geckos dropped to the floor right at my feet, tails breaking off in the process. Leaving their tails flicking back and forth, they scurried back up onto the wall. I was no Prince Anglingdarma(*) by the side of Setyawati, able to understand the language of the geckos, having to keep their secrets unto death in the midst of raging flames endured for the sake of his beloved queen.

Pandana Merdeka, October 1998


Two Creeping Geckos (Dua Cicak Merayap) was published in Kompas Daily in January 1999.

(*) A character from the Hindu epic The Mahabharata who rescues Setyawati and eventually wins her hand in marriage.

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First page of Hikayat Parang Puting. British Library, MSS Malay D.3, f. 1r
The first page of Hikayat Parang Puting. British Library, MSS Malay D.3, f. 1r

Letter of Sultan Zayn al-‘Abidin to Afonso de Albuquerque, 1516

Love and affection from Sultan Zayn al-‘Abidin, ruler carrying out the commands of Almighty God, to the Governor-General at the fortress of the King of Portugal who binds all countries in his kingdom,

Be it known,

When we saw the letter from you which Giovanni brought we were filled with joy and happiness at the depth of the good relations between us. And when the Portuguese envoy arrived from Kollam or Malacca we welcomed him warmly and provided him with everything available in our country. Be assured our love for you has not wavered from the beginning until now.

After this, there arrived here one Manuel Falcão, a most immoral character.

First, when a ship arrived at Samudera from Pariaman with many people from Samudera on board, he took thirty gold dirhams. And he sold the crew and the rest were murdered.

Second, on the arrival of a ship from Bengal he took two hundred and twenty dirhams and one servant woman. Also, a cargo ship from Bengal which should have come to Samudera he commandeered to Malacca along with a great deal of cargo belonging to people from Samudera which was on board the ship.

Third, he took cargo from another ship and more people were murdered.

Fourth, he demanded from us one hundred and twenty dirhams by force and twenty items of cargo.

Fifth, he kidnapped fifty male and female servants from among the servants of the people of Samudera and shipped them to Malacca.

Sixth, he demanded from us fifty bails of pepper by force.

After this, Gaspar Machado also arrived here. He too is a very evil person.

The first thing he did was, on the arrival of a cargo ship at Samudera from Diu, he took from them two hundred dirhams by force.

Second, when a cargo ship arrived at Samudera from Cambay which was owned by the King of Cambay captained by ‘Ali Khan he took from them one hundred dirhams.

Third, when a cargo ship arrived at Samudera from Pulicut which is Nati carrying cargo owned by people from Samudera, he took one hundred dirhams from them by force and violence.

Fourth, when a cargo ship arrived at Samudera from Nawur that is Nati he took one hundred and twenty dirhams,

Fifth, when a ship arrived at Samudera from Barus containing a cargo belonging to the Sultan of Bengal he took one hundred quintals of tin and 4000 incenses and he sold the whole crew on this ship.

Sixth, many are the people of Samudera whose wealth he has taken by force and violence, and many are the judges and officials who have been enraged by him because of this behavior.

For these reasons, we lay before you our situation as we sincerely believe that this has not been ordered by the King of Portugal or by you. The King does not even know about the behavior of Manuel Falcão and Gaspar Machado because we are firmly convinced that the King and yourself as Governor-General do not want to damage your own port because our port is your port, and so we seek your protection.


This is an imaginative translation based on the translations of A.C.S. Peacock (2016): “Three Arabic letters from North Sumatra of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries”, Indonesia and the Malay World, DOI: 10.1080/13639811.2016.1153219 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13639811.2016.1153219 and Taqiyuddin Muhammad, “Naskah Surat Sultan Zainal ‘Abidin (Wafat 923 H/1518 M)” http://misykah.com/naskah-surat-sultan-zainal-abidin-wafat-923-h1518-m-2/.

Peacock (2016) writes on the various manuscripts:

“The letter from Sultan Zayn al-‘Abidin IV of Samudera-Pasai, 1516–17. Arquivo Nacional Torre do Tombo, Lisbon. Colecção de cartas, Núcleo Antigo 891, mç. 1, n.° 59. Previous publications: Arabic text and Portuguese translation with significant differences from that presented here in dos Santos (1790: 127–30); translation only reprinted with additional notes in Alves (1999:228–30); Arabic text with a number of differences from that presented here and Indonesian translation in Muhammad (2013). Taqiyuddin Muhammad’s text is based on a poor quality image of the letter which accounts for most of the variations between his text and mine. It has not therefore usually been thought useful to record his variant readings. Help has also been provided by the Portuguese translation probably made in Malacca in 1516–17, presented in full in Appendix 1c. Although the translation is often imprecise, omitting crucial elements of the Arabic and sometimes supplementing it with additional information, it has the advantage that the translator was himself aware of the events referred to; it can therefore help clarify the frequently obscure Arabic text.”

Accept

By Sheila on 7

What is wrong with this song?
Why do I remember you again?
It’s as if I can feel
The beat of your heart and the step of your feet
Where is this going to carry me?

You have to be able, able to accept
You have to be able, able to take the positive
Because nothing, nothing’s the same any more
Although you know, he feels it too
Aaaa aa…

On this quiet narrow road
It’s as if I can hear you sing
You know, you know
My feeling was your feeling too
You have to be able, able to accept
You have to be able, able to take the positive
Because nothing, nothing’s the same any more
Although you know, he feels it too
Where is this going to carry me?
I won’t ever know

You have to be able, able to accept
You have to be able, able to take the positive
Because nothing, nothing’s the same any more
Although you know, he feels it too
Na na na na na na…

Sending sun beams for you