Despite his technical background, Oni Suryaman is driven by literature. In his spare time, he writes essays, book reviews, and fiction. He also worked as a part-time translator for Indonesian publisher Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia and Kanisius Publishing House. He has recently published a picture book titled I Belog, a retelling of a famous Balinese folklore, an adaptation of which was performed at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) Singapore 2017.
He can be reached at email@example.com.
A Revelation at Dawn
Pak Modin’s call to the dawn prayer blared from the mosque’s loudspeaker. The sound vibrated in the eardrums of people still asleep. The muezzin’s call to prayer also reached Muzaini. But although the call entered Muzaini’s ears and knocked at his eardrums, Muzaini couldn’t move. His eyelids felt as if they had jackfruit sap on them. They were sticky, difficult to open. Muzaini tried very hard to open his eyes, but he was overcome by extreme drowsiness. Unable to fight the feeling, Muzaini curled up again. Pak Modin’s call to prayer faded away and the dawn prayer time passed.
In his dream, Muzaini caught a glimpse of Wak Rohim’s shadow. Wak Rohim had been his religious teacher at the village mosque when he was a child. Wak Rohim carried the rattan swish he used to spank students who didn’t pay attention during the Quran recital lesson.
Muzaini cringed when Wak Rohim walked toward him, waving the swish in his hand.
Wak Rohim smiled. He always smiled when he was about to punish his students. “Muz!” Wak Rohim called loudly. “You’re not obeying God’s commands, are you? Are you not paying attention?”
Muzaini turned pale and could not answer. Sweating, he just shook his head.
“You, Muzaini Samsyudin! My student, the one who promised to become a good person. How dare you disobey God’s commands! Did you lie to me?” Wak Rohim came closer. His curly moustache and bushy beard made him even scarier.
“It’s not like that, Wak Guru, teacher,” said Muzaini, trembling. “I tried to wake up. But I could not open my eyes. It was as if they were glued shut by the sap of a jackfruit.”
“That’s just an excuse, Muz. I’m sorry that I didn’t hit you harder with my rattan swish in the past. Now you have abandoned your faith.” Wak Rohim raised his swish high in the air.
Muzaini wanted to flee but couldn’t.
Wak Rohim grabbed Muzaini’s arm and held him tightly.
Muzaini gasped, but he lacked the energy to run away.
“Oh, Muz. How you have changed! I didn’t expect you to become like this.” Wak Rohim lowered the swish and relaxed his grip on Muzaini’s arm. Then, he simply let Muzaini go.
“I have not changed, Wak Guru. I am still the same.” Muzaini could not stop his voice from shaking as he looked at Wak Rohim. “It is just that I always feel tired after working in the city.”
Wak Rohim smirked and looked closely at Muzaini. “You have not changed? You must be kidding! You neglect everything. You miss your daily prayer. And you forgot your promise.” Wak Rohim stood tall in front of Muzaini. His plain white sarong, with a small black flower motif, fluttered in the wind. “You promised that when you had a decent job and a lot of money, you would help take care of the small hut I use for the children’s religious study. But you seem to have forgotten about it. You don’t even visit it, let alone help take care of it.”
Muzaini woke up. He opened his heavy eyelids. Why had Wak Rohim appeared in his dream in such a way? He shuddered.
Muzaini had been working in the city for a long time and people from his village rarely visited his dreams. Although Muzaini dreamed almost every night, it wasn’t about the people from his village — the folks he had known all of his life. No, the people who visited his dreams most often were his city colleagues, his boss—who chased after him to meet a deadline for work—his landlord, trying to collect the rent before it was due; or Manisa. Ah, Manisa, his gentle and sweet-faced coworker. Her face started entering his dreams from the moment they met.
Muzaini was stunned by the words Wak Rohim spoke in his dream. He stared at the floor and thought deeply for a while with wide-open eyes. His lips trembled. Yes, he remembered now; he had promised that when he had a job with a good salary, he would help take care of the small mosque that Wak Rohim often referred to as a “hut,” where he taught religion. Although Muzaini had earned a good salary for more than five years now, he had never shared his good fortune or sent money to the small old mosque where, as a child, he studied religion. He wondered how he deserved the blessing of Wak Rohim appearing in his dream and reminding him of his unfulfilled promise.
All day long, the dream lingered in his mind. In his office and in the food stall where he ate his lunch, Muzaini kept thinking about his dream and meeting with Wak Rohim. And for the first time, he wasn’t interested in speaking with Manisa,
Muzaini felt weary. When he came home to his rented room from work, he immediately shut himself in and stayed in his room until he fell asleep and, at dawn, heard the call for the morning prayers.
This time, his eyes opened easily. He left his room, entered the bathroom, performed wudu, ritual ablution, and prayed. Only after praying was he able to see things clearly. In three weeks, he would take a full week of vacation, meet with Wak Rohim, and fulfill his promise.
Muzaini’s eyes were wide open. The light of dawn entered the intercity bus he rode. He heard the azan, the call to prayer, from the mosque on the roadside. He blinked. The bus would soon arrive at the last terminal, the one closest to his village.
At the terminal, Muzaini excitedly hailed an ojek, motor bike taxi, circling the terminal. Even though he was still a bit sleepy and tired after the twelve-hour busride, Muzaini looked forward very much to returning to his village.
In his backpack, he carried an envelope of money for Wak Rohim to repair the mosque. Surely by now the small mosque was worn out by age. Muzaini knew his teacher’s financial situation. Wak Rohim didn’t charge any tuition, and when a student’s parent offered him money, he usually rejected it. To Wak Rohim, receiving money from someone in the same financial situation as himself would only make them both suffer: The parent would suffer from lack of money to support the family, and Wak Rohim’s conscience would suffer after taking money from a needy parent.
Muzaini walked to his childhood home. He had changed his plans and decided to go home first instead of going directly to Wak Rohim’s house at the border of the neighboring village. Even though Muzaini was still very eager to meet Wak Rohim, he felt really tired from his long trip. .
The backdoor of his house was open. Muzaini looked for his mother, but he could not find her. Maybe she had gone to the market. He had told his mother, several days ago, that he was coming home , but he hadn’t told her that he also wanted to see Wak Rohim.
In the early afternoon, Muzaini finally had a chance to leave his house. His mother had a visitor, and they were talking about business. Perhaps the visitor wanted to buy rice from his mother’s harvest.
Muzaini quietly left for Wak Rohim’s house. He met several people on his way. They were all walking in the direction of Wak Rohim’s house. Muzaini looked at them, confused. He saw a teenage boy also heading for Wak Rohim’s house, and Muzaini quickly approached him. “Why are there so many people?” Muzaini asked with a friendly smile. “Where is everyone going?”
“Oh, hi.” The young boy took Muzaini’s hand and, in accordance with Indonesian custom, slightly bowed to him while saying, “We’re going to have a celebration.”
“A celebration? Where?”
“At Wak Guru Rohim’s house.”
“What is the occasion?” Muzaini was even more confused. What was going on at Wak Rohim’s house?
“We are commemorating Wak Guru Rohim’s forty-day departure to Almighty God.” The teenage boy looked at Muzaini with surprise. He obviously didn’t expect that Muzaini didn’t know that Wak Guru Rohim had died.
Muzaini was speechless. Shaken by the news and suddenly dizzy, he staggered the rest of the way to Wak Rohim’s house. Many people had already arrived. They prayed for Wak Rohim’s soul. Muzaini could not hold back his tears. His regret deepened when he saw that Wak Rohim’s teaching mosque had already fallen into ruin.
“Muzaini, you are here, too.”
Muzaini turned; his mother stood behind him.
“Why didn’t you tell me that Wak Rohim had passed away?” Muzaini asked, sobbing.
“Every time I called to tell you the news, you always hung up quickly because you said you were busy. After a while, I just forgot to tell you.” His mother looked at him with concern.
Muzaini looked at Wak Rohim’s house and the small, collapsed mosque where he used to study religion. There was only debris and rotten wood at the building site. Muzaini burst into tears again, his right hand clasping the envelope filled with money to help Wak Rohim repair the small mosque.
“Forgive me, Wak Guru. Forgive me because I am way too late to see you.” Muzaini wept, looking at what was left of the small mosque where he used to study religion.