Past Stories


Mengenang Padewakkang

Andi Batara Al Isra was born in Ujung Pandang, SO. Sulawesi, on January 9, 1994.

He is currently studying anthropology on a scholarship of the Lembaga Pengelola Dana Pendidikan at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand.

His poems and short stories have been published in several magazines and newspapers such as Fajar and Berita Pagi. His work has been included in several anthologies and won several national writing competitions. Batara’s short story Keranda Puang was given honorable mention in the FLP Awards 2017. His collection of poems, Di Seberang Gelombang was published by Penerbit Shofia in 2019. Gersik dalam Matriks is a collection of poems Batara self-published in 2020. Mengenang Padewakkang is Batara’s first work translated in the English language.

Batara is active on the following social media platforms: Forum Lingkar Pena, Yayasan Antropos Indonesia, Wijen Projects, and Perpustakaan Antropologi FISIP Unhas. His website

www.bacabata.com accepts submissions of prose and poetry. Batara can be reached on his facebook page: Andi Batara Al Isra or on Twitter and Instagram @bataraisra. His email address is aali598@aucklanduni.ac.nz

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Mengenang Padewakkang

 

ARNHEM Land, Australia, Desember 1945

Sudah bertahun-tahun Burarrwanga Dayn Gatjing menatap kosong kaki langit. Di tangannya ada pipa tembakau dari kayu yang sejak lama tak pernah lagi mengepul. Dia menunggu kapal-kapal dari Makassar kembali menanam sauh seperti dulu. Setelah angin tenggara yang bertiup antara akhir Maret hingga April, membawa layar padewakkang, kapal dagang milik orang Makassar, ke utara puluhan tahun silam, tak ada lagi yang tersisa selain kenangan. Kepergian mereka seperti kehilangan sebagian dari diri sendiri.

Burarrwanga, lelaki berambut putih dan berkulit gelap itu, adalah pemimpin kelompok suku Yolngu, penduduk pribumi kawasan ini. Meski keriput, meski tubuhnya terlihat rapuh dihantam angin pantai dan gurun, harapannya tidak pernah pupus. Lama sekali, setiap tahun, ketika baarramirri, angin dari arah barat laut, tiba antara Desember dan Januari, sepanjang pantai ini penuh orang dan kapal yang tertambat. Ada yang mengangkat keranjang, ada yang menyelam mencari teripang, dan ada yang mengasapi hasil buruan tersebut. Bayangan tentang masa indah itu tidak pernah hilang dari ingatan Burarrwanga Dayn Gatjing. Dia akan terus menunggu Daeng Gassing bersama para pelaut Makassar lainnya datang dari seberang lautan dengan membawa beras, emas, dan tembakau. Memang sudah sejak ratusan tahun lalu, orang Makassar kerap datang ke Arnhem Land, membangun hubungan baik yang saling menguntungkan dengan penduduk asli di sana, termasuk leluhur Burarrwanga. Hubungan baik tersebut berjalan hingga kini.

“Mungkin mereka ditelan ular petir di tengah lautan,” kata Marika, istri Burarrwanga Dayn Gatjing.

“Jangan bilang sembarangan. Ular petir hanya menyerang orang jahat yang berlayar. Orang baik seperti mereka tidak akan ditenggelamkan.”

“Sudahlah, Burarrwanga, masih ada pohon asam yang dulu mereka tanam. Kau bisa istirahat di bawahnya,” lanjut Marika.

“Sudah lama nama itu tidak kudengar. Terakhir kali kau memanggilku seperti itu saat mereka masih di sini kan?”

“Ya, orang-orang, bahkan para orang kulit putih sekarang lebih mengenalmu dengan Dayn Gatjing ketimbang nama lahirmu.”

Sambil menghela napas, Burarrwanga Dayn Gatjing mengingat kembali apa yang telah dilakukan orang-orang berkulit putih itu pada hidupnya. Kapal-kapal padewakkang milik orang Makassar sudah tiada, diusir oleh Persemakmuran Australia engan alasan-alasan yang tidak masuk akal. Sekarang, yang berseliweran hanyalah kapal-kapal mereka, menguasai lautan dan menguras hasilnya tanpa ampun, terutama teripang. Orang Yolngu tidak mendapatkan apa-apa. Mereka tidak dilibatkan dalam pasar. Persemakmuran Australia mengambil semuanya.

Ingatan Burarrwanga lalu terbang ke masa puluhan tahun silam. Masa ketika pantai-pantai Arnhem Land masih dipenuhi layar padewakkang orang Makassar.

***

Siang yang terik di bulan Januari 1905 seolah matahari berlipat ganda di tanah ini. Meski begitu, beberapa awak kapal serta orang-orang Yolngu bertelanjang dada dan kaki tetap sibuk mengangkat keranjang bambu berisi puluhan teripang yang baru saja ditangkap dari dasar laut. Teripang-teripang tersebut akan dibawa ke sebuah tempat pengasapan di mana Daeng Gassing, seorang pemimpin kapal asal Makassar, duduk mencatat jumlah pikul yang hari ini berhasil dikumpulkan.

Di sebelahnya, Burarrwanga duduk mengawasi anggota kelompoknya yang ikut membantu kegiatan tersebut. Di tangannya terdapat pipa kayu berisi tembakau pemberian bapaknya, yang jauh di masa lalu adalah juga pemberian seorang pelayar asal Makassar. Hampir setiap pria dewasa di kelompoknya memiliki benda ini. Mereka menyebutnya pipa Makassar sebab orang Makassarlah yang membawa benda ini dari seberang lautan.

“Tembakau yang saya simpan sejak setahun lalu kau ke sini sudah habis. Sekarang kau bawa lagi,” ucap Burarrwanga sambil asap keluar dari hidungnya.

“Itu yang leluhur kita selalu lakukan sejak ratusan tahun lalu. Sudah kebiasaan bukan? Setiap tahun, kami, orang-orang Makassar, bawakan kalian barang dan sebagai gantinya, kalian sebagai penduduk asli di sini bantu kami kumpulkan teripang,” kata Daeng Gassing sambil mencatat angka-angka yang kurang dimengerti oleh Burarrwanga. Orang-orang di Arnhem Land tidak begitu mengerti tulisan. Mereka tidak punya aksara. Jika ingin merawat ingatan, mereka menggambar atau mengukir kayu serta batu.

“Kami tidak akan merasa sebaik ini jika di masa lalu, orang-orangmu tidak ke tanah ini mengumpulkan teripang. Kalian bisa ambil itu semua, kami tidak memakannya,” kata Burarrwanga sambil sedikit tertawa.

“Rasanya memang tidak enak. Tidak ada orang Makassar yang makan hewan aneh ini. Kami jual ke Tiongkok. Harganya mahal. Pantaimu menghasilkan banyak sekali teripang dengan mutu bagus,” sambung Daeng Gassing.

“Kau tahu, aku berharap suatu hari aku bisa mengunjungi kampung halamanmu. Pasti tempat itu sangat makmur dan maju. Banyak kapal dan rumah besar, kan?” tanya Burarrwanga.

“Kalau tanah itu sangat makmur, kami tidak mungkin ke sini mencari teripang. Di sana banyak masalah, terutama setelah orang Belanda menguasai Makassar. Namun di sisi lain, kami senang bisa ke sini, leluhur kami pun pasti senang,” jawab Daeng Gassing.

Apa yang lelaki Makassar itu mungkin tidak sadari adalah bahwa selama ratusan tahun, leluhurnya telah membawa perubahan besar bagi kehidupan di Arnhem Land. Mereka memberikan beras, logam, tembakau, minuman keras dan barang-barang lain yang tidak pernah dilihat orang Arnhem Land sebelumnya. Tanah ini sudah seperti bagian dari mereka. Bahkan di masa lalu, desas-desus pernah menyebar bahwa Arnhem Land adalah bagian kekuasaan Kerajaan Gowa. Itu pula alasan mengapa orang Makassar memiliki nama khusus bagi tanah ini. Mereka menyebutnya Maregeq.

Di tengah percakapan itu, Marika yang sedang hamil besar tiba-tiba mendatangi mereka berdua. Dia berlari-lari kecil dengan napas tersengal-sengal.

“Orang Persemakmuran… ada orang Persemakmuran Australia … saya lihat mereka … bawa pistol … senapan … ke sini.”

Mendengar itu, Daeng Gassing dan Burarrwanga langsung meminta orang-orangnya menyiapkan senjata. Orang Makassar menyelipkan badik dan parang di balik sarung, sementara orang Yolngu menyiapkan tombak dan panah. Mereka tidak ingin kekerasan. Hanya saja, karena orang-orang Persemakmuran Australia membawa senjata, segala kemungkinan harus dipersiapkan.

“Anda terlalu jauh dari kampung halaman dan sudah terlalu banyak mengambil teripang di tanah orang. Anggap saja ini peringatan.” Kata seorang polisi Persemakmuran Australia begitu dia berhadapan dengan Daeng Gassing.

“Kapal-kapal saya terdaftar di syahbandar Port Bowen. Apa yang perlu diperingatkan?”

“Lihat,” polisi itu mengeluarkan selembar kertas, “saya ditugaskan mengawasi kalian karena meracuni orang-orang asli sini. Kalian mengajarkan mereka mabuk!”

“Hei, apa urusanmu menganggu kesenangan kami?” Burarrwanga angkat suara. Dia tidak senang melihat orang Persemakmuran Australia mencampuri kehidupan orang-orangnya.

“Itu yang sering dikatakan para penjahat. Dengar, tanpa sadar, kalian dirusak oleh orang-orang ini yang entah datang dari mana,” polisi itu menatap Burarrwanga sambil tangannya menunjuk Daeng Gassing.

“Bukan kau yang memerintah di sini!” Dengan geram, Burarrwanga sekonyong-konyongnya berusaha meninju polisi yang berada di depannya. Sedikit meleset, tetapi polisi itu kehilangan keseimbangan dan jatuh ke belakang.

Begitu tersungkur, polisi itu tiba-tiba melepaskan tembakan peringatan ke angkasa. Orang-orang di sekitarnya menutup telinga. Kini, orang-orang Makassar dan Yolngu menghunus senjata tajam, siap menyerbu pasukan polisi berkulit putih. Namun, Daeng Gassing memberikan isyarat agar menahan serangan.

“Karena ini hanyalah peringatan, kami akan pergi. Kami sebenarnya tidak ingin ada pertumpahan darah. Tapi, sebelum itu, pukulan harus dibalas dengan pukulan…” Debuk! Bogem mentah mendarat di wajah Burarrwanga.

Polisi Australia berambut pirang itu pergi membawa pasukannya begitu saja setelah menghantam tulang pipi Burarrwanga.

Orang-orang kini mengeremuni Burarrwanga. Beberapa yang lain hendak melawan balik dan mengejar polisi Persemakmuran Australia, tetapi Burarrwanga yang setengah sadar memberikan isyarat agar menyudahi persoalan ini. Pukulan polisi itu terlampau keras. Kepala Burarrwanga berkunang-kunang, seperti ada banyak kanguru yang melompat-lompat di sekelilingnya. Pandangannya semakin kabur, dia tidak lagi melihat wajah Daeng Gassing dengan jelas. Semuanya berubah hitam. Dia pingsan.

***

Dua tahun setelah peristiwa peringatan pada 1905, tiba waktu dimana orang Makassar harus benar-benar hengkang dari Arnhem Land sebab Persemakmuran Australia yang telah mengeluarkan larangan pelayaran bagi orang Makassar untuk memasuki wilayah Australia. Berita itu merupakan kabar buruk. Lebih buruk dari badai yang sering menghantam padewakkang saat melintasi lautan. Bagaimana tidak, mencari teripang sampai ke tanah jauh adalah kebiasaan yang sudah dilakukan turun-temurun sejak pertengahan 1600. Leluhur Daeng Gassing yang berlayar lebih dulu ke Arnhem Land ketimbang orang berkulit putih yang datang belakangan bersama ribuan tahanan dan senapan.

Mata Burarrwanga belum lepas dari lidah api unggun yang menjilat sunyi. Menit-menit berlalu, belasan orang yang duduk mengelilingi penerang itu tak mengeluarkan suara sama sekali. Yang terdengar hanya debur ombak menyapu pasir, decit papan kapal yang digoyang arus, dan ranting patah yang dilahap api. Mereka bingung, marah, sekaligus sedih, sebab esok hari, setelah padewakkang pergi, mereka mungkin tidak akan pernah bertemu lagi.

Burarrwanga mengais-ngais api dengan ranting. Dilihatnya sisa bakaran yang telah jadi abu, persis harapan orang-orangnya. Dia menghela napas lalu mengembuskannya kuat-kuat. Dia terlampau pusing. Banyak hal jumpalitan di kepalanya seperti kanguru yang biasa dia buru di padang sabana. Dia memikirkan nasib orang-orang dan keturunannya kelak jika dia bersama istri dan anaknya memutuskan ikut ke Makassar bersama para pelayar yang telah dia kenal bahkan sejak dia mulai bisa mengingat.

Persis di hadapannya, di sebelah kobar api yang menari-nari, dia melihat wajah murung Daeng Gassing. Burarrwanga heran, harusnya lelaki berkumis tebal dan berambut panjang itu tidak perlu terlalu sedih sebab Daeng Gassing akan kembali ke Makassar beserta belasan awak kapal yang rindu melihat nyiur pelepah.

“Kau yakin mau tinggalkan Arnhem Land?” Daeng Gassing memecah sunyi.

“Saya harus. Orang Persemakmuran Australia telah mengambil semuanya, tidak ada lagi yang bisa saya pertahankan. Kami tidak bisa hidup tanpa kalian,” jawab Burarrwanga sambil tangannya melempar ranting ke dalam api.

“Tapi orang-orangmu? Kau mau biarkan mereka?”

“Para tetua akan memilih pemimpin suku yang baru setelah saya pergi. Ini kesempatan terakhir saya seberangi gelombang dan melihat ada apa di balik kaki langit. Aku ingin kehidupan yang lebih baik bagi istri dan anakku.

Mereka bersitatap. Bara seolah berpindah dari arang ke mata dua orang yang sudah seperti saudara itu. Daeng Gassing tidak ingin Burarrwanga meninggalkan orang-orangnya begitu saja. Namun dia bisa apa. Dia tidak berhak menghalangi mimpi seseorang.

“Kemarin saya bertemu seorang ibu, dia menangis sambil terduduk dan memukul-mukul pasir begitu tahu kita akan pergi,” kata Marika.

Daeng Gassing masih tertunduk. Tangannya memegang sejenis gelas dari bambu berisi ballo, minuman keras khas Makassar yang terbuat dari nira enau atau kelapa, yang jauh-jauh dia bawa dari Makassar. Tak lama berselang, dia bangkit lalu menyerahkan gelas itu pada Burarrwanga. “Ini malam terakhir kita bersenang-senang. Di sana masih banyak, habiskan saja,” tawar Daeng Gassing yang disambut oleh Burarrwanga dengan senang hati.

“Saya, sebenarnya, tidak mau pergi. Bagaimana pun, di sini saya lahir. Di sini pula saya harus mati,” Marika kembali bersuara dengan sirih pinang di mulutnya. Pernyataannya membuat orang-orang di sekeliling api unggun itu kaget.

“Hanya kau dan anak kita yang tidak bisa saya tinggalkan. Saya rela melepaskan apa pun, tapi kalian? Saya tidak bisa.” Burarrwanga sambil menggelengkan kepala.

Malam masih pekat. Orang-orang mulai beradu mulut. Setelah Marika mengeluarkan pendapat, anggota kelompok lain mulai ikut bicara. Sebagian besar mereka tidak sepakat jika Burarrwanga pergi. Kepergian orang Makassar sudah cukup menyakitkan. Jika pemimpin kelompok yang beberapa tahun lalu berjasa atas keberaniannya terhadap pasukan Persemakmuran Australia juga pergi, mereka betul-betul kehilangan harapan.

Adu mulut tersebut berakhir dengan ketidak sepakatan antara Burarrwanga dengan orang-orangnya, termasuk Marika. Burarrwanga masih keras kepala. Dia masih ngotot akan membawa Marika ke Makassar meski Marika sendiri tidak ingin ikut dan anggota kelompok lain sudah mencegahnya. Burarrwanga lalu sekonyong-konyongnya meninggalkan api unggun dan menuju gubuknya untuk tidur. Dia sudah sangat mengantuk.

***

Dalam mimpinya, Burarrwanga bangkit dan menoleh ke sana kemari. Jantungnya berdebar. Dia mencari Daeng Gassing dan orang-orang Makassar yang lain. Burarrwanga tak melihat satu pun dari mereka. Dia gugup. Harusnya hari ini, dia, Marika, dan anak semata wayangnya ikut ke Makassar.

Hari mulai sedikit terang. Dari kejauhan, matahari mulai menyingsing sedikit demi sedikit meski bintang kejora seperti enggan pergi. Jangan-jangan, padewakkang telah berlayar meninggalkannya? Pikir Burarrwanga. Dia curiga sebab semalam, dalam ingatannya, Daeng Gassing dan beberapa orang Yolngu tidak sepakat jika dia harus ikut ke Makassar. Burarrwanga lantas mencari orang-orangnya. Dia kesal. Dia merasa dikhianati.

Burarrwanga mulai heran. Dia belum mendapat satu pun anggota kelompoknya bahkan di gubuk-gubuk yang mereka dirikan. Ke mana mereka? Diculik orang Persemakmuran Australia? Batin Burarrwanga.

“Tidak, mereka tidak diculik,” teriak seseorang dari kejauhan.

Mendengar suara itu, Burarrwanga membalikkan badan. Namun tak ada siapa-siapa. Seseorang jelas-jelas bersuara dan mendengar suara batinnya. Dia menoleh ke sekitar, hanya seekor kanguru yang menatapnya dari atas bukit karang.

“Kau tersesat?”

Burarrwanga kembali menoleh ke depan dan didapatnya seekor kanguru tepat di hadapan wajahnya. Dia berteriak lalu tersungkur. Burarrwanga menoleh ke arah bukit tempat kanguru itu awalnya terlihat, tetapi ia sudah tak ada. Entah bagaimana kanguru itu berpindah secepat kilat ke hadapannya. Yang lebih aneh lagi, kanguru itu bisa bicara. Burarrwanga mulai bertanya-tanya, apakah semua ini nyata atau hanya sekadar mimpi belaka sebab tidak mungkin ada kanguru yang bisa bicara.

“Burarrwanga Dayn Gatjing, kau mau tinggalkan orang-orangmu begitu saja?”

“Dari mana kau tahu nama saya? Dayn Gatjing? Nama saya hanya Burarrwanga!”

“Oh, kau akan tahu nanti. Tidak lama lagi.”

Kanguru itu lantas mengubah wujudnya dengan cara yang sukar dipercaya. Ia menjadi seorang wanita berkulit kuning. Mirip seperti kulit orang-orang Makassar yang lebih terang dari kulit orang-orang Yolngu. Wanita itu melayang. Lalu dengan sekali lambaian, bukit-bukit rata dengan tanah. Sungai mengalir ke angkasa lalu jatuh sebagai hujan yang lembut. Matahari yang sudah setengah naik tiba-tiba tenggelam lagi. Malam datang dan bintang-bintang muncul kembali. Di langit, mereka berputar mengelilingi Burarrwanga. Benda-benda indah lainnya muncul seperti lukisan. Warna malam tidak hanya hitam, paduan kabut merah, hijau, biru, kuning, dan warna-warna lain yang belum pernah Burarrwanga lihat sebelumnya seolah ditumpahkan begitu saja. Burarrwanga takjub melihat pemandangan itu.

“Kau… kau Baiyini, leluhur pertama orang Yolngu?”

“Aku adalah apa yang kau pikirkan, Dayn Gatjing. Aku melukis semua ini, lalu mengirimnya ke alam tempat kalian hidup.”

“Kau … Mimi, roh pelukis? Bukan, kau… Barnumbirr, roh penciptaan!” Burarrwanga hendak sujud tetapi sosok gaib itu menyuruhnya untuk bangun.

“Tegarlah, dan kembalilah ke orang-orangmu. Kau hanya tersesat. Kau takut tanah ini mengecewakanmu lebih jauh. Tapi apa kau lupa? Orang-orang sebelummu bertahan sejak ribuan tahun, bahkan sebelum padewakkang orang Makassar datang dan sebelum para orang kulit putih menembakkan senapan kali pertama. Kalian akan baik-baik saja puluhan hingga ratusan tahun ke depan. Tinggallah di tanah ini, kenanglah yang pergi.”

Burarrwanga terbangun menangis masih mendengar petuah sosok itu. Kini dia mengerti. Dia tadi berada di wongar, alam mimpi. Alam tempat roh leluhur hidup dan menciptakan dunia. Tidak sembarang orang bisa ke sana. Menurut cerita para tetua, hanya mereka yang terpilih oleh roh leluhur saja yang bisa mendapat petunjuk melalui mimpi dan membuka gerbang ke wongar untuk melihat wujud asli para pencipta. Dia mendapat penglihatan dan telah diberkati.

***

Abu dan sisa-sisa unggun semalam masih teronggok di pesisir. Air telah pasang. Orang-orang sibuk mengangkat barang dan keranjang terakhir berisi teripang kering ke atas padewakkang. Angin tenggara sudah bertiup kencang. Para awak kapal mulai menyiapkan layar. Sauh akan dilepas, tetapi Daeng Gassing masih berdiri di tepian.

“Tiba-tiba sekali kau putuskan tidak pergi. Kau dapat mimpi?”

“Ya, aku berada di wongar dan bertemu kanguru. Sulit kujelaskan, tapi leluhur menyuruhku tetap di sini.”

Hal itu memang sangat sulit dimengerti oleh Daeng Gassing. Seseorang yang semalam sangat bersikeras untuk pergi dari tanah ini dan ikut berlayar, kini berubah pikiran hanya dengan alasan diberi petunjuk oleh seekor kanguru dalam mimpi.

Namun itu kepercayaan Burarrwanga. Entah dia bertemu leluhur atau apa di alam sana, Daeng Gassing tidak mau memikirkannya lebih jauh. Dia lega Burarrwanga batal meninggalkan kampung dan orang-orangnya. Yang Daeng Gassing yakini, Burarrwanga harus terus berjuang merebut kembali hak-hak atas tanah leluhurnya dari orang-orang Persemakmuran Australia.

“Oh iya, bisakah saya mengambil namamu? Akan saya taruh di belakang nama saya. Burarrwanga Daeng Gassing, atau dengan penyebutan orang Yolngu, Dayn Gatjing. Ya, Burarrwanga Dayn Gatjing!”

“Tanda persaudaraan?”

“Saya akan mewariskan nama-nama Makassar dan menceritakan kisah kalian kepada anak saya, kepada cucu saya, kepada cucu dari cucu saya. Panggil saya Burarrwanga Dayn Gatjing!”

“Tentu. Kita mungkin akan bertemu kembali suatu hari ketika musim baarra tiba dan angin mamirri bertiup,” Daeng Gassing kurang yakin dengan istilah Yolngu yang dia pakai.

“Hahaha, baarramirri, musim ketika angin bertiup dari arah barat laut.” Burarrwanga melambaikan tangan terakhir kali, diikuti oleh orang-orang Yolngu. Mata mereka terpaku pada layar padewakkang hingga tidak terlihat lagi di kaki langit.

*****

Remembering Padewakkang

Award winning author Junaedi Setiyono was born in Kebumen, Central Java, on December 16, 1965. He received all of his education from grade school to university in Purworedjo a small city near Yogyakarta, Central Java. In 2013, Setiyono was awarded a scholarship by The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, to conduct research as a part of his doctorate degree in language education, which he received in 2016 from the State University of Semarang.

Setiyono worked as a high school English teacher. Since 1997, he has taught at his alma mater in Purworejo, usually on the subjects of writing and translation.

Setiyono’s short stories have been widely published. His first novel, Glonggong (Penerbit Serambi, 2008), won the Jakarta Art Council Novel Writing Award in 2006. In 2008, the same novel was on the five-title shortlist for the Kusala Sastra Khatulistiwa Literary Award, which recognizes Indonesia’s best prose and poetry. His second novel, Arumdalu (Penerbit Serambi, 2010), was on the ten-title shortlist for the Khatulistiwa Literary Award in 2010. In 2012, the manuscript for what would become his third novel, Dasamuka (Penerbit Ombak, 2017), won the Jakarta Art Council Novel Manuscript Award. The novel was translated into English in 2017 and published under the same title by Dalang Publishing. The novel won the 2020 literary award of the Indonesian Ministry of Culture and Education.

Currently, in addition to writing his next novel, Setiyono is also researching how teaching the English language can be a catalyst to promote Indonesian teaching in Indonesia.

Setiyono can be contacted via his email: junaedi.setiyono@yahoo.co.id

 *****

 

Remembering Padewakkang

 

ARNHEM Land, Australia, December 1945

Holding a wooden tobacco pipe that had not been lit for a long time, Burarrwanga Dayn Gatjing stared at the horizon. He waited for the merchant ships from Makassar, which used to cast their anchor here. Decades ago, the southeast winds that blew in March and April had blown the padewakkang sails northward. Their departure had been like losing a part of himself.

However, Burarrwanga, the dark-skinned, gray-haired chief of the Yolngu tribe the natives who lived in the region — had never lost hope that once again, just like a long time ago, the baarramirri, the northwestern winds that blew in December and January, would bring back the padewakkang vessels to moor in these waters. People would once again crowd the coastal area, filling their baskets with the teripang, sea cucumbers, they had gathered. Some of them smoked their catch. The image of such a beautiful time was ingrained in Burarrwanga Dayn Gatjing’s memory. He kept waiting for Daeng Gassing and the other Makassar sailors, who came from the other side of ocean and brought rice, gold, and tobacco. Some hundred years ago, the Makassaran people had first come to Arnhem Land. The good relationship they established with Burarrwanga’s ancestors and the natives of Arnhem Land had been maintained all this time.

“Perhaps they were swallowed by the thunder snake in the middle of the ocean,” said Marika, Burarrwanga Dayn Gatjing’s wife.

“Don’t talk nonsense. The thunder snake only attacks the wicked men at sea. Good men, like the Makassar sailors, wouldn’t be sunk.”

“Never mind, Burarrwanga,” Marika said. “There is still that tamarind tree they planted. You can take a rest under it.”

“I haven’t heard you call me by that name for a long time. The last time you used it was when they were here, right?”

“Yes, everyone, even the white men, now know you better as Dayn Gatjing than by your birth name.”

With a heavy sigh, Burarrwanga Dayn Gatjing recalled what the white men had done to his life. The padewakkangs were gone. They had been banned forty years ago by the Australian Commonwealth for irrational reasons. Now, only the white men sailed back and forth, ruling the ocean and exploiting its wealth, especially the teripangs. The Yolngu people were no longer involved in any of the trading and did not receive anything the Australian Commonwealth took everything.

Burarrwanga would never forget the days when the coastal area of Arnhem Land was crowded by padewakkangs, merchant vessels owned by Makassaran people.

***

It was quite hot during the month of January in 1905. It was as if the sun’s heat was multiplying. Despite the conditions, bare-chested, barefooted ship crews and Yolngu people continued to lift bamboo baskets filled with just-harvested teripangs from the seabed. These sea cucumbers were taken to a smoking place where Daeng Gassing, captain of one of the docked Makassaran trade vessels, sat taking notes of how many pikuls of teripangs were collected that day. Each pikul weighed about 133 pounds.

Sitting next to Daeng Gassing, Burarrwanga smoked his pipe and watched members of his tribe working with the Makassarans. The pipe was a gift from his father, who in turn had received it as a gift from a Makassaran sailor quite a long time ago. Almost all of the adult males in Burarrwanga’s tribe owned such a pipe. They called it pipa Makassar because the Makassaran sailors were the ones who brought these pipes to them from the other side of the ocean.

“I’ve used the tobacco you gave me when you came a year ago.” Burarrwanga exhaled smoke through his nostrils. “But now you’ve brought me more again.”

“This is a custom our people have upheld over hundreds of years,” Daeng Gassing said while making notes Burarrwanga could not decipher. The Yolngu were illiterate. When they wanted to remember something, they drew or carved pictures on wood or stone. “Every year, we Makassaran merchants bring you certain items. In return, your people help us gather the teripangs.”

“We wouldn’t be doing so well if your men didn’t come here to gather teripangs.” Burarrwanga grinned. “You can take all of them. We don’t eat them.”

“Teripangs actually taste pretty bad,” Daeng Gassing agreed. “No one in Makassar eats these strange animals, either. We sell them in China, where sea cucumbers are expensive. Your teripangs are good quality.”

“I hope that one day I can visit your home. I am sure your native village is prosperous and developed.” Burarrwanga sighed before asking, “Are there a lot of ships and big houses?”

“If were prosperous back home, we’d unlikely be here looking for teripangs.” Daeng Gassing paused a moment before continuing. “There are many problems back home especially after the Dutch took control over Makassar. On the other hand, we are happy to come here. I’m sure this is also making our ancestors happy.”

The Makassaran sea captain most likely did not fully realize the enormity of the great changes the Makassarans had brought to the lives of Arnhem Land’s natives over the centuries. Along with bringing them rice, metal, tobacco, and liquor, the Makassar merchants also brought other goods that the people of Arnhem Land had never seen before. Arnhem Land became a part of the Makassar sailors’ homeland. They called this land Maregeq because of an old rumor that said Arnhem Land was a part of the Gowa Kingdom.

During Burarrwanga and Daeng Gassing’s conversation, Marika, who was more than six months pregnant, suddenly came running towards them. “The Commonwealth men …,” she panted, stumbling towards them. “I saw them … they’re carrying guns ….” Marika stood in front of her husband and the captain, shaking and gasping for breath.

Daeng Gassing and Burarrwanga quickly alerted their men. The Makassaran sailors grabbed their machetes and axes while the Yolngu men prepared their spears and arrows. They didn’t like violence, but if the Commonwealth men came armed, they had to be prepared for every possibility.

Soon, an Australian Commonwealth constable stood in front of Daeng Gassing. “You have strayed too far from your homeland, and you’re harvesting too many teripangs in an area which is not yours. Consider this a warning.”

“My ships have been registered by the harbormaster of Port Bowen,” Daeng Gassing retorted. “What are you warning me for?”

“Look at this.” The constable took out a piece of paper. “I have orders to watch all of you Makassarans because you’re a bad influence on these natives. You’re causing them to become drunkards.”

“Hey, this is not your business, is it?” Burarrwanga raised his voice. He didn’t like the Australian Commonwealth interfering with their lives. “Why do you bother us?”

“Listen.” The constable shot Burarrwanga a sharp look, then continued while pointing at Daeng Gassing, “These men — only God knows where they came from — will get you in trouble.”

“You have no say here!” Burarrwanga suddenly swung at the constable. His punch was a bit off target, but the constable lost his balance and fell backward. He drew his pistol and fired a warning shot into the sky.

Startled, those around Burarrwanga covered their ears.

Both the Makassaran and Yolngu men reached for their weapons, ready to attack the group of white-skinned constables. But Daeng Gassing signaled to hold off the attack.

“Because this is only a warning, we will leave,” said the constable. “We don’t want any violence here, but one punch deserves another.” The blond constable landed a well-aimed punch on Burarrwanga’s cheek and left.

People crowded around the dazed Burarrwanga. Some of them made ready to chase the constable, but Burarrwanga signaled them to stop. The constable’s punch made Burarrwanga see stars and many kangaroos jumping around him. Everything turned blurry then became dark. He fainted.

***

Two years after the incident in 1905, the Australian Commonwealth banned Makassar ships from entering Australian territory. This was worse than the storms that frequently hit the padewakkangs while crossing the ocean. Makassaran fishermen had come to harvest teripangs off the Arnhem Land coast since the mid-1600s. The olive-skinned ancestors of Daeng Gassing had sailed to Arnhem Land much earlier than any of the white-skinned Commonwealth men who arrived on these shores with thousands of prisoners and rifles.

On the night before the padewakkangs lifted anchor from Arnhem Land for the final time, Burarrwanga sat staring at the flames of the fire that absorbed the silence. Time passed, as a dozen men sat around the fire without uttering a word. The only sounds that broke the silence were the breaking waves sweeping the sand, the creaking boards of ships swaying in the water, and the crackling of broken branches being swallowed by the flames. The men gathered around the fire were confused, angry, and sad. It was unlikely that after the padewakkangs set sail the next day, they would ever see each other again.

Burarrwanga raked the fire with a branch. For a moment he rested his eyes on the pile of ashes in the fire pit. It occurred to him that the ashes resembled their hopes. Burarrwanga sighed, then blew onto the smoldering branches until he became dizzy. Suddenly, many thoughts somersaulted inside his head. It was as if the kangaroos he used to hunt in the savanna had jumped into his head. He could leave with the sailors, whom he’d known for as long as his memory could serve him. He contemplated the fate of his tribe and his descendants if he decided to move to Makassar with his family.

Across the fire, Burarrwanga saw Daeng Gassing’s gloomy face lit by the dancing flames. Burarrwanga wondered why the man with the thick moustache and long hair looked sad. Afterall, he and his crew were about to go home. Burarrwanga had spoken his thoughts.

“Are you sure you want to leave Arnhem Land?” Daeng Gassing’s voice broke the silence.

“I have to.” Burarrwanga threw some branches into the flames. “The Australian Commonwealth men have taken everything. There is nothing left that I am able to protect. We cannot live without you and your men.”

“But what about your tribe? You will just leave everyone?”

“The elders will choose a new chief after I’m gone. This is the last opportunity for me to cross the ocean and see something behind the horizon. I want to have a better life for my wife and son.”

The two men stared at one another. The heat of the fire seemed to move into the eyes of the two men who had become like brothers.

Daeng Gassing didn’t want Burarrwanga to abandon his tribe, but there was nothing he could do. He had no right to keep Burarrwanga from pursuing his dream.

Marika rose and broke into their thoughts. “Yesterday, I met a mother. When I told her that we were leaving, the woman dropped to the ground, crying. She punched the sand repeatedly while begging me to stay.”

Daeng Gassing bowed his head. He held a bamboo mug containing ballo, an alcoholic drink from Makassar made from coconut flower sap. He rose and handed the mug to Burarrwanga. “Tonight is the last time to have fun together. There is still plenty of ballo where this came from. Drink up!”

Burarrwanga happily accepted the mug.

“I don’t want to go,” Marika said between chews on the roll of betel leaves in her mouth. “I was born here, and I want to die here too.” Her words surprised everyone sitting around the fire.

“I can’t leave you and our son,” Burarrwanga said. “I am ready to leave everything, but not you.” Burarrwanga shook his head. “No that I cannot do.”

It was a dark and gloomy night. People started arguing. After Marika stated her preferences openly, other people started joining in the discussion. Most of them did not want Burarrwanga to leave for Makassar. The departure of the Makassaran men already hurt them. If Burarrwanga, their chief, who protected their land with his bravery against the Australian Commonwealth forces, was gone too, they would be totally lost.

Arguing bitterly, Burarrwanga, his people, and Marika could not reach an agreement. Burarrwanga stubbornly held on to his opinion. He intended to take Marika and their son with him to Makassar, even if Marika herself didn’t want to accompany her husband and even though his council of elders had already forbidden him to do so. Suddenly, Burarrwanga felt very sleepy. He abruptly rose and, leaving the fire, headed for his hut. He needed to get some sleep.

The discussion ended without any solution.

***

That night, in Burarrwanga’s dream, he rose and looked around. His heart pounding, he searched nervously for Daeng Gassing and the other Makassaran men. Burarrwanga didn’t see any of them. He, his wife, and his only child were supposed to leave for Makassar that day.

The sky began to brighten. In the distance, the sun started to rise gradually, while the morning star seemed reluctant to leave. Did the padewakkangs sail without me? Burarrwanga wondered. He suspected that Daeng Gassing and his crew had betrayed him, but Burarrwanga had considered those men to be his friends. He remembered that Daeng Gassing and some of the Yolngu men hadn’t agreed with his decision to follow Daeng Gassing to Makassar. Irritated and feeling deceived, Burarrwanga looked for his tribe’s men.

He was astonished not to find anyone. Even the hut they had built was empty. Where are they? Had they been kidnapped by the Australian Commonwealth men?

“No, they haven’t been kidnapped,” came a shout from afar.

Burarrwanga looked around anxiously, but there was no one. He had clearly heard someone shouting, someone responding to his inner dialogue. Burarrwanga looked around again. A kangaroo sitting on top of a dead coral rock, was the only living creature around.

“Are you lost?”

Burarrwanga fastened his eyes on the dead coral rock again, but the kangaroo had vanished. How strange, Burarrwanga thought, a talking kangaroo. He began to wonder if what was happening was real or if he was dreaming. It was impossible for a kangaroo to talk!

“Burarrwanga Dayn Gatjing, are you simply going to abandon your tribe?” The kangaroo again appeared on the dead coral rock.

“Who told you that my name is Dayn Gatjing?” Burarrwanga shouted, rubbing his eyes. “My name is just Burarrwanga!”

“Oh, you will find out, soon. Just wait a moment.” The kangaroo then turned into an olive-skinned woman.

Burarrwanga could hardly believe his own eyes. The woman’s skin color resembled that of the Makassaran people, lighter than the skin of the Yolngu people. The woman floated through the air. With a wave of her hand, the hills became as flat as the plains. Rivers flowed to the sky and then fell as soft rain. The sun, which had already risen halfway into the sky, suddenly sunk again. Night came, and stars emerged and circled in the sky around Burarrwanga. Other beautiful things appeared like paintings. The night was not just black. It was a hazy combination of red, green, blue, yellow, and other colors Burarrwanga had never seen before. The colors seem to spill around him. Burarrwanga was astonished seeing such a scene.

“You …” Burarrwanga stammered, “are you Baiyini, the First Being of the Yolngu people?”

“I am whoever you think I am, Dayn Gatjing. These are all my paintings. I send them to the world you live in.”

“You … are you Mimi, the painter’s spirit? No, you … you are Barnumbirr, the spirit of creation.” Burarrwanga knelt, but the mysterious creature asked him to rise.

“Take heart and return to your people,” said the spirit. “You are only lost. You are afraid that this land will continue to disappoint you. But you must remember that your ancestors stood firm for thousands of years. They were here long before the Makassaran merchants moored their padewakkangs here and long before the white-skinned people fired their first gunshot here. You will be all right for decades, even centuries to come. Just stay here and remember those who have to depart.”

Burarrwanga woke up crying. He could still hear the apparition’s advice. Now he understood. He had visited a wongar, the dream place where the Yolngu’s ancestral spirits lived and created this world. Not just anyone could visit there. According to the elders, only the chosen ones were given guidance in a dream and could enter the gate to wongar to see the creators in their real form. Burarrwanga had just received such guidance and, therefore, had been blessed.

***

The ashes of the previous night’s fire were still piled on the beach. The tide was already high. Crew hands were busy carrying the last baskets containing dried teripang onto the padewakkangs. The southeast wind started to pick up. The ship crews began preparing the sails. The anchors would soon be lifted. But Daeng Gassing still stood on the beach.

“You decided not to go quite suddenly,” he said to Burarrwanga. “Did you have a dream?”

“Yes, I was in a wongar and met a kangaroo. It is difficult to explain. In short, my tribe’s ancestors asked me to stay here.”

Daeng Gassing could not understand Burarrwanga’s behavior. How could someone who only the night before was so eager to leave this land and sail to Makassar change his mind just because of a dream — a dream about a kangaroo that had advised him to stay?

But that was Burarrwanga’s belief. Whether or not he met his ancestor or whoever in a mystical world, Daeng Gassing didn’t want to pursue it further. He was relieved that Burarrwanga had changed his mind about leaving his homeland and his people. The only thing that Daeng Gassing wanted to ensure was that Burarrwanga would keep fighting to get back his homeland’s rights from the Australian Commonwealth people.

“By the way, may I take your name and add it to the end of my real name?” asked Burarrwanga. “My new name would then become Burarrwanga Daeng Gassing or, using the Yolngu pronunciation, Burarrwanga Dayn Gatjing!”

“Is it a sign of brotherhood?” Daeng Gassing asked.

“I will pass down the Makassaran name and tell the story about you to my son, my grandson, the grandson of my grandson. Call me Burarrwanga Dayn Gatjing!”

“Of course. We will possibly meet again one day, when the baarra season comes and the mamirri blows.” Daeng Gassing was not sure if he had used the proper Yolngu terms.

“Hah!” Burarrwanga laughed. “It’s baarramirri, the season when the wind blows from the northwest.” Burarrwanga raised his hand and waved goodbye for the last time. The Yolngu people around him followed his gesture. Everyone’s eyes remained glued to the padewakkang sails until they vanished in the horizon.

 

 

 

 *****

Pohon Pongo

Everyone should view themself in a philosophical way in order to find meaning in their life.

At age 46, Rinto Andriono survived a stroke, caused by a blockage in his brain vessels, which paralyzed the right side of his body. Writing was one of the healing activities his neurologist recommended as a means to restore his ability to reason. Rinto began to write in June 2018, six months after he had the stroke.

Prior to this, Rinto was a post-disaster recovery planner, who worked extensively in various disaster sites throughout Indonesia and Asia. Now, during his post-stroke period, he is more involved in studies and online training and writing on post-disaster mitigations. In his spare time, Rinto likes to go for walks and read material with philosophical content regarding the protection of the natural environment.

Rinto writes to find meaning in his life, which now has limitations. Writing frees his soul and mind, both of which might have been constricted before his stroke, even though, at that time, he had no physical constraints.

Under the guidance of Ahmad Yulden Erwin, Rinto wrote a dozen short stories, which he compiled in an e-book titled Kencan Hikikomori, Hikikomori’s Courtship.

Rinto now participates in an on-line writing workshop facilitated by Purwanti Kusumaningtyas and Lian Gouw at the University of Satya Wacana in Salatiga. Rinto’s current writing project features the character of a beautiful, God-created creature who undergoes a gender change.

Rinto can be reached at rinto.andriono@gmail.com.

 

 

Pohon Pongo

 

Miranti terbangun dari tidurnya, dia berpeluh di tengah malam yang dingin. Napasnya tersengal-sengal. Di dalam kepala Miranti masih menggema bisikan Lukman baru saja.

“Mir, pergilah ke Pohon Tempat Memohon! Bawa serta Kasih bersamamu.” Kata-kata Lukman begitu bening mengiang dalam tidurnya.

Miranti menatap Kasih, putrinya yang sedang terlelap di sampingnya. Berbeda dengannya, tiada peluh yang membasahi badan Kasih. Udara malam itu memang sedang dingin, lumrahnya udara musim kemarau yang kering dan panas?

Miranti sudah tidak bisa lagi memicingkan mata. Malam terlalu rusuh dan hatinya sudah terlalu resah. Baru-baru ini dia sering bermimpi tentang Lukman, suaminya yang menghilang di tengah Rimba Raya Sebangau, di Kalimantan Tengah, sejak tiga tahun yang lalu. Berpuluh rombongan pencari sudah menghutan berbulan untuk mencari suaminya. Namun sampai kehabisan perbekalan, hasilnya selalu hampa. Sehampa hati Miranti yang kembali menjadi separuh setelah biasanya penuh bersama Lukman.

Lulusan dari Kedokteran Hewan Institute Pertanian Bogor, Miranti sekarang bekerja sebagai perawat kesehatan orangutan-orangutan untuk Taman Nasional Sebangau dalam kerja sama dengan Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, BOSF. Kedukaan mendalam karena kehilangan suaminya membuat Miranti enggan kembali ke Bogor, kota kelahirannya. Pengetahuannya tentang siloka yang diwarisi dari para karuhun Sunda membuat Miranti yakin bahwa kekasihnya masih hidup di suatu tempat di hutan raya Kalimantan ini. Dalam bisikan mimpi Miranti, Lukman sedang mempersiapkan sesuatu untuk masa depan mereka dan anaknya, untuk kehidupan yang pernah mereka impikan hidup menyatu dengan hutan. Untuk itu, Miranti yakin, dia dan Kasih putri mereka, hanya perlu menunggu waktunya tiba.

“Lukman, aku tahu kau akan datang untuk menjemput kami, tapi kapan? Aku sudah lelah,” ratap Miranti sambil mendekap Kasih.

Miranti termenung, dia mengingat kembali kata demi kata percakapan mereka sebelum Lukman beranjak dari pelukannya demi nasib hutan yang mereka cintai. Dalam mimpinya malam itu, Miranti seolah terlempar ke masa lalu, memang belakangan ini garis waktu semakin semena-mena melengkung dari masa kini ke masa lalu Miranti. Dan Lukman berganti-ganti antara hidup dan tiada. Ingin rasanya Miranti tidak pernah tersadar dari mimpinya, dimana Lukman nyata bersamanya.

“Aku akan pergi sebentar. Jaga baik-baik anak kita, ya,” Lukman berkata kepada Miranti pada hari buruk yang selalu mengawan di hati Miranti dan membuat hari-harinya kelabu.

Miranti masih mengingat jelas kata-kata yang timbul dari hati risaunya itu. “Apakah kau tidak bisa menunda kepergianmu?”

“Tidak, aku hanya hendak memenuhi baktiku.”

“Tetapi terlalu berbahaya, para preman kebun sawit sedang mencarimu.”

“Sang Roh adalah segala cahaya hidupku, aku hanyalah pantulan cahayanya.” Itu yang dikatakan Lukman saat itu, saat mereka beradu mulut tentang bahaya yang mengancam Lukman selaku rimbawan pegiat kelestarian.

Miranti teringat saat dia mencegah, “Ya, tetapi keadaan di Taman Nasional Sebangau sedang genting, mereka masih kesal karena kau gagalkan upaya mereka menyerobot wilayah taman.”

Miranti tahu, Lukman bukannya tidak sungguh-sungguh memikirkan ucapannya. Miranti merasa Lukman sedang menghadapi buah simalakama. Miranti teringat melihat Lukman termenung, menghentikan gerak tangannya membungkus barang-barang. Lukman pasti ingat belaka betapa dia dan kawan-kawan suku Dayak Ngaju telah mempermalukan para pengusaha sawit dengan bukti penyerobotan kawasan taman.

“Cahaya yang membimbingku ke sana segera,” Lukman menukas, setelah menyingkirkan semua kebimbangan.

“Mereka tak kan berhenti berusaha memperluas kebun sawitnya hingga ke dalam wilayah taman, Roh memang sudah membimbingmu tapi bisakah kau melakukannya nanti?”

“Tidak bisa, Sayang, mungkin darmaku sedang dibutuhkan hutan ini sekarang, percayalah!” Lukman berusaha menenangkannya.

“Ya, tapi waktunya itu lho yang tidak tepat!”

Lukman tidak menggubris penyanggahannya.

Kemudian hening melingkupi keduanya, mereka terdiam menahan kerisauan masing-masing. Malam itu, Lukman pergi dan menghilang begitu saja di dalam rimba.

Kawan-kawan rimbawan pegiat lingkungan menduga Lukman telah dilenyapkan di tengah prahara yang melanda hutan. Beberapa orang mempercayainya bahwa inilah bentuk balas dendam dari para mandor kebun karena Lukman telah giat menggalang perlindungan bagi hutan. Mereka sepertinya menganggap Lukman sebagai pelaku penjegalan terhadap perluasan kebun sawit yang jauh menjorok ke Taman Nasional Sebangau. Namun tidak ada yang bisa membuktikan kebenarannya.

Itu adalah adu mulut terakhir Lukman dengannya. Miranti terhenyak dari lamunannya. Dia menghela nafas sambil mengusap kening Kasih yang mulai terbangun.

Miranti mendengar sayup-sayup lolongan dan seruan orangutan. Miranti menajamkan telinganya.

Para orangutan berida terdengar memimpin barzanji. Miranti semakin risau, dia tahu belaka bahwa orangutan adalah mahluk batiniah yang bisa turut merasakan nasib rimba. Mereka seolah bisa mendengar senandung paduan suara hutan yang makin lama makin lirih dan parau. Itu adalah nyanyian hutan yang sedang sekarat. Hanya orangutan-orangutan paham benar dengan suara itu.

Pagi kembali menyingsing dengan kesibukan Miranti pada tugas-tugas perawatan orangutan. Banyak orangutan yang diselamatkan para jagawana dari taman nasional mengalami luka bakar parah, lemas dan kekurangan air. Sisi timur Taman yang berdekatan dengan wilayah Ibu Kota Negara di Sepaku, wilayah Penajam Paser Utara, mulai terbakar. Banyak satwa liar dan orangutan terluka.

Untungnya semua kejadian pilu ini tidaklah mempengaruhi masa kecil Kasih. Sebagai anak yang selalu ingin tahu, Kasih setiap hari mengikuti perjalanan para jagawana memberikan makan pada orangutan. Kasih begitu menyukai kegiatan ugahari bersama para jagawana itu. Bahkan dia sering tidak menghabiskan buah makan siangnya. Dia sangat suka menyisakan bekal buahnya untuk Pongo, anak orangutan kesayangannya. Mereka adalah dua makhluk berlainan jenis, tapi nampak seperti telah lama saling kenal. Mereka sering saling mengulurkan tangan, bertukar ubi dengan pisang. Kadang mereka kedapatan sedang bermain bersama. Sementara itu Laksmi, ibu Pongo, dan Miranti sama-sama hanya mengawasi dari kejauhan.

“Bu, ayo kasih makan Pongo dan Laksmi ….” Kasih merajuk ibunya. Miranti melihat dari jendelanya dua orangutan itu sudah menanti di luar, di pinggir hutan.

Miranti dan Kasih beranjak menemui Laksmi dan Pongo.

Laksmi adalah orangutan betina dewasa, yang sudah hampir dua puluh tahun hidup di Taman Nasional Sebangau. Di balik bulunya, tubuh Laksmi penuh dengan carut bekas luka, yang dia peroleh dari para mandor, semenjak maraknya perkebunan sawit di situ. Berangkat dari pengalaman itulah, Laksmi menjadi orangutan yang selalu waspada. Nyawanya pernah hampir melayang bila tidak diselamatkan oleh para jagawana, akibat siksaan mandor yang kejam. Mirantilah yang memberinya nama Laksmi. Ia adalah salah satu induk orangutan di Taman dan sekaligus penyintas yang ulet. Laksmi menjadi orangutan yang selalu waspada.

Pagi ini kabar kebakaran taman semakin meluas. Gambut yang kering karena kemarau yang panjang menjadi penghantar api yang baik. Kebakaran tidak dari ujung dahan yang hijau, namun bara merayap dari dasar akar tanah gambut tak terkendali. Bau kayu lembab yang terbakar mulai menguar dihantarkan asap putih menebal campuran uap air dan zat asam arang. Satwa-satwa dan penduduk kampung tepi rimba pun sesak nafas dibuatnya.

Laksmi menatap Miranti tak seperti biasa. Matanya yang coklat terasa menghampiri hati Miranti dengan kepiluan mendalam. Miranti mahfum. Dia tahu belaka soal kabar kebakaran itu. Dia merasa, Laksmi punya rasa yang sama tentang kebakaran itu. Mereka ibu yang sama-sama risau dengan keselamatan dirinya dan anaknya. Seolah ada satu pertanyaan yang mempertautkan keduanya, Akankah mereka masih bisa menemukan hari esok yang kembali menghijau?

Sesaat kemudian, tempat pemberian makan para orangutan menjadi riuh. Para orangutan yang sedang sarapan seolah tiba-tiba menyahut sebuah panggilan dari dalam rimba. Miranti turut menoleh ke arah rimba. Laksmi sontak menjadi gelisah. Sejenak dia menatap Miranti tanpa bersuara. Lalu, sambil mengerang, Laksmi menarik tangan Pongo untuk kembali menghutan.

“Barzanji lagi? Tadi sudah.” Miranti merasa merinding ketika para orangutan itu semakin sering barzanji, seolah mereka bertanya, “Apa yang salah dengan kehidupan hutan ini?”

Miranti melihat Pongo enggan mengikuti ibunya. Ia masih sibuk menghisap daging ubi yang manis yang baru saja diberikan kepadanya oleh Kasih. Namun sepertinya hati Laksmi sudah terpanggil ke sisi lain hutan. Pongo melambaikan tangannya pada Kasih yang kecewa dengan tingkah Pongo dan Laksmi yang tidak biasa.

Mawas dengan suasana orangutan yang tampak genting, Miranti juga menggenggam tangan Kasih yang sedang penuh tanda tanya.

“Kenapa mereka pergi cepat kembali menghutan, Bu?” tanya Kasih.

“Mereka harus menghadap Sang Roh Rimba.”

Kasih tidak puas dengan jawaban ibunya, tetapi dia harus bergegas mengikuti langkah ibunya yang juga tergesa-gesa kembali ke pusat perawatan.

Sesampainya di Pusat Perawatan, Kasih masih tidak terima. Dia masih memberondong ibunya dengan pertanyaan-pertanyaan atas apa yang baru saja dialaminya di pinggir hutan.

“Siapakah Sang Roh Rimba?” cecar Kasih.

“Dia adalah kekuatan atas segala kekuatan yang menghidupi segala sesuatu di dalam hutan. Dia yang menghidupkan dan mematikan semua yang ada di dalam rimba.”

“Termasuk Ayah?” Tanya Kasih.

Pelan dan lirih Miranti menjawab, “Iya ….”

Dalam benak Miranti, dia tertegun dengan pertanyaan Kasih baru saja. Miranti pun baru beberapa hari ini merasa bahwa Lukman tidak mati. Dia tinggal bersama Sang Roh Hutan dan belakangan sering mengunjunginya di dalam mimpi. Mimpi-mimpi yang membuatnya risau sepanjang hari.

Dalam pengamatan Miranti, hidup terberat Laksmi, Pongo dan para orangutan adalah saat musim kering. Saat kemarau seperti ini hutan akan penuh asap, banyak pohon yang terbakar. Mereka juga kesulitan memperoleh makanan. Laksmi dan Pongo sering hanya mengandalkan sedikit ubi dan pisang dari Taman Nasional, sekadar untuk ganjal. Makanan sedang susah didapat.

Jatah makan dari Taman Nasional hanya diberikan satu kali sehari. Pongo dan kawan-kawan masih lapar. Karena mereka rindu akan pucuk daun dan buah manis yang makin susah didapat saat kemarau, mereka menyerbu umbut sawit di kebun sawit pinggiran Taman Nasional Sebangau. Makanan yang bila tak hati-hati, akan menghadiahkan bilur pegal dan ruam panas di badan, akibat siksaan para mandor. Para mandor sering mengusir orangutan kelaparan dengan senapan angin, air panas, racun babi hutan atau cairan asam.

Sepengetahuan Miranti, pada musim kemarau putih penuh asap seperti ini, orangutan-orangutan sering berkumpul di Pohon Agung di penjuru Taman. Mereka bersama-sama barzanji dipimpin oleh orangutan berida. Mereka menyerahkan jiwa dan tubuh yang sedang kelaparan ini pada Sang Roh yang kali ini mewujud sebagai Pohon Agung, bersama dengan kelaparan, api yang melelehkan kulit dan asap yang membuat sesak nafas. Semua itu adalah jelmaan Sang Roh Rimba.

Pohon Agung tempat mereka barzanji adalah pohon berbuah buni. Bijinya yang lezat disukai orangutan, tupai, dan burung-burung. Batangnya besar, dahannya kekar, kulit batangnya obat yang mujarab, jerubung yang rimbun merupakan rumah buat aneka satwa termasuk orangutan. Akar Pohon Agung itu kuat dan menancap dalam untuk menahan perawakan yang tinggi besar. Pohon Werkodara demikian Kasih dan Miranti yang berdarah Parahiyangan menyebut pohon besar sekeluarga Pohon Bodhi ini.

Miranti sudah beberapa kali menyaksikan dalam tugasnya sebagai dokter orangutan di hutan, bagaimana sekumpulan orangutan menampilkan kerisauan mereka dengan barzanji. Para berida seperti kesurupan, mereka berayun, melolong, meraung dan terus mencoba meraih dahan, daun, dan ranting pohon. Ini pohon bukan sembarang pohon, ini adalah Pohon Tempat Memohon. Orangutan itu seolah menyerahkan seluruh jiwa dan tubuhnya untuk dirasuki roh.

Selama delapan tahun bekerja, Miranti berpendapat bahwa para orangutan itu adalah mahluk yang sangat rohaniah. Meskipun mereka seolah kesurupan saat barzanji, sebenarnya mereka sedang menghadap Roh Rimba. Miranti percaya pada ketulusan hati orangutan.

Pada saat barzanji, Miranti merasa seekor orangutan berida tertua meraung berkata, “Roh pasti akan memelihara kita. Dia hadir di mana-mana, sebagai yang baik dan yang buruk.”

Dengan raungan yang kuat orangutan berida itu lanjut seperti berkata, “Dia yang kita takuti, tapi sekaligus yang kita rindukan.”

Riuh di hutan mereda. Miranti membayangkan barzanji para orangutan telah selesai. Menurut Miranti memang para orangutan itu bukan sedang menggugat Sang Roh atas kebakaran dan kelaparan yang berkepanjangan ini. Mereka tak pernah menggugat. Mereka tak pula sedang memohon azab bagi para mandor yang kejam atau para cukong sawit yang serakah. Mereka bukan pendendam. Mereka hanya menyerahkan diri mereka pada keseimbangan alam. Mereka percaya bahwa alam hanyalah bandul yang bergerak di antara titik keseimbangan. Mereka ikhlas-ikhlas saja bila dalam pergerakan bandulan itu berarti adalah kepunahan jenis mereka.

Miranti yakin, hutan yang bernyanyi dengan parau inilah yang didengar oleh para orangutan yang tadi berkumpul melakukan barzanji. Hal ini tidak bisa didengar oleh manusia yang terlalu banyak tuntutan dan praduga. Hanya makhluk yang lugulah yang bisa mendengarkan nyanyian hutan dan riuhnya pertautan perasaan pohon-pohon di dalam jaringan syaraf di dasar rimba. Hanya merekalah yang bisa mendengar suara bariton pohon mahoni tua, suara sopran pohon ulin yang kokoh atau suara tenor pohon meranti yang tinggi langsing. Pada hutan yang sehat, suara-suara itu menjadi sebuah senandung paduan yang merdu.

***

Kebakaran hutan Taman Nasional Sebangau pada puncak kemarau 2019 sungguh hebat. Kebakaran terjadi bersamaan dengan rencana pembangunan Kawasan Sepaku, Penajem Paser Utara sebagai ibukota negara yang baru. Ibukota yang lama telah terlampau banyak beban. Pemerintah meniatkan membangun ibukota yang baru dengan gagasan lapis sanding antara manusia dengan alam. Namun, sepertinya, pelaksanaan gagasan tersebut banyak kecolongan dalam penerapannya. Kebakaran adalah cara yang paling hemat dan mudah untuk membuka hutan.

Taman Nasional Sebangau pun ikut terbakar hebat. Bara api begitu dalam dan luas membakar jaringan syaraf akar di dasar rimba. Hutan sekarat. Udara pengap, zat asam berubah menjadi asam arang yang mematikan kehidupan. Senandung paduan suara pohon-pohon tertelan riuh gemertak dahan yang terbakar menjauhi kebakaran yang tak kunjung ada ujungnya. Mereka terpontang-panting menjauh. Kelelahan dan nafasnya sesak zat asam arang. Akhirnya jatuh dan terpanggang.

Orang-orang mengungsi keluar kota atau bersembunyi di dalam rumah. Mereka yang tidak memiliki kemewahan mengungsi ke pulau yang aman, akan bersembunyi saja di dalam rumah.

Miranti sangat berat hati untuk mengungsi. Perasaannya akan kehadiran Lukman justru semakin menguat di saat genting ini. Namun demi kesehatan Kasih, Miranti pun terpaksa memesan tiket pesawat dengan masygul. Menghadapi kenyataan seperti ini, hati Miranti seperti hendak terbelah ke dua sisi yang berbeda.

Gerak hatinya mengajaknya tetap di sini untuk tetap dekat dengan Lukman. Namun, kewarasan pikirannya berkata lain. Belakangan ini, penampakan Lukman semakin nyata di dalam mimpi dan lamunannya. Dia semakin mengejawantah dalam keseharian Miranti. Seolah dia menemani.

***

Pagi Rabu itu, di puncak kemarau tahun 2019, kelabu menutup langit Taman Nasional Sebangau. Seolah paham dengan perasaan ibunya, Kasih pun nampak bergeming untuk tidak pergi dari Kompleks Perumahan Taman Nasional Sebangau. Kasih selalu mengkhawatirkan nasib Pongo. Kekhawatiran ini bertambah sejak Pongo dan Laksmi meninggalkannya dengan tiba-tiba beberapa hari lalu di tempat pemberian jatah makan orangutan.

“Ayo, kita ke tempat pemberian makan orangutan!” rengek Kasih pagi itu.

Sudah dua hari ini, karena kelangkaan pasokan bahan baku, Pengelola Taman sementara menghentikan pemberian makan kepada orangutan.

“Tapi tidak ada jagawana yang memberikan makan di sana,” kata Miranti.

“Aku ingin ketemu Pongo.” Kasih memaksa.

“Para jagawana sedang sibuk, mereka membantu pemadaman kebakaran hutan.” Miranti membujuk.

“Ya… kita saja yang ke sana saja.”

Akhirnya Miranti pun menyerah. Namun dia membuat semacam penawaran pada Kasih.

“Tapi setelah itu, jika kita terpaksa harus mengungsi ke Bogor, Kasih mau ikut ya.” Miranti membuat penawaran sekedarnya, dia sendiri enggan pergi meskipun akal nalarnya menyuruh dia pergi dari tempat ini.

Kasih mengangguk, meski Miranti meragukan anggukan Kasih juga sampai ke hati anak itu. Miranti merasa, Kasih seolah melihat jalan keselamatan yang lain, yang tidak bisa dia ceritakan.

Miranti memasangkan masker penyaring udara menutupi hidung dan mulut Kasih. Tempat pemberian makan orangutan hanya jarak yang dekat saja, jarak jalan kaki. Namun kali ini terasa sangat jauh. Miranti sangat merasa tidak aman. Dia membawa beberapa tabung oksigen kecil di dalam ranselnya, bersama air dan sedikit kudapan.

Taman Nasional gelap dan sangat berasap. Langit pun jingga, seolah turut terbakar. Udara amat panas.

Sebentar kemudian mereka sudah tiba di tempat pemberian makan. Tempat yang biasanya ramai, kini sepi dan kelabu. Tidak ada reriungan para orangutan seperti biasanya.

“Pongo, sini dong,” celoteh Kasih dengan riang.

Ibunya masygul membisu. Angin bertiup membawa asap yang semakin tebal. Membelah keabuan, dua sosok nampak tertatih datang dari kejauhan. Pongo dan Laksmi datang menghampiri.

“Kamu lapar, Pongo?” Kasih mengeluarkan beberapa buah pisang.

Kewarasan akal pikiran Miranti risau dengan keselamatan mereka di tengah hawa pengap kebakaran hutan ini. Tetapi sepertinya pikiran waras itu sudah bertekuk lutut pada daya gerak hatinya. Dia membiarkan Kasih berceloteh riang dengan Pongo. Laksmi hanya menatap dari kejauhan seperti biasa. Tiba-tiba hidung Miranti seperti mencium bau Lukman. Bau yang dahulu pernah akrab dan kini hanya terekam dalam kenangan.

“Baumu sekarang dapat kurasakan kembali di hidungku Lukman,” gumam Miranti. Bau itu mengudara di sekitar tubuh Miranti bersisihan dengan bau asap yang mematikan. Miranti tak kuasa menolak daya tarik bau itu. Dia sadar dirinya harus menggapai tabung oksigen yang dibawanya, tetapi tak dilakukannya. Bau Lukman sangat kuat membawa Miranti pada kedamaian yang selama ini dirindukannya. Kedamaian yang salah tempat, apa boleh buat. Gerah rusuh suasana hati Miranti. Udara semakin panas. Miranti limbung.

Dalam limbungnya, segala sesuatu seolah mencari jalan selamat sendiri-sendiri. Kewarasan nalar Miranti berusaha menggerakkannya untuk menyelamatkan diri segera. Namun batinnya membuai dengan bayangan kedamaian bertiga bersama Lukman dan Kasih di dalam rimba. Sementara jantung dan paru-parunya mulai memberontak kekurangan zat asam. Dengan mata berkunang-kunang dia melihat tampak Laksmi kembali merimba menggandeng tangan Pongo. Seperti tidak rela ketinggalan, Kasih pun menyeret tangan Miranti mengikuti Laksmi dan Pongo. Kaki-kaki Miranti terseok-seok mengikuti Kasih yang menjadi sangat yakin dengan langkah-langkahnya. Nampaknya mereka akan pergi menjauh ke dalam rimba ke pohon tempat memohon.

Dalam keadaan kabut itu, Miranti semakin merasakan kehadiran Lukman. Baunya semakin menguat di tengah kabut asap. Sesampai di bawah pohon tempat memohon dengan mata setengah terkatup, Miranti seolah melihat bayangan Lukman muncul tampak segar bugar dari lubuk naungan rimba yang terdalam.

Dia menyapa, “Aku telah lama menunggu kalian, Mir ….”

Miranti tersenyum. Nalarnya sudah sepenuhnya bertekuk lutut, terlebih saat melihat Kasih melompat-lompat kegirangan menyambut Lukman.

Tidak ada asap dan gemertak suara ranting terbakar. Hanya suara Lukman yang bening menyapa. Tidak ada cukong sawit dan mandor jahanam. Hutan pun masih sangat perawan. Seperti pertama kali semesta membuatnya. Semua mahluk hidup seolah roh yang segar bugar, meninggalkan jasad yang renta dan penuh masalah.

Lukman membungkuk untuk menggendong Kasih. “Biarkan ibumu menyelesaikan moksanya,” kata Lukman mencubit hidung Kasih.

Langit jingga telah menjadi merah.

Miranti terbaring dengan landasan akar besar Pohon Tempat Memohon.

 

*****

Pongo’s Caring Tree

Novita Dewi started writing poetry and short stories during her elementary and middle school days. She published in Si Kuncung and Bobo, children magazines, as well as wrote for the children’s columns featured in Kompas and Sinar Harapan (now Suara Pembaruan). She now nurtures her interest in literature by writing articles about literature and translation for scientific journals. Novita is widely published. The short stories translated and published by Dalang Publishing are her first attempts of literary translation.

She currently teaches English literature courses at Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Novita can be reached at novitadewi@usd.ac.id or novitadewi9@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pongo’s Caring Tree

 

Miranti awoke in the middle of the cold night, sweating and short of breath. Lukman’s soft voice still echoed in her head.

“Mir, go to the Caring Tree! Take Kasih with you.” Lukman’s words had been clear in her sleep.

Miranti looked at Kasih, her daughter, sleeping next to her. Unlike her, Kasih was not soaked in perspiration. The air that night was unusually cold for the hot, dry season.

Miranti could not fall back asleep. The night had been too restless, and now, she too felt unsettled. Recently, she’d been dreaming about Lukman often — Lukman, her husband, who had disappeared in the Rimba Raya Sebangau, a jungle in Central Kalimantan, three years ago. For months, numerous search-and-rescue units looked for her husband. But although they searched until they ran out of supplies, they always came back empty-handed — as empty as the half of Miranti’s heart that was usually filled with Lukman’s presence.

A graduate of the Veterinary School of the Bogor Agricultural Institute, Miranti worked as a veterinarian, in collaboration with the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, BOSF, at the Sebangau National Park, a large nature reserve that was carved out of the Rimba Raya Sebangau jungle. She was in charge of the welfare of the orangutan population in the park. The deep sorrow of losing her husband made Miranti reluctant to return to Bogor, her hometown. Miranti inherited her knowledge of siloka, a mystical cultural belief, from her Sundanese karuhun, ancestors. Siloka convinced her that Lukman was still alive somewhere in the Kalimantan jungle. In Miranti’s dream, Lukman was preparing something for their family’s future, for the life they had dreamed of: a life in union with the forest.

Miranti believed that she and their daughter Kasih just needed to wait for the right time. “Lukman, I know you’ll come for us, but when?” Miranti whimpered, holding Kasih. “I’m so tired.”

Miranti remembered their conversation, word for word, the day Lukman walked out of her embrace for the sake of their beloved forest. In her dream that night, it was as if she were thrown into the past. Indeed, lately she often moved back and forth in time, while Lukman alternated between life and nothing. Miranti wished she would never wake up from her dream, where Lukman was with her.

“I’ll be gone for a while,” Lukman had said to her on that terrible day that always darkened Miranti’s heart and saddened her days. “Take good care of our child, will you?”

“Can’t you delay your trip?” Miranti clearly remembered the words that had risen from her troubled mind.

“No, I need to fulfill my duty.”

“But it is too dangerous; the palm oil thugs are looking for you.”

“The Spirit is the light of my life; I am only a reflection of its light.” That was what Lukman always said when they argued about the dangers that threatened him as a forester and conservation activist.

“Yes, but the situation in Sebangau National Park is precarious; the palm oil thugs are still upset because you prevented them from invading the park area.” Miranti remembered her effort to keep Lukman from leaving.

She knew that Lukman was not really ignoring her fear; she knew Lukman was faced with a dilemma. Lukman had stopped his packing to think for a while. She now wondered if he had been remembering then how he and his friends from the Dayak Ngaju tribe had humiliated the palm oil entrepreneurs with evidence of their invasion into the park area.

“The light is leading me to it right now,” Lukman had finally said, after clearing all his doubts.

“They won’t stop trying to expand their palm plantations into the park area,” Miranti had persisted. “Yes, Roh, the Spirit, has already guided you, but can’t you do it later?”

“I can’t, honey.” Lukman had tried to calm her. “It seems that this forest needs my service right now. Trust me!”

“Yes, but the timing is not right.”

Lukman ignored her refutation.

In the silence that followed, they each held their own worries. That night, Lukman disappeared into the jungle.

Environmental activist and forester friends suspected that Lukman had been killed in the midst of the disaster that was sweeping the forest. Some people believed that his disappearance expressed revenge from the plantation foremen against Lukman’s activism. The foremen considered Lukman the perpetrator in blocking the encroachment of the expanding palm plantations into the Sebangau National Park. But they had no proof.

That was Lukman’s last argument with her.

Miranti broke out of her daydream. Kashi started to wake up. Sighing, Miranti rubbed the child’s forehead. She looked up when she heard the screeching and screams interspersed with the soulful calling of the orangutans in the forest.

The senior orangutans were leading the barzanji, a litany of woe. Miranti’s worry heightened. Orangutans were creatures who shared the fate of the jungle. They seemed able to hear the song of the dying jungle. The chorus, which grew fainter and sounded hoarse from time to time. Only orangutans understood that voice.

The morning came and presented Miranti with tasks to care for the orangutans in the national park. Many of the rescued orangutans were weak from dehydration and suffered from severe burns. The Penajam Paser Utara region, at the eastern side of the park adjacent to the state capital area in Sepaku, had caught fire, injuring many orangutans and other wild animals.

Fortunately, these many sad events did not affect Kasih’s childhood. Every day, Kasih followed the rangers as they fed the orangutans. Kasih truly enjoyed this daily activity. In fact, she often saved her fruit from lunch for Pongo, her favorite orangutan. Although she and Pongo were two creatures of different species, they didn’t act like it. They often reached out to each other, as if they had known each other for a long time, and sometimes Pongo exchanged sweet potatoes for bananas. They played together while Miranti and Laksmi, Pongo’s mother, just watched from a distance.

“Mom, let’s feed Pongo and Laksmi!” Kasih nudged her mother. Miranti looked out of the window and saw the two orangutans waiting outside, at the edge of the forest.

Miranti and Kasih went to meet Laksmi and Pongo.

Laksmi had lived in the Sebangau National Park for almost twenty years. Amid her fur, her skin was mottled with scars evidence of the cruel plantation foremen who had arrived in the park along with the development of the palm plantations. Laksmi quickly became a wary orangutan. If a ranger had not rescued her, she would have died from the foremen’s torture. Miranti gave her the name Laksmi. One of the resilient survivors in the park, Laksmi remained vigilant of her surroundings.

That morning’s news had reported that the park fires had spread. The dry peat, a result of the long drought, was a good conductor of fire. The fires did not spread from the tips of green branches, but rather crept uncontrollably along the peat-covered soil. The smell of burning damp wood wafted through the area. A mixture of water vapor and carbonic acid filled the air with thick white smoke, which made it hard for the animals and the village inhabitants at the edge of the forest to breathe.

Laksmi gave Miranti an unusual look. Her brown eyes seemed to reach out with a deep sorrow. Miranti understood. She felt she and Laksmi shared the same feelings about the fire. They were both mothers who worried about their safety and their children’s. It seemed that one question connected the two of them: Would they still be able to find a green forest in the future?

Suddenly, the orangutans having breakfast stopped eating and became very noisy. They seemed to answer a call from the jungle. Miranti looked towards the woods.

Barzanji again? They just did it. Miranti felt goosebumps. When the orangutans repeated barzanji again and again, it was as if they were asking, “What’s wrong with the life of this forest?”

Laksmi became restless. For a moment, she stared silently at Miranti then grunting, grabbed Pongo’s hand, and turned back to the woods.

Miranti saw that Pongo was reluctant to go with his mother. He was still busy munching on the sweet potato Kasih had just given him. But Laksmi’s instinct urged her to move to the other side of the forest. Pongo waved at Kasih, who was disappointed by Pongo’s and Laksmi’s unusual behavior.

Aware of the precarious orangutan atmosphere, Miranti held Kasih’s hand.

“Why did they leave so quickly, Mom?” Kasih asked.

“They must face the Spirit of the jungle.”

Kasih was hardly satisfied with that answer, but her mother was hurrying the two of them back to the Care Centre.

Kasih was still full of curiosity. She kept bombarding her mother with questions about the experience at the edge of the forest. “Who is the Spirit of the jungle?” Kasih probed.

“He is the power of all forces that support everything in the forest. He is the one who regulates everything in the jungle.”

“Including Dad?” asked Kasih.

“Yes,” Miranti replied, slowly and softly.

Kasih’s question stunned Miranti. She had only recently began feeling that Lukman was still alive. In her mind, he lived with the Spirit and, lately, had begun visiting her in dreams that bothered her all day long.

In Miranti’s observations, the hardest time for Laksmi, Pongo, and the other orangutans to survive was the dry season, when many trees burned, filling the forest with smoke. Food was scarce. Laksmi and Pongo often relied on a few sweet potatoes and bananas from the Sebangau National Park rangers, which was barely enough to keep the hunger pangs away. Food rations were given only once a day and left Pongo and his friends still hungry. Starving for the now-scarce tender leaves and sweet fruit of the forest, the orangutans ransacked the palm shoots sprouting from the tree tops at the plantations on the outskirts of Sebangau National Park. If the orangutans weren’t careful, their rampaging for food could result in injury or death. The plantation foremen used air guns, hot water, wild boar poison, or acid to get rid of the hungry apes.

Miranti knew that during this white, smoke-filled dry season, orangutans often gathered at the Caring Tree across the park. Led by the berida, a senior orangutan, they performed a litany of woe: surrendering their starving bodies, suffocated by the smoke and sinched by the fire, to the Spirit, manifested this time as the Caring Tree. It was all the manifestation of the Spirit of the jungle.

The Caring Tree, where they performed their barzanji, was a buni tree, an offshoot of the bodhi tree family. Its delicious seeds were treats for orangutans, squirrels, and birds. The trunk was large, the branches were stout, the bark contained an effective medicine, and the lush canopy was a home for various animals, including orangutans. The roots of the Caring Tree were strong and bored deep into the soil to uphold the tree’s enormous stature. Kasih and Sundanese-blooded Miranti, knew this big tree to be the werkodara tree.

As a veterinarian, Miranti had observed several times how a group of orangutans performed a barzanji to express their anxiety. During the ritual, the elderly orangutans appeared entranced. They swung, screeching, from branch to branch while ripping branches, leaves, and twigs of a big tree which was no ordinary tree. It was the Caring Tree where the orangutans seemed to surrender their entire bodies and souls to the Spirit of the jungle.

During her eight years of working at the center, Miranti had concluded that orangutans were very spiritual creatures. Even though they acted possessed during the barzanji, they were actually facing the jungle’s Spirit. Miranti believed in the orangutans’ sincerity.

During this most recent barzanji, Miranti believed that the old orangutan’s roar said, “The Spirit will surely take care of us. He is present everywhere, in the good, as well as in the bad.” With a strong moan, the elderly orangutan continued, as if saying, “The Spirit is the one we fear and miss at the same time.”

The boisterousness in the forest died down. Miranti imagined the orangutans’ barzanji had finished. In Miranti’s mind, the orangutans were not blaming the Spirit for the prolonged fire and hunger. They never accused. Nor did they plead for punishment of the cruel foremen or the greedy palm oil barons. Orangutans were not vengeful. They merely surrendered themselves to the balance of nature. They believed that nature was just a pendulum swinging between points of equilibrium, and they would simply accept the fact if the pendulum’s movement meant the extinction of their kind.

Miranti was sure that the forest’s hoarse singing was heard by the orangutans who had gathered to perform a barzanji. Humans, with too many demands and preconceived notions, could not hear the song of the forest. Only innocent creatures could hear that song and the raucous feelings of the trees embedded in the jungle floor. Only the forest creatures could hear the baritone of an old mahogany tree, a sturdy ironwood’s soprano, or the tenor of the tall, slender meranti tree. In a healthy forest, the voices would turn into a melodious chorus.

***

The Sebangau National Park’s forest fires at the peak of the 2019 dry season were enormous. The fires occurred at the same time as the plan to develop Kawasan Sepaku, Penajem Paser Utara, as the new capital of Indonesia. The old capital had become too outdated. The Indonesian government intended to build a new capital, with the idea to juxtapose humans and nature. However, the implementation of these ideas encountered their own problems: fire was the most economical and easy way to clear forests.

The flames were so intense and widespread that they burned the root networks beneath the jungle floor. Now, the forest was dying. The air was stuffy, and acidic substances turned into deadly charcoal. The crackle of burning branches choked the trees’ choir.

The chirpy larks tried to escape the never-ending fire. Fatigued and short of breath from the carbonic acid in the air, the birds fluttered frantically. They finally fell and were roasted.

People fled from the city. Those who did not have the luxury of fleeing to safety hid in their homes.

Miranti was very reluctant to leave. Her sense of Lukman’s presence was even stronger at this critical time. But for the sake of Kasih’s health, Miranti was, miserably, forced to book a plane ticket. Facing this reality, Miranti’s heart split into two.

While Miranti’s rational mind urged her to leave, her emotional impulses urged her to stay near the forest, to stay close to Lukman. His presence had become more and more evident in her dreams and fantasies. He was increasingly present in Miranti’s daily life. It was as if he were keeping her company.

***

That eventful Wednesday morning, at the peak of the 2019 dry season, the skies of Sebangau National Park were gray. As if she understood her mother’s feelings, Kasih wasn’t interested in leaving the Sebangau National Park housing complex. Kasih was worried about Pongo. Her concern had grown after Pongo and Laksmi had suddenly left her at the orangutan feeding site, a few days ago.

“Come on, let’s go to the orangutan feeding place!” Kasih cajoled her mother that morning, not knowing that the park had temporarily stopped feeding the orangutans due to scarce supplies.

“But there is no ranger to feed them there,” Miranti said.

“I want to see Pongo,” Kasih pleaded.

“The rangers are busy,” said Miranti, trying to convince her. “They’re helping out with the forest fires.”

“That’s okay,” insisted Kasih. “We can go by ourselves.”

Finally, Miranti gave up. However, she used her consent as a bargaining chip with Kasih. “But if after we visit, we are forced to flee to Bogor, you must come with me without fussing.” Miranti spoke half-heartedly; she, herself, was reluctant to leave, despite what her common sense told her.

Kasih nodded, but Miranti doubted that Kasih’s nod was sincere. She wondered if Kasih saw another way of salvation, one she could not verbalize.

Miranti placed an air filter mask over Kasih’s nose and mouth. The orangutan feeding site was only a short walking distance away, but this morning, it seemed to be so far. Feeling very anxious, Miranti placed several small oxygen cylinders in her backpack, along with water and a few snacks.

The Sebangau National Park was dark and dreadfully smoky. The sky was orange, as if it too were on fire. The air was horribly hot.

When Miranti and Kasih arrived at the feeding site, the usually busy place was now deserted and gray. There were no happy orangutan sounds.

“Pongo, come here!” Kasih called out cheerfully.

Miranti remained speechless.

The wind carried the thickening smoke. Parting the gray air, two limping figures appeared in the distance. Pongo and Laksmi were coming closer.

“Are you hungry, Pongo?” Kasih took out a few bananas.

Miranti worried about their safety in the midst of this forest fire’s suffocating air. But her rational mind buckled again under her heart’s impulse. She let Kasih chat happily with Pongo, as Laksmi watched from a distance as usual. Suddenly, Miranti caught Lukman’s aroma — the scent that had once been so familiar, now had become only a memory.

“I can smell your presence, Lukman,” murmured Miranti. His scent seemed to envelope her along with the deadly smoke. Miranti could not resist the scent’s appeal. She realized she needed the oxygen cylinder she carried, but she didn’t reach for it. The scent of Lukman was very strong. It brought Miranti the peace she had been longing for. It didn’t seem to matter that it was a misplaced peace.

The air was getting hotter.

Miranti staggered.

In her confusion, everything seemed to seek its own way of survival. Miranti’s sensibilities tried to move her to save Kasih and herself immediately. Instead, she lulled herself into the notion of peace with Lukman and Kasih in the forest. Meanwhile, her heart and lungs battled oxygen deficiency. Light-headed, she saw Laksmi take Pongo’s hand and walk back into the woods. Not wanting to be left behind, Kasih grabbed Miranti’s hand and followed them without hesitation.

Miranti, still stunned at the crossroads of destiny, lumbered along. In the choking fog, Lukman’s presence was even more apparent. After they arrived at the Caring Tree, his scent grew stronger, overpowering the smog. Through her half- closed eyes, Miranti saw Lukman’s shadow appear from the deepest shade of the woods. Looking refreshed, he said, “I’ve been waiting for the two of you for a long time, Mir.”

Miranti smiled. As she watched Kasih happily greet Lukman, her sensibilities left her completely.

There was no smell of smoke, no crackle of burning branches — there was only Lukman’s voice greeting her clearly. There were no palm oil barons and foremen. The forest was still virgin like the first time the universe made it. All living things were spirits in good health, who had left their frail and problem-riddled bodies behind.

Lukman bent to pick up Kasih. “Let your mother finish her transition, her moksha.” Lukman pinched Kasih’s nose playfully.

The orange sky turned red.

Miranti lay at the base of a large root of the Caring Tree.

 

*****

Mitoni Terakhir

Ranang Aji SP is an Indonesian fiction and nonfiction writer. He was born in Klaten, Central Java, on December 1, 1978. His short stories have appeared in anthologies such as Srigala Yang Berzikir Di Akhir Waktu (Nyala, 2018), Hujan Klise (Penerbit Buku Kompas, 2019), and Urban(is)me (Binsar Hiras, 2020). Ranang has a presence in both printed and online publications, as well as numerous newspapers, including Kompas, Koran Tempo, Media Indonesia, Republika, Jawa Pos, Lampung Post, Harian Fajar Makasar. His essay, “Sepotong Senja Untuk Pacarku: Antara Sastra Modern-PascaModern, Makna Dan Jejak Terpengaruhannya,” was included in Antologi Kritik Sastra: Teks, Pengarang dan Masyarakat an anthology of the 20 best essays from the 2020 Literary Criticism Contest, held by the Indonesian Ministry of Culture and Education.
Ranang Aji SP currently lives in Magelang, Central Java.

He can be reached via email at ranangajisuryaputra@gmail.com

 

 

Mitoni Terakhir

 

Di halaman belakang rumah, peninggalan suamiku, aku duduk sendiri, memandang pohon randu alas yang meranggas. Kukira, waktuku sudah segera akan tiba. Aku tidak tahu kapan itu terjadi, tapi, cepat atau lambat, malaikat maut itu pasti akan segera datang menjemputku. Menyusul para leluhurku untuk berkumpul bersama. Kematian adalah kepastian buat siapa saja, apalagi buat perempuan seusiaku saat ini. Sebelum ajalku, aku hanya ingin merasakan, menyaksikkan dan memberikan berkah pada darah dagingku yang terlahir di bumi ini, agar tumbuh sehat sebagai jiwa terberkati. Seperti para leluhurku juga memberkatiku di masa lalu.

Dari rahimku ini, telah lahir tujuh anak perempuan dan setiap anak telah melahirkan anak-anaknya, para cucuku yang lucu. Kecuali anak bungsuku, Setyaningsih, dia baru dua tahun menikah dan belum sempat mendapatkan anak. Semua anak dan cucuku mendapat restu dan berkah dari orangtuanya dengan cara yang sama. Eka Yuningsih, anak pertamaku, ketika mengandung anak pertamanya, semua menyambutnya dengan bahagia. Ketika usia kandungannya menginjak tujuh bulan, seperti adat Jawa yang terberkati, kami, ayah dan ibunya menggelar acara mitoni. Demikian pula dengan anak-anakku yang lain.

Dalam setiap hajatan itu, semua kerabat datang, semua tetangga hadir juga anak-anak sekitar yang ceria menonton rangkaian acara. Mereka tertawa sembari berdesak-desakan di halaman. Terkadang mereka ikut melihat bagaimana kami mengguyur tubuh anak dan cucuku yang masih di dalam rahimnya, dengan air bunga. Tentu saja aku tahu anak-anak itu menginginkan dawet ayu, dan juga semua makanan yang kami sediakan untuk hajatan ini. Aku membiarkan mereka ribut, gaduh di antara suara gending Jawa yang mengiringi. Terkadang, aku berpura-pura marah, meminta mereka agar diam dan menunggu di latar. Sambil aku tanya, sudah bawa kereweng belum. Kereweng adalah pecahan genteng. Dalam acara mitoni, biasanya ditukarkan dengan dawet, dan lain-lain.

“Sudaah,” jawab mereka serempak.

Namun, semua upayaku agar mereka diam, sia-sia belaka. Para mahluk kecil nan berisik itu, selalu tak tertaklukkan oleh siapa saja, kecuali oleh dawet ayu. Perut mereka yang seluas langit dan sedalam lautan, tak juga kunjung puas, meskipun bermangkok-mangkok dawet sudah disiramkan ke dalam perutnya. Bahkan ketika perut itu sudah dijejali oleh jajanan yang mereka inginkan. Ah, dasar anak-anak.

Semua tampak menjadi sibuk dan repot, memang, namun kerepotan itu membuat kami, para orangtua bahagia. Karena, aku dan mereka tahu, bahwa semua kerepotan dan keringat dari para kerabat, tetangga yang berkumpul dalam acara itu, adalah pancaran tangan kami semua yang menjemput cahaya berkah dari langit. Cahaya berkah yang kemudian kami berikan pada anak dan cucuku di dalam kandungan. Agar kelak, mereka juga tumbuh dan meneruskan berkah itu pada anak cucu mereka. Juga melalui cara ini, sebagai orang Jawa.

Dahulu, di masa kecilku, aku juga seperti mereka anak-anak kampung yang ceria itu ketika ada hajatan, tak kecuali juga ketika ada yang menggelar hajatan bagi seorang calon ibu. Aku bersama kangmasku, setelah mendengar kabar itu, segera berlari gembira di sepanjang jalan kampung, mengumpulkan pecahan genteng, berebut dengan teman-teman yang lain. Semua itu nanti kami tukarkan dengan segelas dawet dan makanan lain. Kami juga dizinkan ayah menonton pergelaran wayang orang atau wayang kulit setelahnya.

Biasanya, anak-anak punya cara agar mendapatkan lebih dawet ayu. Mereka antri sampai berkali-kali, hingga akhirnya, ibu-ibu tua yang menjaga dan melayani, menegur mereka dengan suara serak dan muka cemberut, “Sudah, gantian sama yang lain. Masak terus menerus berputar seperti itu.”

Kami selalu suka dengan semua hajatan, tanpa kecuali. Kami sadar, semua itu cara para leluhur, agar kami anak cucunya bersyukur dan menghargai lingkungan. Tanah yang menumbuhkan semua kebutuhan kami, dan juga pada Sang Hyang Widi di atas langit. Semua itu, tentu saja, seperti kata bapakku, Mitoni adalah cara orang Jawa mencintai, menghargai kehidupan mereka di muka bumi. Juga tentang persoalan bagaimana kelak seluruh keturunan bisa menjalani kehidupan dengan berkah orangtua mereka yang mengemban amanah menjaga kehidupan hingga anak cucu di masa depan.

Namun, sayang, Setyaningsih, anak bungsuku, agak berbeda. Ketika hamil pada akhirnya, dia menolak melakukan hajatan mitoni. Katanya, adat itu sudah terlalu kuno – tak lagi mencerminkan lingkungan masyarakat dan pendidikannya. Katanya, negara barat, Amerika, tempatnya bersekolah, tak ada kebiasaan seperti hajatan di Jawa. Dia memang berniat melakukan hajatan, tetapi dengan cara yang berbeda. Cara yang lebih sederhana. Dia sebut hajatan itu dalam bahasa Inggris, baby shower. Aku belum pernah mendengar sebelumnya, sampai dia katakan itu.

“Teman-teman sudah seperti itu semua, Bu,” katanya mencoba meyakinkanku.

“Apa bedanya, Nduk? Lagipula kenapa harus seperti teman-temanmu?”

“Repot, Bu, hajatan seperti itu, ribet dan tak masuk akal,” katanya padaku, sedikit tampak enggan menjawab.

“Tentu saja tidak begitu,” kataku sedih. “Tentu saja di sana tak ada mitoni. Semua tempat punya caranya sendiri.” Kupandangi mukanya yang bersih dan halus. Dia perempuan yang cantik. Bahkan lebih cantik dari aku. Lebih pintar dariku. Semua yang diidamkan perempuan, ada padanya. Dia bisa membentuk apa yang dia suka dalam wajah dan tubuhnya, dengan uangnya. Begitu cantik dirinya dengan semua perubahan itu, sampai aku tak yakin apakah benar dia anakku, Setyaningsih. Semua agak berubah, dari alisnya, bentuk bibirnya dan hidungnya yang menjadi mancung. Hampir semuanya tak lagi milikku, atau suamiku.

Aku mulai sadar, dunia ini memang mudah berubah. Semua akan selalu berubah. Tak ada kepastian, selain kematian, bukan? Anakku, Setyaningsih juga tampak jauh berubah. Dia tak lagi seperti anak-anak yang dulu selalu kurawat dan kuberikan pendidikan, agar nantinya dia tumbuh menjadi perempuan Jawa yang ikut merawat miliknya sendiri, dengan percaya diri.

Tapi, tampaknya dia begitu terpesona dengan dunia yang berbeda dari yang dimilikinya. Setyaningsih juga selalu berbahasa lain, yang saudara-saudaranya tak menggunakannya. Berpakaian seperti noni-noni berambut jerami yang menjadi teman-temannya. Suaminya, sama saja. Pramono, seorang pengusaha berhasil yang lebih banyak hidup di negara asing dan mulai kesulitan melafalkan bahasa-bahasa setempat. Dia nurutin saja semua apa yang dikatakan istrinya. Katanya, “Ibu tak usah repot-repot bikin hajatan itu. Biar kami sendiri yang menangani.”

Dari tujuh anak perempuanku, Setyaningsih memang berbeda. Persis seperti pepatah lama, tak ada yang sempurna dari semua telur milik kita. Aku tak menyalahkannya. Dia mendapatkan sekolah yang telah membuatnya berpikir dia lebih pintar dari orang lain. Aku hanya ingin dirinya menjadi diri sendiri, sebagai orang Jawa. Menjalani upacara adat yang sudah menjadi baju masyarakatnya sejak dulu. Itu saja.

Usiaku mungkin akan selesai dalam hitungan waktu yang tidak terlalu lama. Meskipun usia manusia hanya Tuhan yang tahu akan berapa lama. Aku hanya ingin menjalani sekali lagi merasakan bagaimana indahnya memberikan berkat pada anak cucuku yang masih sempat aku lihat. Memberkati bersama para kerabat, tetangga dan anak-anak yang lucu nan bandel dalam acara mitoni.

Eka Yuningsih sudah membantuku menyampaikan semua keinginanku pada Setyaningsih. Katanya, aku harus bersabar. Tidak perlu ngotot dan memaksanya yang sudah punya pendapatnya sendiri. Dia ingin membuat acaranya sendiri, seperti semangat zamannya yang ingin seperti bangsa lain.

“Mungkin paling penting adalah doa ibu saja,” bujuk Yuningsih padaku, setelah gagal membujuk Setyaningsih.

“Ibu, jika tetap berkeras hati juga, nanti malah jatuh sakit. Ibu harus jaga kesehatan Ibu, agar bisa menyaksikkan cucu-cucu tumbuh.”

“Apakah Ibu salah, jika ingin memberikan berkah pada kandungan anakku. Doa terakhir yang tak akan terdengar lagi setelah kematianku nanti?” Yuningsih kulihat bimbang. Dia hanya diam dan mencium tanganku.

“Ibu jangan bicara seperti itu,” katanya kemudian.

Di halaman belakang rumah warisan suamiku ini, aku duduk menatap pohon randu alas yang meranggas –pohon yang tak lagi berdaun di musim kemarau. Mendengarkan tembang megatruh yang mengingatkanku agar bersiap dijemput kematian. Di sana, aku merenung dalam sendiriku. Mungkin aku salah. Mungkin aku semacam orangtua yang kaku. Mungkin aku terlalu memaksakan keinginanku sendiri pada anak-anakku. Orangtua yang sudah tidak sesuai dengan keinginan zaman. Keinginan anak-anaknya. Tidak tahu keinginan anak-anaknya? Hmm ….

Sekilas, aku lihat langit yang penuh awan, di antara sela-sela ranting pohon randu alas yang meranggas. Aku bersedih mengingatnya, jika begitu. Namun, kesedihanku bukan semata karena aku tak dituruti keinginanku. Mungkin memang iya. Aku tak boleh berbohong. Tapi, kesedihanku juga karena mengingat bahwa kematianku nanti, mungkin berarti juga kematian warisan leluhurku di tanahnya sendiri. Kematian doa-doa yang penuh berkah dari langit. Ah, semoga tidak. Aku masih berharap Setyaningsih, anakku yang cantik itu, sadar – sehingga aku masih bisa memberkati anak cucuku dalam hajatan itu untuk terakhir kali. Sebelum ajal menjemputku. Aku berharap seperti itu.

*****

The Last Mitoni

Novita Dewi started writing poetry and short stories during her elementary and middle school days. She published in Si Kuncung and Bobo, children magazines, as well as wrote for the children’s columns featured in Kompas and Sinar Harapan (now Suara Pembaruan). She now nurtures her interest in literature by writing articles about literature and translation for scientific journals. Novita is widely published. The short stories translated and published by Dalang Publishing are her first attempts of literary translation.

She currently teaches English literature courses at Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Novita can be reached at novitadewi@usd.ac.id or novitadewi9@gmail.com.

 

 

The Last Mitoni

 

Sitting alone in the backyard of the house I inherited from my husband, I look at the withered tree. I think my time will come soon. I do not know when it will be, but, sooner or later, the angel of death shall come to unite me with my ancestors. Death is a certainty for everyone, especially for a woman of my age. But, before my time comes, I just want to feel, witness, and bless my children so that they become healthy, honorable souls. I’d like to give them what my ancestors gave to me.

I have given birth to seven daughters and six have given birth to my adorable grandchildren. My youngest daughter, Setyaningsih, has been married for two years and has yet to have children. All my children and grandchildren have received their parents’ blessings in the traditional Javanese way.

When Eka Yuningsih, my eldest daughter, was pregnant with her first child, everyone was happy. When she reached her seventh month of pregnancy, following revered Javanese custom, we, her parents, held a mitoni, a ceremonial celebration to bless the mother and unborn child. We did this also for our other children.

All of my relatives and neighbors came with their children to every celebration. The children enjoyed the entire affair. They crowded into the yard, laughing. Sometimes they came to watch how we poured water, scented with flower petals, over our daughter and unborn grandchild.

I knew for sure that the children craved dawet ayu, a Javanese cold drink made of coconut milk and flavored tapioca balls, and all the food we provided for these celebrations. I allowed the children to make a lot of noise while an orchestra played Javanese music. Sometimes, I pretended to be angry and told them to be quiet and wait in the front yard. I asked them, “Have you brought kereweng with you?” At a mitoni, these roof-tile chips are used as tokens to exchange for dawet ayu and other snacks.

“Yes, we sure have,” the children chanted.

But all my efforts to quiet them were in vain. Nothing but dawet ayu could quiet these noisy little creatures whose stomachs were as wide as the sky and as deep as the sea. And, even though they had poured bowls of dawet ayu into their bellies and stuffed their tummies with snacks, they wanted more. Ah, that’s just the way children are.

Everyone seemed to be in a frenzy. But the flurry of activities made us parents happy. We all knew that the efforts made by relatives and neighbors who had gathered for the event reflected the light and blessings from the sky — blessings that we then bestowed upon my child and the grandchild inside her womb so that, later, they could pass on these blessing to their children and grandchildren in a similar manner. This is the Javanese way.

Back then, in my childhood, I also acted like those cheerful village children when there was a celebration. One held for a prospective mother was no exception. As soon as we heard that there would be a celebration, my kangmas, brother, and I immediately ran happily along the village road to collect shards of roof tile, fighting over them with other children. Later, we would exchange the shards for a glass of dawet ayu and other snacks. My father also allowed us to watch the puppet show afterwards.

Usually, children would find a way to get more dawet ayu. They would line up many times until, finally, the old woman in charge of the dawet table scolded them. “That’s enough!” Frowning, she would add, “Let others have a turn. Don’t keep coming back for more.”
We always loved celebrations of all kinds, without exception. We all knew that through these celebrations our elders showed us how to be grateful and respect our environment, how to revere the land that grows all our needs, and honor Sang Hyang Widi, The Great One, in heaven. Above all, my father said, mitoni is the way Javanese people show love and respect for their life on earth. It is the ability to live a life full of blessings from our parents, who fulfilled the task of protecting the environment for future generations.

Unfortunately, Setyaningsih, my youngest child, thinks a little different. When she finally became pregnant, she refused to celebrate the occasion with a mitoni. She said that the practice was too old-fashioned; it no longer reflected her community and social environment. She said that in Western countries, like America, where she received her education, people do not have traditions like those of the Javanese. She intended to celebrate the rite of passage, but in a different way. A simpler way. She said the celebration was called a baby shower in English. I had never heard the expression before she used it.

“All my friends throw a baby shower, Mom,” Setyaningsih said, trying to convince me.

“What’s the difference?” I said. “Besides, why do you have to be like your friends?”

My daughter hesitated for a moment, then said, “Mom, a mitoni is troublesome, complicated, and absurd.”

“That’s not true,” I said, hurt.

“Of course there is no mitoni over there in America. Every culture has its own traditions.” I looked at my daughter’s clean, smooth face. She was a beautiful woman. Prettier than me. Smarter than me. She had everything that a woman could want. With her money, she shaped her face and body any way she desired.

All of her shapings had made her so beautiful that I wasn’t sure if she really was Setyaningsih, my daughter. All her features seemed changed: the curve of the eyebrows, the shape of the lips, and the nose that had turned pointy. Nothing about her was mine or my husband’s.

I began to realize that change was easily made in this world. Everything would always change. Apart from death, there was no certainty. My daughter, Setyaningsih, had also changed. She was no longer the child I had raised and cared for so that she could grow into a Javanese woman who confidently took care of her own children.

Instead, it seemed that Setyaningsih was fascinated with a world different from her own. Setyaningsih now spoke a language her siblings did not use. She dressed like her friends, the straw-haired noni-noni, young women of Dutch descent.

Her husband was no different. Pramono, a successful businessman who lived mostly in a foreign country, started to have difficulty pronouncing words of our Javanese language. He followed his wife’s footsteps and said to me, “You don’t have to bother preparing for the celebration. Let us handle it ourselves.”

Of my seven daughters, Setyaningsih is the different one. Just as the old saying goes, nothing is perfect. I don’t blame her, especially considering her education that gave her the ability to think differently than most people. I just want her to be herself, a Javanese. To perform a ceremony that has been a tradition of our people for a long time is all I want. I am old and likely to die soon. Even though only God knows when that will happen, I just want — one more time — to feel how beautiful it is to bless my grandchildren, to hold a mitoni with relatives, neighbors, and children who are mischievous but loveable, while I still have time.

Eka Yuningsih has helped to convey all my wishes to Setyaningsih. Yuningsih told me to be patient. Setyaningsih had her own opinions and wanted to make her own plans. True to the spirit of her generation, she wanted to be like someone of another nation.

“Perhaps, your prayers are the most important,” Yuningsih said after she failed to persuade Setyaningsih to change her mind. She added, “Mom, if you continue to force the issue, you will get sick. You have to take care of your health, so you can watch your grandchildren grow.”

“Am I wrong for wanting to bless the womb of my own daughter? Say the prayer no one will hear again after my death?” I saw Yuningsih turn uncertain.

She quietly kissed my hand and said, “Mom, don’t say that.”

I’m sitting in the backyard of the house my husband left me, staring at the bare cotton tree a tree that loses its leaves in the dry season. Listening to a megatruh, a Javanese song that reminds me to be ready to meet the angel of death, I contemplate: Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I am some kind of a willful parent. Maybe I am imposing my own will too much on my children. A parent who is not in sync with the aspirations of the times, oblivious of what her children want. Hmm ….

Between the bare branches of the cotton tree, I see a clouded sky. My sadness is not only a result of me not getting my way. Or, maybe it is. I can’t pretend. But my sadness also comes from the knowledge that my death might mean the death of my ancestral heritage in its very own place of birth. The expiration of the blessings from heaven. Ah, I do hope it won’t. I still hope that Setyaningsih, my beautiful daughter, will come to her senses so I can for the last time bestow my blessings upon my children and grandchildren in this celebration before the angel of death comes to collect me. I do hope so.

*****

 

 

Kuli Kontrak

Mochtar Lubis is one of the prominent literary figures in Indonesia. He was born in Padang, West Sumatra on March 7, 1922 and died in Jakarta on July 2, 2004. His novels are Jalan Tak Ada Ujung (1952), Harimau! Harimau! (1975), and a short stories collection Perempuan (1956). His novel Maut dan Cinta (1977) was translated into English and published by Dalang Publishing into Love Death and Revolution (2015).

Published in December 2020. Translation copyright ©2020 by Novita Dewi.

 

 

 

Kuli Kontrak

 

Lampu-lampu di beranda dan kamar depan telah dipadamkan. Ayah sedang menulis di kamar kerjanya. Dan kami anak-anak berkumpul di kamar tidur ayah dan ibu, mendengarkan cerita ibu  sebelum kami disuruh tidur. Ibu bercerita tentang seorang pelesit, pemakan orang, yang dapat menukar- nukar tubuhnya dari manusia menjadi macan dan kemudian jadi manusia kembali, berganti-ganti.

Untuk mengenal pelesit itu orang harus melihat bandar bibirnya yang licin di bawah hidung, dan kalau dia berjalan maka tumitnya yang ke depan. Sungguh amat menakutkan dan mengasyikkan cerita ibu itu, dan kami duduk sekelilingnya berlindung dalam selimut; agak ketakutan, amat menyenangkan benar.

Sedang kami begitulah tiba-tiba terdengar ribut di luar rumah dan kemudian terdengar opas penjaga rumah kami berteriak-teriak memanggil ayah dari luar, “Inyik! Inyik!”

Kami semua terkejut.

Ibu berhenti bercerita.

Ayah terdengar bergegas membuka pintu kamar kantornya dan terus ke beranda.

“Aduh, ada lagi kampung yang perang, barangkali,” seru ibu.

Dan kami pun mengikutinya ke beranda.

Di masa itu ayah bekerja sebagai demang di Kerinci dan dalam tahun dua puluhan dan tiga puluhan itu keadaan daerah itu seperti di masa abad pertengahan saja. Karena soal pembagian air sawah, soal kerbau dan sebagainya, satu kampung lalu menyatakan perang kepada kampung yang lain. Senjata yang lazim dipakai dalam perang ini ialah batu sebesar telur ayam diayunkan ke arah musuh dengan tali-tali istimewa untuk pengayunkannya. Baru semingguan yang lalu ayah pergi ke Sungai Deras menghentikan perang semacam ini dan dia kena peluru batu kesasar yang merenggutkan topi helmnya dari kepalanya. Untunglah tidak tepat, kenanya. Hanya pening juga kepala ayah beberapa lama dibuatnya.

Baru setelah perkelahian dapat dihentikan oleh polisi dengan menembakkan senapan berkali-kali  ke udara dan kedua kepala  kampung dari desa yang berperang itu dipertemukan, dan mereka mendengar ayah nyaris kena lemparan batu mereka yang berperang, maka kepala-kepala  kampung itu meminta-minta maaf dan ampun, dan berkata bahwa mereka tidak bermaksud memerangi ayah sama sekali. Akhirnya karena menyesalnya mereka dengan batu yang menyasar itu, maka dengan mudah mereka menerima usul perdamaian ayah dan membagi air untuk sawah-sawah mereka dengan berdamai.

Ketika opas penjaga rumah berteriak-teriak memanggili ayah, hari hampir jam sembilan malam. Di bawah, beberapa orang polisi dengan komandannya berdiri, dan tidak terdengar olehku mula-mula apa katanya pada ayah. Kami segera juga disuruh masuk, oleh ayah, kembali.

Ayah masuk sebentar dan dengan cepat berpakaian. Dia mengenakan sepatu kulitnya yang panjang, mengenakan pistolnya di pinggangnya, topi helmnya, dan kemudian segera ke luar.

Tiada lama kemudian ibu masuk, dan berkata, “Nah, kini anak-anak semua, tidurlah. Ayah mesti pergi. Ada kuli kontrak lari.” Kelihatan ibu merasa cemas di hatinya.

Esok pagi kami dengar dari Abdullah, opas penjaga rumah bahwa ada lima kuli kontrak yang melarikan diri dari onderneming Kayu Aro, setelah menikam opzichter Belanda.

***

Ketika kami pulang sekolah jam 12 siang, ayah belum kembali juga. Ketika dekat magrib, ayah belum juga pulang. Ibu mulai cemas dan sebentar-sebentar dia ke depan melihat ke jalan. Beberapa  kali aku dengar ibu bercakap-cakap  dengan opas Abdullah, yang berkata supaya ibu jangan khawatir.

Ayah tiba ketika hari telah malam dan kami semua telah disuruh tidur. Aku dengar ayah bercakap-cakap dengan ibu sampai jauh malam dan kemudian rumah pun sunyilah.

Esoknya kami dengar bahwa kuli-kuli kontrak itu telah tertangkap semuanya dan telah dibawa ke penjara. Penjara terletak di bawah bukit kecil di belakang rumah kami. Dari kebun buah-buahan dan sayur di belakang rumah, jika kami naik pohon jeruk  yang  besar,  dapatlah  dilihat  lapangan  belakang  penjara,  tempat  orang hukuman dibariskan tiap hari atau diberi hukuman.

Dari kebun itulah terdengar suara orang gila yang ditahan dalam penjara, menyanyi-nyanyi atau memaki-maki. Mengapa di masa itu orang gila dimasukkan penjara dan tidak ke rumah sakit tidak jadi pertanyaan bagiku, waktu itu. Kadang- kadang asyik juga aku mendengarkan nyanyiannya yang beriba-iba, kemudian lantang mengeras, dan lebih hebat lagi jika telah mulai memaki-maki, amat sangat kotornya kata-katanya. Sungguh sedap selagi kecil itu dapat mendengar perkataan-perkataan yang terlarang demikian.

Kemudian ibu bercerita bahwa ayah dan polisi dapat menangkap tiga orang kuli kontrak yang melawan opzichter Belanda itu. Hanya tiga orang, tidak lima orang seperti diceritakannya semula. Mereka tertangkap dalam hutan tidak jauh dari onderneming, separuh kelaparan dan kedinginan dan penuh ketakutan. Mereka tiada melawan sama sekali. Dan ketika melihat ayah maka mereka segera datang menyerah dan berkata, “Pada kanjeng kami menyerahkan nasib dan memohon keadilan.”

Menurut ibu, yang didengarnya dari ayah, sebabnya terjadi penikaman terhadap opzichter Belanda itu karena opzichter itu selalu mengganggu istri mereka. Dan rupa-rupanya kuli-kuli kontrak itu sudah mata gelap dan tak dapat lagi menahan hati melihat opzichter itu mengganggu istri-istri mereka. Itulah maka mereka memutuskan ramai-ramai menyerang si opzichter.

“Tidak salah, mereka itu,” kata ibu yang rupanya merasa gusar sekali melihat kuli-kuli kontrak yang ditangkap itu. “Mestinya opzichter jahat itulah yang ditangkap,” tambah ibu.

“Mengapa tidak ditangkap, dia?” tanya kami anak-anak.

Ibu memandangi kami, dan berkata dengan suara yang lunak, “Karena yang berkuasa Belanda! Belanda tidak pernah salah.”

“Tetapi dia yang jahat,” kata kami mendesak ibu.

“Ibu tidak mengerti,” sahut ibu, “tapi jangan kamu tanya-tanya pada ayah tentang ini. Dia sudah marah-marah saja, sejak pulang dari onderneming.”

Ketika ayah pulang kantor dan setelah dia makan, maka kami semua dipanggil ke kamar kerjanya. Kelihatan muka ayah agak suram. Sesuatu yang berat menekan pikirannya. Setelah kami berkumpul, maka ayah berkata, “Tidak seorang yang boleh ke sana. Ayah larang anak-anak pergi ke kebun belakang. Ayah akan marah sekali pada siapa saja yang melanggar larangan ini.”

“Mengapa, ayah?” tanya kami.

“Turut saja perintah ayah!” sahut ayah dengan pendek.

Kami pun  mengerti. Jika ayah telah bersikap demikian tak ada gunanya membantah-bantah.  Tapi hati kami penuh macam-macam pertanyaan, Mengapa dilarang? Ada apa?

Segera juga ibu kami serbu, hingga akhimya untuk mendiamkan  kami ibu pun berkata bahwa esok hari ketiga kuli kontrak itu akan diberi hukuman. Sebelum perkaranya dibawa ke depan hakim maka mereka akan dilecuti, karena telah menyerang opzichter Belanda.

Kecut  hatiku  mendengar cerita  ibu. Rasanya badanku dingin menggigil. Dan setelah masuk kamar tidur, amat lama baru aku bisa tidur. Pikiranku terganggu mendengar kuli-kuli kontrak yang akan dilecuti esok pagi di penjara. Ketakutan berganti-ganti dengan nafsu hendak melihat betapa manusia melecut manusia dengan cemeti.

Pagi-pagi saudara-saudaraku yang harus ke sekolah telah berangkat. Dan kami yang belum bersekolah diberi tahu lagi oleh ayah dan ibu supaya jangan pergi ke kebun di belakang rumah kami.

Dari opas Abdullah kudengar mereka akan dilecut mulai jam sembilan pagi. Semakin dekat jam sembilan semakin resah dan gelisah rasa hatiku. Hasrat hatiku melihat mereka dilecut bertambah besar saja.

Ketika hari telah hampir lima menit menjelang jam sembilan hatiku tak dapat lagi kutahan, dan  sambil berteriak pada ibu bahwa aku pergi bermain ke rumah sebelah maka aku lari ke luar pekarangan di depan rumah, ke jalan besar, berlari terus memutar jalan ke jalan besar di belakang rumah, masuk pekarangan rumah sakit, terus berlari ke belakang rumah sakit yang berbatasan  dengan kebun di belakang rumah  kami, memanjat pagar kawat, meloncat ke dalam kebun, dan dengan napas terengah-engah memanjat pohon jeruk, hingga sampai ke dahan di atasnya tempat aku biasa duduk dan melihat-lihat ke bawah, ke pekarangan belakang rumah penjara.

Pekarangan itu ditutupi batu kerikil. Di tengah-tengahnya telah terpasang tiga buah bangku kayu. Sepasukan kecil polisi bersenjata senapan berdiri berbaris di sisi sebelah  kiri. Kemudian kulihat ayah  keluar dari gang menuju pekarangan di belakang penjara, di sebelahnya kontrolir orang Belanda, asisten wedana, polisi, dokter rumah sakit. Dan kemudian dari gang lain keluarlah tiga orang yang akan dilecuti itu. Mereka hanya memakai celana pendek dan tangan mereka diikat ke belakang, diiringi oleh kepala rumah penjara dan dua orang polisi.

Hatiku berdebar-debar, dan takut kembali meremasi perutku. Akan tetapi aku tak hendak  meninggalkan tempat persembunyianku. Aku hendak melihat juga apa yang akan terjadi.

Ketika kuli kontrak itu dibariskan dekat bangku-bangku kayu yang telah tersedia, mereka disuruh jongkok. Kepala rumah penjara kemudian membacakan sehelai surat. Dan aku lihat kontrolir mengangguk-angguk. Ayah berdiri tegang tidak bergerak-gerak. Kemudian ketiga kuli kontrak itu dibuka ikatan tangan mereka di belakang, ditidurkan telungkup di  atas perut  mereka di bangku, dan  kaki  dan tangan mereka diikatkan ke bangku.

Tiga orang mandor penjara kemudian maju ke depan, kira-kira 2 meter dari setiap bangku, di tangan mereka sehelai cemeti panjang yang hitam warnanya. Kemudian kepala penjara berseru, “Satu!”

Suaranya keras dan lantang. Tiga orang mandor penjara mulai mengayunkan tangan mereka ke belakang. Cemeti panjang berhelak ke udara seperti ular hitam yang hendak menyambar, mengerikan. Dan terdengarlah bunyi membelah udara, mendengung tajam; lalu bunyi cemeti melanggar daging manusia, yang segera disusuli jeritan kuli kontrak yang di tengah melonjakkan kepalanya ke belakang. Dari mulutnya yang ternganga itu keluarlah suara jeritan yang belum pernah aku dengar dijeritkan manusia: melengking tajam membelah udara, menusuk seluruh hatiku, dan membuat tubuhku seketika lemah-lunglai.

Karena amat sangat terpengaruh dengan apa yang kulihat, maka ketika hendak turun dan pohon aku salah meletakkan kakiku ke bawah dan menjerit terkejut, jatuh ke bawah amat sakitnya. Beberapa saat aku terhentak diam di tanah, dan kemudian aku menangis kesakitan. Opas Abdullah yang sedang berada di dapur datang ke belakang, melihat aku terbaring lalu cepat menggendongku ke rumah.

Sikuku amat sakitnya. Ibu memeriksanya dan berkata, “Sikumu  terkilir. Dan lalu ditambahnya,  “Ayah  akan  marah  sekali,  engkau melanggar perintahnya. Mengapa kau di kebun?”

Aku hanya menangis. Aku segera dibawa ke rumah sakit dan setelah manteri rumah sakit menarik tanganku, yang rasanya menambah sakit sikuku saja, dan kemudian tanganku diperban, aku disuruhnya tidur dan tidak boleh bermain-main.

Petangnya ayah pulang dari kantor. Aku ketakutan saja menunggunya. Setelah dia makan kudengar ibu bercakap-cakap dengan ayah. Tentu mengadukan aku, pikirku dengan takut.

Tak lama kemudian ayah datang melihat aku. Dia duduk di pinggir tempat tidur. Ditatapnya mukaku diam-diam, hingga aku pun terpaksa menundukkan mata.

“Engkau melihat semuanya?” tanya ayah.

“Ya. Aku salah. Ayah,” kataku dengan suara gemetar ketakutan.

Ayah pegang tanganku dan kemudian berkata dengan suara yang halus sekali, akan tetapi yang amat sungguh-sungguhnya,

“Jika engkau besar, jangan sekali-kali kau jadi pegawai negeri. Jadi pamong praja! Mengerti?”

“Ya, Ayah!” jawabku.

“Kau masih terlalu kecil untuk mengerti,” kata ayahku. “Sebab sebagai pegawai negeri orang harus banyak menjalankan pekerjaan yang sama sekali tak disetujuinya. Bahkan yang bertentangan dengan jiwanya. Untuk kepentingan orang yang berkuasa, maka sering pula yang haram menjadi halal, dan sebaliknya.”

Kelihatannya ayah hendak meneruskan pembicaraannya. Tetapi dia lalu berhenti dan cuma berkata, “Ah, tidurlah engkau!”

***

 

 

 

 

The Contract Coolies

Novita Dewi started writing poetry and short stories during her elementary and middle school days. She published in Si Kuncung and Bobo, children magazines, as well as wrote for the children’s columns featured in Kompas and Sinar Harapan (now Suara Pembaruan). She now nurtures her interest in literature by writing articles about literature and translation for scientific journals. Novita is widely published. The short stories translated and published by Dalang Publishing are her first attempts of literary translation.

She currently teaches English literature courses at Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Novita can be reached at novitadewi@usd.ac.id or novitadewi9@gmail.com.

 

 

The Contract Coolies

 

The lights on the porch and in the front room were turned off. Ayah, Father, was writing in his study. And we children were gathered in our parents’ bedroom, listening to Ibu, Mother, tell us a bedtime story. Ibu told us about a pelesit, man-eater, who could transform from a human into a tiger.

To recognize a pelesit, Ibu said, look for a shallow groove at the center of his clean-shaven, upper lip; and when he walks, his heels point forward.

Ibu’s story was very frightening yet thrilling, and we, wrapped in a blanket, huddled around her, slightly scared, enormously enthralled.

All of a sudden, there was a noise outside the house, followed by our opas, gatekeeper, calling for Ayah. “Sir! Master!”

We were all startled.

Ibu stopped telling her story.

We heard Ayah open his office door and hurry to the porch.

“Oh, dear, perhaps there’s war again in one of the villages,” Ibu exclaimed.

And we followed her to the porch.

In those days, my father worked as a demang, district head, for the Kerinci Regency, in Jambi Province, Sumatra; and in the 1920s and 1930s, conditions there were like those in the Middle Ages. Simple issues, such as the distribution of irrigation water for rice fields, problems regarding buffaloes, etc., could cause villages to declare war on one another.

The weapons most commonly used in these wars were slings made with special ropes to hold stones as big as chicken eggs. The sling was swung in an arc, releasing the stone with high-velocity force at the enemy.

Just a week ago, when my father went to the Deras River to stop a war there, a stray stone hit his helmet. Luckily, it was just a scrape. But, it still gave Ayah a headache for several days.

The war at Deras River ended only after police fired their rifles many times into the air, and the two leaders from the warring villages were brought together. After hearing that one of their stones had hit Ayah’s helmet, the village heads apologized, saying that they did not intend to hurt Ayah at all, and they asked his forgiveness. Because they were deeply sorry about the errant stone, both village heads quickly accepted Ayah’s proposed solution and peacefully divided the water for their fields.

When Abdullah the gatekeeper called out for my father that night, it was almost nine o’clock. Several police officers and their commander stood in the yard outside the house. I couldn’t hear what the commander told my father, because Ayah immediately sent Ibu and us children back inside.

When Ayah came back in, he quickly dressed. He pulled on his leather boots, strapped his gun to his waist, put on his helmet, and then left.

Not long after, Ibu came into our bedroom, looking worried. “Well, all of you go to sleep now. Your father left. Some contract coolies, laborers, ran away.”

The next morning, Abdullah the gatekeeper told us that five contract coolies had fled from the Kayu Aro onderneming, plantation, after stabbing a Dutch opzichter, supervisor.

***

When we came home from school at noon that day, my father had still not returned. By twilight, he had still not come home.

Ibu began to worry, and she kept going outside to look down the street. Several times, I heard Ibu talking to Abdullah, who kept telling her not to worry.

Ayah arrived late that night, after we children had been told to go to sleep. I heard him and my mother talking deep into the night, and then the house was quiet.

The next day, we heard that all the contract coolies had been caught and jailed.

The prison was located at the foot of a small hill behind our house. If we climbed up the large orange tree in the fruit and vegetable garden behind our house, we could see the prison yard, where, every day, prisoners were punished.

From our garden, we could hear the singing and cursing of imprisoned lunatics. At that time, I didn’t question why insane people were put in prison instead of an asylum. Sometimes I eagerly listened to their soulful singing, which became louder when they started cursing. For me, as a young child, hearing such forbidden words was delightful.

Ibu said that Ayah and the police had arrested the three contract coolies who had taken a stand against the Dutch supervisor. There were only three contract coolies, not five, as we had been told earlier. They were caught in a forest, not far from the plantation, hungry, cold, and filled with fear. They did not put up any fight. When they saw Ayah, they immediately surrendered and said, “To you, kanjeng, sir, we surrender our fate and beg for justice.”

Ibu said that Ayah told her that the coolies had stabbed the Dutch opzichter because he was always harassing their wives. Apparently, the contract coolies had gone berserk when they could no longer bear to watch the opzichter torment their wives.

“The contract coolies are not wrong,” Ibu fumed. “Instead, they should have arrested that evil opzichter.” Ibu was furious about the coolies’ arrest.

“Why was the Dutch opzichter not arrested?” we asked.

Ibu looked at us and said softly, “The Netherlands has the power. The Dutch are never wrong.”

“But he is the evil one,” we insisted.

“I don’t understand,” said Ibu, “but don’t ask your father about this. He has been in a bad mood since he came home from the plantation.”

After Ayah finished his dinner, he called all of us to his office. Ayah looked gloomy. Something heavy weighed on him, making him depressed. After we gathered, Ayah said, “No one is allowed to go into the backyard. I forbid all of you to go there. I will be very angry with anyone who violates this prohibition.”

“Why, Ayah?” we asked.

“Just follow my orders!” Ayah said shortly.

We understood. When Ayah behaved like that, there was no point in arguing. But our heads were full of questions: Why was it prohibited? What was wrong?

We immediately pestered Ibu with our questions.

She finally silenced us by saying that the three contract coolies would be punished the next morning. Even before the case was brought before a judge, they would be whipped for attacking the Dutch opzichter.

I was saddened to hear this. Shivering, I went to my bedroom. For quite some time, I couldn’t sleep. Hearing that the contract coolies would be flogged the next morning made me toss and turn. Fear alternated with an intense curiosity to see how humans lashed other humans with whips.

The next morning, my older brothers left early for school. The rest of us, who were not yet old enough to attend school, were reminded not to go to the garden behind our house.

I heard from Opas Abdullah that the whipping would start at nine o’clock. The closer the time came, the more restless and uneasy I became. I anxiously waited to watch the lashing.

At five minutes to nine, I could no longer restrain myself. I yelled to Ibu that I was going to play next door, then I ran through the front yard and onto a big road. I continued to run on the big road as it wound behind my house. There, I entered the prison’s hospital grounds.

The hospital backed up to the garden behind our house.

I climbed the wire fence that separated the hospital grounds from our garden and jumped into our backyard. Panting, I climbed the orange tree until I reached the branch where I always sat to look down into the prison yard.

The prison yard was covered with gravel. Three wooden benches had been placed in the center.

A small group of police, armed with rifles, was lined up on the left side of the yard.

I saw Ayah walk out of the alley that ran behind the prison toward the prison yard.

A Dutch controller, the district chief assistant, a police officer, and a physician from the hospital were with him.

Then the three contract coolies appeared from another alley. They only wore shorts and had their hands tied behind them. They were accompanied by the warden and three prison guards.

My heart was pounding and fear squeezed my stomach. But I did not want to leave my hiding place. I was too eager to see what would happen.

The contract coolies were told to line up near the wooden benches. The warden then read a document.

I watched the controller nod.

Ayah stood silently, straight and rigid.

The hands of the three contract coolies were untied. The men were each placed on a bench, lying on their stomachs face down, then tied to the bench by their legs and arms.

Three prison guards, each holding a black whip, then came forward. They halted about six feet from each bench.

The warden bellowed, “One!”

The prison guards swung their arms backward. The long whip snapped into the air like a black snake about to grab its prey. It was terrifying. A sound split the air, buzzing sharply; then came the sound of the whip ripping human flesh, immediately followed by the coolies’ screams as they jerked their heads back. From their open mouths came screams that I had never heard before: the sharp, shrill screams filled the air, penetrated my whole heart, and instantly weakened me.

I was so much affected by what I saw that I missed my step as I climbed down the tree. Startled, I yelled and fell down very hard. For a moment, I lay gasping on the ground, then cried out in pain.

Opas Abdullah, who was in the kitchen, came to the backyard and found me lying on the ground.  He quickly carried me to the house.

My elbow hurt badly.

Ibu examined it and said, “Your elbow is dislocated.” She added, “Ayah will be very angry; you violated his orders. Why were you in the garden?”

I just cried. Ibu took me to the hospital.

The hospital’s doctor pulled my hand to relocate my elbow, which only added to my pain. After he bandaged my arm, he told me to rest and not to play.

My father came home from work in the afternoon.

Afraid, I just waited for him. After he ate, I heard Ibu talking to him. I feared she was telling him about what had happened.

Shortly afterwards, Ayah came to see me. He sat down on the edge of the bed. He quietly looked at me, so I was forced to lower my eyes.

“Did you see everything?” Ayah asked.

“Yes. I did wrong, Ayah.” My voice trembled with fear.

Father took my hand and then softly but firmly said, “When you grow up, don’t ever become a civil servant. No civil service! Understand?”

“Yes, Yah!” I replied.

“You’re still too young to understand,” my father said. “People who are civil servants are forced to do many things they don’t approve of at all. Even if it goes against all their personal morals. For the benefit of those in power, what is otherwise sinful becomes lawful and vice versa.”

Ayah paused. It seemed he still had something to say. But finally, he only said, “Ah, nevermind. Go to sleep.”

***

Tukang Cukur

Budi Darma is an Indonesian novelist, essayist, and short-story writer. He is often cited as an absurdist writer. His novel Olenka (Balai Pustaka, 1980) won the 1980 Jakarta Art Council Prize. Other novels are Rafilus (Balai Pustaka, 1988) and Ny. Talis: Kisah mengenai Madras (PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama, 1996). Harmonium (Pustaka Pelajar, 1995) is his book of literary criticism. “Mata yang Indah (Beautiful Eyes)” was included in his short story collection, Kritikus Adinan (Bentang Budaya, 2002). Currently, Budi Darma is a professor of English literature at the Surabaya National University in Indonesia.

Published in October 2020. Copyright ©2020 by Budi Darma. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2020 by Novita Dewi.

 

 

Tukang Cukur

 

Gito, anak Getas Pejaten, kawasan pinggiran kota Kudus, setiap hari, kecuali Minggu dan hari libur, berjalan kaki pergi pulang hampir empat belas kilo, ke sekolahnya, sekolah dasar di Jalan Daendels. Karena banyak jalan menuju ke sekolahnya, Gito bisa memilih jalan mana yang paling disukainya. Kalau perlu, dia juga lewat jalan-jalan kecil yang lebih jauh, untuk menyenangkan hatinya.

Seperti anak-anak lain, Gito sehari hanya makan satu kali, setelah pulang sekolah. Juga seperti anak-anak lain, Gito tidak mempunyai sandal, apa lagi sepatu. Guru-guru pun bertelanjang kaki. Kalau ada guru memakai sepatu, atau sandal, pasti sepatu atau sandalnya sudah reyot.

Pakaian Gito, demikian juga pakaian teman-temannya, serba compang-camping, penuh tambalan, demikian pula pakaian para guru. Semua pakaian sudah luntur warnanya, dan kalau diwenter warnanya bisa tampak agak cerah, tapi dalam waktu singkat luntur lagi.

Gito tahu cara menangkal kelaparan. Kalau mau, dia bisa menangkap ikan di sungai tidak jauh dari rumahnya.  Pada waktu pulang dari sekolah, kadang-kadang Gito lewat Pasar Johar, tidak jauh dari setasiun jurusan Pati, Juana, Rembang, dan jurusan Pecangakan, Jepara. Di pasar itu dia bisa memunguti remah-remah gula jawa, gula yang bermanfaat untuk melawan rasa lapar.

Tidak jauh dari rumahnya ada pabrik bungkil kacang tanah, untuk pakan ternak. Kadang-kadang Gito juga memunguti remah-remah bungkil kacang tanah, meskipun dia tahu bungkil kacang tanah bisa menyebabkan sakit perut dan gondongen, leher bisa membengkak sampai besar.

Di rumah, kalau beras padi habis, ayah, ibu, dan Gito, satu-satunya anak ayah dan ibunya, makan beras jagung, dan kalau beras jagung habis, mereka makan ketela pohung.

Pada suatu hari, ketika  pulang dan melewati kedai gulai kambing kakek Leman, seorang laki-laki tua yang selalu memakai udeng Jawa di kepalanya, Gito dipanggil oleh kakek Leman. Gito diberi makan, lalu, seperti biasa, disuruh membersihkan rumput di pekarangan belakang kedai.

Kakek Leman bertanya: “’t tukang cukur di bawah pohon cemara?”

Kakek Leman membuka udengnya, lalu memutar tubuhnya, kemudian berkata: “Lihat ini,” sambil meminggirkan rambutnya.

Tampak bekas luka, bukan luka biasa, tapi agak dalam.

Kakek Leman bercerita, tanpa diketahui dari mana asal-usulnya, tiba-tiba pada suatu hari ada tukang cukur di bawah pohon cemara dekat simpang tiga jalan yang menghubungkan jalan Setasiun dengan jalan Bitingan. Beberapa langganan kakek Leman, kata kakek Leman, juga heran mengapa tiba-tiba ada tukang cukur di situ.

Di antara lima pelanggan kakek Leman yang pernah dicukur di situ, tiga orang telah dilukai kepalanya. Tukang cukur selalu meminta maaf, katanya tanpa sengaja, tapi semua korban yakin, tukang cukur itu memang sengaja melukai mereka.

Tukang cukur berkata, kata langganan kakek Leman, tukang cukur adalah pekerjaan yang paling mulia. Hanya tukang cukurlah yang berhak memegang-megang kepala orang lain. Kalau bukan tukang cukur, pasti orang yang dipegang kepalanya merasa dihina, dan marah.

Keesokan harinya ada sesuatu yang baru, yaitu kedatangan seorang guru baru bernama Dasuki, kabarnya datang dari sebuah kota besar, entah mana. Sekolah Gito mempunyai enam klas, mulai dari klas satu sampai dengan klas enam. Jumlah guru ada delapan, terdiri atas enam guru klas, satu wakil kepala sekolah, dan satu kepala sekolah.  Kalau ada guru berhalangan, mereka menggantikan guru yang berhalangan datang. Karena semua guru datang, Dasuki masuk ke semua klas, dan guru klas yang dimasuki klasnya harus ikut pelajaran Dasuki.

Dasuki terus menekankan, negara yang paling hebat di dunia adalah Rusia. Semua kota dan desa di Rusia serba bersih, semua penduduknya bahagia, makan enak-enak sampai kenyang.

“Lihat dokar itu,” kata Dasuki sambil mengacungkan tangannya ke arah jalan Daendels. “Lha, itu dia, kudanya kencing dan  berak sambil lari. Kotor. Di Rusia, semuanya sudah diatur dengan cermat. Tidak mungkin ada kuda kencing dan berak seperti di sini.”

Lalu, Dasuki menyambung ceritanya dengan kehebatan-kehebatan lain Rusia.

Banyak murid yang terkagum-kagum, mulutnya agak menganga. Ada juga guru yang kagum, ada juga guru yang tersenyum-senyum tidak enak.

Hanya beberapa minggu saja Dasuki mengajar, sesudah itu dia pergi dan tidak pernah kembali.

Pada suatu hari, dalam perjalanan pulang, Gito sengaja melewati jalan yang banyak pohon cemaranya. Dari kejauhan tampak tukang cukur itu sedang berbicara sendiri, nadanya memaki-maki. Begitu melihat Gito, tukang cukur memanggil Gito.

“Sini kamu,” kata tukang cukur. “Saya cukur.”

Tukang cukur berjalan mendekati, Gito berhenti seperti patung, tapi begitu tukang cukur sudah dekat, Gito lari kencang dengan kekuatan penuh.

Tukang cukur mula-mula ingin mengejar, tapi kemudian berhenti, sambil memaki-maki.

Akhir bulan September 1948 datang, dan di mana-mana terasa suasana panas dan serba mengancam. Banyak tentara memakai duk merah berdatangan, entah dari mana. Kata orang, itulah tentara PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia). Mereka berkeliaran, masuk keluar kampung, dan kebanyakan bergerombol di daerah sandulok (=pelacur), di pinggir kota sebelah timur. Kemudian, beberapa kali, selama dua puluh empat jam, terdengar tembakan-tembakan.

Makin hari makin banyak cerita mengenai orang hilang, orang dibunuh, dan macam-macam lagi yang kurang jelas.

Mata uang Republik Indonesia dinyatakan tidak berlaku, diganti dengan mata uang Pemerintah Komunis, mirip kupon. Harga semua barang makin melompat-lompat.

Pada suatu siang, ada pemandangan yang menakjubkan: tukang cukur berpakaian tentara, memakai duk merah, menenteng senjata, beserta dengan beberapa tentara lain masuk ke daerah di belakang rumah sakit, didahului oleh beberapa orang yang tangannya diikat.

Diam-diam Gito mengikuti mereka. Ketika sampai lapangan terbuka, mereka berhenti, dan Gito bersembunyi di balik semak-semak. Gito menyaksikan, orang-orang yang diikat tangannya digertak-gertak oleh tukang cukur dan teman-temannya, disuruh berdiri rapi, kemudian diberondong dengan serangkaian tembakan.

Keadaan makin gawat. Listrik tidak pernah menyala lagi. Tembakan-tembakan kadang-kadang terdengar, selama dua puluh empat jam sehari.

Keadaan menjadi lebih gawat, ketika pasukan Siliwangi yang khusus didatangkan dari Jawa Barat, masuk ke kota Kudus, untuk membersihkan pasukan PKI. Dalam berbagai pertempuran kecil-kecilan, beberapa tentara PKI berhasil melarikan diri. Sebagian lain ditangkap, dan beberapa tokohnya diarak ke alun-alun, dibawa ke bawah pohon beringin, kemudian ditembak. Gito datang dan melihat pemandangan yang sukar dipercaya: tukang cukur, berpakain preman, tidak lagi memakai pakaian tentara PKI, memberi perintah kepada orang-orang yang akan dihukum mati untuk berdiri dengan tegap dan rapi, kemudian melilitkan kain ke wajah-wajah mereka supaya mereka tidak bisa melihat regu penembak.

Beberapa kali hukuman tembak mati oleh pasukan Siliwangi dilakukan di alun-alun, dan semua orang boleh menyaksikan. Gito tahu, tentara PKI membunuh dengan diam-diam dan serba rahasia, tidak seperti pasukan Siliwangi. Dalam beberapa peristiwa hukuman mati itu tukang cukur tampak mondar-mandir dengan sikap gagah.

Kabar tidak jelas beredar, pada suatu hari tukang cukur itu dihajar oleh tentara Siliwangi, dengan tuduhan, dia membuat daftar orang-orang yang dibencinya untuk dihukum mati, tanpa bukti.

Hari demi hari berjalan terus, makin lama suasana makin mencekam, dan akhirnya, bulan Desember 1948 tiba. Pasukan Siliwangi telah meninggalkan Kudus, mengejar tentara-tentara PKI yang terus terdesak ke timur sampai Pati, Juana, Rembang, melebar ke Cepu, dan Blora.

Setelah Kudus ditinggal oleh pasukan Siliwangi, pada suatu hari, ketika fajar hampir tiba, seluruh kota Kudus terasa bergetar-getar, langit dilalui pesawat cocor merah yang terbang sangat rendah, datang dan pergi, datang dan pergi lagi. Pesawat cocor merah, itulah pesaswat kebanggaan Belanda. Begitu matahari terbit, pesawat-pesawat cocor merah mulai menyapu kota Kudus dengan tembakan-tembakan dahsyat. Peluru-peluru berat mendesing di sana sini. Jenasah bergelimpangan di sana sini pula. Beberapa bagian Getas Pejaten juga dihujani peluru, tapi hanya tempat-tempat tertentu. Kemudian, rumah Gito juga terhantam beberapa peluru.

Ayah Gito segera mengajak Gito dan ibunya lari dari pintu belakang, menyeberang jalan, masuk ke sebuah gang yang berliku-liku, mengungsi ke rumah pak Ruslan, sahabat ayah Gito.

Keluarga Ruslan menyambut mereka dengan baik, memberi mereka karet tebal untuk digigit kalau ada bom meledak, dan juga penutup kuping.

Mereka bertahan di tempat perlindungan bawah tanah hampir dua hari, tanpa makan. Ruslan membagikan pil untuk membuat perut kenyang.

Akhirnya, sekitar jam tiga siang, tank-tank Belanda, diikuti banyak panser, dan tentara-berlari-lari kecil, memasuki kota Kudus dari arah kota Demak. Kota Kudus dan seluruh daerah di pinggirannya resmi diduduki pasukan Belanda.

Selama hampir satu minggu Kudus bagaikan kota mati. Keluarga Ruslan meninggalkan rumahnya, entah pergi ke mana. Tentara-tentara Belanda masuk ke kampung-kampung, menangkap semua pemuda yang dicurigai, lalu dibawa entah ke mana.

Setelah keadaan tenang, Gito mulai sekolah, dan seperti biasa, dia berjalan kaki, makan hanya sekali sehari, dan kadang-kadang, waktu pulang, memilih jalan dan gang-gang yang berbeda-beda.

Pada suatu hari, ketika Gito pulang, ada sebuah jeep berjalan perlahan-lahan di jalan Bitingan, lalu dengan sigap Gito meloncat ke selokan, bersembunyi. Di dalam jeep ada dua orang berpakaian tentara Belanda, yaitu tukang cukur bertindak sebagai sopir, dan Ruslan duduk di sebelahnya.

Hampir setiap malam ada tembak-menembak: gerilyawan pejuang Indonesia masuk kota.

Hari demi hari berjalan terus, sampai akhirnya, Gito masuk ke SMP tidak jauh dari alun-alun.

Pada bulan Desember 1949, semua tentara Belanda ditarik, dan masuklah tentara Indonesia dari sekian banyak markas daruratnya, kebanyakan di daerah Gunung Muria. Gito mendengar, penarikan tentara Belanda adalah hasil Konferensi Meja Bundar di Belanda, antara wakil Indonesia dan wakil Belanda. Pasukan Belanda harus meninggalkan Indonesia, kecuali Irian Barat (sekarang Papua).

Tukang cukur dan Ruslan hilang tanpa jejak.

Ketika Gito sudah naik ke klas dua, suasana Kudus tegang lagi. Sekian banyak tentara yang tidak dikenal, semua mengenakan duk hijau  dan membawa senapan, berkeliaran di seluruh bagian kota. Seperti dulu, banyak di antara mereka menggerombol di kawasan sandulok.

Suasana makin hari makin muram, sampai akhirnya, sekitar jam satu malam, Gito terbangun mendengar tembakan tanpa henti tidak jauh dari rumah. Sekitar jam enam pagi suasana menjadi betul-betul senyap.

Tersebarlah berita, pertempuran hebat di bekas pabrik rokok Nitisemito, tidak jauh dari rumah Gito, telah berakhir. Sebagian tentara liar terjebak di bekas pabrik, dan sebagian melarikan diri, kemungkinan menuju ke arah gunung Merapi dan Merbabu. Gito baru tahu, tentara liar itu dikenal sebagai tentara NII (Negara Islam Indonesia), dan akan menjatuhkan pemerintah Indonesia, menjadikan Indonesia sebagai Negara Islam.

Ketika Gito tiba di bekas pabrik rokok, sudah banyak orang berkerumun di sana. Semua mayat tentara yang terjebak di pabrik sudah diangkut keluar, dibaringkan di pinggir jalan. Salah satu mayat itu tidak lain dan tidak bukan adalah tukang cukur.

***

The Barber

Novita Dewi started writing poetry and short stories during her elementary and middle school days. She published in Si Kuncung and Bobo, children magazines, as well as wrote for the children’s columns featured in Kompas and Sinar Harapan (now Suara Pembaruan). She now nurtures her interest in literature by writing articles about literature and translation for scientific journals. Novita is widely published. The short stories translated and published by Dalang Publishing are her first attempts of literary translation.

She currently teaches English literature courses at Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Novita can be reached at novitadewi@usd.ac.id or novitadewi9@gmail.com.

 

 

The Barber

 

Every day, except Sundays and holidays, Gito, a child from Getas Pejaten, a suburb of Kudus, walked almost nine miles to an elementary school on Daendels Street. There were many footpaths leading to the school, so Gito could choose the route he liked most. If he felt like it, he could even choose alleys that were farther away.

Like every other child, Gito only ate one meal a day, after school. Also, like other children, Gito did not have any sandals, let alone shoes. Even the teachers were barefooted. If any of them wore shoes or sandals, their footwear was worn.

Gito’s clothes, as well as those of his friends, were shabby and covered with patches. The same was true for the teachers’ clothes. The colors were faded. Even the dyed colors — though slightly bright at first — faded away in a short time.

Gito knew how to ward off hunger. He could go fishing in the river near his house. And sometimes, when walking home from school, Gito passed the Johar market, which was not far from the train stations going to Pati, Juana, Rembang, Pecangakan, and Jepara. In that market, he could scavenge bits of brown sugar, the kind of sugar useful to fight his hunger.

Not far from his house was a peanut meal factory that produced animal feed. Sometimes Gito picked up the peanut meal crumbs, even though he’d been told that peanut meal could cause stomachaches and the mumps, which caused big swellings in the neck.

At home, after they finished the rice, Father, Mother, and Gito, who was an only child,  ate corn rice, and when they ran out of the corn rice, they ate cassava.

One day, on his way home, Gito passed Grandpa Leman’s goat curry stall. The old man, who always wore a Javanese udeng, headdress, called out to him. He gave Gito some food, then, as usual, told him to cut the grass in the plot behind the stall.

Grandpa Leman asked, “Gito, did you see a barber under a pine tree?”

Turning around, Grandpa Leman took off his udeng and, parting his hair, said, “Look at this!”

There were deep scars on his scalp.

According to Grandpa Leman’s story, one day, out of the blue, a barber appeared under one of the pine trees near the three-way intersection that connected Station Road with Bitingan Road. No one knew where he came from. Some of his customers, Grandpa Leman said, also wondered why there was suddenly a barber there.

Five of Grandpa Leman’s customers had their hair cut there; three of them came away with head injuries. The barber always apologized, saying it was an accident, but all the harmed patrons were convinced that the barber had deliberately injured them.

According to Grandpa Leman, the barber claimed that his profession was the noblest job. Only a barber had the right to touch the head of another person. Anyone whose head was touched by someone other than a barber would surely feel insulted and angry.

The next day at Gito’s school, something new happened: A new teacher named Dasuki arrived. He reportedly came from a big city. Gito’s school was comprised of six grades. There were eight teachers total: six classroom teachers, one vice principal, and one principal.  The principal substituted when a teacher was unable to come to work. But on that day, because all the teachers were present, Dasuki visited each classroom, and the teacher had to allow Dasuki to teach his lesson.

Dasuki emphasized that Russia was the most powerful country in the world. All cities and villages in Russia were clean, and all the inhabitants were happy and ate until they had their fill.

“Look at that buggy,” said Dasuki, pointing toward the Daendels Road. “Look! The horse is urinating and defecating while moving along. How dirty. In Russia, everything is carefully managed. There won’t be any horses urinating and defecating like you see here.”

Then, Dasuki continued talking about the other greatnesses of Russia.

Many students dropped their jaws in amazement. Some teachers were perplexed, others smiled uneasily.

Dasuki only taught for a week. He left thereafter and never returned.

One day, on his way home, Gito purposefully passed the road lined with pine trees. From a distance, he heard the barber loudly talking to himself. As soon as the barber saw Gito, he called to him.

“Come here,” said the barber. “I’ll give you a shave.”

As the barber approached him, Gito froze, but as soon as the barber got near, Gito sprinted away in full force.

The barber chased Gito, but then halted, cursing.

By the end of September 1948, it was hot everywhere and the atmosphere felt threatening. Many soldiers, wearing red headbands, appeared out of nowhere. People said they were the PKI — Indonesian Communist Party — army. They wandered around the village and mostly clustered in the sandulok, prostitutes’ red-light district, at the edge of the eastern part of the city.

Then, shots were heard. The shooting lasted twenty-four hours.

The number of stories about people gone missing, being killed, and other obscure incidents, escalated daily.

The currency of the Republic of Indonesia was declared worthless. It was replaced with a currency, issued by the Communist Government, that looked like a coupon. The prices of all goods were fluctuating.

One afternoon, there was a mystifying sight. Dressed in an army uniform and wearing his red headband, the barber, along with several other armed soldiers, entered the area behind the hospital. They were herding several people whose hands were tied like prisoners.

Gito secretly followed them. When they arrived at the open field, they stopped, and Gito hid behind the bushes. He watched, as the people whose hands were tied were tormented by the barber and his friends. The people were told to line up, then were gunned down.

The situation worsened. Electricity had gone out. Sometimes, shots were heard for twenty-four hours a day.

Tensions became even more serious when the Siliwangi troops, who were specially brought in from West Java, entered Kudus to clear PKI forces.

Several PKI soldiers managed to flee during the skirmishes.

Others were arrested. Some PKI leaders were paraded to the town square and shot under the banyan tree.

When Gito arrived at the town square, he could not believe his eyes. The barber no longer wore a PKI army uniform. Dressed in plain clothes, the barber ordered the PKI leaders to straighten up. Then the barber blindfolded them.

Again and again, the Siliwangi forces carried out the death penalty in the square. Everyone was allowed to watch.

Gito knew that, unlike the Siliwangi forces, the PKI army had done its killing in secret. During several executions, the barber was seen walking arrogantly back and forth.

According to rumors, the barber was beaten by the Siliwangi army, one day. He was accused of having made a list of people he disliked and having those people sentenced to death without proof.

Day after day, the killings continued, the atmosphere becoming more and more tense. Finally, in December 1948, the Siliwangi troops left Kudus to chase after the PKI soldiers, who were continuing to advance eastward to Pati, Juana, and Rembang, before moving on to Cepu, and Blora.

One day, after the Siliwangi forces had left Kudus, the entire city trembled. Just before the dawn, red-nosed P-51D Mustang fighter planes filled the sky. They flew very low, repeatedly flying back and forth. The red-nosed planes were the pride of the Netherlands. As soon as the sun rose, the planes bombed Kudus heavily. The whistle of hand grenades and artillery fire could be heard far and wide. Dead bodies lay scattered here and there. Parts of Getas Pejaten were also bombed. Gito’s house was hit by several bullets.

Gito’s father immediately told him and his mother to run out the back door. They crossed the road and, running through a winding alley, fled to Ruslan’s house. Ruslan was Gito’s father’s best friend.

Ruslan’s family welcomed them. They gave them earplugs and a thick piece of rubber to bite on should a bomb explode nearby.

They stayed in the underground shelter for almost two days without food. Ruslan handed out pills that stilled their hunger.

Finally, around three o’clock in the afternoon on the second day, Dutch tanks, followed by many armored vehicles and foot soldiers, entered Kudus from the direction of Demak. Kudus and the entire surrounding area was now officially occupied by Dutch forces.

For almost a week, Kudus was like a dead city. Ruslan’s family left their house; no one knew where they went.

The Dutch soldiers entered the villages and arrested all the young men who they suspected of being members of the Siliwangi army. The soldiers took their prisoners somewhere unknown.

After the situation had calmed down, Gito went back to school. As usual, he walked to school, ate only once a day, and sometimes chose different paths and alleys for his walk home.

One day, when Gito was on his way home, a jeep turned slowly onto Bitingan Road. Gito swiftly jumped into the ditch to hide. The two men in the jeep, dressed in Dutch army uniforms, were the barber, who drove, and Ruslan.

Skirmishes began occurring almost every night when the Indonesian guerrilla fighters entered the city. These conflicts continued day after day until Gito entered middle school, not far from the town square.

In December 1949, all Dutch troops withdrew, and Indonesian soldiers emerged from their many emergency headquarters, which were mostly in the Muria Mountain area.

Gito heard that the withdrawal of the Dutch army was the result of the Round Table Conference, held between Indonesian and Dutch representatives, in the Netherlands. Except for West Irian — now Papua — Dutch troops had to leave Indonesia.

The barber and Ruslan disappeared without a trace.

When Gito graduated to the second year of middle school, the atmosphere in Kudus tensed again. Many unidentifiable soldiers, all wearing a green headband and carrying guns, roamed through the city. Like before, many of them congregated in the red-light district.

The atmosphere grew increasingly gloomy. Then, very early one morning, around one o’clock, continuous artillery fire awakened Gito. Around six o’clock that morning, a deep silence fell over the city.

News spread that the heavy fighting in the former Nitisemito cigarette factory, not far from Gito’s house, was over. Some of the militia were trapped in the former factory, and some fled, possibly heading towards Mount Merapi and Merbabu. Gito found out that the militia was known as the NII (Indonesian Islamic State) army.  They intended to overthrow the Indonesian government and turn Indonesia into an Islamic State.

When Gito arrived at the former cigarette factory, many people were already gathered there. The bodies of the soldiers trapped in the factory had been carried out of the building and laid on the side of the road. One of the bodies was none other than that of the barber.

 

*****

 

 

.

Bupati di Tengah Kemelut

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.

 

Read some of his essays and book reviews at:

http://onisur.wordpress.com and http://semuareview.wordpress.com

He can be reached at oni.suryaman@gmail.com.

Published in August 2020. Copyright ©2020 by Oni Suryaman. Published with permission from the author.

 

 

 

Bupati di Tengah Kemelut

 

Purwodadi, Oktober 1901

Waktu mendekati tengah malam, langit tidak berbulan. Soeroto berjongkok di antara batang-batang tebu mengawasi rumah penjaga perkebunan tebu di pinggir ladang. Tiba-tiba tak jauh dari tempatnya terlihat sosok belasan orang mengendap-ngendap mendekat dari arah utara, yang bersebelahan dengan hutan. Gerombolan ini membawa parang dan kapak.

Soeroto sudah mengikuti gerak-gerak kawanan ini sejak beberapa hari yang lalu. Dia mendapatkan kabar burung bahwa akan ada perampokan uang gaji perkebunan tebu. Dia mendekat dengan hati-hati.

Kawanan perampok ini mendekati rumah tersebut, lalu menyebar mengitari rumah, menjagai jalan keluar lewat pintu maupun jendela. Tidak lama kemudian, seorang bertubuh gempal yang sepertinya adalah pemimpin gerombolan ini, mengetuk pintu depan rumah.

Soeroto menggeser tempat sembunyinya supaya bisa melihat lebih jelas.

Ketukan yang makin lama terdengar semakin keras bahkan kasar dan sepertinya membangunkan penghuni rumah.

Kabar burung tentang perampokan rumah orang-orang kaya dan pabrik gula ternyata benar. Masalah seperti ini bisa memperburuk kemelut antara Raden Mas Adipati Brotodiningrat, tuannya, dengan Residen Donner. Residen Donner pasti menuduh tuannya ada dibalik semua kejadian ini.

“Siapa di luar? Ada apa mengetuk pintu malam-malam?” terdengar suara Sarmin, penjaga kebun.

“Ada uang 400 gulden di dalam rumah ini. Menyerahlah, sebelum pintu rumah saya dobrak!” teriak kepala para perampok itu.

“Kau sendirian, berani-beraninya merampok rumahku. Aku Sarmin, penjaga kebun tebu, jago daerah ini!”

Sementara itu Soeroto menimbang semua kejadian dalam jarak aman. Sarmin mungkin bisa mengalahkan kepala rampok ini bila bertarung satu lawan satu, tetapi tidak mungkin menang melawan belasan orang sekaligus. Soeroto menghitung jumlah kawanan perampok ini, lalu memutuskan lebih baik untuk tidak campur tangan.

Sarmin mendorong pintunya terbuka dengan kuat dan hampir saja menjungkirkan sang perampok itu.

Namun dengan cepat dia berdiri tegap dan tertawa dan melangkah masuk, tetapi dengan satu gerakan cepat Sarmin langsung menempelkan parang pada lehernya sambil tersenyum penuh kemenangan.

Kepala rampok tidak terlihat gelisah. Dia menoleh ke arah pintu belakang dan dengan santai berkata, “Coba kau lihat istrimu di sana.”

Ternyata para perampok telah berhasil menyelinap masuk dari belakang pada saat Sarmin berada di depan bersiap menghadapi kepala rampok. Istrinya telah disandera. Sarmin tidak punya pilihan kecuali menyerah.

Soeroto pun tidak bisa berbuat apa-apa lagi selain meninggalkan tempat ini diam-diam, dan tidak menunda waktu lagi untuk melaporkan peristiwa ini kepada junjungannya, Raden Brotodiningrat.

***

Madiun, Desember 1901

Suasana di Karesidenan Madiun terlihat tidak biasa, wajah-wajah tegang tampak pada orang yang sedang berada di sana. Penjagaan di pintu masuk kantor karesidenan terlihat lebih ketat dari biasanya. Di ruangan kerja, Residen Madiun, J. J. Donner sedang rapat dengan Patih Madiun, Mangoen Atmodjo, dan Kepala Jaksa Madiun, Adipoetro.

“Residen Donner, kita harus menangkap para kepala jago di daerah Madiun dan sekitarnya. Tanpa mereka, para penjahat lain tidak akan berani melakukan perampokan lagi,” ujar Jaksa Adipoetro.

“Benar Residen, begitu pula dengan kepala pengairan Kartoredjo. Dia punya hubungan dekat dengan para kepala rampok dan jago. Kartoredjo juga menjadi tangan kanan dari bupati lama Brotodiningrat. Brotodiningrat pasti diam-diam masih memegang kendali dunia hitam melalui Kartoredjo,” imbuh Patih Atmodjo.”

Donner mondar-mandir di ruang rapat. Dengan dahi berkerut, dia berkata, “Soeradi, pencuri tirai dan taplak milik karesidenan, memang sudah tertangkap di Ponorogo. Namun, pencurian dan perampokan terus terjadi. Saya yakin, bahwa Brotodiningrat berada di balik semua perampokan ini.”

Jaksa Adipoetro berusaha memberikan jalan keluar, “Kita bisa meningkatkan jaga malam.”

Namun Donner mengabaikannya. Dia berkata dengan pelan, “Menurut saya, kejadian ini lebih dari sekadar tindak kejahatan. Brotodiningrat pasti sedang mengincar melakukan sesuatu yang lebih besar. Dia memang ingin membuat Jawa bergolak kembali, seperti yang dilakukan oleh Diponegoro.”

Donner berjalan menuju tempat duduk Patih Atmodjo dan meneruskan, “Dengan menimbulkan kekacauan seperti ini, dia mau melemahkan kedudukan pemerintah Hindia Belanda. Saya juga menduga dia memanfaatkan para kiai-kiai Islam untuk memperkuat kedudukannya. Patih Atmodjo, bagaimana pengamatanmu dengan Kiai Kasan Ngalwi?”

Patih Atmodjo membuka kertas laporan yang ada di hadapannya. “Kiai Kasan Ngalwi sering memimpin arak-arakan sambil berdoa di sepanjang jalan-jalan kampung. Dia pasti sedang menarik dukungan dari rakyat untuk mendukung pemberontakan Brotodiningrat.”

Wajah Donner tampak cemas dan gelisah. Dia duduk, lalu berdiri lagi. “Pemberontakan sudah berada di depan mata. Saya tidak ingin kita kecolongan. Saya akan memerintahkan supaya senjata api dibagikan kepada orang Eropa untuk membela diri. Saya juga akan memerintahkan penjagaan bersenjata di sekitar stasiun Paron untuk mengamankan kereta tebu. Kalian berdua tetap amati gerak-gerik para pengikut Brotodiningrat. Keadaan sudah gawat. Kita harus waspada.”

“Siap Residen,” jawab patih dan kepala jaksa bersamaan.

***

Yogyakarta, Januari 1902

Soeroto, telik sandi Brotodiningrat, berkuda memasuki kawasan Pakualaman Yogyakarta. Dia baru saja tiba dari Madiun untuk menghadap.

Penjaga kawasan Pakualaman sudah mengenal Soeroto dan langsung mengizinkannya masuk.

Brotodiningrat sedang di kamar peristirahatannya saat mendengar derap kuda mendekat. Melewati sela-sela jendela dia cari tahu siapa pendatang itu. Brotodiningrat sudah lama menunggu kabar dari Madiun, kedatangan Soeroto sudah dia nanti-nantikan. Dia melangkah cepat menuju pendopo penerima tamu.

“Salam hormat, Raden,” Soeroto langsung memberi hormat saat Brotodiningrat masuk pendopo.

“Soeroto! Sudah lama saya menunggu kedatanganmu. Duduklah, dulu. Kabar apa yang kau bawa dari Madiun?”

Soeroto menunggu Brotodiningrat duduk terlebih dahulu, lalu menyusul duduk. “Keadaan di Madiun semakin gawat, Raden,” kata Soeroto.

Brotodiningrat berusaha menangkap arah berita ini. “Coba ceritakan dengan jelas apa yang sedang terjadi di Madiun.”

“Baiklah. Raden. Masih ingat pencurian tirai dan taplak meja di rumah Residen Donner pada bulan Oktober tiga tahun yang lalu? Kabar ini masih berkaitan dengan peristiwa itu.”

“Bagaimana mungkin saya lupa dengan kasus itu. Kasus itulah yang membuat saya diasingkan dari Madiun dan tinggal di kota ini,” jawab Brotodiningrat dengan nada kesal.

“Sekarang pencurian seperti itu semakin meluas. Bukan hanya pencurian, tapi yang ada juga dilakukan adalah pembakaran kebun tebu di sekitar Madiun. Baru-baru saja terjadi perampokan di rumah penjaga kebun tebu dekat pabrik gula di Purwodadi. Mereka berhasil merampok uang gaji perkebunan tebu sebesar 400 gulden. Perampok juga menyasar orang-orang kaya di Ngawi dan Magetan.” Nada suara Soeroto terdengar semakin gawat.

Brotodiningrat masih terlihat tenang menerima kabar berita ini. “Sudah kukatakan dulu kepada residen bagaimana cara menanganinya. Tapi residen baru ini memang keras kepala dan tidak mau mendengarkan orang yang sudah berpengalaman menangani kasus seperti ini. Residen Donner ini tidak seperti Residen Mullemeister pendahulunya. Mullemeister mengerti cara orang Jawa menangani masalah seperti ini. Dia akan menyerahkannya sepenuhnya kepada bupati setempat lalu memberikan dukungan dana untuk itu. Bupati sekarang terlalu lemah, dia hanya piaraan Belanda. Mana kenal dia dengan dunia hitam. Dan kalau dia tidak kenal dunia hitam, bagaimana dia bisa mengendalikan mereka.”

Mata Soeroto menyorotkan kegelisahan, sepertinya ada yang ingin dia sampaikan.

“Kau terlihat gelisah, Soeroto. Apakah ada kejadian lain yang ingin kau sampaikan? Kalau hanya masalah meluasnya pencurian, saya pun sudah bisa menebaknya sejak diangkatnya bupati baru.”

Soeroto seperti masih ragu untuk untuk berbicara. Setelah menguatkan dirinya, dia berkata, “Raden dituduh sebagai kepala kraman.”

“Apa?” nada suara Brotodiningrat langsung meninggi.

“Berani sekali Donner menuduhku memberontak!”

Soeroto meneruskan, “Bukan hanya itu, dia juga banyak menangkap orang-orang dekat Raden. Asisten wedana, para polisi desa, bahkan Kiai Kasan Ngalwi, guru Raden, dan juga Kartoredjo, kepala pengairan dan pimpinan telik sandi Raden.”

Muka Brotodiningrat benar-benar memerah. “Kupikir dia sudah puas bisa menyingkirkan saya dari jabatan bupati. Sepertinya dia belum akan puas jika saya belum diasingkan keluar dari Jawa sebagai seorang penjahat.”

Soeroto melanjutkan, “Donner panik membabi buta, Raden. Dia membagikan senjata api kepada warga Eropa dan melapor ke Batavia bahwa akan ada peperangan baru di Jawa.”

“Donner sudah benar-benar gila. Perang baru di Jawa? Saya hanya ingin menjadi seorang bupati baik-baik yang bisa menjaga ketertiban dan ketenteraman di Madiun,” nada Brotodiningrat semakin meninggi.

“Hati-hati, Raden. Mereka bisa menangkap dan mengadili Raden. Guru Raden, Kiai Kasan Ngalwi sudah ditangkap,” kata Soeroto penuh kekhawatiran.

“Kau memang abdi yang setia, Soeroto. Beristirahatlah dulu. Kau pasti sudah lelah menempuh perjalanan panjang dari Madiun. Tinggal di sini satu dua hari sebelum kembali ke Madiun.”

“Baik, Raden,” jawab Soeroto seraya memberi hormat dan mengundurkan diri.

***

Malam itu Brotodiningrat sulit untuk tidur. Dia berpikir kemelut ini sudah selesai saat dia diasingkan ke Yogyakarta. Ternyata Donner masih mendendam. Sepertinya dia ingin membuktikan bahwa seorang residen Belanda memang lebih berkuasa daripada bupati pribumi. Putusan hakim atas penurunan dirinya dari jabatan bupati Madiun gara-gara kasus pencurian itu belum memuaskan Donner.

Pikiran Brotodiningrat melayang ke masa dia masih remaja. Dia masih ingat saat dia bersekolah di Surakarta dan tinggal di lingkup Kasunanan. Dia bisa melihat betapa agungnya Susuhunan Pakubuwono yang mampu berdiri tegak dan dihormati oleh para pejabat Belanda. Kejadian itu membekas dalam ingatannya sehingga dia bercita-cita menjadi seorang bupati yang bisa sejajar dengan seorang residen Belanda.

Dia belajar bahasa Belanda dengan rajin supaya bisa berbicara dengan orang Belanda sebagai rekan yang sejajar. Dia juga menyerap semua ilmu pemerintahan yang dia pelajari selama di sekolah calon pejabat.

Dia lalu dengan tekun menjalani masa magang sebagai seorang pejabat rendah, seorang juri tulis di Madiun. Dia sadar bahwa semuanya ini harus dijalani untuk mencapai cita-citanya, setara dengan orang Belanda.

Cita-citanya terlihat seperti menjadi kenyataan saat dia diangkat menjadi Bupati Sumoroto.  Semua orang, baik pribumi maupun Belanda menaruh hormat padanya.

Namun dia baru merasa benar-benar mampu mengejar impiannya saat bertemu Residen Madiun, Mullemeister, orang yang dianggapnya sebagai pembimbingnya. Mullemeisterlah yang mengusulkannya supaya diangkat menjadi Bupati Madiun. Mereka berdua bisa bekerja sama dengan baik. Sang Residen memberikan kebebasan baginya untuk mengurusi masalah pengairan, keamanan, dan sebagainya. Semua teladan sempurna yang dia pelajari selama duduk di sekolah pejabat bisa dia jalankan di sini, bersama dengan Residen Mullemeister.

Sayang, dia harus berpisah dengan guru dan sahabatnya, yang naik pangkat diangkat menjadi Residen Yogyakarta, berdampingan dengan Sultan Hamengkubuwono, Raja Yogyakarta. Jabatan itu sungguh pantas bagi seorang residen selihai Mullemeister. Namun kepindahan Mullemeister sungguh membawa malapetaka karena penggantinya Residen Donner adalah seorang gila kuasa yang tidak percaya pada pribumi.

Urusannya pun menjadi panjang. Dia harus diadili di Batavia. Untung Mullemeister mati-matian membelanya. Sayang, para pejabat di Batavia lebih ingin menyelamatkan muka mereka, atau lebih tepatnya muka Residen Donner. Bila tuduhan Donner ternyata tidak terbukti, pemerintah kolonial Hindia Belanda akan kehilangan muka.

Selama dia diadili dia diasingkan di Padang selama satu tahun. Dia beruntung sebab surat pembelaan diri yang dia kirimkan ke Ratu Belanda Wilhelmina dan Gubernur Jenderal Rooseboom diterima. Walaupun dia harus dicopot dari jabatan Bupati Madiun, dia diperbolehkan kembali ke Jawa dan hanya diberhentikan secara hormat serta diberi uang pensiun yang cukup tinggi. Dia pun dapat menempati rumah di Pakualaman, Yogyakarta, sampai saat ini.

Namun sekarang dia dituduh memberontak. Para pejabat Hindia Belanda tentu masih dihantui ketakutan Perang Jawa yang dikobarkan oleh Diponegoro. Tuduhan dirinya sebagai Diponegoro kedua adalah sebuah tuduhan yang tidak main-main. Bahkan mereka sudah berani menangkap gurunya, Kiai Kasan Ngalwi. Dia sadar dia perlu berhati-hati dalam melangkah dan memutuskan untuk bertukar pikiran dengan Mullemeister, sahabatnya.

***

Sejak diasingkan di Pakualaman, Yogyakarta, hubungan Brotodiningrat dengan dunia luar memang sebatas surat-menyurat dan surat kabar. Dia memang telah kehilangan kuasa. Namun bagaimanapun, kedatangan sepucuk surat dari Mullemeister bisa menghibur hatinya.

Di amplop surat tertulis,  penting dan rahasia. Brotodiningrat membawa surat itu ke ruang pribadinya. Dengan hati berdebar dia mengambil pembuka surat dan cepat-cepat membuka surat ini.

Beste Brotodiningrat,

Kiranya engkau telah mengetahui bahwa pemerintah kolonial telah mengutus Snouck Hurgronje untuk menyelidiki perkara yang terkait dengan tuduhan Donner terhadap dirimu. Hasil penyelidikannya sudah selesai, dan aku akan membocorkannya terlebih dahulu kepada dirimu.

Snouck memang seorang penyelidik yang handal. Dia fasih berbahasa Arab dan Jawa, sehingga bisa melakukan penyelidikan dengan mendalam. Dia juga mampu bertanya kepada banyak orang di Madiun untuk mendalami kasus ini. Dari penyelidikannya, bisa disimpulkan bahwa yang membuat kejahatan meningkat di Madiun justru adalah perbuatan Donner sendiri. Dia dengan gegabah menangkapi orang-orang kepercayaanmu yang selama ini memegang kendali dunia hitam. Setelah mereka semua ditangkapi, tidak ada yang mengendalikan para penjahat, dan mereka merajalela.

Tapi jangan takut, Snouck tidak menemukan bukti apapun yang memberatkan dirimu. Dia bahkan mengatakan bahwa Donner “sudah terlalu lelah” dan mengusulkan supaya Donner dipensiunkan dan beristirahat saja.

Namun mengenai kasus gurumu, Kiai Kasan Ngalwi, dia harus dikorbankan. Pemerintah kolonial tetap harus menjaga muka. Dia harus diasingkan, kalau tidak masyarakat bisa mengira bahwa pemerintah Hindia Belanda kalah kuat dengan Kiai Kasan Ngalwi. Tapi jangan khawatir, hak-haknya termasuk hak tanah, akan tetap dipertahankan, walaupun dia harus tetap diasingkan.

Semoga kemelut ini cepat berlalu. Snouck sepertinya sudah punya calon residen baru untuk menggantikan Donner. Pemerintah kolonial pun tidak ingin mengulangi kesalahan yang sama dengan mengangkat orang keras kepala seperti Donner  untuk menggantikannya. Kita semua sudah cukup pusing dengan semua urusan ini.

Salam hangat untuk keluargamu.

Met hartelijke groeten, Salam hangat,

Mullemeister.

 

Surat ini membawa sedikit kelegaan baginya. Mullemeister memang seorang sahabat yang bisa diandalkan.

***

Pakualaman, Yogyakarta, Pertengahan 1903

Soeroto kembali menghadap Raden Mas Adipati Brotodiningrat, junjungannya. Kali ini dia membawa kudanya dengan lebih santai sambil perlahan memasuki kawasan rumah Brotodiningrat. Raut mukanya juga terlihat lebih tenang dibandingkan dengan saat pertemuan dengan Brotodiningrat sebelumnya.

Penjaga pintu langsung menyilakan dirinya menunggu di pendopo. Tak lama kemudian, Raden Mas Adipati Brotodiningrat keluar menemuinya.

“Raden,” Soeroto memberi salam hormat.

“Silakan duduk, Soeroto. Kabar apa yang kau bawa kali ini?”

“Raden tentu sudah mendengar desas-desus terakhir mengenai Donner.”

“Apa yang kau ketahui tentang Donner?”

“Donner sudah putus urat di otaknya. Dia makin gila. Dia bahkan berani menuduh Susuhanan mau memberontak hanya karena Kanjeng Sunan mendapat sambutan meriah sewaktu berkunjung ke Semarang,” kata Soeroto separuh mencibir.

Brotodiningrat tidak bisa menyembunyikan kemenangan di wajahnya. “Dia memang benar-benar sudah gila. Untung pemerintah di Batavia cukup tanggap dan langsung memberhentikan orang tidak waras ini. Dia telah dihantui pikirannya sendiri, bahwa akan ada Diponegoro kedua. Dia benar-benar terlalu banyak berkhayal, sampai mengatakan bahwa aku adalah Diponegoro kedua ini.”

“Sepertinya begitu Raden,” tanggap Soeroto.

“Bagaimana kabar penggantinya di Madiun?” tanya Brotodiningrat penasaran.

Soeroto dengan semangat mencerita, “Residen Boissevain ternyata cukup cakap. Dia telah memecat jaksa kepala yang dulu bertanggung jawab menangkapi bawahan Raden. Semua pengikut Raden sepertinya cukup puas dengan tindakan residen baru ini. Mereka yang dulu dipecat karena tersangkut kasus ini pun sudah diberi jabatan baru, walaupun hanya jabatan kecil di Pacitan dan Ponorogo. Keamanan dan ketertiban tampaknya sudah pulih.”

Brotodiningrat terlihat sedikit termenung, melihat ke arah timur seolah mencoba menerawang ke arah Madiun.

“Sepertinya begitu. Tapi masih ada satu hal yang mengganjal pikiranku, Soeroto.”

“Apa itu, Raden? Apakah Raden masih berniat untuk kembali ke Madiun?” Soeroto seolah bisa membaca keinginan tuannya.

“Itu juga. Namun sepertinya sekarang masih terlalu dini. Kita masih harus melihat dulu perkembangan keadaan.”

“Apa gerangan yang menjadi ganjalan dalam pikiran Raden?” tanya Soeroto kembali.

“Kau sudah cukup lama menjadi abdi saya, Soeroto. Kau sudah mendampingi saya sejak dituduh mendalangi pencurian tirai di rumah residen.

Inggih, Raden.” Soeroto mengiakan.

“Aku ingin bertanya kepadamu sekarang. Menurutmu, bagaimana kedudukan kita sebagai orang Jawa di hadapan orang Belanda?” Brotodiningrat menatap Soeroto dengan tajam.

“Saya tidak berani menjawab, Raden. Biarlah orang-orang pintar seperti Raden yang memikirkan pertanyaan seperti itu.” Soeroto seperti kebingungan untuk bersikap, takut mengatakan hal yang salah sebagai seorang rakyat kecil.

“Kau harus mulai memikirkannya, Soeroto. Saya mencium akan ada angin perubahan. Mungkin bukan seperti munculnya seorang Diponegoro. Tapi dunia akan berubah.”

“Maksud Raden?”

“Merdeka, Soeroto. Merdeka. Merdeka untuk menentukan nasib sendiri, bebas dari pemerintahan kolonial Hindia Belanda.” Ada senyum tersungging di wajah Brotodiningrat, pada saat dia menerawang seperti menatap masa depan.

“Terlalu sulit bagi saya untuk membayangkan itu, Raden. Bagi saya, bila saya bisa mendapatkan sandang dan pangan, lalu atap untuk tidur, itu sudah cukup, Raden.”

“Tidak salah kau masih berpikir seperti itu, Soeroto. Saya pun baru belakangan ini terpikir hal demikian, setelah melalui prahara tak kunjung usai dengan Donner. Sejak itu, saya baru mulai merenungkan bagaimana kedudukan saya sebenarnya di hadapan pemerintah Hindia Belanda. Apakah saya benar-benar setara dengan residen? Atau saya sebenarnya sampai kapan pun akan tetap menjadi seorang kacung Belanda?” Brotodiningrat berdiri dari tempat duduknya lalu menyambung, “Residen Donner itu pikir saya adalah bawahannya, bukan pejabat yang setara. Padahal sudah ada pembagian tugas yang jelas. Dia mengurus perkara dengan Batavia dan urusan luar negeri Madiun, saya yang mengurusi perkara di dalam Madiun.” Nada suara Brotodiningrat kembali mendidih setiap kali memperbincangkan Donner.

“Apakah dia mendendam pada Raden sejak peristiwa itu?” Soeroto bertanya lembut.

“Mungkin juga. Tapi aku memang sering menjelek-jelekkannya dan membandingkannya dengan Mullemeister yang menurutku memang jauh lebih lihai. Mullemeister bisa berbaur dengan para pejabat setempat dan mengerti sopan santun Jawa.” Brotodiningrat berhenti sejenak lalu meneruskan dengan nada mengejek, “Donner tampaknya tersinggung.”

“Raden beruntung bisa kenal dengan Mullemeister.”

“Ya, saya memang beruntung. Mullemeister telah banyak membantu kasus saya sehingga bisa lolos dari dakwaan, walaupun aku tetap kehilangan jabatan. Ini justru makin menguatkan keyakinanku bahwa kedudukan kita, orang Jawa, tidak sejajar dengan Belanda.”

“Raden masih ingat dengan tulisan sepupu Raden, Raden Mas Tirto Adhi Soerjo, di Pembrita Betawi yang membela Raden dan mengatakan itu sebagai sebuah ketidakadilan? Banyak sekali orang memperbincangkan tentang tulisannya.”

“Bagaimana mungkin saya lupa? Sungguh hebat sepupu saya itu. Dia berani menulis di surat kabar kolom Dreyfusiana bulan lalu dengan huruf-huruf besar: SKANDAL DONNER. Dia mewawancarai banyak pejabat Belanda mengenai kasus ini. Harus saya akui pemberitaannya memberi pengaruh pada pendapat umum mengenai kasus ini, bahkan pendapat orang Eropa. Orang jadi tahu bahwa Donner itu memang gila!”

Brotodiningrat mengambil napas sebentar lalu melanjutkan dengan penuh semangat, “Dia juga dengan berani mengatakan bahwa saya harus diadili seperti halnya seorang Belanda, sama di hadapan hukum, berdasarkan bukti, bukan kabar burung.”

“Benar, Raden. Begitu pula yang dikatakan banyak orang,” Soeroto ikut bersemangat.

“Soeroto, tidak hanya dalam hal hukum kita harus setara dengan orang Belanda, tapi juga dalam pendidikan. Aku beruntung bisa sekolah di sekolah Belanda karena aku adalah seorang keturunan bupati. Tapi kamu, seorang biasa, tidak akan pernah punya kesempatan untuk bersekolah. Kamu hanya bisa menjadi kacung, atau telik sandi, seperti pekerjaanmu saat ini.”

Inggih, Raden.” Soeroto memberi hormat dan menunduk.

“Kulihat kau cukup cerdas. Andaikan kau bisa sekolah, kau mungkin bisa belajar bahasa Belanda, lalu menjadi seorang juru tulis atau bahkan seorang pengawas perkebunan tebu. Namun kau tidak bisa punya kesempatan seperti itu.”

“Saya tidak berani mimpi setinggi itu, Raden.” Soeroto masih menunduk.

“Harus, kau harus berani bermimpi. Soeroto, zaman akan berubah. Tirto sudah menerawangnya lebih jauh, dan saya membenarkan pikirannya. Kita harus memperjuangkan kesetaraan kita dengan Belanda,” lanjut Brotodiningrat dengan berapi-api.

“Apakah artinya kita harus bebas dari pemerintah kolonial Belanda, Raden?” tanya Soeroto.

“Kita harus memperjuangkan kesetaraan kita dengan Belanda!” tegas Brotodiningrat.

“Apa artinya itu, Raden?”

“Artinya harus ada Dewan Rakyat, yang berisikan orang-orang pribumi. Kita harus diberi kesempatan untuk menentukan nasib sendiri. Dewan Rakyat yang bisa memberi usul kepada Gubernur Jenderal.” Brotodiningrat semakin bersemangat.

“Pemikiran Raden terlalu maju, saya sulit untuk mengikutinya.”

“Tidak apa-apa, Soeroto. Saya malah mungkin menderita karena pemikiran yang terlalu maju ini. Mungkin pemerintah di Batavia diam-diam telah membaca pemikiran saya untuk memperjuangkan hak yang lebih setara bagi kita, orang pribumi.”

“Maksud Raden, bahwa Raden sebenarnya diberhentikan dari jabatan bupati karena terlalu berani menantang Belanda?” Ada nada tidak percaya dalam suara Soeroto.

“Pintar kau, Soeroto. Saya terlalu berani menantang Belanda. Mungkin memang belum saatnya buah kemerdekaan ini matang dan jatuh dari pohonnya. Sekarang bunga-bunga kecil baru bersemi malu-malu. Beberapa nantinya akan menjadi buah, dan beberapa di antaranya akan menjadi matang. Aku melihat itu di diri sepupuku, Tirto.”

Inggih, Raden.”

“Perjuangan masih panjang, Soeroto. Ingat kata-kataku ini, kemelut rakyat kita dengan Belanda seperti kasus Donner bukanlah yang terakhir. Kali ini kita menang, sebagian, tapi akan ada kemelut yang lebih besar nanti. Kau adalah abdi saya, bawalah semangat saya di masa depan, supaya bangsa kita tetap bisa menang bila berhadapan dengan Belanda.” Mata Brotodiningrat terlihat berapi-api penuh semangat, walaupun dia kehilangan jabatannya sebagai bupati dalam kemelut.

***

The Regent’s Turmoil

Novita Dewi started writing poetry and short stories during her elementary and middle school days. She published in Si Kuncung and Bobo, children magazines, as well as wrote for the children’s columns featured in Kompas and Sinar Harapan (now Suara Pembaruan). She now nurtures her interest in literature by writing articles about literature and translation for scientific journals. Novita is widely published. The short stories translated and published by Dalang Publishing are her first attempts of literary translation.

She currently teaches English literature courses at Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Novita can be reached at novitadewi@usd.ac.id or novitadewi9@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

The Regent’s Turmoil

 

Purwodadi, Central Java, Indonesia, October 1901

The moonless night crept toward midnight. Soeroto crouched among the sugarcane stalks and watched the house of the sugarcane plantation guard at the edge of the field. Suddenly, not far from him, he saw dozens of people approaching from the north side, next to the forest. The mob carried machetes and axes.

Soeroto had spied on this mob’s actions over the previous days. He had heard a rumor that they planned to burglarize the plantation and steal the workers’ wages. He moved stealthily closer to the house.

The band of bandits spread around the house, positioning themselves by the doors and windows. After a while, a stocky man, who appeared to be the leader, knocked on the front door.

Soeroto shifted in his hiding place to see better.

The knocks became louder and louder, trying to awaken the occupants of the house.

Apparently, the rumors Soeroto had heard about planned burglaries of the houses of the rich and the sugar factory were true. Conflicts like this could exacerbate the tension between Mas Adipati Brotodiningrat, Soeroto’s master, and Resident Donner. Resident Donner for sure was going to accuse his master of being behind this trouble.

“Who’s there?” a voice shouted from within. “Why are you knocking on the door at night?”

“You’ve 400 guilders in this house,” shouted the ring leader. “Surrender, before I break the door down!”

“You are alone! How dare you rob my house? I’m Sarmin, the plantation guard and the master of this area!”

Among the sugarcane stalks, Soeroto weighed the situation from a safe distance. Sarmin might be able to defeat this burglar if he fought one on one, but it would be impossible to win a fight against dozens of these thugs. Soeroto decided not to intervene.

Sarmin shoved the door open and almost made the burglar fall.

The man quickly straightened and laughed.

But with one swift movement, Sarmin put a machete to the robber’s neck and smiled triumphantly.

The burglar didn’t seem agitated. He looked toward the back door of the house and nonchalantly said, “Take a look at your wife over there.”

Sarmin turned and saw a group of burglars surrounding his wife. The burglars had entered the back door while Sarmin was dealing with their leader at the front door. Now, they had taken his wife hostage. Sarmin had no choice but to give up.

Soeroto could do nothing except leave quietly. He would report this incident to his master, Mas Adipati Brotodiningrat, immediately.

 

***

Madiun, East Java, Indonesia, December 1901

The atmosphere at the Dutch-ruled Madiun Residency felt unusual. People looked tense, and security at the resident’s office entrance was tighter than usual. In the office, the Resident of Madiun, J. J. Donner, was in a meeting with Judge Adipoetro, the chief prosecutor of Madiun, and Patih Mangoen Atmodjo, the vice regent of Madiun.

“Resident Donner, we have to arrest the indigenous gang leaders in Madiun and its surroundings,” said Judge Adipoetro. “Without these leaders, other criminals will not dare carry out another burglary.”

“It’s true, Resident,” added Patih Atmodjo. “Kartoredjo, the head of the irrigation department, also needs to be arrested. He not only has close ties to the gang leaders, but he was also the right-hand man of Brotodiningrat, the former Javanese regent of Madiun. Brotodiningrat must still be secretly in control of the criminals through Kartoredjo.”

Resident Donner paced the meeting room. Frowning, he said, “Soeradi, who stole curtains and tablecloths belonging to the residency, was caught in Ponorogo, but the stealing and burglaries continued. I believe Brotodiningrat is behind all of this unrest.”

“We could increase the night watch,” Adipoetro suggested.

Donner ignored him. “I think this theft of curtains and tablecloths was more than just a random crime,” he said quietly. “Brotodiningrat must be aiming for something bigger. He may want to create the same unrest on Java as the Javanese Prince Diponegoro did in 1825 with the Java War.”

Donner walked over to Patih Atmodjo’s seat and continued, “By prompting chaos like this, Brotodiningrat wants to weaken the position of our Dutch East Indies government. I also suspect that he used Islamic clerics to strengthen his position. Patih Atmodjo, what do you think of the teacher, Kiai Kasan Ngalwi?”

Patih Atmodjo opened the report in front of him. “Kiai Kasan Ngalwi often leads processions while praying along the village streets. He must be gathering support from the people to back the Brotodiningrat rebellion.”

Donner looked worried. He sat down, then stood up again. “Rebellion is in sight. I don’t want us to be caught by surprise. I will order firearms to be distributed to the Dutch Europeans for self-defense. I will also order the presence of armed guards around Paron station to protect the sugarcane train. The two of you continue to observe the movements of Brotodiningrat’s followers. This is a dire situation. We must be vigilant.”

“At your service, Resident,” replied the vice regent and the chief prosecutor in unison.

 

***

Pakualaman, Yogyakarta, January 1902

Soeroto, Brotodiningrat’s spy, rode on horseback into the Pakualaman area of Yogyakarta, a neighborhood where only aristocrats lived. He had just arrived from Madiun.

Recognizing Soeroto, the guard hurriedly allowed him to enter.

Brotodiningrat was resting in his private quarters when he heard galloping hoofbeats. He peered through the slats of his window to see who the visitor was. Seeing Soeroto, he walked quickly towards the pendopo, a large, covered terrace for receiving guests. Brotodiningrat had been waiting for news from Madiun and was expecting Soeroto’s arrival.

“Greetings, Raden,” Soeroto called out, using the Javanese term to address a nobleman. Soeroto saluted Brotodiningrat when he entered the pendopo.

“Soeroto! I have been waiting for you for a long time. Please, sit down. What news do you bring from Madiun?”

Soeroto waited for Brotodiningrat to be seated first. Then, after seating himself, Soeroto said, “The situation in Madiun is getting worse, Raden.”

Brotodiningrat considered Soeroto’s words and said, “Tell me specifically what is going on in Madiun.”

“Of course, Raden. Remember the theft of curtains and tablecloths from Resident Donner’s house in October three years ago? My news is still connected to that incident.”

“How could I forget it! It is what forced me to leave Madiun to live in this city,” Brotodiningrat grumbled, annoyed.

“Such incidents have increased,” Soeroto continued. “Not only burglaries, but burning sugarcane plantations around Madiun is also rampant. This past October, a burglary took place at the house of a plantation guard near the sugar factory in Purwodadi. The thieves stole the plantation workers’ wages of 400 guilders. The thugs are also targeting the homes of wealthy people in Ngawi and Magetan.” Soeroto’s voice had risen.

Brotodiningrat listened calmly, then said, “I told the former Resident of Madiun how to handle it. But this new resident, Donner, is stubborn and doesn’t want to listen to people who are experienced in handling such incidents.” Brotodiningrat paused before he continued. “Resident Donner is not like his predecessor, Resident Mullemeister. Mullemeister understands the Javanese way of dealing with problems like this. He would have left it entirely to the local regent and provided financial support for it.” Brotodiningrat sighed. “The current regent, Mangoen Atmodjo, is too weak. He is just a Dutch puppet. What does he know about the criminal world? How can he curb crime if he does not know anything about the underworld?”

Soeroto’s eyes darted anxiously. He seemed to have something more to say.

“You look restless, Soeroto. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about? If it’s about widespread burglaries, I have already expected those to happen with the appointment of the new regent.”

Soeroto hesitated. Drawing himself upright, he said, “Resident Donner is accusing you of being the instigator of the kraman, rebellion.”

“What?” Brotodiningrat roared. “How dare Donner accuse me of causing these uprisings!”

“Not only that,” Soeroto continued, “he has also detained a number of people who are close to you, such as the assistant resident, village policemen, even your teacher, Kiai Kasan Ngalwi, and Kartoredjo, head of the irrigation sector and your secret agent.”

Brotodiningrat’s face flushed with anger. “I thought Donner would be content after having me removed from my position as a regent. I guess he will not be satisfied until I am exiled from Java as a criminal.”

“Donner is utterly blind and unscrupulous, Raden,” Soeroto said. “He distributed firearms to the Dutch Europeans and reported to Batavia that there would be a new war on Java.”

“Donner has gone completely insane! New war on Java?” Brotodiningrat scoffed. “I just wanted to be a good regent who could maintain order and peace in Madiun.”

“Be careful, Raden,” Soeroto’s voice was filled with concern. “They are capable of arresting and prosecuting you. As I said earlier, your teacher, Kiai Kasan Ngalwi, has been arrested.”

“You are a loyal servant, Soeroto. You must be tired after the long journey from Madiun. Stay here for a day or two before returning.”

“Thank you, I will, Raden,” Soeroto replied and excused himself.

 

***

That night, Brotodiningrat couldn’t sleep. He thought this crisis had ended when he was exiled to Yogyakarta. But apparently, Donner still held a grudge against him. He seemed to want to prove that a Dutch resident was indeed more powerful than a native Javanese regent. The judge’s decision to remove him from the position of regent of Madiun on account of the robbery case obviously had not satisfied Donner.

Brotodiningrat thought back to when he was a teenager. He had gone to school in Surakarta and lived in the Kasunanan area. He could see how great Susuhunan Pakubuwono, the ruler of Solo, was. Brotodiningrat had stood tall as a Javanese native and had gained respect from the Dutch officials. The experience made an imprint on Brotodiningrat’s memory, inspiring him to become a Javanese regent who could be equal to a Dutch resident.

He studied the Dutch language diligently so that he could speak to the Dutch as an equal. He also absorbed all his lessons concerning government affairs while studying to become a public administrator. He then assiduously underwent an apprenticeship as a scribe in Madiun. He understood that all of this had to be done to achieve his goal of being considered on par with the Dutch.

His dream came true when he was appointed Regent of Sumoroto, a province in East Java. Everyone, both native and Dutch, looked up to him.

But he felt that he was truly capable of achieving his dream when he met Mullemeister, then the Resident of Madiun, the person he had ever since considered his mentor. It was Mullemeister who proposed that Brotodiningrat be appointed Regent of Madiun. They worked well together. Resident Mullemeister gave him the freedom to take care of irrigation, security, and many other responsibilities. Working alongside Mullemeister, Brotodiningrat applied everything he had learned while studying for this governmental position.

Sadly, Brotodiningrat had to part with his teacher and best friend when Mullemeister was promoted to Resident of Yogyakarta, to work side by side with Sultan Hamengkubuwono, King of Yogyakarta. Such was truly a proper position for a resident as smart as Mullemeister. But unfortunately, Mullemeister’s promotion caused a disaster, because his Dutch successor, Resident Donner, was power hungry and didn’t trust the Javanese.

The trial accusing Brotodiningrat of orchestrating the theft of curtains and tablecloths from Resident Donner’s house was a long affair. Brotodiningrat had to be tried in Batavia. The good thing for Brotodiningrat was that Mullemeister worked desperately to defend him. The bad thing for Brotodiningrat was that the officials in Batavia wanted to save face and back Resident Donner, because if Donner’s accusations were found to be ungrounded, the Dutch East Indies colonial government would lose face.

During his one-year trial, Brotodiningrat was exiled to Padang. He was fortunate that his letters of self-defense, sent to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and Governor-General Rooseboom of the Dutch East Indies, were well received. Although he was removed from his position as Regent of Madiun, he was allowed to return to Java. Having been honorably discharged, he received a fairly high pension and could live in a house in Pakualaman, Yogyakarta.

But now he was being accused of rebellion. The Dutch East Indies officials must still be haunted by the Java War waged against the Dutch colonial rule by Javanese Prince Diponegoro. But accusing him of being the second Diponegoro was unsubstantiated. And to think that the Dutch authorities had even dared to arrest his teacher, Kiai Kasan Ngalwi! Brotodiningrat realized the precarious, dangerous situation he was in and decided to consult with Mullemeister, his best friend.

 

***

Since his exile in Pakualaman, Yogyakarta, Brotodiningrat’s connection to the outside world had been limited to correspondence and newspapers. He had indeed lost power. But the arrival of a letter from Mullemeister cheered him up.

The envelope was marked: Important and Confidential.

Brotodiningrat took the letter to his private room. Using a letter opener, he quickly slit the envelope and, his heart pounding, began reading.

Dear Brotodiningrat,

I hope you have heard that the colonial government sent Snouck Hurgronje to investigate the case related to Donners accusations against you. The results of the investigation have been completed, and I want to be the first to reveal them to you.

Snouck is indeed a reliable investigator. He is fluent in Arabic and Javanese, so he could carry out in-depth investigations. He was also able to ask many people in Madiun to explore this case. From Snouck’s investigation, it can be concluded that it was Donner himself who caused crime to increase in Madiun. He impulsively arrested your trusted people who had important connections in the underworld. After they were all arrested, there was no one to control the criminals, and they ran rampant.

But fear not, Snouck found no evidence against you. He even said that Donner was too tired and suggested that Donner retire and rest.

However, regarding the case of your teacher, Kiai Kasan Ngalwi, he must be sacrificed. The colonial government still has to keep up a good front. Your teacher was exiled because, otherwise, the public would think that the Dutch East Indies government has less power than Kiai Kasan Ngalwi. But dont worry, his rights, including land rights, will be maintained, even though he must remain in exile.

I hope this crisis will pass quickly. Snouck seems to already have a new candidate to replace Donner. The colonial government does not want to repeat the same mistake by appointing another stubborn person like Donner to replace him. We all have had enough of this debacle.

Warm regards to your family.

Mullemeister.

 

This letter brought Brotodiningrat some relief. Mullemeister was indeed a reliable friend.

 

***

Pakualaman, Yogyakarta, mid-1903

Soeroto returned to meet Raden Mas Adipati Brotodiningrat, his master. This time, he rode his horse more casually as he slowly entered Brotodiningrat’s neighborhood. He was also much calmer than during his previous meeting with Brotodiningrat.

The guard immediately asked him to wait in the pendopo. Not long after, Raden Mas Adipati Brotodiningrat came out to meet him.

“Raden.” Soeroto saluted respectfully.

“Please have a seat, Soeroto. What news do you have this time?”

“You must have heard the latest rumors regarding Donner.”

“What do you know about Donner?”

“Donner must have lost his mind. He is going totally crazy!” Soeroto sneered. “Donner even dared to accuse the Susuhanan of wanting to rebel because he had received a warm welcome when he visited Semarang.”

Brotodiningrat couldn’t hide his smile of victory. “Donner really has gone mad. Fortunately, the government in Batavia was quite responsive and immediately dismissed the accusations of this insane person. Donner’s own thoughts were his undoing. He was convinced that there would be a second Diponegoro. He fantasized to the point of believing that I was the second Diponegoro!”

“It seems so, Raden,” replied Soeroto.

“What do you think of his successor in Madiun?” Brotodiningrat probed.

Soeroto, excited, said, “Resident Boissevain is quite capable. He fired the chief prosecutor, who was responsible for arresting your subordinates. All of your followers appear to be quite happy with the new resident’s actions. Those who were fired for their involvement in this incident have also been given new, albeit small, positions in Pacitan and Ponorogo. Security and order seem to have been restored.”

Brotodiningrat looked pensively eastward, as if trying to gaze at Madiun. “It seems so. But there is still one thing that bothers me, Soeroto.”

“What is it, Raden?” asked Soeroto, trying to read his master’s wishes. “Do you still intend to return to Madiun?”

“There’s that, too, but it seems too early to say. We still have to see how things develop.”

“Then what is troubling you, Raden?”

“You have served me for a long time, Soeroto. You’ve been with me since I was accused of masterminding the curtain and tablecloth burglary at Resident Donner’s house.”

Inggih, yes, I have, Raden.”

Brotodiningrat gave Soeroto a sharp look. “What do you think of our position as Javanese natives versus the Dutch colonial rule?”

“I dare not answer, Raden. I let smart people like you think about such questions.” Soeroto acted awkwardly, as if afraid to say the wrong thing as an ordinary citizen.

“You have to start thinking about it, Soeroto. I sense a wind of change — maybe not like the emergence of a Diponegoro. But the world will change.”

“What do you mean Raden?”

“Freedom, Soeroto. Independence. Freedom to determine our own destiny, freedom from the colonial rule of the Dutch East Indies.” Brotodiningrat smiled as he imagined that future.

“It’s too hard for me to imagine that, Raden. For me, it is enough if I have clothing, food, and a roof to sleep under.”

“It’s not wrong to continue thinking that way, Soeroto. I, too, only recently thought about this. After going through the never-ending tempest with Donner, I started to contemplate what my real position had been in the Dutch East Indies government. Was I really equal to the resident? Or would I forever remain a Dutch lackey?” Brotodiningrat stood. “Resident Donner thought I was his subordinate, not an equal official. However, there was a clear division of labor. He supposedly took care of matters with Batavia’s and Madiun’s external affairs, while I took care of Madiun’s internal affairs.” Brotodiningrat’s tone rose every time he talked about Donner.

“Has he held a grudge against you since that incident?” Soeroto asked softly.

“Yes, I believe so. But I also often badmouthed him and compared him unfavorably to Mullemeister, who is much more shrewd than Donner. Mullemeister can mingle with the local officials and understands Javanese manners.” Brotodiningrat paused for a moment then grumbled, “Donner must have been offended.”

“You are lucky to have met Mullemeister.”

“Yes, indeed. Mullemeister has helped me so much. I was able to escape prosecution, although I still lost my job. This has strengthened my belief that we, the Javanese, are not on the same level as the Dutch.”

“Do you remember the writings of your cousin, Raden Mas Tirto Adhi Soerjo, in Pembrita Betawi?” Soeroto asked suddenly. “He defended you and said that it was an injustice! Lots of people talk about his writings.”

“How could I forget? That cousin of mine is great! Last month, he dared to write a newspaper article in the column Dreyfusiana. The article’s title is written in capital letters: THE DONNER SCANDAL. He interviewed many Dutch officials about this case. I have to admit that the news influenced public opinion including that of the Dutch Europeans regarding this case. People now know that Donner is a lunatic!”

Brotodiningrat took a deep breath and then continued, enthusiastically, “Tirto was also so bold as to said that I should be tried like a Dutchman, based on evidence, not hearsay.”

“That’s right, Raden,” Soeroto agreed, excited. “That’s what many people say.”

“Soeroto, we must be equal to the Dutch, not only in terms of the law, but we must also receive the same education. I was lucky to study in a Dutch school because I am a descendant of the regent. But you, a commoner, will never have the chance to go to school. You can only be a servant or a spy, like you are now.”

“Inggih, Raden.” Soeroto bowed his head.

“I see you’re quite smart. If you could go to school, you might learn Dutch and then become a clerk or even a sugarcane plantation supervisor. But you won’t have such an opportunity unless things change.”

“I dare not to have such lofty dreams, Raden.” Soeroto’s head was still bowed.

“You must! You must dare to dream!” Brotodiningrat nodded vehemently. “Soeroto, times will change. Tirto already had that vision, and I confirmed his thoughts. We have to fight for our equality with the Dutch.”

“Does that mean we have to be free from the Dutch colonial government, Raden?” Soeroto asked.

“We must fight for our equality with the Dutch!” Brotodiningrat repeated.

“What does that mean exactly, Raden?”

“That means that there must be a People’s Council, consisting of indigenous people, who can make recommendations to the Governor-General.” Brotodiningrat grew even more excited. “We must be given the opportunity to determine our own destiny.”

“You have such complicated thoughts. I find it difficult to follow you.”

“That’s fine, Soeroto. I may even suffer from this overly advanced thinking. Maybe the government in Batavia has secretly read my desire to fight for more equal rights for us, the indigenous Javanese people.”

“Do you mean to say that you were dismissed from the position of regent because you have been too brave and challenged the Dutch?” Soeroto asked in disbelief.

“You’re smart, Soeroto. I was too daring and challenged the Dutch. Maybe it’s not the time yet for this fruit of independence to ripen and fall from the tree. Now, new little flowers are blooming timidly. Some will later become fruit, and some of that fruit will ripen. I saw that in my cousin, Tirto.”

“Of course, Raden.”

“The end of our struggle is still a long way off, Soeroto. But mark my words, this nation’s conflict with the Netherlands, like the Donner case, will not be the last. This time we won, partly, but there will be bigger conflicts later. You are my servant; take my spirit into the future, so our nation can still win when dealing with the Netherlands.” Brotodiningrat’s eyes were fiery with enthusiasm, even though his position of power had been extinguished.

 

 *****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

Mata di Bibir Subuh

Artie Ahmad was born in Salatiga, Central Java, on November 21, 1994. She lives in Yogyakarta and writes novels and short stories. In 2018, her novel Sunyi di Dada Sumirah was published by Penerbit Buku Mojok, followed with a second printing in 2020. Her story collection Cinta yang Bodoh Harus Diakhiri was also published by Penerbit Buku Mojok in 2019, and saw a second printing in 2020. Penerbit Buku Mojok recently published Artie’s latest novella, Manusia-Manusia Teluk. Artie’s short stories have been published in many major newspapers including Tempo, Jawa Pos, Republika, Solopos, and Kedaulatan Rakyat.

She can be reached at adekartie@gmail.com.

Published in June 2020. Copyright ©2020 by Artie Ahmad. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2020 by Oni Suryaman.

 

 

Mata di Bibir Subuh

 

Suara azan Subuh terdengar, merambat dari corong pelantang suara di masjid. Bergetar masuk ke dalam gendang telinga orang-orang yang masih terlelap. Suara Pak Modin yang terdengar lantang itu juga ditangkap telinga Muzaini. Azan masih terdengar, menggelitik telinga Muzaini. Tapi, meski azan itu masuk ke telinga dan mengetuk-ketuk gendang telinganya, Muzaini seakan tak berdaya. Matanya seolah terkena getah nangka. Lengket, sulit untuk dibuka. Muzaini berusaha membuka mata, namun rasa kantuk yang dirasakannya sangat keterlaluan. Muzaini tak kuasa melawan, dia kembali bergelung di tilam.

Suara azan Pak Modin telah lesap, Subuh telah lama lewat. Dalam mimpi di kepalanya, Muzaini menangkap bayang Wak Rohim. Dulu saat dia masih anak-anak, Wak Rohim gurunya mengaji di surau desa. Dalam gambar di mimpinya itu, Wak Rohim berdiri membawa rotan yang dipergunakan untuk memukul pantat para muridnya yang hanya main-main saat mengaji. Muzaini tergagap, ketika melihat Wak Rohim berjalan ke arahnya. Rotan di tangannya diayun-ayunkan. Bibirnya tersenyum simpul. Tapi begitulah wajah Wak Rohim ketika hendak menghukum muridnya.

“Muz! Kau tak menjalankan perintah Allah dengan baik ya? Kau meleng ya?” Suara Wak Rohim terdengar lantang.

Muzaini tak kuasa menjawab. Dia hanya menggeleng-geleng. Wajahnya pucat pasi, keringat dinginnya mengalir.

“Kau, Muzaini Samsyudin! Berani tak menjalankan perintah Gusti Allah? Muridku yang dulu berjanji akan menjadi manusia baik. Kau bohong denganku?” Wak Rohim semakin dekat. Kumisnya yang melintang dengan jambang lebat itu semakin menambah kesan angker di wajahnya.

“Bukan begitu, Wak Guru. Saya sudah berusaha bangun. Tapi tak kuasa. Mata saya lengket seperti kena getah nangka,” Muzaini menggigil.

“Alasan saja kau, Muz. Menyesal aku dulu tak memukulmu lebih keras dengan rotan ini. Kini kau jadi seorang pembangkang.” Wak Rohim mengangkat rotannya tinggi-tinggi.

Muzaini ingin berlari menghindar, tapi tak bisa. Tangan kiri Wak Rohim menggamit lengannya. Tangan itu mencengkeram Muzaini erat-erat. Napas Muzaini tersengal, tapi dia seolah tak memiliki tenaga untuk lari dari Wak Rohim.

“Oh, Muz. Betapa berubahnya engkau sekarang ini? Aku tak menduga kau akan berubah seperti sekarang,” Wak Rohim menurunkan tangannya yang memegang rotan, cengkeraman di lengan Muzaini mengendur, lalu dihempaskan begitu saja.

“Tak ada yang berubah di diri saya, Wak Guru. Tak ada yang lain saya rasa. Saya hanya sering kelelahan setelah bekerja di kota,” Muzaini menatap Wak Rohim dengan getar suara yang tak bisa ditahan.

Wak Rohim mengangkat wajahnya, ditatapnya Muzaini lekat-lekat. Seringai di bibirnya terlihat.

“Tak ada yang berubah dengan dirimu? Kau bercanda! Kini kau lalai akan semuanya. Sembahyangmu tak lagi sebaik dulu. Dan, kau lupa akan janjimu,” Wak Rohim berdiri di depan Muzaini dengan gagah. Sarungnya yang putih bersih dengan corak bunga-bunga kecil berwarna hitam berkibar-kibar ditiup angin. “Dulu, kau bilang jika sudah banyak uang dan dapat pekerjaan bagus, kau akan membantu merawat gubuk kecil tempat anak-anak desa mengaji. Tapi seolah kau lupa dengan janjimu itu. Jangankan membantu merawatnya, bahkan kau pun tak lagi mau menengoknya.”

***

Muzaini terbangun dari tidurnya. Matanya sudah leluasa dibuka meski agak berat. Muzaini tak mengerti, mengapa Wak Rohim datang di mimpinya hari ini, dengan keadaan yang membuatnya bergidik pula. Sudah lama sejak dia bekerja di luar kota, orang-orang di desanya teramat jarang berkunjung ke mimpinya. Muzaini saban malam memang bermimpi di saat tidur, tapi itu bukan memimpikan orangorang di desanya yang telah lama dia kenal. Di mimpi Muzaini selepas kerja di kota besar ini, yang sering bertandang adalah kawan-kawan kenalannya, atasan di kantor yang sering mengejar-ngejar tenggat waktu pekerjaan, pemilik kamar sewa yang suka menagih padahal belum waktunya, atau yang kerap datang di mimpinya seorang Manisa. Manisa, kawan sekantornya yang berwajah manis dengan perangai lembut itu. Wajah yang menjadi kembang tidur Muzaini bahkan selepas pertama kali mereka berjumpa.

Tertegun Muzaini mendengar ucapan Wak Rohim. Dia tepekur beberapa saat. Matanya nyalang menatap lantai. Bibirnya bergetar. Dia ingat sekarang, memanglah dulu dia sempat bernazar apabila telah mendapat pekerjaan dengan gaji yang baik, dia akan membantu merawat surau kecil untuk mengaji yang sering disebut gubuk oleh Wak Rohim. Tapi, sudah lebih lima tahun bekerja dengan gaji yang baik, belum pernah dia membagi rezekinya untuk surau kecil tua tempatnya mengaji dulu. Entah hari baik apa yang didapatkannya, hari ini Wak Rohim datang ke mimpinya, dan seolah menagih janji yang telah sekian lama tak juga dia tepati.

***

Sepanjang hari, mimpi itu lekat di ingatannya. Di kantor, di warteg tempat dia makan siang, ingatan tentang mimpi bertemu Wak Rohim selalu bertandang. Bahkan ketika dia bertemu dengan Manisa pun, untuk kali pertama Muzaini tak tertarik untuk menanggapi perempuan muda itu. Muzaini merasa lesu. Bahkan ketika pulang bekerja, dia langsung mengurung diri di kamar sewa. Muzaini berdiam diri di tilam kamarnya. Sampai akhirnya dia lelap. Tertidur sampai azan Subuh berkumandang.

Kali ini Muzaini begitu leluasa membuka mata. Tak lama setelah terjaga dia menyeret kakinya masuk ke dalam kamar mandi, dia menunaikan wudu lalu bersembahyang Subuh. Selepas sembahyang itulah, pikiran jernih itu muncul. Tiga pekan lagi dia akan libur panjang selama satu pekan, saat itu kesempatan baik untuknya pulang guna menemui Wak Rohim untuk membayar tunai janjinya dulu.

***

Mata Muzaini terbuka. Subuh menjalar masuk ke bus yang dia tumpangi. Suara azan dari masjid-masjid di pinggir jalan terdengar. Muzaini mengejap-ejapkan kedua matanya. Sebentar lagi bus antar kota yang dia naiki akan sampai ke pemberhentian terakhir, terminal yang paling dekat dengan desanya.

Sesampai di terminal, dengan semangat Muzaini memanggil ojek yang mangkal di sekitar terminal. Meski masih sedikit merasa kantuk lantaran kelelahan setelah menempuh perjalanan selama 12 jam perjalanan, Muzaini sangat bersemangat untuk pulang ke desanya kali ini.

Di dalam ranselnya, Muzaini telah menyiapkan sebuah amplop berisi uang yang akan disampaikannya untuk Wak Rohim guna memperbaiki suraunya. Surau yang mungkin kini sudah bertambah reyot lantaran aus dimakan usia. Muzaini pun tahu, bagaimana keuangan guru mengajinya itu. Anak-anak yang diajar mengaji tak ditarik bayaran, apabila ada yang memberikan uang, banyak kesempatan Wak Rohim menolaknya. Baginya, menerima uang dari orangtua muridnya yang memiliki nasib keuangan seperti dirinya hanya akan menambah sengsara kedua belah pihak. Orangtua murid akan sengsara lantaran anggaran untuk hidup berkurang, dan Wak Rohim akan sengsara lantaran batinnya tak tenang menerima uang dari orangtua muridnya yang juga kesusahan.

Muzaini berjalan ke rumahnya. Dia mengurungkan diri untuk terus ke rumah Wak Rohim yang rumahnya di batas desa tetangga. Turun dari ojek, dia merasakan sangat letih meski semangatnya untuk bersua dengan Wak Rohim masih berkobarkobar. Pintu belakang tak terkunci. Muzaini mencari-cari ibunya, tapi yang dicari tak ada. Mungkin ibunya sedang ke pasar. Pesan kepulangannya telah disampaikan ke ibunya sejak beberapa hari yang lalu, namun Muzaini tak mengatakan bahwa dia perlu juga bertemu Wak Rohim.

Lepas siang Muzaini baru berkesempatan untuk pergi keluar rumah. Ibu sedang ada tamu untuk membicarakan pekerjaan. Mungkin itu pembeli yang akan membeli beras hasil panen milik ibu. Diam-diam Muzaini pergi ke rumah Wak Rohim. Tapi di tengah jalan dia bertemu beberapa orang. Mereka berduyun-duyun berjalan ke arah rumah Wak Rohim. Muzaini melihat mereka dengan tatapan bingung. Seorang anak muda berusia belasan tahun juga turut berjalan ke arah rumah Wak Rohim, dengan cepat Muzaini bertanya.

“Adik, mau ke mana kalian ini? Kenapa beramai-ramai?” Muzaini bertanya sembari tersenyum ramah.

“Oh, Bang Muz. iya, kami akan melaksanakan kenduri,” sahut pemuda itu sembari menyalami Muzaini.

“Kenduri? Kenduri di mana?” Muzaini bertanya lagi.

“Kenduri ke rumah Wak Guru Rohim.”

“Kenduri untuk apa?” Muzaini semakin kebingungan. Ada acara apakah sampai dilaksanakan kenduri di rumah Wak Rohim.

“Kenduri untuk memeringati empat puluh hari kepergian Wak Guru Rohim menghadap Gusti Allah.” Sahut pemuda itu sembari menatap Muzaini dengan tatapan terheran-heran. Dia menatap Muzaini dengan keheranan, sepertinya dia tak menyangka, kalau Muzaini belum tahu bahwa Wak Guru Rohim sudah meninggal.

Muzaini tak bisa berkata-kata. Kepalanya mendadak terasa pening. Kabar yang dia terima seolah menggetarkan hatinya. Dengan langkah yang seakan limbung, Muzaini berjalan ke arah rumah Wak Rohim. Di sana orang-orang sudah banyak yang datang. Doa dihantarkan untuk Wak Rohim. Tangis Muzaini tak bisa ditahan. Penyesalannya semakin menjadi, ketika melihat surau kecil tempat Wak Rohim mengajar mengaji telah rubuh.

“Muzaini, kau juga ke sini ternyata?”

Muzaini menoleh, ibunya sudah berdiri di belakang tubuhnya.

“Ibu kenapa tak berbagi kabar jika Wak Rohim meninggal?” tanya Muzaini masih terisak.

“Ibu lupa mau berkabar denganmu. Tiap kali ibu telepon, kau selalu cepatcepat menutup lantaran sibuk. Setelahnya ibu selalu lupa mengabarimu.” Ibunya mengamati Muzaini dengan iba.

Mata Muzaini menyapu rumah Wak Rohim dan surau tempatnya mengaji dulu. Surau itu kini hanya tinggal puing-puing yang menyisakan kayu-kayu tua yang sudah lapuk. Tangis Muzaini tak bisa berhenti, dengan erat tangan kanannya mencengkeram amplop berisi uang untuk membantu mengurus surau kecil tempat Wak Rohim mengajar.

“Maafkan saya, Wak Guru. Maafkan saya karena sangat terlambat menemuimu.” Isak Muzaini sembari memandang surau kecil tempatnya belajar mengaji dulu yang kini hanya menyisakan puing-puing.

***

A Revelation at Dawn

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.

 

Read some of his essays and book reviews at: http://onisur.wordpress.com and http://semuareview.wordpress.com

He can be reached at oni.suryaman@gmail.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.

***

Hikayat Emak

Guntur Alam was born in Tanah Abang Selatan, a village in South Sumatera on November 20, 1986. He graduated from the Civil Enginering Department, Universitas Islam 45 Bekasi. In 2010, he started writing short stories and his stories have since been published in various newspapers such as, Kompas, Jawa Pos, Tempo, Media Indonesia, and Majas. Kompas has selected and awarded several of the stories as best stories of the year.

Guntur Alam mostly writes in the theme of noir, horror, and mystery. His gothic story collection Magi Perempuan dan Malam Kunang-kunang was published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama in 2015. He was invited to the Ubud Writers and Reader Festival in 2012 and was a resident of the ASEAN Literary Festival in 2016. He can be reached at guntur486@gmail.com; Twitter @AlamGuntur and Instagram @gunturalam_

Published in April 2020. Copyright ©2020 by Guntur Alam. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2020 by Oni Suryaman.

 

 

Perihal Sebatang Kayu di Belakang Limas Kami yang Ada dalam Hikayat Emak

 

Jangan sesekali kau dekati batang kayu itu. Selalu itu yang Emak katakan bila mata bocahku mulai berbinar-binar menatap batang kayu yang tumbuh rindang di belakang limas kami itu. Lalu, aku akan melempar tanya yang sama lewat retina mata yang seketika meredup mendengar larangan Emak itu. “Mengapa?”

“Di dahan yang paling dekat dengan pokok batangnya, ada seekor ular coklat besar bersarang. Ular itu akan menggigit siapa saja yang mengusiknya.”

Mendengar jawaban Emak itu, aku pasti akan berjinjit ngeri. Terburu membunuh keinginan yang meluap-luap untuk bergumul di dahan-dahannya. Dan sejak saat itu, aku selalu menikam luapan rasa yang sama.

Namun, semakin gigih aku meredam keinginan mendekati batang kayu itu, semakin gencar pula Emak mengulang-ulang hikayatnya. Cerita yang aku pun mulai hafal tiap bagiannya. Entah, Emak seolah-olah tengah menggodaku, serupa seseorang yang hendak menguji; seberapa patuh aku akan larangannya itu? Sementara itu, sifat kanak-kanakku yang penasaran akan kebenaran hikayat Emak, menggebu-gebu: Apa benar? Atau ini hanyalah dongeng Emak semata agar aku tak jadi anak gadis bengal yang bergumul dengan dahan-dahan kayu, macam bujang-bujang ingusan itu.

Di batang kayu itu ada seekor ular coklat besar yang siap mematuk siapapun yang mendekatinya. Dulu, ada seorang gadis muda dengan wajah bulat telur, leher jenjang, kulit sawo matang dengan ikal mayang yang bergelombang sebatas pinggulnya, mata belok, hidung bangir, dan bibirnya sangat tipis. Dia gadis yang cantik.

Selalu itu yang jadi pembuka hikayat Emak. Lambat laut, aku seperti merasa: Tidakkah tokoh gadis yang ada dalam hikayat Emak itu diriku? Sejak menduga-duga serupa itu, aku kerap mematut wajahku di cermin dalam bilik. Rambut hitam yang legam serupa ombak bergelombang sampai pinggang, mata belok, hidung bangir, kulit sawo matang. Persis. Emak seolah-olah tengah menghikayat cerita tentang diriku.

Gadis muda itu tinggal bersama emaknya di limas mereka. Seorang perempuan tua yang mulai terdengar begitu cerewet baginya. Selalu saja melarangnya mendekati batang kayu yang tumbuh rindang di belakang limas mereka. Padahal, di bawah batang kayu itu, saban hari menjelang siang sampai malam merayap datang, ada seorang bujang yang duduk dengan kambing-kambingnya.

Bujang berahang keras dengan sorotan mata elang, tangannya besar dengan bidang dada yang begitu luas untuk bersandar. Sebelum emaknya memergoki dia kerap datang dan bercerita bersama bujang itu tentang kambing, batang kayu tempat mereka berteduh, sampai kain tenun (setelah itu emaknya selalu melarangnya mendekati batang kayu itu), gadis itu merasa telah menemukan hidupnya. Diam-diam, ada yang tumbuh di dadanya, sekuntum mawar liar yang menggeliat-geliat.

Di bagian hikayat itu, aku selalu menemukan raut muka Emak berubah. Ada binar-binar yang tak dapat Emak sembunyikan, serupa sipu gadis pemalu yang jatuh cinta. Jarang sekali, aku menemukan riak-riak bahagia di gurat muka Emak yang keras.

Gadis itu tak dapat meredam geliat mawarnya. Lebih-lebih bila mata beloknya tengah menerawang di langit-langit kamar. Bayangan dia yang menyandarkan kepala di dada bujang itu selalu saja mengantar-kantar matanya. Genggaman jemari besar dengan telapak kapalan terasa begitu lembut saat memegang tangannya. Dia tak tahan. Dia tak dapat menahan rindu yang menyekap.

Lalu, raut muka Emak akan kembali berubah. Setelah binar-binar yang demikian jarang aku temui itu, aku akan menemukan wajah Emak yang nelangsa. Penuh beban, penuh derita, seperti seseorang yang menahan rindu begitu besar, hingga rindu itu terasa tengah meremas-remas hatinya tanpa belas.

Setelah tak sanggup menahan rindu yang mengantar-kantarnya, gadis itu melarang pantang emaknya. Pada pagi menjelang siang yang kelak gadis itu catat sebagai hari paling pekat dalam hidupnya, dia menemui bujang itu.

Mereka melepas rindu yang sudah tak tertakar, hingga meluapkan segala rasa sampai tak sadar kain tenun telah tersingkap dan seekor ular coklat besar yang mengintai mematuk si gadis yang lengah. Bisa telah tersembur, taring telah tertanam. Si gadis membiru dalam ketakutan, si bujang cemas hingga lari ditelan rimba, meninggalkan gadis bermata belok menampung bisa yang merenggut nyawanya.

***

Sesungguhnya, aku tak suka bila Emak telah berhikayat. Selain cerita Emak yang selalu sama: Tentang seorang gadis cantik dan batang kayu yang tumbuh rindang di belakang limas kami itu, cerita Emak diam-diam telah menakutiku. Aku kerap bermimpi buruk. Telah berkali-kali aku ceritakan itu kepada Emak. Tentang aku yang ketakutan dalam tidurku. Seolah aku tengah melanggar pantang Emak, diam-diam menyelinap, dan pergi ke bawah batang kayu itu. Di sana, aku menemukan seekor ular coklat yang demikian besar, bermulut lebar dengan kedua taring yang mengerikan.

Itu artinya, jangan sesekali kau pantang Emak. Bila kau lakukan, ular coklat besar itu akan mematukmu, menyemburkan bisanya yang beracun, hingga kau meregang nyawa sendiri dan terlempar ke alam orang-orang mati. Terkuncil. Sendiri. Dan sunyi.

Pasti. Pasti kata-kata itu yang Emak lontarkan bila aku bercerita tentang mimpi-mimpi burukku. Bila telah demikian, Emak akan kembali mengulang hikayatnya, perihal sebatang kayu di belakang limas kami itu dan seorang gadis cantik yang dipatuk ular coklat karena melanggar pantang emaknya.

Setelah aku merasa Emak tak akan pernah berhenti menceritakan hikayatnya yang menakutkan itu, aku memilih untuk tak menceritakan lagi mimpi-mimpi burukku. Sebab, ceritaku tentang mimpi-mimpi yang mengerikan itu tak akan membuat Emak iba dan menyudahi kisah membosankannya.

Sama hal dengan keinginanku untuk pergi bersama bujang-gadis sebayaku yang saban pagi kutatap dari jauh. Mereka tertawa-tawa, berloncat-loncatan, kejar-kejaran dengan baju yang seragam. Putih-merah. Warna yang menggoda mataku. Selalu saja, saban malam sebelum pejam menjemputku pelan berlahan, doaku sama: Hendak rasanya aku bermimpi di antara mereka, dengan seragam yang sama, menderaikan tawa bersama.

Namun, mimpi itu tak kunjung datang, saban malam hanyalah mimpi tentang ular yang bersarang di batang kayu itu yang menemani tidurku. Mimpi mengerikan.

Sejatinya, aku hendak bercerita kepada Emak, mengapa aku ingin sekali mendekati batang kayu itu. Batang kayu yang tumbuh di belakang limas kami, batang kayu yang berdiri kokoh di tengah padang rumput. Di sana, aku kerap menemukan bujang-gadis seumurku berkejaran, berlari menangkapi capung, bersorak-sorak, lalu mereka berguling-guling di atas rumput. Menderai tawa yang rincak di cupingku.

Tapi, aku tak kunjung mampu untuk mengutarakannya. Tersebab, Emak seolah telah mampu membaca pikiran yang ada di batok kepala kanak-kanakku.

Percayalah, mereka tak akan suka padamu. Ebak-emak mereka akan gegas menyeru mereka pulang, bila kau ada di antara mereka. Setelah itu, kau pasti menangis. Dan Emak tak hendak melihat airmata ada di wajahmu, sebab airmata itu tak akan membuat mereka iba. Menyakitkan, bukan?

Entah, apa yang Emak katakan? Hanya saja, air muka Emak terasa sangat mengerikan. Serupa seringai hantu perempuan yang mati penasaran, nelangsa, penuh beban, penuh dendam. Dan, aku memilih mengubur keinginanku bersama hantu perempuan yang menakutkan itu.

***

Ada hikayat yang sesungguhnya sangat ingin kudengar dari Emak. Tentunya, bukan hikayat tentang sebatang kayu yang tumbuh di belakang limas kami dan seorang gadis cantik yang dipatuk ular coklat besar lantaran melanggar pantang emaknya. Hikayat ini tentang Ebak yang tak sekalipun dapat kubayangkan rupanya. Tak ada selembar foto atau apapun yang berhubungan dengan lelaki itu di limas kami. Hingga, aku pun tak tahu, harus membayangkan rupanya seperti apa.

Ebak-mu telah mati dan kau yatim bersamaku di limas ini.

Selalu. Selalu itu yang Emak katakan bila aku mulai memancing Emak untuk bercerita tentang Ebak. Dan aku pun akan menemukan air muka Emak berubah keruh. Seperti seseorang yang menahan marah, nelangsa, cinta, kesumat, dan semua rasa yang berbalur dalam hatinya. Rasa yang bergumul-gumul hingga melahirkan raut muka Emak yang terlihat begitu mengerikan juga menumbuhkan iba bila kau pandang lamat-lamat.

Bisakah kita ziarah ke kuburnya?

Dan aku pun mengikuti kebiasaan Emak. Mengulang permintaan yang sama. Berulang-ulang. Walau aku pun tahu, jawaban Emak pasti akan sama pula.

Anak gadis tak elok berziarah ke kubur. Kau mulai lupa apa yang Emak ajarkan? Nabi melarang anak gadis ziarah, tersebab pasti akan menangis meraung-raung di sana.

Lalu, aku mulai memutar otak kanak-kanakku agar dapat meminta Emak menceritakan hikayat tentang Ebak. Selain, aku ingin membuat Emak lupa mengulang-ulang hikayat sebatang kayunya itu, aku kian penasaran dengan sosok laki-laki yang telah membuatku ada di limas ini.

Tak ada yang luar biasa untuk Emak ceritakan tentang Ebak-mu. Dia lelaki berahang keras dengan sorot mata elang, bertelapak tangan besar yang kapalan. Rambut legam dan dadanya serupa padang rumput yang bidang.

Hanya itu. Dan cuma itu. Tak ada yang lainnya, hingga aku hanya dapat mereka-reka wajah Ebak dalam benakku. Dalam benak kanak-kanak. Aku pun tak punya pembanding, seperti apa rupa lelaki itu. Di limas ini, cuma ada aku dan Emak. Dua perempuan yang terasa begitu kaku dalam bercerita.

Apa musabab kematian Ebak?

Aku masih setia mengejar Emak dengan hikayat yang sepertinya tak hendak dia terakan. Bila telah demikian, Emak akan memasang wajah merengut. Mendelikkan mata tak suka padaku. Dan aku pun akan menutup mulut.

Ebak-mu mati di tengah rimba, usai berlari lantaran melihat seekor ular mematuk seseorang. Kematian yang mengerikan, kematian yang membuatnya terlempar ke alam yang tak bisa kau raba. Sudah, tak usah kau tanya tentang itu lagi.

***

Begitulah, Emak selalu saja menghikayatkan tentang sebatang kayu di belakang limas kami itu. Tentang seorang gadis cantik yang dipatuk ular coklat besar lantaran melanggar pantang dari emaknya. Kebiasaan Emak menceritakan hikayatnya itu kian menjadi-jadi saja seiring usiaku yang menampak. Dan aku mulai terbiasa dengan ceritanya, kuanggap dongeng semata, tak perlu dicemaskan. Aku pun tak hendak lagi memaksa Emak menceritakan hikayat tentang Ebak, karena aku tahu Emak pasti tak akan menceritakannya. Dan, aku pun tak perlu bercerita kepada Emak, kalau aku diam-diam telah dua kali ke bawah batang kayu itu. Mengintip seorang bujang yang mulai berjakun, bersorot mata elang dengan rahang keras yang tersenyum padaku.

***

 

 

 

Seductive Tree

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.

 

Read some of his essays and book reviews at: http://onisur.wordpress.com and http://semuareview.wordpress.com

He can be reached at oni.suryaman@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Seductive Tree

Don’t you ever go near that tree. That was what Mom said every time when, as a child, my eyes lit up when I looked at the shady tree growing behind our house. Listening to her command, my eyes would dim as I asked, “Why?”

“At the lowest branch of the tree, there is a big brown snake’s nest. The snake will strike at anyone who disturbs it.”

Mom’s answer always made me flinch, killing my burning desire to linger near the tree, and suppressing my longing for a while.

But the more I subdued the desire to play near that tree, the more frequently Mom repeated the entire story about the tree and the big brown snake. I began to memorize each part of it. Who knew, perhaps Mom was tempting me. Perhaps she wanted to test how obedient I was.

Meanwhile, the child inside me was curious about the truth of her story, and I asked myself fervently, “Is it true? Or did Mom just make it up so that I wouldn’t become a naughty girl who fooled around near that tree, like the teenaged boys?”

“There was a big brown snake on the branch, ready to bite anyone who went near it.” Mom always used that line to start her tale. “Once there was a young girl with an oval face, long neck, brown skin, and long curly hair to her hips. She had big eyes, a fine nose, and thin lips. She was a beautiful girl.”

In time, I began to wonder if the girl in the story was me. Once I started to think that way, I often looked at my face in the mirror in my room. Dark curly hair to my waist, big eyes, a fine nose, and brown skin. I looked exactly like the girl in the story. It was as if Mom was telling a tale about me.

“The young girl lived with her mother in their wooden house,” my mother’s tale continued. “The old woman started sounding too preachy to the young girl. The mother always forbade the girl to go near the shady tree behind their wooden house, where every day, from midmorning until nightfall, a young man sat with his goats.

“He had a square jaw with sharp eyes like an eagle, big arms, and a broad chest to lean against.

“Before her mother caught her, the girl often went there and talked to the young man about his goats, the tree that shaded them, and her cloth of innocence. The girl felt that she had found her life. But then her mother forbade her to go to the tree. Secretly, something grew in the girl’s chest — a wild rose that twisted and turned.”

At this part of the story, I always saw Mom’s expression change. There was a sparkle that she could not hide, she looked like a girl falling in love. I rarely found any shred of happiness in my mother’s hard face.

“The girl could not control the growth of the rose,” Mom continued. “Especially when her big eyes looked at the ceiling of her room, daydreaming. The image of her head leaning against the young man’s chest filled her mind. The grasp of his big hands and calloused palms felt very soft as he held her hands. She could not bear it. She could no longer hold her yearning captive.”

At this part in the story, Mom’s face changed again. The joy she rarely showed turned to sorrow on her face, a face filled with sad burdens, like that of someone whose yearnings tortured her heart without mercy.

“Unable to hold back her longing, the girl disobeyed her mother’s orders,” Mom continued. “Around noon, on a day that she would remember as the darkest day of her life, she went to see the young man.

“They satisfied their deep longing until it overwhelmed their senses, and suddenly her cloth of innocence was unveiled; and a big brown snake bit the unaware girl. The snake’s fangs sank into her skin, and the venom was injected. The girl’s face turned blue in terror. It scared the young man so much that he ran away and vanished into the jungle, leaving the girl with the big eyes full of the venom that might take her life.”

***

To be honest, I didn’t like it when Mom told the story. Not only was it always the same story — about a beautiful girl and the shady tree growing behind a wooden house — but her story frightened me. I often had nightmares, and I told Mom about the horrors in my sleep. In my dream, I violated my mother’s forbiddance, and I would sneak to the tree and find the big brown snake, its wide-open mouth showing two scary fangs.

“The dream means, don’t you ever dare to violate my prohibition,” explained my mom. “If you do, the big brown snake will bite you, injecting deadly venom, and you will die alone and be cast into hell. Banished. Deserted. Alone.”

Mom always spoke the same words every time I told her about my nightmares. She would repeat her tale, about the tree behind the wooden house and the beautiful girl who was bitten by a big brown snake because she violated her mother’s prohibition.

Realizing that Mom would never stop telling me her frightening tale, I quit telling her about my nightmares hoping to stop her from telling her same old tale.

I wanted to join the teenagers I watched every day from afar. They were at the tree, laughing, jumping up and down, playing catch in their uniforms. White and red uniforms. The colors enticed me. Every night before I closed my eyes, I prayed for the same wish: That my dream would take me to them, wearing the same uniform, laughing together.

But that never happened. Instead, I always dreamed about the snake nesting in the tree. A horrible dream.

In truth, I longed to tell Mom why I wanted to go to that tree — the tree behind our wooden house, whose trunk and boughs stood proudly in the middle of the meadow. I wanted to tell her that there, I often found teenagers playing catch, running to catch dragonflies, and rolling on the grass. Their laughter buzzed in my ears. But I could never explain that to her.

It was as if Mom could read my young mind. “Believe me, they will never like you,” she told me. “Their parents will quickly call them home, if they see you are with them. After that, you will cry. Mom doesn’t want to see tears on your face, because your tears will not make them pity you. Now, that hurts, right?”

I didn’t understand what she said. I only noticed that her face looked dreadful, like a grimacing ghost who died in rage, sorrowful under burdens and filled with vengeance. I decided to bury my wish together with the frightening ghost.

***

There was, however, a story that I would have liked to hear from Mom. It was not, of course, the story about the tree behind the wooden house and the beautiful girl who was bitten by a big brown snake because she violated her mother’s prohibition. No, it was the story about my father, whose face I could not even imagine. There was no picture or anything related to him in our house. I therefore never knew what kind of a person he was.  

“Your father died, and now you live with just me in this house,” Mom always said when I pleaded with her to tell me about my father. Her expression would become gloomy. She’d look like someone suppressing anger, loneliness, love, vengeance, and other feelings in her heart. The mixed emotions made her face look scary, but also evoked pity when I looked at her closely.

“Can we visit his grave?” I would do what she did and kept repeating the same request even though I knew her answer would always be the same.

“It is not good for a young girl to visit a graveyard,” she’d say. “Did you forget what I taught you? The prophet forbids young girls to visit the grave because they will wail out there.”

So I used my young wit to make Mom tell the story about my father. Besides, I wanted her to stop repeating the same tale about the tree over and over again, as I became more and more curious about the man who caused me to live this house.

“There is nothing special that I can tell you about your father,” said Mom. “He had a square jaw and eyes like an eagle; his hands were big, and his palms were calloused. He had dark hair, and his chest was as broad as the meadow.”

And that was it. Nothing that could help me form a complete picture of him in my mind.

I also had no one to compare him to. I lived alone with my mom in this wooden house — two women who were not good at telling stories.

“How did he die?” I persisted in asking Mom about the story she didn’t want to tell. At such times, Mom frowned and glared at me with dislike. And I would shut my mouth.

“Your father died in the jungle, where he ran because he saw a snake strike at someone,” she finally told me.  “A horrible death, the kind of death that would cast one into an untouchable world. That’s it. Don’t you ask about that again.”

***

So, that’s the story that Mom kept telling me about the tree behind a wooden house. About a beautiful girl bitten by a big brown snake because she violated her mother’s rules.

She told the story even more frequently after I came of age, and I started getting used to her story, which I considered to be a fairy tale, nothing to be worried about. I didn’t even ask her to tell the story about my father anymore, knowing she would never tell me anything more. And I didn’t tell her that, secretly, I had been to the tree twice, peeking at a young man whose Adam’s apple started to show, whose eyes stared like an eagle, who had a square jaw and smiled at me.

***

Kopi dan Cinta yang Tak Pernah Mati

Agus Noor is a prose and short story writer as well as a playwright. He was born in Tegal, Central Java and graduated from ISI, the Indonesian Insitute of Art, in Yogyakarta. His short stories are published in several anthologies such as Kitab Cerpen Horison Sastra Indonesia (Majalah Horison dan The Ford Foundation, 2002), Jl. Asmaradana (Cerpen Pilihan Kompas, 2005), Ripin (Cerpen Kompas Pilihan, 2007), Kitab Cerpen Horison Sastra Indonesia, Pembisik (Cerpen-cerpen terbaik Republika), and 20 Cerpen Indonesia Terbaik 2008 (Pena Kencana). His short story Kunang-Kunang di Langit Jakarta was awarded the 2011 best short story by Kompas.

Agus Noor can be reached at agus2noor@yahoo.co.id

Published in February 2020. Copyright ©2020 by Agus Noor. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2020 by Oni Suryaman.

 

Kopi dan Cinta yang Tak Pernah Mati

 

Kebebasan selalu layak dirayakan. Maka selepas keluar penjara, yang diinginkan ialah mengunjungi kedai kopi ini. Kebahagiaan akan semakin lengkap bila dinikmati dengan secangkir kopi. Hanya di kedai kopi ini dia bisa menikmati kopi terbaik yang disajikan dengan cara paling baik.

Ada orang-orang yang bersikeras mempertahankan kenangan, dan kedai kopi ini seolah diperuntukkan bagi orang-orang seperti itu. Nyaris tak ada yang berubah. Meja kursi kayu hanya terlihat makin gelap dan tua.

Yang dulu tak ada hanya pengumuman bergambar bayangan wajah lelaki berkumis tebal, yang terpasang dekat jendela.

Ada tulisan di bawah pengumuman itu, seperti larik puisi. Pada kopi ada revolusi, juga cinta yang tak pernah mati. Dia tersenyum. Sejarah memang aneh: dulu lelaki itu pembangkang, kini dianggap pejuang.

Beberapa orang di kedai kopi langsung menatap tajam saat dia masuk. Dia mengenali beberapa dari mereka, para pembangkang yang sejak dulu memang selalu berkumpul di kedai kopi ini. Dia tetap tenang. Apa pun bisa terjadi. Mungkin seseorang akan menyerangnya. Sepuluh tahun dalam penjara membuat kewaspadaannya makin terasah.

Dia meraba pistol di balik jaket. Sekadar berjaga. Kita harus selalu berhati-hati menghadapi kebencian, batinnya, saat menatap anak muda penyaji kopi yang terus memandanginya.

Mata itu mengingatkan pada mata laki-laki yang dulu dibunuhnya. Umur anak muda itu baru sebelas tahun saat bapaknya mati. Kini terlihat seperti banteng muda yang siap meluapkan dendamnya. Pemuda itu mengangguk pelan saat dia memesan.

Panas udara siang membuat wangi kopi terasa semakin kental. Tak akan pernah dilupakannya harum kopi yang menenteramkan ini, seolah wangi itu dicuri dari surga.

Ketika ditugaskan ke kota ini, komandannya memberi tahu, agar tak melewatkan kedai kopi ini dari daftar yang harus dikunjungi. Kedai kopi yang menyediakan kopi terbaik. Kedai kopi yang bukan saja istimewa, tetapi juga berbahaya.

Bertahun lalu, dia dikirim ke kota ini untuk menghabisi seorang pembangkang yang dianggap berbahaya bagi negara. Saat itu unjuk rasa nyaris meledak setiap hari. Kota ini menjadi kota yang selalu rusuh oleh gagasan gila perihal kemerdekaan.

Para perusuh itu, begitu tentara menyebut, tak hanya bergerak di hutan-hutan, tetapi juga menyusup ke kota, menyerang pos keamanan atau menyergap pasukan patroli keamanan.

Tentara melakukan pembersihan. Puluhan orang ditangkap, diculik dan tak pernah kembali. Ada peristiwa yang tak akan pernah dilupakan oleh penduduk kota ini, ketika suatu hari tentara menghajar delapan anak muda di perempatan pusat kota. Mereka diseret, dibariskan satu per satu, kemudian ditembak tepat di kepala. Kekejian seperti itu terkadang diperlukan untuk menciptakan ketakutan. Tapi siapa yang bisa membunuh gagasan? Kepala bisa ditembak sampai pecah, tetapi gagasan akan terus hidup dalam kepala banyak orang. Peristiwa itu mendapat protes keras, dan makin memicu perlawanan.

Amnesty International menekan pemerintah pusat untuk menghentikan kekerasan. Saat operasi militer dianggap tak lagi berdaya guna, dia pun dikirim.

Sebagai seorang mata-mata yang terlatih dia pun dengan cepat mengetahui, bagi orang-orang di kota ini kedai kopi bukan sekadar tempat untuk menikmati kopi. Hampir di setiap jalan di kota ini selalu ada kedai kopi. Rasanya tak ada penduduk kota ini yang tak menyukai kopi. Di kedai kopi waktu seperti berhenti. Orang bisa sepanjang hari duduk di kedai kopi untuk berkumpul, berbual atau menyendiri, mempercakapkan hal-hal rahasia, kasak-kusuk perlawanan, juga tempat paling tepat untuk menyelesaikan masalah. Pertengkaran bisa diselesaikan dengan secangkir kopi. Semua keterangan di kota ini akan dengan mudah didapatkan di kedai kopi.

Dari keterangan yang dimiliki dia mengenali lelaki yang mesti dihabisi. Yang dianggap musuh negara paling berbahaya ternyata bukan seorang berperawakan kekar, yang hidup berpindah-pindah dalam hutan memimpin gerilyawan, dan karena itu tentara tak pernah berhasil menangkapnya. Orang yang dicarinya itu hanya bertubuh kecil, nyaris kurus, berkulit gelap, rambut agak ikal. Dia terlihat keras, tetapi selalu berbicara dengan nada santun. Jadi inilah orang yang selalu menghasut anak-anak muda untuk melakukan perlawanan dan menuntut kemerdekaan. Dia hanya penyaji kopi.

***

Anak muda penyaji kopi itu telah berdiri di dekatnya, menyodorkan secangkir kopi yang sedikit bergetar ketika diletakkan di meja. Dia tahu anak muda itu gugup, tetapi berusaha mengendalikan perasaannya.

“Ini kopi terbaik yang kusajikan untukmu yang di dalamnya tersimpan rahasia, yang hanya bisa kau ketahui setelah kau meminumnya.” Anak muda itu menatapnya. “Tapi aku tak yakin, apakah kamu berani meminumnya habis.”

Di luar, jalanan ramai lalu lalang kendaraan. Klakson angkot, knalpot sepeda motor meraung kencang. Lagu dangdut terdengar dari kedai kopi seberang jalan. Tapi dia merasakan suasana begitu sunyi di kedai ini. Semua orang dalam kedai terdiam dan memandang ke arahnya, seolah berharap terjadi perkelahian seru.

“Duduklah,” akhirnya dia berkata. “Seperti yang selalu dikatakan orang-orang di kota ini, mari kita selesaikan semuanya dengan secangkir kopi.

Terdengar kursi kayu digeser, dan anak muda itu duduk. “Seperti ketika kamu menghabisi ayah aku!”

Lagu dangdut masih terdengar dari kedai seberang: Tuduhlah aku, sepuas hatiiimuuuu, atau bila kau perlu bunuhlah akuuuu…

“Kau pasti membenciku.” Dia mengisap rokok dalam-dalam.

“Untuk apa membenci seorang pengecut. Pengecut lebih pantas dikasihani.”

“Kalau kukatakan aku bukan pembunuh ayahmu, pasti kau tak percaya. Tapi baiklah, bila aku memang kau anggap pembunuh ayahmu, kau pasti tahu kenapa ayahmu harus dibunuh.”

“Selalu tersedia cukup banyak alasan untuk menjadi pembunuh. Hanya pengecut yang membunuh dengan cara-cara licik.”

“Jangan terlalu percaya pada apa yang diberitakan koran-koran. Asal kau tahu, aku mengagumi ayahmu. Kematian ayahmu bukan tanggung jawabku. Itu tanggung jawab negara.”

“Yang pertama-tama dilakukan para pengecut memang selalu mencari pembenaran. Itu sebabnya para pengecut selalu selamat.”

Dia kembali menyalakan sebatang rokok. Padahal rokok di asbak masih panjang. Dia ingin meminum kopi di cangkir itu pelan, tapi seperti ada yang menahannya, naluri yang mengharuskannya bersikap hati-hati dalam keadaan seperti ini. Jari-jarinya berkedut, hal yang selalu terjadi bila dia merasa cemas, hingga rokok di jarinya nyaris lepas. “Aku telah menghabiskan sepuluh tahun dalam penjara untuk sesuatu yang dituduhkan padaku yang sebenarnya tak pernah kulakukan.”

“Pengecut tak akan pernah berani mengakui kejahatan yang dilakukan!”

“Aku sendiri hanya orang yang dikorbankan untuk menutupi kesalahan orang lain. Salah alamat bila kau mendendam kepadaku.”

“Ini bukan soal dendam. Ini soal keadilan,” tatapan anak muda itu makin tajam. “Kamu memang sudah dihukum. Dan aku yakin, sepanjang hidupmu, kamu akan terus dihukum oleh kepengecutan dan ketakutanmu. Tapi itu bukan alasan bagiku untuk berhenti menuntut keadilan.”

“Apa yang kamu tuntut dari keadilan? Keadilan tak pernah membuat yang mati hidup kembali.”

“Yang mati memang tak akan pernah hidup kembali…”

“Kecuali Tuhan,” dia menimpali ucapan anak muda itu, mencoba berkelakar mencairkan suasana tegang.

“Keadilan bukan perkara orang per orang. Ini bukan persoalan antara aku dan kamu. Juga bukan persoalan kamu dan ayahku. Jika kamu menganggap ini hanya persoalan pribadi, semestinya kamu menantang ayahku untuk berkelahi satu lawan satu, sampai salah satu di antara kalian mati. Itu jauh lebih jantan dan terhormat. Tapi aku tahu, pengecut semacammu tak akan pernah berani bersikap jantan seperti itu. Menyedihkan memang, pengecut selalu selamat oleh kepengecutannya.”

“Aku bukan pengecut!” Suaranya terdengar mengambang di udara.

“Kalau begitu, minum kopi itu, dan kita tunggu apa yang terjadi.”

Ketika dia hanya terdiam gamang memandangi cangkir kopi, anak muda itu tertawa masam. “Apa kamu pikir dengan berani datang ke kedai ayahku ini kamu sudah membuktikan keberanianmu? Tidak! Aku yakin kamu datang kemari bukan untuk meminta maaf. Kamu datang kemari justru karena ingin membuktikan bahwa kamu tidak bersalah telah membunuh ayahku. Kamu merasa, dengan dipenjara sepuluh tahun, sudah cukup untuk menganggap selesai persoalan.

Bagiku, tak ada kata lupa untuk kejahatan. Pembunuh selalu bersikeras melupakan korbannya. Bahkan, aku yakin, kamu sudah lupa seperti apa ayahku.”

Dia diam-diam melirik pada pengumuman di tembok kayu itu; wajah lelaki berkumis tebal itu tak akan pernah mungkin dilupakannya. Wajah itu selalu muncul dalam mimpi buruknya. Dia tak akan pernah lupa pada saat-saat dia mulai mendekati lelaki itu.

Masuklah ke dalam hati musuhmu melalui apa yang disukainya. Ketika dia selalu mengajaknya bicara tentang kopi, lelaki itu dengan cepat menyukainya. Saat menikmati kopi di sore bergerimis, dari lelaki itu dia tahu rahasia menyajikan kopi. Sentuhan tangan penyaji kopilah yang membedakan rasa kopi. Biji kopi terbaik tetap saja tak akan enak bila tangan penyaji kopi itu tak mengenali jiwa kopi. Dia pun mengerti kenapa di kedai ini tak ada mesin penggiling kopi. Lelaki itu mengolah sendiri biji-biji kopi dengan tangannya.

Sentuhlah biji-biji kopi itu dengan seluruh perasaanmu, kamu akan merasakan sesuatu yang lembut. Dan kamu akan tahu mana biji kopi terbaik yang pantas disajikan untuk pelanggan.

Sebenarnya dia tak hendak percaya. Namun pada kenyataannya kopi di kedai kopi ini memang terasa paling nikmat di lidahnya. Dia sudah sering menikmati kopi di banyak kedai kopi, tetapi tak ada yang bisa membuatnya merasa begitu nikmat senikmat setiap kali dia menikmati kopi di kedai ini. Seakan dalam secangkir kopi itu ada kebahagiaan yang dikekalkan. Bahkan ketika dalam penjara, diam-diam dia sering minta tolong pada sipir untuk membelikan kopi dari kedai ini. Dengan sogokan tentu saja.

“Tak pernah ada sebelumnya yang membiarkan kopi di kedai ini menjadi dingin tanpa menyentuhnya,” suara anak muda itu membuyarkan ingatannya. “Itu sudah cukup membuktikan bahwa kamu bukan saja pengecut karena tidak berani meminum kopi yang aku sajikan, tetapi juga meyakinkanku kalau kamu memang pengecut yang dihantui ketakutanmu sendiri.”

Anak muda itu bangkit meninggalkannya sendirian.

***

Langit gelap dan kosong ketika dia keluar dari kedai itu. Tapi perasaan kosong dalam hatinya menghamparkan kehampaan melebihi luas langit yang dipandanginya. Rasanya dia merasa lebih terhormat bila anak muda itu menghajarnya hingga babak belur ketimbang membuatnya merasa terhina seperti ini.

Tak akan pernah berani lagi dia kembali ke kedai kopi itu. Kopi yang disajikan anak muda itu benar-benar telah membuatnya diluapi perasaan takut; mengingatkannya pada peristiwa saat dia menuangkan arsenik ke dalam cangkir kopi lelaki berkumis itu.

Dia melihat seorang gadis berjalan bergegas menyeberang jalan. Gadis itu memakai kaos bergambar sablon wajah lelaki berkumis itu. Kematian seorang pengecut seperti dirinya tak akan pernah mendapat kehormatan seperti kematian lelaki yang dibunuhnya.

Saat melintas di depan toko kelontong berkaca lebar dia berhenti, memandangi bayangan muram tubuhnya; kulit coklat gelapnya tersamar warna jaket yang telah pudar, mata cekung dan alis matanya yang semurung sayap burung sedikit tertutup rambut yang mulai gondrong. Bayangan di kaca itu seperti hantu masa lalu yang tak ingin dilihatnya.

Kemudian dia berjalan menuju kelokan, dan untuk terakhir kali memandang kedai kopi itu dari kejauhan, sebelum akhirnya menghilang ke dalam cahaya kota yang remang. Bila pada akhirnya dia benar-benar menghilang dari dunia ini, adakah seseorang yang masih mengingat dan mengenangnya?

***

Coffee Noir

 

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.

Read some of his essays and book reviews at: http://onisur.wordpress.com and http://semuareview.wordpress.com

He can be reached at oni.suryaman@gmail.com.

 

 

Coffee Noir

 

Freedom is always worth celebrating. That’s why, after he was released from prison, he wanted to visit this coffee shop. His joy would be completed with a cup of coffee. Only in this coffee shop could he enjoy the best coffee served in the best way.

Some people insisted on preserving memories, and it was as if this coffee shop especially existed for such people. Almost nothing had changed. Only the color of the wooden chairs had grown darker and older. The only thing that wasn’t there before was a sketch of a man’s face with a thick mustache on a poster next to the window.

A line was written at the bottom of the poster, like a verse of poetry: In coffee, there is revolution; there is also everlasting love. He smiled. History has its own humor: the man who used to be considered a rebel was now hailed as a hero.

Several people had glared at him when he entered. He recognized some of them; this coffee shop had always been a hotspot for rebels. He stayed calm. Anything could happen. Someone might challenge him. The ten years he served in prison had honed his sense of awareness to perfection.

He touched the gun under his jacket, just in case. Be careful when facing hatred, he thought, as he looked at a young server who would kept staring at him.

The young server’s eyes reminded him of the man he had killed. The young server was only eleven years old when his father died. Now he looked like a young bull ready to exact revenge. The server nodded slowly when he ordered his coffee.

The hot air at noon made the coffee aroma in the shop stronger. He would never forget the soothing smell of coffee; it was as if the scent was stolen from heaven.

When he had been assigned to this town, many years ago, his commanding officer had told him not to miss this coffee shop on the list of places you must visit. It serves the best coffee, his commanding officer told him. This coffee shop is not only special, but also dangerous.

He had been sent to this town to kill a rebel deemed dangerous to the national security. At that time, demonstrations took place almost every day. This town had always been riotous with crazy ideas about independence.

The rebels, as they were labelled by the national army, didn’t just roam the jungle, but also infiltrated towns, attacked military posts, and ambushed military patrols.

The national army conducted a sweep. Dozens of people were captured, abducted, and never returned. The people of the town would never forget the day the army beat up eight young men in an intersection downtown. The youths were dragged, lined up, and then shot in the head. Such atrocity was sometimes used to create fear. But who can kill ideas? One can shoot a head and explode the brain, but ideas stay alive inside the heads of many people. This atrocious was vehemently protested and triggered more retaliations.

Amnesty International pressured the central government to cease the brutality. When military operations were considered powerless, he was assigned to the town.

As a trained spy, he knew right away that this coffee shop was not just a place for the town’s people to gather and drink coffee. There were coffee shops on almost every street in this town. It seemed no one in this town didn’t enjoy coffee. At the coffee shop, time almost stood still. People could sit there all day long to gossip, tell secrets, plot for resistance, or just be alone. It was also a good place to settle disputes. Any dispute could be settled over a cup of coffee. Any information about this town could be easily obtained in the coffee shop.

And from the information he had collected, he identified the man he had been sent to kill. This man, considered the most dangerous rebel, turned out to be neither a big man nor someone who roved in the jungle leading guerillas; that’s why the national army never succeeded in capturing him. The man he was looking for was a man of small stature, almost skinny, with dark skin and slightly wavy hair. The man looked tough, but always spoke in a polite tone. This rebel, who continuously incited young men to join the resistance and demand independence, was just a server in a coffee shop.

***

The young man serving his coffee now stood next to him; the cup shook a little when he put it on the table.

He could tell that the young man was nervous but was trying to control his emotions.

“In this cup of the best coffee I can serve you lies a secret, which you can only find after you drink it.” The young server said, staring at him. “But I am not sure if you dare to empty your cup.”

Outside, the road was crowded with traffic. The air was filled with horns honking from mini-buses and exhaust pipes rumbling from motorcycles. A dangdut song blared from the coffee shop across the street. But he felt the silence that reigned in this coffee shop. Everyone was quiet and had their eyes fixed on him, as if expecting a fight would break out.

“Sit down,” he finally said to the young server. “As the people in this town would say, let’s settle everything with a cup of coffee.”

The wooden chair scraped as the young man dragged it from the table and sat down. The young man said, “Just like when you murdered my father!”

The dangdut song still blared from across the street. “Accuse me to your heart’s content, and if you feel it necessary, just kill me …” “You must hate me.” He sucked hard on his cigarette.

“Why should I hate a coward? You should be pitied.”

“If I told you that I didn’t kill your father, you would not believe me. But that’s fine. Let’s say you believe that I am indeed your father’s killer; if so, then you must know why he had to die.”

“There are always excuses to be a murderer. Only a coward kills using devious ways.”

“You cannot trust what is written in the newspapers. You have to know that I admired your father. I am not responsible for his death; this country is.”

“The first thing a coward always does is to find justification. That’s why a coward always survives.”

He lit another cigarette, even though the cigarette he left in the ashtray was still long. He wanted to sip his coffee, but something was keeping him from doing it; his instinct forced him to be careful in this kind of situation. His fingers twitched, something that always happened when he was nervous, and he almost dropped his cigarette. “I have served ten years in prison for something that I didn’t do.”

“A coward would never dare admit the crime he committed!”

“I’m just the fall guy for someone else’s crime. You picked the wrong guy if you hold a grudge against me.”

“This is not about a grudge. This is about justice.” The young man’s stare became more intense. “You served your time, indeed. I’m sure that for your entire life, you are going to be punished for your cowardice and fear. But that is not a reason for me to stop pursuing justice.”

“What do you want to pursue justice for? Justice could never raise someone from the dead. The dead can never be raised again …”

“Except by God,” the young man interrupted, trying to lighten the conversation with a joke. “Justice is not catered to one’s individual business. This is not about you and me. This is not even about you and my father. If you think this is personal, you should have challenged my father to a one-on-one duel to the death. That would be braver and more honorable. But I know, a coward like you would never act bravely like that. Sadly, indeed, a coward is always saved by his cowardice.”

“I am not a coward!” His voice hung in the air.

“Drink the coffee then,” said the server, “and let’s see what happens.”

When he looked at the cup of coffee in silence, the young server laughed wryly. “You think that you come here to my father’s coffee shop to prove your courage? No! I’m sure that you did not come here to apologize. You came here precisely because you want to prove that you’re innocent of killing my father. You think that your ten-year prison sentence is enough to close the matter. For me, a crime should never be forgotten. A murderer will always insist that he has forgotten his victim. I’m sure that you have forgotten what my father looks like.”

He stole a covert glance at the poster on the wooden wall; he would never be able to forget the face of the man with a thick mustache. That face always showed up in his nightmares. He would never forget the moment he approached that man.

Gain your enemy’s trust by knowing what he likes. When he started his conversations with the mustached man about coffee, the man liked him immediately. While enjoying the coffee during that rainy afternoon, he learned the secret of coffee-making from that man. “It is the hand that makes the coffee that makes the difference,” he was told. “Even the best coffee beans would taste bad if the coffeemaker is not in touch with the soul of the coffee.”

He suddenly understood why there was no coffee grinder in this shop. The man always crushed the coffee beans with his hands.

“Touch the beans with all of your soul, and you will feel something tender inside. You will know which beans are the best, worthy of being served to the customers.”

He wasn’t sure he believed that, but it was a fact that the coffee from this coffee shop was indeed the best according to his palate. He had enjoyed coffee in many coffee shops, but none tasted as good as the coffee in this shop. It was as if eternal bliss was captured in every cup of coffee. Even when he was in prison, he secretly asked the warden to get him coffee from this shop. For a price, of course.

“In this shop, no one ever dares to let the coffee get cold without touching it.” The young server’s voice interrupted his reminiscence. “This is enough to prove that you’re not just a coward who doesn’t dare to drink my coffee, but that you’re indeed a coward who is haunted by his own fear.”

The young server rose and left him by himself.

***

The sky was dark and empty when he came out of the coffee shop. But the emptiness in his heart was hollower than that of the sky above him. It would have been more respectful if the young man had beaten him to a pulp than made him feel insulted like this.

He would never dare to return to that coffee shop. The coffee served by the young man overwhelmed him with fear, reminding him when he had put arsenic in the cup of the man with the thick mustache.

He saw a girl hurriedly cross the street. She wore a T-shirt with the face of the man with a thick mustache. The death of a coward like him would never earn an honor like the death of the man he killed.

When he passed a general store with a wide glass window, he stopped. He looked at the somber shadow of his body, his dark-brown skin concealed by his faded jacket. His sunken eyes below arched eyebrows, partly covered by hair that had started to grow long. The reflection in the glass window was like a ghost from the past he didn’t want to see.

He walked toward the intersection and turned, looking back at the coffee shop for the last time, before disappearing in the dim light of the town. When, in the end, he really disappeared from this world, would anyone out there still remember him?

***

We are happy and proud to celebrate the end of 2019 and the start of 2020 with showcasing a handful of Indonesia’s aspiring writers and translators. We hope that by doing this we will inspire more young people to seriously consider how to get the most out of their gift of language.

The following is our "catch of the day." A sixth grader's short story that won first place in a regional writing competition, that was translated by a sophomore in middle school is followed with two stories from Indonesian Creative Writing students from the University of Sanata Darma and generously translated by Novita Dewi, a lecturer at the English Department of the same university. We conclude this special feature with a story written by an alumni of Petra University, Irene Wibowo, that was used as translation material at their latest translation workshop with us in October, earlier this year.

I like to quote one of the workshop participants, "I learned that, even though the work is not easy, it is rewarding." which echoes in his teacher’s statement, "...with hard work and combined effort, we, Indonesian authors and translators, can indeed stand on our own. Onward!" and ONWARD we will move through 2020 with the support of our teaching, writing, translating and publishing community. May 2020 be a fruitful year for all of us.

Kehampaan di Pantai Tanjung Lesung

Maryam Mufidah was born on December 22, 2007, in Purworejo, Central Java, Indonesia. She currently is a sixth grader at the elementary school of the Muhammadiyah Kutoarjo.

As her writing achievements she notes two placings in 2019. A second place at the “Festival dan Literasi Nasional”— a short story competition for the Kutoarjo area, and a first place at the “Tsamuha Smart Competition” — a short story competition for the Jawa Tengah province.

Maryam and her family currently reside in Pangenjurutengah, Purworejo, Jawa Tengah. She can be reached via her mother, Sari Wahyuni, at: 085743637002.

 
 
 
 

Kehampaan di Pantai Tanjung Lesung

Sore itu, pada 22 Desember 2018, kabut tebal dan suara gemuruh yang tak kunjung reda menghantam seluruh pantai Tanjung Lesung, Pandeglang.

“Gempa! Gempa! Gunung Krakatau meletus!” Teriakan penduduk di sekitar pantai Tanjung Lesung terdengar di seantero desa.

Isak tangis terdengar di mana-mana. Korban pun banyak terlihat di reruntuhan rumah. Banyak jasad tak terurus. Desa sunyi menahan sedu dan pilu.

Seorang anak berparas cantik duduk bersandar di bebatuan purba yang berada di tepi pantai. Mata anak itu disembunyikan di antara kedua lututnya. Wajahnya tertunduk.

“Nak, mengapa kamu di sini?” tanya seorang polisi yang sedang berkeliling di tepi pantai yang masuk dalam provinsi Banten itu. Dia ditugaskan untuk mencari korban-korban gempa bumi yang kemudian disusul tsunami.

Anak itu memandang polisi itu sebelum berkata lirih, “Saya sudah tidak memiliki apa pun.”

Polisi itu lalu mencari keterangan mengenai anak perempuan itu pada penduduk setempat.

Anak itu bernama Fenita. Kecuali kakaknya yang sedang meneruskan pendidikan di luar Pulau Jawa, semua keluarganya memang sudah habis ditelan gempa dan digulung tsunami.

“Fenita, kakakmu akan kuberitahu mengenai keadaanmu dan orangtuamu yang telah meninggal. Kamu dapat tinggal di rumahku sampai kakakmu datang menjumpaimu. Kamu dapat memanggilku Om Rian,” polisi itu tersenyum sambil menatap Fenita.

“Pak Polisi eh Om Rian tidak keberatan?” tanya Fenita ragu.

“Om di rumah sendirian. Jadi…,”

Om Rian belum menyelesaikan kata-katanya, Fenita langsung memeluknya dengan erat. Dia memang masih membutuhkan kasih sayang orangtua.

***

Fenita didaftarkan oleh Om Rian ke sebuah sekolah dasar di Kota Tegal. Pada hari pertama memasuki sekolah, Fenita masih gugup. Namun, atas dukungan Om Rian dia akhirnya dengan percaya diri belajar di sekolah itu. Fenita tidak malu-malu berkenalan dengan teman-teman barunya.

Di sekolah itu ada seorang anak bernama Winda yang sama-sama tak memiliki orangtua.

“Kita harus tetap tegar menghadapi berbagai ujian. Hidup bukanlah untuk berpangku tangan,” kata Winda pada saat jam istirahat.

“Kau benar,” Fenita tersenyum dan berharap dapat berkawan akrab dengan Winda.

“Kamu perlu tahu aturan kelas kita. Siapa yang paling sedikit kekurangannyalah yang menjadi pemimpin. Semua murid akan menjulukinya si orang pertama,” jelas Winda.

“Ada anak yang seperti itu?”

“Ada. Anak itu bernama Malik. Itu dia,” Winda mengarahkan pandangannya pada Malik yang sedang bersandar di pintu kelas tak terlalu jauh dari tempat Fenita dan Winda bercakap-cakap.

“Menurutku, anak yang memiliki apa yang kau sebutkan tadi tidaklah berarti apabila dia hanya peduli pada dirinya sendiri,” kata Fenita.

“Ssst! Malik datang,” bisik Winda.

Malik mendatangi mereka dan menghardik Fenita, “Anak baru sudah berani menantang aku!” kata Malik gusar. Dia berpaling dari pandangan Fenita, dan langsung pergi.

Kembali Fenita dan Winda berdua bercakap-cakap.

Menurut Winda, sebenarnya teman sekelas tidak setuju aturan yang dibuat Malik, tetapi mereka tidak berani menentangnya,
“Semoga aku bisa membantunya untuk berubah melalui doaku,” kata Fenita sambil tersenyum.

Sepulang sekolah Fenita langsung mencuci kaki, berganti baju, berwudhu, dan melaksanakan salat. Seusai salat, Fenita berdoa supaya Malik mendapat hidayah. Fenita membaca Alquran dan berharap doanya dikabulkan.

***

Pada saat liburan sekolah, Om Rian mengajak Fenita berlibur ke pantai Tegal.

Fenita tidak menjawab. Dia berlari ke kamar, dan menangis. Dia beranggapan bahwa pantailah yang membuatnya menjadi yatim piatu.

Tak lama kemudian, Om Rian masuk ke kamar Fenita. Dia duduk di pinggiran tempat tidur Fenita sambil mengelus-elus kepalanya dengan lembut.

Ajakan Om Rian berlibur ke pantai menjadikannya gundah. Untuk menenangkan diri, Fenita bermain ke rumah Winda yang jaraknya tak begitu jauh dari rumah Om Rian.

Fenita bercerita pada Winda tentang gempa dan tsunami yang melanda desanya.

“Saat itu aku dan ayahku berencana menangkap ikan di laut dengan menggunakan perahu.

Ibu yang tahu mengenai rencana itu langsung menyiapkan makanan ringan. Ibu telah membeli buah melon yang akan dibawa ke pantai. Lalu gempa datang mengguncang desa.

Ayah langsung membawaku ke tepi pantai dengan menggunakan perahu miliknya agar aku dapat selamat. Namun, di pantai tsunami datang.

Aku diminta lari ke arah daratan.

Ayah bukannya menyelamatkan diri, dia malah menolong seseorang yang tenggelam digulung ombang. Ayah pun terombang-ambing di antara gelombang yang menggunung,” cerita Fenita. Matanya berkaca-kaca.
“Bagaimana dengan ibumu? Apa yang terjadi dengannya?”

“Sewaktu gempa, kaki ibu tersandung melon yang menghambatnya lari keluar. Ibu tertimpa kayu penyangga rumah,” lanjut Fenita. “Itulah yang membuatku benci pantai dan buah melon. Keganasan alam itulah yang membuatku hidup seperti sekarang ini,” lanjut Fenita. Air matanya menetes.

“Jangan khawatir, semua yang kita punya di dunia ini hanyalah sementara. Semua yang kita miliki pasti kembali pada Yang Kuasa. Hidup di dunia bukanlah satu-satunya cara kita bahagia. Dengan membahagiakan orang lain pun kita dapat berbahagia. Bukan hanya berbahagia di dunia, namun juga di akhirat,” ucap Winda menyemangati.

“Terimakasih, Winda. Kata-katamu menyemangatiku,” kata Fenita

“Jangan pernah membenci sesuatu yang Allah ciptakan untuk kita,” jawab Winda.

***

Keesokan harinya, Fenita didekati Winda yang mengabarkan tentang lomba membuat rangkaian bunga dan menghias bingkai foto dari bahan-bahan yang mudah dijumpai di lingkungan pantai.

“Dengan mengikuti lomba ini kamu dapat membahagiakan orangtuamu,” ucap Winda. “Hayo, lebih besar yang mana? Keinginan untuk membahagiakan orangtuamu atau keinginan untuk menghindari pantai? Sampai kapan kamu akan seperti ini?” tantang Winda yang akhirnya membuat Fenita bersedia ikut.

Sesampainya di gelanggang lomba, Fenita terkesima dengan keindahan pantai Kota Tegal. Sudah lama dia tak melihat pantai.

Winda menunggu di teras bangunan yang didirikan di tepi pantai, sedangkan Fenita bersiap mengikuti lomba.

“Hei, kamu lagi, kamu lagi. Bosan aku!”

“Malik?” Fenita terkejut, tapi cuma sebentar.

Fenita tak menghiraukan Malik. Dia berharap Malik tak mengganggunya. Setelah acara dimulai, Fenita mendengarkan pewara yang sedang menjelaskan tata cara lomba. Pewara tersebut memberitahukan bagaimana membuat bunga dengan menggunakan sabun. Hanya dengan mengukir memakai pisau kecil, peserta diharapkan dapat menghasilkan bunga istimewa.

Saat lomba dimulai, Fenita bingung. Kain flannel dan manik-maniknya hilang. Dia mencoba mencarinya, namun tanpa hasil. Ternyata kain flannel dan manik-maniknya berada dalam genggaman Malik. Fenita menghela napas. Dia tidak mau berurusan dengan Malik.

Fenita memutar otaknya untuk mencari bahan lain. Fenita berjalan mendekati pedagang di seputar pantai. Semula Fenita enggan untuk membeli buah melon karena buah melon selalu mengingatkannya pada cerita tentang kematian ibunya. Fenita pun membeli buah melon yang nantinya akan diukir membentuk bunga mawar dengan pisau kecil yang diberikan pada setiap peserta lomba. Namun, Fenita masih bingung bagaimana cara menghias bingkai foto. Tiba-tiba terlintas di benaknya untuk memanfaatkan kerang di tepi pantai sebagai bahan utamanya. Fenita lekas-lekas mengambil kerang-kerang bercorak indah.

Fenita beranjak ke gelanggang lomba dan langsung membuat bunga dengan mengukir bagian dalam melon dan menyusun kerang-kerang menjadi sebuah hiasan bingkai foto. Beruntung Fenita telah diberitahu cara mengukir bunga dengan menggunakan pisau sehingga ia dapat membuat bunga yang indah. Seusai Fenita berkarya, dia menyerahkan karyanya dan menemui Winda. Fenita memberitahukan apa yang baru saja dilakukannya. Dia berjanji tidak akan membenci melon dan pantai jika dia menang.

Waktu pengumuman tiba. Fenita meraih juara satu dan Malik juara dua.

Fenita sangat bahagia. Dia naik ke atas panggung. Namun, anehnya, Malik tak berada di sampingnya ketika penilai menyerahkan penghargaan dan piagam untuk Fenita.

Setelah ditunggu beberapa saat, pewara memberitahukan bahwa Malik tak ada di panggung karena dia sedang mendaftar di sebuah asrama pondok. Penghargaan dan piagam milik Malik akan diantar panitia ke pondok pesantren barunya.

Fenita bergembira karena doanya telah dikabulkan.

Setelah turun dari panggung Fenita segera menemui Winda. Fenita melihat Om Rian dan seorang gadis berada di samping Winda. Gadis itu adalah kakak Fenita yang dia nantikan kedatangannya. Fenita memeluk kakaknya erat-erat.

Winda memberi tahu kalau doa Fenita juga dikabulkan oleh Allah: Malik masuk pondok pesantren. “Allah Maha Penyayang pada semua makhluk-Nya. Bagian-bagian alam yang ada di dunia ini pastilah dapat membahagiakan manusia dengan membuahkan manfaat. Namun, kita saja yang sering melihat kemurahan Allah itu secara sempit,” jelas Winda.

*****

Tanjung Lesung Beach Wrapped In Desolation

Thirteen year old Nurina Sanputeri Halim and her family currently reside in Semarang, Indonesia where Nurina is a sophomore at the Middle School of Sekolah Nasional Karangturi, Semarang, Indonesia.

Nurina is an avid reader. Being the youngest of three siblings gives her the benefit of exposure to readings at a higher level than her age. She has read Hamilton’s America so often that she memorizes the entire screenplay—the script as well as the songs. One of her dreams is to one day see Hamilton on a Broadway stage in New York.

Nurina’s father is a columnist for a local newspaper. Watching her father write inspires her to write for leisure. Nurina is reachable via email at: nurina.hlim@gmail.com.

 

Tanjung Lesung Beach Wrapped In Desolation

On the afternoon of December 22, 2018, thick fog and continuous thunder hit the entire Tanjung Lesung Beach, near Pandeglang, West Java, Indonesia.

“Earthquake! Earthquake! Mount Krakatau is erupting!” The villagers’ shouts and cries were heard throughout the area. Some injured villagers were tended to insithe ruins of what used to be houses. After the earthquake subsided, the village quietly restrained its sadness.

A beautiful young girl sat on a boulder on the edge of the beach with her head between her knees.

“Why are you here, child?” asked a police officer, who was making rounds at the Banten Province beach. He was assigned to find victims from the tsunami that followed the earthquake.

The girl glanced at the police officer before saying softly, “I don’t have anything anymore.”

The police officer asked the villagers for information about the girl.

The girl’s name was Fenita, he was told. Other than Fenita’s sister, who was continuing her education on another island, all of Fenita’s family members had been killed during the earthquake and tsunami.

“Fenita,” the police officer said, I’ll tell your sister what has happened. Until your sister can return, you can stay in my house. You can call me Uncle Rian,” The policeman smiled at Fenita.
“Officer — I mean, Uncle Rian, you don’t mind?” asked Fenita doubtfully.

“I live alone. So…”

Before Uncle Rian could finish his sentence, Fenita hugged him tightly. She still needed a parent’s love.

***

Uncle Rian enrolled Fenita into an elementary school in Tegal.

On her first day of school, Fenita felt nervous. But thanks to Uncle Rian’s support, she felt confident enough to study at the school. Fenita wasn’t shy when she met her new friends.

At school, Fenita met another girl named Winda, who had lost her parents too.

“We have to stay tough, to face all kinds of challenges,” Winda told Fenita during a school break. “Life isn’t to be wasted doing nothing.”

“You’re right.” Fenita smiled, hoping to become close friends with Winda.

“You must know our class rules,” Winda continued. “Whoever is the strongest becomes a leader. All the students will refer to that person as The Leader.”

“Is there anyone like that?”

“There is.” Winda glanced at a boy leaning against a classroom door not far from where Fenita and Winda were talking. “His name is Malik.”

“I think,” said Fenita, “that being The Leader means nothing if that person only cares about himself.”

“Sssh!” whispered Winda. “Malik is coming.”

Malik came up to them and rebuked Fenita, “This kid is a newcomer, but already brave enough to challenge me!” Malik said, upset. He looked away from Fenita and left immediately.
Fenita and Winda continued talking.

According to Winda, her classmates didn’t agree with the rules Malik made, but they didn’t dare challenge him.

“I hope I can help him change through my prayers,” said Fenita with a smile.

After school, Fenita went to wash her feet, change clothes, perform ablution, and her prayer rituals. As soon as she finished, Fenita prayed for Malik to receive guidance. Fenita read the Koran and hoped her prayer would be answered.

***

During the school holiday, Uncle Rian invited Fenita to join him for an outing at the beach in Tegal.

Fenita didn’t answer. She ran to her room and cried. She believed that the beach had made her an orphan.

Soon after, Uncle Rian entered Fenita’s room and sat on the edge of her bed while softly stroking her head.

Uncle Rian’s invitation had made Fenita sad. To calm herself, Fenita visited Winda, who lived nearby.

Fenita told Winda about the earthquake and the tsunami that had struck her village.

“At the time it happened, my father and I had planned to go fishing in the sea in our boat,” Fenita told Winda. “My mother quickly prepared some light snacks and bought a melon for us to take.
Then the earthquake came and shook the village. My dad immediately turned the boat back to the beach to make sure I was safe. But, the tsunami pounded the beach.

“I was told to run inland,” Fenita continued tearfully. “Instead of saving himself, my dad helped someone who was drowning in the waves. For a while, my dad was adrift between mounting waves.”

“What about your mom?” asked Winda. “What happened to her?”

“During the earthquake, my mother tripped over a melon that blocked her way as she tried to run outside. She was struck by a wooden beam.” Fenita answered. “That’s what made me hate beaches and melons. The power of nature is what made my life like this.” Fenita’s tears started dropping.

“Don’t worry,” Winda said encouragingly. “Everything we have in this world is temporary. Everything we have will go back to the Almighty. Life in this world isn’t the only way we can be happy. By making other people happy, we can be happy too. Not only will we be happy in this world, but also in the hereafter.”

“Thank you, Winda,” said Fenita, “Your words reassure me.”

“Don’t ever hate something God has created for us,” answered Winda.

***

The next day, Winda told Fenita about a flower-arranging competition and a photo-frame decorating competition that used materials found on the beach.

“By entering this competition, you can make your parents happy,” Winda challenged Fenita. “Hey, which is stronger? Your desire to make your parents happy or your desire to avoid the beach? For how long will you be like this?” Winda’s challenge made Fenita agree to join.

When Fenita reached the competition arena, she was amazed at how beautiful Tegal’s beach was. It had been so long since she had seen a beach.

While Fenita prepared herself for the competition, Winda waited on a patio that had been constructed at the edge of the beach.

“Hey, you again, you again. I’m tired of seeing you!”

“Malik?” Fenita was surprised, but only for a moment.

Fenita ignored Malik. She hoped Malik wouldn’t bother her. After the competition started, Fenita focused on the host who explained the rules of the competition.

The host told them how to make a flower using soap. By only using a small knife to carve, contestants were expected to create a special flower.

After the competition began, Fenita was confused. Her flannel and beads had disappeared. She tried to look for them, but didn’t find anything. It turned out her flannel and beads were with Malik. Fenita sighed. She didn’t want to deal with Malik.

Fenita racked her brain for other materials. She walked near the merchants around the beach. At first Fenita was reluctant to buy a melon because melons always reminded her of her mother’s death. Fenita finally bought a melon so later, she could carve it into a rose using the small knife given to all contestants. However, Fenita was still confused on how to decorate her photo frame. Suddenly, it crossed her mind to use the shells on the beach as the main element. She quickly grabbed a few shells with beautiful patterns.

Fenita entered the competition arena and soon started to carve the inside of the melon into a flower and arranged the seashells to decorate her photo frame.

Luckily Fenita had been told how to carve a flower using a knife so she could create a beautiful flower. Once she finished, she compiled her work and went to meet up with Winda. Fenita told Winda what she had just done. She promised she would not hate melons and beaches anymore if she won.

It was time for the announcement. Fenita won first place and Malik second place.

Fenita felt elated. She went onto the stage. However, oddly enough, Malik wasn’t next to her when the judge presented Fenita with the award and certificate.

After waiting a while, the host announced that Malik wasn’t on stage because he was in the middle of registering himself at a boarding house. The committee would take Malik’s award and certificate directly to his new boarding school.

Fenita felt happy because her prayer had come true.

After coming down from the stage Fenita immediately went to meet Winda.

Fenita saw Uncle Rian and a girl standing next to Winda. The girl was Fenita’s sister whom she had been waiting for. Fenita hugged her tightly.

Winda told her how Fenita’s prayer was also granted by God: Malik was accepted at a boarding school. “God Almighty loves all his creations. Humans can certainly happily benefit of some parts of nature. However, we are often only aware of a small part of God’s generosity,” explained Winda.

***

Aku Akan Pulang Ke Wamena

Friska Sibarani was born on July 13, 1998 in Wamena, Jayawijaya, on the island of Papua. Her parents were Bataks who migrated to Papua. She grew up in Wamena until she was eighteen and then decided to continue her education on the island of Java.

Currently, Friska is a student of Indonesian Literature at the University of Sanata Dharma, Yogyakarta. Her interest in reading and writing supports her aspiration to become a professional writer. Friska started writing in 2016. Aku Akan Pulang ke Wamena is her first short story.

Friska can be reached at friska1307.siba@gmail.com.

 

Aku Akan Pulang Ke Wamena

Kuletakan surat penempatanku menjadi guru di Wamena di atas meja coklat tua di kamarku dan meneguk air minum untuk mencoba menenangkan pikiran. Kupandangi sebuah bingkai foto di atas meja. Fotonya sudah memudar Aku tak ingat kapan terakhir aku memandangi foto itu.

“Ibu, Ayah, aku rindu! Masih bisakah kita bertemu?” bisikku dengan suara yang bergetar sambil mengambil foto tersebut.

Untuk beberapa waktu ingatan masa kecilku pun kembali. Aku lahir pada tahun 1996 di sebuah kota kecil di Kabupaten Jayawijaya. Kota tersebut bernama Wamena, yang berarti anak babi. Di Wamena aku menjalani masa-masa kecilku bersama kedua orang tuaku. Meski kami bukanlah penduduk asli di kota Wamena, kedua orang tuaku selalu mengajarkan aku untuk mencintai tanah kelahiranku tersebut. Masa kanak-kanakku tak berbeda dengan orang lain.

Kota kecil tersebut memiliki penduduk yang beragam dari berbagai daerah. Aku sendiri memiliki teman bermain yang berasal dari Padang, Madura, Sunda, Toraja dan Wamena. Orang tuaku selalu berpesan padaku untuk tidak membeda-bedakan teman-temanku dari manapun mereka berasal.

Ayahku adalah seorang perantau yang berasal dari Jawa dan ibuku berasal dari Sumatera. Ayah merantau ke Wamena setelah dia baru lulus Sekolah Menengah Atas. Awalnya ayahku bekerja sebagai karyawan toko perabotan. Lalu akhirnya memutuskan untuk membuka usahanya sendiri dan kemudian menjadi seorang pedagang kelontongan di Wamena.

Ibuku adalah seorang pegawai pegawai negeri sipil yang ditugaskan di Wamena. Ibuku bekerja di Dinas Sosial. Keduanya bertemu di tempat ini kemudian memutuskan menikah dan melanjutkan hidup di tanah yang indah ini. Dahulu masa kecilku terbilang sangat menyenangkan, hingga hari itu tiba.

Tanggal 6 Oktober 2000 terpaku dalam ingatan penduduk kota Wamena sebagai peristiwa Wamena Berdarah. Peristiwa itu terjadi akibat peristiwa penurunan paksa Bendera Bintang Kejora oleh TNI dan Polri sebagai tindakkan pemerintah Indonesia terhadap gerakan kemerdekan yang disuarakan oleh penduduk asli Papua. Saat itu aku baru berusia empat tahun.

Sore itu senja baru saja menghilang di balik gunung-gunung yang mengelilingi kota. Aku berlari ke sana ke mari bermain bola biru kesayanganku. Aku terkejut melihat sebuah gumpalan asap hitam tebal di atas gunung-gunung yang tadinya indah. Bunyi tembakan mulai terdegar dari sudut-sudut kota yang jauh. Beberapa orang mulai berlarian di depan rumah kami.

Seorang tetanggaku yang juga adalah penduduk asli menyuruh kami segera masuk dan berlindung di bawah tempat tidur.
Dengan cepat kami mengikuti perintahnya. Bunyi tembakan terus terjadi berjam-jam.

Ayah mendekapku dalam rangkulan. Dia berusaha menutup telingaku agar aku tak mendegar apapun. Namun, jeritan yang sangat menakutkan di luar sana tetap terdengar olehku dan hingga kini masih terekam dalam pikirku.

Beberapa kali rumahku diobrak-abrik oleh beberapa orang Dani yakni penduduk asli Wamena yang mencari para pendatang. Terdengar beberapa orang dari mereka berteriak “Ou… ou… ou…

“Kenapa mereka?” Ibu rupanya gugup dan prihatin. “Kenapa mereka kesakitan?”

“Memang tidak kesakitan.” Ayah merangkul aku lebih erat sambil berbisik, “Teriakan ou, ou, adalah ciri khas orang Dani untuk berperang.”

Dekap Ayah menempelkan kupingku pada dadanya. Terdengar detak jantungnya yang cepat.

“Rupanya, mereka ingin kita segera meninggalkan kota Wamena.” Ayah menghela nafas.

Dengan mencuri pandangan dari lengan ayah yang merangkulku, kulihat sebuah parang tajam berlumuran darah segar yang dipegang oleh salah satu orang Dani yang telah berhasil masuk ke dalam rumah kami.

Semalaman penuh Ibu terus-menerus menghitung rosario sambil berdoa agar ada orang yang menolong kami keluar dari keadaan ini. Kami masih berlindung di kolong tempat tidur.

Aku merasa malam itu adalah malam yang paling mengerikan dalam hidupku. Dadaku merasa sesak untuk bernafas di kolong tempat tidur yang sempit. Tempat itu yang juga gelap dan berdebu. Beberapa kali aku merengek untuk segera keluar. Tetapi Ayah hanya memelukku agar aku mau bersabar menunggu pertolongan.

Pagi harinya doa ibuku terkabul. Beberapa anggota TNI dengan persenjataan lengkap datang ke rumah kami.

Ayah segera keluar dan meminta bantuan.

Kami sekeluarga segera dibawa menggunakan truk milik TNI.

Sementara, kerusuhan terus terjadi. Pembantaian terjadi di mana-mana. Anggota Polri dan masyarakat asli Wamena saling membunuh. Seolah-olah tak akan ada lagi damai di antara mereka.

Sepanjang jalan Ibu menghalangi pandanganku dengan tangannya.

Dari celah-celah jari-jarinya kulihat mayat-mayat bergelimpangan di sepanjang jalan. Beberapa di antaranya tak memiliki badan yang utuh lagi.

Semua orang menjerit ketakutan dan berlari-lari menyelamatkan diri. Banyak yang terpisah dari keluarganya. Bahkan banyak juga yang melihat anggota keluarganya terpenggal dan terpanah di depan mata sebelum akhirnya juga ikut terbunuh. Anak-anak kecil menjerit ketakutan. Sambil menangis mereka mencari ibunya. Suara tangisan terdengar memilukan di mana-mana
Kami diungsikan ke Polsek. Di sana, kami segera bergabung dengan pengungsi lain yang juga bernasib sama dengan kami. Saat itu, kami bersyukur masih dapat lolos dari peristiwa 6 oktober 2000 kemarin. Semuanya saling bantu-membantu mengobati luka-luka. Para wanita membantu ibu-ibu menjaga anak-anaknya yang terus menangis ketakutan. Sementara para pria membantu TNI untuk menyediakan makanan. Para pria memasak menggunakan sekop dan drum sebagai alat masak. Tak ada pilihan lain. Saat itu bertahan hidup adalah hal terpenting.

Kami diberi tempat untuk beristirahat di dalam ruang berjeruji bersama pengungsi lain.

Ibuku memelukku agar mau memejamkan mata setelah berhari-hari tak bisa tidur.

Di sudut ruang berjeruji itu aku melihat ayah mencoret-coret kertas kusam. Wajahnya, seperti sedang gelisah.

Aku segera duduk di pangkuannya sambil memeluknya dengan erat.

Ayah memasukan kertas yang dia tuliskan sebelumnya ke dalam saku jaketku. Dia mengelus-ngelus rambutku dan berkata, “Beristirahatlah, Sayang! Sebentar lagi kita harus pergi dari sini, kita sudah terlalu lama menunggu.”

Untuk pertama kalinya kulihat mata Ayah berkaca-kaca. Belum sempat air matanya membasahi pipi, aku memeluknya erat.

Esok paginya kami diangkut bersama rombongan besar ke bandara karena keadaan kota yang masih sangat rawan.

Para petugas TNI mengawal kami untuk keluar dari kota Wamena. Langit masih saja menampakkan kabut yang gelap. Beberapa kali pesawat jet milik angkataan udara RI melintas dengan cepat.

Saat itu kulihat kanan dan kiriku hampir semua orang menahan takut.

Ayah berbisik padaku, “Tenanglah Lin, setelah ini kita akan pergi jauh,” dan seperti biasa, aku selalu percaya pada kata-kata Ayah.

Sesampainya di bandara, keadaan tak seperti yang diharapkan. Bandara telah ditutup oleh beberapa orang Dani bersenjatahan panah. Pesawat terus berputar di atas kota dan tak dapat mendarat. Kelompok orang Dani semakin banyak.

Terjadi perlawanan dari anggota TNI menyerang balik orang Dani. Beberapa anggota TNI dan orang Dani tewas di tempat karena terpanah atau tertembak senjata api. Muncratan darah membanjiri tiap sudut lapangan udara. Akhirnya TNI berhasil mengatasi serangan orang Dani.

Dengan cepat pesawat mendarat begitu keadaan aman.

Ayah segera menggendongku. Sambil ditariknya tangan Ibu, Ayah terus berlari ke arah pesawat yang jaraknya cukup jauh.

Orang-orang semakin berdesakan. Dorong-mendorong terjadi untuk saling mendahului sampai di pesawat secepatnya.

Dengan lengan dan tangannya, ayah berusaha melindungi kepalaku agar tak terbentur oleh desakan orang yang semakin ganas. Badanku bergetar ketakutan. Jemari-jemariku mencengkram Ayah.

Sambil berdesak-desak ke pintu pesawat, dia mengangkatku pada pundaknya. Terdengar Ayah terus meminta tolong pada beberapa orang yang berada di pintu pesawat agar mau menerimaku.

Begitu kami berada persis di bawah pintu pesawat, seorang pria paruh baya di sebelah kami menarik badanku dengan kencang.

Lenganku seperti hampir lepas rasanya. Aku menangis kesakitan.

Pria paruh baya tersebut memelukku dengan kuat. Kami berhasil menaiki beberapa anak tangga pesawat, sedangkan kedua orang tuaku semakin terhimpit oleh orang-orang yang berusaha saling mendahului.

Aku tidak ingin terpisah dari Ayah dan Ibu dan merontak dalam pelukannya. Pria tesebut berusaha menahan rontakkanku dan terus mencoba menaiki anak tangga yang dipenuhi oleh orang-orang yang saling mendorong. Langkahnya mulai terpincang-pincang terinjak beberapa orang.

Aku sama sekali tak memperdulikannya. Aku hanya terus beteriak melihat ayahku yang semakin terpojok oleh segerombolan orang. Beberapa saat kemudian pria paru baya tersebut berhasil membawaku masuk ke dalam pesawat.

Aku terus menangis terisak-isak memangil Ayah dan Ibu namun mereka tak juga terlihat di manapun. Pintu pesawat telah tertutup dan aku masih belum menemukan mereka. Aku tidak mengenal seorangpun yang berada di dalam pesawat.

Tubuhku masih bergetar ketakutan. Aku menjerit sambil berlari-lari di antara orang-orang mencari Ayah dan Ibu.

Pria paruh baya tersebut kembali menarikku ke dalam pelukannya dan berusaha membuatku berhenti menagis. Namun aku masih tidak memperdulikannya. Aku sangat ketakutan melihat orang tuaku tidak berada di sisiku. Dalam pelukan pria tersebut aku terus terisak-isak hingga mulai merasa sangat lelah. Aku tertidur dalam pelukannya selama penerbangan berlangsung dari Wamena ke Jayapura.

Sesampainya di Jayapura, pria paruh baya yang menolongku dengan gelisah terus menerus melihat ke segala arah seperti mecari orang di antara para pengungsi. Dia kemudian menitipkan aku pada para perawat di bandara.

Para perawat berusaha menghiburku sambil mengobati luka-luka di tubuhku. Mereka akhirnya menemukan kertas yang ditaruh ayah di saku jaketku. Ternyata kertas itu berisi nama dan alamat budheku yang berada di Jakarta. Merekapun akhirnya mengirimkanku kepadanya. Sejak saat itu Budhe menjadi wali yang membesarkanku.

***

Air mataku telah mengalir membasahi foto kedua orang tuaku. Setelah semua yang telah terjadi pada masa lampau, aku tak pernah berharap untuk kembali lagi ke Wamena. Bagiku kenangan masa kecilku adalah hal yang kubenci karena membangkitkan kesedihan dan rasa takut dalam lubuk hatiku. Namun, tugas pekerjaan yang baru kuterima menghadapkanku dengan pilihan yang sulit.

Dengan perlahan kubaca lagi daerah penugasanku: Wamena, Kabupaten Jayawijaya. Hatiku mulai merasakan perih. Kupejamkam mataku kuat-kuat. Ingin rasanya aku berteriak hingga langit pecah, “Mengapa semesta membalikkan keadaan semaunya?”

Kurenungkan dalam-dalam wajah Ayah, Ibu dan masa kecilku. Aku dibesarkan dengan rasa cinta yang besar pada tanah kelahiranku. Ibuku juga selalu mengajariku untuk tidak membedakan orang lain hanya berdasar atas tampilan ragawinya.

Kini berkali-kali ku tepuk permukaan meja tulisku dengan penuh rasa penyesalan bercampur amarah. Bagaimana bisa selama ini aku tumbuh sambil menyimpan dendam. Aku tahu bukan ini yang diinginkan ayah ibuku. Bukan sikap ini yang mereka inginkan dari putrinya. Tapi bagaimanapun kehilangan kedua orang terkasih adalah kepedihan yang masih membekas pada hatiku.

Satu kesalahanku yang aku sadari saat ini adalah seharusnya aku tidak boleh menilai buruk sebuah kelompok masyarakat hanya berdasarkan sudut pandangku saja. Apa yang kualami pada masa kecilku seharusnya tidak membuatku membangun benteng perbedaan. Segala hal yang terjadi pada kedua orang tuaku tidak sepenuhnya kesalahan sebuah kelompok masyarakat. Aku, orang tuaku, dan semua orang lain adalah korban dari murka dan perbedaan yang mencerminkan saat itu. Aku coba menenangkan diriku kembali dalam diam.

Sekarang aku mengerti apa yang diharapkan kedua orang tuaku. Kuambil sebuah kertas dan aku luapkan segala isi hati terdalamku dengan coretan yang dengan cepat memenuhi kertas tersebut.

Peristiwa tanggal 6 Oktober sebetulnya tidak perlu terjadi jika musyawarah damai digunakan sebagai jembatan yang tepat untuk menyelesaikan masalah. Malah kedua pihak, yaitu aparat gabungan TNI, Polri dan Masyarakat Papua di Wamena saling mempertahankan pendapat masing-masing.

Pemerintah bersikeras, meminta masyarakat menurunkan bendera Bintang Kejora yang berkibar di beberapa titik di Kota Wamena.

-Sementara masyarakat menolak dan melawan.

Hal inilah yang mengakibatkan sedikitnya 30 orang tewas dan 40 lainnya luka berat. Luka dari peristiwa ini membuat aku mengerti persoalan itu bukan soal perbedaan, bukan soal pandangan. Bukan persoalan kebudayaan tapi ini adalah subuah kepercayaan. Kepercayaan antara dua pihak yang sama-sama merasa sebagai korban. Korban kekerasan, korban ketidakadilan terkait perbedaan terhadap kelompok masyarakat. Keduanya merasa terancam dengan kehadiran satu sama lain.

Kita bukan dibentengi sebuah perbedaan karena pada hakikatnya kita tak pernah berbeda. Tetapi sebuah pembatas terbesar di antara kita adalah kecurigaan pada satu sama lain. Inilah yang menjadi penghalang agar kita dapat hidup berdampingan dalam damai.

Saat peristiwa itu terjadi tak ada satu mayatpun yang kulihat mengeluarkan warna darah yang berbeda dari satu sama lain. Hanya saja saat tertutup oleh warna kulit berbeda ketidakpercayaan antara masyarakat asli Papua dan pendatang muncul dan membuat satu sama lain semakin menjauh. Seharusnya aparat militer, petugas pemerintah dan masyarakat sipil yang tinggal di wilayah Papua maupun penduduk asli, mampu memahami luka sejarah ini. Dengan memahami luka sejarah dan tabiat orang Papua, kita dapat hidup berdampingan dengan damai di tanah Papua.

Usai menulis catatan singkat tersebut, hatiku terasa ringan. Pikiranku memusat pada surat penempatanku menjadi guru di Wamena. Aku teringat perkataan Budhe yang pernah berkata padaku, “Menjadi guru adalah pekerjaan yang mulia!”

Menurutku pekerjaan yang mulia seharusnya dilakukan secara tulus. Dan kini aku bertekat untuk siap berdamai dengan kenangan pahitku di masa kecil. Aku semakin mantap pada keputusanku. Aku akan segera meminta doa restu Budhe agar mengijinkanku menjadi seorang guru di Wamena. Semoga Budhe juga mau mengerti dan menerima keputusan yang telah kubuat. Kuambil surat perjanjian kerjaku dengan perlahan. Sejenak aku membacanya kembali. Jemari-jemariku mulai menggenggam pena menandatanganinya. Aku siap. Kuhelahkan nafas panjang sambil berkata, “Aku akan pulang ke Wamena!”

***

Going Home to Wamena

Novita Dewi started writing poetry and short stories during her elementary and middle school days. She published in Si Kuncung and Bobo, children magazines, as well as wrote for the children’s columns featured in Kompas and Sinar Harapan (now Suara Pembaruan). She now nurtures her interest in literature by writing articles about literature and translation for scientific journals. Novita is widely published. The short stories translated and published by Dalang Publishing are her first attempts of literary translation.

She currently teaches English literature courses at Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Novita can be reached at novitadewi@usd.ac.id or novitadewi9@gmail.com.

 

Going Home to Wamena

I placed my teaching job assignment to Wamena on the dark brown table in my room and sipped some water, trying to calm myself. A framed, faded picture of my parents caught my eye. I could not remember the last time I had last looked closely at the photo.

I picked up the picture and sighed. “Ibu, Mother, Ayah, Father, I miss you! Will we ever meet again?”

My childhood memories swiftly returned. I was born in 1996, in Wamena, a small town in the Jayawijaya Regency of Indonesia’s Papua’s highlands. “Wamena” meant piglet in the vernacular language. I spent my childhood there. Although my parents were not natives of Wamena, they always taught me to love my place of birth. My childhood was no different from that of other Wamena children.

The small town had a diverse population that came from various regions. I had playmates from Padang, Madura, Sunda, Toraja, and Wamena. My parents taught me to not discriminate against my friends regardless of where they came from.

My father was a migrant from Java, and my mother came from Sumatra. My father drifted to Wamena right after graduating from high school. At first, he worked as a shopkeeper in a furniture store. Later, he decided to start his own business and opened a convenience store in Wamena.

My mother was a civil servant in the Social Services Department who had been assigned to a clerical position in Wamena.

The two met, married, and decided to continue living in beautiful Wamena. My childhood had been fairly pleasant until that dreadful day came.

The incident began when the TNI (the Indonesian military) and Polri (the Indonesian National Police) forcibly removed the Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) flag of the native Papuans, as a government measure to repress the Papuans’ independence movement.

I was only four years old.

That afternoon of October 6, the sun had just disappeared behind the mountains that surrounded the town. I was running around, playing with my favorite blue ball, and became scared when suddenly a column of thick black smoke appeared over the mountains that had been so beautiful just a moment ago. The rattling of gunshots filled the far corners of town. In front of our house, some people started running.

A neighbor, who was a local Dani tribe member, told us to go immediately inside and take shelter under the bed.

We quickly followed his orders. The gunfire continued for hours.

Ayah held me in his arms. He covered my ears to keep me from hearing anything. But I could still hear the frightened screams outside, and to this day, those sounds are recorded in my mind.
The Danis, the indigenous Papua tribe who lived in the Wamena area, raided our house several times looking for Javanese migrants. Some of them shouted, “Ou! Ou! Ou!”

“What happened to them?” My mother asked nervously. “Why are they in pain?”

“They’re not in pain.” Ayah tightened his arms around me and whispered, “Ou, ou, is the Dani tribe’s war cry.”

My father’s embrace pressed my ears against his chest, and I could hear his heart racing. “Apparently, they believe that all Javanese are the oppressors, and they want us to leave Wamena immediately.” Ayah sighed heavily.

From under the bed, I peeked between my father’s arms and saw one of the Dani men holding a sharp machete covered with fresh blood.

All through the night, we hid under the bed. Ibu counted rosary beads, praying that someone would rescue us.

That night was the most terrible night of my life. I felt suffocated in the narrow, dark, dusty space under the bed. From time to time, I whined, pleading to get out of the place soon. But Ayah could only give me a hug to make me wait patiently for help.

In the morning, my mother’s prayers were answered. Several armed members of the TNI came to our house. Ayah immediately went outside and asked for help. They loaded our family into a military truck.

Around us, the riots continued. Massacres were rampant. Members of the Indonesian National Police and the indigenous Dani Papuans of Wamena killed each other. So much blood was shed, it seemed that peace could no longer be possible between them.

As we rode along, Ibu covered my eyes with her hands. Peeping through her fingers, I saw corpses lying along the road. Some of the bodies were mutilated.

People screamed in fear and ran to save themselves. Many became separated from their families; many witnessed family members being decapitated before getting killed themselves. Children cried, desperately looking for their mothers. The sound of crying everywhere was heartbreaking.

We were taken to the police station in Wamena and put into a room with barred windows. There, we joined other refugees who shared our fate. At that point, we were thankful we had managed to escape the October 6 incident.

The refugees all helped each other out, treating wounds, and helping mothers look after their children, who cried incessantly in fear. The men helped the Indonesian army prepare food. They used shovels and drums as cooking equipment because there was no other choice. At that moment, survival was the most important thing.

After several sleepless days and nights, my mother held me and encouraged me to close my eyes. But in the corner of the room, I saw my father scribbling on a crumpled piece of paper.
He looked nervous.

I immediately went over to him, crawled onto his lap, and hugged him tightly.

Ayah put the crumpled piece of paper into my jacket pocket. He stroked my hair and said, “Get some sleep, sweetheart. We will be leaving here soon; we’ve already waited a long time.”

That was the first time I saw tears well up in Ayah’s eyes. Before the tears rolled down his cheeks, I held him tight.

The next morning, because the town was still unsafe, the military transported a large group of us to the airport. As the military escorted us by truck out of Wamena, dark smoke still covered the sky. An Indonesian Air Force plane made several quick passes over us.

I saw almost everyone try to control their fear.

Ayah whispered, “Don’t be afraid, Lin; after this, we’ll go far away.” And, as usual, I believed him.

But when we arrived at the airport, things did not turn out as expected. Several Dani tribesmen, armed with bows and arrows, had closed the airport. Unable to land, the Indonesian Air Force plane continued to make passes above the town.

The number of Dani militia at the airport increased.

The TNI and the Dani militia clashed. Members of both parties died on the spot, either pierced by arrows or shot. The airfield was splattered by blood. Eventually, the army overpowered the Danis.
Quickly, the Air Force plane landed.

Ayah immediately picked me up, grabbed my mother’s hand, and ran toward the plane. As we got closer to the plane, the crowd’s jostling intensified. People elbowed each other, trying to board the plane as quickly as possible.

Ayah shielded my head, protecting me from being hit by the crowd pushing onto the aircraft with increasing aggressiveness.

Trembling with fear, I clung to Ayah.

He lifted me up onto his shoulder and managed to bring us very close to the plane. I heard him asking several people near the plane’s door for help to take me.

A middle-aged man next to us yanked me off my father’s shoulders. It felt as if I’d lost my arm, and I cried out in pain.

The man, with me in his arms, managed to climb several steps up to the aircraft.

Meanwhile, as people tried to overtake each other to board the plane, my parents were pushed farther back in the crowd.

I did not want to be separated from my parents, and I struggled in the man’s arms.

He held on to me while continuing to climb the steps crowded with people muscling each other. Several people trampled him, and he began to limp.

I did not care at all what happened to him. I just kept shouting as I watched my father and mother being pushed farther and farther away by the crowd.

A few moments later, the middle-aged man got us both into the plane.

Sobbing, I called for Ayah and Ibu, but they were nowhere to be seen.

The plane’s door closed and, I still did not see them. I didn’t know anyone on the plane.

Terrified, I ran screaming down the plane’s aisle, looking for my parents.

The middle-aged man quickly caught me and pulled me back into his arms. He tried to make me stop crying, but I ignored him. I was so very scared knowing that my parents were not with me. I kept sobbing until I started to feel very tired. During the flight from Wamena to Jayapura, I fell asleep in the man’s arms.

When we landed in Jayapura, the middle-aged man looked nervously in every direction, as if he were looking for someone among the refugees. He then entrusted me to the care of the nurses at the airport.

The nurses tried to comfort me as they treated my injuries. They found the crumpled piece of paper that my father had put in my jacket pocket. It was a note with the name and address of my aunt in Jakarta.

I was sent to her, and Budhe, my aunt, became my guardian and raised me.

***

My tears wet the photo of my parents. Because of all that had happened, I never wanted to return to Wamena. I hated my childhood memories; they always stirred up sadness and fear. My new job assignment, however, presented me with a difficult choice.

I slowly reread my job assignment post: Wamena, Jayawijaya Regency. I began to feel the pain. I closed my eyes tightly. I wanted to scream loud enough to penetrate the sky. “Why does the universe turn things around at will?”

I sunk deep into the memories of my parents and my childhood. I remembered how I was raised with a great love for the land of my birth. I also remembered how my mother taught me not to differentiate others based solely on their physical appearance.

I repeatedly pounded the table with mixed feelings of regret and anger. How could I have possibly grown up while holding a grudge? This was not the attitude my parents would have wanted to see in their daughter. Still, the loss of my beloved parents remained so painful.

But I now realized my mistake. I had misjudged a group of people based solely on my own prejudices. What I had experienced in my childhood shouldn’t cause me to discriminate now. Everything that happened to my parents and me was not entirely the fault of one segment of society. My parents and I, like everyone else, were victims of the anger and differences that were reflected at that time.
I tried to calm myself and return to silence.

I now understood what my parents had hoped for. I took a piece of paper and poured my innermost feelings into the writing that quickly filled the paper. I wrote:

The incident on October 6, 2000, would not have happened had peaceful deliberations been used to resolve the problem. Instead, both parties — the joint network of the TNI military and Polri police force on one side, and the Papuan community in Wamena on the other — stood unwavering in their respective opinions.

The Indonesian government insisted that the Morning Star flag, flying at several points in Wamena, be taken down, while the Papuan population refused to obey and opposed the order.

This incident resulted in at least thirty people being killed and forty others seriously injured. The wound from this event makes me understand that the actual problem was not caused by differences. It was not about different perspectives. It was not about cultural differences. It was about trust. There was no trust between the two parties, who both saw themselves as victims: victims of violence and victims of injustice related to differences between communities. Both entities felt threatened by the presence of the other.

We are not fortified by differences because, in essence, we are never different. The biggest barrier between us is our suspicion of each other. This is the element that prevents us from living peacefully side by side.

During the incident, not one single corpse I saw had a different color of blood than another. Only when covered by different skin colors did indigenous Papuans and Javanese migrants start to distrust each other, and this widened the gap between them. The military apparatus, government officials, and civilians — including the indigenous Papuan people who live in the region — should understand this historical wound. By understanding history and the character of the Papuan people, we can coexist peacefully in the land of Papua.

After writing the short note, I felt greatly relieved. I focused on my job assignment to teach in Wamena, and I remembered Budhe once said to me, “Teaching is a noble profession.”

In my opinion, noble work should be done sincerely. Determined and ready to make peace with my bitter childhood memories, I was convinced I had made the best decision. I would soon ask Budhe’s blessing for my teaching career in Wamena.

Hopefully, Budhe would not only accept, but also understand the decision I had made. I slowly picked up my employment agreement. For a moment, I re-read it. My grip around the pen tightened, then I signed the document. I am ready. Taking a deep breath, I said, “Wamena, I’m coming home.”

***

Alloy Bintang Kampung

Radixa Meta Utami was born in Denpasar, Bali on February 25, 1995. Her parents moved to Semarang, Central Java, when she was in elementary school.

Meta completed her high school in SMAN 1 Mungkid. In 2015, she enrolled at the Mathematics Department of the Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of Sanata Dharma. However, in 2016 she changed her major and currently studies Indonesian Literature at the Faculty of Letters at the University of Sanata Dharma.

Meta can be reached at Ni Wayan Tomboy n1w4y4nt0m130y@gmail.com

 
 
 

Alloy Bintang Kampung

Aku mulai suka lagu dangdut saat usiaku sepuluh tahun. Dangdut mampu menenangkan hatiku yang kacau ketika aku diganggu oleh teman-teman sekolahku. Mereka sering iseng seperti melempar gumpalan kertas secara diam-diam saat pelajaran berlangsung. Mereka sering mendesis olokan seperti, “Anak bangsawan kok berangkat-pulang sekolah dengan sepeda? Kenapa nggak dengan mobil aja? Hahahahaha…” Sering mereka menyenggolku hingga jatuh.

Pada saat aku berumur 15 tahun, setiap pulang sekolah aku mulai mengamen lagu dangdut keliling Jalan Paingan. Aku melakukan ini selama sekolah SMA. Lalu aku berpikir mengapa aku tidak menjadi penyanyi dangdut saja. Dan itu menjadi cita-citaku.

Suatu Jumat siang sepulang sekolah aku langsung masuk ke kamar tidurku untuk berganti baju. Kemudian, aku berjalan ke ruang tamu untuk bernyanyi karaoke. Sambil menunggu makan siang dari ibuku di ruang tamu, aku menyalakan alat pemutar kaset dan pasang lagu Yang Kurindu dari Denny Malik. Dengan lincah aku mengikuti suara Denny dan irama dangdut itu, “Jangan kau katakan… Ku sudah tak sayang… Sedangkan dirimu… Masih kurindukan…” Suaraku rupanya melayang ke telinga ibuku yang sangat muak dengan lagu dangdut.

Tiba-tiba Ibu berdiri di depanku dan melayangkan telapak tangannya ke wajahku.

Plakk…

“Waduh Ada apa, Bu?” tanyaku sambil mengelus sisi wajahku yang ditampar tadi.

“Alloy! Aku tidak suka kalau kamu menyanyi dangdut!”

“Ibu, mengapa tidak suka? Aku ‘kan ingin menjadi penyanyi dangdut!”

“Alloy! Kita ini orang Katolik. Mana ada orang Katolik yang suka dengan lagu dangdut? Mana ada orang Katolik yang bisa menjadi penyanyi dangdut? Apakah kamu pernah melihat orang Katolik yang berhasil menjadi penyanyi dangdut bahkan sampai tingkat dunia sekalipun? Tidak ada, ‘kan?”

Tak lama kemudian Ayah pulang dari mengajar. Ayah langsung melerai kami.

“Aduh! Ada apa ini?”

“Mas, anakmu ini ingin menjadi penyanyi dangdut. Aku tidak setuju, Mas!” jawab Ibu dengan kesal sambil meninggalkan kami berdua.

“Le, apa benar kamu ingin menjadi penyanyi dangdut?” Ayah, yang selalu menyapaku dengan panggilan Jawa untuk anak laki-laki, memelukku dengan erat.

“Benar, Ayah. Aku ingin menjadi penyanyi dangdut.” Aku menjawab Ayah dengan mulai terisak.

“Ya sudah, Nak. Kamu tidak usah khawatir. Nanti Ayah bantu,” kata Ayah sambil menenangkanku.

***

Atas persetujuan ayah, aku bergabung di Paduan Suara Mahasiswa Cantus Firmus (PSMCF) saat aku mulai kuliah di Universitas Sanata Darma, sebuah universitas swasta terkemuka di Yogyakarta. Di sana, aku tidak hanya mempelajari semua jenis lagu maupun cara mengolah suara, tetapi juga belajar bertanggung jawab dengan sesama anak PSMCF. Aku berlatih olah suara dari Senin hingga Jumat mulai dari pukul lima sore sampai dengan pukul sepuluh malam. Beginilah akibat yang kurang menyenangkan sebagai calon penyanyi dangdut. Harus pulang malam-malam dan menerima bentakan dari ibu setiap hari.
Setiap Sabtu sore, kami mengikuti misa di salah satu gereja Katolik di Sleman. Di situlah aku dan sesama anggota paduan suara yang lain menyanyikan lagu-lagu rohani Katolik dengan jenis lagu dangdut untuk pertama kalinya. Begitu kami menyanyi, para jemaat yang hadir justru merasa tersentuh dengan lagunya ketimbang syairnya, kecuali ibuku. Begitu juga dengan pastor dan para suster yang mulai penasaran dengan jenis lagu dangdut yang kami bawakan.

Usai misa, salah seorang suster datang menghampiri kami. “Puji Tuhan. Ini pertama kalinya kalian menyanyikan lagu-lagu rohani dengan lagu dangdut. Padahal, lagu dangdut ini sangat jarang didengar di semua gereja, terutama gereja kita.”

“Puji Tuhan. Terima kasih atas pujiannya, Suster. Kebetulan, ini atas prakarsa saya. Semoga jenis lagu ini mampu menghangatkan suasana umat di gereja kita ini,” ucapku untuk mewakili seluruh anggota paduan suara itu.

“Amin, Alloy. Amin.”

Setelah bertemu dengan suster, aku dan kedua orangtuaku langsung berangkat dengan Kijang meninggalkan gereja menuju Rumah Makan Gadjah Wong, rumah makan ternama di Sleman. Aku akan mengamen di sana. Naas, di tengah perjalanan, jalanan mulai macet. Astaga! Jangan-jangan, aku akan datang terlambat. Kulantunkan do’a Rosario di dalam hati. Puji Tuhan. Do’aku terjawab dan jalanan itu akhirnya mulai berjalan lancar.

Setibanya di rumah makan, Ayah tidak segan membantuku untuk mencari pakaian yang akan kupakai maupun lagu-lagu yang akan kubawakan nanti baik itu lagu-lagu dangdut maupun campursari. Beruntung aku sangat hafal dengan semua lagu dangdut maupun campursari, terutama lagu-lagu yang sering kubawakan saat bernyanyi karaoke di rumah.

Ibu hanya diam membatu sembari melihat kami bersiap-siap untuk tampil.

“Dik, mengapa kamu diam saja? Lebih baik kamu membantuku,” pinta ayah.

“Tidak mau. Aku malu, Mas,” sahut ibu yang cuek.

“Tidak apa-apa, Pak. Mungkin Ibu sedang marah,” ungkapku sambil menyelesaikan riasanku.

Tepat pukul delapan malam, aku tampil di panggung untuk bernyanyi. Seluruh pengunjung rumah makan yang hadir mulai heboh saat menyaksikan penampilanku. Aku biasanya menyanyikan sepuluh lagu selama dua jam berturut-turut. Bahkan, pihak rumah makan sering membayarku Rp 50.000 per lagu setiap malam Minggu. Lumayan, penghasilanku ini cukup untuk kebutuhan pribadiku setelah menyisakan uang tabungan untuk keperluan mengamen, liburan, maupun keperluan tugas kuliah.

Tiba-tiba, ketika aku menyanyikan lima lagu terakhir, sebagian pengunjung mulai iseng mengolok-olokku dari tempat duduk paling belakang.

“Aneh ya? Ada orang Katolik yang bisa menyanyi dangdut.”

“Lho? Kok kamu tahu kalau dia itu Katolik? Aku aja iri melihatnya.”

“Ya tahulah. Namanya saja Raden Mas Ralph Alloysius Bambang Sejati, adik tingkat kita sekaligus putra dari dosen kita tercinta yaitu bapak Raden Mas Agustinus Bambang Praptomo. Ibunya aja, guru matematika kita waktu SMP. Setahuku, mana mungkin penyanyi macam dia laku di kelompok lagu dangdut?”

“Maksudmu Ibu Raden Ayu Maria Sejati Yuniarti? Owalah… Tapi anehnya, suara merdunya itu melebihi suara merdu penyanyi dangdut Thomas Djorghi.”

“Ah, tidak mungkin! Suaranya saja mirip penyanyi dangdut Denny Malik.”

“Ah, mana mungkin itu? Memangnya dia terilhami dari penyanyi dangdut Denny Malik?”

Akibat ocehan mereka, suasana di rumah makan menjadi ribut. Namun, beruntung penampilanku berakhir dengan sempurna.

Selesai lagu terakhirku, hampir semua pengunjung berdiri dan bertepuk tangan. Mereka lalu berdesak-desakan untuk memberikan bunga maupun meminta tanda tangan kepadaku. Ada juga pengunjung lain mengajakku berswafoto bersama.

Aku menerima bayaran dari pihak rumah makan itu. Uang yang kuterima terlihat cukup banyak malam ini. Aku sangat bersyukur. Aku langsung menyilangkan tanganku ke kening, dada, dan kedua bahuku sambil tersenyum. Terima kasih Tuhan Yesus. Setelah aku menerima bayaran itu, aku langsung berlari menghampiri orangtuaku yang sudah menungguku di mobil untuk bergegas pulang.

Di tengah perjalanan pulang, Ibu dengan tiba-tiba mengecam pedas kepadaku. “Alloy, kamu dengar sendiri ‘kan omongan mereka? Semua pengunjung di rumah makan tadi bergunjing ria terhadap penampilanmu. Kamu dengar, nggak?”

“Lho? Bu, aku ‘kan tadi lagi nyanyi. Jadi, aku tidak sempat mendengar ocehan mereka.” Aku berusaha membela diri dengan berbohong kepada Ibu bahwa aku tidak mendengar ocehan mereka.

“Ibu sudah muak, Nak, Ibu ‘kan sudah pernah bilang sama kamu bahwa kita ini orang Katolik. Malu sama tetangga, apalagi jemaat gereja. Kamu kok malah nekat?” Ibu yang duduk di samping Ayah, membalikan badannya ke kanan dengan memutar sedikit kepalanya ke belakang. Lalu dengan geram, Ibu membentakku, “Pokoknya mulai detik ini, kamu harus berhenti menyanyi dangdut. Titik!”

Hatiku sungguh miris mendengarnya. Mengapa Ibu begitu terpengaruh atas ocehan mereka tadi? Aku bingung harus berbuat apa. Tuhan, ampunilah mereka yang telah mengolok-olokku. Ampunilah juga ibuku yang bersikap keras kepadaku.

Akhirnya kami tiba di rumah. Aku bergegas keluar dari mobil dan langsung berlari ke kamar tidur. Aku langsung membanting pintu dan menguncinya. Air mataku tak mampu terbendung lagi. Aku menurunkan tubuhku perlahan-lahan ke lantai. Aku lemas. Mengapa ini harus terjadi? Apa yang harus kulakukan?

TOK… TOK… TOK…

“Alloy, buka pintunya! Bapak ingin bicara empat mata denganmu,” pinta Ayah.

Yesus! Rupanya itu suara ayah yang mengetuk pintu kamarku. Aku pun langsung bangkit berdiri. Aku mengusap air mataku dan membuka pintu.

Ayah langsung merangkulku.

Aku terisak-isak sembari memeluk Ayah erat-erat.

“Nak, jangan dengarkan perkataan Ibumu! Sebenarnya, Ibumu tidak tahu tentang bakatmu yang sebenarnya.”

“Ayah, mungkin apa yang dikatakan Ibu tadi adalah benar. Mustahil orang Katolik sepertiku mampu mewujudkan impianku untuk menjadi penyanyi dangdut.”

“Jangan putus asa dulu, Nak. Ayah ‘kan pernah berjanji kepadamu untuk membantu mewujudkan impianmu menjadi penyanyi dangdut. Kamu harus semangat, Nak.”

Aku hanya bisa mengangguk pelan untuk mengiyakan perkataan Ayah. Aku percaya bahwa Ayah tidak akan ingkar janji kepadaku. Dia pasti akan membantu mewujudkan impianku menjadi penyanyi dangdut. Mungkin tangan Tuhan sudah mulai bekerja sekarang.

***

Sekarang aku sudah semester enam dan pada usia dua puluh tahun mendapatkan penghargaan sebagai mahasiswa yang berhasil dengan nilai dengan pujian tingkat fakultas. Tak hanya itu saja. Aku juga diutus universitasku untuk mengikuti ajang pemilihan Pekan Seni Mahasiswa Daerah (Peksimida) cabang menyanyi dangdut putra tingkat perguruan tinggi.

Di hari-H, aku diantar oleh ayahku dengan Kijang. Aku berdandan bak penyanyi dangdut Denny Malik.

Sambil jalan, Ayah memutarkan lagu dangdut untukku sambil mengingat lagu-lagu dangdut yang akan kubawakan ketika lomba nanti. Akhirnya kami tiba di Kampus Mrican, tempat aku mengikuti lomba itu.

Saat aku memasuki gelanggang lomba itu, aku berpapasan dengan Angella, teman sekelas, yang juga mengikuti lomba itu. Angella berdandan cantik bak penyanyi dangdut Selfi Nafilah.

“Selamat pagi Angella! Piye kabare? — Apa kabar?”

“Selamat pagi Alloy! Puji Tuhan. Aku baik, Loy. Kamu mengikuti ajang pemilihan Peksimida, ‘kan?”

“Ya. Aku mengikuti ajang pemilihan Peksimida cabang menyanyi dangdut putra. Kamu?”

“Sama. Aku juga mengikuti ajang pemilihan itu. Tapi, cabang menyanyi dangdut putri,” jawab Angella sambil tertawa manis.

Owalah… Kamu suka lagu dangdut juga?”

“Ya, Loy. Aku juga suka dengan seni nada itu.”

“Sejak kapan?”

“Waktu aku berusia delapan tahun. Tepatnya dua belas tahun yang lalu.”

“Wah! Sudah lama sekali,” kejutku sambil mengelus dada.

Kami melakukan pendaftaran ulang di ruang K18. Lalu, kami menunggu nama kami dipanggil sembari berdo’a, menghafal lagu, dan meminum setengah botol air putih. Tak lama kemudian, nama kami dipanggil.

Dengan mantap aku menyanyikan lagu Yang Kurindu oleh Denny Malik. Aku berusaha menjiwai lagu itu agar para juri tidak kecewa. Usai aku bernyanyi, para juri langsung bertepuk tangan dengan semangat.

Aku meninggalkan ruang itu dengan gembira. Hore! Rupanya penampilanku berjalan dengan sempurna.

Begitu juga dengan Angella. Dia juga tampak gembira hari ini. Kami berjalan berbarengan sambil bercakap-cakap.

“Bagaimana, Loy? Berhasil?”

“Puji Tuhan, penampilanku berjalan dengan sempurna. Kamu?”

“Aku juga, Loy. Awalnya aku gugup. Tapi puji Tuhan gugupku mendadak hilang ketika aku bernyanyi. Mungkin, ini karena berkat do’a Rosario yang kulantunkan tadi malam.”

Tak lama kemudian, kami berpapasan dengan orang tua kami.

“Piye, Le? — Bagaimana, Nak? Berhasil?”

“Puji Tuhan, Ayah. Semuanya berjalan dengan sempurna.”

***

Sambil menunggu pengumuman hasil ajang pemilihan Peksimida, selama sebulan ini aku tetap melanjutkan kuliah seperti biasa. Begitu juga dengan kegiatan lain seperti mengikuti misa setiap Sabtu sore, mengamen, dan berkunjung ke rumah teman. Semoga Tuhan Yesus menjawab penantianku. Amin.

Waktu di jam tanganku menunjukkan pukul setengah lima pagi. Aku berlari mengelilingi Kampus Paingan sebanyak sepuluh kali putaran. Sambil berlari, aku mendengar suara burung-burung yang sedang bernyanyi bak paduan suara. Terlihat pula para petani yang mulai menginjakkan kakinya ke sawah untuk bercocok tanam. Perlahan aku menghirup udara segar. Ah, betapa bersihnya udara ini! Aku sangat bersyukur dengan lingkunganku yang Dia ciptakan. Aku bangga menjadi anak Kampus Paingan. Sembari menyanyikan lagu Didi Kempot, Stasiun Balapan, aku menuju pulang. Setibanya di rumah, aku langsung berpapasan dengan ibu.

“Alloy, tadi telepon genggam pintarmu berbunyi. Mungkin ada pesan singkat dari seseorang. Bacalah!” Ibu menyodorkan telepon genggamku kepadaku.

Astaga! Ternyata pesan singkat itu dari panitia ajang pemilihan Peksimida. Aku langsung membuka pesan singkat itu.

Dari : Panitia Ajang Pemilihan Pekan Seni Mahasiswa Daerah
Universitas Sanata Dharma Yogyakarta
Tanggal: 24 Mei 2010
Waktu : 06.10 WIB
Selamat pagi saudara Alloy! Kami dari panitia ajang pemilihan Pekan Seni Mahasiswa Daerah Universitas Sanata Dharma Yogyakarta menyatakan bahwa yang bersangkutan :
Nama : Raden Mas Ralph Alloysius Bambang Sejati
Jurusan : Perekonomian
Fakultas : Ekonomi
Angkatan : 2007
Dinyatakan LOLOS ajang pemilihan Pekan Seni Mahasiswa Daerah cabang lomba menyanyi dangdut putra. Saudara diharapkan hadir untuk melakukan pendaftaran sekaligus mengikuti pertemuan teknis jelang Pekan Seni Mahasiswa Daerah Provinsi Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta yang akan dilaksanakan pada hari Kamis, tanggal 27 Mei 2010 jam 16.00-18.00 WIB, bertempat di Ruang Koendjono Gedung Pusat Kampus 2 Mrican Universitas Sanata Dharma Yogyakarta.

Demikian pesan singkat ini kami sampaikan. Atas perhatian saudara, kami mengucapkan terima kasih.

“Puji Tuhan. Hore!” Aku bersorak dengan melompat girang. “Terima kasih Tuhan Yesus.” Aku menekan tilpon genggamku ke dadaku.

Ibu mulai menatapku dengan heran. “Ada apa? Tentang apa pesan itu?” Ibu bertanya menyelidiki.

“Tentang hasil ajang pemilihan Peksimida kemarin.” Aku berusaha mengendalikan suaraku yang sepertinya tersedak.

“Oh ya? ” tanya Ibu datar.

“Aku lolos ajang pemilihan Peksimida,” jawabku sambil menunjukkan pesan singkat dari telepon genggam pintarku kepadanya. Sebelum Ibu mampu berkata apa-apa, aku bergegas mandi cepat dan berdandan serapi mungkin.

Di ruang makan Ayah dan Ibu sudah menungguku untuk sarapan bersama. Kebetulan pagi ini Ibu baru saja memasak nasi goreng kampung Yogyakarta dengan lauk telur mata sapi. Selain itu, tersedia juga ayam goreng Kalasan, peyek tumpuk, dan wedang uwuh di meja makan. Terlihat juga beberapa jajan pasar seperti klepon, cenil, sawut, tiwul, dan kue apem yang tersedia di meja makan sebagai kudapan. Ah, enak sekali masakan Ibu!

Sembari menikmati sarapan, aku memberitahukan ayah tentang pesan singkat tadi. “Ayah, tadi aku mendapatkan pesan singkat dari panitia ajang pemilihan Peksimida di kampusku. Aku lolos!” Aku tersenyum lebar sambil menunjukkan pesan singkat dari telepon genggam pintarku di depan ayah.

“Puji Tuhan. Selamat ya, Nak. Semoga di ajang Peksimida nanti kamu juga berhasil,” ucap ayah dan mencium keningku.

“Amin, Ayah. Terima kasih atas doa dan dukungannya. Semoga Tuhan Yesus membalas kebaikan Ayah.”

“Sama-sama, Loy dan selamat berjuang.”

Pada pertengahan Juni, aku mengikuti ajang Peksimida cabang lomba menyanyi dangdut putra di Universitas Sarjanawiyata Tamansiswa di Yogyakarta yang juga merupakan tempat untuk mengikuti ajang Pekan Seni Mahasiswa Nasional (Peksiminas) yang akan kami ikuti nanti. Ternyata Angella juga lolos untuk mengikuti ajang ini untuk cabang lomba menyanyi dangdut putri. Aku tak menyangka bahwa dia memiliki cita-cita yang sama denganku yaitu menjadi penyanyi dangdut.

Di Peksiminas, aku masih menyanyikan lagu yang sama ketika aku mengikuti ajang pemilihan Peksimida untuk lagu wajib dan lagu Darah Muda oleh Bang Haji Rhoma Irama sebagai lagu pilihan. Sementara Angella menyanyikan lagu Dua Kursi oleh Rita Sugiarto sebagai lagu wajib dan lagu Perahu Kaca oleh Selfi Nafilah sebagai lagu pilihan. Penampilan kami disaksikan oleh para hadirin, termasuk kedua orang tuaku maupun kedua orang tua Angella.

Puji Tuhan. Do’a kami, akhirnya terjawab juga. Dengan bekerja keras, kami terpilih sebagai juara. Kami pun menangis bahagia.

Ibu yang dulu bersikap keras terhadap cita-citaku akhirnya luluh juga dan dia mengakui bakatku yang sebenarnya.

Aku akhirnya berhasil membuktikan bahwa orang Katolik sepertiku bisa menjadi penyanyi dangdut. Usai lulus kuliah, aku bekerja sebagai ahli keuangan di sebuah perusahaan asuransi sekaligus sebagai penyanyi dangdut. Kini, aku menerima perjanjian kerja untuk meluncurkan album dangdut rohani Katolik. Sebagai rasa syukurku, aku memanfaatkan bakatku ini bukan hanya sekedar bidang pekerjaan yang dilandasi oleh pendidikan, tetapi juga sebagai bentuk pelayananku kepada Tuhan yang memberikan banyak berkat dalam hidupku.

***

Village Celebrity

Novita Dewi started writing poetry and short stories during her elementary and middle school days. She published in Si Kuncung and Bobo, children magazines, as well as wrote for the children’s columns featured in Kompas and Sinar Harapan (now Suara Pembaruan). She now nurtures her interest in literature by writing articles about literature and translation for scientific journals. Novita is widely published. The short stories translated and published by Dalang Publishing are her first attempts of literary translation.

She currently teaches English literature courses at Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Novita can be reached at novitadewi@usd.ac.id or novitadewi9@gmail.com.

 

Village Celebrity

I began to like dangdut music when I was ten years old.

The music comforted me when I became upset after my classmates teased me. In class, they often threw spitballs at me. “Why does a rich kid ride to school on a bicycle?” they taunted, laughing. “Why not ride in a car?” Every recess, they’d bump into me and make me fall.

When I was fifteen, I started singing dangdut songs as a street busker along the business district of Jalan Paingan. I did this all through high school. I would sing after school to earn extra money, and I began to toy with the idea of becoming a professional dangdut singer.

One Friday afternoon after school, while I waited for Ibu, Mother, to prepare lunch, I went into the living room to practice my dangdut singing. I turned on the cassette player and put on the song Yang Kurindu — “The One I’m Longing For” — by Denny Malik. I sang along with Denny’s voice and the dangdut rhythm, “Please don’t say … I care no more … when … I still miss you …”
Suddenly, Ibu appeared in front of me and slapped me across the face. Whap!

“What’s wrong, Mom? — I asked, rubbing the side of my face.

“Alloy, my son! I don’t want you singing dangdut songs.”

“Why don’t you like it, Mom? I want to be a professional dangdut singer.”

“Alloy! We are Catholics. Are there any Catholics who like dangdut songs? How would it be possible for a Catholic to be a dangdut singer? Do you know of any Catholic who is a successful world-class dangdut singer? There aren’t any, are there?”

Just then, Ayah, Father, came home from his teaching job. He immediately intervened. “For Heaven’s sake! What’s going on?”

“Your son wants to be a dangdut singer,” Ibu said angrily. “Just so you know, I hate it.” Ibu left us in a huff.

Le, Son, is it true that you want to be a dangdut singer?” My father, who always used the Javanese term of endearment for boys when he talked to me, gave me a big hug.
“Yes, I want to be a dangdut singer,” I replied and started to cry.

“Okay, don’t worry,” Ayah said, calming me. “I’ll help you.”

***

With my father’s approval, I joined the PSMCF, Cantus Firmus Student Choir during my freshman year at Sanata Dharma University, a well-known private college in Yogya. Not only did I learn different kinds of scales and how to control my voice, I also learned to be accountable to my fellow PSMCF members. I practiced singing from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., every Monday through Friday. The price I paid to be an aspiring dangdut singer was coming home late at night and enduring my mother’s scolding every day.

Every Saturday, our family attended Vigil Mass at one of the Catholic churches in Sleman. During one of those services, together with other members of PSMCF, we sang Catholic hymns with a dangdut beat for the first time in that church. As soon as we started to sing, the congregation, except for my mother, seemed captivated by the song’s rhythm. The priest and the nuns were curious about this new genre of music we presented.

After mass, one of the sisters approached us. “Praise the Lord,” she said. “Is this your first time to sing hymns with a dangdut rhythm? We rarely hear that kind of music in church, especially our church.”

“Thank you for the compliment, Sister,” I answered for all the choir members. “This was my suggestion. Hopefully all our parishioners will enjoy this music.”

“Amen, Le. Amen.”

My parents and I then immediately drove in our family van, a Toyota Kijang, to the Gadjah Wong Restaurant, a well-known restaurant in Sleman. I often sang there and was scheduled to perform that evening. But halfway there, we ran into a traffic jam. Gee! I’ll be late! I silently recited the rosary. to Lord Jesus Praise the Lord. He answered my prayer, and the traffic started to flow again.
When we arrived at the restaurant, my father quickly helped me dress for the performance and organized the songs — both dangdut and campursari, a Javanese pop variety — to perform later.

Fortunately, I was very familiar with all the songs, especially the ones I often practiced with karaoke at home.

Ibu silently watched me getting ready for the performance.

“Darling, why are you so quiet?” my father asked my mother. “You’d better help me.”

“No way,” my mother answered indifferently. “I’m embarrassed, Mas.”

“It’s okay, Dad,” I quipped while finishing my makeup. “Mom is still upset.”

At exactly eight o’clock, I walked onstage to sing. Watching my performance, the audience became excited.

I usually sang up to twenty songs for two consecutive hours. On Saturday nights, the restaurant manager often paid me 20,000 rupiah for each song I performed. Not bad at all. I earned enough to take care of my personal needs, after setting money aside for savings, busking costumes, vacation, and college supplies.

That night, during my last five songs, some patrons in the back row started heckling me.

“Isn’t that strange?” I heard one say. “A Catholic singing dangdut songs.”

“Why? How do you know he is Catholic? I actually envy him,” said another.

“I know. His name is Raden Mas Ralph Alloysius Bambang Sejati. He is a freshman in our college and the son of our favorite lecturer, Mr. Raden Mas Agustinus Bambang Praptomo. His mother is no other than our math teacher in middle school. I doubt that a singer like him can make it in the dangdut music world.”

“Do you mean Mrs. Raden Ayu Maria Sejati Yuniarti? Gosh! How weird! His voice is even better than that of the dangdut singer Thomas Djorghi.”

“Ah, no way! He sounds like the dangdut singer Denny Malik.”

“What? How could that be? You think Denny Malik inspired him?”

Their back-and-forth remarks soon created a boisterous atmosphere in the restaurant. Fortunately, I was able to complete my performance just fine.

After the last song, almost everyone in the audience rose and gave me a round of applause. They jostled to hand me flowers and asked for my autograph. Others asked me to take pictures with them.

The restaurant manager paid me. I received a lot of money that night. Thank you, Jesus, thank you, Lord. Smiling, I gratefully crossed myself and then ran outside to my parents, who were waiting in the car, in a hurry to get home.

On the way home, Ibu suddenly lashed out at me. “Alloy, you heard it yourself, didn’t you? The entire audience ridiculed your performance. Didn’t you hear them?”

“How could I?” I tried to pretend, “I was singing, so I couldn’t hear their babble.”

From the front seat, Ibu, sitting next to Ayah, turned slightly, leaned her head back, and snapped, “I am fed up, Le. I have told you that we are Catholics. We can’t even face our neighbors, let alone the church members. Where do you get the nerve, Le? From now on, no more singing dangdut songs. That’s it!”

It really hurt to listen to my mother. Why did their blabbering bother her so much? I did not know what to do. God, forgive those who made fun of me. Forgive also my mother, who was harsh with me.

When we finally arrived at home, I rushed out of the van, ran straight into my bedroom, slammed the door behind me, and locked it. I could no longer hold back my tears. Weakened, I slowly sank to the floor. Why should this happen? What should I do?

There was a knock on my door. “Le, open the door, I want to talk to you privately,” my father coaxed.

Oh my God! That’s Ayah knocking on my door. I immediately rose, wiped my tears, and opened the door.

Ayah quickly embraced me.

Sobbing, I clung to my father.

“Le, don’t mind your mother! She actually doesn’t realize how talented you are.”

“Dad, maybe there is truth in what Mom said. Maybe she’s right that it is impossible for a Catholic like me to make my dream of becoming a dangdut singer come true.”

“Don’t give up, Le. I promised to help you become a dangdut singer. Keep your spirits up.”

I nodded. I knew that Ayah would not break his promises. He would definitely help me realize my dream of becoming a dangdut singer. Maybe God’s plan had begun to work.

***

In my sixth semester at college, when I was twenty years old, I earned the best student award at the faculty level. Praise the Lord. Adding to my happiness, my father encouraged me to audition in a dangdut singing contest held by Peksimida, the Regional University Student Art Week.

When the audition day arrived, Ayah drove the Kijang to take me to the Mrican Campus, where the competition was taking place. I had dressed up like Denny Malik.

On the way, Ayah played dangdut instrumentals from the car stereo to help me practice the songs I was to sing. Finally, we arrived.

Upon entering the site, I ran into a classmate who was also a contestant. Angella looked pretty, dressed up like the dangdut singer Selfi Nafilah.

“Good morning Angella! Piye kabare?” — How are you? — I asked in Javanese.

“Good morning. I’m fine, Loy. You’re joining the competition, right?”

“Yes. I’m competing for the men’s dangdut singer award. What about you?”

“I’m competing for the women’s dangdut singer prize.” Angella smiled sweetly.

“Gee, I didn’t know you liked dangdut.”

“Oh, yes, I do like this kind of music.”

“When did you first learn about dangdut?”

“When I was eight, some twelve years ago.”

“Wow! That’s a long time ago!” I said, surprised.

We registered in Room K18 of the building, then waited for our turn, while praying, practicing the songs, and sharing a bottle of water. It wasn’t long before our names were called.
I confidently sang Yang Kurindu by Denny Malik. To impress the judges, I tried to put feeling into my performance. As soon as I finished singing, they gave me a big round of enthusiastic applause.

Happily, I left the room. Great! It seemed my performance went well.

The same was true for Angella. She also looked happy after her audition that day. We walked together, while chatting along the way.

“What do you think, Loy? Did you do it?”

“Thank God, my performance went well. What about you?”

“I did okay, Loy. At first, I was nervous. But thankfully, my nervousness suddenly disappeared when I started to sing. I bet it’s the power of the rosary prayer I recited last night.”
Shortly afterwards, we ran into our parents.

Piye, Le?” — How did you do, Son? “You made it, didn’t you?”

“Praise the Lord, Dad. Everything went well.”

***

While waiting for the results of the singing competition, I continued my college studies as usual. I also continued attending Vigil Mass on Saturdays, busking, and visiting friends.. Hopefully God will answer my prayers.

One morning, about a month after the competition I jogged ten rounds around the university grounds on Paingan, while listening to the birds sing like a choir. It was about five-thirty and I noticed farmers heading for the fields to tend their crops. I slowly inhaled the fresh air. Ah, how clean and refreshing! I was deeply grateful for the beautiful surroundings God had created for me. I was proud to be a child of Paingan. Singing along with Stasiun Balapan — “The Balapan Train Station”, the signature song of Didi Kempot — I headed home, where I immediately ran into my mother.

“Alloy, someone texted you.” Ibu handed me the smartphone. “Check to see if there’s a message.”

Oh, my God, it’s from the Peksimida singing competition committee. I immediately opened the text message.

From: Regional Student Art Week Competition Committee
Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta
Date: May 24, 2010
Time: 06.10

Good morning, Alloy,
The Peksimida Committee of Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta, is pleased to announce that
Name: Raden Mas Ralph Alloysius Bambang Sejati
Major: Mathematics
Faculty: Science and Technology
Class: 2007
has qualified to enter the next round of the men’s dangdut singing competition. We invite you to register and join the preparation for the upcoming Peksimida on Thursday, May 27, 2010, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Koendjono Room, Central Building of Campus 2, Mrican, Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta.

We thank you in advance for your attention to the matter.

“Praise the Lord! Yes!” I cheered, jumping up and down. “Thank you, Lord Jesus.” I pressed my smartphone against my chest.

Ibu looked at me curiously. “What’s going on? What’s the message about?” she probed.

“The results of the Peksimida singing competition!” I tried to control my voice — I felt like I was about to choke!

“Oh, really.” Ibu was uninterested.

“I passed the first round of the Peksimida competition,” I continued and showed her the text message on my smartphone. Before Ibu could say anything, I hurried away to take a quick shower and dress as neatly as possible.

When I entered the dining room, my parents were already waiting to have breakfast together. Ibu had just prepared Yogyakarta home-style fried rice with sunny-side-up eggs, in addition to Kalasan fried chicken, peyek tumpuk — crispy peanut fritters — and wedang uwuh, a traditional herb drink. Ibu had also prepared a variety of mouth-watering, traditional sweet snacks. Ibu was really a great cook.

While enjoying breakfast, I told Ayah about the text message I had received earlier. “Dad, I have good news! I passed the first round of the singing contest!” Grinning from ear to ear, I showed Ayah my smartphone.

“Thank God. Congratulations, Le. Hopefully you will also succeed in the next Peksimida,” said Ayah and kissed me on the forehead.

“Yes, Dad. Thanks for your prayers and support.”

“You’re welcome, Le. Good luck!”

***

In mid-June, I took part in another Peksimida dangdut singing competition at the Sarjana Wiyata University in Sleman, where the National Student Art Week — Peksiminas — would be held later. It turned out that Angella had also qualified to participate in the female dangdut singing contest. I didn’t know that she shared my aspiration to become a professional dangdut singer.

For the national Peksiminas competition, I sang the same compulsory song I sang during the regional competition: the classic dangdut song Darah Muda — “Youthful Zest” — by Bang Haji Rhoma Irama.
As for Angella, she sang Dua Kursi — “Two Chairs” — by Rita Sugiarto as her compulsory song, and Perahu Kaca — “Glass Boat” — by Selfi Nafilah as her song of choice.

Both of our parents watched our performances.

Thank God. He answered our prayers. Our hard work was rewarded by winning the championship in our separate categories. We both shed happy tears.

My mother, who had opposed my dreams all this time, finally acknowledged my talent.

In the end, I proved that a Catholic, like me, could become a dangdut singer. After graduating from college, I went to work as a controller in an insurance company, but I also continued being a dangdut singer. I recently signed a contract to record a dangdut Catholic-worship music album. As a token of gratitude, I not only use my talent to make a living, but also as a means to serve God.

***

Senja Di Batavia / The Sun Sets Over Batavia

Irene WibowoIrene Wibowo who was born in 1996, is an alumnus of Petra Christian University. She majored in English for Creative Industry.

An avid fiction reader, Irene has tried her hand at writing her own stories. An earlier version of Irene’s short story Senja di Batavia was chosen to be included in a compilation of ten selected short stories 1 Negeri 10 Kisah —a publication issued by Petra Career Center to showcase work of their 2016 Creative Writing Workshop.The novel Pulang by Leila S. Chudori, one of her favorite writers, has sparked Irene’s interest in historical fiction.

Irene is currently learning Korean and trying to earn a living utilizing her acquired language skills.

Irene can be contacted at: ip103096@gmail.com

***

From Stefanny Irawan:

Stefanny IrawanAs someone who teaches English Language Translation and is a freelance literary translator, I want my students to have a proper introduction to literary translation. I know Bu Lian Gouw, from Dalang Publishing, and my students well enough to be assured that a one-day workshop would have good results. I knew that my students would not only be provided with technical information regarding the profession, but also receive ethical guidance.

The Sun Sets over Batavia, the English language translation of Senja di Batavia by Irene Wibowo, is a combined effort of three workshop participants under Bu Lian’s guidance. Along with the students’ feedback, the work bears witness to the success of the workshop.

On a different note, I was happy to reconnect Ibu Lian with Irene Priscilla Wibowo (Irene took the 2017 workshop). I’m proud to use Senja di Batavia, the original work of an alumna of Petra Christian University’s English for Creative Industry Program, for this translation workshop. It proves that with hard work and combined effort, we, Indonesian authors and translators, can indeed stand on our own. Onward!

***

From Student Translators:

From Erick Setiawan:

Erick Setiawan

Why did you join the workshop? Were your expectations met?

I wanted to learn how to translate literature more effectively, as prior to joining this workshop, I was already working on a literary translation project. I thought that the skills I’d learn from this workshop would benefit me and that it was going to be fun. Thankfully, it delivered. I learned to capture the spirit of the original work and transfer it to English. Learning together with my friends was incredibly fun and interesting, too!

What did you learn from this workshop in general, but also, more specifically, what did you learn related to crafts and ethics?

I learned to accurately translate a story without altering the original. I also learned about capturing the meaning of the original work in English. As a literary translator, I should be as passionate about a story as the author. Communication during the translation process is essential. I learned that, even though the work is not easy, it is rewarding. The workshop piqued my interest and my knowledge in the field. I welcome more opportunities to learn even more.

From Emily Abigail:

Emily Abigail

Why did you join the workshop? Were your expectations met?

I wanted to learn how to convey messages in two different languages. I also thought this workshop could be a good way to learn more about the career opportunities in the creative industry. The workshop with Bu Lian taught me everything I wanted to learn. Moreover, now know what I need to learn more about such as making the proper word choice based not only on meaning, but also with consideration of the story’s time period.

What did you learn from this workshop in general, but also, more specifically, what did you learn related to crafts and ethics?

I learned that every language has its own beauty in terms of sentence structure. Translators have to be able to not only translate sentences but also melody. I learned that it is important to stay true to the original work as much as possible out of respect to the author. The words the author carefully chose need to be delivered equally carefully to preserve the essence of a story. I plan to search for more opportunities to develop my translation skills.

From Ivania Tanoko:

Ivania Tanoko

Why did you join the workshop? Were your expectations met?

I wanted to know more about translating from Indonesian to English, and how to become a professional translator. When I heard about this workshop, I immediately joined. It is a rare opportunity to find this kind of workshop in my area. I hoped the experience would provide me with new skills. My expectations were met. I now know what it takes to become a professional translator. Show, don’t tell. Use imagination to render an unfamiliar situation.

What did you learn from this workshop in general, but also, more specifically, what did you learn related to crafts and ethics?

I learned that every language has its own style of writing. In Indonesian, we can use many words to render description. But in English, we need to be more direct. I learned to make a proper word choice from the wealth of available vocabulary to maintain the emotion of a story. I also learned time management to support my translation with necessary research and re-reading my work before submitting it. I plan on taking more workshops in the future.

Senja Di Batavia

Batavia, 12 Oktober 1740.

Dari jendela kamarnya, Sari melihat burung-burung bangau melayang berputar tinggi di angkasa. Lengkingan mereka mengiringi nyaringnya pekik-pekik ketakutan di bawahnya. Hamburan warna merah bersemu jingga di langit seakan menggambarkan api yang tidak berhenti berkobar.

Lima hari setelah Nyonya Carolien, majikannya, menitahkannya untuk pulang ke rumah sampai waktu yang tidak ditentukan, Sari melewatkan waktunya berdiam diri di rumah berkawan dengan kebisingan-kebisingan yang mulai memekakkan telinganya.

Teriakan amarah yang dilontarkan dalam bahasa Melayu dan bahasa Belanda, serta teriakan ketakutan yang dilontarkan dalam bahasa Cina saling bersahutan memenuhi udara. Suara pedang yang mengayun membelah angin serta suara bubuk mesiu yang melontarkan peluru tidak henti-hentinya mengalun bersama teriakan-teriakan itu.

Seperti kata Nyonya Carolien, orang Cina sedang dibantai habis-habisan di luar sana. Dia juga menceritakan kalau mereka membuat rusuh dengan membunuh lima puluh orang Belanda.
Sekarang pikiran Sari melayang pada Xiao Li, sahabat baiknya. “Ah, Xiao Li. Di mana kamu sekarang?” gumamnya.

***

Sari baru beberapa minggu bekerja untuk Nyonya Carolien saat dia bertemu dengan Xiao Li tahun lalu. Gadis limabelas tahun seperti Sari seharusnya sudah dipinang. Tapi, tidak ada yang mau dengan seorang gadis berbibir sumbing. Dia pun tidak bisa mendapatkan pekerjaan sampai pada suatu hari tetangganya, yang bekerja sebagai pembantu rumah tangga di tangsi Belanda, menawarinya pekerjaan di rumah Tuan Willem, seorang perwira tinggi militer Belanda, untuk melayani Nyonya Carolien, istrinya.

Nyonya Carolien suka mengumpulkan kain-kain sutera. Menurutnya, kain-kain sutera membuat kecantikannya makin menonjol.

Setiap hari Sabtu, setelah Nyonya Carolien menghabiskan sarapan paginya, Sari menemani Nyonya Carolien ke Pasar Tanah Abang.

Toko kain yang dimiliki keluarga Xiao Li terletak di bagian timur pasar, dekat toko-toko kelontong. Tokonya agak sepi hari itu. Selain Sari, hanya ada seorang perempuan Cina bertubuh tambun, dan Nyonya Carolien bersama temannya.

Sari melihat-lihat potongan sisa kain di sebelah pintu masuk dekat tempat membayar, sambil menunggu majikan dan temannya berbelanja. Pemilik toko sedang mengembalikan uang kepada seorang perempuan Cina yang menggendong anak bayi. Dilihatnya juga seorang anak laki-laki yang dengan sigapnya mengangkat segulung kain yang dibeli perempuan itu ke kereta kuda yang menunggu di depan toko.
Mereka sedang berjalan menuju pintu toko saat Sari mendengar suara ‘tuk’ pelan. Dilihatnya satu mata uang perak menggelinding di ubin keramik yang mengkilap. Jika uang itu tidak berada di dalam dompet yang punya, siapa pun dapat memungutnya, bukan? begitu pikir Sari. Maka dia beranjak untuk mengambil uang itu sembari berpikir akan ditukarkan dengan barang apa nantinya.
Baru saja dia mendekatinya, anak laki-laki yang mengangkut kain tadi sudah memungut uang perak yang tak bertuan itu. Namun, anak itu tidak memasukkan uang logam itu ke dalam saku celana pendek putihnya. Dari ambang pintu Sari melihat dia berlari kecil menuju dan memberikannya kepada perempuan itu.

Sari kembali masuk ke dalam toko. Dia bersandar pada salah satu lemari kaca di bagian belakang toko dan memperhatikan anak itu kembali berjalan masuk lalu duduk di atas kursi tinggi dekat tempat membayar. Anak laki-laki itu mengusap peluh yang mengalir dari dahinya dengan selembar handuk yang dikalungkan di lehernya. Pipinya merah seperti buah tomat yang diiris-iris Sari saat membuat roti berlapis untuk Nyonya Carolien.

Sari mengalihkan pandangannya dengan cepat pada kain merah di depannya saat mata sipit anak laki-laki itu bertemu matanya. Hawa panas menjalar ke sekujur tubuhnya ketika dari sudut matanya dia melihat anak itu turun dari kursi tinggi dan berjalan mendekatinya.

“Hai,” ujar anak laki-laki itu.

Sari mengerjapkan matanya dan memandang anak itu dengan aneh dan takjub. Tidak banyak orang yang mau berbicara dengannya. Sari tahu ada orang yang percaya bahwa wajahnya
yang cacat bisa mendatangkan petaka kalau dipandang terlalu lama. Anak laki-laki Cina itu adalah lelaki pertama di luar keluarganya yang mengajaknya bicara.

“Xiao Li,” ujarnya lagi, memperkenalkan diri. Lalu melanjutkan, “Namamu siapa?”

“Sari,” jawabnya dengan malu-malu.

“Sali,” katanya sambil menganggukkan kepalanya.

Sari tersenyum. Orang Cina memang tidak bisa mengucapkan ‘r’.

***

Setelah hari perkenalan itu, Sari dan Xiao Li sering menghabiskan waktu bersama. Sore hari saat Nyonya Carolien menghabiskan waktunya untuk minum teh bersama dengan teman-temannya dan saat Xiao Li bebas dari tugas membantu ayahnya, Sari dan Xiao Li berjalan bersama ke tepi Kali Besar untuk melihat senja.

Xiao Li bercerita bahwa orang Cina di Batavia tidak enak-enak amat hidupnya. Ada pemberlakuan wajib lapor bagi setiap orang Cina yang berdiam di Batavia. Orang Cina yang banyak uang sering diperas oleh orang Belanda. Beberapa teman Xiao Li yang hanya memiliki dua potong baju, hitam dan biru, dipindah paksa ke Ceylon. Apakah mereka selamat tiba di Ceylon tidak ada yang tahu. Ada desas-desus mereka dibuang ke laut.

Kata Xiao Li, banyak orang Cina yang tidak mampu dan masih tinggal di Batavia sekarang menjadi buruh di pabrik gula Belanda. Namun, belakangan ini banyak dari mereka yang diberhentikan secara paksa karena harga gula yang terus turun. Nampaknya banyak orang Cina yang geram dengan sikap semena-mena orang Belanda dan berniat memberontak.

Sari teringat bahwa pada pertemuan terakhir mereka, Xiao Li bercerita kalau orang Cina akan menyerang orang Belanda dalam waktu dekat. Dia mencuri dengar dari teman ayahnya yang datang malam-malam untuk mengajaknya ikut serta. Ayahnya tentu menolak mentah-mentah ajakan itu karena dia tidak memiliki masalah dengan orang Belanda. Sejak saat itu Xiao Li tahu bahwa Batavia mulai tidak aman.

Pada penghujung hari itu, Xiao Li mengambil selembar kain sutra merah dari saku celananya. Kain tipis dan licin itu dengan lembut dibalutkannya melingkari bahu Sari. “Simpanlah kain ini sebagai cendera mata persahabatan kita. Sebagai tanda perasaanku padamu.” Kecupannya, yang ringan dan cepat, ditempatkan di dahi Sari. Lalu dia melangkah pergi, menjauh. Hilang.

***

Kenangan Sari buyar saat Emak memanggilnya untuk membantu menyeduh kopi buat Bapak dan Mas Ario, kakaknya. Di ruang tamu, Bapak dan Mas Ario sedang menggerutu. Mereka tidak mendapat upah karena pengawas ladang gula melarang mereka menggarap ladang dalam beberapa hari ini.

“Kawan-kawanku pergi ke kota untuk mengambil harta orang-orang Cina serakah itu. Aku mau ikut besok daripada berdiam di rumah,” ujar Mas Ario.

“Ah, kaki Bapak sakit. Kamu saja yang pergi. Bawa pulang barang yang banyak. Katanya mereka punya guci bagus. Semoga tidak rusak kena tembakan meriam, agar kita bisa jual lagi. Enak saja mereka bisa kaya sementara kita terus-terusan miskin,” omel Bapak.

“Ambil yang banyak ya, Nak,” sambung Emak. “Emak dengar kemarin kalau orang-orang Cina mau menjadikan kita budak. Kalau tidak mau, kita yang akan dibunuh seperti yang mereka alami sekarang. Nah, tahu rasa mereka kini yang dibantai.”

Sari mengantarkan kopi ke ruang tamu dan meletakkannya di atas meja. Dengan takut-takut dia duduk di sebelah Emak sembari memandang Bapak dan Mas Ario yang menyeruput kopi. Dengan suara gemetar Sari berkata, “Kenapa kalian begitu benci dengan orang Cina?” Bukankah mereka tidak pernah bikin ribut dengan kita?” Tiga pasang mata seketika melihat ke arah Sari, mata-mata yang menghakimi.

“Kamu ini perempuan tahu apa,” bentak Bapak. “Mereka menguasai pusat kota. Merampas milik kita. Kamu lupa dulu kita pengusaha pabrik gula? Meskipun kecil, itu milik kita. Mereka punya banyak uang, melibas kita hingga tertinggal di pinggiran. Kurang serakah apa mereka?”

“Tapi kan—”

“Hus. Kamu sekarang berani membantah bapakmu?” potong Emak, nadanya meninggi.

Sari tidak ada maksud untuk membantah Bapak. Dia memahami perasaan ayahnya yang terluka karena perusahaannya dicaplok orang Cina sehingga dia bersama Mas Ario sekarang terpaksa menjadi buruh di lahan tebu. Sari hanya ingin bilang bahwa orang Cina itu juga ada yang baik dan tidak bisa semuanya disalahkan sebagai penyebab keadaan keluarga mereka sekarang ini. Belum sempat dia kembali berusaha menyampaikan maksudnya, pintu rumah diketuk.

Emak bergegas membuka pintu dan mendapati pengawas kebun tebu dan dua tentara Belanda berdiri di depan rumah.

“Selamat sore, Bapak-Ibu sekalian,” ujar pengawas kebun tebu berbasa-basi. “Saya membawa pengumuman bahwa Belanda menawarkan dua dukat untuk setiap kepala orang Cina.”

Bapak dan Mas Ario segera bangkit dari tempat duduk untuk mendengarkan lebih lanjut pengumuman itu.

Sari terdiam mendengar pengumuman itu.

“Ini tidak benar,” gumam Sari dengan kesal setelah pengawas kebun tebu dan dua tentara Belanda itu pergi. Belum pernah dia melihat mata Bapak, Emak, dan Mas Ario begitu berbinar-binar.

Bapak mengambil golok sedangkan Mas Ario membawa cangkul.

Sari mencengkeram tangan Mas Ario dan berusaha menahannya keluar dari rumah.

Emak menariknya.

“Kamu ini perempuan banyak tingkah. Duduk diam sana,” bentak Bapak.

Emak memaksa Sari duduk di kursi walaupun dia terus meronta.

Malam itu Bapak dan Mas Ario tidak pulang.

***

Setiap langkah kaki Sari lengket berkecipak karena genangan-genangan darah yang membasahi tanah. Warnanya lebih merah dari senja. Merah pekat. Lebih pekat dari dinding merah di rumah Nyonya Carolien. Kali Besar yang mengalir di antara jalan setapak dan sawah berubah warna – memerah. Tubuh Sari bergetar hebat sembari melangkahi mayat orang-orang itu. Air matanya mengalir semakin deras ketika dia melihat bayi yang sudah tidak bernapas dalam dekapan mayat emaknya.

Serdadu-serdadu Belanda menusukkan bayonet pada siapa pun yang tergeletak di tanah. Tidak ada erangan. Tidak ada jerit kesakitan. Anak-anak kecil itu bukannya terbunuh, namun sengaja dibunuh. Membayangkan anak-anak itu berlarian ke tengah jalan kemudian ditembak di
kepalanya dan mereka yang ditemukan bersembunyi di dekat semak-semak dan ditusuk tepat di jantungnya, membuat Sari mual. Dia membungkuk dan muntah.

Langit menyisakan sedikit sinar terangnya. Di perkampungan seberang, tempat Xiao Li dan keluarganya tinggal, lebih banyak lagi orang-orang Cina yang bergelimpangan di tanah tanpa nyawa.
Beberapa orang setempat, kenalan Bapak dan Mas Ario, serta serdadu-serdadu Belanda memandang Sari dengan tatapan penuh selidik. Sebagian dari mereka keluar-masuk rumah membawa barang-barang yang ada di rumah itu. Sebagian lagi membakar rumah dan yang lainnya menusuki setiap orang yang tergeletak di tanah.

“Heh! Sedang apa kamu di sini?”

Sari terkejut mendengar suara Mas Ario memanggilnya di depan teras rumah seseorang sembari membawa piring keramik dan sendok perak. Baju dan tubuhnya dipenuhi bercak darah.

“A… aku mencarimu dan Bapak. Kami di rumah khawatir,” sahut Sari agak gemetar. Dia berharap kebohongannya tidak diketahui kakaknya.

Mas Ario memandang adiknya dengan sorot mata marah. Dia kembali masuk ke dalam rumah itu lalu keluar dengan mengusung barang-barang lainnya.

Petang itu, pada saat Sari kembali ke rumah bersama Bapak dan Mas Ario yang membawa barang-barang untuk Emak, perkampungan itu telah hangus tidak berbekas oleh lautan api.

Sembari mengekor Bapak dan Mas Ario, Sari akhirnya tak tahan dan berteriak, “Mengapa semuanya harus dibunuh, Mas? Mengapa?” Air mata mengalir membasahi pipinya
“Mereka punya salah apa sama Mas? Kenapa anak-anak juga dibunuh? Anak-anak, Mas. Anak-anak,” Sari tersedu.

“Membersihkan hama akan lebih bagus bila hingga akar-akarnya karena mereka tidak akan pernah tumbuh lagi. Biarkan ini menjadi pelajaran bagi mereka agar tidak lagi macam-macam sama kita,” bentak Ario tanpa menoleh. Dia mempercepat langkahnya dan meninggalkan Sari di tengah-tengah segala kekacauan itu.

Pada malam itu, Sari sama sekali tidak bisa memejamkan mata.

***

Pada Sabtu, 22 Oktober 1740, Gubernur Jendral Belanda Adriaan Valckenier mengeluarkan perintah untuk menghentikan pembunuhan terhadap orang Cina.

Seminggu setelahnya, seorang tentara Belanda mengetuk pintu rumah Sari. Katanya, dia diutus Nyonya Carolien menjemput Sari untuk kembali bekerja.

Dengan baju yang dibungkus selembar sarung, Sari berjalan di belakang tentara itu menuju rumah Nyonya Carolien.

Bau tajam besi di udara telah hilang. Tanah tidak lagi basah oleh darah. Tidak ada lagi mayat bergelimpangan di jalan.

Nyonya Carolien menyapa Sari dengan ramah. Dengan lembut dia meminta Sari mengerjakan tugas sehari-harinya namun dia tidak pernah lagi mengajak Sari belanja di Pasar Tanah Abang.

Pada sore hari, di waktu istirahat sebelum dia harus menyajikan makan malam untuk Tuan Willem dan Nyonya Carolien, Sari pergi menatap senja di bawah pohon waru di tepi Kali Besar. Di situ dia biasanya menatap senja bersama Xiao Li. Sari memejamkan mata menahan
perih. Merahnya matahari yang sedang terbenam itu mengingatkannya pada api yang berkobar, darah yang mengalir, teriakan-teriakan ketakutan, dan Xiao Li. Sejak Minggu, 9 Oktober 1740 itu, waktu kejadian Geger Pecinan dimulai, sejak dia kehilangan Xiao Li, senja tidak lagi sama. Senja hanya suatu luka yang menghampakan jiwa.

Sari bersandar di batang pohon waru. Dia mengeluarkan kain sutra merah dari balik angkinnya. Pelan-pelan kain itu dia balutkan di bahunya. Xiao Li. Sari mengusap bahu dan lengannya. Dia yakin, suatu hari nanti, entah kapan, dia akan berada kembali dekat di samping Xiao Li.

*****

The Sun Sets Over Batavia

Batavia, Friday, October 14 1740

Five Days After the Chinese Massacre

From her bedroom window, Sari saw the herons circling high up in the sky. Their squeaks echoed the terrified screams below them. Their red and orange streaks in the sky emulated the steadily burning fires around her.

It had been five days since Mrs. Carolien, her mistress, had sent her home, without specifying how long she was to stay there. Sari had spent the time at home listening to the ear-piercing noises that filled the air: a cacophony of angry shouts in Malay and Dutch, anguished screaming in Chinese, clashing swords, and rattling gunfire.

Mrs. Carolien had told Sari that the Chinese were being butchered — during a riot the Chinese had killed fifty Dutch people.

Now, Sari thought of Xiao Li, her best friend. “Oh, Xiao Li, where are you now?” she whispered.

***

Sari had only worked a few weeks for Mrs. Carolien when she met Xiao Li last year. Usually, fifteen-year-old girls were already married, but no one wanted to marry Sari because of her cleft lip. Even worse, no one would hire her, until one day, her neighbor, who worked as a maid in the Dutch barracks, offered her a job in Mr. Willem’s household. Mr. Willem was a high-ranking Dutch officer, and Sari was assigned to serve his wife, Mrs. Carolien.

Mrs. Carolien loved to collect silk cloths. According to her, silk enhanced her beauty.

Every Saturday, after Mrs. Carolien finished her breakfast, Sari accompanied her to the Tanah Abang Market.

Xiao Li’s family owned a fabric shop in the eastern part of the market, near the grocers. On the day that Sari met Xiao Li, the store was not crowded. Other than a plump Chinese woman, there were only Sari, Mrs. Carolien, and her friend.

Sari rummaged through the remnants bin near the cash register while waiting for her employer and her friend to finish their shopping. After the shopkeeper gave the plump Chinese woman her change, the shop boy, who had been standing next to him at the cash register, quickly picked up the roll of cloth the lady had purchased and started to carry it to a waiting carriage in front of the shop.
As they were leaving the shop, Sari heard a soft clink — a silver coin rolled across the shiny ceramic floor tile. If that coin is not inside the owner’s purse, anyone can pick it up, right? Sari spontaneously walked toward the coin while thinking of things she could buy with it later on.

She was just about to pick up the coin, when the shop boy, who had finished carrying the lady’s purchase, beat her to it. But the boy didn’t put the coin in his white shorts’ pocket. Standing in the store’s door opening, Sari saw him run after the carriage and return the coin to the plump Chinese woman.

Sari turned and walked to the back of the shop. Leaning against one of the showcases, she watched the boy take a seat on a tall stool near the cash register. He used the tip of the towel he wore around his neck to wipe the perspiration off his face. His cheeks were as red as the sliced tomatoes Sari put on Mrs. Carolien’s sandwich.

When their eyes met, Sari quickly looked away to a bolt of red cloth in front of her. Hot flashes ran through her when she saw, from the corner of her eye, that that the boy had climbed off his stool and was approaching her.

“Hi,” he said.

Sari blinked and looked at the boy in disbelief. There weren’t many people who wanted to talk to her. She knew that some people believed that looking at her disfigured face for too long could bring them misfortune. Outside of her family, this Chinese boy was the first person who had ever started a conversation with her.

“I’m Xiao Li,” he introduced himself. “What’s your name?”

“Sari,” she answered shyly.

“Sali,” the boy nodded.

Sari smiled; she knew that Chinese people could not properly pronounce the “r” sound.

***

After that day, Sari and Xiao Li spent a lot of time together. In the late afternoon, when Mrs. Carolien had tea with her friends and Xiao Li was done helping his father, Sari and Xiao Li walked to the riverbank of Kali Besar to watch the sunset.

Xiao Li told Sari that life was not easy for the Chinese in Batavia. The law mandated that all Chinese who lived in Batavia had to register themselves. The wealthy Chinese were coerced into giving their money to the Dutch. Some of Xiao Li’s friends, who were so poor they only had only two pieces of clothing, were forcefully shipped to Ceylon. No one knew whether they arrived safely. There were rumors that they were being dumped into the sea.

Xiao Li said that most of the poor Chinese who still lived in Batavia had become laborers in the Dutch sugar mills. But recently, a lot of them were let go because of the declining price of sugar. It seemed many Chinese were disgruntled with the Dutch’s arbitrary attitude and decided to rebel.

Sari remembered that during their last meeting, Xiao Li said that the Chinese were going to attack the Dutch in the near future. He had eavesdropped on an invitation from his father’s friend, who had come in the middle of the night to ask his father to join the uprising. His father blatantly refused the invitation; he never had problems with the Dutch. But from that moment on, Xiao Li knew that Batavia was no longer safe.

At the end of that day, Xiao Li took a piece of red silk cloth out of his pocket. He draped the thin, smooth fabric around Sari’s shoulders. “Keep this as a token of our friendship; as a symbol of my feelings for you.” He quickly placed a light kiss on Sari’s forehead, then walked away and disappeared.

***

Sari’s reverie was broken when Emak, her mother, called her to help brew coffee for Bapak and Mas Ario, her brother.

In the living room, her father and Mas Ario were complaining. They hadn’t received any wages because the supervisors of the sugar cane fields had not allowed them to work for the past few days.
“My friends are going to town to plunder those greedy Chinese,” Mas Ario said. “Tomorrow, I want to join them. It’s better than staying home.”

“Ah, my leg hurts,” Bapak grumbled. “You go. Bring home lots of valuables. People say they have nice urns. Hopefully they were not broken by explosives, so we can sell them. It is unfair that the Chinese are rich while we continue to be poor.”

“Take as much as you can, Son,” Emak added. “Yesterday, I heard that the Chinese want to make us their slaves. If we refuse, we will be killed, like they are being killed today. They know now what it means to be slaughtered.”

Sari brought the coffee to the living room and placed the tray on the table. She timidly sat down next to Emak and looked at Bapak and Mas Ario, who sipped their coffee. Her voice trembled when she asked, “Why do you hate the Chinese so much? Have they ever disturbed us?”

Three pairs of eyes filled with judgment shifted to her.

“You’re a girl. What do you know?” Bapak snapped. “The Chinese dominate the city center, taking what’s ours. Did you forget that we used to own a sugar mill? Even if it was small, it was ours. They have a lot of money, but still, they pushed us to the outskirts. How much greedier can they get?”

“But—”

“Hush! How dare you talk back to your father?” Emak interrupted shrilly.

Sari had no intention of talking back to Bapak. She knew that he was hurt because the Chinese had taken over his business, and, consequently, he and Mas Ario now had to be field hands at the sugar cane plantation. Sari only wanted to point out that not all Chinese were bad, and that the family should not blame all Chinese for their current situation. But, before she could speak her mind, someone knocked on the door.

Emak rushed to open it.

The cane plantation supervisor and two Dutch soldiers stood in the doorway.

“Good evening, ma’am, sir,” the supervisor said. “I’m here to inform you that the Dutch government is offering two ducats for every Chinese head.”

Bapak and Mas Ario quickly rose from their seats, eager to find out more about the offer.

Sari froze as she listened to the announcement.

“This is not right,” Sari muttered after the supervisor and the Dutch soldiers left. She had never seen Bapak, Emak and Mas Ario’s eyes glitter like that before.

Bapak grabbed a machete while Mas Ario took a hoe. Sari grabbed Mas Ario’s hand and tried to keep him from going out of the house. Emak pulled her back.

“You’re a girl!” Bapak yelled. “Don’t act up! Sit down and be quiet!”

Emak forced Sari to sit in the chair, even though she continued to struggle.

That night, Bapak and Mas Ario did not come home.

***

The next day, Sari went into town. Every step she took was sticky and splashed blood that was pooled on the ground. The blood was redder than the sunset. It was redder than the brick walls of Mrs. Carolien’s house. The Kali Besar that flowed between the footpath and rice field had changed color — it, too, was now red. Sari trembled as she stepped over dead bodies. Her tears flowed faster when she saw a lifeless baby in the embrace of his mother’s corpse.

Dutch soldiers jabbed bayonets into every body lying on the ground. There were no groans — no shrieks. The dead children she saw were not killed by accident; they were murdered. She pictured those children running around on the streets and getting shot in the head, and those who hid in the bushes getting stabbed in the heart. Nauseated, Sari bent and vomited.

There was just a little bit of daylight left. In the neighboring village, where Xiao Li and his family lived, many more Chinese corpses lay scattered on the ground.

Village locals, friends of Bapak and Mas Ario, and Dutch soldiers watched Sari suspiciously. Some of them looted houses. Others set houses on fire. Still others stabbed the corpses on the ground.
“Hey! What are you doing here?”

Sari jumped when she heard Mas Ario’s voice calling out to her. He was standing on a porch, his arms filled with ceramic plates and silver spoons. His clothes and skin were splattered with blood.
“I … I was looking for you and Bapak. We were worried about you.” Sari trembled. She hoped that her brother would not catch her lie.

Mas Ario shot his sister an infuriated look. He went back into the house and came out carrying more loot.

That evening, as Sari walked home behind Bapak and Mas Ario, who carried valuables for Emak, the village was completely consumed by fire. Sari finally couldn’t take it anymore and screamed, “Why? Why did everyone need to be killed, Mas? Why?” Tears streamed down her cheeks. “What did they do wrong? Why were those children murdered too? Children, Mas. Children!” Sari sobbed.

“It’s better to eradicate pests at their roots, “Ario shouted without looking back at her.” That way, they can’t grow anymore. Let this teach them not to mess with us.” He hurried away leaving Sari in the middle of the chaos.

That night, Sari couldn’t sleep at all.

***

On Saturday, October 22, 1740, Adriaan Valckenier, Governor-General of the Netherlands, issued an order to stop the Chinese massacre.

One week later a Dutch soldier knocked on Sari’s door. He said that Mrs. Carolien had sent him to pick Sari up to return to her house.

Carrying some clothes wrapped in a sarong, Sari followed the man to Mrs. Carolien’s house.

The metallic odor of blood was gone. The soil was no longer drenched by blood. There were no more dead bodies lying on the ground.

Mrs. Carolien greeted Sari. Gently, she asked Sari to do her usual chores, but she never again asked Sari to go shopping with her at Tanah Abang Market.

During her break time in the early evening, before she had to serve Mr. Willem and Mrs. Carolien their dinner, Sari went to watch the sunset from under the cottonwood tree on the bank of Kali Besar, where she had so often watched the sunset with Xiao Li.

Holding back her grief Sari closed her eyes. The red sunset reminded her of blazing fires, flowing blood, screams of fear, and Xiao Li. Since Sunday, October 9, 1740, when the Chinese Massacre happened, since she lost Xiao Li, sunsets were no longer the same. The sunset now was just a wound that drained her soul.

Sari leaned against the trunk of the cottonwood tree. She pulled out a red silk cloth from the folds of her cummerbund. She slowly wrapped the cloth around her shoulders. Xiao Li. Sari stroked her shoulders and her arms. She was sure, one day, even if she did not know when, she would stand beside Xiao Li again.

*****

Laut Lepas Kita Pergi

Kurnia Effendi was born in Tegal, Central Java, on October 20, 1960. His early writings appeared in 1978 in the magazines Gadis and Aktuil and the newspaper Sinar Harapan. He won thirty fiction contests in the ’80s, with eight as first-place winners.

Effendi has published twenty-five books that include poetry anthologies, short story collections, essays, novels, and memoirs. His novel Kincir Api (GPU, 2005) was shortlisted for the Khatulistiwa Literary Award in 2006. In 2013, Badan Bahasa, The Indonesian Language Center, honored his novel Anak Arloji (Serambi, 2011). Percakapan Interior (Kosa Kata Kita, 2018) was among fourteen honorable mentions of poetry collections on the Indonesian Poetry Day in 2018. Perpusnas, the National Library of the Republic of Indonesia, awarded Mencari Raden Saleh (Diva Press, 2019) as the best poetry collection in 2019

Effendi can be reached at kurnia_ef@yahoo.com.

Published in October 2019. Copyright ©2019 by Kurnia Effendi. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2019 by Oni Suryaman.

 

 

Laut Lepas Kita Pergi

Sebelum meninggalkan tempat permukiman korban tsunami 26 Desember 2004 di Jantho, Aceh Besar, kurang lebih sepuluh menit yang lalu, Ayah mengatakan, “Aku percaya, kamu bukan pemuda cengeng. Hampir sebulan kita telah menangis bersama-sama. Itu cukup. Tidak perlu diperpanjang lagi. Kita sudah saling berusaha untuk menemukan ibumu. Juga kedua adikmu. Percayakan itu kepada Tuhan. Mungkin kini tempat mereka lebih lapang dibanding kita saat ini. Mungkin tidak ada lagi pikiran yang membebani mereka. Tinggal kita, mau hidup terus atau perlahan-lahan mati.”

Mata Ayah memandangku tidak lagi senyalang elang. Tidak ada kemarahan dalam kata-katanya. Aku merasakan ucapan Ayah begitu sungguh-sungguh, tetapi tidak mengandung tekanan.

Dia bicara seperti sedang menceritakan tentang kegiatan sehari-hari. Begitu datar. Tetapi, hatiku terkesiap mendengarnya. “Aku akan berangkat pagi ini juga, sebelum orang ramai ke jalan-jalan. Sebelum banyak ibu-ibu antri di kamar mandi umum. Sebelum tampak asap di dapur terbuka itu. Aku percaya, kamu akan sanggup menghadapi hari depanmu sendiri. Aku melihat ototmu yang kuat, badanmu yang sehat, dan terutama perasaanmu yang tabah. Ingat! Jangan pernah menangis lagi.”

Bibirku mendadak gemetar. Seperti ada ribuan kata-kata berkerumun di ujung lidah. Berdesakan ingin meletup, mendorong dinding gigi. Membuat rahangku keras seperti terbuat dari logam. Tetapi, tak ada suara yang sanggup keluar dari mulutku.

“Aku menulis surat untukmu, karena kukira kamu tak akan bangun saat subuh. Bacalah setelah matamu tak mampu memandang bayanganku. Sampai suara panggilanmu tak mungkin kudengar lagi.” Ditepuk-tepuknya bahuku, seolah-olah aku sendiri yang berduka dan dia berperan sebagai sang bijak yang berusaha menghiburku. “Maafkan aku jika selama menjadi ayahmu tak pernah membuatmu bahagia.”

Tidak ada pelukan dari Ayah. Tangannya mengusap pipiku, terasa kasar. Keriput yang terbentuk dari serangkaian kerja keras itu berusaha melekat di paras mukaku. Aku mencium bau khas yang barangkali tak terhapus dalam sewindu.

Dan kini Ayah telah melangkah memunggungiku. Ke arah selatan ─ menuju pedalaman, menjauh dari laut.

Begitu sadar Ayah telah semakin jauh — hanya kulihat punggungnya yang setengah bungkuk dan segerumbul pohon yang miring di ujung pandangan siap mengaburkannya — aku segera berlari ke dalam tenda. Jika benar Ayah menulis surat untukku, tentu disimpan tak jauh dari alas tidurku. Memang kutemukan selipat kertas lembap yang tampak baru saja disisipkan ke bawah timbunan sarung.

Aku berdebar membuka lipatan surat itu seakan-akan hendak membaca isi surat wasiat. Ternyata hanya beberapa baris kalimat yang mudah dihapal setelah membaca dua kali.

Mustafa, anakku. Aku terlampau sedih dalam peristiwa kehilangan ini, dan mungkin sebentar lagi menjadi gila. Aku akan pergi. Mudah-mudahan kamu tetap kuat untuk tinggal. Aku ternyata seorang pengecut. Selamat tinggal.

Aku melompat bagai tersengat kalajengking. Tanpa sadar aku telah melanggar permintaannya untuk tidak memanggilnya. Aku berlari sekencang-kencangnya menuju arah Ayah berjalan. Tapi sampai aku terengah-engah, tak kutemui lagi bayangan Ayah. Mungkin tikungan, atau bekas tikungan, telah menyembunyikan arah langkahnya. Sandalku telah lepas entah ke mana. Tanah becek dan kerikil yang menghunjam telapak kakiku tak benar-benar kurasakan sakitnya. Lebih sakit perasaan dalam relung dadaku. Pisau sepi menoreh begitu dalam. Baru saja Ayah pergi, tapi kesepian begitu lekas menyergap. Aku seperti menjadi seorang diri di dunia. Dari seorang piatu menjadi sekaligus yatim dan sebatang kara. Terasa hidup sendiri di bawah langit yang selalu mendung. Jauh dari laut tapi gemuruh itu tak pernah mau hilang dari rongga telingaku.

Kini aku berjalan lunglai kembali ke permukiman sementara. Kata sementara itu mulai terasa tak terbatas. Terutama bagiku yang kini sudah tidak memiliki siapa-siapa lagi. Satu-satunya tumpuan harapan telah meninggalkanku. Pergi begitu saja. Hanya meninggalkan kata-kata yang justru membuatku semakin terpuruk.

Memang sekarang bukan lagi saatnya untuk terus menangis. Setiap hari kuhabiskan waktuku untuk menanyakan kabar dari timur, barat, selatan, dan utara. Dari seluruh penjuru mata angin. Adakah yang menemukan Meutia? Adakah yang mendapatkan sosok Hasan? Adakah yang sempat bersimpang jalan dengan Siti Salamah?

Bahkan andai kata telah berbentuk jenazah!

Atau mungkin tinggal serangkai belulang dari tubuhnya yang terhimpit rangka bangunan. Bekas perjalanan yang tak lazim: terseret sekian kilometer bersama puing dan ombak berwarna coklat. Terhempas dan hanyut berkali-kali.

Atau sekadar sobekan pakaian terakhir yang dikenakannya menjelang gelombang tsunami datang. Mungkin aku masih sanggup mencium wangi sisa tubuhnya, di antara lumpur dan segala yang hancur. Aku akan memeluknya untuk penghabisan kali sebelum kurelakan masuk ke dalam lubang bersama mayat lain yang baru ditemukan. Tanpa nama, kecuali jika aku menandainya dengan setulus hati, lalu berusaha mengingat letaknya.

“Ayah, mungkinkah kita akan sanggup menziarahi mereka?”

Namun, aku tidak lagi bersama Ayah. Dia sudah pergi dan kini mungkin telah tiba di wilayah lain yang juga tidak dikenalnya karena suasananya sudah berubah. Sementara aku akan tetap tinggal di sini, bersama beberapa penduduk yang masih bertahan dengan keadaan seperti ini. Bersama beberapa tentara yang kulihat juga mulai bosan dan kusut mukanya.

***

Ketika Ayah memberiku sepucuk rencong, aku baru saja selesai menunaikan SMP. Umurku menjelang lima belas tahun.

Usai menerima pengumuman kelulusan, aku bersama teman- teman merayakan dengan cara membakar baju seragam di tengah ladang. Anak seorang juragan kambing menyumbangkan seekor kambing untuk pesta syukuran. Aku pulang menjelang magrib dengan perasaan mekar sumringah. Setelah libur panjang aku akan memasuki dunia sekolah yang lain. Seolah- olah ada selembar kertas harapan untuk ditulisi segala keinginan. Dicoret-coret dengan gambar impian sekehendak hati. Aku pun berjalan sambil bersiul-siul.

Di pintu pagar rumah aku mendapatkan mata Ayah yang nyalang seperti elang. Aku serentak menduga ada hal yang sangat penting dan mungkin akan disampaikan dengan nada marah. Firasat itu begitu kuat, membuat dadaku berdegup kencang. Rasa takut menjalar. Semua ingar-bingar yang tadi mengepung api unggun perayaan pesta lulus sekolah, langsung sirna.

“Mustafa!” panggil Ayah.

“Ya, Ayah.” Aku mempercepat langkah. Dengan dada terbuka seperti ini, tentu tampak bagai menantang. Tapi, ya, bajuku sudah sempurna menjadi abu di persawahan kering dua jam yang lalu.

“Ayah mau amanatkan sesuatu kepadamu! Duduklah!”

Perasaanku mengkerut. Serambi rumah tampak sepi. Langit redup. Sebentar lagi akan terdengar suara azan dari surau di belakang rumah. Aku segera duduk di bangku kayu yang terletak setengah miring di teras.

“Ayah, hari ini aku lulus sekolah.” Aku mencoba meredakan gejolak dengan cara menyampaikan berita gembira. Siapa tahu akan menurunkan kemarahan Ayah. Tapi ternyata tak mengubah apa pun.

“Aku tahu! Karena itulah aku memanggilmu. Sudah saatnya kamu menerima ini,” Ayah mengangsurkan sebuah benda yang masih tertutup oleh kain putih, “Bukalah!”

Dengan agak gentar, aku melolos kain kafan yang sudah tidak baru lagi. Serta merta terkejut, meski sudah menduga dari bentuknya, ketika mendapatkan sebuah rencong yang masih mengkilat meskipun gagangnya berupa kayu yang sudah berumur panjang.

Mendadak tanganku gemetar. Apa maksud Ayah memberiku sebuah benda tajam yang berbahaya ini? Setiap menghadapi logam tajam, apalagi dengan beberapa lengkung yang mirip ukiran, aku merasa sedang berhadapan dengan masalah besar.

“Ayah… ini sebuah rencong….”

“Syukurlah kamu tahu. Aku tak bisa menunda waktu lagi. Sudah saatnya kamu memahami arti bahaya di luar sana.”

Aku memandang sekitar. Kukira Ayah keliru dalam menilai keadaan. Desa kami daerah yang paling aman. Bahkan, jarang menjadi lintasan anggota Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, secara terang-terangan maupun menyamar.

“Kamu mulai bertanggung jawab melindungi keluargamu. Bahu-membahu dengan Ayah. Jaga keselamatan Meutia dan Hasan. Sementara aku akan menjaga Salamah, ibumu.”

Tanganku semakin gemetar mendengar penjelasan Ayah. Seperti sebentar lagi akan meletus perang. Sementara angin senja kala bertiup lebih dingin dari biasa. Kemudian terdengar azan magrib berkumandang. Entah siapa yang menjadi muadzin sore ini, meskipun suaranya terdengar mendayu-dayu, terasa mengiris liang telinga seperti pipih sembilu.

“Ayo lekas simpan rencong itu! Kini menjadi milikmu. Jangan dibiarkan telanjang, salah-salah disambar iblis.” Ayah mengingatkan.

Setelah aku kembali dari menyimpan senjata yang baru saja kudapatkan, Ayah bangkit dan berkata, “Sekarang kita ke surau.”

Sehabis sembahyang aku merenung di dalam bilik. Rupanya hari ini berlangsung dihiasi berbagai peristiwa yang mendebarkan. Sejak pagi aku sudah berdebar-debar menunggu pengumuman ujian akhir. Aku tidak terlampau bodoh. Tetapi, bukan berarti pasti lulus.

Ketika membuat api unggun dan membakar baju-baju, angin bertiup cukup kencang. Kemarau telah berhasil membuat setiap petak ladang menjadi kering, tumpukan jerami bertebaran di mana-mana. Tentu kami berdebar-debar dan selalu terkesiap setiap kali melihat api meliuk ke arah gubuk.

Dan, senja ini, sebuah rencong diwariskan kepadaku! Begitu mendadak, seakan-akan musuh sudah berada di balik dinding rumah. Telinga kami menduga, ada semacam keresek langkah kaki orang jahat yang mendekat. Ya. Aku telah menjadi pemuda!

Ketika Ayah memintaku untuk khitan, Hasan belum lahir. Dia masih berada dalam perut Ibu yang membuncit seperti mendekap ember di balik kain sarungnya. Sedangkan Meutia mulai sekolah seminggu tiga kali di madrasah terdekat.

“Sudah waktunya kamu memotong ujung kulupmu. Itu sumber penyakit! Mau berangkat sendiri atau kuantar?”

Aku terkesima. Mengapa Ayah tidak menunggu aku benar-benar khatam Al Quran dengan tartil dan lafal yang benar? Atau membiarkan aku mengalami mimpi basah yang pertama?

“Tidak!” Seolah Ayah mendengar keragu-raguanku. “Sunat sekarang atau tidak usah masuk ke dalam rumah.”

“Ambillah kain sarung yang baru, Mustafa.” Ucapan Ibu lebih lembut. “Sudah kusiapkan di ranjangmu.”

Aku pun mengangguk. Aku tak pernah tega menolak permintaan Ibu. Sesulit apa pun. Setakut apa pun.

Aku belum menjumpai petualangan yang seru, selain lomba berenang di arus sungai yang deras. Tapi pengalaman dipotong ujung pelirku tentu merupakan salah satu keberanian seorang anak laki-laki. Jangan menangis! Ya, jangan menangis Mustafa!

“Aku percaya, kamu bukan anak cengeng, Mustafa!” ujar Ayah membekali perjalananku.

Maka, berangkatlah aku ke seorang dukun sunat. Menyerahkan kelaminku yang gemetar untuk dipotong, dijahit, dan diperban, setelah sebelumnya dibius dengan suntikan di sekitar “burung”-ku itu. Aku meringis saat perih menjalar, menembus tabir pembiusan.

Akan tetapi, aku berhasil mempertahankan agar mataku tetap nyalang, tanpa setitik air menggenang di sudutnya. Aku berhasil dan begitu bangga. Aku seorang anak yang berani. Tidak cengeng! Aku hanya malu kepada Ibu yang tak pernah takut untuk melahirkan. Sebentar lagi akan ada bayi ketiga yang melewati pintu rahimnya. Pasti sakit luar biasa, karena ukuran bayi tidak sebanding dengan diameter lubang yang hendak dilaluinya. Itu menurut akalku, yang masih duduk di kelas empat sekolah dasar.

“Inilah anak Ayah yang pemberani.” Ayah menepuk bahuku, ketika sedang kunikmati seekor ayam panggang yang khusus dimasak oleh Ibu. “Aku percaya, kamu bukan anak cengeng!”

***

Akan tetapi, lihatlah hari ini, di ambang waktu dhuha, ternyata akhirnya aku menangis.

Dadaku seperti mau meledak oleh himpitan kesepian. Padahal, aku tahu, di sekitarku masih ada orang-orang lain yang setengah gila akibat perasaan kehilangan. Ibu-ibu yang putus asa. Anak-anak kecil yang bermain tapi tidak tahu meski mencari pelukan siapa ketika lapar datang. Dan, beberapa tentara yang rindu keluarganya. Juga para relawan yang sudah nyaris mabuk oleh bau busuk yang melayang-layang sepanjang pekan.

Ketika Ayah meninggalkan tempat permukiman, yang terdiri atas tenda-tenda militer dan sebagian lagi berupa bangunan kayu yang berdiri tanpa fondasi, hanya kulihat punggungnya yang setengah bungkuk. Kemejanya yang lusuh mengandung banyak lipatan di sana-sini, warnanya buram, diperoleh dari kardus yang dilempar oleh sebuah helikopter yang gemuruh di suatu siang bermega pekat. Dia tadi berjalan tidak terlampau cepat, tapi jarak antara kami demikian pasti menjadi semakin jauh. Semakin terasa bahwa telah terbentang ruang yang memisahkan kami. Mungkin satu, dua, atau bahkan ratusan kilometer.

Apakah aku masih perlu mencari Meutia? Hasan? Atau ibuku? Yang entah berkubur di mana. Tsunami yang perkasa telah merebutnya dari kami tanpa memberi kesempatan untuk belajar cemburu lebih dulu. Maafkan aku.

***

Catatan :

Judul “Laut Lepas Kita Pergi” dipetik dari judul lagu Leo Kristi di album “Nyanyian Malam”, 1977

To The Sea We Surrender

 

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.

Read some of his essays and book reviews at: http://onisur.wordpress.com and http://semuareview.wordpress.com

He can be reached at oni.suryaman@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To The Sea We Surrender

Some ten minutes before he left the shelter for the Jantho tsunami victims in Aceh Besar, Sumatra, Ayah, father, said to me, “You’re not a crybaby, but we’ve been crying together for almost a month. It’s enough. We’ve tried to find your mother, your younger brother, and older sister. There’s no need to continue. Let God take care of them. Maybe they’re now in a happier place than we are. Perhaps they have been released from all burdens. Now, you and I are the only ones left. It’s up to us to decide to keep on living or slowly die.”

Ayah’s eyes were no longer sharp like an eagle’s. There was no anger in his words. He spoke without emotion, as if he was talking about normal activities.

Listening to him with a tightening chest, I felt his sincerity, even though he spoke in a monotone.

“I’m leaving this morning,” he said. “Before the road is too crowded, before the women line up in front of the public bathroom, before the smoke rises from the soup kitchen. I’m certain you can face your own future. I can see that you are strong, healthy, and, above all, determined. Remember! Never cry again.”

My lips quivered. Thousands of words crowded onto the tip of my tongue, wanting to escape, pushing against my teeth. But my jaws locked as if made of metal. No sound could escape my mouth.

“I wrote you a letter, because I thought you would not yet be up this early,” Ayah continued. “Read it when you can no longer see my shadow, when your voice can no longer reach me.” He patted my shoulder, as if I was the one mourning and he was the wise man comforting me. “Forgive me if I’ve never made you happy.”

Ayah didn’t embrace me. He stroked my cheek. His hand felt rough, and the callouses from his life of hard labor scraped against my face. I smelled a distinct scent that I would not forget for many years to come.

And then, Ayah walked away from the only home we’d known since the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami. His back turned toward me, he headed south ─  inland, away from the sea.

When I could just barely see Ayah’s bent back disappearing into a grove of leaning trees, I ran to our tent. If he did write me a letter, he must have left it near my sleeping mat. Indeed, I found a damp piece of paper tucked under the pile of sarongs on my mat.

My heart pounding, I unfolded the paper as if I were about to read a will. The note contained only a few sentences, which I easily memorized after reading them twice.

Mustafa, my son. This loss has made me so sad, I may soon go mad. I must leave. Hopefully, you are strong enough to stay. I am just a weakling. Goodbye.

I jumped up as though a scorpion had stung me. Unintentionally, I violated Ayah’s instructions, and I ran after him as fast as I could. Even after I ran out of breath, I could still not find his shadow. His footsteps were lost in the bend of the road or what must have been a bend in the road. And I had lost my sandals somewhere along the way.

I ignored the mud and painful pebbles that hurt the soles of my feet. The pain deep in my heart hurt much more.

Ayah had only just left, but loneliness had already struck me. It was as if I were the only person in this world. I had gone from losing a mother to losing both parents. I was left all by myself under the forever-cloudy sky. Though the sea was far away, I still kept hearing the roaring waves.

I limped back to the temporary shelter. The word “temporary” started to feel like “forever,” especially to me, who no longer had anyone. The only person I could rely on had just left me. He simply left ─ only leaving behind words that made me feel even more dejected.

Indeed, this was not the time to continue crying. Every day, I spent my time searching for news from the east, the west, the south, and the north — from all cardinal directions. “Did you find my sister, Meutia?” “Did you see my brother, Hasan?” “Have you come across my mother, Siti Salamah?”

“Tell me,” I would plead, “even if all you saw was their dead bodies, even if all you saw was what was left of their bodies, stuck in the ruins, after being dragged and tossed along with debris for several kilometers by brown waves, repeatedly flung away and sucked back in.”

Or, I begged, “Tell me if you found even a piece of clothing they were wearing before the tsunami hit. Perhaps I can still smell their scent between the stench of mud and debris. At least I could hold them one last time before releasing them for the mass-grave burial with all the other dead bodies.”

The mass grave would be unmarked, unless I marked it in my heart and made an effort to remember the location.

“Ayah,” I cried, “will we ever be able to visit their graves?”

But I was no longer with Ayah. He was gone now. He might have reached another location ─ unrecognizable because the tsunami had changed everything. For now, I would stay here at the shelter with other residents who were still trying to survive ─ along with a few soldiers who were weary and depressed.

***

When I was almost fifteen years old and had just graduated from middle school, Ayah gave me a rencong, a traditional dagger from Aceh.

My friends and I celebrated our graduation by burning our school uniforms in the middle of a rice field. A goat farmer’s son provided us with a goat for the celebration. Around dusk, I went home, feeling elated. After the long break, I would enter a new school environment. My future was a blank piece of paper that I could write all my hopes and dreams on. I walked home, whistling.

As I approached the gate of our yard, I saw Ayah. His eyes were as sharp as an eagle’s. I knew immediately that he had something very important to say and that he might deliver it harshly. The feeling was so strong, my heart started to race. Fear ran through me. All the excitement from the graduation celebration vanished.

“Mustafa!”

“Yes, Ayah.” I quickened my steps. I was bare-chested; my shirt had turned into ash in the rice field two hours ago.

“I have something important to tell you. Sit down.”

My heart sank. It was quiet as we walked to the porch. The sky was now dark. Soon we would hear the call to prayer from the surau, mosque behind the house. I quickly took a seat on the wooden porch bench.

“Ayah, I graduated today,” I said, trying to ease the tension with my good news. But it didn’t change anything.

“I know!” Ayah said. “That’s why I called you. It is time for you to have this.” Ayah thrusted something wrapped in a white cloth toward me. “Open it!”

Shaking, I loosened the old cloth. Even though I could have guessed what it was from the shape, I was still surprised when I held a rencong in my hand. The blade was shiny, even though the wood of the hilt was aged.

My hand trembled. Why did my father give me such a dangerous weapon? Every time I looked at the sharp metal blade, especially its serrated edge, I felt that I was in deep trouble.

“Ayah, this is a rencong …”

“It is good that you know that,” Ayah said. “I can no longer delay this. It is time you understand the dangers of the world out there.”

I looked around. I thought that my father’s evaluation of the situation was mistaken.  Despite the uprising and the growing tensions between rebels and authorities our village was in the safest area. Even the members of Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, the Free Aceh Movement, never passed through this area.

“You, along with me, are now responsible for protecting our family. You have to protect Meutia and Hasan, while I protect your mother, Salamah.”

Listening to my father scared me. It was as though soon, the war would explode. The evening breeze felt cooler than usual. The call for the maghrib, evening prayer, filled the air. I didn’t know who the muadzin, prayer caller, was, but his lilting voice pierced my ears like a sharp blade.

“Now, hurry ─ put it away,” Ayah warned. “It is yours now. Never leave it unsheathed, or the devil might possess it.”

When I returned from putting away my suddenly acquired weapon, Ayah rose and said, “Now let’s go to the surau.”

After the prayer, back in my room, I reflected on the day that had just passed. The day had been filled with many exciting events.

That morning, I had anxiously waited for the result of my final middle school exams. I was not stupid, but that didn’t mean I was guaranteed to pass. The wind had been blowing hard when we burned our uniform shirts that afternoon. The dry season had parched every patch of the field; piles of dry straw were everywhere. Of course, we had worried and gasped every time the flames veered toward the shanties in the field.

And then, this evening, I had inherited a rencong­! It was all too sudden, as if enemies were already lurking behind the walls of the house. We were always alert and treated every rustle as the sound of approaching danger. Yes! I now had become a man!

***

I was in fourth grade when Ayah told me to get circumcised. Hasan had not yet been born. Mother’s bulging belly looked as if she hid a bucket in the folds of her sarong.

Meutia had started attending the madrasah, the Islamic elementary school nearby, three times a week.

“It is time to cut your foreskin,” my father said. “It is the source of disease. Will you go by yourself or should I accompany you?”

Why didn’t Ayah wait until I had mastered my Quran recitation with the correct rhythm and tone? Or until I had experienced my first wet dream?

“No!” he exclaimed, as though sensing my hesitation. “You get circumcised now or don’t ever set foot in this house again.”

“Mustafa, take the new sarong I placed on your bed,” my mother said gently.

I nodded. I never had the heart to refuse my mother’s requests — no matter how hard, no matter how frightful.

I had never had an exciting adventure, other than a swim race in the fast-flowing river. Having my foreskin removed would definitely prove I was a courageous boy. Don’t cry! Don’t you ever cry, Mustafa!

“I trust you not to be a crybaby, Mustafa,” Ayah said, handing me money as I left.

So, I went to the circumciser and presented him my shivering penis, to be anesthetized, cut, stitched, and bandaged. I cringed as the pain penetrated the anesthetic.

During the process, I kept my eyes open, with no tears welling at the corners. I had succeeded and was bursting with pride! I had proven I was courageous and not a crybaby.

I only felt shame in front of my mother, who was never afraid to give birth. The third baby would soon pass through her womb. It must hurt terribly, because a baby was much larger than the opening it had to pass through. At least, that was my reasoning as a fourth-grader.

“Here is my brave boy.” Ayah patted my shoulder, while I enjoyed the roasted chicken my mother had made especially for me. “I know you’re not a crybaby!”

***

But now, today, early in the morning at the temporary shelter, before dhuha prayer time, I did cry.

Even though I knew I was surrounded by people who were half-mad with suffering from their loss, my chest felt as if it might explode under the pressure of loneliness. I was surrounded by desperate mothers, by children playing without knowing where to turn for a hug when they were hungry, by soldiers who missed their family, and by volunteers who almost passed out, overwhelmed by the stench that had hung in the air for the whole week.

When Ayah left the shelter, which consisted of military tents and some wooden structures without a foundation, I only saw his bent back. I knew, his shabby, faded, and crumpled shirt came from a box thrown out of a roaring helicopter on a cloudy afternoon.

Ayah didn’t walk fast, but the distance between us increased steadily. I could feel the space separating us realizing in maybe one, two, or even hundreds of kilometers.

Do I still need to look for my sister Meutia? And Hasan, my brother? And my mother, who might all be buried God knows where? The mighty tsunami took them from me without giving me a chance to say goodbye. Please, forgive me.

***

Para Penjual Rumah Ustazah Nung

Ben Sohib writes short stories, essays, novels, and film scripts. The duology of The Da Peci Code (Rahat Books, 2006) and Rosid dan Delia (Bentang, 2008) were adapted into a movie titled 3 Hati, 2 Dunia, dan 1 Cinta (3 Hearts, 2 Worlds, and 1 Love) and won the best film in the 2010 Indonesian Film Festival. He was nominated as the best scriptwriter for the film Bid’ah Cinta in the 2017 Indonesian Film Festival.

Sohib’s short story collection Haji Syiah was translated into English by George Fowler under the title Haji Syiah & Other Stories.  Jorn Holger Sprode translated the collection into German under the title Hadschi Schia. The original and both translations are combined in one publication (Lontar 2015).

He can be reached at bensohib2@yahoo.co.id

Published in August 2019. Copyright ©2019 by Ben Sohib. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2019 by Oni Suryaman.

 

 

Para Penjual Rumah Ustazah Nung

 

Kau harus melihat sendiri bagaimana si bungsu itu memainkan drama di hadapan ibunya. Dia tahu ibunya selalu merasa iba kepadanya dan lekas terharu pada apa pun yang dikeluhkannya. Lelaki itu memang bebal dalam banyak hal, tapi tidak untuk urusan yang satu ini. Ketiga kakaknya, dua perempuan dan satu laki-laki, dibuat tak berkutik dan hanya bisa pasrah saat sang ibu akhirnya menuruti keinginannya: menjual rumah pusaka.

“Dulah tsudah tak tahan hidup tsendiri. Dulah ingin menikah lagi tsecepatnya,” itu yang dia katakan sambil tangannya mengusap sepasang pipi tembam yang basah oleh air mata.

Lihat, dia selalu berbicara dengan memanggil namanya sendiri, menegaskan bahwa dia memang anak bontot yang manja. Memang benar dia anak bungsu dari empat bersaudara. Tapi usianya 38 tahun, berperut buncit, berkepala botak, dan tak fasih melafalkan “s” karena dua gigi depannya sudah rompal (soal kenapa dua gigi depannya rompal akan kuceritakan nanti).

Aku tak tahu apa yang ada di pikiranmu jika kau berada di sana menyaksikan rapat keluarga sore itu, melihat seorang lelaki dewasa berbicara dengan memanggil namanya sendiri, sesuatu yang hanya pantas dilakukan anak balita atau paling tidak gadis remaja. Mungkin kau ingin menamparnya. Ketiga kakaknya ingin sekali membunuhnya.

“Kau tak memikirkan Umi?” tanya salah seorang kakak perempuanya.

“Umi bitsa membeli rumah kecil di kampung dekat-dekat tsini. Buat apa rumah tsebesar ini jika penghuninya cuma Umi dan Dulah? Lagipula, kalau nanti menikah Dulah kan juga ingin punya rumah tsendiri, punya mobil, punya utsaha, tseperti kalian semua!”

Namanya memang Abdulah, dan dia memang dipanggil Dulah, tapi percayalah, kau akan merasa jengah melihat seorang lelaki dewasa, dengan potongan seperti yang sudah kugambarkan tadi, berbicara dengan gaya memangggil namanya sendiri. Dan kejengahanmu akan menjadi-jadi setiap kali ada kata yang mengandung huruf “s” di tengah-tengah pembicaraannya.

“Tapi Umi belum tentu betah di rumah baru,” sergah kakak perempuan yang lainnya.

“Betul, selain banyak kenangan dengan almarhum Abah, Umi kan ada majelis taklim di rumah ini. Itu hiburan tersendiri buat masa tua Umi,” kali ini kakak laki-lakinya yang angkat bicara.

Si bungsu berdiri. “Hiburan? Hiburan buat kalian karena kalian tsudah punya tsegalanya! Kalian egoits! Kalian….” Dia tak mampu melanjutkan kalimatnya. Dia kembali duduk dan menutup wajah dengan kedua telapak tangannya. Sekarang dia tersedu. Kakak-kakaknya yang duduk di depannya terdiam, sementara sang ibu yang duduk di sampingnya tampak seperti orang linglung. Mungkin dia bingung menghadapi suasana seperti ini, apalagi pikirannya masih terganggu dengan kata-kata Abdulah seminggu yang lalu. Saat menyampaikan niatnya hendak menikah lagi setelah delapan tahun menduda, anak bungsunya itu mengawali dengan keluh-kesah bahwa dia tak pernah merasa bahagia sepanjang hidupnya, dan bahwa sekarang dia ingin menikmati hidup selagi usianya belum terlanjur tua. Pikiran Ustazah Nung—demikian perempuan itu dipanggil oleh warga kampung—makin ruwet ketika dia tahu dengan siapa sang anak hendak menikah (soal dengan siapa Abdulah hendak menikah juga akan kuceritakan nanti).

Setelah tangisnya mereda, si bungsu melanjutkan bicaranya, “Kalian tak pernah memikirkan hidup Dulah yang hancur, yang ketsepian, yang tak punya rumah tangga, yang tak punya apa-apa!”

“Kami semua memikirkan hidupmu, dan kau bebas mengawini setan mana pun yang kau suka, tapi jelas kami tak setuju dengan usulmu menjual rumah ini, kita juga harus memikirkan kehidupan Umi!“ kata kakak perempuannya yang pertama.

“Umi akan baik-baik tsaja, kalian berlebihan! Ini mumpung tsekarang harga tsedang tinggi, mau menunggu apa lagi? Kalian tega melihat Dulah hidup merana tseperti ini bertahun-tahun? Kalau begini tserus, Dulah bitsa-bitsa duduk dan jalan-jalan telanjang di depan rumah!”

“Akan kujual rumah ini, dan kubagikan uangnya sesuai hak waris masing-masing!” akhirnya Ustazah Nung ambil keputusan. Perempuan tua itu berbicara tegas dan lantang, dengan suara bergetar.

***

Kini tiba saatnya aku bercerita tentang bagaimana dua gigi depan Abdulah rompal, dan beberapa hal lainnya. Giginya masih utuh seandainya dia tak berbuat bodoh. Bahkan rumah tangganya mustinya juga masih utuh. Tapi dia terlalu bodoh untuk mempertahankan keutuhan gigi depan maupun rumah-tangganya.

Itu bermula dari petualangannya dengan seorang perempuan bernama Lola. Saat itu Abdulah sudah beristri. Tapi, dua tahun usia pernikahan tampaknya masih terlalu singkat untuk bisa memadamkan api cinta pertamanya kepada Lola. Dia memang sudah tergila-gila kepada perempuan itu sejak dia masih murid SLTA. Mereka belajar di sekolah yang sama. Abdulah murid kelas 3, Lola duduk di bangku kelas 1. Tapi mereka lulus dalam waktu yang bersamaan lantaran dua kali Abdulah tak naik kelas (Abdulah juga pernah tak naik kelas sebelumnya, dua kali saat di SD, sekali di SLTP).

Selama tiga tahun menjadi teman satu sekolahan, Abdulah tak berhasil menjadikan Lola sebagai pacarnya, tapi dia cukup senang telah berhasil membuat Lola bersedia menerima apa saja yang dia berikan, baik berupa barang maupun uang. Tak sekali pun pemberiannya pernah ditolak Lola. Rasa bahagia Abdulah berlipat-ganda saat Lola mulai berani meminta uang jajan seminggu sekali, yang langsung dia terjemahkan sebagai kesediaan gadis itu untuk menjadi istrinya.

“Lola memang cantik, tapi sepertinya dia bukan gadis baik-baik, aku sering melihat dia merokok di warung Bu Mameh,” kata Ustazah Nung saat Abdulah memintanya untuk meminang Lola, enam bulan setelah mereka berdua lulus SLTA.

“Lola cinta pertama Dulah, tak ada yang bisa menggantikannya,” jawab Abdulah.

Dengan berat hati Ustazah Nung akhirnya melangkah ke rumah Lola menemui ibunya, menyampaikan niat Abdullah. Dan dia pulang dengan membawa kabar buruk untuk anak laki-laki terkasihnya. : Lola “sudah ada yang punya,” seorang pengusaha biro perjalanan. Mereka akan menikah tahun depan.

Sejak saat itu Abdullah menjadi pemurung dan sering melamun. Keadaan yang membuat Ustazah Nung risau ini berlangsung selama hampir dua tahun, sampai salah seorang kakak perempuannya datang bersama seorang perempuan bernama Hilda.

“Ini adik temanku. Dia dari Tasikmalaya, ke Jakarta mau mencari pekerjaan,” katanya saat memperkenalkan kepada Abdulah.

Mereka menikah enam bulan kemudian. Ustazah Nung menjual sebidang tanah di Kebon Baru untuk biaya perkawinan, dan sebagian sisanya diberikan kepada Abdulah untuk modal usaha membuka warung sate kambing di Jalan Otista.

Di luar dugaan banyak orang yang mengenalnya, Abdulah berhasil mengelola warung itu dengan baik. Kian hari Warung Sate Kambing “Bang Dulah” kian banyak mendapatkan pelanggan. Dalam waktu dua tahun, Abdulah sudah berani mengambil kredit mobil. Saat itulah Lola kembali muncul dalam kehidupannya. Lola yang tak kunjung menikah, baik dengan pengusaha biro perjalanan atau biro apa pun juga, datang ke warung itu.

“Satemu enak,” katanya saat akan membayar di meja kasir.

“Kau tak perlu membayar,” jawab Abdulah dengan gemetar.

Lola mengulurkan dua lembar kertas, selembar uang kertas pecahan lima puluh ribu dan selembar lainnya kertas putih bertuliskan nomer telepon genggamnya. Abdulah menerimanya dengan tangan bergetar seperti orang sakit buyutan. Dan Lola sengaja menyentuhkan jemari tangannya ke telapak tangan Abdulah yang berkeringat dingin. Abdullah buru-buru memasukkan kedua lembar kertas itu ke laci, dan lupa memberikan uang kembalian.

Tak sampai dua minggu setelah kunjungan itu, kabar bahwa Abdulah sering pergi berdua dengan Lola sudah santer terdengar di seantero kampung. Menurut sas-sus yang beredar di antara warga, Abdulah memberi Lola uang bulanan. Sepeda motor bebek baru yang dikendarai Lola konon juga merupakan pemberian Abdulah. Kabar-kabar burung itu akhirnya hinggap di telinga Hilda. Saat Abdulah ke dapur hendak mengambil segelas air pada satu sore di hari Minggu, Hilda yang sedang mencuci wajan bertanya, “Benarkah semua yang aku dengar dari orang tentang hubunganmu dengan Lola?”

Entah apa yang saat itu ada di benak Abdulah. Awalnya dia diam saja, matanya sebentar memandang Hilda, sebentar memandang ke jendela. Lalu mendadak dia lancar berbicara setelah si istri berkata, “Ceritakan saja yang sebenarnya, aku lebih senang mendengar dari mulutmu sendiri.”

Abdulah membenarkan semua yang diceritakan orang dan didengar istrinya. Dia menutup pengakuannya dengan “Mungkin Dulah masih mencintai Lola” yang dia ucapkan sambil tersenyum.

Hantaman punggung wajan di mulutnya itu begitu keras, dua gigi depannya langsung rompal. Mendengar suara ribut-ribut, Ustazah Nung yang sedang rebahan di kamar bergegas menghampiri sumber suara. Dia menjerit melihat mulut Abdulah penuh darah. Malam itu juga Hilda pulang ke Tasikmalaya dan tak pernah kembali ke Jakarta. Sementara Lola memilih hengkang dari kampungnya. Dia tinggal bersama salah seorang sepupunya di daerah Kota. Konon di sana dia bekerja di sebuah restoran yang juga menyediakan karaoke. Sebulan sekali dia pulang ke rumahnya.

***

Abdulah kembali menjadi pemurung dan sering melamun. Entah karena sebab yang mana. Warung satenya dibiarkan tak terurus dan tutup tiga bulan kemudian, mobilnya dibawa pergi oleh dua orang debt collector yang datang ke rumahnya tak lama setelah itu. Pada tahun pertama setelah kejadian itu, juga pada tahun-tahun selanjutnya, Abdulah lebih banyak menghabiskan waktunya dengan duduk sambil merokok, berpindah- pindah dari satu kursi di ruang tamu, ke kursi lainnya di teras belakang atau teras depan. Setiap kali ibunya menganjurkan menikah lagi, selalu dia tanggapi dengan gelengan kepala.

Hingga pada satu malam di tahun yang kedelapan, setelah beberapa minggu sebelumnya sering terlihat berdiri di depan cermin memegang sisir, berusaha sedemikian rupa menyisir ke kanan sejumput rambut panjang yang tumbuh di sisi kiri kepalanya agar bagian atas kepalanya yang botak licin itu tampak seolah-olah masih ditumbuhi rambut tipis, Abdulah tiba-tiba menghampiri ibunya dan mengatakan hendak menikah dengan Lola.

Abdulah bercerita bahwa Lola sudah beberapa kali menemuinya dalam sebulan terakhir ini. Dia berkata bahwa Lola yang sekarang berstatus janda itu mencinta dirinya, bahwa Lola ingin dia menjadi ayah baru yang bertanggungjawab bagi anak satu-satunya. Mata Abdullah berkaca-kaca saat menceritakan bagaimana anak lelaki berusia tiga tahun itu, dalam waktu demikian singkat sudah terbiasa memanggilnya “Papa.”

***

“Tak ada cacatnya” adalah istilah yang digunakan para calo tanah dan rumah yang banyak berkeliaran di daerah ini ketika mereka mengomentari rumah Ustazah Nung. Ukurannya pas, surat-suratnya “bersih”. Rumah tua itu berada tepat di pinggir Jalan Raya Kampung Melayu Besar. Lebar depannya 30 meter, sementara panjangnya mencapai 50 meter, sangat bagus untuk gedung berlantai empat. Di kanan dan kiri rumah Ustazah Nung itu memang sudah banyak berdiri gedung berlantai empat.

Bukan sekali dua kali para pengembang menanyakan rumah Ustazah Nung kepada Bang Sanip, makelar bangkotan yang menguasi seluk beluk pertanahan di daerah ini. Bang Sanip hapal hampir seluruh riwayat rumah dan tanah di wilayah yang—sejak dibangunnya jalan layang ke pusat kota—menjadi incaran para pengembang itu.

Sejak jalan layang mulai dibangun sekitar tiga tahun lalu, harga rumah dan tanah yang terletak di pinggir jalan raya itu melambung. Kebanyakan warga memilih menjual rumahnya dan pindah ke daerah pinggiran yang harga tanahnya jauh lebih murah. Hanya tersisa beberapa gelintir warga yang memilih mempertahankan rumah dan tanah warisan leluhurnya, dan Ustazah Nung termasuk salah seorang dari mereka.

“Ini kesempatan emas, harganya bagus. Ustazah bisa membeli rumah baru, naik haji lagi atau umroh. Sisa uang Ustazah bisa disimpan di bank syariah, tujuh turunan tidak bakal habis,” bujuk Bang Sanip pada suatu sore. Sudah tiga kali dia bersama dua temannya datang menemui Ustazah Nung dalam setahun ini.

“Aku masih betah di sini,” jawab Ustazah Nung.

Bang Sanip dan kedua rekannya meninggalkan Ustazah Nung setelah menenggak habis air putih yang disuguhkan, tapi tenggorokannya masih terasa kering. Air liurnya nyaris habis setelah hampir satu jam dia merayu Ustazah Nung dengan berbagai jurus agar mau melepas rumahnya. Tapi perempuan berkerudung itu seperti tidak mengenal kalimat lain kecuali, “Aku masih betah di sini”.

Entah sudah berapa kali Ustazah Nung mengucapkan kata-kata ini. Dan setiap kali kalimat itu terucap, Bang Sanip dan kedua temannya merasa seperti dicekik.

Jawaban singkat yang diberikan Ustazah Nung setiap kali Bang Sanip menyelesaikan kalimatnya yang panjang lebar, benar-benar membuat pemimpin makelar itu putus asa. Kedua temannya yang bertugas membenarkan semua yang diucapkan Bang Sanip ikut putus asa. Mereka merasa kalimat-kalimat pendek seperti “itu benar,” “tepat sekali,” dan “betul sekali,” yang mereka sisipkan di tengah-tengah pembicaraan Bang Sanip, terbukti tak berpengaruh apa-apa.

Begitu sampai di luar pagar rumah Ustazah Nung, sebelum melanjutkan langkahnya, Bang Sanip menoleh dan menatap rumah tua itu beberapa waktu. Aih, rumah yang sangat cantik seandainya si pemilik tak suka mengulang-ngulang kalimat, “Aku masih betah di sini.”

Saat itulah Bang Sanip melihat Abdulah muncul dari dalam rumah, berjalan sambil membetulkan gulungan sarungnya menuju sofa tua yang diletakkan di pojok teras. Abdulah duduk mengangkat kedua kakinya sebelum menyalakan rokok. Wajahnya kusut seperti orang yang tak tidur berhari-hari.

Tiba-tiba Bang Sanip mengusap mulut, menyembunyikan senyumnya. Lalu dia berjalan dengan cepat, bergegas menyusul kedua temannya. Benaknya dipenuhi wajah Lola. Ingatannya dengan cepat menyusun kembali riwayat percintaan dan perselingkuhan yang melibatkan Abdulah dan Lola. Bang Sanip tahu di mana Lola bisa ditemui, dan dia juga tahu apa yang sedang dibutuhkan perempuan itu saat ini.

Malamnya, para makelar itu menggelar rapat hingga menjelang dinihari.

***

The Sale of Ustazah Nung’s House

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.

Read some of his essays and book reviews at: http://onisur.wordpress.com and http://semuareview.wordpress.com

He can be reached at oni.suryaman@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

The Sale of Ustazah Nung’s House

 

You’d have to see for yourself how the youngest son acted out for his mother’s benefit. He knew that his mother felt sorry for him and that she was quickly affected by whatever he complained about. He was dim-witted regarding many issues, but not this one. He stifled his three older siblings: two sisters and one brother. They could only yield when their mother finally decided to grant Dulah’s wish: sell the family legacy.

“Dulah can no longer live alone. Dulah wanth to get married ath thoon ath pothible,” Dulah said, wiping tears off his chubby cheeks.

Despite being a thirty-eight-year-old man, Dulah always referred to himself by name. He had a distended belly and bald head and couldn’t pronounce the letter “s” because he had lost two front teeth. Dulah was, indeed, the spoiled youngest of the siblings.

I don’t know what would have gone through your mind if you had been present that afternoon of the family meeting to witness a grown man refer to himself by his own name, something only acceptable from a toddler or young girl. Maybe you’d want to slap him. His three siblings felt like killing him.

“Don’t you ever think about Umi?” asked one of his sisters.

“Mother can buy a thmall houth in the nearby village. Why do we need a houth thith big when only Umi and Dulah live in it? Moreover, after getting married, Dulah altho wanth to get hith own houth, hith own car, hith own buthineth, juth like you all!”

His name, indeed, was Abdulah, and he was called Dulah. But believe me, it was embarrassing to see a grown-up man, with the appearance I described before, refer to himself by name. It was even worse when hearing him lisp in the middle of a sentence.

“But Umi might not be comfortable in a new house,” snapped his other sister.

“It’s true, in addition to the many memories of Father in this house, Umi also holds religious study groups here, which provide her with entertainment at her old age.” Now, the brother started talking.

Dulah rose. “Entertain? It might be entertainment for you all, becauth you already have everything! All of you are thelfith! You…” Unable to finish his sentence, he sat down. Sobbing, he covered his face with his hands.

His siblings, who sat across from him, remained silent, while his mother, who sat next to him, seemed confused. Maybe she was at odds about dealing with a situation like this, especially because her mind was still troubled by Dulah’s statement a week ago.

After being single for eight years, her youngest son made the announcement that he wanted to remarry, with complaints. He had never been happy, he said, and now, he wanted to enjoy life before he was too old. Ustazah Nung — that’s what the neighbors called Dulah’s mother — had become even more worried when she found out who her son wanted to remarry.

Once he stopped crying, Dulah continued. “You never think about Dulath wretched life, hith lonelineth, hith not having a family, not having anything!”

“We all think about your life, and you are free to marry any bitch you desire,” his oldest sister said. “But we absolutely do not agree with your proposal to sell this house. We also need to think about Umi’s life!”

“Umi will be fine!” Dulah cried. “You all are exaggerating! Right now, real estate priceth are high; what are you waiting for? Do you have the heart to thee Dulah thuffering like thith for many yearth to come? If thith continueth, Dulah will walk naked in front of the houth!”

In the end, Ustazah Nung made a decision. Firmly, she said, “I will sell this house and divide the proceeds according to your rightful share of inheritance.” The old woman’s voice cracked with emotion.

***

Let me tell you now how Abdulah lost his two front teeth — and a few other things.

If Dulah were not so stupid, his front teeth and marriage might still be intact. But he was too stupid to keep either.

It all started with a young woman named Lola, Dulah’s first love. He had been head-over-heels in love with Lola since high school. Abdulah was a senior, and Lola was a tenth-grader, but they graduated at the same time because Abdulah had to repeat two years of school. (Abdulah had repeated school years before; two times in elementary school and once in junior high.)

During the three years that Abdulah and Lola were schoolmates, he didn’t succeed in making Lola his girlfriend. Lola’s willingness to always accept anything he gave her, be it money or presents, was enough to make him happy. Abdulah was jubilant when Lola asked him every week for spending money. He considered this a sign that she was willing to be his wife.

“I agree, Lola is a beautiful girl,” said Ustazah Nung when Abdulah asked her to ask Lola’s mother for Lola’s hand, six months after they graduated from high school. “But I don’t think she’s a good girl. I’ve often seen her smoking in Bu Maneh’s stall.”

“Lola is Dulah’s first love, no one can replace her,” Abdulah replied.

With great reluctance, Ustazah Nung finally went to Lola’s house to convey Dulah’s marriage proposal to Lola’s mother. But Ustazah Nung went home with bad news for her beloved son. Lola was already betrothed to a businessman who owned a travel agency. They were to be married the following year.

Abdulah became depressed and often brooded. Ustazah Nung worried about his condition for almost two years, until one day, one of her sisters came to visit and brought along a woman named Hilda.

“She is my friend’s daughter,” said Ustazah Nung’s sister, as she introduced Hilda to Abdulah. “She is from Tasikmalaya and came to Jakarta to find a job.”

Six months later, Abdulah and Hilda married.

Ustazah Nung sold a piece of land to finance the wedding and gave the remainder of the money to Abdulah to use as capital to open a goat meat satay stall on Otista Street.

Contrary to the expectations of many people who knew him, Abdulah succeeded in managing his stall. Day by day, the number of customers to his Warung Sate Kambing Bang Dulang goat meat satay stall increased. In two years, Abdulah had the confidence to purchase a car on credit.

And at that time, Lola showed up again in his life. Two years of marriage were apparently not enough to douse Dulah’s flame for Lola, his first love.

Lola, who had not married the travel agency owner or anyone else, came to Dulah’s stall. “Your satay is delicious,” she said when she paid for the satay.

“You don’t need to pay,” said Abdulah, shaking.

Lola handed him two pieces of paper: one, a 50,000 rupiah bill; the other, a note with her cell phone number.

Abdulah trembled like someone suffering from Parkinson’s disease when Lola deliberately brushed her finger across his hand, which was soaked with cold sweat. Abdulah quickly put the two pieces of paper into the drawer and forgot to give Lola the change.

Less than two weeks after that encounter, village rumors ran rampant that Abdulah and Lola had been seen together. According to hearsay, Abdulah had given Lola spending money. Supposedly, Abdulah had also purchased Lola’s new scooter.

The rumors finally reached Hilda’s ears.

One Sunday afternoon, Abdulah went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. Hilda, who was washing a wok, asked, “Is it true what people are saying about your relationship with Lola?”

It is hard to know what was going on inside Abdulah’s head. Initially, he didn’t say anything. He merely glanced at Hilda and looked out of the window for a while. But after his wife said, “Just tell me the truth. I would rather hear it from you,” Abdulah blurted out everything.

Abdulah confirmed all the rumors people were spreading. He ended his confession, smiling. “Maybe Dulah still loves Lola.”

The back of the wok hit Abdulah’s mouth with such force that it broke his two front teeth.

Hearing the uproar, Ustazah Nung, who was resting in her bedroom, hurried to the kitchen. Seeing Abdulah’s bloody mouth, she screamed.

That night, Hilda returned to Tasikmalaya and never returned.

Meanwhile, Lola chose to leave the village.

People said she stayed with one of her cousins in the city. Supposedly, she worked at a restaurant that had karaoke entertainment, and she came home, once a month.

***

Once again, Abdulah became depressed and often fretted. He neglected his satay stall, and it closed three months later. Not long afterwards, two debt collectors visited his house and confiscated his car.

During the following years, Abdulah mostly wasted his time by smoking, wandering through the house, and moving from one chair to another. Every time his mother suggested that he remarry, he responded by shaking his head.

Until one night, eight years later, after several weeks of primping in front of the mirror trying to hide his baldness with a comb-over, Abdulah approached his mother and said that he wanted to marry Lola.

Abdulah said that he had seen Lola several times during the past month. Lola, who was now a widow, had told him that she loved him and wanted him to be the new father for her only son. Abdulah’s eyes filled with tears when he told his mother that the three-year-old boy, after only a short time of knowing him, already called him “Papa.”

***

“It is perfect!” exclaimed the real estate agents familiar with the properties in the surrounding area of Ustazah Nung’s house. The size was perfect, the deed “clean.” The old house was located right on Jalan Raya Kampung Melayu Besar, an arterial thoroughfare. The property frontage was 98 feet, while the depth was 164 feet — excellent for the site of a four-story building. Many four-story buildings had already been built to the left and right of Ustazah Nung’s house.

The land developers had repeatedly asked Bang Sanip, the old real estate broker who controlled the market in that area, about Ustazah Nung’s house.

Bang Sanip knew the history of almost every property in the area. After the construction of the flyover to downtown three years ago, the properties had become the target of every land developer and speculator. Their value had skyrocketed. Most of the property owners chose to sell their land and move to the suburbs, where land value was much lower. Ustazah Nung was one of the few inhabitants who had chosen to remain and keep her inherited property.

“This is a golden opportunity; the price is attractive,” Bank Sanip had urged Ustazah many times. “You could buy a new house, go on a hajj, a pilgrimage. The rest of the money could be deposited in a shariah, an Islamic bank, and would last for more than seven generations.” Bank Sanip and two of his brokers were now on their third visit to Ustazah’s house.

“I still like to live here,” answered Ustazah Nung.

Bang Sanip and the brokers left Ustazah Nung’s house. They had finished drinking the water she served them, but their mouths were still dry. They had spent almost an hour trying to persuade Ustazah Nung to sell her house, but the veiled woman didn’t seem to know anything else to say than, “I still like to live here.”

Ustazah Nung’s brief response to his long-winded persuasions frustrated Bang Sanip. Both of his brokers, who had been tasked to confirm everything he said, were also frustrated. They felt that all of their short affirmations — such as, “that’s true,” “exactly,” and “precisely” — that they had interspersed in Bang Sanip’s speech had not influenced the outcome of the situation at all.

Once outside the fence of Ustazah Nung’s house, Bang Sanip turned around and glanced at the old house. Ahh, such, such valuable real estate, if only the owner were not repeating the same sentence over and over again, “I still like to live here.”

It was then that Bang Sanip saw Abdulah walk out of the house.

While adjusting his sarong, Abdulah headed to the old couch in the corner of the porch. He sat down and pulled up his legs before lighting a cigarette. He looked disheveled, like someone who had not slept for days.

Suddenly, Bang Sanip wiped his mouth, hiding a smile. An image of Lola filled his head. Scurrying, he caught up with his two brokers. He quickly told them about the treacherous love affair of Abdulah and Lola.

Bang Sanip knew where to find Lola, and he also knew what the woman needed right now.

That night, the real estate brokers held a meeting that lasted till the break of dawn.

***

Kisah Cinta Perempuan

Ranang Aji SP’s debut short story, Unjuk Rasa, was published in 1992 in Mekarsari, a Javanese language magazine. His short stories and poems have since been published in various newspapers such as: Media Indonesia, Pikiran Rakyat, Kompas, Jawa Pos, Kedaulatan Rakyat, etc. Serigala yang Berzikir di Akhir Waktu, is Ranang’s short story collection (Penerbit Nyala, 2018).

In 2011, Ranang cofounded KoranOpini[dot]Com, a digital media, with Novri Susan. Under the auspices of the Yayasan Museum dan Tanah Liat in Yogyakarta, Ranang and the artists,  Ugo Untoro, Topan, and Adi, launched Jurnal Lembar, a trimonthly journal on art, culture, and literature in 2018.

Ranang can be reached at ranangajisuryaputra@gmail.com

Published in June 2019. Copyright ©2019 by Ranang Aji SP. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2019 by Oni Suryaman.

 

 

Kisah Cinta Perempuan yang Diberkati Kiai Kambali

Di sebuah kota kecil, Pati, di pesisir utara Jawa, ada seorang perempuan muda nan cantik dan kaya, selalu menjadi perbincangan hangat dalam masyarakat. Baik itu di rumah-rumah, saat para ibu tengah berkumpul untuk arisan, kondangan, atau hanya sekedar ngobrol tentang kutu rambut Yu Giman –atau juga di jalanan,  tempat para pengangguran berkumpul di malam hari, mengutuki nasib sembari menikmati sebotol ciu oplosan. Semua itu berkat Kiai Kambali yang budiman dan sakti setengah mati. Kisahnya seperti ini.

Menurut cerita, Kiai Kambali yang berdiam di wilayah utara Jawa, adalah guru dari para guru di dunia jin dan manusia. Jika dia berjalan di antara jalan atau pematang sawah menuju gedung utama di daerah pondoknya yang luas, dapat dipastikan dia diiringi oleh seribu jin yang siap melayaninya sebagai tuan guru yang dimuliakan. Hal itu bisa disaksikan oleh semua mahluk di dunia, kecuali manusia.

Meskipun usianya masih tergolong muda, sekitar empat puluhan tahun, tapi karena keberhasilannya mendapatkan sesobek dari ribuan halaman kitab Ratamalsya, milik Nabi Sulaiman (yang semoga damai bersamanya), tiba-tiba dia menjadi menguasai pengetahuan alam jin dan alam manusia. Kemampuannya ini jelas dinilai sangat luar biasa karena banyak orang suci dari seluruh dunia memburu kitab tersebut tanpa hasil.

Hasil jerih payahnya itu diperoleh di sebuah gua di tepi Sungai Silugonggo–setelah mengalahkan jin penguasa setempat dalam sebuah pertarungan maut yang disaksikan oleh para jin dan arwah-arwah suci para guru. Dengan hasil itu, dia kemudian mendapatkan ijazah atas penasbihan gurunya, seorang kiai yang memiliki ijazah dari guru lain dari Kalimantan yang berguru pada guru-gurunya sampai pada Syekh Hussein bin Hussein dari Iran yang langsung berguru pada budak  Sulaiman (yang semoga damai bersamanya), dari sebangsa jin. Berkat ilmu ilmu kesaktian, dan kitab yang dimilikinya itu, Kiai Kambali menolong banyak orang.

Ketika seorang perempuan muda nan cantik datang padanya, untuk meminta petunjuknya agar kehidupannya berubah dari ketiadaan menjadi melimpah ruah, Kiai Kambali yang memiliki sifat kasih sayang, pada perempuan itu memerintahkan muridnya Jafar, mahluk dari kalangan jin, untuk melihat kemungkinan di dunia ini yang mampu mengubah nasib perempuan itu.

Maka, Jafar segera pergi dan kembali secepat kilat dengan membawa berita yang diinginkan.

Perempuan muda nan cantik itu, kemudian diperintahkan untuk menanam tanaman hias. Tapi ada syarat-syarat yang harus dipenuhi oleh perempuan cantik itu.

“Kamu harus menyiapkan ruangan khusus yang terkunci dan tak boleh dibuka lagi,” ujar Kiai Kambali dengan suara yang tegas.

“Untuk apa, Kiai?” Perempuan muda itu bertanya polos.

“Tidak bertanya tentang syarat adalah bagian dari syarat.” Kiai Kambali berkata sembari tersenyum.

Perempuan itu mengangguk mengerti, dan menerima syarat itu dengan rasa patuh disertai dada penuh gemuruh.

Beberapa bulan kemudian, perempuan muda nan cantik itu, datang kembali dan membawa kabar gembira. Dia menceritakan dengan rasa suka cita bahwa semua tanamannnya dibeli orang dengan harga yang tinggi –bahkan melebihi harapan harga lukisan para seniman di pasar. Kehidupannya sekarang berubah tajam. Dia mampu membeli tanah yang luas, rumah dan mobil yang bagus dan mengembangkan usahanya. Tapi masalahnya, katanya, saat ini ia dia tak memiliki suami.

Mendengar itu, kiai yang penuh kasih sayang pada perempuan itu tersenyum. Dia meminta perempuan muda nan cantik itu menunggu. Kali ini, sang maha guru memerintahkan muridnya  yang lain, juga dari kalangan jin, bernama Bendro, untuk membantu perempuan itu.

Bendro, murid pilihan itu pun segera pergi dan kembali secepat kedipan mata manusia serta mengatakan sesuatu yang hanya bisa dipahami semua mahluk di dunia, kecuali manusia.

Setelah itu, Kiai Kambali meminta perempuan muda nan cantik itu mendekat padanya. “Semua ketetapan hanya ada pada Allah Sang Maha Kuasa. Hanya Allah Yang Maha Pengasih yang akan memberimu jodoh. Apakah kamu siap diberi jodoh oleh Tuhan sendiri?” Kiai Kambali bertanya dengan nada bijak.

Perempuan muda nan cantik itu dengan kepasrahan yang penuh, mengatakan sungguh bahagia bila bisa mendapatkan jodoh atas pilihan Tuhan Yang Maha Bijaksana.

Mendengar suara perempuan itu, Kiai Kambali tersenyum. Perempuan itu dipersilakan pulang dan melakukan upacara di depan kamar khusus sembari puasa mutih, yaitu tidak makan semua yang berasa kecuali nasi dan air putih selama tujuh hari tujuh malam.

Ketika upacaranya selesai, di pagi hari setelah itu, perempuan itu menemukan seorang pemuda tengah duduk bersimpuh di depan teras rumahnya. Tubuhnya kotor dan berbau seperti sampah yang menumpuk tahunan. Dia segera memerintahkan pembantunya memberikan pemuda yang dia sangka sebagai pengemis itu uang seribu rupiah.

Namun pemuda itu tak mau menerimanya. Katanya, dia hanya ingin bekerja di rumah perempuan muda nan cantik itu.

Pembantunya menyampaikan keinginan itu pada majikannya.

Perempuan muda nan cantik yang tengah menikmati makanan buka puasanya, tak begitu menanggapi, dan hanya mengatakan silakan kapan-kapan saja kembali lagi. “Saat ini kita belum butuh,” ujarnya pendek.

Pembantunya menemui pemuda itu dan memintanya pergi setelah menyampaikan pesan majikannya. “Kembali saja kapan-kapan, siapa tahu, mungkin kamu beruntung,” katanya.

Seminggu kemudian pemuda itu datang lagi dan mengatakan meminta pekerjaan.

Kali ini, perempuan muda itu yang langsung menemuinya. Tetapi, karena setengah jijik melihat penampilan pemuda itu, dia langsung menolaknya dengan halus.

“Saya bisa mengurus tanaman,” pemuda itu mencoba menyakinkan.

Tapi, sekali lagi perempuan muda nan cantik itu menolak.

Pemuda itu lantas pergi, tapi kemudian dia kembali lagi –bahkan bolak-balik tanpa jera hingga beberapa minggu kemudian. Kunjugannya yang terakhir, tepat di saat pembantu perempuan muda nan cantik itu menyatakan berhenti bekerja.

Karena perempuan itu sedang membutuhkan tenaga, terpaksa dia memutuskan untuk menerima pemuda itu bekerja di tempatnya. Dia memberikan tugas mengurusi semua tanaman hiasnya.

Menyadari keputusannya ini, perempuan muda nan cantik itu menjadi berpikir dan mulai kuatir, jangan-jangan pemuda inilah yang diberikan Tuhan Yang Maha Pengasih kepadanya. “Ya Allah, apa dosaku,” keluhnya. Dalam hatinya dia marah dan menolak tegas pemuda dekil itu sebagai jodohnya. Maka, dia menjaga jarak agar tak selalu bertemu.

Suatu malam, tanpa bisa ditahan karena kegelisahan dan rasa muak, dia memutuskan mendatangi Kiai Kambali untuk meminta nasihat.  Namun, sebelum sampai di pelataran pondok, tiba-tiba matanya seperti melihat pemuda dekil itu di sebuah gubuk tengah sawah bersama seorang perempuan. Hatinya menjadi semakin kaget bukan kepalang karena ternyata perempuan itu sama persis dengan dirinya. Di sana, dia melihat mereka tengah berbincang mesra selayaknya kekasih. Jantungnya berdebar kencang. Dengan perasaan yang diliputi ketakutan, tapi juga rasa penasarannya, dia memaksakan diri untuk mencoba melihat lebih dekat. Namun, ketika kakinya hendak melangkah, tiba-tiba bayangan itu menghilang.

Karena semakin takut, akhirnya dia memutuskan kembali ke rumah.

Pikirannya kacau.

Hatinya dibingungkan oleh apa yang ia lihat.

Mengapa pemuda itu ada bersama perempuan yang mirip dengan dirinya di gubuk sawah Kiai Kambali? Apakah dirinya tengah mengalami penampakan?

Semakin lama merenungkan, semakin dia merasa kuatir. Bila benar bahwa pemuda dekil itu adalah orang yang dikirim Kiai Kambali, maka seharusnya dia mau menerima. Jika tidak pasti akan membuatnya mendapatkan bencana, pikirnya.

Setelah lelah memikirkannya, perempuan muda nan cantik itu akhirnya membuat kesimpulan, bahwa pemuda dekil yang bekerja untuknya itu mungkin orang yang dikirim oleh Kiai Kambali. Untuk itu, dia seharusnya menemui dan memperlakukannya dengan baik.

Esok harinya dia ingin bicara pada pemuda itu untuk memastikan kemungkinannya, tapi sebelum sempat bertemu,  pintu rumahnya diketuk oleh seseorang. Masih dengan perasaan yang tumpang tindih, dia membukakan pintu untuk melihat siapa yang datang berkunjung. Agak terperangah, karena tamunya kali ini adalah seorang pemuda yang bersih lagi tampan, dengan wajah mirip Kiai Kambali.

“Jafar, Bu… Saya Jafar,” kata tamunya memperkenalkan diri. Pemuda itu mengaku ingin membeli beberapa bunga untuk kebutuhan pernikahan.

Tanpa bertanya siapa yang akan menikah, segera saja dia memanggil si pemuda, untuk mengurus itu semua.

Dalam beberapa hari Jafar kembali datang untuk keperluan yang sama.

Ketika Jafar datang suatu malam untuk ketiga kalinya, mereka menjadi semakin akrab dan perasaannya tiba-tiba merasa terpikat.

Perempuan muda nan cantik itu mulai berpikir bahwa pemuda bernama Jafar ini adalah jodohnya, bukan pemuda dekil yang bekerja padanya. Hari-hari berikutnya kepalanya dipenuhi dengan lamunan asmara. Dia bahkan telah bertekad untuk menikahi Jafar. Keputusannya ini akan dia sampaikan pada Kiai Kambali, sekaligus memohon agar diberi doa mantra asmara sebagai cara memudahkan jalannya.

Perempuan muda nan cantik itu kemudian menemui pembantunya, si pemuda dekil, sebelum berkunjung ke pondok Kiai Kambali.

Namun, saat dia berbicara, tiba-tiba dia merasakan perasaan yang aneh, semacam perasaan yang sama seperti rasanya terhadap Jafar. Bahkan, dia juga melihat wajah pemuda itu nyaris sama dengan muka Jafar, sekaligus mirip Kiai Kambali. Diliputi perasaan yang aneh,  bergegas dia datang untuk menemui Kiai Kambali di pondoknya.

Ketika bertemu Kiai Kambali, gurunya itu memandangnya dengan penuh kelembutan.

Sinar matanya yang teduh itu membuat hati perempuan muda itu seperti berada dalam dekapan kedamaian yang penuh cinta di musim bunga. Keadaan itu membuatnya lupa apa yang mesti dia sampaikan. Tersesat dalam perasaan yang aneh seolah masuk dalam sebuah lilitan tanpa ujung, perempuan muda nan cantik itu akhirnya hanya mengatakan bahwa dirinya siap menikah.

Pernyataannya itu membuat Kiai Kambali tersenyum penuh arti. “Bagus kalau seperti itu,” ujar Kiai Kambali lembut. “Kau boleh masuk di dalam kamar yang terkunci sekarang,” tambah Kiai itu.

“Kapan, Kiai?”

“Kapan saja.”

Saat pamit, perempuan muda nan cantik itu ingat apa yang hendak disampaikannya, tetapi kemudian dia urungkan niatnya itu,  karena hatinya tiba-tiba dibebani oleh keinginan yang sama terhadap Kiai Kambali. Seperti hasratnya terhadap Jafar dan pemuda dekil itu. Sepanjang perjalanan pulang, batinnya terasa tumpang tindih, pikirannya tak tentu arah. Tetapi ia mencoba membuat keputusan.

Ketika malam tiba, perempuan muda itu ingat pesan gurunya, bahwa dia bisa membuka pintu kamar khusus yang selama ini terkunci. Maka, didorong oleh rasa penasaran, dibukanya pintu kamar yang selama ini terkunci rapat.

Begitu masuk ke dalam kamar, tiba-tiba seluruh kesadarannya adalah semua jenis kebahagiaan seorang perempuan yang memimpikan pernikahan. Dia melihat dirinya bersanding berjajar di tengah-tengah diapit bersama Jafar, pemuda dekil dan Kiai Kambali. Dalam sebuah pelaminan yang indah itu, matanya seolah-olah melihat bunga-bunga yang berasal dari kebun bunganya. Di dalam pesta itu tampak pula dayang-dayang yang berdiri berjajar di depan pelaminan. Tubuhnya bergetar, sulit sekali rasanya benaknya memahami itu semua. Dengan perasaan yang seperti diayun-ayun, dia mencoba bertanya mengapa bisa menikahi tiga pria sekaligus dalam seketika. Tapi seluruh pertanyaannya itu tiba-tiba lenyap begitu saja ketika dirinya merasakan betapa seluruh hasrat, rasa senang dan bahagianya telah mencapai puncaknya tanpa bisa dipungkiri. Ketiga pria itu baginya sama saja.

Tak ada yang bercerita bagaimana perempuan muda nan cantik itu berbagi ranjang.

 Cerita yang ada adalah, dia hidup bahagia berlimpah kekayaan bersama tiga suami yang tak pernah disaksikan secara nyata oleh masyarakat sekitarnya.

Demikianlah, kisah perempuan muda nan cantik itu terus diceritakan, dengan tambahan bumbu-bumbu yang setiap waktu bisa berubah rasa dan ceritanya, oleh para ibu yang terpesona dan cemburu dengan keberuntungan perempuan muda nan cantik itu. Juga oleh para pemuda pengangguran yang nestapa dan tak bahagia karena ditolak cintanya, dan juga karena kemiskinan yang mendera. Kisah itu terus diucapkan, setiap saat, setiap waktu dan ketika mereka sempat.

Sebagian dari mereka yang memiliki nyali, kemudian datang untuk melihat kebenarannya di kebun bunga yang diurus oleh pemuda cakap mirip Kiai Kambali dan mengaku bernama Bendro. Terkadang Jafar.

Sebagian masyarakat yang lain, berbondong-bondong mendatangi pondok Kiai Kambali untuk meminta mantra-mantra tertentu agar bernasib sama seperti perempuan muda nan cantik itu. Sebagian yang lain, bahkan  nekad pergi ke gua di tepi Sungai Silugonggo untuk bertirakat, meniru laku Kiai Kambali, dengan harapan mendapatkan kesaktian yang mampu menaklukkan dunia yang keras ini. Semua itu berkat kisah cinta perempuan yang diberkati Kiai Kambali. Seorang kiai, yang bila berjalan, selalu diringi seribu jin –yang semua itu, bisa dilihat oleh semua mahluk di dunia ini kecuali manusia.

***

The Lovesick Lady

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.

Read some of his essays and book reviews at: http://onisur.wordpress.com and http://semuareview.wordpress.com

He can be reached at oni.suryaman@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

The Lovesick Lady

In Pati, a small town on the northern coast of Java, lived a beautiful, rich, young lady.

She was often the talk of the neighborhood in people’s homes, when women gathered for an arisan – a gossipy social gathering that included a money game –, wedding, or just small talk, such as the lice in Yu Giman’s hair. She was also the talk on the street, when the unemployed men gathered at night, cursing their fate while enjoying a bottle of diluted alcohol. Kiai Kambali, a powerful and kindhearted holy man was the cause of it all. The story goes like this.

Kiai Kambali, who also lived in the northern part of Java, was the master of masters in the realm of jinn and human beings. When he walked on the road or across the rice field to the main building of his vast estate, he was always accompanied by a thousand jinns ready to serve him as their revered master. These jinns were visible to all beings in the world — except humans.

Although he was still relatively young, around the age of forty, Kiai Kambali had succeeded in obtaining a fragment from one of the thousands of pages of The Book of Ratamalsya, which belonged to the Prophet Sulaiman (Peace be upon Him). Kiai Kambali’s achievement received high acclaim, because holy men from around the world had failed in their search to find this book.

Kambali received his divinity in a deadly duel, after he defeated the jinn that lived in a cave by the Silugonggo River. Their battle was witnessed by all the jinns and spirits of the masters. After his victory, Kambali was ordained by a master who had been ordained by another master from Kalimantan, who had learned from his masters, who, in succession, led all the way back to Sheikh Hussein ibn Hussein from Iran, who had received instructions directly from the slave of Prophet Sulaiman (Peace be upon Him), a jinn. Blessed by a supernatural power and the possession of a torn page from The Book, Kiai Kambali helped many people.

When a beautiful young lady came to him and asked for guidance on how to change her destitute life into one of wealth, the merciful Kiai Kambali asked his disciple Jafar, a jinn, to look for ways to change the lady’s fate.

Jafar departed immediately and quickly returned with the answer.

Kiai Kambali then ordered the beautiful young lady to return home and grow decorative plants and flowers. But there were rules she had to obey.

“You must prepare a special room, which should then be locked and not opened again,” said Kiai Kambali firmly.

“What for, Kiai?” the young lady asked, innocently.

“Not questioning the rules is part of the rules,” Kiai Kambali said with a smile.

The lady nodded. She obediently carried out the instructions with a pounding heart.

Several months later, the beautiful young lady came again to Kiai Kambali with great news. She had sold all of her plants for a high price — even higher than some of the paintings at the marketplace. Her life had changed dramatically. She now could afford to buy a large piece of land, a beautiful house, and a nice car.  She also could expand her business. But, she said, her current problem was that she didn’t have a husband.

After listening, Kiai Kambali, who was filled with love for the beautiful lady, smiled. He asked her to wait. This time, he ordered Bendro, another of his jinn disciples, to help.

Bendro departed immediately and returned in a flash. He spoke to Kiai Kambali in a way that every being in the world could comprehend — every being except humans.

After Bendro finished, Kiai Kambali asked the beautiful young lady to come closer. “All has been destined by God Almighty. Only God the Merciful can grant you a husband,” Kiai Kambali said knowingly. “Are you ready to receive a husband from God Himself?”

The beautiful young lady, with total acceptance, said she would be happy to receive a husband who was chosen by the All-Wise God.

After hearing the lady’s response, Kiai Kambali smiled again. He told her to go home and observe a mutih fast, a ritual that meant she could not eat anything but white rice and water for seven days and seven nights, in front of the special room she had locked and not opened again.

The morning after the ritual was finished, the beautiful young lady found a young man sitting cross-legged on the porch of her house. He was unwashed and reeked like a pile of rotted garbage. Thinking he was a beggar, the lady immediately ordered her servant to give the man one thousand rupiahs.

But the man would not accept the money. He said he only wished to work as a house servant for the beautiful young lady.

The servant delivered the man’s message to the lady.

The beautiful young lady, who was enjoying breaking her fast with a meal, did not pay any attention and said to tell the man that he could return another time. “We do not need any help right now,” she said tersely.

The servant went back to the man. After he delivered the lady’s message, the servant asked the man to leave. “Come back some other time,” he said. “Who knows, you might have better luck.”

A week later, the man came again and said that he was looking for a job.

This time, the young lady met him herself. Disgusted by his appearance, she politely refused him.

“I could help you take care of the plants,” the young man said, trying to convince her.

But once again, the beautiful young lady denied him.

The man left, but for several weeks, he kept coming back, again and again. His last visit happened to coincide with the same day that the lady’s gardener quit.

Because she now needed help, she had no choice but to hire the man. She tasked him with taking care of all of her decorative plants.

After her decision to hire him, the beautiful young lady started to worry that this dirty man might be the husband who God the Merciful had chosen for her. She sighed. “Oh, God, what sin have I committed?” Deep in her heart, she was angry and vehemently rejected the notion that this dirty man was her match. To avoid any contact with him, she kept a distance.

One night, her unbearable restlessness and repulsion of the dirty man drove her to visit Kiai Kambali again for advice. But as she crossed the rice field, before reaching Kiai Kambali’s courtyard, she suddenly saw the dirty man with a woman in a shanty that stood in the middle of the rice field. She became even more surprised when she noticed that the woman looked exactly like her. The dirty man and the woman in the shanty were engaged in a seemingly intimate conversation and looked just like lovers.

Her heart racing, overcome by fear, and driven by curiosity, the beautiful young lady forced herself to take a closer look. But before she could take another step, they vanished.

Growing more fearful, the beautiful young woman decided to go home.

Her mind was in turmoil. She was confused by what she had seen. Why were the dirty man and a woman who looked exactly like her, in a shanty in Kiai Kambali’s rice field? Was she hallucinating?

The longer she thought about it, the more worried she became. If the dirty man had indeed been sent by Kiai Kambali, she should receive him. Failing to do so would be disastrous.

Troubled by her thoughts, the beautiful young lady came to the conclusion that Kiai Kambali had possibly sent the dirty man to her. Therefore, she should receive him and treat him well.

The following day, she went to talk to the dirty man to ascertain the possibility. But before she had a chance to meet him, there was a knock on the door. She opened the door with mixed feelings and was dumbfounded. This time, her guest was a clean and handsome man, who looked like Kiai Kambali.

“Jafar, my lady … My name is Jafar.” After the young man introduced himself, he said he wanted to buy some flowers for a wedding ceremony.

Without asking who was getting married, the lady called for the dirty man to take care of Jafar’s request.

Several days later, Jafar came again for the same purpose.

One night, Jafar came for the third time. He and the beautiful young lady became closer, and she suddenly felt attracted to him.

The beautiful young lady started to think that Jafar might be her match, not the dirty man who worked for her. During the following days, she was preoccupied with thoughts of love. She even decided to marry Jafar. She wanted to tell Kiai Kambali about her decision and, at the same time, ask for a love spell to smooth her way.

Before visiting Kiai Kambali again, the beautiful young lady went to see her helper, the dirty man.

But this time when she spoke to the dirty man, something strange happened. She noticed that she had the same feelings toward the man as she had for Jafar. She also noticed that the man not only looked like Jafar, but also like Kiai Kambali. Overcome by this strange feeling, she rushed to Kiai Kambali’s house.

When she saw Kiai Kambali, he looked at her tenderly.

His gentle gaze made the young lady feel as if she were being held in a loving, peaceful embrace during the flowering season. It made her forget why she came. Feeling lost in a seemingly never-ending spiral, the beautiful young woman finally said that she was ready to marry.

Kiai Kambali smiled meaningfully. “That is wonderful,” he said gently, then added, “Now you can enter the locked room.”

“When, Kiai?”

“Any time.”

As she said goodbye, she remembered her reason for coming, but her heart had suddenly filled with a desire for Kiai Kambali — the same desire she felt for Jafar and the dirty man. All the way home, her heart was in turmoil and her thoughts were scattered. Still, she tried to make a decision.

When night came, the young lady remembered that Kiai Kambali had said she could now open the locked room. Driven by a great curiosity, she unlocked the room.

Once inside the room, her mind filled with the happiness of a woman dreaming of her marriage. She saw herself sitting with Jafar, the dirty man, and Kiai Kambali. On the beautiful bridal platform, she saw all the flowers from her own garden. Many handmaids also stood around the platform. Confused and unable to comprehend what was happening, she shuddered. How could she have married all three men at the same time? But when her desire, joy, and happiness, reached an undeniable intensity, all of her questions vanished. For her, the three men were the same as one.

There are no stories about the young beautiful lady sharing her marital bed. The story only tells us that she lived happily, in great wealth, with three husbands who were never seen by her neighbors.

Thus, the townspeople of Pati told the story of the beautiful young lady again and again.

Sometimes, women who were impressed by but jealous of this lucky young lady told the story and spiced it up with details that changed some of the tale.

Sometimes, idle young men who were poverty-ridden and miserable because of unrequited love told this story, whenever they could.

Some, who were brave enough, went looking for the truth in the flower garden that was tended by a dirty young man who looked like Kiai Kambali. The man sometimes said his name was Bendro, and at other times claimed to be Jafar.

Others flocked to Kiai Kambali’s estate to ask for spells so they could have the same luck as the beautiful young lady. Some even dared to visit the cave by the Silugonggo River to meditate. They hoped to gain supernatural powers to overcome the hardship of their world.

All of this happened because of a love story about a lady blessed by Kiai Kambali, who always walked in the company of a thousand jinns — which are visible to all creatures in the world except humans.

***

Ketuk Lumpang

Muna Masyari was born in Pamekasan, Madura, East Java, on December 26, 1985. Her story Kasur Tanah was awarded by Kompas as the best short story in 2017. Her stories have been published in several anthologies: Munajat Sesayat Doa (2011), Rumah Air (2011), Lafaz Cinta di Ambang Gerhana (2011), Tanah Air (2016), and Kasur Tanah (2017), as well as in newspapers: Harian Kompas, Jawa Pos, Tempo, Media Indonesia, Horison, Republika, Suara Mendeka, Jurnal Nasional, Femina, Nova, Pikiran Rakyat, and Sinar Harapan. Her latest story collection is Martabat Kematian (Sulur Pustaka, 2019).

She can be reached at masyarimuna@gmail.com.

Copyright ©2019 by Muna Masyari. Published with permission from the author.

***

 

Ketuk Lumpang

 

Bibir Arsap menyungging seolah mengejek. Matanya tak lepas menatap orang-orang yang menyaksikan Marinten mengetukkan alu ke bibir lumpang. Sakit hati Arsap terobati sudah. Bara di dadanya padam tersiram.

Bulan alis mengintip dari balik pelepah janur. Petromaks mendesis-desis di langit beranda rumah, dikerubungi serangga. Sepasang paha sapi yang sudah dikuliti digantung sungsang di beranda dapur. Bau dupa tertindih bau satai bakar yang meruap terbawa angin.

Semula, irama ketuk lumpang yang berseiring dengan gemerincing tutup tempolong kuningan terdengar sumbang. Antara ketukan Marinten dengan lainnya tidak selaras. Bukan irama yang biasa dimainkan saat pembuatan dodol, penyembelihan sapi, panen raya maupun pada saat mengabarkan duka ketika ada yang meninggal dunia.

Ada rasa berbeda yang tercipta. Semakin didengar, menyerupai irama kabar duka, namun ketukan alu lebih halus dan patah-patah. Lain waktu, iramanya menghentak cepat. Tutup menangan bergemerincing nyaring serasa dalam semarak panen raya. Lalu melirih perlahan seperti terpagut angin.

Arsap tahu, itu bukan kesalahan semata. Pemainnya merupakan kesatuan kelompok yang diketuai Marinten, yang dikenal mahir dalam memainkan macam-macam irama ketuk lumpang. Sudah dikenal di penjuru kampung. Jika ada hajatan, orang-orang biasa mengundang mereka. Tidak mungkin Marinten keliru memimpin kawan-kawannya memainkan irama.

Marinten, selain mahir memainkan irama, perempuan itu memiliki daya pikat melebihi kawan-kawannya, dan membuat orang selalu tertarik mengundang. Dengan mengenakan sampir batik bercorak kembang cengkeh, kebaya bunga-bunga, rambut disanggul miring berhias untaian kembang melati, Marinten berhasil mencuri perhatian di setiap acara. Meskipun berdandan seadanya, Marinten tetap terlihat cantik. Sederhana namun memesona. Ada yang bilang, Marinten memiliki daya pikat yang diwariskan ibunya.

Menurut cerita orang-orang, dulu ibu Marinten juga pandai memainkan ketuk lumpang. Irama yang dimainkan mampu melepas lelah saat panen raya, menyemarakkan suasana dalam acara perkawinan maupun khitanan, dan bisa membuat orang terhanyut kesedihan saat dimainkan untuk mengabarkan duka.

Bila ada acara hajatan yang mengundang dirinya, para undangan segera datang berduyun-duyun. Bunyi ketukan alu yang beradu dengan gemerincing tempolong kuningan seolah menyihir mereka untuk segera hadir. Yang semula berhalangan, tetap mengusahakan hadir demi melihat ibu Marinten mengetukkan alu bersama kawan-kawan dalam memainkan irama ketuk lumpang.

Sama dengan Marinten, ibunya juga menjadi pusat perhatian para undangan maupun orang-orang yang hadir sekadar menonton. Banyak pemuda kampung terpikat dan terkagum-kagum pada kecantikan serta kemahiran ibu Marinten dalam memainkan ketuk lumpang. Kemampuan itulah yang ditularkan pada Marinten.

Setiap panen raya maupun musim perkawinan, Marinten dan kelompoknya tak pernah sepi undangan. Bahkan ada yang terpaksa ditolak karena waktunya berbenturan.

Akan tetapi, irama yang dimainkan Marinten sekawan malam ini sungguh berbeda. Iramanya kadang terdengar sedih, marah, lalu tiba-tiba berirama kacau sebagaimana orang yang tengah dilanda putus asa.

Sebagaimana perhatian para undangan, mata Arsap tak lepas dari sosok Marinten di halaman. Dia menikmati kacaunya irama ketuk lumpang yang dimainkan perempuan itu sebagai irama kemenangan, membayar kekalahan.

***

Malam merangkak perlahan. Ketukan alu dan gemerincing tutup tempolong kuningan semakin jelas terdengar. Bau satai bakar kian meruap. Undangan dan penonton tidak ada yang beranjak meskipun irama yang dimainkan Marinten sekawan tidak sesuai dengan acara, dan cenderung kacau. Bayi-bayi lelap dalam gendongan ibunya.

Arsap menghisap batang rokoknya dalam-dalam, lalu mengembuskan perlahan. Asap bergulung-gulung, melayang ke udara. Puntung rokok menumpuk di pinggir tatakan cangkir. Wajik dan dodol masih tersisa empat kerat di piring.

Pantang bagi lelaki direndahkan oleh perempuan! Arsap tersenyum pongah dalam hati.

Penolakan lamaran oleh ibu Marinten telah membakar hati Arsap. Ditolak tanpa alasan sungguh suatu penghinaan! Padahal dia dan Marinten sudah mengikat hati sejak keduanya menginjak remaja.

Maka, dengan darah mendidih, Arsap pun meminta pada ayahnya agar dicarikan seorang perempuan yang bersedia dinikahi secepatnya. Maksar, yang semula sudah keberatan Arsap melamar Marinten, mencari calon menantu dengan segera.

Begitu Maksar menemukan perempuan yang dirasa cocok dinikahi Arsap, mereka pun melamarnya. Sesuai kemauan Arsap, tanggal pernikahan dimusyawarahkan secepat mungkin.

Tidak lebih dari dua pekan sejak ibu Marinten menolak lamaran Arsap, tanggal baik pun ditetapkan. Arsap sengaja mengundang Marinten memainkan ketuk lumpang pada malam menjelang pernikahannya. Tentu untuk menyirami bara di hati. Untuk menunaikan penghinaan yang ditanggungkan oleh ibu Marinten.

Bunyi ketuk lumpang terus bertalu. Bau dupa yang baru dibakar sebagai ganti yang sudah mati datang menyerbu. Sebagian para ibu yang bertugas menyiapkan ragam masakan untuk undangan besok pagi masih sibuk di dapur.

Malam merangkak semakin lamban. Arsap dan ayahnya masih menemani para kerabat dan undangan di beranda. Maksar tampak bergembira dengan tawa yang kadang membahak di sela-sela obrolannya. Dodol dan wajik tinggal dua kerat. Cangkir-cangkir sudah menyisakan ampas.

Tiba-tiba Arsap melihat kemunculan Kakek Samulla di halaman dengan sebatang rokok mengepul terjepit di sela jarinya. Jalannya melambat memerhatikan Marinten dan kawan-kawan.

Mau apa lelaki tua itu, pikir Arsap. Dia menyikut lengan ayahnya. Tawa Maksar terhenti seketika, mengikuti arah pandangan Arsap. Maksar menatap Kakek Samulla dengan mata tak suka.

Langkah Kakek Samulla terhenti sebentar, mengamati Marinten yang tengah memainkan ketuk lumpang dari jarak yang cukup dekat. Tak segera naik ke beranda untuk menemui tuan rumah. Tatapannya aneh. Cara menghembuskan asap rokok perlahan dari mulutnya memberi kesan ada suatu kepahaman yang berhasil diraba.

Dada Arsap rusuh menggemuruh. Dia pernah diceritai ayahnya tentang sosok tua itu.

***

“Memalukan!” Ibu Marinten marah-marah menyambut kedatangan anaknya.

Daun pintu ditutup lagi dengan kasar. Dari tadi ibu Marinten tidak bisa memejamkan mata mendengarkan bunyi ketuk lumpang yang dimainkan Marinten di rumah Arsap.

Marinten diam. Perempuan itu nyelonong masuk, mengempaskan pantat pada kursi kayu dengan wajah layu. Dia melepas untaian kembang melati di sanggulnya.

“Bagaimana kamu bisa memainkan irama sekacau itu? Bukankah kau sudah mahir memainkan irama untuk acara perkawinan?” pertanyaan Ibu Marinten masih bernada gusar meskipun suaranya sedikit kurang jelas.

Sambil mengunyah sirih-pinang, Ibu Marinten mondar-mandir di depan anaknya. Sesekali membuang ludah pada kaleng bekas berisi abu tungku di dekat kaki lincak. Wajahnya mengeras. Bibirnya basah dan merah. Lalu mencecar Marinten lagi dengan pertanyaan-pertanyaan yang tak tuntas dia pikir sejak tadi. Kemarahan dimuntahkan.

“Kenapa pula teman-temanmu ikut bermain tak karuan? Seharusnya kalian menyelaraskan irama satu sama lain!”

Marinten tidak menyahut.

“Itu pasti gara-gara kamu! Pikiranmu ke mana-mana!”

“Bukankah Ibu yang mengajariku memainkan ketuk lumpang dengan menyatukan jiwa dan pikiran? Menghayati penuh perasaan. Dalam acara gembira, kita harus bermain dengan jiwa riang. Begitupun sebaliknya. Dengan begitu, irama yang kita mainkan akan mampu menyentuh hati siapa saja yang mendengar. Menggiring mereka pada kedalaman jiwa dan rasa yang sedang kita hayati. Bukankah begitu?”

“Betul. Lalu kenapa yang kaumainkan tadi iramanya jadi seperti itu? Seharusnya kau memainkan dengan jiwa bahagia.”

“Aku sudah memainkan ketuk lumpang dengan jiwaku. Jadi tidak ada yang perlu kusesali.”

“Kamu diundang untuk acara pernikahan, bukan kematian!” suara ibu Marinten meninggi.

Geraham Marinten bergesekan. “Apa aku harus bahagia dengan perkawinan Kak Arsap?” dia bangkit, menatap ibunya lekat-lekat, lalu menggeleng keras. “Tidak, Bu!”

“Dasar bodoh! Kau menyesal karena aku menolak lamaran Arsap?”

“Beri aku alasan, kenapa Ibu menolak lamarannya?”

“Dia tidak baik untukmu. Kau boleh menikah dengan siapa pun asal bukan dengannya!”

“Dengan siapa pun?” Senyum Marinten menyeringai mengejek, belum yakin ibunya tidak akan menjilat ludah sendiri.

“Ya! Dengan siapa pun!” ibu Marinten menegaskan.

Dagu Marinten sedikit terangkat, “Baik, kalau begitu, besok pagi aku akan ke rumah Kakek Samulla, menerima lamarannya untuk menikahiku!” Marinten meninggalkan ibunya begitu saja.

Ibu Marinten tercekat di tempat. Kunyahan pinang-sirih di mulutnya terhenti. Sekian detik matanya tak berkedip meskipun punggung Marinten sudah lenyap di balik pintu.

Sementara Marinten merebahkan tubuhnya ke lincak. Mengempaskan napas. Pikirannya mengawang. Marinten sudah tahu dengan alasan apa ibunya menolak lamaran Arsap. Antara Kakek Samulla, Maksar dan ibunya, ternyata pernah terlibat suatu persoalan.

Dulu, Maksar dan Kakek Samulla sama-sama menyukai ibu Marinten. Keduanya sering mencegat ibu Marinten di jalan ketika pulang dari undangan. Dua lelaki yang beda usia itu berebut akan melamar ibu Marinten. Namun ibu Marinten menjatuhkan hatinya pada Maksar. Selain lebih muda, lebih gagah dan tampan, Maksar juga pintar meramu kata-kata manis. Kakek Samulla yang saat itu sudah hampir berkepala empat, tidak berdaya atas pilihan ibu Marinten.

Maksar merasa memeroleh kemenangan tanpa harus berperang. Dia berniat melamar ibu Marinten secepatnya. Namun orangtua Maksar justru tidak setuju karena ibu Marinten dikabarkan memiliki susuk pemikat, dan mencarikan perempuan lain.

Kakek Samulla berang. Dia tidak terima Maksar menyia-nyiakan ibu Marinten begitu saja dengan tuduhan yang belum tentu benar adanya. Terjadi pertengkaran sengit antara mereka berdua. Hampir saja terjadi carok, adu celurit.

Marinten yakin, menolak lamaran Arsap merupakan suatu cara ibunya untuk membalik cerita masa lalu. Membayar sakit hati pada keluarga Maksar yang selama ini dipendamnya. Kalaupun dia menyuruh Marinten memenuhi undangan mereka memainkan ketuk lumpang, biar kesannya seolah tidak pernah terjadi apa-apa.

Marinten meringis. Begitu manis ibunya bersandiwara. Geraham Marinten kembali bergesekan. Tatapannya menggantung ke langit-langit kamar.

Sepulang dari undangan tadi, Kakek Samulla mencegat Marinten di jalan. Dari lelaki tua  yang belum pernah menikah hingga sekarang itulah Marinten mendengar kisah masa lalu ibunya, dan mendapatkan kesimpulan, mengapa ibunya menolak lamaran Arsap.

***

Dahi Marinten mengerut begitu membuka pintu, dia mendapatkan alu yang digunakan semalam telah patah jadi tiga dan berserakan di beranda. Buru-buru Marinten berlari ke dapur. Sepi. Mulut tungku masih dingin membisu. Marinten juga tidak melihat parang yang biasanya disandarkan pada palang kaki lincak.

Dada Marinten berdegup kencang. Kembali dia berlari ke beranda. Memungut dua patahan alu dengan hati cemas.

Kabut tipis masih bergelayut di dahan-dahan pohon kelapa. Marinten menatap jauh ke jalan.

 

***

 

 

 

 

 

.

Requiem for a Wedding

Award winning author Junaedi Setiyono received his doctorate degree in 2016 from the State University of  Semarang.

Setiyono’s short stories have been widely published. His first novel, Glonggong (Penerbit Serambi, 2008), won the Jakarta Art Council Novel Writing Award in 2006. In 2008, the same novel was on the five-title shortlist for the Kusala Sastra Khatulistiwa Literary Award, which recognizes Indonesia’s best prose and poetry. His second novel, Arumdalu (Penerbit Serambi, 2010), was on the ten-title shortlist for the Khatulistiwa Literary Award in 2010. In 2012, the manuscript for what would become his third novel, Dasamuka (Penerbit Ombak, 2017), won the Jakarta Art Council Novel Manuscript Award. The novel was translated into English in 2017 and published under the same title by Dalang Publishing. The novel won the 2020 literary award of the Indonesian Ministry of Culture and Education.

Setiyono can be contacted via his email: junaedi.setiyono@yahoo.co.id

 ***

 

 Requiem for a Wedding

 

Arsap sneered as he watched the people gathered around Marinten, tapping the lip of her bowl-shaped vessel with her alu, wooden pestle, making music with her band outside in his yard. He had recovered from his heartache, and the fury inside him had subsided.

A waning moon peeked out from behind the fronds of a coconut palm. A hissing kerosene lamp on the veranda attracted insects. Two steer hindquarters hung upside down from the rafters of the kitchen porch, curing. The fragrance of incense and roasting satay wafted in the wind.

At the beginning of Marinten’s performance, the rhythm of the large wooden pestles hitting their vessels, along with the clanking brass lids, seemed off. Marinten and the other performers were not in sync. The tune they were supposed to play tonight was different from the music they played when making dodol, a sweet toffy-like confection, or the music they played when livestock was slaughtered for a special occasion or the music they played to celebrate a harvest of crops or to express sympathy.

This music created a different atmosphere. The arrangement seemed to convey a condolence, but the tap of the alu was softer and irregular. At other times, the tapping was quick and punctuated. Then, accompanied by a loud crashing of the cymbals, the music sounded like a piece played during a harvest celebration. But next, the music tapered off, becoming softer and softer, as if it were carried by a breeze.

Arsap knew that the peculiarity in the rhythm was not caused by human error. The players constituted a music group led by Marinten. She was known in her village as a skilled musician capable of playing various rhythms of ketuk lumpang, a Madurase way of making music using brass spittoon lids along with wooden mortars and pestles. Marinten’s band was usually asked to perform at all the gatherings in the village. It was impossible that Marinten had made a mistake in directing her fellow musicians.

Aside from being a competent musician, Marinten was charming, which made people want to invite her to play. Although Marinten dressed plainly, she still looked beautiful. Wearing a clove-flower patterned batik shawl and a flowered kebaya, an Indonesian long-sleeved blouse, with her hair put up in a slanted chignon and decorated with strands of jasmine, Marinten caught people’s attention during every occasion. Her appearance was simple, but attractive. Some people said that she had inherited her mother’s charisma.

According to hearsay, Marinten’s mother had once been known as a skilled ketuk lumpang musician too. It was said that her tapping could relax tired muscles after a big harvest, liven up the atmosphere during a wedding celebration or circumcision ceremony, and console mourners drowning in their sadness at a funeral.

When Marinten’s mother was invited to play at a circumcision ceremony, the invited guests thronged to the event, as if the music of tapping pestles and clanking brass lids enticed them to rush to the occasion. Even those who already had other obligations made arrangements so they could come for the sake of watching Marinten’s mother when she and her friends performed the ketuk lumpang music.

Like Marinten, her mother had been the center of attention, not only from the invited guests, but also from people who came without an invitation. Many young men in the village were attracted to her beauty and amazed at her competence in playing ketuk lumpang. Marinten had inherited all of these attributes.

During every harvest and wedding season, Marinten and her musicians never lacked for invitations to play. They even had to turn down some invitations when dates overlapped one another.

But this night, the music that Marinten and her group played was quite different. The music sounded sad, then angry, then suddenly chaotic, like a cadence played by someone in despair.

Like the other guests, Arsap could not take his eyes off Marinten’s figure in the middle of his yard. He enjoyed listening to the incongruous rhythm of the ketuk lumpang music, and he considered Marinten’s off-beat performance as retribution for his defeat.

***

The night moved on slowly. The tapping and the clanging of the brass tops became more apparent. The aroma of satay roasting on the hot grills filled the air. Even though the music Marinten and her group played was not in accordance with the occasion and tended to be off-key, people still stayed to listen. Babies slept soundly in the warm safety of their mothers’ slings.

Arsap took a deep drag on his cigarette and then exhaled slowly. The smoke rose coiling into the air. His cigarette butts were piled up on the edge of his saucer. Four pieces of wajik, an Indonesian sweet made of glutinous rice, and dodol remained on a serving platter.

A woman is not supposed to underestimate a man! Arsap thought arrogantly.

Marinten’s mother’s refusal of Arsap’s wedding proposal to Marinten had made him very angry. To be refused without any reason was quite a humiliation. In fact, he and Marinten had been in love since they were teenagers. Consequently, Arsap asked his father, Maksar, to find him a girl who was willing to be married immediately.

Maksar, who had also objected to his son proposing to Marinten, immediately started looking for a prospective daughter-in-law. As soon as Maksar found a girl he considered an appropriate wife for Arsap, Maksar proposed to her for his son.

They set the date for Arsap’s wedding less than two weeks after Marinten’s mother had refused Arsap’s proposal.

Arsap intentionally invited Marinten to perform ketuk lumpang on the night before his wedding. The invitation was meant to snuff the hot humiliation, anger, and heartache that had fueled his heart and to retaliate against Marinten’s mother.

While the sounds of the ketuk lumpang continued, the scent of a new block of incense that had replaced the burned one drifted through the house. In the kitchen, women remained busy preparing various kinds of food for the wedding guests.

The night dragged on. Arsap and his father mingled with their relatives and guests on the veranda. Maksar seemed happy, his laughter interspersing the conversations. Now, there were only two pieces of dodol and wajik left and only coffee dregs remaining in the cups.

Suddenly, Arsap noticed the arrival of old man Samulla in the yard. Holding a burning cigarette between his fingers, the old man walked slowly while watching Marinten and her group play.

What is the old man doing here? Arsap wondered. He nudged his father’s arm with his elbow.

Maksar followed Arsap’s gaze, and abruptly stopped laughing. He frowned, looking at old man Samulla.

Samulla stood still for a while, watching Marinten from a near distance as she played the ketuk lumpang. He didn’t walk to the veranda to see the host. He had a strange look in his eyes. The way he slowly exhaled the cigarette smoke from his mouth gave the impression that he had gained some kind of truth.

Arsap’s heart pounded in his chest. Some time ago, his father had told him about that old man.

After the performance was over, Marinten walked home. She saw Samulla waiting for her at the roadside. The old man, who had never married, told Marinten her mother’s story. Now Marinten understood why her mother had refused Arsap’s proposal.

***

That night, Marinten’s mother could not fall asleep. Sitting by a window, she kept hearing the discordant sounds of ketuk lumpang music that her daughter was playing at Arsap’s wedding celebration.

Suddenly, she heard the door being pushed open and then slamming shut. Without any greeting, Marinten stomped into the house and dropped herself on one of the wooden chairs. Sulking, she removed the strands of jasmine from her hair and loosened her chignon.

“Shame on you!” Marinten’s mother approached her daughter angrily. “How could you mess up that badly? Don’t you know how to play wedding music?”

Chewing on a wad of betel leaves, Marinten’s mother paced in front of her daughter. Every so often, she spat betel juice into a can that contained ashes from the earthen stove, sitting near the leg of a bamboo bench. Her face hardened as she bombarded Marinten with questions that had been bothering her for some time.

“Why did your musician friends follow your lead? Everyone knows you should harmonize the rhythm with one another!”

Marinten didn’t respond.

“I am sure that you caused the performance to fail. Your thoughts were everywhere except on what you were invited to do!”

“Was it not you, my mother, who taught me to unite my soul and thoughts when I play ketuk lumpang? You said that we have to instill all our feelings in our music. For a happy occasion, we must play with gladness in our soul, and the other way around. Thus, the music we play can touch the hearts of our audience. The music will enable them to reach the depths of their souls and experience the feelings we are instilling. Right?”

“You are right. So, then, why didn’t the music you play convey that? You should have played happy tunes!”

“My soul was in the music I played; there is nothing I regret.”

“You were invited to play at a wedding, not a funeral!”

Marinten gritted her teeth. “Am I supposed to be happy at Arsap’s wedding?” She rose from her seat, glared at her mother, then shook her head hard. “No, Mother!”

“How stupid you are! You are upset that I refused Arsap’s proposal to marry you?”

“Give me a reason why you refused his proposal.”

“He is not good enough for you. You may marry whoever you want except him!”

“Marry whoever I want?” Marinten grimaced.

“Yes! You may marry whoever you want to marry!”

Marinten threw her head back and laughed. “All right! Then, tomorrow I will go to old man Samulla’s home and accept his proposal to marry me!”

Marinten’s mother was struck speechless. She stopped chewing the wad of betel leaves in her mouth. She stared at Marinten’s back as her daughter vanished through the door.    

***

Marinten lay down on a bamboo bench. She slowly exhaled while her thoughts drifted to what Samulla had told her earlier that night ⸺ why her mother had refused Arsap’s proposal. It was a problem that involved Samulla, Maksar, and her mother.

A long time ago, according to the story, both Maksar and old man Samulla had courted her mother. Both of them often waited for her when she walked home from an engagement. The two men — one old, one young — competed for her mother’s hand.

Marinten’s mother had chosen Maksar. Not only was Maksar younger, brawnier, and more handsome than Samulla, but he was also a slick sweet-talker.

Samulla, who was almost forty then, did nothing to change her mother’s choice.

Maksar felt he had gained a victory without having to go to war. He made plans to propose to Marinten’s mother as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, Maksar’s parents didn’t agree. Going by a rumor that Marinten’s mother owned a susuk pemikat — a magic gold pin that could supposedly bewitch a man — Maksar’s parents made him marry another girl.

Samulla was furious when he heard what happened. He could not accept that Maksar had abandoned Marinten’s mother because of a rumor. The two men quarreled bitterly and almost fought each other with sickles.

Marinten was sure that refusing Arsap’s proposal was her mother’s way to settle her score with the past. It was her way to compensate for the hurt Maksar’s family had inflicted on her and that she had kept buried all this time. She had intentionally told Marinten to accept Maksar’s invitation to play the ketuk lumpang at Arsap’s wedding celebration in order to show his family that there were no hard feelings.

Marinten grimaced. Her mother had put on a big show. Marinten clenched her teeth and stared at the ceiling.

***

The next morning, Marinten frowned as soon as opened the doors to the veranda. The alu she had used the night before lay broken into three pieces on the floor. Marinten ran to the kitchen. It was quiet there. The hearth was still cold. The cleaver that was usually propped up against one of the legs of the bamboo bench was gone.

Her heart racing, she ran back to the veranda and anxiously picked up two pieces of the broken pestle.

The light fog still hung on the branches of the coconut tree. Marinten gazed down the road.

***

Rahasia Pak Dwija

G. Budi Subanar was born in Yogyakarta on March 2, 1963. He was ordained to priesthood on July 29, 1994. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social philosophy from the Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Driyarkara in Jakarta in 1988 and in 2002 obtained his master and doctorate degrees in missiology – religious and cultural studies from the Pontificia Universita Gregoriana in Rome. He is the director of the graduate program of Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta. Previously, he served as the head of the magister program of religious and cultural studies. He also teaches at the university.

Subanar writes fiction as well as nonfiction. The following are some of his works:The Local Church in the Light of Magisterium Teaching on Mission. A Case in Point: The Archdiocese of Semarang Indonesia 1940–1981 (Casa Editrice L’Universita Gregoriana, Roma, 2001); Bayang-bayang Kota Pendidikan. Yogyakarta: Learning Society (Penerbit Universitas Sanata Dharma, 2007); Menari di Terra Incognita (Penerbit Kanisius, 2009); Soegija. Catatan Harian Seorang Pejuang Kemanusiaan (Penerbit Galang Press, 2012). This work was then filmed by Studio Audio Visual PUSKAT (producer) with Garin Nugroho as the director; Kilasan Kisah Soegijapranata (Penerbit KPG Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia, 2012); Hilangnya Halaman Rumahku (Penerbit Universitas Sanata Dharma, 2013); Soegija A Child of Bethlehem van Java (Penerbit Universitas Sanata Dharma, 2015).

 

Copyright ©2019 by G. Budi Subanar. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2019 by Laura Harsoyo.

 

Rahasia Pak Dwija

 

Walaupun kami bertetangga telah cukup lama, Pak Dwija dan aku baru bersahabat setelah melayat bersama pada suatu hari pertengahan Agustus 1985. Pak Dwija pulang kantor lebih awal. Adi Malela, seorang mantan pejuang meninggal karena usia tua. Menurut desas desus, dia salah seorang teman Supriyadi, tokoh tersohor pejuang Pembela Tanah Air (PETA) yang melawan Jepang dalam pemberontakan 14 Februari, 1945. Kehadiran Pak Dwija di tempat melayat, membuka tabir hubungan antara dirinya dengan almarhum Adi Malela. Ternyata, keduanya selama ini punya sikap memegang rahasia sekuat baja. Dalam sambutan sebelum pemberangkatan jenasah, Pak Dwija menyingkapkan yang selama ini hanya diketahui sebagai desas-desus.

“Mari kita menundukkan kepala untuk kepergian Bapak Adi Malela. Jaman pendudukan Jepang, kami dipertemukan saat pelatihan di sekolah perwira di Bogor. Kami ditugaskan bersama di Blitar sampai dipercaya memimpin pasukan, memegang komando dengan katana, pedang Jepang. Itu tanggung jawab tidak mudah. Almarhum bersama saya memang pernah bersama-sama menjadi teman seperjuangan Supriyadi. Ini beban pengalaman yang kami tanggung berdua. Bahkan, gara-gara itu kami sama-sama diadili dan dihukum di Jakarta oleh tentara Jepang.” Pak Dwija tersedak. Dia membuang pandangangannya ke kejauhan sebelum melanjutkan kata-katanya, “Sekarang, Bapak Adi Malela sudah menyelesaikan hidup dan perjuangannya. Semoga beroleh istirahat abadi di hadapan Sang Khalik pemilik kehidupan.” Demikian sambutan Pak Dwija yang diungkapkan dengan suara berat dan terbata-bata.

Semenjak kematian tokoh pejuang itu, perangai Pak Dwija berubah seratus delapan puluh derajat. Dia tidak lagi hadir sebagai seorang bapak yang ramah dan riang. Wajahnya menjadi lebih banyak murung dan perangainya menjadi mudah gelisah.

Sering kali, sekitar tengah malam dari rumah Pak Dwija kerap terdengar teriakan-teriakan tidak jelas. Rumah kami bersebelahan dan kami terpaksa mendengarkannya. Beberapa tetanggapun berkata mendengar sangat jelas teriakan-teriakan itu.

Waktu-waktu berikutnya, saat sore hari, aku sering melihat Pak Dwija melamun di teras rumahnya pada saat aku melewati rumahnya dalam perjalanan pulang dari sekolah.

Salah satu sore seperti itu, sekitar sebulan setelah meninggalnya Adi Malela,  kudengar suara serak Pak Dwija memanggil pada saat kulewati rumahnya. “Nak Mas, mampir! Masih kuliah sejarah ya?” Pak Dwija agak berteriak.

“Ya, Pak,” jawabku dari luar pagar sambil turun dari sepeda. Pada saat itu, sedang pulang dari kampus. Semester akhir ini, aku  memang sedang disibukkan dengan penulisan skripsi tugas akhir bidang sejarah setempat  dengan berbagai usaha bertukar pikiran dengan dosen pembimbing. Pengolahan lapangan dan berbagai buku-buku bacaan yang ada sedang membutuhkan perhatian mendalam.

“Sini-sini, saya sedang butuh beberapa keterangan sejarah. Saya pengin mendengarkan kisah-kisah dari Masa Kerajaan Singhasari dan Majapahit. Siapa tahu bisa membantu saya.” Demikian kata Pak Dwija berharap padaku.

Demi rasa hormat padanya, kuikuti undangannya. Lama kami terlibat pembicaraan di teras rumahnya.

Sejak saat itu, Pak Dwija beberapa kali mengundangku untuk bercerita tentang sejarah kerajaan-kerajaan di wilayah Jawa Timur dan wilayah-wilayah Nusantara lainnya. Termasuk para penguasa dan beragam kisah di seputar masa-masa itu. Kebiasaan ini menjadi kesempatan bagiku untuk mengulang dan mengembangkan kuliah yang kuikuti dan mendalam pengertianku dari buku-buku yang sudah kubaca.

***

“Berkali-kali anak-anak di rumah serta putri sulungku dan suaminya memberi saran padaku untuk menuliskan pengalaman masa laluku. Setiap kali mereka membicarakannya,  aku diam. Aku menolak yang diminta oleh anak-anak dan menantuku untuk menuliskan pengalaman masa muda jaman itu.” Pak Dwija membuka percakapan. Dia seperti agak gelisah menempatkan diri pada kursi tempat duduknya. Sementara, aku duduk dengan kepala agak tertunduk sambil menunggu kalimat selanjutnya.

“Nak Mas tahu riwayat hidup Pak Adi Malela yang meninggal bulan lalu?” tanya Pak Dwija. Dia seperti  memeriksa lagi pengetahuanku tentang almarhum temannya.

“Saya tidak begitu mengenalinya, Pak. Kata beberapa tetangga dekatnya, beliau orang agak samar-samar, Pak,” jawabku berhati-hati.

“Apakah setelah kubeberkan pada saat pemakamannya semua menjadi jelas?” tanya Pak Dwija mencari tahu.

“Saya tidak banyak tahu. Katanya, Pak Adi itu menyimpan sebuah katana di rumahnya. Itu barang mahal, Pak. Ada orang yang membuat tiruannya dan memperdagangkannya. Benda pusaka yang dijadikan barang dagangan,” kataku sekenanya.

“Hush, jangan menyebut pedang samurai itu barang mahal.” Pak Dwija memalingkan pandangannya. Matanya yang keruh melayang seperti mencari sesuatu di kejauhan. Dia meremas-remas tangannya sambil bergumam, “Karena barang itu aku sekarang sering berteriak-teriak kalau malam.”

Ucapannya membingungkanku dan dengan tidak tahu bagaimana menanggapinya, aku hanya diam.

Pak Dwija berdehem beberapa kali lalu berkata, “Jadi, begini. Aku dan Pak Adi Malela itu dulu pernah menjalani pelatihan di rensetai, sekolah perwira untuk tentara PETA, Pembela Tanah air. Kami pernah menjabat sebagai seorang komandan kompi, chudanco istilahnya. Kami disapa Chudanco Adi Malela dan Chudanco Dwija. Kami bersama-sama di Batalyon Pendidikan Pembela Tanah Air di Daidan Markas Komando Blitar. Umur kami belum tigapuluh tahun saat itu.” Pak Dwija mulai bercerita. “Supriyadi pada saat itu menjabat komandan peleton, Shodanco. Sebenarnya kami atasannya…,” suara Pak Dwija pelan mendatar.  

“Oh, begitu ya Pak. Saya sama sekali tidak pernah mendengar sebelumnya,” kataku terus terang.

“Sstt, memang ini rahasia kami. Lebih dari empatpuluh tahun lamanya, kami hidup dengan rahasia kami. Kami bersikap memegang rahasia sekeras baja.” Pak Dwija mengungkapkannya dengan tegas, matanya memandangiku dalam-dalam.

“Semenjak sahabatku Chudanco Adi Malela meninggal, pertahananku jebol.  Seperti ada sebuah lubang yang menganga pada hidupku. Aku jadi banyak bermimpi buruk setelah kepergiannya. Pengalaman-pengalaman pahit yang selama ini kami simpan. Dihajar tentara Jepang habis-habisan. Ini gara-gara peleton Shodanco Supriyadi yang memberontak. Kami yang ada di tingkat kompi dan batalyon kena getahnya….” Suaranya Pak Dwija putus-putus. Badannya mulai gemetar. Dia meremas-remas tangannya seolah menenangkan dirinya sebelum memandangiku dengan tatapan putus asa.

“Ya, Pak,” jawabku. “Terima kasih saya boleh mendengarkan kisah sejarah Bapak di masa itu,” kataku lagi.

Setelah berdiam sesaat, Pak Dwija meneruskan percakapan. “Nak Mas lebih mendalami sejarah abad delapanbelas dan sembilanbelas ya?” Pak Dwija bertanya seperti mengalihkan pembicaraan. Dia sepertinya tertarik dengan tema skripsi tugas akhirku.

“Iya, Pak. Ini satu pokok besar baru yang sedang diperkenalkan. Ada beberapa pengajar kami yang punya keahlian di bidang tersebut.” Jawabku terus terang.

“Pantesan. Kalau aku tanya lebih mendalam dari masa Singhasari dan Majapahit, selalu mengatakan itu wilayah arkeologi karena terkait dengan peninggalan candi-candi. Atau, kemungkinan lain, menyebut sastra Jawa Kuna karena terkait dengan naskah-naskah sastra jaman itu. Mungkin, Nak Mas perlu tahu. Aku waktu sekolah guru dulu malah sempat mendapat pelajaran Jawa Kuna. Guru-guru kami masa itu masih senang mengajak murid-muridnya membuka tulisan-tulisan Adi Parwa bagian awal kisah Mahabarata dan sejenisnya. Sekarang malah Nak Mas sudah tidak mendapatkan kuliahnya.”

“Saya tidak tahu kalau dulu Pak Dwija jadi guru sekolah,” kataku menyela.

“Ya, memang tidak banyak orang tahu aku dulu guru sekolah. Itu sudah masa lalu,” katanya.

“Tapi, Pak Dwija  beruntung bisa membaca dan diajak mendalami sumber-sumber yang penuh ajaran budi pekerti dari warisan sastra Jawa Kuna. Sekaligus dengan sejarah-sejarah yang ada di sekitarnya. Sekarang, kami sudah dikotak-kotakkan, Pak. Arkeologi sendiri, Sastra Jawa Kuna sendiri, Ilmu sejarah juga dipelajari sendiri. Sepertinya tidak terkait satu sama lain. Perangkat bahasanya juga harus khusus. Untuk bidang sejarah menguasai Bahasa Belanda saja, saya perlu usaha setengah mati. Karena bacaan buku-buku dan dokumen laporannya sebagian besar berbahasa Belanda, belum lama saya baru bisa membaca sumber-sumber yang saya butuhkan.”

“Ya, Bapak sempat jadi guru beberapa tahun. Seorang guru muda sesuai namaku, Dwija Taruna. Tapi terputus dengan kedatangan tentara Jepang. Semua jadi kacau. Sekolah-sekolah diambil alih. Guru-guru ada yang dicalonkan jadi pelatih bela negara katanya. Jepang butuh orang yang mampu memimpin orang lain untuk mengurusi dan melatih para pemuda yang dikumpulkan dari berbagai daerah. Bapak bersama Pak Adi termasuk di antaranya. Kami dipaksa untuk membentuk pasukan rakyat yang menjadi mesin perang melawan Sekutu—dipaksa ikut menindas tenaga romusha, tenaga kerja paksa yang menderita untuk membangun jalan dan berbagai sarana tentara yang lain. Kami harus menutup mata terhadap kumiai, pemerasan dan perampasan harta rakyat dengan bermacam-macam pajak sehingga mereka semakin sengsara. Jaman serba sulit. Betul-betul serba sulit.” Pak Dwija menghentikan ceritanya sambil menerawang.

“Aku belum bisa melanjutkan ceritanya. Belum sanggup…. Mungkin masih butuh waktu untuk mencernanya kembali. Kenangan-kenangan pahit yang berseliweran. Dan, ah, siksaan-siksaan itu terlalu berat. Sungguh-sungguh di luar peri kemanusiaan.” Pak Dwija menghela nafas dalam-dalam.

Aku duduk diam, tidak berani menanggapi ungkapannya.

“Kapan-kapan akan kuceritakan lagi,” katanya menyudahi percakapannya.

Aku mohon pamit dari pertemuan sore itu.

Malam hari, aku mendengar teriakan-teriakan dari rumah Pak Dwija. Teriakan-teriakan yang tidak jelas. Aku tidak bermaksud untuk mencari tahu apa yang diteriakkannya. Tidak ada sepatah kata yang dapat kupahami. Entah, apakah Ibu Dwija atau putra-putrinya paham dengan teriakan-teriakan yang keluar dari mulut Pak Dwija.

Aku tidak bisa membayangkan kegelisahan Pak Dwija. Aku tidak bisa merasakan kecemasan Ibu Dwija dan putra-putrinya menghadapi malam-malam seperti itu.

Pagi harinya, seperti tidak terjadi apa-apa. Pak Dwija ke kantor hampir bersamaan dengan anak-anak yang berangkat ke sekolah atau kuliah. Dan Ibu Dwija juga berangkat ke pekerjaannya di rumah sakit.

Pembantu rumah tangga yang bertugas membersihkan rumah, mencuci pakaian, dan memasak, juga tidak merasa ada sesuatu yang perlu dikuatirkan. Dia mengerjakan segala sesuatunya seolah tidak terjadi apa-apa. Toh, dia sudah puluhan tahun mengabdi di keluarga Bapak Dwija Taruna.

Semua berjalan tanpa ada gejolak apa pun. Teriakan-teriakan Pak Dwija yang mengingau saat tidur malam, tentu akan lewat dan tidak perlu dikuatirkan.

***

 Seperti biasa, Pak Dwija telah menghadangku sepulang dari kampus. Kami duduk di teras berdua. Di tengah percakapan, lalu Pak Dwija mulai membeberkan lagi kenangan pahitnya. “Aku duluiadili tentara Jepang dalam Gunritsu Kaigi, mahkamah pengadilan militer di Jakarta. Termasuk almarhum Chudanco Adi Malela,” kata Pak Dwija menyela di tengah pembicaraan.

“Dari Blitar kami dibawa ke Jakarta. Bertruk-truk jumlahnya. Katanya dijanjikan tidak akan dilakukan tindakan apa pun. Ternyata kami dimasukkan di penjara. Pakaian kami dilucuti, sampai hampir telanjang. Beberapa komandan, termasuk almarhum Adi Malela dan aku ditempatkan secara terpisah. Kami dianggap sebagai tokoh-tokoh kunci yang merancang pemberontakan Februari itu. Anggota lainnya dikumpulkan di satu ruangan.

Iya, caranya tentara Jepang memaksa para pelatih PETA yang dikira terlibat dalam pemberontakan terlalu kejam. Aku dihajar dengan senjata sinai, batang bambu yang dibelah dan di dalamnya diisi per besi,” katanya lagi.

“Berat rasanya kehilangan Chudanco Adi Malela yang mengalami nasib sama. Selama ini dia menjadi sinar indah yang menerangiku. Dia menjadi sahabat yang hadir saat berbagai kesulitan melanda. Bahkan, saat beban keluarga akibat dari banyak anak yang harus kutanggung sehingga hampir menghancurkan diriku, dia membantu dan menguatkanku. Sekarang sepeninggalnya, terpaksa aku mengais-ngais lagi dan mengingatnya. Butuh usaha keras untuk bisa menuliskannya.”

Pak Dwija meninggalkanku di teras. Dia masuk ke dalam. Keluar lagi membawa satu amplop dan sebuah pedang katana.

“Dalam catatan ini,  kutulis hampir semua peristiwa yang bisa kuingat dan menghantuiku sepeninggal Chudanco Adi Malela. Memang belum bisa semuanya. Selama ini kami bisa menyimpannya, karena kami masing-masing bertindak tahu sama tahu. Sepeninggal dia, duh, rasanya peristiwa-peristiwa itu muncul tanpa kendali. Kata orang serumah, setiap kali di tengah tidur, aku berteriak-teriak tidak keruan. Putra sulungku pernah secara sembrono menyarankanku. ‘Pak, guncang-guncangan itu ditulis saja.’ Guncangan apa! Tahu apa dia dengan pengalaman-pengalamanku!”

“Ah, sudahlah,” katanya sambil seperti menepiskan sesuatu. “Ini ada beberapa catatan di sini. Ada juga beberapa gambar peta. Dan lukisan wajah Supriyadi. Silahkan, Nak Mas toh akan menjadi ahli sejarah. Jadi, pada Nak Mas catatan ini kuserahkan,” katanya sambil menyerahkan satu sampul berisi kertas-kertas.

Aku menerimanya  tanpa bisa berkata apa-apa. Hanya berkaca-kaca.

“Sstt, Nak Mas. Ini katana yang pernah kuceritakan dulu.” Pak Dwija memegangi sebuah katana yang sudah berkarat, sambil menunjukkannya padaku. Gagangnya masih kokoh, tak ada pelindung tangan di bagian pegangannya. Lalu Pak Dwija meletakkannya di atas meja. Pandangannya kemudian menerawang.

“Boleh saya melihat dan memegangnya?” tanyaku meminta ijin.

“Jangan. Kamu tidak paham. Itu bukan barang mainan,” kata Pak Dwija seperti bersalin tekanan suara daripada biasanya. Duduknya tegak. Tatapan matanya tidak mengarah kepadaku seperti kalau dia bicara dalam keadaan biasa.

“Kami sama-sama dihukum oleh pengadilan militer Jepang. Shodanco Supriyadi berhasil melarikan diri, menghilang dan memang tidak pernah kembali. Kami jajaran anggota batalyon yang menjadi atasannya, dan anggota PETA yang lain di bawahnya, harus menjalani pengadilan militer Jepang di Jakarta. Tentara Jepang itu terus menerus bertanya pada kami tentang keberadaan Shodanco Supriyadi. Siksaan-siksaan panjang yang mengiringi pelaksanaan  pengadilan itu, membuatku berteriak-teriak setiap malam. Aku tidak mampu menahannya sepeninggal Chudanco Adi Malelo.” Pak Dwija bercerita.

Aku diam tanpa menanggapi sepatah katapun. Aku juga tak berani memandangi Pak Dwija yang tetap duduk tegap di tempatnya.

“Maaf, Nak Mas. Mungkin aku masih harus menuliskannya lagi. Iya, anak-anak dan menantuku  telah menyarankannya. Silahkan, Nak Mas pulang.

“Ya, Pak. Terima kasih,” jawabku singkat.

“Saya menunggu cerita rahasia katana,” kataku sebelum pamit.

“Terima kasih,” kata Pak Dwija sambil berdiri. Dia berdiri tegap di sebelahku, seakan mengiringkanku segera beranjak dari tempat dudukku.

Aku beranjak dan  berdiri menghadap Pak Dwija. Menundukkan kepala dalam-dalam ke arahnya lalu pamit.

“Ya, silahkan,” jawabnya singkat.

***

Beberapa hari berlalu, aku lewat halaman rumah Pak Dwija tanpa dihadang oleh Pak Dwija. Biasanya dia memintaku singgah dan mengajaknya berbincang-bincang. Menanyai tugas skripsiku atau dia bercerita tentang pengalamannya. Aku merasa seperti ada sesuatu yang kurang.

Kisah katana sepertinya belum selesai diceritakannya. Masih ada yang kutunggu kelanjutan ceritanya. Ah, suatu ketika Pak Dwija pasti menceritakannya.

Suatu sore, Bu Dwija yang menghadangku. Dia mempersilahkan aku singgah.

“Nak Mas, tolong mampir sebentar,” katanya ramah.

Aku duduk di tempat biasanya. Bu Dwija masuk ke rumah dan keluar lagi dengan beberapa lembar kertas di tangan.

“Beberapa hari ini Bapak sakit, Nak. Sekarang juga sedang tidur. Beliau pesan untuk menyerahkan kertas ini pada Nak Mas. Bapak meminta Nak Mas membacanya di sini saja. Silahkan.” Katanya sambil menyerahkan kertas itu padaku.

Bu Dwija masuk rumah lalu kembali dengan membawa teh untukku.

Aku mulai membaca tulisan tangan Pak Dwija, Tulisan seorang guru pendidik sebelum kedatangan Jepang. Dengan bentuk-bentuk hurufnya yang berirama.

“Akhirnya, setelah hampir sebulan menjalani pemeriksaan, hukuman pengadilan militer Jepang dijatuhkan. Kami masuk penjara. Chudanco Adi Malela dan aku dihukum limabelas tahun. Lain-lain hukumannya beragam. Badan penuh bilur-bilur bekas siksaan. Bahkan dua gigiku tanggal. Kami tidak tahu akan seperti apa nasib kami selanjutnya.

Beberapa bulan setelah kemerdekaan, kami dibebaskan dari penjara. Chudanco Adi Malela dan aku bersepakat bersama-sama kembali ke Blitar. Beberapa orang di Blitar masih mengenali kami. Dua katana komando yang ada di bekas Batalyon Pendidikan Pembela Tanah Air di Daidan Markas Komando Blitar diserahkan kepada kami berdua. Mereka anak buah yang lolos dari pengadilan Jepang yang masih mengenali kami. Sungguh terharu kami dibuatnya.

Kami berdua sempat jadi Tentara Rakyat Indonesia berpangkat Letnan Kolonel. Ah, apakah pantas penghargaan itu. Jadi, kami bersepakat meninggalkan tugas pekerjaan militer. Masak, tentara Indonesia di sebuah negara merdeka punya anggota yang menyandang luka bekas siksaan tentara Jepang. Ah, hanya akan menjadi aib. Kami memilih kerja di jalur sipil. Masing-masing berpisah. Ternyata dipertemukan lagi di kampung ini. Sekarang, Chudanco Adi Malela telah mendahuluiku. Entah kapan giliranku.”

Sampai di situ tulisan Pak Dwija selesai.

Kupandangi kursi kosong di depanku. Di situ, Pak Dwija biasanya duduk. Meja di depanku juga kosong. Di meja itu Pak Dwija pernah menempatkan katananya.

Aku meletakkan kertas yang selesai kubaca. Perlahan-lahan, aku menyandarkan diri di kursi yang kududuki.

***

Mr. Dwija’s Secret

Laura Harsoyo was born in Makassar, South Sulawesi, and grew up in Palembang (South Sumatra) and Surabaya (East Java), where she graduated in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Airlangga University. She loves to read literary works and is interested in writing fiction. During her 21-year career in the hospitality industry, she wrote articles for Chef! - a culinary magazine in Jakarta, as well as translated some articles in organizational publications. She currently works as a freelance translator in fiction and nonfiction writing. Laura translates from Indonesian into English.

Laura can be reached at: harsoyolaura@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Dwija’s Secret

 

Even though we had been neighbors for a long time, Mr. Dwija and I only became friends after we both attended the wake of another villager on a hot mid-August afternoon in 1985. Adi Malela, a war veteran, had died of old age. According to rumors, the departed was a friend of Supriyadi, a famous figure of the Defenders of the Fatherland (PETA) warriors who had fought Japan in the uprising on February 14, 1945. The presence of Mr. Dwija at the wake revealed the relationship between himself and the late Adi Malela. Apparently, both of them had vowed to keep their friendship a deep secret. In his eulogy at the wake, before departing for the burial, Mr. Dwija confirmed what had only been a rumor all this time.

“Let us bow our heads in honor of Adi Malela. We met during the Japanese occupation, in the military academy in Bogor. Together, we were assigned to Blitar, where we were trusted to lead the troops and enforce discipline with katanas, Japanese swords. It was not an easy responsibility. The deceased and I had indeed become Supriyadi’s sympathizers. This was an experience we shared. In fact, this was the reason we were both tried and convicted in Jakarta by the Japanese military.” Mr. Dwija cleared his throat and gazed into the distance before he continued in a heavy, shaky voice. “Now, Adi Malela has completed his life and struggles. May he receive eternal rest with the Creator of Life.”

After the death of the revolutionist Adi Malela, Mr. Dwija’s temperament changed one hundred and eighty degrees. He was no longer a kind and cheerful father. Most of the time, he looked depressed and was easily agitated.

Often, around midnight, shouts came from Mr. Dwija’s house. Because our house was next door, we were forced to listen. Some of the other neighbors said that they heard the shouts, too.

I often saw Mr. Dwija sitting on his porch when I passed by his house on my way home from school in the afternoon. He always seemed deep in thought.

One such afternoon, about a month after the death of Adi Malela, Mr. Dwija’s hoarse voice called out as I passed by his house. “Son, come by! You study history, right?”

“Yes, sir,” I answered from outside his fence while getting off my bicycle. I was returning from campus. Aside from exchanging and discussing ideas with my academic advisor during this final semester, I was also preoccupied with preparing my final thesis in the field of local history. Field work and a lot of reading material required my attention.

“Come, come, I need some historical information,” Mr. Dwija beckoned. “I want to hear stories from the era of the Singhasari and Majapahit kingdoms. Who knows, maybe that will help me.”

Out of respect, I accepted his invitation, and we engaged in a long conversation on the porch of his house.

After that day, Mr. Dwija invited me often to tell him about the history of the kingdoms in the East Java region and other regions of the archipelago, as well as give him information about the rulers and other various stories around those times. These visits became an opportunity for me to revisit and further develop the lectures I had attended and to deepen my understanding of the books I had read.

***

One day, Mr. Dwija started our conversation in an unexpected way. “Many times, my children tell me that I should write about my past experiences. I remain silent every time they bring up the idea. I refused their request to write down the experiences of my youth during that time.” Mr. Dwija seemed nervous about sharing this information with me.

I waited, with my head slightly bowed, for his next sentence.

“Do you know the life story of Mr. Adi Malela?” Mr. Dwija asked, as if checking how much I knew about his deceased friend.

“I didn’t really know him, sir,” I responded cautiously. “According to some of the closest neighbors, he was a rather peculiar person.”

“His story did not become clearer after all I revealed during the funeral?” Mr. Dwija asked.

“I don’t know much. Rumors have it that Mr. Adi kept a katana in his house. That is an expensive item, sir. There are people who duplicate and trade them. Heirlooms that are treated as merchandise,” I said abruptly.

“Hush! Don’t refer to a samurai sword as an expensive item.” Mr. Dwija’s cloudy eyes looked into the distance. Squeezing his hands together, he muttered, “It’s what often makes me scream at night.”

His statement confused me, and because I didn’t know how to respond, I kept quiet.

Mr. Dwija cleared his throat several times and then began his story. “So, here it is. Mr. Adi Malela and I once underwent training at Rensei-tai, a platoon commander school for PETA soldiers, Defenders of the Fatherland. We once served as chudanco, company commanders. We were addressed as Chudanco Adi Malela and Chudanco Dwija. We were assigned together at the Educational Battalion of the PETA at the Command Headquarters in Blitar. We were barely thirty years old then. At that time, Supriyadi was a platoon commander, a shodanco. We were actually his superiors …” Mr. Dwija’s voice trailed away.

“I’ve never heard that before,” I said truthfully.

“Shhh, this indeed was our secret,” Mr. Dwija said, holding my eyes firmly with his own. “For more than forty years, we lived with our secrets and kept things under wraps.

“My defense broke when Chudanco Adi Malela passed away,” Dwija continued. “He was my best friend. It seems that there is a gaping hole in my life. After his death, I have many nightmares about our bitter experiences, such as being beaten by the Japanese soldiers. Those of us at the company and battalion levels bore the consequences …”

Mr. Dwija began to tremble and his voice faltered. He squeezed his hands together as if trying to calm himself before sending me a sad look.

“Thank you for allowing me to hear your stories in of the past,” I said.

After a moment of silence, Mr. Dwija abruptly switched the subject. “You’re studying the history of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, aren’t you?” He seemed interested in the theme of my thesis.

“Yes, sir. It is a new subject, and several of our lecturers have expertise in this field,” I answered candidly.

“No wonder. When I research deeper about the Singhasari and Majapahit eras, it is always said that they are an archeological site, due to the temple ruins. Or, Ancient Javanese literature is mentioned, as it is related to literary manuscripts of the era. Perhaps, son, you should know that when I was studying to become a teacher, I studied the Ancient Javanese language. Our teachers back then were happy to invite students to read the writings of Adi Parwa, the beginning part of the Mahabharata story, and the likes. It seems that now this course is no longer taught.”

“I didn’t know that you used to be a school teacher,” I interrupted.

“Yes, there are not many people who know that I was a school teacher. That was in the past.”

“But you were fortunate to read and be invited to explore the sources that are full of characteristic teachings from the Ancient Javanese literary heritage as well as the history around them,” I said. “Nowadays, the disciplines are separated, sir. Archeology is a separate subject; Ancient Javanese literature is another subject; and history is a subject of its own. It is as if they are not interrelated with each other. Being familiar with the language most information of each discipline can be found in is yet another requirement. For history, I had to make a great effort to master the Dutch language, as most of the books and documents are in Dutch. It was only recently that I was able to read the resource material I need.”

“Yes, I was a teacher for several years,” Mr. Dwija continued. “A young teacher, according to the meaning of my name. My teaching career was interrupted by the arrival of the Japanese troops. Everything got messed up. Schools were taken over. The Japanese needed people who could lead the others to take care of and train the young people gathered from various regions. Adi and I were among them. We were forced to form a people’s army to fight against the Allied forces – forced to join in suppressing the romusha, forced laborers, who suffered to build roads and army facilities. We had to turn a blind eye to kumiai, an extortion and deprivation of people’s properties through various taxes which made them even more miserable. It was a difficult time. It was really very difficult.”

Mr. Dwija halted while reminiscing, then said, “I can’t continue the story. I can’t. Perhaps I need more time to digest the bitter memories that are still haunting me. And, oh, those excruciating tortures were really beyond humanity.” Mr. Dwija took a deep breath.

I sat quietly, not daring to comment.

“I’ll tell you again, some other time,” he said, ending the conversation.

I asked to be excused and left.

That night, I heard screams from Mr. Dwija’s house. I couldn’t understand a single word, and I did not intend to find out. I wondered if Mrs. Dwija or their children understood what Mr. Dwija’s was screaming about. I couldn’t imagine Mr. Dwija’s anxiety, nor the anxiety that Mrs. Dwija and their children faced on such nights.

In the morning, it was as if nothing had happened. Mr. Dwija went to work, his children went to school, and Mrs. Dwija went to her job at the hospital.

The family’s housemaid, who was in charge of cleaning the house, washing clothes, and cooking, also did not seem worried about anything. She did her chores as if nothing had happened. After all, she had served Mr. Dwija’s family for decades. Everything continued as normal, as if Mr. Dwija’s delirious screaming during the night would certainly pass and did not need to be worried about.

***

As usual, Mr. Dwija was waiting for me when I rode my bike home from campus. We took a seat on the porch together. In the middle of our conversation, Mr. Dwija started to reveal his horrific memories. “I was tried in the Gunritsu Kaigi, the Japanese military court in Jakarta. So was the late Chudanco Adi Malela. From Blitar, we were transported by truck to Jakarta,” he paused; then continued, “They promised that nothing would happen to us, but we were put in prison. We were stripped of our clothes except for our underwear. Several commanders, including Adi Malela and me, were held separately. Other members were placed in one room. We were considered to be the key figures who had designed the February uprising.

“Yes, the Japanese soldiers were very cruel to the PETA trainers and instructors who were suspected of being involved in the rebellion. I was beaten with a sinai, a club made from a piece of bamboo that was split and filled with iron springs.”

Mr. Dwija paused, then continued. “It was hard to lose Chudanco Adi Malela, who suffered the same fate. All this time, he was like a beacon for me. He became a friend who was present when various difficulties struck. In fact, when the burden of raising so many children almost destroyed me, he helped and encouraged me. Now that he is gone, I have to dig up all those hardships and remember them. It takes a lot of effort to write them down.”

Mr. Dwija went inside the house, leaving me on the porch. When he returned, he held an envelope and a katana.

“In these notes, I have recorded almost all the incidents I can remember that have haunted me after the death of Chudanco Adi Malela. I still haven’t written down all of them. All this time, we kept these experiences to ourselves because each of us knew what we shared. But after he died, those terrible events appeared in my mind and dreams without warning. My family says that I always scream wildly in the middle of my sleep. My eldest son once casually advised me, ‘Dad, you should write down all those shocking memories.’ What shocks! What does he know about my experiences!”

“Ah, never mind.” Mr. Dwija brushed the memory aside. “Here are some notes. There are also several maps and a painting of Supriyadi’s face. Please, son, let me give you this since you will be a historian.” Mr. Dwija handed me the envelope filled with papers.

At a loss of words, I accepted them with glistening eyes.

“Shhh, son. This is the katana I told you about before.” Mr. Dwija showed me a rusty katana. The handle was still sturdy, although there was no hand guard. Mr. Dwija laid it on the table. His gaze wandered.

“Can I hold it?” I asked.

“Don’t!” Mr. Dwija said sternly. “Don’t you understand it is not a toy?” Mr. Dwija’s tone of voice was harsher than the way he usually talked to me. He sat up straight and did not look at me as he normally did when we spoke. He swallowed before continuing his story.

“We were both convicted by the Japanese military court. Shodanco Supriyadi had managed to escape. He simply disappeared and never returned. We battalion members, who were his superiors, and other PETA members, who served under him were all tried at the Japanese military court in Jakarta. The Japanese kept asking us about Shodanco Supriyadi’s whereabouts. The memory of the long tortures that accompanied the trial is what makes me scream at night. I am unable to bear the burden after the passing of Chudanco Adi Malela.”

I remained silent and did not dare look at Mr. Dwija, who remained seated rigidly in his chair.

“I am sorry, son. Maybe I should write more. Yes, my children and my son-in-law have suggested it. Please, son, go home now.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you.” I said and added, “I’ll be waiting for the story of the katana.”

“Thank you,” Mr. Dwija rose and stood silently next to me, as if wanting me to move from my seat.

I too rose and, facing Mr. Dwija, bowed my head deeply towards him before saying goodbye.

“Yes, please,” he answered, briefly.

***

A few days passed, and I didn’t see Mr. Dwija on his porch when I biked by on my way home from school. Usually, he would ask me to stop for some conversation. He’d ask me about my thesis assignment or tell me about his experiences. I missed our talks.

And the story of the katana was unfinished. I was still waiting for the story to continue. Ah, one day Mr. Dwija would tell me the rest of it.

Then, one afternoon, Mrs. Dwija hailed me.

“Son, please stop by for a while,” she said kindly.

I sat at my usual seat on the porch.

Mrs. Dwija went into the house and returned with several pieces of paper in her hand.

“For the past few days, Mr. Dwija has been ill,” she said. “In fact, he is sleeping right now. He asked me to give you these papers, son. He asked that you read them here. Please.” She handed me the papers.

Mrs. Dwija went into the house, then returned with a cup of tea for me.

I began reading Mr. Dwija’s handwriting. Being a teacher before the arrival of the Japanese, the letters of his handwriting flowed with a certain rhythm across the page.

I read: “Finally, after a month of interrogations, a Japanese military court passed our sentence. Chudanco Adi Malela and I were sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Other penalties varied. Our bodies were bloody and scarred from lashings. Two of my teeth were broken. We didn’t know what our fate was going to be.

“A few months after the independence, we were released from prison. Chudanco Adi Malela and I agreed to return to Blitar. We hoped that someone in Blitar would still remember us. Two katanas, left in the former Defenders of the Fatherland Educational Battalion at the Daidan Blitar Command Headquarters, were handed to us. Those who had escaped the Japanese court still recognized us. We were truly moved.

“Both of us were offered the chance to be members of the Indonesian People’s Army with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. We wondered if we were worthy of the position and decided to leave the military. How could the Indonesian army have members like us who were still traumatized by the torture of the Japanese soldiers? Ah, it would only be a disgrace. We chose to work in the private sector and went our separate ways, only to be reunited again in this village. Now that Chudanco Adi Malela has passed, I wonder when it’s my turn.”

There, Mr. Dwija’s writing ended.

I looked at the empty chair in front of me, where Mr. Dwija usually sat. I looked at the empty table, where Mr. Dwija had once placed his katana.

I put down the papers I had read and slowly leaned back in my chair.

***

Cerita di Balik Tenun Ikat

Fanny J. Poyk graduated from the Jakarta Institute of Social and Political Science, Institut Ilmu Sosial dan Ilmu Politik Jakarta (IISIP). She started writing in the early 1980s for magazines and newspapers. From 1994 to 2004, she was a journalist for Tabloid Fantasi, a media consultant for a high school mentoring program at the Indonesian Department of Education and Culture, and editor in chief at Majalah Sastra Komodo Courier and Majalah Orchid Magazine. Fanny’s short stories have been published in Jurnal Nasional, Sinar Harapan, Suara Pembaruan, Pikiran Rakyat, Surabaya Post, Suara Karya, Timor Expres, and Kompas. In 2016, one of her stories was selected as one of Kompas‘s 20 best stories of the year.

Fanny can be reached poykfanny10@gmail.com.

Copyright ©2018 by Fanny J.Poyk. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2018 by Laura Harsoyo.

 

 

Cerita Di Balik Tenun Ikat

 

Bapa Tua Hermanus Messakh duduk termenung di depan rumah bebaknya yang terbuat dari anyaman bambu. Di depannya lima ekor babi dan ayam bergerak bebas ke sana-kemari. Beberapa ekor babi sudah dijualnya di rumah makan Bambu Kuning untuk dibuat menjadi daging se’i. Ya, daging asap khas kota Kupang, Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) itu, sangat laris dan disukai masyarakat sekitarnya. Beberapa ekor ayam kampung peliharaannya mati, konon ayam-ayam itu diracun orang karena Bapa Tua terlalu pelit untuk membagikan telur-telurnya ke penduduk sekitar.

“Eeee Bapa eee…itu ayam su batalor, kasih beta satu telur sa untuk sarapan ini pagi,” pinta Pinto Mauk, tetangga pengangguran yang doyan minum sofi, minuman berasal dari pohon lontar yang sudah diragi.

Bapa Tua marah sekali.  Hardiknya, “Lu pi sana, kerja cuma mabok mau makan enak terus!”

Pinto diam, namun di hatinya ia agak tersinggung. Dengan langkah limbung ia keluar dari rumah bebak Bapa Tua, berjalan ke kebun lontar milik David Taka. Dia hendak meminta satu buah gula lempeng yang dimasak isteri David, Mini. Lalu, keesokkan harinya, ayam-ayam Bapa Tua Hermanus Messakh beberapa mati. Dan sasaran utama yang menjadi tertuduh, Pinto. Lelaki pemabuk sofi itu terbengong-bengong tatkala Bapa Tua Hermanus Messakh menuduh dia yang membuat mati ayam-ayamnya.

Lu mangaku sudah, kamu yang membuat ayamku mati,” tuduh Bapa Tua.

Pinto berdiri, tapi masih terlihat limbung, pengaruh minuman keras sofi masih menghiasi otaknya. Matanya menatap Bapa Tua dengan kuyu. “Sambarang sabeta tidak membuat ayam-ayam Bapa mati. Beta cuma mau minta telor satu sa, tapi Bapa sonde kasih, jangan salahkan beta kalau ayam-ayam itu mati, beta sonde tau itu binatang makan apa,” ujar Pinto dengan kesadaran yang masih berada di angka lima puluh persen.

Bapa Tua Hermanus Messakh hanya diam, mungkin dia berpikir tak ada gunanya bertengkar dengan orang yang sedang mabuk. Dia berkata dalam hati, esok dia akan membawa beberapa ayam-ayamnya yang masih sehat ke pasar untuk dijual. Semua uang yang terkumpul nanti, akan dia belikan tenun ikat di toko Enci Yulia yang terletak di tepian Pantai Tode Kisar dekat Kota Tua Kupang.

***

“Untuk apa Bapa Tua beli kain tenun ikat?” tanya keponakannya Eben Messkah.

Lebe baek kumpul tenun ikat dari pada piara ayam, kain-kain itu akan beta jual di depan Hotel Yulia, dekat Pasar Koenino sana. Banyak orang bule menginap di sana, nanti beta bisa dapat untung lebih banyak dari pada piara ayam,” ujar Bapa Tua Hermanus Messakh masih dengan nada geram.

Kini, di ruang tamu rumahnya, sudah terkumpul dua puluh tenun ikat dari beragam kabupaten yang ada di NTT. Bapa Tua Hermanus Messakh membelinya di kampung Oesao dan desa Kefa dan Soe. Di kedua desa itu dia mencari penenun kampung yang mahir mencampur bahan-bahan pewarna alami agar tenunan terlihat kuno. Kata Bapa Tua Hermanus pada sang keponakan, Eben Messakh, “Ini tenun paling bagus di Soe, harganya mahal karena dibuat dari bahan-bahan alami yang ada di hutan-hutan di sana. Lu lihat, dia sonde luntur pas dicuci, warnanya juga tahan lama. Nanti, beta mau beli lebe banyak lagi, biar dapat untung lebe besar.”

***

Dalam beberapa bulan, Bapa Tua semakin tergila-gila pada tenun ikat ketika seorang nyonya Cina kaya asal Jakarta memborong seluruh jualannya. Bapa Tua lalu menjalin persahabatan dagang dengannya. Ia mengantar sang nyonya ke perajin tenun yang ada di seluruh Kupang, Oesao, Kefa, Soe, Timor Tengah Selatan hingga Belu yang berbatasan dengan Timor Leste. Setiap dagangannya habis, dengan mata berbinar ia tunjukkan uang hasil berdagang itu pada sang keponakan.

Si Bapa Tua mengutarakan niatnya untuk membeli tenun ikat Timor Tengah Selatan dan juga desa Belu lebih banyak lagi. Tenun-tenun dari dua desa itu terkenal dengan warna-warninya. Ia benar-benar tidak sempat lagi pada kegiatannya semula, berdagang minuman tuak dari pohon lontar, ayam kampung dan ternak babi. Semua peliharaannya itu diserahkan pada Eben Messakh sang kemenakan dengan perjanjian bagi hasil, 60 buat Eben, 40 untuk dirinya.

Beta adil kan? Lu dapat hasil yang lebe banyak,” katanya sembari memamah sirih, seluruh bibir juga giginya berwarna jingga karena sirih. Dengan menyirih Bapa Tua senang, sebab ia tak perlu menyikat gigi dengan odol lagi. “Irit toh? Menyirih itu sehat, gosok gigi dengan odol buat gigi keropos,” katanya selalu.

Eben Messakh, sang keponakan yang pengangguran namun telah memiliki dua anak, menganggukkan kepala tanpa membantah. Lelaki bertubuh gempal berusia sekitar tiga puluh tahun ini, mungkin otaknya telah berkarat karena meminum sofi. Sudah sejak memasuki usia akil balik, ia melakukan itu. Tanpa sofi hidupnya merana. Ia juga harus rela isterinya menjadi tenaga kerja Indonesia (TKI) ke Malaysia.

Bapa Tua Hermanus Messakh selalu berpesan padanya untuk rajin-rajin membaca koran. Katanya, “Hee… kamu jangan pasang muka bodoh terus, pergi ke pasar Koenino, jadi tukang parkir di jalan biar dapat duit. Minum sofi terus otakmu akan berkarat. Bagaimana mau kasih makan kau punya anak-anak? Tiap hari lu juga harus baca koran, lu lihat pengumuman di koran, jangan sampai ada pengumuman binimu mati dengan isi perut kosong baru dibawa pulang. Lu jangan enak-enak saja, jadi TKI itu berat. Lu harus malu jadi laki-laki, jangan cuma bisa piara itu burung dan minum sofi saja.”

Eben Messakh menggerutu dalam hati. Anting di telinga kirinya berpendar kala tertimpa cahaya rembulan, tatto bergambar rajawali dan naga di kedua pangkal lengannya bertengger gagah, perkasa dan kekar. Kala dia berjalan lengkap dengan topi baseball yang bertulis freedom, Eben kian merasa dia mahluk kota besar yang sangat bergaya seperti yang dia lihat di layar televisi kala menonton Bruno Mars menyanyi. Sang Paman kerap dibuatnya kesal.

Lu pikir, lu su jadi penyanyi kah? Tiap hari minum sofi, lu kira lu sudah yang paling gagah di seantero Kupang. Sana, pergi ke pasar, lu jual telur-telur ayam ini!”

Tetapi tenun ikat kemudian menemukan jalannya yang cukup memilukan. Tatkala Bapa Tua Hermanus Messakh kembali ke tempat para perajin tenun, dia terkejut melihat nyonya Cina asal Jakarta sudah memborong seluruh tenun yang menjadi langganannya. Bapa Tua melalui tatap mata tuanya memandang nanar ketika semua tenun sudah tidak ada lagi.

Tenun ikat terbaik yang dibuat dari bahan-bahan alami bermutu tinggi, sudah dibawa ke Jakarta, di sana kain-kain itu akan dijadikan pakaian adibusana oleh para perancang papan atas. Selanjutnya perjalanan sang tenun yang telah berubah wujud menjadi pakaian kelas atas itu, akan diusung pada pameran pakaian adibusana musim semi dan panas di Paris, Milan, New York hingga Hongkong. Andai saja Bapa Tua Hermanus Messakh tahu harganya, dia akan pingsan sebelum kembali ke rumahnya.

Lalu, sambil berjalan pulang, Bapa Tua Hermanus menggerutu sendirian, “Eeee…tahu begitu beta sonde kasih tahu itu rumah-rumah penenun ke Aci Jakarta, beta manyasal.”

Sejak itu, Bapa Tua Hermanus Messakh, tak pernah mau tahu lagi tentang kisahnya bersama tenun ikat.

Eben Messakh sang keponakan, kali ini bisa berpikir lurus sedikit, ia melihat pamannya yang sedang murung lalu berkata, “Bapa eee…beta su bilang kalau Bapa jangan tarlalu percaya deng orang-orang Jakarta. Mereka suka baku tipu. Lebe baek kita bikin sofi, kita jual ke warung-warung kopi di Pantai Tode Kisar, untungnya lebe besar, kalau mereka mabok, itu sudah biasa. Biarkan saja.”

Bapa Tua Hermanus Messakh membisu.

Esoknya, kampung Oesao gempar. Mereka melihat Bapa Tua dan keponakannya jalan-jalan di tengah desa dengan tubuh telanjang bulat sambil memegang botol sofi; mereka mabuk berat setelah seharian meminum minuman itu.

Bapa Tua sambil berjalan dengan langkah terhuyung-huyung, terus-menerus mengoceh, “Itu Aci orang Jakarta, dia su ambil beta pung rejeki. Dia su ambil…”

 ***

The Tale Behind The Ikat

Laura Harsoyo was born in Makassar, South Sulawesi, and grew up in Palembang (South Sumatra) and Surabaya (East Java), where she graduated in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Airlangga University. She loves to read literary works and is interested in writing fiction. During her 21-year career in the hospitality industry, she wrote articles for Chef! - a culinary magazine in Jakarta, as well as translated some articles in organizational publications. She currently works as a freelance translator in fiction and nonfiction writing. Laura translates from Indonesian into English.

Laura can be reached at: harsoyolaura@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

The Tale Behind the Ikat

 

Hermanus Messakh sat pensively in front of his bebak, a hut with walls of woven bamboo. Five pigs and several chickens roamed in the old man’s front yard. He had sold several of his pigs to Bambu Kuning, the restaurant that made se’i, the smoked meat that Kupang, the capital of Indonesian province Eastern Nusa Tenggara, was noted for. Several of his chickens had recently died. Rumors had it that they were poisoned by people who wanted to get even with the old man, who was too stingy to share his eggs with his neighbors.

“Hey, Bapa.” Pinto Mauk, an unemployed neighbor who was fond of drinking sofi, an alcoholic beverage made out of fermented lontar, approached him. “Since your chickens have been laying, may I have just one egg for breakfast this morning?”

“Get lost,” the old man snapped. “All you do is get drunk, yet you still expect to eat well.”

Pinto did not say a word, but deep down, he was offended. Staggering, he left the old man’s bebak and headed for David Taka’s lontar orchard. He was going to ask for a piece of sugar disc that Mini, David’s wife, made.

The next day, Hermanus Messakh discovered that more of his chickens had died. Pinto was the main suspect. Pinto listened, bewildered, as the old man accused him.

“Just admit it, you killed my chickens!”

Still groggy from his sofi hangover, Pinto wearily stared at the old man and said, “I didn’t kill your chickens. All I asked for was one egg and you refused to give it to me. Don’t blame me for the death of your chickens. I have no idea what they’ve been eating.”

Hermanus Messakh said nothing more. Perhaps he thought it was pointless to argue with a drunk. He planned to sell some of the remaining healthy chickens at the market the next day and use the money to purchase the ikat cloths at Enci Yulia’s shop at Tode Kisar Beach, near the Old Town of Kupang.

***

“What are you buying those ikats for?” Eben Messakh, Hermanus’s nephew, asked.

“It is better to collect these ikats than to raise chickens. I will sell the ikats on the sidewalk in front of the Yulia Hotel, near the Koenino Market. Many foreigners stay there and will want to buy our traditionally dyed and woven cloth. It is much more profitable than raising chickens.” Hermanus Messakh was still annoyed.

Soon, the old man had gathered twenty pieces of ikat from various districts in Nusa Tenggara Timur. He bought them in the villages of Oesao, Kefa and Soe, where he had traveled in search of weavers skilled in mixing the natural colorings that gave the ikat textiles their antique look. Hermanus said, “This is the best ikat in Soe. The ikats are expensive, as they are made from natural material that comes from the local forests. The colors won’t fade when washed. I will purchase more, so I can make more money.”

***

Within several months, the old man had become infatuated with ikat, especially after a rich Chinese lady from Jakarta purchased all of his supply. Hermanus and the lady established a business relationship, and Hermanus took her to weavers all over Kupang, Oesao, Kefa, Soe, South Central Timor, and even to Belu, located near the border of Timor Leste. Every time he sold out of ikats, Hermanus showed the money to his nephew, with sparkling eyes.

Hermanus expressed his intention to buy even more ikats from South Central Timor, as well as Belu village.

He was so immersed in the ikat business,that he no longer had time to make lontar wine and tend to his chickens and pigs.

Hermanus handed over his old business to his nephew, with an agreement to share the profits in parts of sixty percent for Eben and forty for him.

“I’m fair, aren’t I? You get the bigger share,” Hermanus said, chewing a wad of betel leaves. He liked chewing betel leaves so much that his lips and teeth were stained orange. Hermanus claimed that chewing betel leaves eliminated the necessity to brush his teeth with toothpaste. “I’m not only saving money,” he stated happily, “but chewing betel leaves is healthy, whereas brushing your teeth with toothpaste will cause your teeth to rot.”

Eben Messakh simply nodded. He had been drinking sofi since he was a teenager, and the alcohol had corroded his brain. He could not make it through the day without drinking. Unemployed at thirty and with two children to care for, Eben had to let his wife work as a migrant worker in Malaysia.

In the beginning, Hermanus would reprimand his nephew. “Hey, wipe that stupid look off your face. Go to the Koenino market. Be a parking attendant there and earn some money. Drinking sofi all the time will only dull your brain. How are you going to feed your children? Make sure you read the paper every day. Make sure there’s no announcement about your wife being brought home already dead. The life of a migrant worker is hard. You should be ashamed for taking it easy and only caring about keeping your glass filled with sofi and Mr. Happy’s well-being.”

Eben Messakh grumbled. His left earring glowed in the moonlight; tattoos of a mighty eagle and a fearsome dragon covered his forearms. Whenever he walked down the street wearing a baseball cap with the word “Freedom” embroidered on it, Eben felt like he was the most fashionable person in the city, just like Bruno Mars, who he watched singing on TV.

Eben’s attitude often disgruntled his uncle. “Do you really think you’re a singer?” the old man grumbled. “You think that drinking sofi every day will turn you into the most dashing man in all of Kupang? Go on! Sell these eggs in the market!”

But soon, the story of the ikat took a tragic turn. When Hermanus Messakh visited the weavers, he was surprised to learn that all the ikat was gone.

The Chinese woman from Jakarta had bought them all.

Hermanus gawked in disbelief.

The best ikat, made out of natural ingredients, were all taken to Jakarta, where they would be turned into haute couture dresses by top fashion designers. They then would continue their journey to Paris, Milan, New York, and Hong Kong to be displayed at exclusive fashion exhibitions. If Hermanus could see the price tags on those dresses, he would have fainted right there.

Walking home later, he muttered, “Had I known that this would happen, I would not have taken that lady to those weavers. I really regret that.”

After that, Hermanus no longer wanted to be reminded of his association with the ikat.

When he saw his uncle looking so sad, Eben Messakh, who happened to be sober, said, “Bapa, I’ve told you not to trust those people from Jakarta. They only want to deceive us. Let’s just make sofi. We can sell the liquor to the cafes and coffee shops at Tode Kisar Beach. We’ll be able to make a bigger profit there. Ignore the people when they get drunk like they usually do.”

Hermanus remained quiet.

The next day, Oesao village was in an uproar. Hermanus and his nephew were staggering naked through the village while guzzling a bottle of sofi. They were heavily intoxicated after drinking all day. Staggering, the old man slurred, “That Aci from Jakarta has taken away my fortune. That sister took it all away…”

***

Lolong Anjing di Bulan

Arafat Nur was born in Medan, on 22 December 1974. He has lived in Aceh since his elementary school years. He experienced the Aceh Conflict and his writing reflects several of its incidents. Nur’s work won numerous awards. Lampuki (Serambi, 2009) won the 2010 Dewan Kesenian Jakarta (Jakarta Arts Council) Award and the 2011 Khatulistiwa Literary Award; Burung Terbang di Kelam Malam (Bentang Pustaka, 2014) was translated into English: A Bird Flies in the Dark of NightHis latest novel, Tanah Surga Merah (Gramedia, 2016), won the 2016 Dewan Kesenian Jakarta Award. Nur is a farmer and spends his spare time reading literary works and books about history and philosophy. He can be reached at arafatnur@yahoo.com

Copyright ©2018 by Arafat Nur. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2018 by Maya Denisa Saputra.

 

 

Bab 1

Kehadiran Orang-Orang Pejuang

Suatu petang di bulan Juli 1989, kedai kopi Leman di Tamoun tiba-tiba sesak oleh kerumunan manusia. Terdengar keriuhan orang-orang yang bersorak-sorai. Keriuhan itu tiba-tiba senyap ketika Arkam membuka suara. Suaranya yang lantang menembus keluar kedai itu.

Satu dua lelaki dan perempuan, dengan pakaian kerja mereka yang kotor, masih terus berdatangan menghampiri kedai. Sementara matahari sudah condong ke barat. Bentuknya seperti sebuah lingkaran cahaya yang tersangkut di jajaran pucuk pohon kemiri. Setengah sinarnya tercurah terang ke pasar Tamoun membentuk bayangan panjang pada setiap benda dan juga pada satu dua orang yang sedang berlalu di jalan menuju kedai Leman.

Arkam menunjukkan secarik kain merah bergambar bulan bintang yang dikatakannya bendera. Bendera semacam itu tidak pernah dikibarkan di Alue Rambe. Aku dengar bahwa Panglima Perang Wilayah Pereulak, Ishak Daud, adalah orang pertama yang mengibarkan bendera itu di salah satu SMA di Aceh Timur.

Semua orang senyap terdiam. Mereka menatap penuh perhatian ke wajah Arkam yang keras.

Sambil melangkah hilir-mudik di depan orang-orang, Arkam terus berbicara dengan penuh semangat hingga wajahnya menegang. Tonjolan urat-urat pada lengannya tampak ketika jari-jarinya menggenggam kuat membentuk kepalan tinju. Saat berbicara, berkali-kali dia menyentuh topi pet merahnya. Dia seperti ingin membukanya, tetapi selalu batal.

“Kita sudah lama hidup ditekan, ditindas, dan dilalimi. Kita tidak bisa terus-terusan begini. Selamanya kita akan menjadi budak. Kita adalah orang-orang bermartabat. Nenek moyang kita pejuang hebat. Kita tidak boleh takut. Kita harus berani melawan semua kelaliman ini. Apakah kalian semua berani melawan pemerintahan keji ini?” teriaknya mengacungkan tinju ke udara.

“Berani,” sambut orang-orang penuh semangat.

Gelegar suara yang membahana itu memekakkan kupingku.

Arkam terus saja berbicara. Dia mengulang inti tujuan perjuangan yang dibangkitkan Hasan Tiro tiga belas tahun lalu di kaki gunung di Pidie. Namun, perlawanan-perlawanan kecil itu berhasil dipatahkan serdadu pemerintah. Banyak pengikut Hasan Tiro yang mati di ujung bedil lawan. Sebagian yang tersisa terendus oleh mata-mata, dan akhirnya diringkus, diculik, dan dibunuh oleh tentara. Sementara Hasan Tiro dan beberapa pengikutnya sudah terlebih dulu menyingkir ke luar negeri untuk mencari suaka politik dan dukungan dunia internasional.

Selama masa itu, pejuang terus menghimpun kekuatan di luar negeri. Sebagian mengikuti pelatihan rahasia di Libya dan menyelundupkan senjata ke Aceh.

Mereka adalah anak-anak muda yang yakin mampu melawan pemerintahan Jakarta di bawah pimpinan Soeharto yang telah menyengsarakan banyak rakyat. Tidak saja rakyat Aceh tetapi rakyat Indonesia lainnya juga hidup dalam penindasan dan ketidakadilan. Bagaimana mungkin di negeri yang hijau dengan hasil alamnya yang melimpah—belum lagi minyak dan gas bumi—rakyatnya hidup dalam kemiskinan? Begitu sebagian isi ceramah Arkam.

“Sekarang tibalah saatnya kita bangkit untuk berjuang mengambil apa yang menjadi milik dan hak kita. Kita bisa hidup makmur dan lebih bermartabat dengan mengurus tanah kita sendiri. Hidup pejuang,” seru Arkam dengan wajah padam menegang.

“Hidup pejuang,” sambut orang-orang mengacungkan tinjunya ke udara. “Hidup Aceh! Allahu akbar!”

Arkam adalah adik Ibu. Usianya sekitar tiga puluhan waktu itu. Selama enam tahun dia menghilang ke Malaysia. Kemudian dia hengkang ke Libya dan tinggal di sana selama setahun untuk mengikuti pelatihan keprajuritan. Kini dia kembali dengan tubuh lebih tinggi dan wajah terkesan keras dengan tulang pipi menonjol. Kumisnya tetap tipis. Sepertinya kini dia punya kegemaran memakai topi pet merah.

Arkam dan tujuh temannya sering berkeliaran ke kampung-kampung untuk mencari dukungan penduduk dan untuk mendapatkan pengikut baru. Di antara mereka berdelapan, hanya tiga orang yang memiliki senjata, termasuk Arkam. Dua orang memegang radio genggam dan yang tiga lainnya bertangan hampa.

Mereka berkeliaran di kampung-kampung dalam wilayah kekuasaannya sebagai Panglima Sagoe, jabatan prajurit pejuang tingkat kecamatan.

Alue Rambe, kampungku ini, adalah kampung terpencil di pegunungan Aceh Utara sebelah selatan kota Lhokseumawe. Kampung kami termasuk dalam kekuasaan Arkam.

Jalan utama kampung berupa jalan tanah berkerikil. Ketika dilalui sepeda motor atau truk angkutan barang, debu-debu pun terbang berhamburan. Namun, di musim hujan bagian-bagian tertentu badan jalan dipenuhi genangan air yang membuatnya becek dan sangat licin.

Aku berada di dalam kerumunan orang-orang di luar kedai Leman, membaur dengan lelaki, perempuan, dan anak-anak. Aku menyandarkan dada pada dinding papan terbuka sehingga aku bisa leluasa memandang ke dalam kedai.

Para lelaki duduk pada setiap bangku. Yang tak mendapatkan bangku bersandar pada tiang; beberapa lainnya berjongkok di lantai tanah. Di satu-satunya meja yang lapang dijajarkan sepucuk senjata laras panjang dan sepucuk pistol. Senjata-senjata itu seperti sengaja dipamerkan untuk membangkitkan semangat orang-orang dalam berjuang melawan pemerintahan Jakarta yang sudah berlaku tidak adil terhadap Aceh.

Arkam memungut sepucuk AK-47 dan mengacungkannya ke orang-orang. Dia memastikan pada orang-orang bahwa benda itu berbahan logam, bukan kayu ataupun plastik. Temannya yang berwajah angkuh mengacungkan AK-47 menegakkan, lalu melipatnya. Seorang lagi, menimang-nimang sepucuk pistol Baretta buatan Italia, menggenggamnya, kemudian memutar-mutarkan pistol itu dengan jari telunjuk yang dimasukkan dalam lingkaran pelatuk. Pistol itu tidak berputar dengan baik dan hampir saja jatuh, yang membuat Arkam membelalakkan mata ke arahnya. Pemuda itu membuang muka, berpura-pura tidak tahu dan tidak peduli pada mulut Arkam yang menyeringai.

Aku tahu semua jenis senjata itu karena Arkam menjelaskannya berulang-ulang seraya mengacung-acungkannya ke hadapan orang-orang yang mengitarinya. Sementara seorang pemuda yang bertubuh agak kekar berdiri tegap di sisi meja berjaga-jaga. Para pemuda, yang masih tetap bertahan dan belum beranjak dari kerumunan, tak lepas-lepas memandangi tiga pucuk senjata itu dengan takjub, seolah-olah itu adalah benda paling ajaib di dunia. Benda semacam itu memang belum pernah ada di kampung ini.

Yasin, seorang pemuda yang sejak tadi diam, memandangi dengan saksama senjata-senjata itu tanpa mempedulikan penjelasan-penjelasan Arkam. Tiba-tiba dia menyentuh AK-47 yang baru saja diletakkan di meja.

Seketika itu juga Arkam menepis tangannya.

Yasin sangat terkejut.

“Ini senjata berbahaya. Kau tidak boleh menyentuhnya,” hardik Arkam. Kejadian itu membuat tiga temannya menegakkan badan dan menajamkan mata.

Salah satu temannya yang lebih tegap mendorong Yasin agak jauh dari meja. Beberapa pemuda berwajah bengal lainnya bergeser ke belakang.

Arkam melanjutkan hardikannya, “Kalau kau sudah bergabung dengan kami dan sudah memadai latihan menembaknya baru kau boleh memegangnya. Kaukira ini senjata mainan?”

Sejumlah orang tertawa. Mereka mengangguk-anggukkan kepala pertanda dukungan pada ketegasan Arkam.

Wajah Yasin merona, agaknya dia malu telah melakukan kecerobohan.

Arkam pun sesumbar tentang kehebatannya menembak dari jarak jauh. Latihan keprajuritan yang diajarkan oleh para pejuang lebih hebat dibandingkan latihan serdadu pemerintah yang hanya dibekali senjata bekas perang dunia kedua dengan peluru yang sering macet dan bidikan yang tidak tepat.

Leman, sang pemilik kedai kopi, diam saja. Senyumnya tampak dibuat-buat. Kegembiraannya juga seperti dipaksakan. Lebih setengah penduduk kampung datang. Sebagian dari mereka menyesaki kedai kopi, sebagiannya lagi berada di jalan. Aku yakin mereka datang bukan untuk minum kopi, tetapi semata ingin melihat lebih dekat senjata-senjata api mematikan yang dibawa Arkam dan temannya. Sebelumnya keberadaan senjata-senjata itu hanyalah merupakan bualan orang-orang yang bermimpi tentang kekayaan Aceh. Di negeri ini, tidak ada orang sipil yang berani menyentuh barang semacam itu, apalagi sampai menyimpannya di rumah. Hukuman bagi pemilik senjata tidak sah adalah hukuman mati, atau setidaknya akan mendekam belasan tahun dalam penjara.

Sebagian orang di kedai kopi, terutama mereka yang masih muda-muda, tampak begitu berapi-api. Mereka menyambut gerakan “pengusiran hama dan penyakit” ini dengan begitu yakin. Mereka akan melawan ketidakadilan pemerintah Jakarta. Aku menangkap kecemasan di wajah beberapa orang tua di sana. Kecemasan akan bahaya yang sedang mengintai kampung-kampung.

Perang memang seakan tidak pernah berakhir di tanah ini. Perang sudah ada semenjak kehadiran Portugis, Belanda, dan Jepang. Dan perang berlanjut dengan pemberontakan partai komunis dan Darul Islam. Dan sekarang, perjuangan Aceh yang melemah mulai bertunas kembali. Tidak akan ada kata akhir untuk peperangan di tanah ini.

Sementara itu, teman-teman Arkam dan para pemuda bersorak. Bersemburan cercaan dan makian terhadap tentara pemerintah seakan musuh-musuh mereka itu sudah berada di depan mata. Kegilaan anak-anak muda itu membuat sebagian lainnya kesal. Diam-diam mereka menyingkir dari sana mengikuti perempuan-perempuan yang sedari tadi kulihat sudah menyingkir duluan.

“Percayalah,” teriakan Arkam membuat orang-orang di dalam kedai senyap.

Tangan kanan Leman yang sedang menyaring kopi menggantung di udara sambil memegang gayung kaleng kopi, sedangkan tangan satunya lagi memegang saringan. Dia, seperti yang lainnya, diam mendengarkan.

“Percayalah,” ulang Arkam yang tampak begitu percaya diri, “Kita akan sanggup mengusir serdadu-serdadu itu dari sini. Senjata-senjata yang kita miliki lebih hebat daripada senjata mereka. Senjata yang mereka miliki cuma M-16 yang usang, bekas dipakai tentara Amerika di perang Vietnam. Sering macet. Hahaha….” Tawa Arkam disambut anak muda lainnya dengan sorak-sorai. Sepertinya mereka tidak ingin beranjak dari sana.

Tangan Leman bergetaran memegang gayung kopi saat ledakan tawa terjadi. Wajahnya pucat. Sepertinya dia ingin selekasnya mengusir tamu-tamu yang bersikap kurang beradab itu. Mereka menggelar pertunjukan senjata di kedainya tanpa izin.

Aku bersama belasan anak lain menunggu di luar kedai dengan menyandarkan perut di dinding dan dengan leluasa memandang ke dalam. Aku menjadi begitu kesal karena Leman tidak kunjung menyalakan televisinya. Setiap petang, tepatnya sehabis Asr, aku dan anak-anak akan menonton sebentar, sebelum Leman menghardik dan mengusir kami pulang  untuk mandi dan pergi mengaji. Menonton televisi saat petang adalah kesenangan tiada tara bagi anak-anak. Mungkin juga kesenangan bagi orang dewasa yang bebas menyaksikannya sampai larut malam.

Televisi 14 inci milik Leman adalah satu-satunya televisi yang ada di kampungku. Kedai ini selalu ramai dikunjungi orang-orang selepas Asr, ketika siaran televisi dimulai.

Petang itu, kami betul-betul kecewa dengan pameran senjata Arkam yang menyebabkan kami tidak bisa menonton televisi. Ada dua puluhan pemuda yang terus mengerumuni meja tempat dipamerkannya tiga pucuk senjata api berserta pelurunya itu. Saat itu Arkam seolah seorang pemimpin perjuangan paling hebat dan paling berkuasa di Aceh.

Tiga pemuda yang bertangan hampa itu adalah pengikut baru Arkam yang katanya kelak juga diberi senjata.

Seorang penduduk bertanya kepada pemuda yang tidak bersenjata itu saat Arkam selesai bicara, “Kenapa kau tidak memiliki senjata?”

Dengan rikuh pemuda ramping itu menjawab, “Sedang dikirim dari luar negeri.”

Untuk meyakinkan penduduk, Arkam yang mendengarkan perkataan itu, mengangguk tanpa senyum. Wajah Arkam tampak lelah, tetapi masih menegang. Dia menyesap kopi yang telah dingin, yang sedari tadi tidak sempat diminumnya. Hanya sekali sesap dan dia segera meminta Leman menyingkirkan dan menggantinya dengan kopi baru yang panas.

Leman cepat-cepat menyeduh kopi dan menghidangkannya. Sementara orang-orang masih memandang Arkam. Hanya sebagian kecil saja yang menyingkir meninggalkan kedai Leman.

“Sekarang pulanglah kalian ke rumah masing-masing!” perintah Arkam kepada orang-orang yang ada di dalam dan luar kedai.

***

Blood Moon over Aceh

Maya Denisa Saputra was born on July 30, 1990 in Denpasar, the capital of Bali, and grew up on Indonesia’s “island of the gods.” She left briefly to finish her education, a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance from the UK-based University of Bradford in Singapore.

While holding a position in the accounting department of a family business, she pursues her interests in writing, literary translation, and photography.
She can be reached at: maya.saputra@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Chapter 1

The Presence of Fighters

One evening in July of 1989, Leman’s coffee stall at Tamoun quickly filled with cheering villagers. The crowd suddenly fell quiet when my uncle, Arkam, started speaking. Arkam’s loud voice could be heard outside of Leman’s stall.

Drawn by the unusual activity, men and women, dressed in their dirty work clothes, kept coming to the stall. Meanwhile, the sun moved towards the western horizon. Its shape resembled a circle of light stuck between the buds of the candlenut trees. Half of the light poured onto the Tamoun market, casting long shadows on every object and a few people walking to Leman’s stall.

Arkam showed a piece of red cloth with a star-and-moon motif, which he referred to as a flag. That kind of flag had never been flown in Alue Rambe. I had heard that the Commander of the Pereulak Region, Ishak Daud, was the first person who raised that flag in one of the high schools in East Aceh.

Everyone silently paid attention to Arkam’s stern face.

Pacing in front of the crowd, Arkam continued his speech with fervor. His face tensed, and his arm showed bulging veins when he folded his fingers into a fist. He repeatedly touched his red cap — as if he wanted to take it off, but never did.

“We’ve been living under oppression for too long. We are being repressed and tyrannized. We can’t live like this any longer or we’ll be slaves forever. Where’s our dignity? All of us are dignified people. Our grandfathers were great fighters. We shall not fear. We must be brave and fight against this injustice and tyranny. Are you brave enough to fight against this cruel regime?” he shouted and shook his fist in the air.

“We are,” the crowd answered passionately.

The thundering voices were deafening.

Arkam kept talking. He reiterated the original reason for the uprising Hasan Tiro initiated thirteen years ago at the foot of the Pidie mountain. However, the army had destroyed these initial small attempts to rise against the unjust government. A lot of Hasan Tiro’s followers were shot, while the rest were detected by government agents and finally captured, kidnapped, and killed. Meanwhile, Hasan Tiro and a few of his followers fled overseas, seeking political asylum and international support.

During that period, the rebels were amassing power overseas. Some went underground for training in Libya. Others smuggled weapons to Aceh and buried them in the jungles or farmland.

They were the youths who believed they could rebel against the central government in Jakarta under the regime of Soeharto, who had already brought much suffering to his people. His oppression and injustice not only targeted the people of Aceh, it was also inflicted on many segments of our society.

How could it be possible for a nation rich in natural resources — including crude oil and natural gas — to be forced to live in poverty?

“Now it’s time for us to rise and fight. Take what is rightfully ours. We can live prosperously and in dignity by taking charge of our own land. Long live the fighters,” shouted Arkam. His face was tense and red.

“Long live the fighters,” the crowd answered, shaking their fists in the air. “Long live Aceh. Allahu Akbar. God is The Greatest.”

Arkam was Ibu‘s brother. At that time, my mother’s brother was in his thirties. After he stayed in Malaysia for six years, he joined a military training camp in Libya for another year. Now he was back, looking taller, his raised cheekbones accentuating his taut expression. His mustache was still thin. Apparently, he had developed a habit of wearing a red cap.

Arkam and his seven friends often wandered around the villages to solicit the villagers’ support and recruit new followers. Aside from Arkam, only two of these men were armed.  Two operated a handheld radio, and the other three were empty-handed.

They mostly wandered around the villages that were under Arkam’s command as Panglima Sagoe, a rank of an insurgency fighter in a sub-district. Alue Rambe, my village, was located in a remote mountain area of North Aceh, south of Lhokseumawe. Our village fell under Arkam’s jurisdiction.

The main road in the village was a gravel road. Passing motorcycles and delivery trucks created large dust clouds. However, in the rainy season, some parts of the road were flooded and became very slippery.

I was among those who congregated outside Leman’s stall. Mingling among the men, women, and children, I leaned on an open clapboard so I could see what was going on inside.

Men filled every seat on the benches. Those who did not get a seat leaned against the poles; others squatted on the bare ground. Two long-barreled guns and a revolver lay on the only empty table. It seemed those weapons were purposely put on display to fuel the crowd’s rebellion against the central government in Jakarta that mistreated the people of Aceh.

Arkam picked up an AK-47. Waving the gun at the crowd, he assured them that the weapon was made from metal, not wood or plastic. His friend held up another AK-47 and arrogantly loaded and unloaded it. Someone else held an Italian-made pistol and tried twirling the Beretta by placing his index finger inside the trigger loop. The gun did not rotate properly and almost fell. When Arkam glared at him, the man looked away.

I knew what the different kinds of weapons were because Arkam repeatedly explained each of their functions to the people surrounding him.

All that time, a muscular man stood guard beside the table. The young men among the crowd seemed reluctant to leave. They continued to stare at the weapons as if they were the world’s most magical objects. It was true that such objects had never been seen in this village.

Yasin had been looking silently at the guns. Without paying attention to Arkam’s explanations, he suddenly touched the AK-47 that had just been laid on the table.

Arkam immediately slapped Yasin’s hand, shocking him.

“This is a dangerous weapon. You can’t touch it,” Arkam snapped, alerting his three friends.

One of them pushed Yasin away from the table. Some rowdy youths moved towards the back of the stall.

Arkam continued his scolding. “Do you think this is a toy? Only after you join us and are trained to shoot, then you can hold it.”

Some people laughed and supported Arkam’s firm statement by nodding their heads.

Yasin’s face reddened. He seemed to be ashamed of his carelessness.

Arkam also boasted about his skill in long-range shooting. The rebels’ military training was better than that of the government’s army. Those soldiers were outfitted with used World War II weapons, which often had jammed barrels and an inaccurate sight mechanism.

Leman, the coffee stall owner, was mostly silent while faking a smile. More than half of the villagers had gathered around his coffee stall. Some of them crowded the shop; others loitered around it.

I was certain they did not come to drink coffee, but merely to take a closer look at the deadly firearms that Arkam and his friends had brought. Before this afternoon, the existence of weapons was only mentioned as a boast by people who dreamed about reaping the benefits of Aceh’s rich natural resources. In this country, there was no civilian who dared to touch such a thing, let alone have one at home. The punishment for illegal gun possession was the death penalty, or at least decades behind prison bars.

Some people in the coffee stall, especially the youth, were impassioned and seemed convinced that the resistance movement would be able to fight against the injustices of the central government. I saw a glint of worry on the faces of some older people who were present. They must have been worried about the dangers that currently lurked in the villages.

War never seemed to end in this land. There had been war ever since the arrival of the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch, the Japanese, and then the Communist Party and Darul Islam rebellions, and now the once-weakened Aceh resistance movement was on the rise again.

Meanwhile, Arkam’s friends and the young men in the crowd yelled curses about the government military, as if their enemy stood in front of them. Their frenzy irritated others, causing them to leave the scene and follow the women who had already left Leman’s stall to return home.

“Trust me!” Arkam’s roar silenced the stall.

Leman, who was filtering coffee, was caught holding a coffee can by its handle with one hand, while his other hand held the filter.

“Trust me.” Arkam repeated his words with great confidence. “We’ll be able to chase away those soldiers. Our weapons are far more powerful than theirs. They only use worn-out M16s that belonged to the American soldiers in the Vietnam War. The triggers are often jammed and won’t fire the bullets.” Arkam’s laughter was met by cheers of other passionate youth who didn’t seem to want to leave.

Leman turned pale and his hand holding the coffee can shook when the boisterous laughter broke out. He looked as if he wanted to drive out his rowdy visitors, who displayed guns in his stall without his permission.

Other kids and I were anxiously waiting for Leman to turn on his television. Leaning against the open clapboard, we stood outside the stall while looking inside the room. Every evening, after performing the Asr afternoon prayer, the other kids and I would watch television for a while, before Leman chased us away with shouts ordering us to take a shower and go to the Quran’s recitation class. Watching television in the evening was such a pleasure. It was an unmatched enjoyment for us children, and perhaps even for the adults who were free to watch it until late at night.

Leman’s fourteen-inch television was the only television in my village; hence, his stall was always crowded after the Asr prayer time, when the television broadcast began.

That evening, we were really disappointed. Arkam’s gun show had prevented us from watching television. About twenty young men remained seated around the table where the three firearms and their bullets were laid down. It was as if Arkam were the greatest and most powerful rebel leader in Aceh.

Three of Arkam’s new followers were unarmed. He said they’d be given weapons at a later time.

After Arkam finished talking, a villager asked one of the unarmed men, “Why don’t you carry a gun?”

The slim man answered awkwardly, “It’s on its way from abroad.”

In order to convince the villagers, Arkam, who apparently had overheard the conversation, nodded his head. He seemed tired and looked tense. He sipped the cooled coffee that he hadn’t had a chance to drink earlier. After just one sip, he quickly ordered Leman to take it away and replace it with a fresh, hot cup.

Leman quickly poured the coffee and served it.

Only a few people had left Leman’s stall. Most of them still hung around Arkam, who ordered everyone to go home.

***

Aku Tidak Ingin Tubuh Ranummu

Ouda Teda Ena was born in Sleman on October 17, 1970. He completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the English Education Department at Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta. He earned his doctoral degree in education from Loyola University Chicago in the United States. He is now a faculty member at his alma mater, Sanata Dharma University. In his spare time, he loves to write poems and flash fiction. He has written a novella, Arok Berkaca Dedes: Sebuah Novelet Intrik Politik Berdarah; a poetry collection, Perempuan dalam Almari: Kumpulan Puisi; and a compilation of flash fiction, Hampir Chairil: Kumpulan Kisah Kilat.

Ouda can be reached at ouda.art@gmail.com.

Copyright ©2018 by Ouda Teda Ena. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2018 by Laura Harsoyo.

 

 

  Aku Tak Ingin Tubuh Ranummu

 

Lelaki itu sudah mengawasinya semenjak belia. Mulai dari ia masih kuncup, lalu ketika mekar. Dia seperti terbius baunya yang semerbak segar. Tiap pagi dia mengintip dari jendela sambil menghisap rokok kreteknya. Asap dikepulkan perlahan keluar dari mulutnya bersama baris-baris mantra. Matanya jalang dan nanar, ingin segera memetiknya jika saatnya tiba.

***

Sejak semalam tidurnya telah tak nyenyak. Bantalnya yang hangat, sarung tenunnya yang lembut tak mampu melelapkan tidurnya. Ayam masih berkokok bersahutan sesekali. Langit di timur mulai berwarna biru cerah. Embun di daunan mulai menjatuhkan diri ke tanah. Lelaki itu tak sabar menunggu matahari. Dia kalungkan sarungnya ke leher dan bergegas ke sumur. Ditimbanya seember air, dibasuhnya wajahnya untuk mengusir sisa-sisa kantuk.

Diambilnya keranjang bambu. Tangga bambu ditentengnya. Dia pandangi perdu kopinya, rimbun dan subur, buahnya yang ranum memerah menyembul di ranting-ranting di antara dedaunan yang hijau tua atau menguning. Segera dipasangnya tangga bambu menyeruak ke dalam kerimbunan pokok kopi. Perlahan-lahan dia naiki tangganya, setapak demi setapak. Setiap naik satu langkah, nafasnya menghirup dalam-dalam segar udara pagi yang dipenuhi wangi daun dan buah kopi.

Pada sebuah ranting yang besar dia mendadak berhenti. Sepasang mata hitam coklat sebesar kelereng melotot menatapnya. Tatapan yang penuh kebencian, penuh kemarahan, bercampur sedikit ketakutan. Gigi tajam dan runcing dia pamerkan penuh ancaman.

Lelaki itu terkesiap, darahnya mendidih memanaskan kepala. Dia tahan marahnya dalam kemeretuk giginya.

Mata mereka beradu.

Degup jantung lelaki itu menggetarkan ranting-ranting pohon kopi. Cemburunya memuncak, memompa seluruh darahnya ke kepala. Sejenak hilang akal sehatnya. Didih darah di nadi-nadinya menggetarkan tubuhnya. Hampir saja tangannya yang kokoh menghantam remukan kepala binatang jalang yang mendahuluinya memetiki buah kopinya.

Kesadaran kemanusiaan dan kasihnya kepada alam mengekang gerakan tangannya, yang didorong oleh sebuah naluri kebinatangan. Lalu rasa cintanya menyunggingkan senyum.

“Aku manusia dan kau adalah binatang.” Bisiknya kepada si luwak yang mencuri buah kopinya.

Mata luwak itu masih melotot, giginya masih menyeringai. Wajah marah penuh kebencian. Dia mendesis seakan ingin menerkam leher si lelaki dan membunuhnya. Luwak itu merasa terdesak dan akan melakukan apa saja untuk tetap dapat menikmati ranum merah buah-buah kopi itu.

“Aku dikarunia hati untuk mencinta dan kau hanya dikarunia naluri untuk bernafsu.” Berbisik lagi lelaki itu pada si luwak.

Luwak itu tetap pada marahnya. Matanya semakin melotot, seringainya semakin penuh nafsu membunuh.

“Kau tak paham kawan. Kau hanya tergiur pada kemolekan ranum merah daging buah kopi. Kau tak paham sejatinya kopi.” Suara lelaki itu tetap berbisik.

Ia tak mau mengusik luwak yang marah. Ia tak mau membahayakan diri sendiri.

“Kau hanya suka daging buahnya yang merah ranum manis segar berair. Ambilah kawan… ambilah. Makanlah sepuasmu, aku tak butuh itu.” Lelaki itu tersenyum pada binatang yang marah itu.

“Aku rela menunggu kau membuangnya dari ususmu. Kau hanya mengunyah dagingnya, lalu membiarkannya bercampur kotoran dilorong-lorong ususmu yang menjijikan. Tapi disitulah hatinya ditempa. Ketika kau membuangnya, ketika kau tak telah menikmati daging dari tubuhnya, yang tersisa hanyalah hatinya. Hati semulia mutiara hitam.” Lelaki itu mulai menuruni tangga perlahan. Merelakan buah-buah kopinya dilalap rakus sang luwak.

“Kalau kau paham bahasaku, kuberitahukan padamu, sejatinya kopi ada di bijinya, di hatinya.” Bisiknya pada si luwak sebelum dia meninggalkannya.

“Dan hati sebutir kopi pun harus rela hancur dan diseduh supaya ia mengeluarkan wangi, memberikan rasa sehingga hati seorang manusia tertambat padanya,” guman lelaki itu sambil menimang sebutir kopi di tangannya.

***

Brewed Love

Laura Harsoyo was born in Makassar, South Sulawesi, and grew up in Palembang (South Sumatra) and Surabaya (East Java), where she graduated in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Airlangga University. She loves to read literary works and is interested in writing fiction. During her 21-year career in the hospitality industry, she wrote articles for Chef! - a culinary magazine in Jakarta, as well as translated some articles in organizational publications. She currently works as a freelance translator in fiction and nonfiction writing. Laura translates from Indonesian into English.

Laura can be reached at: harsoyolaura@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 Brewed Love

 

The man had watched her since she was a bud and as she blossomed. He was intoxicated by her fresh fragrance. Every morning, he peeked at her out of the window while smoking his kretek cigarette. The smoke spiraled out of the sides of his mouth as he chanted his mantra. His eyes were wild and filled with an eagerness to pick her when the time came.

***

That night, he had not been able to fall asleep. Neither his warm pillow nor his soft cotton sarong had been able to soothe him. The chickens kept clucking until daylight broke through the eastern sky and dew rolled off the leaves to the ground.

The man had no patience to wait for the sun to rise. He wrapped his sarong around his neck and hurried to the well. He drew a bucket of water and washed his face to drive away his drowsiness.

Carrying a bamboo basket in one hand and a ladder in the other, he went to check on his coffee tree. Clusters of ripening red berries dotted the branches of the tree, lush with dark green foliage and some yellowing leaves.

He quickly poked his ladder into the tree’s canopy, leaned the ladder against the trunk, and then carefully climbed the rungs. With each step, he inhaled the fresh morning air, scented with the aroma of coffee leaves and berries. 

When he reached a big branch, he suddenly stopped.

A pair of dark brown eyes glared at him. The large, marble-size eyes were filled with anger and fear. Threatened, the animal bared a row of sharp, pointed teeth.

The man gasped; blood rushed to his head. He clenched his teeth, restraining his anger.

Their eyes met.

The man’s jealousy made his heart beat so violently that he almost shook the branches of the coffee tree. He seemed to have lost his sensibilities. Fury propelled his hand and he almost struck the head of the wild animal that had beaten him to picking the coffee berries.

But his sense of humanity and love of nature prevailed, and he restrained the movement of his hand.

“I’m human and you’re an animal,” he whispered to the luwak stealing his coffee.

The civet held its ground. It continued to stare at the man with bared teeth. Hissing, the luwak seemed ready to pounce. The cornered luwak would do anything to keep enjoying the red, ripe coffee berries.

“I’m blessed with a heart and the ability to love, while all you have is desire,” the man said softly to the luwak.

The luwak still didn’t move. It glared at the man with a menacing grimace.

“You don’t understand, my friend. You’re just tempted by the beauty of the red, ripe flesh of the coffee berries. You don’t know the essence of coffee.”

The man spoke gently. He did not want to disturb the angry luwak, nor did he want to put himself in danger.

“If the red, ripe, sweet, and juicy berries are all you want, then take them, my friend. Please, help yourself. Eat as many as you want, I don’t need them.” The man smiled at the angry animal.

“I’m willing to wait for you to discard them from your gut. You only chew her flesh, then leave it to break down in your intestinal tract. But that is where the heart is forged. After you have enjoyed the flesh of her body and you discard her, all that remains is her heart. A heart that is as precious as a black pearl.”

The man slowly descended from the ladder. He left the coffee berries for the luwak to feast on.

“If you understood my language,” the man said before leaving, “I’d tell you that the essence of the coffee is in her heart.”

The man rolled a single dark coffee bean in the palm of his hand. “And the heart of a coffee berry, the bean, should be willing to be crushed and brewed in order to release the aroma and taste that captivate the human heart.”

***

Penyusup Tengah Malam

S. Prasetyo Utomo was born in Yogyakarta on January 7, 1961. He earned his doctoral degree from the Linguistics Department at Universitas Negeri Semarang, the state university in Semarang. His stories have been published in the following newspapers and literary magazines: Horison, Kompas, Suara Pembaruan, Republika, Koran Tempo, Media Indonesia, Jawa Pos, Bisnis Indonesia, Nova, Seputar Indonesia, Suara Karya, Noor, and Esquire. He received the Cultural Award from Indonesia’s Department of Culture and Tourism in 2007 for his short story Cermin Jiwa, and the award of Acarya Sastra in 2015 from Badan Pembinaan dan Pengembangan Bahasa, the center of Indonesian language improvement and development. His short story “Sakri Terangkat ke Langit” was included in Smokol (Makan Pagi, 2008), and “Penyusup Larut Malam” in Pada Suatu Hari (Ada Ibu dan Radian, 2009). The story “Pengunyah Sirih” was published in Dodolitdodolitdodolibret (2010). His novels are Tarian Dua Wajah (Pustaka Alvabet, 2016) and Cermin Jiwa (Pustaka Alvabet, 2017).

Prasetyo can be reached at: s.prasetyoutomo@yahoo.co.id

Copyright ©2018 by S. Prasetyo Utomo. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2018 by Indra B. Hurip.

 

Penyusup Tengah Malam

 

Sunyi wajah lelaki tua, lusuh, bersarung dan berpeci. Langkahnya pincang memasuki pelataran rumah Aryo. Lepas asar, dalam gerimis, wajah lelaki tua lusuh itu seperti susut. Menahan kegugupan. Dia menemukan pencariannya pada Aryo — meski mereka belum saling kenal. Matanya juling. Tak tepat membidik wajah Aryo. Aneh, rekah bibirnya kian menakik senyum, “Nah, kaulah yang kucari!” Tangan kanannya terjulur. Menyalami Aryo, erat dan akrab.

Menolak duduk di kursi. Lelaki tua bermata juling itu memilih bersila di lantai. Aryo menduga-duga kenapa lelaki tua itu datang ke rumahnya, begitu rupa rendah hati.

“Belilah ladang saya, Nak,” pinta lelaki tua juling itu.

“Saya tidak berminat beli ladang” tukas Aryo, lunak, lembut, sambil memandangi sisa gerimis tipis yang membasahi peci lelaki tua lusuh itu.

Lelaki tua berpeci itu memohon dengan mata juling yang membersitkan cahaya harapan, sepasang mata yang penuh ketulusan. Tubuh lelaki tua itu kurus berkeriput. Mencari gairah dari luar dirinya. Rupanya Aryolah yang menjadi harapannya.

“Coba pikir lagi, Nak. Barangkali kau berminat. Kujual ladangku dengan harga sangat murah. Mungkin kau punya sejumlah uang yang saya perlukan.” lelaki tua lusuh itu menyebut sejumlah harga.

Aryo tercengang. Alangkah murah.

Wajah lelaki itu menyiratkan permohonan. “Uang ini untuk biaya berobat istri saya”

Tertegun. Aryo surut, merasa diri kerdil. Ditahannya tubuh yang menggigil. Ia tak lagi berani membalas tatapan juling lelaki tua lusuh itu. Liang sunyi sangat legam di dalamnya. “Besok siang. datanglah kembali ke sini. Akan saya bayar lunas ladang itu”

Gugup, lelaki tua berpeci itu menyalami Aryo. Menembus rintik genimis tiada henti membasahi pecinya. Langkahnya terpincang-pincang. Tertatih-tatih menjauh.

***

Menuruni jalan setapak tak jauh dari rumahnya, menjelang senja, Aryo mencapai ladang yang dibelinya dari lelaki tua berpeci. Ladang itu terletak di lembah yang dikitari pegunungan. Berpagar bambu berkeliling, dan didalamnya berdiri surau kayu. Dalam gerimis, surau itu mengekalkan sunyi, tak jauh dari rumah-rumah kampung yang dirobohkan buldoser. Pepohonan bergelimpangan ditebas gergaji mesin. Ladang-ladang diratakan sebagai dataran luas—coklat kemerahan—dengan kupu-kupu senja berpasangan, senyap dan rapuh. Tinggal rumah lelaki tua berpeci, ladang yang dibeli Aryo, dan surau kayu beratus tahun yang masih utuh berdiri.

Terdengar parau azan magrib, dikumandangkan lelaki tua berpeci. Ia sendirian di surau. Ketika mengumandangkan azan, lelaki tua berpeci berdiri dengan kaki kanan mengecil di bawah sarungnya. Tumit kaki kanannya sedikit diangkat, agar ia bisa kokoh berdiri. Menoleh sesaat ia, tatkala mendengar langkah kaki Aryo. Tapi segera tersenyum tulus.

Usai shalat dan berdoa, lelaki tua itu menyalami Aryo. Bertanya, “Kini kau tahu, mengapa kujual ladang ini padamu?”

“Belum sepenuhnya paham.”

“Lihat, seluruh warga kampung ini meninggalkan rumahnya. Tanah dan rumah mereka dijual. Di sini akan didirikan perumahan. Tinggal saya yang rnasih bertahan. Ladang ini kujual padamu, karena berdiri surau leluhur kami. Aku percaya, kau akan mempertahankannya.”

“Bagaimana Bapak bisa mengenaliku?”

“Anakmu, gadis kecil, Salsa, suka bermain di ladangku. Bersama teman-temannya, dia sering menungguiku membakar ketela atau jagung di ladang dan memakannya panas-panas. Aku pernah mengantarkannya pulang, ketika hujan, dan bersua denganmu.”

“Lalu, kenapa Bapak serahkan ladang ini padaku?”

Lelaki tua itu tersenyum, seperti ingin menertawakan Aryo. Dari senyumnya, lelaki tua itu menampakkan kepasrahan yang tenang.

“Aku ingin surau ini kaupertahankan. Jangun dijual.” Lelaki itu terdiam. Memandang tajam Aryo. “Ini surau leluhur.”

***

Seorang lelaki setengah baya berdasi mendatangi rumah Aryo menjelang senja. Sopan. Menunggu lama di ruang tamu. Menunggu Aryo yang baru saja pulang dari luar kota. Ia menampakkan kesegaran senyum. Saat bersua Aryo, lelaki asing itu menampakkan keakraban.“Kami datang untuk menawar ladang di tengah perumahan yang sedang kami bangun,” kata lelaki setengah baya berdasi itu.

“Saya tak berniat menjualnya pada siapa pun. Ada surau yang mesti kupertahankan.”

“Surau itu sudah ditinggalkan. Semua orang di kampung itu menjual tanahnya.”

“Termasuk rumah lelaki tua itu?”

“Dia telah menjual lahan dan rumahnya. Pindah di desa lain,” kata tamu setengah baya berdasi itu, penuh kemenangan. “Tinggal lahan Bapak yang belum dijual. Kami berani menawar dengan harga tinggi. Mungkin ini harga tertinggi yang pernah kami tawarkan.”

Tercengang Aryo mendengar harga sangat tinggi yang ditawarkan lelaki setengah baya berdasi itu. Baru beberapa saat dia beli ladang dari lelaki tua pincang itu, kini harganya sudah melambung berlipat kali. Dia merasa berdosa, telah membeli tanah dengan harga yang sangat murah. Kini dia tak bisa mempertahankan surau dan lahan itu.

***

Usai shalat magrib. Kiai Najib memimpin doa di surau yang sepi, hampir-hampir tanpa pengunjung. Hanya empat orang yang mengikuti shalat magrib di surau itu. Kiai Najib yang mulai rapuh tubuhnya, menyalami tiga orang yang mengikuti doanya.

Aryo memahami kecemasan dalam cahaya mata kiai.

“Jangan pulang dulu,” kata Kiai Najib, “ada hal yang perlu kubicarakan. Surau ini sudah sangat tua. Perlu dibangun kembali surau yang lebih baik, agar orang-orang mau shalat berjamaah ke sini.”

“Kiai jangan cemas. Aku akan membangun surau ini dengan uang penjualan ladangku.”

Kiai Najib terbelalak. Aryo mengangguk. Meyakinkan kiai.

***

Meradang pandangan lelaki tua pincang itu. Tajam. Kemarahan membakar sepasang mata juling itu. Kemurkaan memperkeruh wajahnya.

Aryo tak menyangka, lelaki tua juling itu datang ke rumahnya sore hari.

Aryo tersenyum. Terus tersenyum. Dia tak ingin mengimbangi perangai murka lelaki tua bermata juling. Dia seperti sudah menebak akan ketakrelaan itu.

“Kuserahkan ladang itu bukan untuk kaujual pada pengembang perumahan!” kata lelaki tua bermata juling.

“Aku tak bisa mempertahankan lahan itu. Ketika seluruh kampung menjual rumah, tak ada lagi yang menghalangi pengembang perumahan untuk membeli lahan itu,” tukas Aryo. “Saya memang sudah menjual ladang itu, tapi semua uang yang kuterima, kuserahkan untuk membangun surau di permukiman ini.”

Sepasang mata lelaki juling itu meredup. Dada tipis yang menahan sesak napas itu menguncup. Kedua bahunya jatuh. Wajahnva luruh. Ia menyalami Aryo. Berpamitan.

Aryo mengikutinya. Langkah mereka terhenti di tanah lapang yang dibangun surau baru. Lama lelaki tua juling itu memandanginya. Tersenyum. Mengangguk-angguk. Tubuhnya kian rapuh tertatih-tatih menjauh.

Aryo lupa bertanya, di mana rumah lelaki tua juling itu kini.

***

Gerimis tengah malam memperpekat surau kecil yang baru selesai dibangun. Gelap seluruh ruangan tatkala seorang lelaki pincang menyusup ke pelataran surau. Mengucurkan air wudu dari keran. Desis air memancar lebih keras dari rintik gerimis di dedaunan jambu. Lelaki tua itu memasuki surau. Tahajud. Duduk bersila. Zikir. Lama. Hingga menjelang dini hari lelaki tua pincang itu masih berzikir.

Kiai Najib yang memasuki surau untuk sembahyang Subuh terperanjat. Dalam gelap surau, dia melihat lelaki asing di suraunya.“Apa yang kaulakukan di sini?” tegur Kiai Najib, keras, tajam.

Lelaki pincang tua itu terdiam. Tenggelam dalam zikirnya.

Kecurigaan Kiai Najib pada lelaki asing itu klan memuncak. Tak pernah sebelumnya, dalam suraunya datang seseorang lewat tengah malam, shalat tahajud dan berzikir.“Kau tak bisa semaumu saja di surau ini!”

Masih duduk bersila, zikir, lelaki tua lusuh berpeci itu tak menyahut hardikan Kiai Najib. Tersenyum. Tenang sekali. Menyalami kiai. Mencium tangannya. Terpincang-pincang meninggalkan surau. Menghambur dalam rintik gerimis. Tak menoleh.

***

Usai shalat subuh. Kiai Najib mendekati Aryo, dan membisik. “Semalam aku menemukan seorang lelaki degil berzikir di surau ini. Aku tak mengenalnya. Kuusir dia. Jalannya terpincang-pincang.”

“Atas nama dialah kusumbang seluruh uang penjualan ladang untuk mendirikan surau kita”

“Oh, aku telah keliru mengusir orang,” tukas Kiai Najib masygul.

***

Tak lagi kelihatan Kiai Najib menjadi imam shalat di surau. Kiai terbaring sakit.

Aryo tak pernah menduga, kiai akan jatuh sakit, justru ketika pengunjung surau tak sesunyi dulu lagi. Menjenguk kiai di kamarnya, Aryo menemui lelaki tua itu terbaring lunglai, namun suaranya jernih saat berpesan, “Sampaikan maafku pada lelaki tua berpeci itu. Aku berdosa telah berkata kasar padanya.”

“Akan saya sampaikan permintaan maaf Kiai,” balas Aryo.

***

Tiap tengah malam lelaki tua pincang itu terlihat memasuki surau dengan wajah yang jernih, pandangan mata juling yang teduh. Berzikir larut dalam sunyi. Tapi Aryo, yang ingin sekali bersua dengannya, tak pernah mendapat kesempatan itu.

***

The Midnight Intruder

Indra Blanquita Hurip was born in Mexico City, where her father was stationed as a diplomat. She grew up in Islamabad and Karachi, where she attended schools that used English as a base language. An avid reader since childhood, Indra loves everything connected with language. Before she left Jakarta for 16 years to accompany her husband on assignments to Batam, Lhokseumawe, and Dumai, she studied French for a few years in college and worked for a French Airline in Jakarta. After her husband retired and Indra finished raising her family, she became a sworn translator and now works as a freelance translator and interpreter.

She can be reached at: indabhurip@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Midnight Intruder

 

The gaunt old man wore a sarong and a peci, headdress. He entered Aryo’s front yard in the late afternoon rain, limping. It was just past afternoon prayer, and the old man seemed anxious, as if he were trying to hide his nervousness. Even though they were not acquainted with each other, he expected Aryo to have the solution to his problem. The man was cross-eyed and could not focus on Aryo’s face. He extended his right hand, and they shook hands in a warm and friendly manner.

The old man smiled, and said, “It is you who I’ve been looking for.” Refusing to sit in a chair, the old man chose to sit cross-legged on the floor.

Aryo tried to guess why the man had come to his house, and why he had such a humble demeanor.

“Please buy my land, son,” the cross-eyed old man pleaded.

“I have no intention to buy any land,” Aryo replied gently, looking at the raindrops still visible on the old man’s shabby peci.

The old man had placed his hope in Aryo, seeking strength from outside himself. His eyes filled with emotion, he pleaded sincerely.

“Please reconsider, my son. You might be interested. I will sell you my land at a very cheap price. You have the money I need.” The frail old man mentioned a sum.

Aryo was startled by how cheap it was.

“The money is to pay for my wife’s medical expenses,” the old man explained.

Aryo was taken aback, feeling very small indeed. Trying to control his trembling body, he did not dare return the old man’s look. The man’s eyes were a dark pool of bleakness.

“Come back at noon, tomorrow,” Aryo said. “I will pay you the price for your plot in full.”

The old man shook Aryo’s hand, nervously. He then walked away. The drizzle continued to wet his peci as he limped away from the house.

***

As dusk approached, Aryo walked down a dirt path not far from his home and arrived at the plot of land he had purchased from the old man wearing the peci. The lot was located in a valley surrounded by hills. It was enclosed by a bamboo fence, and on it stood a wooden surau, a prayer hut.

Located not far from a row of village houses that had been leveled by bulldozers, the surau, standing in the light rain, seemed to perpetuate silence. The terrain there had been leveled and was now a vast expanse of brownish-red earth, where trunks of trees, felled by chainsaws, lay in disarray, and night moths swarmed the desolate and fragile land. All that was left standing on the parcel was the old man’s house and the centuries-old wooden surau that Aryo had bought.

The old man’s raspy voice called out the azan, the call to evening prayer. He was alone in the surau. Under his sarong, he raised the heel of his right foot and shifted his weight onto the toes of his clubfoot for balance.

He turned when he heard footsteps and gave Aryo a sincere smile.

After the prayer, the old man shook Aryo’s hand and asked, “Now do you know why I sold you this land?”

“No, not really.”

“Look around. All the villagers have left their homes. They sold their land and houses. I’m the only one left. They are going to build a housing complex here. I sold the land to you, because this surau was built by my ancestors. I know that you will preserve it.”

“How do you know me?”

“Your daughter, the little girl, Salsa, likes to play in my field. She and her friends often wait for me to roast some yam or corn and eat them hot. I once took her to your home when it was raining and saw you.”

“So why are you handing this land over to me?”

The old man smiled as if he were laughing at Aryo. There was a calm acceptance in his smile. “I want you to preserve this surau. Don’t sell it,” he said quietly and gave Aryo a penetrating look. “This is the surau of my ancestors.”

***

At dusk-aged, well-dressed man came to Aryo’s house. He waited in the living room for Aryo to come home. When Aryo arrived, the stranger greeted him politely and approached him in a friendly manner. He said, “I came with an offer to buy the field in the center of the housing complex we are building.”

“I have no intention of selling it to anyone. There’s a surau there that I want to preserve.”

“That prayer hut has been abandoned. All the villagers have sold their land.”

“Did the old man do the same?”

“He has sold his land and house and moved to another village.” The middle-aged guest straightened his tie, smugly. “Yours is the only parcel that hasn’t been sold. We’re willing to offer a high price for it. This may be the highest price we’ve ever offered.”

Aryo was astounded at the very high price the well-dressed man was offering. He had just bought the land from the old man and now the price had multiplied many times. He felt guilty—the land had been so cheap. And now, he could no longer hold on to it.

***

Evening prayer was over. Kiai Najib had led the prayer in his almost-deserted surau. There were only four people who had joined Kiai Najib for the evening prayers. Kiai Najib, whose body was beginning to weaken, shook hands with three of the people who had participated in his prayers.

Aryo understood the anxiety in the kiai’s eyes.

“Don’t go home yet,” Kiai Najib said. “There’s something I need to talk to you about. This is a very old surau. We need to build a better one so people will want to worship here.”

“Kiai, don’t worry. I will build a better one with the money I received from selling my new land.”

Kiai Najib’s eyes widened.

Aryo nodded to convince the kiai.

***

The old man’s eyes gleamed with anger. Intense anger. Fury emanated from his crossed eyes.

Aryo had not expected the old man to come to his house that afternoon.

Aryo forced a smile. He had no desire to fight the anger of the cross-eyed old man. He was not surprised by the man’s discontent.

“I didn’t give you the land so you could sell it to the developer!” said the cross-eyed old man.

“I could not hold on to it after all the villagers had sold their homes,” responded Aryo. “Yes, I have sold the land, but all the money I received from the sale, I donated to build a surau in this housing complex.”

The fire in the old man’s eyes was extinguished. His thin chest no longer heaved. His shoulders dropped, his face fell. He shook Aryo’s hand and took his leave.

Aryo followed him as he walked away. They halted at the parcel where the new surau was being built.

The cross-eyed old man looked at the construction site for a long time. Smiling, he kept nodding his head. Finally, the frail old man limped away.

Aryo had forgotten to ask where the old crossed-eyed man now lived.

***

Midnight blanketed the newly-constructed surau in darkness. All the rooms were pitch black when a man limped to the front of the surau. He turned on the tap for the ablution water. The water flowed more strongly than the drizzle falling on the guava leaves. Sitting cross-legged, he performed the ritual of midnight prayer. He recited zikr, the short prayers, for a very long time. He was still at it at the break of dawn.

When Kiai Najib entered the dark surau to perform the ritual of his morning prayer, he was shocked to find a stranger. “What are you doing here?” he asked in a sharp tone of voice.

The old man remained quietly engrossed in his zikr.

The kiai’s suspicion of the stranger mounted. No one had ever come into the surau after midnight to worship. “You can’t just do as you please in this surau!”

Remaining seated, cross-legged, the old man did not respond to the kiai’s reprimand; he simply continued his zikr. When he rose, he took the kiai’s hand, smiling. He kissed it, then very calmly limped out of the surau and disappeared into the drizzle. He never looked back.

 After the dawn prayer, Kiai Najib approached Aryo and whispered, “Earlier this morning, I found a stubborn man praying in this surau. Since I didn’t know him, I sent him away. He walked with a limp.”

“It was in his name that I donated all the money from the sale of my land to build our surau!” Aryo exclaimed.

“Oh, no. I sent away the wrong person,” Kiai Najib said with remorse.

***

After that, Kiai Najib no longer officiated the prayers in the surau. He was laid up with an illness.

Aryo never imagined that the kiai would fall ill, just when there were more people coming to the previously quiet surau. When Aryo went to visit Kiai Najib in his room, he found the priest lying exhausted on his bed. Yet his voice was clear, “Please convey my apology to that old man,” he said. “I sinned by speaking so roughly to him.”

“I will convey your apology to him, Kiai,” replied Aryo.

***

Every midnight, the limping old man entered the surau with an expression of peace on his face and a serene look in his crossed eyes. Immersed in the silence of his solitude he recited his zikr.

But Aryo, who very much wanted to meet him, never saw him.

***

Pohon Pu Tao Tua

Teguh Afandi likes to write short stories, essays, and book reviews. He won The Golden PEN Award from the Strategic Human Resource Program, took first place in the Femina Short Story Competition, and placed third at the Green Pen Award issued by the Indonesian Department of Forestry. Teguh’s short stories have been published by several newspapers, including Harian Pikiran Rakyat, Tribun Jabar, and Femina, a women magazine. His book reviews have been featured in Koran Tempo, Jawa Pos, and Jurnal Ruang, an online publication.

Teguh is employed as an editor at a Jakarta-based publishing house.

He can be reached at teguhafandi@gmail.com.

Copyright ©2018 by Teguh Afandi. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2018 by Laura Harsoyo.

 

Pohon Pu Tao Tua

 

Di halaman rumah Boneo, sebatang pohon pu tao yang lebih sering disebut pohon jamblang, tampak payah menopang tubuhnya yang semakin tua. Tinggi batangnya tak melebihi genting rumah. Cecabangan menyeruak membuat tajuk mendompol, tetapi kering karena banyak daun rebah ke tanah oleh kelelahan. Pohon pu tao itu berdiri sama tua dengan rumah si empunya. Hanya, rumah yang dulu berlantai tegel hitam dan berdinding papan kayu nangka kini sudah berubah dengan lantai keramik warna metalik dan dinding bata dan jendela kaca.

Sudah lama pula pohon pu tao itu tak pernah berbuah. Memang, ketika musim berbuah datang, akan tumbuh bunga dan bakal buah yang merimbuni tajuk. Namun, pohon pu tao terlalu lemah untuk mempertahankan sebiji buah pun. Walau pu tao berbuah lebat sekalipun, tidak akan ada yang berniat memakannya. Buah dari pohon tua itu sudah disingkirkan dari meja makan. Buahnya masam tidak menimbulkan minat.

Meski pohon pu tao itu sudah sedemikian tua, Boneo belum berniat menebangnya. Dia masih takut akan nasihat ibunya.

Kata Harmunik, jangan sampai ditebang pohon pu tao itu sebelum Boneo menikah dan punya keluarga baru. Bagaimanapun, pohon itu kenangan hidup atas almarhum ayah dan hari kelahiran Boneo.

Ayahnya menanam pohon pu tao ketika tahu anak pertamanya adalah lelaki. Anak lelaki kelak membawa tanggung jawab untuk mikul dhuwur mendhem jero. Mengangkat derajat orangtuanya dan mewarisi nama keluarga.

Harmunik terus marah-marah. Akhir-akhir ini, banyak hal kecil yang mengusik kemarahan Harmunik. Seolah-olah segala sesuatunya tidak berada di tempat semestinya dan membangkitkan kekesalan. Dedaunan pu tao yang luruh karena angin membuatnya mengomel. Suara anak-anak yang riuh sepulang sekolah membuatnya gerah. Semua dirasakannya salah. Penyebab utamanya ialah Boneo yang belum juga menikah. Seperti pohon yang masuk musimnya, tapi enggan menumbuhkan buah.

“Kamu ini kenapa, Boneo? Pekerjaan sudah mapan, harta juga sudah cukup, tapi masih belum juga mau menikah,” Harmunik berbicara dengan nada yang cukup tinggi. Anak satu-satunya itu seperti menutup telinga dari semua omongan Harmunik dan para tetangga.

“Belum ada yang cocok,” Boneo menjawab santai. “Meski menikah adalah hukum alam, tidak mungkin bila dipaksakan.”

Kesendirian Boneo sempat menimbulkan desas-desus kurang baik, bahwa dia adalah keturunan Luth yang ditenggelamkan hujan batu karena suka sesama jenis. Bagaimana mungkin seorang lelaki bereperawakan kekar, wajah tak terlalu buruk, pendidikan tinggi (yang membawanya ke kedudukan yang baik di kantor), tapi terus melajang hingga umur kepala empat. Pastilah ada sesuatu di benak Boneo yang tidak beres.

Akan tetapi, desas-desus itu terbantahkan ketika suatu kali Boneo pulang bersama seorang wanita berpipi kuning mentega. Para tetangga –yang selalu tidak sabar bila melihat berita baru– tersenyum bangga.

Perjaka mapan yang tidak lekas kawin penanda dua hal, sakit jiwa atau tenggelam dalam kemaksiatan. Nyatanya hubungan dengan wanita berpipi mentega itu tak lebih dari selembar almanak bulanan. Boneo kembali berjalan sendirian sambil mengulum senyum tanpa penyesalan.

“Ayahmu pasti menangis di kuburnya, Boneo!”

“Mengapa?”

“Keturunannya putus di kamu,” Harmunik terhenti sampai di situ. “Percuma ayahnya menanam pohon pu tao ini, penanda kebusukanmu.” Ada keputusasaan dalam nada bicara Harmonik.

“Apa tidak menikah itu tanda busuk, Bu?”

“Apa yang hendak kamu cari setelah semuanya kamu dapatkan? Pendidikan, pekerjaan? Apa tidak hendak kamu mencari pasangan?” Pertanyaan Boneo dijawab dengan pertanyaan kembali.

“Belum ada yang cocok,” selalu itu yang dikatakan Boneo sebagai alasan penutup percakapan.

Seolah aneka alasan lain akan dibantah Harmunik, kecuali yang satu ini.

Kerutan yang telah berdiam di wajah Boneo semakin dalam ketika dia tersenyum dan melaju meninggalkan Harmunik. Air mata membasahi pipi Harmunik. Dia meraung seperti koak sepasang gagak yang mewartakan kematian bagi keturunan Boneo.

***

Harmunik mulai sering melamun. Mata sayu menatap dahan putau yang semakin sepuh. Kulit kayu mengelupas dierami sarang semut. Beberapa klarapsejenis kadal yang mampu terbang, beranak-pinak di rongga pokok pu tao. Rasanya, ada bagian di hatinya yang mulai keropos. Saban hari, sindiran dan gunjingan tetangga seperti jarum kasur yang dilesatkan tepat ke dada Harmunik.

“Silsilah keluarga seperti pohon semakin ke tua semakin rimbun. Banyak keturunan,” kata suami Harmunik ketika menanam pu tao tepat pada hari menanam ari-ari Boneo. Pohon pu tao adalah tanda keberlanjutan keturunan. Selama keturunannya masih hidup, pu tao harus tetap dijaga. Sebaliknya, selama pu tao masih berdiri tegak, selama itu pula keturunannya harus dilanjutkan.

Darah yang tumpah di dipan saat melahirkan Boneo tidak boleh sekejap menguap. Terlebih, dulu, pernikahan Harmunik ditentang semua orang. Bagaimana mungkin, Harmunik yang sekadar putri penjual serabi kuah minggah bale dengan menikahi lelaki bergaris biru di pembuluh nadinya. Meski tidak beroleh restu keluarga mertua, Harmunik menikah dengan dampak tak diperkenankan menggunakan nama keluarga. Sudah dilepas menjadi sebatang pohon baru yang tidak ada kaitannya dengan dahan induk.

“Makanya aku pilih pu tao,” Harmunik mengingat perkataan suaminya. “Pu tao tidak berharga, tapi selalu ada buah yang memaniskan lidah.”

***

Semakin lama, pohon pu tao semakin tidak menunjukkan daya. Sebagaimana Harmunik yang tak kuasa menahan kuasa tua. Angin kencang mematahkan beberapa dahan. Dedaunan rontok ke tanah. Halaman rumah Harmunik dipenuhi rerontokan daun dan cabang-cabang pu tao yang saling silang. Hingga selesai masa duha, Harmunik tak berniat membersihkannya. Dia hanya menunggu kepulangan Boneo dari perjalanan dinas luar kota. Harmunik memendam gejolak perasaan yang beriak laiknya air di buluh yang digoyang lindu.

“Bu, kutebang saja ya pohon pu tao itu?” tanya Boneo sore itu, selepas perjalanan dinas.

Harmunik masih diam.

“Bu, Boneo janji, tahun depan akan menikah. Hanya, Boneo belum menemukan calon yang sesuai.”

“Apa saja, terserah kamu,” Harmunik tidak berselera menjawab.

“Sekarang, Boneo mau menebang pohon pu tao tua itu,” Boneo gegas berdiri.

Dia kemudian memanggul kapak lalu mendekati pokok pu tao. Dengan beberapa tebas saja, pohon pu tao sudah rebah ke tanah. Dengan kapak juga, Boneo merampasi dahan-dahan lalu memotong-motongnya menjadi beberapa bagian dengan ukuran sepadan. Dia menumpuk potongan dahan itu di tepian teras. Bisa dijadikan kayu bakar atau arang untuk membakar jagung, pikirnya. Boneo mengelap peluh di dahi dan bahu. Lalu, dia masuk ke dalam rumah, ingin mendinginkan suhu badan.

Harmunik masih terdiam di kursi. Sebingkai foto pernikahannya tergeletak di pangkuan. Matanya terpejam. Beberapa jenak sebelumnya, ketika pertama kali terdengar suara berdebam, saat pokok pu tao tua membentur tanah pekarangan, Harmunik menyebut-nyebut nama Allah, mewiridkannya dengan suara begitu lemah.

Cahaya senja menerobos lewat kisi-kisi jendela, membentuk pola di kulit Harmunik. Pohon pu tao yang biasa menghalau cahaya kini sudah tiada.

“Bu, sekarang rumah kita lebih cerah. Tidak ada penghalang sinar matahari lagi.” sambil meraih segelas air dingin, Boneo melanjutkan, “Bu, kemarin Boneo bertemu dengan Amhar, kawan kuliah dulu, yang sama-sama belum punya pasangan. Besok, Boneo kenalkan sama ibu.” Senyum Boneo mengembang.

“Bu, kalau tidur di kamar,” kata Boneo. Dia mendekati tubuh Harmunik yang sudah lemas.

Pohon pu tao itu sudah ditebang. Harmunik tak lagi merisaukannya.

***

Old Pu Tao Tree

Laura Harsoyo was born in Makassar, South Sulawesi, and grew up in Palembang (South Sumatra) and Surabaya (East Java), where she graduated in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Airlangga University. She loves to read literary works and is interested in writing fiction. During her 21-year career in the hospitality industry, she wrote articles for Chef!, a culinary magazine in Jakarta, as well as translated some articles in organizational publications. She currently works as a freelance translator in fiction and nonfiction writing. Laura translates from Indonesian into English.

Laura can be reached at: harsoyolaura@gmail.com.

 

 

 

The Old Pu Tao Tree

 

In Boneo’s front yard, a pu tao tree—better known as a jamblang or Java plum tree—seemed to have trouble holding up its aging frame. The height of the trunk did not break the roofline of the house. Its branches created a thick canopy, but the foliage was dry; many leaves had fallen to the ground.

The pu tao tree was as old as its owner’s house. The house had originally been built with black tile flooring and walls made of jackfruit wood boards, but now had a ceramic tile floor in a metallic color, brick walls, and glass windows.

It had been a long time since the pu tao tree had borne any fruit. After the tree flowered, young fruits would fill the leafy canopy. However, the pu tao tree was too weak to mature even a single fruit. And even if the tree had borne fruits, no one would be interested in eating them. The fruit of the pu tao tree was no longer served at the table; its sourness made it undesirable.

Even though the pu tao tree was old, Boneo had no intention of cutting it down. He still respected his mother’s advice.

Harmunik had said not to cut the pu tao tree down before Boneo married and had his own family. After all, the tree was a living memory of his late father, as well as of Boneo’s birth.

His father had planted the pu tao tree when he found out that his firstborn was a boy. A son would carry the responsibility of upholding his parents’ reputation while covering up their shortcomings. He would raise his parents’ stature and inherit the family’s royal surname.

Lately, many little things incited Harmunik’s anger. It was as if everything was not where it should be, and that provoked her resentment. The pu tao leaves that the wind had blown to the ground bothered her. The loud voices of children returning from school annoyed her. Everything felt wrong. The main cause was Boneo, who had no plans to marry. He was like a mature tree that was reluctant to bear fruit.

“What’s wrong with you, Boneo? You have a steady job, you have enough money, and still you don’t want to marry.” Harmunik spoke in an agitated voice. It seemed her only child had no ears for her words or the neighbors’ gossip.

“I haven’t found the right one yet,” Boneo answered casually. “Even though marriage is a law of nature, it’s impossible to enforce.”

Boneo’s extended bachelorhood had provoked an unfavorable rumor that he was like the people in the story of Lot, who were struck by a meteor shower for being attracted to the same sex. How was it possible that an athletic, handsome man, with a good education (which had landed him a good position in his office), stayed single until he was in his forties? Something must have gone wrong in Boneo’s mind.

The rumor became disputable, however, when Boneo came home with a woman who had a smooth, creamy complexion. The neighbors—who were always eager to check out good news—smiled proudly.

If a well-established bachelor didn’t marry, it could only point to two facts: either he was mentally ill or steeped in immorality. It turned out that Boneo’s relationship with the fair-skinned woman did not last longer than a month. After that, Boneo walked alone again, smiling and without regrets.

“Your father must be crying in his grave, Boneo.”

“Why?”

“His lineage will end with you.” Harmunik stopped. “It’s pointless that your father planted this pu tao tree; now it’s a sign of your corruptness.” There was despair in her voice.

“Is being single a sign of corruptness, Mom?”

“What are you looking for, after all that you’ve acquired? Education? More money? Don’t you want to find a partner?” Harmunik answered Boneo’s question with questions.

“I haven’t found the right one yet,” Boneo said to end the conversation.

Harmunik disputed all other reasons except for this one.

Boneo’s smile deepened the wrinkles around his eyes; he started to leave.

Tears ran down Harmunik’s cheeks. Her howling sounded like a pair of crows proclaiming the demise of Boneo’s descendants.

***

Harmunik began to daydream frequently. She often rested her glazed eyes on the old pu tao tree. Ants had nested in the bark, and klarap— flying lizards—had bred in the tree’s hollow. She felt that a part of her heart had started to become hollow. The neighbors’ daily innuendos and gossip were large needles that pierced into her chest.

“A family is like a tree. The older it gets, the denser its foliage becomes. More descendants,” Harmunik’s husband had said when planting the pu tao on the day Boneo’s placenta was buried. The pu tao tree was a symbol of the continuity of the family’s lineage. As long as the descendants were still alive, the pu tao tree must be kept. Conversely, as long as the pu tao tree was still standing, the procreation must continue.

The blood that had been spilled while giving birth to Boneo could not be removed. From the onset, Harmunik’s marriage was opposed by everyone. Harmunik, daughter of a serabi kuah vendor—a Javanese rice pancake vendor—was fortunate to marry a man with royal bloodlines. Harmunik’s marriage went forward without her in-laws’ blessings, and, as a result, she was not allowed to use the family’s royal surname. She was an offshoot that had been deemed incompatible with the parent tree.

“That’s why I chose the pu tao,” Harmunik remembered her husband saying. “The pu tao might be worthless, but it is a prolific producer and will always provide a snack.”

***

Just like Harmunik, who couldn’t hold back the aging process, the pu tao tree was getting older and losing its vigor. A strong wind broke some of its branches, and Harmunik’s yard was filled with broken, tangled branches and rotting leaves. Even though it was past the Duha praying time—around nine in the morning—Harmunik had no intention of cleaning up. She was waiting for Boneo to return from an out-of-town business trip. Harmunik was filled with turmoil; she felt as if she was pounding water in a mortar. After he returned from his business trip that afternoon, Boneo asked, “Mom, should I just cut down the pu tao tree?”

Harmunik remained silent.

“Mom, I promise I will get married next year. It’s just that I haven’t found the right one yet.”

“I don’t care; it’s up to you.” Harmunik did not feel like responding.

“All right, then I’ll cut down that old pu tao tree.” Boneo sprung to his feet and went to fetch an ax. With a few strikes, he felled the pu tao. Boneo stripped the branches and cut them into pieces of equal size. He piled the wood on the edge of the porch. It could be used as firewood or charcoal to roast corn. Boneo wiped the sweat off his forehead and shoulders, then went inside to cool off.

Harmunik was still sitting silently in her chair. Her wedding photo lay on her lap. Her eyes were closed. A few moments earlier, when she heard the thud that the old tree made as it hit the ground, Harmunik had called the name of Allah repeatedly, in a weak voice.

The light of dusk broke through the window lattice and formed a pattern on Harmunik’s skin. The pu tao tree that used to shade the room was gone now.

“Mom, our house is brighter now. Nothing is blocking the sunlight.” Reaching for a glass of cold water, Boneo continued, “Mom, yesterday I met with Amhar, a college friend, who’s also still single.” Boneo’s smile widened. “Tomorrow, I will introduce Amhar to you,” he said. “Mom, you better take a nap in the bedroom.” Boneo approached Harmunik’s limp body.

The pu tao tree had been cut down, and Harmunik no longer worried about him.

***

The Shawl With White Embroidery

Credit for The Shawl With White Embroidery goes to seven participants of the 2017 translation workshop held by the English for Creative Industry (ECI) Program of Petra University in Surabaya, Indonesia, and Dalang Publishing. This core group of future translators, with Gaby Tiara Utomo acting as their coordinator, brought the workshop’s first draft of The Shawl With White Embroidery to this published version. Unfortunately, the original version of the work is no longer available.

The workshop committee, with Stefanny Irawan at the helm, carefully chose the participants of the workshop from ECI students in the classes of 2014 and 2015.

Stefanny Irawan, who teaches creative writing and theater classes, is the translator of two Dalang titles: Daughters of Papua /Tanah Tabu by Anindita Thayf and Love, Death and Revolution /Maut dan Cinta by Mochtar Lubis.

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From ECI Workshop Committee Chair Stefanny Irawan:

When ECI decided to hold this workshop with Lian Gouw, founder of Dalang Publishing, it was based on the belief that it would be a valuable experience for the students to learn the skills and art of translation from the very person who deals with translation and translators daily. While students may have learned some basic translation skills in class, learning from a publisher who is focused on English language translations of Indonesian historical and cultural novels would, without a doubt, take the educational experience to the next level.

It was heartwarming when seven students agreed to work as a team on their initial translation draft to create a translation worthy of publication. As an educator and chair of the committee, I’m happy to conclude that, first, we selected the right students to participate in this workshop; second, that the workshop, aside from providing technical information, also induced the joy of translation, which manifested in the students’ desire to polish their draft. By providing these two important elements, along with a mentor who has the right approach to nurture them, these youths may very well grow into competent translators.

As a translator, I see this workshop as an incubator for Indonesia’s future translators. It exposed the participants to the importance, the challenges, and the excitement of translating in the safe zone of their college environment and thus prepared them to enter the translation field with confidence.

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From the ECI Workshop Student Translators:

From Edlyn Soewarsono:

CRAFT: Distinguishing between the passive and active voice and making sure to mostly use the active voice in English was difficult. Despite difficulties with finding the perfectly suitable words, maintaining the author’s voice was fun.

ETHICS: Working on a deadline was nerve-racking. I learned the importance of adhering to a set format.

WHY: I enjoy the process of translating. It is satisfying when people understand what I translated.

From Febyanti Soetrisno:

CRAFT: I found the choosing of proper words quite tricky and had problems translating from passive voice to active voice.

ETHICS: Adhering to the deadlines was difficult amid my other work.

WHY: It gives me a sense of satisfaction when people thank me for translating what they need.

From Gaby Tiara Utomo:

CRAFT: This project taught me the importance of mastering my mother tongue.

ETHICS: This project was an eye-opening experience on many levels. Aside from developing my vocabulary skills, I learned to work with serious deadlines and precise formatting.

WHY: I have always been interested in translation, and it is the field that I truly want to explore and build my career in.

From Immanuel Setia Wijaya:

CRAFT: Working with diction is actually quite difficult. I learned to look for the underlying meaning instead of merely translating the original text.

ETHICS: Working with a serious deadline amid other tasks was challenging.

WHY: I participated in this project to test my vocabulary skills and wanted to learn the rules of translation. Learning the many rules of the translation process is a definite plus, as well.

From Irene Wibowo:

CRAFT: The story's many flashbacks required careful use of the tenses. Differentiating between the passive and active voice was difficult. Finding proper diction to convey the author’s voice was time-consuming.

ETHICS: Working with a serious deadline requires a huge commitment. After several edits, I understood the importance of a set format.

WHY: I want Indonesian stories, which reveal our rich culture, accessible to foreigners.

From Synthia Santoso:

CRAFT: It was fascinating to see how perspectives play a major role in translating a story and become a test of vocabulary skills. Changing passive to active voice while maintaining the author’s voice was also challenging.

ETHICS: Working with deadlines requires serious commitment and hard work. The editing process is important and endless.

WHY: It is a self-challenge to render my mother tongue in another language properly.

From Gracia Veva:

CRAFT: To find the right words to convey the feelings and evoke the same responses as the original was a fun challenge. Also, changing the passive to the active voice was fun.

ETHICS: I learned time management and the importance of meeting deadlines, along with producing a properly edited translation.

WHY: This project challenged my English language skills and provided the experience of preparing a translation for publication.

The Shawl With White Embroidery

“There it is.” Zubaedah reached for a shawl buried among the folded clothes in her wardrobe. When she unfolded it under the lamp of her room, she noticed the material was faded and stained in several places.

A letter she had received from her nephew in Bukittinggi yesterday afternoon weighed on her mind. Usually, her nephew’s letters only told her about the condition of the house in Bukittinggi that she had entrusted him with when she moved to live with her son, Syahrul, in Jakarta. However, yesterday’s letter also contained news about the death of Mande Siti Manggopoh, three weeks ago, on August 20, 1965. Innalillahiwainnailaihirajiun—we belong to Allah and to Him we shall return. The news had stunned Zubaedah.

For over fifty years, Zubaedah had neither heard nor spoken the name Mande Siti. Zubaedah’s last memory of Mande Siti was when she left in the middle of the night in 1908. However, Mande Siti had always remained in her heart and prayers.

Now, Zubaedah could no longer hold back her tears. She gazed at the white shawl she held; time had yellowed the material, but the border of simple white embroidery was still bright. Zubaedah took a seat on the edge of her bed. Draping the shawl around her shoulders, she started to remember the time when the shawl had become hers—or more accurately, when she had taken it. Mande Siti’s shawl: Zubaedah never had the opportunity to return it to its rightful owner.

Mak, Mom.” A knock on the door snapped Zubaedah out of her musings.

Yuni, her daughter-in-law, stood smiling in the doorway. “I found the fiddlehead ferns in the market,” she said.

Before Yuni could say anything about her swollen eyes, Zubaedah quickly rose, wiping her tears with the shawl. “Hopefully you also bought the spices and the coconut, Yun.”

“Yes, I bought all we need: chili pepper, shallots, garlic, galangal, ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, and bay leaves. I also had the coconut grated at the market.”

“I am so glad someone is selling paku in Jakarta.” Following Yuni to the kitchen, Zubaedah stopped to drape the shawl over the back of a dining room chair.

It always amused Yuni whenever her mother-in-law used a Minang word like paku for ferns; in Java, paku are nails. She thought of her mother, who lived in Surabaya. She would have undoubtedly joked, “Since you married your Sumatran husband, you have turned into a mystic! Now you can even eat nails!”

In the kitchen, Zubaedah immediately washed the ferns. She rinsed each frond thoroughly. As her fingers worked the curled fern tips and touched the small thorns, her memories went back more than fifty years, when, as a teenager, she washed ferns under a water spout near a shack in the forest. At that time, they simply boiled the ferns and ate them with rice or yams from the fields.

“Mak, how much galangal do we use?” Yuni handed Zubaedah some galangal and brought Zubaedah’s attention back from the past.

“Wait a moment. Let me strain this first.” Zubaedah placed the cleaned ferns in the colander. She picked up a knife and sliced the galangal. “A joint of each: galangal, ginger, and turmeric.”

“A joint of whose fingers, Mak?” Yuni smiled.

“The cook’s, Yuni,” Zubaedah replied.

“So, if the cook is tall and thin, the flavor will be different than if the cook is short and fat, because their joints are different.” Yuni was never good at following Zubaedah’s rough measurements.

Zubaedah laughed. “Ah, it’s just like you to say that, Yuni.” She explained, “A joint is just a rough measurement; use your heart and feelings for the rest, and I’m sure that whatever you cook will be delicious. Now, peel the shallots and garlic and slice the chili pepper.”

As Yuni followed Zubaedah’s instructions, she took the chance to ask, “Why were you crying in the bedroom?”

Zubaedah fell silent as she gazed at Yuni. She was truly grateful that her only son, Syahrul, had married Yuni. She was kind-hearted and thoughtful, not only toward her husband and children, but also toward her mother-in-law. After Zubaedah’s husband passed away and her health started declining, Syahrul had invited her to live with his family in Jakarta. Despite her reluctance to leave her husband’s home in Bukittinggi, Syahrul insisted, using the excuse that he would be more at ease knowing his mother was nearby.

“I was reminded of Mande Siti. You know, when I lived with Mande Siti in the woods near Manggopoh, we would always look for these ferns in the fields around the woods for our meals; these ferns were all that was available.”

“Why did you live in the woods, and who was this Mande Siti?” Yuni was surprised. She never knew that her mother-in-law had lived in the woods; her husband had never told her anything about it either.

Zubaedah then began her story. “Mande Siti was a distant cousin of my parents. Even though she was still young—back in 1908 she had yet to turn thirty—everyone called her Mande—Mother. Bagindo Rasyid was her husband; their daughter, Dalima, was still at the breast.

“Mande Siti was a clever and tough woman. She was skilled in bapasambahan, which is the art of conversing beautifully in pantoum, reciting from the Koran, and even performed martial arts. Back in those days, there were not many Minang women who were as brave and clever as she was.

“Bagindo Rasyid was a warrior, and Mande Siti was always by his side. One night in June of 1908, Mande Siti, Bagindo Rasyid, and others from Manggopoh attacked the Dutch fort. I remember the night clearly because it happened not long after my mother’s death. Many Dutch perished that night, but two people fled and reported the raid to Bukittinggi. I heard Mande Siti was injured during the attack. She, along with Bagindo Rasyid and his men, hid in the woods outside Manggopoh.” Zubaedah sighed as she gazed into the distance.

“This should be enough, right Mak?” Yuni showed the peeled shallots, garlic, and sliced chili pepper.

“Yes. Put it over there.” Zubaedah returned to her cooking. “I will grind the chili pepper and the spices. You can squeeze the liquid out of the grated coconut. Can you get me the batu lado, Yun?”

Yuni fetched the stone mortar and pestle Zubaedah had asked for and placed it on top of a short table within reach. Her mother-in-law had insisted on bringing her batu lado from the village when she moved in with Yuni and Syahrul in Jakarta. She said she wasn’t used to Yuni’s earthenware grindstone. Zubaedah said that spices crushed on a batu lado were tastier and more fragrant, and that’s why she would use no other than her own batu lado.

“And how did you come to live in the woods with Mande Siti?” Yuni returned to her mother-in-law’s story.

“After my parents passed away, I stayed with Mamak Maran, my mother’s brother. Mande Siti often visited his house to comfort me,” Zubaedah said. “At that time, around mid-1908, there was turmoil in Manggopoh. People were talking about the belasting that had recently been levied by the Dutch. Can you imagine, they had the nerve to levy taxes on lands that belonged to the villagers for generations. No wonder the villagers were in an uproar. That land did not belong to the Dutch. It belonged to the Minang people.” Zubaedah shook her head.

“Is this enough coconut milk, Mak?” Yuni showed Zubaedah the coconut milk she had extracted.

“Yes. The chili and spices are also ground up enough. Now, boil the coconut milk with the spices, lemongrass, and bay leaves,” Zubaedah instructed and added, “Don’t forget to stir while it is boiling so the coconut milk won’t curdle. Once the bubbles appear, just add these ferns.”

Yuni immediately took out a cooking pot from the kitchen cabinet and turned on the stove.

Meanwhile, Zubaedah continued her story. “Then, around mid-June of 1908, I heard from the villagers that there was an argument between the ninik mamak, the village elders, and the Dutch in Kamang. The villagers of Kamang raided the Dutch fortress and, of course, the Dutch were angry. I also heard that Bagindo Rasyid, who was very close to the ninik mamak and often exchanged ideas with them, had joined the raid. Sure enough, a few days later, Bagindo Rasyid returned to Manggopoh secretly. He never went out during daylight. He said he was trying to prevent the Dutch from coming after him.”

“Mak, the coconut milk is boiling. Can I add the ferns now?” Yuni interrupted while stirring the pot on the stove. The steam of the seasoned coconut milk filled the kitchen.

Zubaedah came closer. She looked into the pot and said, “Yes, it’s ready; let me get the ferns for you.” The aroma made her hungry.

After the ferns were added, Zubaedah warned Yuni, “Don’t stir too hard or you’ll mush the ferns. Once everything is cooked, turn off the stove, close the pot, and let it steep for a while so the spices settle, and it cools off a bit.”

Zubaedah prepared to set the table.

Not long after, Yuni came in with the fern curry, a plate of rice, jangek, beef cracklings, and two pieces of fried chicken.

“Let’s eat, Mak. The fern stew is ready,” Yuni said to Zubaedah.

“Are we not waiting for Syahrul?” Zubaedah asked.

Uda Syahrul will have lunch at the office. He has another meeting today.” Yuni used the Minang term to refer to her husband, then added, “I’ve made fried chicken for the children, for when they come home from school. This is just for us, Mak.”

When Zubaedah sat at the table, Yuni immediately served her some rice. Zubaedah took a helping of fern curry with plenty of sauce. The blend of the perfectly measured spices—not too salty and not too spicy—and the addition of jangek cracklings that sizzled before shrinking when dipped into the sauce, made Zubaedah’s mouth water. For a moment, her craving for a bowl of fern curry was completely satisfied.

In Bukittinggi, fern curry is usually eaten for breakfast with ketupat, rice packed inside a diamond-shaped, woven palm-leaf pouch. It is served with various traditional crackers, such as jangek, cassava, or yam crackers, and accompanied by a glass of hot tea.

“This is delicious, isn’t it, Mak?” Smiling, Yuni took a big bite.

“Yes, Yun. It’s delicious. Thank you very much.”

“So what happened to Bagindo Rasyid after he ran away from Kamang, Mak?”

“After returning home to Manggopoh, Bagindo Rasyid—along with the ninik mamak—secretly rallied forces to fight again against the Dutch in Manggopoh. Mande Siti was either asked to join, or wanted to come along herself. That’s how she became involved in the attack on the Dutch fort.” Zubaedah carried on with her story.

“When did you go with Mande Siti to the woods?” Yuni asked.

Zubaedah looked at Mande Siti’s shawl that she had purposefully draped across the backrest of the chair next to her own. She briefly caressed the shawl and continued, “I still remember how surprised Mande Siti was when I first managed to find her at the shack.” For a moment, Zubaedah was lost in her memories before moving on with her story.

“Mande Siti was pacing back and forth in the shade of a cempedak tree, carrying Dalima in a sling. As soon as she saw me, she shouted, ‘Edah?! What are you doing here?’ She reached for my arm and continued repeatedly, ‘How did you get here?’ while Dalima whined.

“Mande looked exhausted, and her head shawl had been put on haphazardly. Dalima looked uncomfortable, too. She was crying, and her face was flushed.

“I tried to coax Dalima to stop crying. When she suddenly extended both of her arms to me, Mande Siti let her go.

“Mande then invited me inside the house and, after offering me a drink that was a true thirst quencher, I told her what had happened. Mamak, Uncle, Maran had introduced me to Burhan, his nephew, a distant relative of Tek Banun, his wife. If I agreed to marry Burhan, then the land that I inherited from my mother would safely remain in the family.

“‘It’s only been a month since your mother died,’ Mande said, ‘and Maran already has his mind on the land business? Even if the land is safely in the hands of the extended family, with the Dutch acting like relentless leeches, do you think you will be able to pay the belasting?’

“‘I don’t know, Mande,’ I told her. ‘I haven’t thought that far. What I’m fussing about is that Burhan man. I don’t want to get married yet, Mande. But I realize that I don’t have a choice. I owe Mamak Maran. After my mother died, he and his family were the ones who supported me.’

“‘Yes, you’ve come of age; you’re seventeen, aren’t you? You ought to be married by now,’ said Mande Siti.

“‘But I don’t want to, Mande. To avoid Burhan and Mamak Maran, I planned to go to Bukittinggi. But before I had a chance to leave, the Dutch burned our village, Mande. I didn’t know where to go. There were too many Dutch soldiers. According to rumors, all of the troops from Agam and Pariaman joined the attack on Manggopoh as well. So did those from Kamang.’

“‘How did you run away from Manggopoh, and how did you know I was here?’ Mande Siti interrupted.

“‘I was walking home from the field at that time. The story about you and Bagindo Rasyid at the Dutch fort that night had been the talk of the villagers since morning. The news spread from the village store, and everyone predicted that retaliation from the Dutch would be coming to Manggopoh. The villagers prepared themselves and carried their knives strapped to the hip.

“‘As I was nearing the village, I heard screaming and saw thick smoke rising. People were running in different directions. Shocked, I tried to run home. But it looked like the village was engulfed in fire. The Dutch had burned Manggopoh, Mande. I ended up joining the largest crowd.’

“Deep concern showed on Mande’s face as she listened to the story of the Dutch’s rage. ‘How did you get here?’ she asked.

“‘I ran to the outskirts of the woods. The crowd I was following began to scatter. They said that they wanted to confuse the Dutch, who were not familiar with this part of the woods.

“‘I had heard that you and Bagindo Rasyid had disappeared into the woods, although it wasn’t very clear where you’d gone. So I joined Mak Munah and two others. I knew that you were related to Mak Munah, so I figured she’d know where you were. After two days in the woods, we arrived here. Please let me stay with you for a while. I can help take care of Dalima.’

“‘Finding me was dangerous, Edah! But what’s done is done; you’re here now. There is no other option for you but to stay. But it’s not always safe here, either. We need to be on our toes—the Dutch can show up at any time. I’ve also heard that they’ve deployed troops from all the districts.'”

Zubaedah paused. Sighing, she stroked the white shawl on the backrest. She always thought she would see Mande Siti again and return it. It never crossed her mind that the shawl would ultimately replace Mande Siti’s presence in her life.

Zubaedah looked at Yuni and continued, “So, that was how I came to live in the shack with Mande Siti. There were several women around my age, and brawny, warrior-type men who also lived with us at that time. They said that they were people who supported the revolt of Mande Siti and Bagindo Rasyid.

“During the day, Bagindo Rasyid and a couple of men with short swords stood guard around the outskirts of the woods, while Mande Siti and I, along with several women, guarded the place where we stayed: a shack that had been abandoned by its previous occupants for some unknown reasons. For cooking, we collected firewood around the house; there was a wood stove inside. Since we hadn’t brought many supplies, we just looked for anything that was edible in the woods surrounding us.

“We were lucky to find a cempedak tree with ripening fruit near the house, and a little farther into the woods, there were plenty of ferns that we could cook. We made do with what we had since we weren’t able to find many ingredients or spices. We drank from a spring near the river not far from home.

“At night, we gathered inside the house. We kept our lights low to prevent attracting attention to our hideout. Bagindo Rasyid heard that when the Dutch burned Manggopoh and failed to find him and Siti, they deployed fully equipped troops and traced every location while closing in on the edge of the woods.

“Every day, I helped Mande Siti cook and take care of Dalima, who, at that time, had just begun learning to walk. Poor Dalima, at such a young age, she was forced to experience the difficulties of life.

During her time in the woods, Mande Siti still ardently recited and taught us the Koran. Once in a while, she taught us simple, basic silat moves for self-defense. Mande Siti had been known for her silat skills since she was a teenager.

“On the tenth day I spent in the woods with Mande, two of Bagindo’s men rushed to him in the middle of the night. They informed us that a group of Dutch soldiers had been sighted entering the woods.

“Bagindo Rasyid instantly ordered everyone in the house and those outside standing guard to pack up. I carried and soothed Dalima, who started crying when everyone bustled about, while Mande packed some essentials that she could bring with her. Bagindo Rasyid and the other men gathered in a circle outside the house and whispered amongst themselves.

“Mande Siti forbade me to come with her. She took Dalima from my arms and said, ‘You, Edah, follow the river downstream, then cross it and get out of here immediately. Don’t argue with me. Follow Mak Munah and the others.’

“That night, I watched as Mande joined Bagindo Rasyid and the others to leave the house. Bagindo Rasyid had Dalima in his arms, and Mande was by his side. Some men with torches followed them. That’s when I noticed that Mande Siti’s white shawl had been left in the house, and I took it.

“That was the last time I saw Mande Siti. I did as she had ordered me to. Soon after I left the woods, I headed to Bukittinggi and stayed with my father’s sibling. Shortly afterwards, I met Syahrul’s father. We married and lived together in Bukittinggi after that.”

Zubaedah took the white embroidered shawl off the chair and used a tip to wipe her tears.

“Have a drink, Mak.” Yuni pushed a glass of water toward her.

Zubaedah took a sip, then said, “Those ferns were our everyday meal.” Rising, she draped the shawl over her shoulders. “I am going to pray now,” she said. “Pray for Mande Siti.”

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Robodoi, Bajak Laut dari Tobelo

Yudhi Herwibowo was born in Palembang, South Sumatra, but grew up in Tegal (Central Java) and Kupang (East Nusa Tenggara). He now lives in Solo (Central Java) and manages BukuKatta, a home publishing and printing company. He graduated with a degree in architecture, but he finds writing short stories and novels compelling. His stories have been published in Koran Tempo, The Jakarta Post, Jawa Pos, Media Indonesia, Suara Merdeka, Horison, Femina, and Esquire. His novels are Cameo Revenge (Grasindo, 2015), Halaman Terakhir (Noura Books, 2015), Miracle Journey (Elex Media Komputindo, 2013), Enigma (Grasindo, 2013), Untung Surapati (Tiga Serangkai, 2011), Lama Fa (Sheila, 2010), and Pandaya Sriwijaya (Bentang, 2009).

Find his writings at yudhiherwibowo.wordpress.com. Reach him at hikozza@yahoo.com.

Copyright ©2017 by Yudhi Herwibowo. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2017 by Oni Suryaman.

 

 

Robodoi, Bajak Laut dari Tobelo

 

Apakah ini hari-hari terakhirku?

Robodoi termenung sambil mengeja kata-kata itu dalam hati. Malam ini di kesendiriannya di tepi pantai, ia merasakan semua pertanda seakan mengarahkan ke hari-hari terakhir itu. Kerlip bintang-bintang di angkasa yang makin meredup, bisik angin yang makin tak terdengar di telinga, dan udara yang makin terasa terbatas dihirupnya. Semuanya seperti mengarah ke titik penghabisan. Tubuhnya pun bahkan terasa menggigil karena tamparan-tamparan angin malam yang seperti mampu menusuk ulu hatinya. Sesuatu yang tak pernah dirasakan sebelumnya. Walau ikarena semua tahu, sejak dulu pertanda-pertandalah yang mengantar jalan hidupnya hingga sampai seperti sekarang.

Robodoi, berasal dari Tobelo, sebuah daerah di Pulau Halmahera Utara. Ia laki-laki yang lahir saat langit tanpa bintang. Waktu itu tahun 1785, hanya ada bulan sabit yang nampak di atas sana, bersama angin dingin yang seperti berniat membekukan semua yang ada, dan kesenyapan terasa paling sempurna. Orang-orang desa kemudian berbisik-bisik, “Malam seperti ini adalah waktu yang tak diinginkan bagi sebuah kelahiran. Bayi-bayi akan mudah mati. Namun bila ia bertahan, ia akan menjadi sangat kuat.”

Ucapan itulah juga yang selalu diucapkan Papa Tatto – begitu Robodoi memanggil ayahnya – bertahun-tahun kemudian. Awalnya, Robodoi tak pernah benar-benar mengerti arti ucapan itu. Namun semakin dewasa, ia mulai mengamini ucapan itu, hingga hari ini, saat usianya telah begitu menua.

Lalaba, salah satu kawan seperjuangan Robodoi selama ini, yang sejak tadi duduk di sudut yang lain, melangkah perlahan mendekat. Sejenak ia duduk dalam diam, sengaja tak ingin menganggu kediaman Robodoi. Ia hanya menoleh sejenak memandang wajah orang yang hampir sepanjang hidup diikutinya. Membiarkan angin memainkan anak-anak rambutnya yang panjang, sambil sesekali menampar-nampar tubuhnya yang makin menua. Entahlah, di suasana seperti ini, ia seperti bisa merasakan apa yang sedang dipikirkan Robodoi. Kesendirian ini seperti telah mengikis semua semangat yang dulu membuncah. Mungkin itu karena tak ada lagi Yoppi, dan Pilatu, kawan-kawannya yang dulu selalu bersama.

Lalaba akhirnya menyentuh pundak Robodoi. Membuat laki-laki itu menoleh perlahan. Di bawah sinar bulan, kerut-kerut keriput wajah di depannya itu seperti tak lagi bisa di sembunyikan oleh malam. Lalaba sendiri sebenarnya sudah setua Robodoi, namun wajah pimpinannya ini nampak jauh lebih tua darinya.

“Semua sudah usai,” ucapan Lalaba  terdengar pelan.

Robodoi merasakan suara itu begitu jauh. Namun walau begitu, ngiangnya seperti tak pernah selesai terdengar di telinganya.

***

Semua sudah usai….

Itu ucapan yang tak pernah terbayangkan oleh Robodoi. Sejak bocah, garis hidupnya seakan sudah diarahkan pada satu titik. Robodoi ingat, saat ia berusia tujuh tahun, Papa Tatto membawanya ke tepi pantai. Didudukkan tubuh kecilnya di rakit bambu. Lalu Papa Tatto menarik rakit itu ke tengah lautan dengan perahu. Setelah dirasa cukup jauh, Papa Tatto kemudian melepaskan ikatan rakit itu.

Itu adalah pertama kalinya Robodoi merasakan ketakutan yang begitu menulang. Ombak terus menghempas rakit berulang kali. Membuat tubuh seakan tertampar berkali-kali. Beberapa kali ia nyaris jatuh, namun masih bisa memegang tepian rakitnya. Inilah yang membuat tenaganya habis. Pada akhirnya, ia tak lagi bisa menahan tubuhnya saat ombak besar kembali datang. Tubuhnya terpelanting dari rakit. Air asin tak henti masuk ke mulutnya, membuat rasa perih di tenggorokannya. Ombak semakin bersemangat, kali ini diikuti pusaran air yang seperti menarik-narik kakinya. Ia hanya bisa terus meggapai dengan sisa-sisa tenaganya. Di saat-saat terakhir itulah, ia berhasil meraih kembali rakitnya.

Ketika pada akhirnya Robodoi tiba di pantai dengan tubuh lunglai, Papa Tatto hanya berujar pelan, “Kalau kau selamat kali ini, itu bukan karena kau hebat. Kau hanya beruntung. Karena lautan tak akan pernah bisa kau kalahkan!”

Robodoi terdiam memandang wajah Papa Tatto yang mendekat.

“Maka itu… jadikan laut sebagai sahabatmu,” ujar Papa Tatto sambil menepuk pundaknya. “Dengan begitu, ia tak akan pernah menenggelamkanmu!”

Sekarang, Robodoi ingat bagaimana Papa Tatto mengajaknya pertama kali dalam perahu. Ia tak banyak bertanya kala itu, namun ketika Papa Tatto menyerahkan sebatang tombak padanya, ia sadar kalau ini tentu bukan sesuatu yang biasa.

Robodoi telah tahu sejak lama bila Papa Tatto menjadi anak buah Sultan Nuku. Itu adalah sebutan bagi pemimpin Kesultanan Tidore, Muhammad Amiruddin. Sejak lama, kesultanan itu memang tengah berperang melawan VOC, kongsi dagang milik Kerajaan Belanda yang sejak lama berdagang di kepulauan itu. Maka itulah, darah Robodoi segera mendesir ketika Papa Tatto menyuruhnya bersama beberapa pemuda lainnya menuju lautan.

Masih benar-benar diingatnya saat itu. Sebuah kapal pedagang budak Iranun membawa puluhan budak-budaknya menuju Sape, sebuah daerah di kepulauan Nusa Tenggara.

Awalnya Papa Tatto memerintah Robodoi dan pemuda-pemuda lainnya untuk menunggu. Papa Tatto sepertinya ingin menunjukkan ia dirinya dan perahu-perahu lainnya menghancurkan kapal pedagang budak itu dan merebut budak-budak yang ada.

Tapi ternyata suasana saat itu benar-benar tak bisa dikendalikan. Teriakan-teriakan penuh semangat, panah-panah yang mulai mengisi langit, membuat dada Robodoi dan pemuda-pemuda yang ada di atas perahu ikut bergejolak. Apalagi saat sebuah tembakan meriam mulai mengarah pada perahu mereka.

Mau tak mau Robodoi dan pemuda-pemuda lainnya meluncur ke tengah peperangan. Itu adalah peperangan pertama Robodoi. Napasnya seakan terhenti saat perahu yang ditumpanginya mulai meluncur. Teriakan pemuda-pemuda lainnya mengalahkan debur ombak, bagai teriakan burung-burung bangkai di kala menemukan mayat. Seiring itu panah-panah menyebar ke langit, bersamaan desingan senapan-senapan yang memekakkan. Lalu tak lama berselang, orang-orang dari perahu berhasil melompat ke atas kapal musuh yang jauh lebih tinggi. Teriakan-teriakan kematian kemudian memecah tak lagi bisa dibedakan, diakhiri pekikan-pekikan kemenangan.

Ini adalah hari yang menentukan. Tombak yang selama ini dikenal Robodoi hanya untuk berburu binatang hutan dan ikan, kini merasakan tubuh-tubuh musuh yang hangat. Darah yang sempat mengalir nampak mengering dan hitam. Sungguh, kematian seakan telah diciptakan untuknya.

Dan kemenangan selalu menjadi candu. Kemudian Sultan Nuku semakin terdesak oleh orang-orang berkulit pucat itu. Setelah Papa Tatto tewas di sebuah pertempuran, Robodoi memutuskan pergi bersama orang-orang yang tersisa, yang dulu megikuti ayahnya. Mereka kemudian berpindah-pindah tempat selayaknya orang buruan; mencoba membaur dengan penduduk desa yang ada di beberapa tepian pantai, lalu pindah lagi ke Raja Ampat.

Tapi lautan selalu memanggil Robodoi. Ya, sejak ucapan Papa Tatto padanya semasa kanak-kanak dulu, diam-diam Robodoi sudah menjadikan laut sebagai sahabat terbaiknya. Secara teratur ia manaiki sampan kecil untuk sekadar menikmati angin dan ombak laut. Ia juga tetap menghabiskan waktunya berenang ke kedalaman laut, untuk sekadar melihat aneka ikan-ikan dan gua-gua yang belum didatangi sebelumnya. Lebih dari itu, ia mulai memberi persembahan kepada laut, entah itu berbentuk kepala kerbau atau pun kepala sapi yang masih segar. Maka itulah, Robodoi merasakan bila dirinya dan laut seperti memiliki ikatan yang tak bisa dipahami orang lain.

Robodoi benar-benar tak pernah bisa meninggalkan lautan. Ia mungkin bisa menjauhinya beberapa bulan saat bersembunyi dari kejaran musuh, terutama kapal-kapal Belanda. Tapi itu seperti menahan kerinduan pada seorang kekasih. Ia rindu saat-saat mendorong perahunya ke pantai. Ia rindu dayungannya yang membelah lautan. Percikan-percikan air laut di wajahnya, seperti mampu membuat semangatnya membuncah. Juga teriakannya yang memecah langit, yang akan segera diikuti oleh semua anak buahnya. Sungguh, itu adalah hidupnya. Dan tak ada satu pun yang bisa mengekangnya, walau dirinya sendiri.

Maka di waktu-waktu tertentu, Robodoi bersama beberapa orang yang ia pikir sejalan dengannya, mulai mengendap-ngendap mengeluarkan perahu yang selama ini disembunyikan ke hamparan lautan.

Itu adalah cara Robodoi dan kawan-kawannya bertahan hidup. Awalnya, tak ada orang-orang desa yang mengetahui rahasia itu. Namun semua berubah saat Robodoi berhasil mendapatkan harta karun dalam rampokannya yang jumlahnya tak sedikit. Beberapa guci berisi emas dan perhiasan mahal.

Dari situ Robodoi mampu membeli duabelas perahu dan juga perlengkapan yang lebih lengkap. Ia bahkan mampu membeli beberapa meriam dan mulai berani mengajak pemuda-pemuda pengangguran untuk bergabung bersamanya.

Maka beberapa bulan berselang saja, Robodoi sudah merampok beberapa kapal milik pedagang Gujarat dan China. Ia bahkan berani menghancurkan beberapa kapal Belanda yang sedang melakukan patroli. Tak heran, bila hanya beberapa bulan saja namanya sudah menjadi momok menakutkan.

Ia berdiri di atas perahunya, memandang sepuluh kapal besar di hadapannya. Itu adalah kapal-kapal Belanda yang nampaknya baru datang di lautan ini. Mereka nampak tak peduli melihat kehadiran puluhan perahunya. Barulah saat ia memerintahkan serangan, dan ratusan panah meluncur ke langit, nampak kegelisahan di atas kapal. Meriam-meriam segera dipasang, dan serdadu-serdadu mulai mengeluarkan senapan untuk mulai balas menembak.

Tapi mereka terlambat. Yoppi dan Pilatu yang memimpin perahu-perahu dari arah belakang kapal-kapal itu, sudah menyusul serangan. Hanya butuh beberapa saat saja, lautan dipenuhi mayat-mayat yang mengambang hampir di semua penjurunya. Itu adalah mayat-mayat musuh-musuhnya dan anak buahnya.

Gara-gara perang itulah, namanya semakin berkibar. Orang-orang datang, dan meminta bergabung dengannya. Tak heran, sebulan sejak perang besar itu sudah ada 400 orang lebih yang mengikuti perintahnya. Orang-orang yang diyakininya, siap mati untuknya.

Kini, bukan lagi kapal-kapal kecil yang menjadi incaran Robodoi. Semua kapal tak lagi membuat mereka takut. Ia pernah mengalahkan kapal-kapal Gujarat dan kapal-kapal China, bahkan kapal-kapal Belanda yang dikenal memiliki banyak meriam. Perang sudah menjadi makanan sehari-hari bagi mereka semua.

Tapi tentu saja, sepanjang tindakan itu, Robodoi tak selalu beruntung.

Pernah dalam sekali, pasukan dari  Kesultanan Ternate berhasil menangkapnya. Namanya sebagai perusuh, nampaknya sudah membuat pihak kesultanan gerah, hingga mengirim pasukan khusus untuk menangkapnya.

Untungnya saat pihak Kesultanan Ternate akan membawanya ke daratan, anak buahnya berhasil menghadang kapal mereka. Pilatu, Yoppi dan Lalaba yang memimpin perahu-perahu itu.

Maka tak bisa dihindari lagi, peperangan di dekat pantai pun terjadi. Beberapa tembakan meriam sempat saling dilepaskan. Namun karena jumlah perahu-perahu Robodoi lebih banyak, pasukan Kesultanan Ternate kemudian memilih menyerah.

Robodoi dapat bebas saat itu. Namun ia yakin, pihak Kesultanan Ternate pastilah akan sesegera mungkin membuat rencana lain yang lebih besar untuk menangkap dan menghancurkannya. Maka Robodoi memutuskan untuk menepi sejenak. Ia membawa semua pengikutnya ke daerah di tepi SulawesiTimur. Ia mencoba pergi sejauh mungkin dari jangkauan Kesultanan Ternate. Namun tentu saja, sepanjang perjalanan itu, Robodoi sama sekali tak menghentikan upaya untuk menaklukkan kapal-kapal lain di lautan.

Robodoi memandang Lalaba. Teman akrabnya tetap duduk di sampingnya. Lalaba adalah orang yang paling berhati-hati di antara semua pengikutnya. Dia terlalu banyak berpikir, hingga kadang terlihat seperti penakut. Saat kawan-kawan yang lain penuh semangat untuk mengangkat senjata, ia selalu berucap berbeda dari lainnya.

Pernah suatu kali, Lalaba berkata dengan suaranya yang terdengar lembut seperti suara perempuan, “Sekarang kita semua harus memahami. Kini, semua sudah berubah. Apa kalian tak menyadari kalau kita sudah terlalu besar? Penduduk mulai menjauhi kita. Kita tak lagi bisa membaur bersama mereka.”

“Kita akan hidup dimana pun tempatnya, Lalaba!” Yoppi memotong cepat.

“Dengar,” ujar Lalaba lagi. “Kita sudah berkali-kali mengacaukan kapal-kapal orang-orang berkulit pucat itu. Mereka memang nampaknya tak terlalu menanggapi tindakan kita. Tapi aku yakin mereka pastilah sedang melakukan sesuatu yang besar untuk membalas itu semua. Sudah kudengar kapal-kapal mereka mulai berdatangan menuju perairan ini.”

Pilatu dan Yoppi tertawa berbarengan.

“Bukankah mereka selalu datang?” ujar Pilatu. “Dan bukankah kita pun selalu bisa menghancurkan mereka?”

Lalaba terdiam, ia mengalihkan padangannya pada Robodoi seperti meminta dukungan.

Tapi Robodoi rupanya lebih setuju dengan pendapat Pilatu dan Yoppi. Sudah berkali-kali mereka mengalahkan orang-orang bermuka pucat itu. Beberapa kapal yang kini digunakan bahkan merupakan kapal yang direbut dari mereka.

Robodoi memang tak pernah takut dengan kapal-kapal milik orang-orang berkulit pucat itu. Walau kapal mereka besar dan diisi dengan banyak meriam di sisi-sisinya, gerakannya sangat lambat. Hanya dengan satu kali perintah penyerangan saja, Robodoi bisa menaklukkan kapal-kapal mereka.

Tapi dugaan Lalaba ternyata tak keliru. Kedatangan kapal-kapal orang berkulit pucat itu kali ini bukan seperti sebelumnya. Ada beberapa kapal yang datang sekaligus dengan bendera Angkatan Laut Kerajaan Belanda. Dan kapal-kapal itu ternyata dapat bergerak dengan lebih cepat.

Hanya dengan satu penyergapan saja, mereka berhasil menghancurkan duabelas perahu milik Robodoi. Tak terhitung lagi banyaknya anak buah Robodoi yang tewas dalam pertempuran itu.

Kemarahan Robodoi memuncak.  Ini adalah kekalahan paling memalukan.

Robodoi kemudian memerintahkan untuk membeli beberapa perahu lagi. Ia kembali menyusun serangan balasan. Saat seorang pengikut melaporkan sebuah kapal berbendera Angkatan Laut Kerajaan Belanda nampak terpisah di daerah Raja Ampat, Robodoi tak menyia-nyiakan kesempatan ini.

Malam itu juga, di bawah perintahnya secara langsung, Robodoi segera memerintahkan menyerang kapal itu. Yoppi dan Pilatu memimpin perahu-perahu lainnya untuk menyebar membentuk setengah lingkaran. Sedang perahu Robodoi dan Lalaba mengarah lurus ke depan.

Anehnya, kapal Belanda di depan nampak tak berupaya melarikan diri. Padahal jelas keadaanya telah terkepung. Mereka bahkan nampak tak terlalu kebingungan. Saat Robodoi mulai mengangkat tangannya sambil berteriak,“Sera-a-a-ngg!” ratusan panah lepas memenuhi langit. Hanya satu-dua kali saja terdengar dentuman  meriam sebagai balasannya. Robodoi langsung menebak, kalau tak banyak orang dalam kapal itu. Hanya beberapa saat saja, Robodoi sudah menaklukkan kapal itu. Namun saat mereka akan menaiki kapal untuk mengangkat meriam-meriam dan mesiu-mesiu dari kapal itu, tiba-tiba saja muncul kapal-kapal Belanda lainnya, yang entah datang dari mana, sudah mengepung mereka dalam sebuah lingkaran besar.

“Perangka-a-a-p!” Pilatu berteriak lantang. Mereka segera mencoba kembali ke perahu masing-masing. Tanpa menunggu perintah mereka mencoba menyebar ke segala arah, membuat musuh kebingungan memilih sasaran.

Namun meriam kapal-kapal Belanda itu dengan mudah menghancurkan beberapa perahu terdekat.

Malam tiba-tiba saja menjadi sangat mengerikan. Dalam pelariannya, Robodoi masih bisa melihat beberapa mayat pengikutnya yang hancur mengambang di lautan yang mulai memerah karena darah.

***

Robodoi terdiam dikesendiriannya di tepi pantai. Dibiarkannya angin berhempus pelan pada keriput di wajahnya.

“Semua sudah usai,” ucapan Lalaba terdengar pelan seperti menelisip di telinganya.

Lalu lanjutnya, “Semuanya sudah menyerah. Kita tak lagi bisa melakukan perlawanan. Pelarian ini sudah begitu melelahkan.”

Robodoi tak menyahut. Lalaba ada di sebelahnya, tapi suaranya terasa begitu jauh. Ini karena ia sudah merasa sangat lelah. Ia tak lagi ingat sudah berapa tahun melarikan diri. Orang-orang berkulit pucat itu seperti tak pernah merasa lelah memburunya. Padahal sudah beberapa tahun ini, ia tak lagi membajak seperti dulu.

Robodoi memejamkan mata. Akhirnya, semua yang diucapkan Lalaba memang benar adanya. Sedikit ia menyesal, kenapa beberapa tahun lalu tak menanggapi ucapannya saat ia meminta dukungannya.

Kini, Robodoi hanya bisa menarik napas panjang. Sepertinya ia memang tak punya pilihan lain. Semua sudah berubah. Laut memang masih menjadi sahabatnya yang terbaik, tapi ketuaan ini tak lagi bisa ditolaknya.

***

Maka akhirnya, dengan ditemani oleh Lalaba, Robodoi memutuskan pergi menuju Tobungku, salah satu daerah di Kesultanan Ternate. Waktu itu tahun 1852, beberapa anak buahnya masih mengawal dirinya, walau ia sudah berkali-kali menyuruh mereka pergi. Ia tahu, mereka sebenarnya sudah begitu lelah, namun mereka masih mencoba tetap setia padanya.

Namun saat tiba di Tobungku, orang-orang Kesultanan Ternate mengirimkan empatbelas buah kora-kora, perahu perang khusus Namun anehnya, di tengah perjalanan mereka memisahkan Robodoi dari semuanya. Mereka bahkan kemudian menutup mata Robodoi dengan kain hitam dan mengikat erat kedua tangannya ke belakang badannya.

Robodoi mulai merasa tak enak. Namun tak ada lagi yang bisa dilakukannya. Tanpa banyak bicara, orang-orang Kesultanan Ternate itu menggiringnya. Ia rasakan bila mereka membawanya ke atas sebuah kapal yang besar.

Lalu setelah beberapa lama tak terjadi apa-apa, seseorang akhirnya membuka kain penutup mata Robodoi dengan kasar.

“Jadi ini orang yang menyusahkan kita selama ini?” seorang berkulit pucat menatapnya dengan seringai yang tak hilang-hilang dari bibirnya.

Robodoi memandang ke sekelilingnya. Hanya ada beberapa laki-laki berkulit pucat dengan seragam biru putih yang tengah tersenyum mengejek padanya. Beberapa dari mereka bahkan menyorongkan senapan ke arah kepalanya. Ia kemudian sadar kalau Kesultanan Ternate ternyata bersekongkol dengan orang-orang Belanda untuk menangkapnya. Ini membuat amarahnya meluap. Kepalan tangannya mengencang. Walau ia tahu ada hubungan Ternate dengan Belanda, namun ia benar-benar tak pernah berpikir mereka menyerahkan dirinya pada Belanda.

“Kau tahu kenapa kami membawamu ke sini?” Lelaki pucat yang nampaknya pemimpin di kapal ini kembali menyeringai padanya. “Karena kau hanya pantas mati di lautan!” Sambil mengucapkan kalimat itu, ia mengangkat senapan pendeknya dan menembakkannya di paha Robodoi.

Seketika saja tubuh Robodoi terjengkang dari sisi kapal, dan jatuh ke dalam lautan, diiringi tawa dari atas kapal.

Sejenak, tubuh Robodoi tenggelam. Rasa perih dari titik di mana peluru bersarang di pahanya dengan mudah menyebar ke seluruh tubuhnya. Air di sekelilingnya mulai memerah.

Ombak kembali menghempaskannya berulang-kali. Seketika air laut menyapu wajahnya, Robodoi menarik nafas dan menyerahkan tubuhnya pada ayunan ombak. Dalam keadaan seperti ini, kilasan-kilasan  masa lalunya seakan hadir dengan cepat. Bagaimana saat pertama kalinya ia mengayun rakit dengan tangannya menuju lautan, lalu petualangannya yang menyenangkan saat menyelam di antara ikan-ikan yang indah dan gua-gua yang gaib. Juga teringat peperangan-peperangan yang dilakoninya hampir sepanjang hidupnya. Robodoi yakin, lautan adalah sahabat terbaiknya sejak lama. Bila hari ini laut ingin menelannya, ia akan membiarkannya dengan ikhlas. Maka ketika sekali lagi ombak menerpanya dan menghantam tubuhnya kembali ke dalam lautan, Robodoi memejamkan matanya. Ia yakin, laut tak akan mencelakakannya.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robodoi, The Pirate from Tobelo

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.

Read some of his essays and book reviews at: http://onisur.wordpress.com and http://semuareview.wordpress.com

He can be reached at oni.suryaman@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 Robodoi, The Pirate from Tobelo

 

Are these my last days?

Robodoi contemplated the words that filled his heart. Tonight, on the beach, he felt that’s where the signs were pointing. The sparkle of the stars in the sky was dimmer, the whisper of the wind seemed softer, and the air felt stuffy—all ominous signs to herald the final moment. He shivered as the evening breeze picked up and chilled his bones. He had never felt like this before. Though he liked to deny it, he knew—as did everyone else—that his life had been directed by the signs.

Robodoi had been born on a dark, starless night in 1785, in Tobelo, a region of North Halmahera, one of the larger Moluccan islands. The sky had been lit by only a crescent moon, and a chilly wind seemed to freeze all beings; the silence felt complete. “This is a bad night for the birth of a baby,” the villagers whispered. “The child is doomed to die young. But if it survives, it will be very strong.”

Papa Tatto—that is what Robodoi called his father—often repeated that saying, even years later. At first, Robodoi did not understand what it meant, but as he grew older, he started to appreciate the words. Especially tonight, shivering on the beach.

Lalaba, had been sitting some distance down the beach. Now, he sauntered towards Robodoi. Not wanting to disturb his leader, Lalaba remained silent and took in the features of the man he had accompanied for most of a lifetime. The wind whipped his aging body and played with Robodoi’s long hair. Lalaba felt he knew what Robodoi was thinking. Their recent isolation seemed to have killed off his strong spirit. It also could be because Yoppi, Pilatu, and their other comrades, were no longer with them.

When at last Lalaba gently touched Robodoi’s shoulder, Robodoi turned his head slowly. The moonlight lit the wrinkles in his face. Lalaba was as old as Robodoi, but his leader looked much older. “It is all over.” Lalaba’s voice was barely audible.

To Robodoi, the words seemed to come from afar, but they echoed endlessly in his ears.

***

It is all over….

This was something Robodoi had never imagined. Ever since he was a boy, his life had been pointed in one direction. Robodoi remembered how, when he was seven years old, Papa Tatto had taken him to the beach.

Papa Tatto seated Robodoi on a bamboo raft, then towed the raft by boat out to of the open sea. When they were out far enough, Papa Tatto released the raft.

The waves pounded and slapped Robodoi around. He nearly fell off the raft several times, but managed to hang on to the side, until a big wave rolled the raft and tossed him into the sea. Salt water filled his mouth and hurt his throat. It was the first time Robodoi had been scared of dying. The waves became more violent and pushed him into a vortex. He used his final bit of strength to swim toward the raft.

When Robodoi finally reached the beach, he was exhausted.

Papa Tatto only said gently, “You survived this time, not because you’re great. You were just lucky. You can never defeat the sea!”

Robodoi stared at Papa Tatto’s face as his father bent toward him.

“Therefore, befriend the sea.” Papa Tatto tapped Robodoi on his shoulder. “So she will never drown you.”

Papa Tatto’s counsel was wise, and Robodoi wanted to please him, so he tried to take his advice. He remembered what happened when Papa Tatto took him out on a boat for the first time. He was fourteen. He hadn’t thought much of it at that time, but when Papa Tatto handed him a spear, Robodoi realized this was not a regular outing.

Robodoi knew that Papa Tatto always had been Sultan Muhammad Amiruddin’s henchman. The Sultan of Tidore, who was also known as Sultan Nuku, had been fighting the VOC, a Dutch trading company, since the company arrived in the islands. Robodoi was excited when Papa Tatto asked him to join him on the boat along with several other young men. An Iranun slave ship was on its way to Sape, a region in Nusa Tenggara, with dozens of slaves on board.

At first, Papa Tatto ordered Robodoi and the other young men to wait. It seemed that he wanted to show Robodoi how he could destroy the slave ship and capture the slaves.

But the situation soon got out of control. Robodoi and the other mates became excited when war cries and flying arrows filled the sky. When a cannon shot was directed at their boat, he had no other option but to join the battle.

It was Robodoi’s first battle. His breath almost stopped as his boat gained speed. The yelling from the other young men beat the sound of the waves. They sounded like vultures that found carrion. At the same time, arrows whizzed through the deafening artillery fire. It didn’t take long before men from Papa Tatto’s fleet succeeded in boarding the much taller enemy ship. Soon, the air filled with death cries, followed by yells of victory.

It was a decisive day. The spear Robodoi had used to hunt game and fish had now been aimed at humans. Blood that had so recently flowed now dried and blackened on the blade and he realized his weapon had been designed to kill.

The feeling of victory was addictive. The Dutch continued to pressure Sultan Nuku and, after Papa Tatto was killed in one of the battles, Robodoi decided to join the survivors, the men who used to follow his father. They moved from place to place and tried to mingle with the locals of coastal villages before finally moving to Raja Ampat, a small cluster of islands in northeastern Maluku.

But the sea always called to Robodoi. Ever since Papa Tatto had introduced him to the sea, Robodoi quietly regarded it as his best friend. He regularly got on his boat just to listen to the winds and the waves and spent time diving to the bottom of the sea, to look at the fish and explore previously uncharted caves. He began to make offerings to the sea in the form of a freshly slaughtered cow head or water buffalo. Robodoi felt he and the sea had a bond no one could understand.

Robodoi could never really leave the sea. Perhaps he could stay away from her for a few months while hiding from his enemies—the Dutch ships, in particular. But just like someone pining for a lover, he missed her the moment he pushed his boat onto the beach. He missed paddling across the waves. Seawater splashing on his face never failed to revive his spirit. And he missed calling out to the sky, a cry that was quickly taken up by his men. Thus was his life, and no one could keep him from it, not even himself.

At times, Robodoi and some of his mates silently took the boat they kept hidden in the mangrove forest to sea.

That was how Robodoi and his men survived. Initially, no one from the village knew they were pirating. But everything changed when Robodoi discovered a treasure chest filled with gold and jewelry among the loot.

Using the gold, Robodoi managed to buy twelve completely outfitted boats. He bought several cannons and asked some vagrants to join him.

Within a short time, Robodoi had attacked several Gujarati and Chinese merchant vessels. He also dared to destroy a few Dutch patrol ships. His name was feared by the traders, but soon there was a battle that spread his fame even further.

Standing on his boat the day of the battle, Robodoi looked at ten big ships in front of him. They were Dutch ships that had just arrived in these waters. They did not seem to be bothered by the large number of his boats. Only after he ordered an attack, and hundreds of flying arrows were cutting through the sky, did the crew on the Dutch ship become agitated. They loaded their cannons and the crew readied to return fire.

Alas, they were too late. Yoppi and Pilatu, who led the boats at the rear of the ship, had begun to attack. It did not take long before Robodoi could see the floating dead bodies of his enemies as well as his men everywhere.

The battle made him famous. People came to see him and asked to join him. It was no surprise that only one month after the bloody battle, he had more than 400 men under his command. Men, who, he believed, were ready to die for him.

After that, he no longer only targeted the small ships. No ship could deter him. He defeated Gujarati and Chinese ships, he also conquered Dutch ships equipped with many cannons. Doing battle became a daily routine for Robodoi and his men.

Robodoi was, of course, not always that lucky.

Once he was caught by the navy of the Ternate Sultanate. Worried about his reputation as a pirate, the Sultanate dispatched a special convoy to capture him.

Luckily, Pilatu, Yoppi, and Lalaba successfully ambushed the ship that was bringing him to shore. A battle was inevitable. Several cannons exchanged fire. But because he had more ships, the sultanate’s convoy chose to surrender in the end.

Though he had managed to flee, Robodoi was certain that the Ternate Sultanate would make another plan to apprehend and destroy him. So he decided to lie low for a while. To position himself as far as possible from the Sultanate’s reach, he took all of his followers to the east coast of Sulawesi. Of course, he continued to pirate while at sea.

Lalaba did not agree with this decision. Robodoi knew that his friend was cautious and at times appeared like a coward. While the other men were eager to raise arms, Lalaba disagreed with them. “Everything has changed,” Lalaba told him gently. “Don’t you realize that we have become too big? The villagers are avoiding us. We can no longer mingle with them.”

“We can live wherever we want, Lalaba!” Yoppi interrupted him.

“Listen,” Lalaba said, “We have wreaked havoc on those white men’s ships. While they did not respond to our act, I’m sure they’re planning to retaliate. I heard that their ships are headed for these waters.”

Pilatu and Yoppi laughed.

“Don’t they always come?” Pilatu said. “And don’t we always succeed in destroying them?”

Lalaba looked silently at Robodoi, as if asking for support.

But Robodoi tended to agree with Pilatu and Yoppi. They had defeated the white men several times. They now sailed ships he had seized from them.

Robodoi had never really feared the white men’s ships. Even though those ships were large and armed with many cannons, they moved slowly. Robodoi had been able to defeat them with a single attack.

However, Lalaba was not entirely wrong. The new ships ships sailing under the Royal Dutch Navy’s flag were unlike those they had seen before. These ships moved much faster. With just one attack, they had destroyed twelve of Robodoi’s boats. Numerous men died in that battle.

Robodoi was enraged. This was his most humiliating defeat. He ordered the purchase of several more boats and planned a counter attack. When one of his followers reported a single ship flying the Royal Dutch Navy’s flag alone in the Raja Ampat waters, Robodoi saw his opportunity.

That night, Robodoi ordered an attack on the Dutch ship. Yoppi and Pilatu lead the other boats to form a half circle around the ship while Robodoi and Lalaba attacked it directly from the front.

Strangely, the Dutch ship neither panicked nor tried to escape. While it was obvious she was surrounded, no one seemed to be bothered. When Robodoi raised his hand and yelled, “Att-taa-aa-ack!” hundreds of arrows swished into the air. Their attack was met with a few canon shots. Robodoi assumed that there were not enough men on board to put up a fight. But when they boarded the ship to steal its cannons and gun powder, other Dutch ships appeared out of nowhere and encircled them.

“It’s a trap!” Pilatu shouted. He and his men hurried back to their own boat. Without waiting for further orders they dispersed in all directions, trying to confuse their enemies. The Dutch cannons easily destroyed several boats that came too close.

It was a horrible night. During his escape, Robodoi saw many of his men’s bodies floating in a sea red with blood.

***

On the beach, Robodoi sunk silently into his loneliness. The wind caressed his wrinkled face.

“It is all over,” Lalaba’s whispers slipped into his ears. “All the others have surrendered. We can no longer continue the fight; this running has become tiresome.”

Robodoi did not answer. Lalaba was sitting next to him, but his voice seemed to come from afar. He could not remember how long he had been on the run. He too was very tired. Despite the fact he had stopped pirating, it seemed the white men never gave up hunting him.

Everything Lalaba had predicted had come to fruition. Robodoi closed his eyes. He regretted having ignored Lalaba’s advice.

Now, Robodoi could only draw a deep breath. It seemed he didn’t have another option. Everything had changed. The sea was still his best friend, but he could not escape old age.

***

Finally, Robodoi decided to go to Tobungku, a region within the Ternate Sultanate. Lalaba accompanied him. It was 1852. Several of his followers escorted him, even though he had told them repeatedly to leave. He knew that, while weary, they still wanted to prove their loyalty.

When he arrived at Tobungku, the Ternate Sultanate sent fourteen kora-koras, Moluccan war boats. Robodoi was separated from the others. He was blindfolded with a black cloth and his hands were tied securely behind his back.

Robodoi knew something was wrong, but there was nothing he could do. Without saying a word, the guards from the Sultanate guided him. He could tell that they were boarding a big ship.

For a long time, nothing happened. Finally, someone ripped off the blindfold.

“So, this is the man who has caused us trouble all this time?” a white man stared at him, grimacing.

Robodoi looked around him. Several white men dressed in white-and-blue uniforms snickered. Some of them pointed a gun at his head. He realized that the Ternate Sultanate had conspired with the Dutch to catch him. Furious, he balled his fists. Even though he knew the Sultanate of Ternate and the Dutch were in cahoots, he never suspected the Sultanate would deliver him to his enemies.

“Do you know why we brought you here?” the white man who seemed to be the captain sneered. He pulled his revolver out of the holster and shot Robodoi in the thigh. “You’re only fit to die at sea,” he said.

Robodoi staggered and lost his grip on the railing. As he fell overboard, he heard laughter coming from the deck.

For a while, Robodoi felt himself sink. The pain from the wound in his thigh spread quickly to all parts of his body. The water around him started to redden.

The waves washed over him several times. When the sea water slipped off his face, Robodoi tried to breathe and surrendered himself to the waves. He recalled the first time he paddled a raft out to sea, using only his hands, and his adventures when diving among the fish and exploring magical caves. He remembered the battles he had fought during his lifetime. Robodoi was certain that the sea had been his best friend all of his life. If, today, the sea wanted to consume him, he would surrender willingly. When the waves once again folded him into a roll and slipped him back beneath the watersurface, Robodoi closed his eyes.

He was certain the sea would not harm him.

***

Topeng Nalar

Dewi Ria Utari was born in Jepara on August 15, 1977. She began writing short stories in 2003. Her stories have been published in Djakarta, A+, Spice, Media Indonesia, Koran Tempo, and Kompas, and have appeared in anthologies such as Ripin: Kompas Selected Short Stories 2005–2006; Pena Kencana Literary Award 2008; and Cinta di atas Perahu Cadik: Kompas Selected Short Stories 2007. Her novel, Rumah Hujan, was published in 2016 by Gramedia. Dewi currently lives in Jakarta and is the Editor in Chief for Sarasvati, an art and lifestyle magazine. She can be reached at dewiriautari@gmail.com.

Copyright ©2017 by Dewi Ria Utari. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2017 by Femmy Syahrani.

Topeng Nalar

 

Sudah tiga hari Nalar demam. Biasanya demamnya cepat hilang begitu dikompres air atau keningnya ditempeli irisan bawang merah. Kemarin neneknya sudah membawa dia ke Mak Moyong—dukun anak. Kata si dukun kena sawan. Tapi demamnya tak juga turun ketika ia dipaksa neneknya minum jamu dari Mak Moyong.

Kalau sore ini aku dapat gaji mingguan, Nalar akan langsung kubawa ke Dokter Kiki. Puskesmas sudah tutup saat aku bubaran pabrik. Tidak tega aku jika menunggu sampai besok. Demam Nalar begitu tinggi. Lagi pula penyebabnya aku sendiri. Sebagai ibu dan penyebab sakitnya, aku harus bertanggung jawab. Apalagi sudah setahun ini hubunganku dan Nalar tak begitu hangat.

Penyebabnya, ketika setahun lalu, ia melihat aku nopeng dengan Ibu di kampung, Nalar memaksaku untuk mengajarinya nopeng. Aku menolak. Sudah cukup rasanya garis keturunan penari topeng berhenti di tubuhku. Lagi pula tanggapan nopeng sudah tidak sebanyak dulu saat aku remaja. Sejak tak banyak tawaran nari, aku memutuskan jadi buruh rokok. Pemasukan sehari-hari meski sedikit ternyata lebih mampu menyambung hidup kami berempat: aku, ibu, Danu dan Nalar.

Selain soal penghasilan, aku tidak tega jika membiarkan Nalar melalui sejumlah persyaratan yang harus kujalani dulu. Puasa mutih, yang hanya makan nasi putih, dan ngrowot, yang hanya makan umbi-umbian, Senin-Kamis, belum lagi dalam waktu-waktu tertentu harus tidur di lantai tanpa alas, hingga tapa kungkum, bersemedi dengan berendam. Aku menjalaninya karena tidak ada pilihan lain. Bukannya aku tidak suka menari. Namun, aku harus tau diri.  Rumah ini sudah kehilangan para lelakinya. Baik ayahku maupun suamiku. Mereka ditakdirkan meninggal mendahului para istrinya. Sungguh tak mungkin jika menjadikan ibuku di usia larutnya harus ikut mencari uang. Cukuplah aku.

Melihat keadaan ini, wajar rasanya jika aku tak menginginkan Nalar menjadi penari topeng. Seperti anak-anak lainnya, aku ingin ia sekolah sampai semampuku membiayainya. Setelah lulus, ia bisa kerja di pabrik, penjaga toko, atau penjual barang.

Harapanku pupus ketika tiga bulan lalu, Nalar diajak ibu mengunjungi makam Mbah Buyut di Desa Gabusan. Dua jam perjalanan naik bus. Sepulang dari sana, Nalar langsung ke kamar penyimpanan topeng dan mengobrak-abrik topeng-topeng yang sudah kusimpan rapi. Di depanku, ia langsung memasang sampur yang dibelitkan di pinggang dan memasang topeng di wajahnya dengan cara digigit. Saat kutanya, ibuku membantah telah mengajarinya menari. Nalar sendiri tak mengatakan apa pun. Ia hanya menari menandak-nandak dan baru terdiam saat kucopot paksa topeng di wajahnya.

Bukannya meredam keinginan Nalar, ibuku malah semakin bersemangat mengajari Nalar menari. Dengan sisa gamelan di rumah, Ibu mengiringi Nalar menari. Bocah itu paling suka gerakan lerep, gerakan mengelus dua jumbai di kiri dan kanan topeng, sambil mengentakkan kaki ke tanah. Jika hanya menari, sebenarnya aku tak terlalu kesal. Aku hanya tak suka ketika Ibu mulai mengajari berbagai tirakat yang pernah diajarkannya kepadaku saat seusia Nalar. Anak itu sudah terlalu kurus untuk ikut-ikutan puasa dan sejenisnya. Sebagai ibunya, aku malu jika Nalar dianggap kurang gizi. Ditaruh ke mana mukaku. Seolah aku tidak cukup memberinya makan.

Inilah kenapa aku tak suka berharap. Berkali-kali aku dikhianati harapan. Aku berharap Nalar bisa kerja di pabrik, penjaga toko, atau penjual barang. Setidaknya dengan tetap menjadi buruh nglinting rokok, aku bisa membiayainya sampai SMA. Memang ia baru tujuh tahun. Masih bisa ia berubah mengikuti harapanku. Tapi sekali lagi, aku benci berharap. Sangat membencinya ketika ayahku meninggal karena malaria, dan suamiku tak pernah pulang sejak pamit melaut tiga tahun silam.

Hanya tersisa satu lelaki di keluarga kami. Danu, kakak Nalar yang sekarang sudah kelas enam SD. Seharusnya aku seperti kebanyakan keluarga lainnya di kampungku, yang menaruh harapan ke anak lelakinya. Tapi bagiku, Danu tidak bisa diharapkan. Aku tidak bisa memercayai anak yang kulahirkan tanpa kutahu siapa ayahnya.

Mungkin karena aku tak menerima kehadirannya, Danu juga tak memedulikan kehadiranku. Ia lebih peduli pada Nalar. Baginya, Nalar lebih dari sekadar adik seibu. Nalar seolah dolanan yang tak pernah kubelikan sejak ia bisa merengek. Dolanan yang bisa membalas setiap sentuhan dan perhatiannya.

Sejak Nalar belajar menari, Danu tak lagi sering menghabiskan waktu dengan bocah-bocah lelaki yang kerap nongkrong di warung kopi Pak Gatot. Dulu, ia kupergoki terbatuk-batuk saat mengisap rokok pemberian anak-anak itu. Begitu aku lewat di depan warung, ia langsung klepas klepus berlebihan sambil duduk menekuk salah satu kakinya seperti gaya sopir truk yang suka mangkal di warung itu.

Belakangan ini, Danu lebih suka menunggui Nalar belajar joget. Ia menonton sambil menatah kayu randu untuk membuat topeng. Aku tak tahu dari siapa ia belajar. Pasti hanya coba-coba. Dari yang semula hasilnya topeng peyot Danu mulai bisa menatahnya seukuran wajah Nalar.

Sebenarnya aku senang, Danu jadi tak banyak nongkrong di warung. Tapi tetap saja aku memiliki banyak celah untuk memarahinya. Apalagi jika aku pulang dari pabrik dalam keadaan lelah teramat sangat. Teras rumah penuh serpihan kayu, menjadi benda yang cocok sekali untuk kuraup dan kulemparkan ke wajahnya. Sambil kelilipan, biasanya Danu hanya menyimpan marah dan mengambil sapu lidi. Nalar hanya bisa menangis.

Kemarahanku pada Danu semakin memuncak dengan sakitnya Nalar. Gara-garanya empat hari lalu ketika aku mendapat tanggapan nari di kampung sebelah. Juragan beras desa sebelah menang jadi lurah. Aku diminta nari tayub dengan Yu Wasis. Ibu sebenarnya sudah tidak setuju aku tayuban. Lebih baik nopeng saja. Katanya, nopeng lebih terhormat ketimbang nayub. Aku sudah persetan dengan alasan itu. Yang penting ada uang beli beras.

Ternyata Nalar mencariku. Rupanya ia dengar dari Danu bahwa aku dapat tanggapan nari dan ia merajuk ingin menonton. Kemudian Danu berhasil meyakinkan mbahnya jika ia bisa menjaga Nalar. Akhirnya mereka menyusulku.

Tiba-tiba aku melihat mereka diantara penonton. Namun perhatianku lebih tersita ke berapa banyak lelaki berwajah berahi yang bisa kukalungi sampur. Mereka jelas-jelas lebih royal menyisipkan uang kertas ke dalam kembenku. Semakin malam, aku tak cukup puas dengan puluhan tangan yang merogoh dadaku. Juragan beras yang punya gawe konon penggemar rahasiaku. Dia pasti bakal nyangoni aku duit berlembar-lembar jika bisa mengajaknya tidur. Sayangnya, niatku gagal ketika menjelang tengah malam, kulihat Nalar dan Danu berdiri termangu di deretan belakang penonton. Aku baru menyadari kehadiran mereka ketika hanya tinggal puluhan lelaki dewasa. Garis genit di bibirku mendadak wagu begitu melihat wajah pasi Nalar. Ia terlihat mimbik-mimbik tepat saat Kang Jono menyusup belahan dadaku. Aku langsung berlari turun dari panggung. Kuseret kedua anakku menjauh dari tempat itu. Biarlah malam itu menjadi rezeki Yu Wasis.

Sepanjang jalan pulang, kugelandang kedua anakku dengan perasaan kisruh. Di gendonganku, Nalar terus membenamkan wajahnya di cerukan dua buah dadaku. Sementara Danu tak mengeluarkan suara apa pun. Hanya bunyi srak-sruk kedua kaki telanjangnya yang bergegas mengikuti langkah kakiku.

Begitu sampai rumah, aku langsung masuk kamar dan membaringkan Nalar yang ternyata sudah tertidur. Setelah itu, aku keluar dan menarik tangan Danu yang sedari tadi berdiri mematung di ruang tengah. Tak kupedulikan teriakan ibuku yang sibuk bertanya, “Ono opo tho iki,” sambil membenahi rambutnya yang acak-acakan selepas tidur. Aku menuju kamar penyimpanan topeng. Setengah kudorong Danu ke dalamnya. Tak kupedulikan tangisnya. Tanpa mengeluarkan sepatah kata pun, aku mengunci pintu. Masih sempat kudengar isak Danu dari dalam.

Paginya, aku terbangun oleh igauan Nalar dan panas keningnya yang menyengat ketiakku. ”Mas Danu. Mas Danu,” igaunya sambil merem. Lirih suaranya memanggil kakaknya membuatku beranjak dari kasur. Niatku untuk terus mengurung Danu kubatalkan. Setidaknya, jika merasakan kehadiran Danu, Nalar agak tenang.

Tak kutemukan Danu di kamar hukuman. Kudapati selot pintu pengunci tak lagi terpasang. Ibu pasti melepaskannya tadi pagi. Tapi saat kutanya, ia menyanggah. ”Tadi pagi saat bangun, pintunya sudah seperti itu,” ujar Ibu sambil memarut kelapa. Sejak saat itu, tak lagi kudapati Danu pulang.

Suhu badan Nalar sering naik turun sejak kepergian Danu. Sudah beberapa kali kubawa ke puskesmas dan dokter yang harganya lebih mahal, mereka tidak menemukan penyebab pastinya. Bermacam obat, baik yang resmi maupun jejamuan, telah dicoba. Namun, hasilnya tetap sama saja. Nalar hanya terlihat anteng dan membaik keadaannya setiap kali menggenggam topeng yang dibuatkan Danu untuknya.

Sejak Nalar sakit-sakitan, keuanganku makin memprihatinkan. Apalagi pabrik tutup untuk sementara. Beberapa teman mengabarkan perusahaan rokok keluarga yang sudah berdiri sejak 50 tahun ini akan dijual. Tanggapan tayub pun mulai berkurang. Untunglah Pak Saidi, penabuh gamelan yang sering mengiringi aku nari, mengabarkan ada acara pengumpulan rakyat yang menginginkan tari topeng.

”Kok bukan tayub Pak?” tanyaku.

”Tayub memang lebih ramai. Tapi pemimpinnya ini katanya pengen pengisi acaranya sopan. Terus karena acaranya soal apa sih itu namanya, kepedulian pada seni bangsa sendiri, makanya mereka ngumpulin beberapa kelompok seni di daerah ini,” kata Pak Saidi.

”Tapi yang dipilih yang sopan. Itu namanya enggak adil,” sanggahku.

”Ndak ngerti lah aku. Manut aja. Terus mereka minta topengnya dicat ijo semua, biar katanya peduli lingkungan.”

”Piye tho, katanya tadi peduli kesenian. Terus sekarang peduli lingkungan.”

“Yah, namanya juga ngumpulin orang biar kepilih. Apa saja biar ketok apik tho,” tukas Pak Saidi.

Tak kupedulikan tangisan Nalar yang tidak mau topeng-topeng di rumah menjadi hijau. Hanya satu topeng yang tak kuganti warnanya. Topeng seukuran wajahnya yang dibuatkan Danu untuknya. Aku tak mau nantinya panasnya naik lagi di saat aku menari. Setidaknya setelah aku mendapat uang bayaran pentas, ia bisa kubawa ke dokter di kota.

Sore itu kuwanti-wanti ibu untuk menjaga Nalar di rumah. Sejak demam, aku memang tak pernah berani meninggalkannya cukup lama. Nalar masih ngambek saat aku pamitan. Ia menolak kucium pipinya. Bahkan, Nalar tak mau melihatku. Diselusupkan kepalanya di antara kaki mbahnya.

Setelah pimpinan partai yang mengadakan acara itu memberikan kata sambutan, kelompok musik angklung yang menjadi hiburan pertama. Aku mendapat giliran kedua. Meski bukan acara resmi, pesta rakyat yang diadakan sebuah partai itu dipadati warga desa yang haus akan hiburan. Apalagi sebelum acara dimulai dibagi sembako secara cuma-cuma.

Dengan takzim kupasang topeng di wajahku. Perlahan aku beranjak dari duduk bersilaku. Dari membelakangi penonton, aku memutar badanku setelah yakin topeng tak goyah. Saat itulah, ketika kuedarkan pandangan dari lubang di bagian mata topengku, aku melihat Nalar dan Danu berdiri di antara para penonton di bagian belakang. Mereka bergandengan tangan. Tarianku terhenti. Tubuhku beku. Di balik topengku, kulihat Nalar tersenyum. Sebelah tangannya menggenggam topeng kesayangannya. Perlahan ia memasang topeng itu di wajahnya. Sambil tetap bergandengan, kedua anakku berbalik. Melangkah menjauh entah ke mana. Itulah kali terakhir kulihat mereka berdua.

***

 

 

 

Nalar’s Mask

Femmy Syahrani has loved stories and language since childhood. She always took along a book wherever she went and, at an early age, took up learning the Sundanese alphabet and sign language. During college, Femmy was introduced to translation, which combined her interest in reading and learning a language. After she graduated, she worked for five years as an editor at an Islamic publishing house. She then began freelance translation. Over the past twenty years, Femmy has translated dozens of books and numerous non-literary projects, covering various topics. Femmy can be reached at femmy.syahrani@gmail.com.

 

 

Nalar’s Mask

 

Nalar has been running a fever for three days. Usually, a wet compress or some shallot slices on her forehead quickly dispels such fevers. Yesterday, her grandmother took her to see Mak Moyong, a healer of children, who said it was a bout of epilepsy. But Nalar’s fever persisted, even after her grandmother made her drink Mak Moyong’s tonic.

When I receive my weekly paycheck later this afternoon, I will take Nalar straight to Doctor Kiki. The public clinic will be closed by the time I finish my shift at the factory, but I can’t bear to wait until tomorrow. Nalar’s fever is very high. As her mother, I need to take responsibility. We haven’t been getting along during this past year and I might have contributed to her condition by upsetting her.

It all started when Nalar saw me perform the mask dance with my mother in the village and demanded that I teach her. I refused. The hereditary line of mask dancers should end with me and go no further. Besides, mask-dancing gigs are not as plentiful as they used to be when I was a teenager. When the interest and requests dwindled, I took a job at a cigarette factory. My regular paycheck, little as it is, proved to be a more reliable source of income than the compensation I received for dancing. It supports the four of us: my mother, Danu, Nalar, and me.

In addition to a mask dancer’s unpredictable income, I didn’t have the heart to let Nalar endure the series of rites I had gone through. Rituals such as performing three kinds of fasts: puasa mutih, when one only eats rice; ngrowot, when one only eats tubers; and a full fast on Mondays and Thursdays. At certain times, I had to sleep on the floor without any mattress, or perform the tapa kungkum, which is meditating while submerged in water.

I had gone through these rituals because I had no other choice. It wasn’t that I didn’t like dancing, but this household had lost its men. Both my father and my husband were gone; they had been fated to die before their wives. I couldn’t possibly let my mother, this late in her life, share the burden of earning a living. That burden should be mine alone.

Given these circumstances, I definitely didn’t want Nalar to become a mask dancer. I wanted her to stay in school, like all the other children, for as long as I could afford it. After she finished school, she would be able to get a job as a factory worker, a shopkeeper, or a sales clerk.

My hope vanished three months ago, when my mother took Nalar to the grave of Nalar’s great-grandmother in Gabusan Village, a two-hour bus ride away. When they came home, Nalar went straight to the room where I stored the masks and rummaged through the tidy collection. Then, right in front of me, she wrapped a long sash around her waist and put on the mask, holding it with her teeth.

My mother denied having taught Nalar to dance. Nalar herself did not say anything. She just pranced about and only stopped when I ripped the mask off her face.

Instead of discouraging the child, my mother was all the more eager to teach Nalar. With what was left of the set of gamelan musical instruments at home, my mother played music to accompany her granddaughter’s dancing.

The girl loved doing the lerep movement, stroking the tassels on either side of the mask while stamping her feet.

I wouldn’t have been too upset if my mother had only taught Nalar to dance, but then she began teaching the rituals she had taught me when I was Nalar’s age. The girl was too thin to practice the fasting rituals. As her mother, I’d be embarrassed if people thought that Nalar was malnourished. I’d lose face if she looked as if I wasn’t giving her enough to eat.

This is why I don’t like to hope—I’ve been betrayed too many times. I hoped Nalar would be able to work as a factory worker or a shopkeeper or a sales clerk. By holding onto my job of rolling cigarettes, I would at least be able to put her through high school. It’s true, she’s only seven now. She still could change and turn out the way I hoped, but once again, I hate hoping. I really hated it when my father died of malaria and my husband failed to come home after he headed out to sea three years ago.

Now, only one male remained in our family: Danu, Nalar’s brother, now in sixth grade. Many other families in my village put their hopes in their sons. I should have been like them, but I could not put my hopes on Danu. I could never trust a child I’d given birth to without knowing who the father was.

Perhaps because I did not accept Danu’s existence, he did not care about mine either. He lived with us, but he cared mostly about Nalar. She was more to him than just a half-sister—she was the toy I never bought him. A toy that responded to his touch and attention.

After Nalar began her dance lessons, Danu spent less time with the boys who hung out at Pak Gatot’s coffee shop. I used to catch Danu coughing from smoking the cigarettes they gave him. As soon as I passed by the shop, he made a show of puffing away, with one leg pulled up onto his seat, just like the truck drivers who loitered there.

Lately, Danu preferred to hang around Nalar during her dance lessons. He would watch while carving a mask out of kapok wood. I don’t know where he learned how to do that. He must have experimented on his own. His work improved from producing the ill-fitting masks he had carved in the beginning to the masks he now carved to the size of Nalar’s face.

I was glad that Danu no longer spent a lot of time hanging out at the coffee shop, but I still found many reasons to scold him— especially when I came home from the factory, exhausted. The wood shavings that littered the porch were perfect to scoop up and throw in his face. Blinking, he would hold back his anger and get a broom. Nalar could do nothing but cry.

My anger at Danu peaked when Nalar became ill. It started four days ago, when I was offered a dance gig in a neighboring village. The rice merchant there had been elected as the village head. I was requested to perform the tayub dance with Yu Wasis.

My mother didn’t approve of me dancing the sexually-suggestive tayub. She thought it was better to stick to mask dancing. She said it was more respectable than the tayub. I couldn’t care less about that; what mattered was to have money to buy rice.

Nalar apparently had heard from Danu that I had a dance gig and looked for me, sulking, because she wanted to watch.

Danu managed to convince my mother that he could look after his sister, and they went after me.

I didn’t see them at first, my whole attention was focused on how many lustful men I could entice by placing my scarf around their necks. The men were certainly generous with the money they tucked into my torso wrap.

As the night progressed, I grew unsatisfied with the dozens of hands that groped at my breasts. I heard that the rice merchant, who was hosting the event, was my secret admirer. He would surely tip me a large sum of money if I could get him to bed me. Unfortunately, I was unable to act on my plan.

Just before midnight, I saw Nalar and Danu standing, stunned, in the back row of the audience. The playful, seductive smile froze on my lips the moment I saw Nalar’s ashen face. As Kang Jono, slipped his hand into my cleavage, Nalar looked like she was about to cry. I immediately ran off the stage and dragged my two children away. Let tonight’s fortune fall to Yu Wasis.

The entire way home, I herded my two children in a state of turmoil. Nalar buried her face between my breasts as I carried her in my arms. Danu didn’t make a sound. There was only the shuffle of his bare feet as he hurried to match my stride.

As soon as we got home, I went straight to the bedroom and put Nalar, who was already asleep, in bed. Then I came back out and grabbed Danu, who had been standing motionless in the living room.

My mother kept shouting, “What on earth is going on?” but I didn’t answer. I dragged Danu into the mask storage room, ignoring his crying. While I locked him in the storage room, I could hear him sobbing.

The next morning, I woke up to Nalar’s hot forehead stinging my armpit. “Mas Danu. Mas Danu,” she murmured with her eyes closed. Her soft voice calling for her brother propelled me out of bed. I changed my mind about keeping Danu locked up in the room. Nalar would be comforted when she saw him.

I couldn’t find Danu—the door to the mask room was no longer locked. My mother must have unlatched it early in the morning. But when I asked her, she denied it.

“The door was like that when I woke up,” she said, as she grated a coconut.

After that time, I never saw Danu at home anymore.

Nalar’s temperature began to fluctuate after Danu left. I took her several times to the public clinic and to the more expensive doctors, but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. We tried all kinds of medicine — modern and traditional — but the results were all the same. Nalar seemed calm and her condition improved only when she held the mask Danu had made for her.

Since Nalar became sickly, my financial condition worsened. The cigarette factory was temporarily shut down. Friends told me that the family who built and owned the fifty-year-old cigarette company was going to sell it. There were fewer requests for tayub performances.

Fortunately, Pak Saidi, a gamelan musician who often played the accompaniment for my dances, told me about a rally that wanted to have a mask dance.

“How come they’re not asking for the tayub?” I asked.

“Tayub draws a bigger crowd,” Pak Saidi said, “but the leader wants respectable performers for the event. And because the event is about—what do you call it— concern for our national arts, they’re bringing together performers from the area.”

“But they’re only choosing the ones who perform respectable dances. That’s not fair,” I protested.

“Well, what do I know—I’m only doing what I’m told. And they ask that all masks be painted green, to show concern for the environment.”

“What’s with these people? One minute it’s about the arts, the next it’s the environment.”

“That’s how you rally people to vote for you. Candidates do anything that makes them look good,” said Pak Saidi.

I ignored tearful pleas from Nalar, who didn’t want the masks in the house to turn green. I spared only one—the mask that Danu had made for her. I didn’t want her temperature to go up again while I was dancing. At least, after I received my compensation for my performance, I would be able to take her to the doctor in the city.

On the afternoon of the dance, I asked my mother to watch over Nalar at home. Since she began having fevers, I didn’t dare be away from the girl for too long. Nalar sulked when I said good-bye and wouldn’t let me kiss her cheeks. Refusing to look at me, Nalar hid her face in her grandmother’s lap.

After the political party leader who was hosting the event delivered his opening speech, an angklung group was the first to perform. I was scheduled to come after the musicians playing the bamboo instruments finished their piece. Although it wasn’t an official government event, it was crowded with villagers who hungered for entertainment. The distribution of free packages of the nine basic  staples: rice, sugar, cooking oil, milk, egg, salt, fruits and vegetables, meat, and cooking fuel before the party started was surely an added motivation to attend.

I mindfully donned the mask and slowly rose from my cross-legged sitting position. Starting with my back to the audience, I turned around after I made sure that my mask was securely fastened. It was then, when I looked around through the eye slits of my mask, that I saw Nalar and Danu standing among the audience in the back. They were holding hands.

I stopped dancing. My body froze. From behind my mask, I saw Nalar smile. She held her favorite mask in her hand. Slowly, she put it on her face. Then, still holding hands, my two children turned around and walked away to God only knows where.

That was the last time I saw them.

***

 

 

Lelaki Ladang

Arafat Nur was born in Medan, on 22 December 1974. He has lived in Aceh since his elementary school years. He experienced the Aceh Conflict and his writing reflects several of its incidents. Nur’s work won numerous awards. Lampuki (Serambi, 2009) won the 2010 Dewan Kesenian Jakarta (Jakarta Arts Council) Award and the 2011 Khatulistiwa Literary Award; Burung Terbang di Kelam Malam (Bentang Pustaka, 2014) was translated into English: A Bird Flies in the Dark of Night. His latest novel, Tanah Surga Merah (Gramedia, 2016), won the 2016 Dewan Kesenian Jakarta Award. Nur is a farmer and spends his spare time reading literary works and books about history and philosophy. He can be reached at arafatnur@yahoo.com

Copyright ©2017 by Arafat Nur. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2017 by Minerva Soedjatmiko.

 

 Lelaki Ladang

 

Hasan mesti bergegas memetik cabai di sepetak tanah di lembah dekat alur yang airnya hampir kering. Bagian tanah lembah yang tidak terlalu luas itu menjadi tumpuan harapan penduduk Buket Kuta di saat kemarau sedang melanda. Kampung itu tersembunyi di kedalaman sunyi rimbunan kebun kelapa terlantar yang telah berubah hutan belukar, berjarak lima belas kilometer dari jalan raya Medan-Banda sepanjang Aceh Timur. Untuk mencapai Idi, kota kecamatan yang tidak ramai, orang harus mempuh dua puluh kilometer lagi. Penduduk Buket Kuta tidak mengenal kota kabupaten, apalagi kota provinsi yang entah di mana letaknya, bahkan dengan angan-angan pun sulit mereka gapai.

Hasan bisa melihat di seberang sana, sisa Kampung Kulam, kampungnya dulu yang sudah tidak berpenghuni lagi. Pada tahun 1999, setahun setelah Soeharto terpaksa meletakkan jabatannya sebagai presiden dan Jakarta menjadi kacau, para pejuang mengambil kesempatan menyerang pos-pos tentara, sebagai pelampiasan terhadap pemerintah. Mereka mengecam karena tidak mendapat bagian hasil yang adil dari sumber daya alam Aceh yang habis dikeruk pemerintah pusat. Ketidakpuasan atas ketidakadilan ini disuarakan melalui pemberontakan yang terus menerus dilakukan.

Di Kampung Bukit Kuta cuma sekitar lima belas keluarga saja yang tersisa dari kampung mati itu, termasuk Hasan sebagai kepala keluarga, yang oleh tentara tidak ditemukan bukti keterlibatannya ikut membangkang pada pemerintah.

Hasan memang masih ingat bahwa di awal-awal perlawanan, tidak ada paksaan terhadap pajak nanggroe dan orang-orang kaya memberikan sumbangan dengan suka rela. Waktu itu perang masih seumpama api dalam sekam dan belum terlalu muncul ke permukaan. Kaki tangan pejuang bisa leluasa berkeliaran ke mana saja, menemui pengusaha dan orang-orang kaya di kota tanpa khawatir dicurigai tentara.

Serdadu yang jumlahnya masih sedikit hanya kenal satu dua dalang pemberontakan lewat foto yang mereka bawa, juga lewat selebaran-selebaran yang mereka tempelkan di dinding kedai, dan meunasah sebagai seruan kepada masyarakat agar melaporkan kepada tentara bila ada yang melihat orang-orang dalam selebaran itu.

Namun, kala perang berlangsung lama dan keadaan para pejuang makin terjepit, mereka meminta uang dengan paksa pada siapa saja sebagai biaya perjuangan. Mereka tidak bisa lagi menemui orang-orang kaya di kota. Sehingga, pajak nanggroe kemudian diwajibkan pada penduduk kampung yang masih bisa didatangi, tak peduli bahwa kaum petani itu hidup menderita dan papa.

Hasan terengah menarik karung berisi panenan diantara tanaman cabai di ladang.

Kampung Kulam yang tinggal kenangan dan telah menjadi hutan besar, tempat ular dan babi bersarang. Di kampung itu pula banyak penduduk yang mati dan telah terkubur. Hasan teringat bapak, mak, dan adik perempuannya. Seketika air mata jatuh menimpa ujung sepatu bot karet yang selalu dipakainya di luar rumah.

***

Sambil memetik cabai, Hasan mengunyah sebatang alang-alang sambil mengingat kembali saat para tentara marah besar sebab seorang pejuang nekat menghadang truk tentara dan membunuh sepasukan serdadu dengan tembakan bazoka.

Ratusan tentara datang keesokan harinya membakar rumah-rumah, dan menembaki siapa saja. Kampung tempat Hasan tinggal jadi ladang pembantaian. Tak peduli perempuan dan anak-anak, beberapa dari mereka ikut terkapar bersama laki-laki yang rubuh ke tanah bersimbah darah. Beruntung bagi Hasan dan istrinya, mereka saat itu tidak sedang di rumah. Mereka berada di ladang.

Dari ladang yang berjarak sekitar satu kilometer dari rumah, mereka bisa mengetahui kegaduhan di pemukiman, teriakan-teriakan prajurit yang menghardik dan memaki, serta letusan tembakan berkali-kali yang getarannya sampai ke dada. Setiap kali bedil meletus, napas Hasan tertahan dan jantungnya berdebar. Saat letusan senjata terjadi saling sahut, seakan ada segerombolan lain balas menyerang, Hasan dan istrinya yang sedang bunting lari menghilang ke hutan.

Ketika sejumlah tentara itu pulang ke pos mereka masing-masing, Hasan menemukan kampungnya sudah rata. Tak ada lagi rumah orang tuanya, tak ada rumah tetangga, tak ada lagi rumah yang tersisa. Semua sudah musnah dibakar. Cuma mayat-mayat terkapar di halaman rumah, dan berserakan di ladang-ladang kelapa dan palawija. Hanya mereka yang berada jauh dari pemukiman saja yang selamat. Melihat semua itu, jiwa Hasan terguncang selama berhari-hari kemudian serupa orang hilang ingatan.

Ketika sadar, dia menangis. Mengutuki perang. Kemudian hari, setelah guncangan jiwanya mereda, dia belajar untuk lupa. Hidup di sini harus bisa melupakan luka. Hidup menuntutnya bekerja. Dia bersama istrinya membangun gubuk baru di kampungnya sekarang.

***

Ratusan, mungkin juga sudah ribuan kali tentara yang mendirikan pos di pinggir kampung Buket Kuta ini memeriksanya. Hampir saban hari isi rumahnya digeledah, setiap jengkalnya diperiksa, dan mereka tak pernah menemukan senjata. Meskipun begitu, setiap kali serdadu datang memeriksa dan mengawasi kampung itu, Hasan tetap menjadi bulan-bulanan penyiksaan, sebagaimana juga setiap lelaki yang mereka temui.

Tentara sengaja memukuli penduduk, agar orang-orang membenci pejuang. Tersebab pejuanglah mereka terus-terusan dianiaya. Karena tidak sanggup melawan prajurit-prajurit garang bersenjata lengkap itu, penduduk menjadi marah dan geram dengan orang-orang yang melawan pemerintah. Ketika serdadu datang, merekalah yang harus lari menyelamatkan diri ke hutan untuk menghindari penyiksaan.

Setiap kali tentara meninggalkan kampung-kampung sehabis memburu pejuang, Mando Gapi dan anak buahnya selalu muncul bagai dari dalam bumi. Panglima Sagoe, petinggi pejuang kecamatan, itu tetap menuntut pembayaran pajak. Lelaki berahang persegi itu tidak peduli terhadap keadaan penghuni kampung yang teramat susah.

Agaknya dia begitu kesulitan mencari anggota baru yang mau diajaknya berperang melawan serdadu pemerintah. Banyak sudah orang yang mati, dan yang tersisa begitu ketakutan ketika melihat senjata.

“Hutangmu pada kami semakin menumpuk, dan akan lunas semuanya jika kau bergabung dengan kami!” sergah Mando Gapi.

“Aku punya anak, Bang,” ibanya.

“Selalu itu alasanmu!”

“Aku tidak tahu harus bagaimana.”

“Kau masih beruntung punya keluarga. Kami tak punya siapa-siapa lagi selain senjata. Apa pun alasanmu, kau harus tetap membayar pajak. Itu adalah tanggung-jawab orang yang tidak mau ikut berperang!”

“Tapi, aku tak punya uang, Bang,” kata Hasan.

“Bukankah cabaimu hampir panen?”

“Tapi, aku belum memetiknya. Hutangku pada Dullah juga banyak,” keluh Hasan.

“Kau selalu mengeluh. Berperang pun menolak. Jadi jasa apa yang bisa kau sumbangkan demi kepentingan orang banyak, dan demi martabat bangsa Aceh yang sudah habis dinjak-injak pemerintah? Mereka merampas hasil bumi kita, menguras minyak, gas, dan menebang kayu-kayu untuk kertas. Ketika menuntut untuk merdeka, mereka mengirimkan tentara, membunuh lelaki dan memperkosa perempuan-perempuan kita. Pantaskah sekarang kau berdiam diri saja?”

“Kalau aku tidak punya anak dan istri, aku juga akan ikut berperang, Bang,” balas Hasan gugup.

“Alah, kata-katamu itu sungguh tidak meyakinkan. Kau tidak menunjukkan bukti apa-apa. Untuk memberikan pajak nanggroe saja kau kerap menghindar. Lihat kami yang telah mengorbankan semua harta kami untuk membeli senjata dan rela hidup sengsara di hutan yang selalu dalam intaian dan ancaman senjata serdadu laknat!”

Hasan mendengus bingung, “Aku tidak tahu, Bang.”

Mando Gapi menepuk keningnya, menggeleng-geleng, lantas berkacak pinggang.

“Dengar,” ucap Mando Gapi. “Aku ini mau berbaik hati padamu. Kaupetik itu cabai, jual, dan sisakan uangnya untuk kami. Aku akan mengambilnya besok atau lusa!”

Hasan terpaku di beranda rumahnya, memandangi Mando Gapi yang berbalik badan, meninggalkan rumahnya.

Sepeninggalan Mando Gapi, Hasan beringsut lunglai, menjongkok, lalu bersandar pada dinding rumah. Tiba-tiba tubuhnya begitu lemah, tak bertenaga, bahkan untuk berdiri saja sulit. Kata-kata Mando Gapi yang memaksa, berikut ancaman-ancaman yang bernada lunak, ditambah perkara utang-piutang di kedai Dullah, membuat kepala Hasan pening dan telinganya berdenging-denging.

Reza, anaknya yang berumur tiga tahun, muncul dari dalam rumah, menghampirinya, mengusik ketenggelaman dirinya dalam kegamangan.

Hasan menarik tangan anaknya ke dalam pangkuan, membelai-belai kepala bocah itu, sedangkan matanya menerawang jauh dengan pikiran tidak menentu. Dia terjepit antara Mando Gapi dan tentara. Sekarang juga dia harus memetik cabenya!

***

Sudah pasti prajurit yang tinggal di pos pinggir kampung itu mencium gelagat Mando Gapi menyusup ke kampung Buket Kuta. Karenanya para lelaki di kampung terpaksa melarikan diri ke hutan jika tidak ingin jadi bulan-bulanan mereka. Pagi tadi Hasan pulang, setelah teperangkap lima hari lima malam dalam hutan, kurang tidur, gelisah tidak menentu, dan tubuhnya begitu lelah. Di gubuk ditemui Saudah, istrinya, lagi tersedu. Reza, merengek-rengek minta makan.

“Kita tak punya apa-apa lagi, Bang. Beras habis,” ucap Saudah pilu.

Hasan menjawab dengan tatapan pedih. Perutnya juga perih. Bukan hanya wajahnya yang kumuh, otaknya juga lusuh. Hasan begitu geram, tak henti-henti mengutuk perang laknat itu.

Kalau saja hutangnya tidak menumpuk di kedai Dullah, dia pasti sudah melesat ke sana. Namun, dia begitu malu menemui lelaki empat puluhan itu untuk mengutang barang tiga bambu beras dan dua ons ikan asin. Dullah belum tentu bersedia memberikannya sebab hutang lama belum juga terbayar. Hasan membayangkan dirinya tidak akan sanggup menghadapi Dullah yang akan terus-terusan mengeluh rugi pada siapa saja yang datang mengutang.

Hasan tahu, setiap kali sepasukan tentara masuk ke kampung itu, Dullah terpaksa merelakan barang-barangnya, berikut beberapa rupiah uang di laci, yang langsung dikeruk tentara, seolah itu semua milik mereka. Dullah akan menyaksikan penjarahan miliknya di depan mata, tanpa berusaha menentang. Sikap tanpa perlawanan demikian, menyelamatkannya dari siksaan pasukan beringas yang sibuk memukuli dan menendang pantat dua tiga penduduk yang kebetulan sedang berkeliaran di sekitar kedai. Sambil melayangkan tendangan, mereka menunding wajah-wajah kotor petani itu sebagai pemberontak.

***

Hasan membuka kaus kumalnya yang koyak di sana-sini, lalu memukuli kepalanya dengan tangannya yang kekar. Bau pesing, bekas kencing anaknya di lantai tanah itu semakin membuatnya pusing. Dia berpikir keras sambil berjalan mondar-mandir di ruang sempit itu, dan beberapa kali hampir menginjak kaki Reza yang menyebabkannya menjerit.

Saudah membelah dua bagian mentimun yang dibawa pulang suaminya, yang ditemui Hasan di sebuah lading terlantar saat meninggalkan tempat persembunyian. Separuh dari mentimun itu diberikan pada Reza yang membuat anak itu seketika diam. Bocah itu dengan rakusnya mengigiti potongan mentimun itu. Airnya muncrat, meleleh di sekitar mulutnya.

Ketika Hasan duduk di lantai, Saudah datang dengan sebotol minyak tanah. Kulit hitam itu bengkak-bengkak serupa bekas gigitan serangga. Saudah mengoleskan minyak tanah itu ke sekujur badan lelakinya.

Hasan tahu betapa istrinya begitu mencintainya, dan Saudah juga tahu betapa suaminya sangat mencintai dia. Namun, mereka kehilangan cara untuk menanggapi atau menerima. Di tengah kemelut dan penderitaan yang begitu menyesakkan selain dari ketakutan semua perasaan terasa asing, seolah perang tak memberikan ruang sedikit pun untuk cinta.

“Sampai hutan mana Abang lari?”

“Hutan Damar.”

“Jauh sekali?”

“Tentara terus mengejar kami. Pasukan kami memancing tembakan. Mungkin ada tentara yang kena tembak. Laki-laki yang ingin selamat terpaksa melarikan diri bersama kelompok pejuang yang terus menyingkir ke tepi hutan.” Hasan memijit betisnya yang terasa pegal dan menyambung, “Serdadu pemerintah tidak akan memperbedakan lagi raut wajah petani dari wajah pemberontak, bentuk rupa mereka sama. Bau tubuh mereka juga sama, sebagaimana bau tubuh kumuh orang yang jarang mandi. Patutlah tentara mengamuk hari itu. Rupanya kami berhasil menembak salah satu dari mereka.”

Hasan berhenti sejenak dan melayangkan pandangan ke Saudah. “Apa yang mereka lakukan di sini?”

“Orang-orang termasuk anak-anak dikumpulkan di meunasah. Beberapa anak laki dipukul. Menuding-nuding bapak mereka penyebab seorang prajurit terbunuh.” Saudah mendesah.

“Kau diapakan mereka?”

“Cuma dibentak.”

Hasan terdiam sejenak lalu bertanya, “Mereka tak mengambil barang-barang dalam rumah?”

“Tidak. Mungkin tidak ada lagi barang yang akan mereka ambil. Tapi, mereka begitu kesal dan mengamuk. Ternak-ternak yang mereka lihat ditembaki.” Saudah menjelaskan.

“Kambing kita?” wajah Hasan cemas.

“Juga mati.”

“Kau tak memasaknya?”

“Bangkainya mereka bawa.”

Hasan menyentak tubuhnya, melesat lewat pintu. Dia berlari-lari ke kebun belakang, melewati pohon-pohon kelapa yang setahun belakangan ini engan berbuah. Kemarau membuat kuning daun-daunnya, dan banyak pelepah tercampak ke tanah. Hasan berhenti berlari. Kedua tangannya memukul-mukul kepalanya.

“Memang jahanam!”pekiknya. Dia berjalan gontai melewati semak-semak. Di dekat pematang sawah, tumbuh beberapa batang singkong. Sepintas ditatapnya batang-batang padi yang masih menancap ke tanah seperti seikat kecil batang lidi. Daunnya kering. Tanah tempat batang padi itu menancap pecah-pecah, retak di sana-sini. Padahal dia sudah banyak menghabiskan tenaganya untuk membajak dan mengurus tanaman di sepetak sawah itu, belum lagi kerugian biji gabah sebagai bibit yang akhirnya binasa. Tumbuhan padi itu tidak akan menghasilkan apa-apa, selain kurasan tenaga dan seperempat karung gabah yang terbuang sia-sia.

Di kebun singkong Hasan mengepalkan tinjunya dengan geram melihat batang-batang umbi tercerabut. Ada bekas kekasaran terjadi di sana. Tapak-tapak babi hutan itu sebagai bukti. Hasan memaki-maki. Perutnya perih. Dia teringat perut istri dan anaknya.

Akhirnya dibawa pulang juga sisa-sisa singkong yang masih tinggal di dalam tanah, yang tidak bisa dijarah babi hutan. Hasan mengorek sisa-sisa umbi yang masih tertinggal dalam tanah seperti ayam yang mengorek tanah mencari cacing. Umbi-umbi yang masih serupa akar kayu itu memang keras karena belum berisi.

Sesampai di gubug, Hasan menyerahkan ubi hasil korekannya ke Saudah. Dia kemudian merebus akar kayu yang keras itu tanpa bersuara.

Meskipun masih tengah hari, tubuh Hasan menginginkan tidur. Tubuhnya begitu keletihan sekembalinya dari pelarian, ditambah kurang tidur karena tidak ada tempat tidur selama di hutan, ditambah pula perasaannya yang tidak nyaman. Selama lima hari terperangkap di hutan, dia bersama pemberontak dan petani lainnya hanya tidur-tidur ayam. Perasaan cemas selalu menghantui, membuat mereka terjaga sebentar-bentar.

Setelah lama dia membolak-balikkan tubuh di ranjang kamar, mata lelahnya tidak kunjung bisa terpejam. Begitu pula keinginannya bercumbu yang terkadang timbul tak tentu waktu, yang kapan saja bisa berkobar, tak peduli siang, tapi tidak ada nyala gairah sama sekali meskipun istrinya kemudian ikut merebahkan diri di sampingnya.

“Aku mau petik cabai,” Hasan meloncat dari ranjang, lalu menyambar karung kosong di sisi pintu.

***

Sekarang, dengan bersemangat Hasan mondar mandir di antara tanaman cabai mengisi karungnya. Tangan kekar itu agak gemetaran menyambar buah-buah cabai, tidak peduli merah atau hijau. Tangannya seolah begitu terampil, cepat menyambar buah itu pada tiap-tiap batang yang bergelayut. Tetapi, seringkali pula tangan itu menyambar daun, yang disangkanya buah hijau. Kadangkala buah busuk yang tangkainya masih menempel di dahan ikut terenggut dalam genggamannya. Dia berusaha memusatkan pikiran pada pekerjaannya, tapi sering gagal. Selalu saja ada bayangan menganggu yang berkitaran tak jauh darinya.

Hasan sendiri di sana, lenyap dalam kesunyian senja. Seraya memetik cabai, seringkali dia tebarkan pandangannya ke sekeling begitu dirasakan ada sosok lain yang hadir, seolah telah berdiri di belakangnya selayak hantu. Dia begitu khawatir kalau tiba-tiba sepasukan tentara sudah berdiri mengelilinginya—itu kerap terjadi karena pasukan pengintai sering mengendap di semak-semak selama berjam-jam dan muncul tiba-tiba tanpa menimbulkan suara.

Para prajurit tidak akan percaya lagi kalau dirinya cuma seorang lelaki ladang. Sekalipun petani, di petang hampir gelap semacam ini tidak ada lagi yang berkeliaran di ladang. Kecuali pemberontak kelaparan yang sedang mencuri tanaman petani.

Hasan ingin lekas-lekas menyudahi pekerjaannya. Tangganya itu begitu cepat menyambar, tanpa peduli pucuk-pucuk cabai muda yang ikut terengut. Dia tahu, harga cabai lagi mahal. Kalau buah-buah cabai itu habis dipetiknya maka dia bisa menukarkan dengan satu karung beras, cukup bagi keluarganya untuk bertahan selama sebulan, tanpa perlu mendengar keluhan istri dan rengekan anaknya yang minta makan.

Jalur pokok cabai yang sudah dipetik itu bagai dijamah binatang liar. Batang-batangnya patah, dan beberapa buah berserakan di tanah bersama daun-daunnya yang gugur dan tercerabut dari tangannya. Hasan menyadari kerusakan tanaman cabainya itu, dia tahu daun-daun pada cabang-cabang yang patah itu nantinya akan layu berguguran.

Terasa begitu lambat pekerjaan itu, dan waktu begitu cepat melesat. Kini buah masak, hijau, bahkan putik dan busuk masuk ke dalam karung. Nanti malam di rumah dia bisa memisahkannya dari buah yang bagus. Karung itu sudah penuh. Hasan segera bangkit. Dadanya berdebar-debar begitu disadari hari sudah meremang. Perasaannya bercampur aduk antara senang dan ketakutan. Terbayang pula istri dan anaknya yang menunggunya dengan cemas membawa pulang beras.

Secepatnya dia mengikat mulut karung itu dengan tali plastik bekas. Lalu menyeretnya di jalan setapak yang diapit ilalang tebal. Matanya menyebar ke segala arah. Sengaja dia tidak memikul karung itu supaya tidak kelihatan jika ada orang yang menengoknya dari jauh. Hasan berjalan mengendap-endap sambil menyeret karung cabainya.

Ketika melalui jalan setapak yang terhalang semak-semak tinggi, Hasan bisa berjalan tegak dan merasa lega. Kalaupun ada orang di kejauhan sana, mereka tidak akan melihatnya. Hutan belukar di sekeliling melindunginya dari pandangan orang-orang.

Hasan teringat istri dan anak. Dia sadar bahwa meskipun apa yang terjadi dia harus tetap ke ladang, menanam padi, singkong, dan cabai. Padi dan singkong bisa dimakan. Cabai dijualnya pada Bang Dullah. Jika kena harga, istrinya bisa belanja ke Pasar Idi, beli baju, dan barang-barang lainnya. Dia tidak mau ikut-ikutan berperang dengan hidup tidak menentu. Keinginannya cuma sederhana, hidup bahagia,seadanya, bersama istri dan anaknya.

Sekonyong-konyong, seperti bayangan hantu berkelebat, beberapa sosok berpakaian loreng menyergapnya dekat semak-semak situ. Tentara. Hasan terkesiap, karung cabai di tangannya terlepas. Sebelum suaranya sempat keluar, sesuatu yang keras telah menghantam tengkuknya dengan begitu kuat. Hasan langsung rubuh terjerembab ke tanah. Tubuhnya tidak berkutik lagi.

***

Man of The Fields

Minerva Soedjatmiko’s love of reading started when her mother read her stories about the lives of artists like Leonardo da Vinci. While she attended elementary school, Minerva, who prefers to use her first name only, could often be found in the library enjoying novels of different genres. Following her parents’ advice to pursue a lucrative career, she went on to study economics and law at the university. However, Minerva never lost her love for books and her joy of sharing their content with others. She eventually decided to become a language teacher and now works as an interpreter and translator in a media and communications company. Minerva can be reached at minerva.soedjatmiko@cdcplus.co.id

 

 

 

  Man of the Fields

 

Hasan hurriedly harvested the chili peppers growing on a patch of land near the stream that was starting to run dry. The farmers of Buket Kuta placed their hopes on the harvest of this small area of the valley when the dry season hit. Their village was tucked away in the deep silence of coconut groves that, neglected, had turned into overgrown woods, some nine miles off the main road between Medan and Banda, along Eastern Aceh. Idi, the closest small city, was about thirteen miles farther. Without any available public transportation, the villagers never ventured out. They had no idea what the world beyond Buket Kuta looked like.

Hasan gazed across the valley at what remained of Kampung Kulam. The village where he had grown up was now abandoned. In 1999, a year after Indonesia’s President Soeharto was forced to step down and the government in Jakarta fell into chaos, rebels in Aceh began attacking army posts in retaliation against the government. The rebels claimed that the government had exploited the natural resources that belonged to the most northern province of Sumatra, and the Acehnese had not received their fair share of proceeds. Their discontent erupted in a series of protests.

Hasan was the breadwinner of one of fifteen families from Kampung Kulam who now lived in Buket Kuta. The soldiers had found no evidence of him being involved in revolts against the government.

Hasan still remembered the beginning of the rebellion against the government. At that time, there had been no coercion in collecting what the rebels called pajak nanggroe—contributions to support the uprising. Resentment against the government was widespread, and the rich city folks who supported the rebels’ cause gladly made donations. The war was merely a spark of discontent; something similar to an ember held in a damp chaff to keep from flaring. Rebels moved around freely to meet with businessmen and wealthy people in the city without fear of drawing the millitary’s suspicion.

The few government soldiers there were back then only recognized one or two of the rebel organizers. The army affixed posters with photographs of the rebels to the walls of shops and meunasah, the prayer house, encouraging the community to report any sightings of the people shown on these flyers to the authorities.

The war dragged on, however, and the rebels became cornered and financially pressured. They began to exhort money from everyone. When the wealthy residents fled, the rebels turned a blind eye to the peasants’ hardships and poverty and made the nanggroe dues compulsory for villagers as well.

Hasan sighed and pulled his harvesting sack across the path between the chili beds. Kampung Kulam was but a memory; it had become a dense forest that snakes and boars called home. Numerous villagers had been killed and buried there. Hasan thought of his father, mother, and younger sister. Tears fell onto the rubber boots he always wore when leaving home.

***

As he harvested, Hasan chewed a reed and recalled the army’s wrath after a rebel blocked their truck and killed a battalion of soldiers with a bazooka. Hundreds of soldiers arrived the next day to punish Kampung Kulam, burning homes and shooting everyone in sight. The village that Hasan had called home became a slaughterhouse. Blood flooded the ground as women and children were killed along with the men. Luckily, at the time, Hasan and his wife were out in the fields.

Even though the field was more than half a mile away from home, they could hear the soldiers’ shouting as gunshots reverberated through the air. Each time there was an eruption of gunfire, Hasan’s breath caught in his throat and his heart pounded. When he noticed the artillery fire being returned, Hasan and his pregnant wife ran to hide in the forest.

Once the soldiers returned to their posts, Hasan found that his village had been razed; there was not a single home left standing. Everything had been burned to the ground. Bodies littered the yards of what used to be homes; more were scattered in the fields among the coconut trees and crops. Only those who happened to be far away from the village had survived. The sight of it all shook Hasan, and he suffered from a kind of amnesia for days.

When his senses returned to him, Hasan broke into tears and cursed the war. Only over time did he learn to forget. Living here required the ability to forget pain. Life demanded him to work. Thus, he and his wife built a new hut in Buket Kuta, where they now lived.

***

The soldiers at the post on the outskirts of Buket Kuta searched the village hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of times. They searched Hasan’s home almost every day, but never found any weapons. Nevertheless, each time the troops patrolled the village, Hasan and other males were always a target of their anger.

The military abused the farmers to make them hate the rebels for causing the military persecution. Helpless to fight back against the heavily armed soldiers, the villagers could only run away and seek sanctuary in the forest.

Each time the military departed after their raids, Mando Gapi and his men appeared. The square-jawed commander of the rebels demanded the villagers pay the nanggroe dues without considering how they suffered. He was having trouble finding new members willing to join the fight against the military. So many lives had been lost; those still standing shuddered at the sight of a weapon.

“Your growing debt would be paid off if you joined us,” Mando Gapi barked.

“I have a child, sir,” Hasan pleaded.

“You always use that excuse!”

“I don’t know what to do.”

“You’re lucky to even have a family. We have no one, just weapons. It doesn’t matter what you’re dealing with, you still have to pay up. That’s the price of not participating in the war!”

“But…I have no money, sir.”

“Aren’t your chili peppers about ready for harvesting?”

“But, I haven’t picked them. Besides, I owe Dullah, the village grocer, a lot of money.”

“You always complain. You won’t even join the war. What do you contribute to the greater good, to defend the honor of the Acehnese as the government tramples us? They’re seizing our oil and gas, destroying our forests to manufacture paper. And when we demand independence, they send their troops to kill our men and rape our women. Is it right that you remain silent in the face of all this?”

“If I didn’t have a wife and child, I would join the war, sir,” Hasan answered nervously.

“Come on, you aren’t fooling anyone. You can’t prove to have contributed anything. You even avoid paying the nanggroe dues. Look at us. We’ve sacrificed all of our possessions to buy weapons and lead a miserable existence in the forest under constant watch of those damned soldiers!”

“I don’t know, sir,” Hasan mumbled, confused.

Mando Gapi slapped his forehead, shook his head, and put his hands on his hips. “Look, I’m trying to be nice. Go, pick those peppers, sell them, and give us some of the money. I’ll come back for it tomorrow or the day after!”

Hasan, standing frozen on his porch, stared at Mando Gapi as the man turned around and walked away.

As soon as Mando Gapi left, Hasan slumped. He suddenly felt incredibly frail, powerless to the point that standing was a challenge in itself. Crouching, he leaned against a wall. Mando Gapi’s threats, on top of his debt at Dullah’s shop, made Hasan’s head spin and his ears ring.

Reza, his three-year-old son, walked toward him from inside the house.

Hasan pulled his son onto his lap. Stroking the boy’s head, he gazed into the distance, thoughts tumbling through his head. He was stuck between the army and Mando Gapi. He needed to harvest his peppers immediately.

***

The army had tracked Mando Gapi to Buket Kuta. Their search forced all adult males in the village to flee to the forest again. After hiding there for five days and five nights, Hasan had returned home that morning. He was exhausted. Sleep deprivation and an undefined restlessness had caused his entire body to be sore. His wife, Saudah, greeted him, weeping. Reza bawled for food.

“We don’t have anything anymore, dear. We finished the rice,” Saudah told him.

Hasan responded with a pained look. His stomach ached as well. Not only was his face ragged, his mind too was worn out. Hasan furiously condemned this cursed war.

If only he did not have so much debt accrued at Dullah’s shop, he would surely have rushed over there. But Hasan was overcome with shame at the thought of asking the middle-aged man for a bit of salted fish and rice on credit. Considering Hasan’s prior debts, Dullah might not be willing to provide him with these staples. The shopkeeper always complained of his losses to anyone who borrowed from him.

Hasan knew that each time troops entered the village, Dullah was forced to surrender his inventory to them, along with however many rupiah were in the drawer. The army picked everything clean and acted as if they owned it all.

Each time, Dullah watched them loot his shop without any attempt to resist. This conduct saved him from the abuse served up by the soldiers, who instead busied themselves with kicking villagers who happened to be wandering by the shop. As the kicks hit their marks, the soldiers threw accusations at the farmers’ dirty faces, alleging they were rebels.

***

Hasan took off his stained and tattered shirt and slapped his head with a burly hand. The stench of urine where his son had wet the dirt floor made his headache worse. Pacing the tight space, he barely missed stepping on Reza’s foot, causing the child to scream.

Saudah split the cucumber Hasan had found in an abandoned field as he was leaving his hiding place in the forest. She handed a piece to Reza, which immediately quieted him. As the toddler bit into the cucumber, its juices squirted and dripped from his mouth.

Hasan sat down on the floor; his dark skin was covered with little welts similar to bug bites. Saudah came to him with a bottle of kerosene and rubbed the kerosene all over her husband’s body to soothe the welts.

Hasan knew how much his wife loved him; Saudah knew how much he loved her. And yet they had lost the ability to respond to or receive such emotions. Amidst the peril and misery that smothered each day, every emotion other than fear felt strange; war left no room for love.

“How far did you go this time?”

“To the Damar Forest.”

“That far?”

“The soldiers kept coming after us. Our men opened fire and shot one of them. The soldiers were furious. Whoever wanted to stay alive was forced to join the rebels, who ran into the forest.” Hasan rubbed his calves and continued, “The soldiers made no effort to distinguish farmers from rebels—to them, we all look the same. Our filthy bodies even smell the same. But it’s no wonder the soldiers were furious; we did shoot one of them.”

Hasan paused and sent Saudah a scrutinizing look. “What did they do here?”

“They gathered people, including children, in the meunasah. Several boys were beaten. Their fathers were accused of causing the death of a soldier.” Saudah sighed.

“What did they do to you?”

“They just scolded me.”

“They didn’t take anything from our house?”

“No. There isn’t anything left for them to take. They were really mad. They shot whatever livestock they saw.”

“Our goat?” Concern was written all over Hasan’s face.

“Dead.”

“Did you cook it?”

“They took the carcass.”

Hasan pulled away and darted out the door. He ran to the back garden, past the coconut trees that had refused to bear fruit for the past year. The drought had turned the leaves yellow and caused the ribs to drop to the ground. Hasan stopped running. He beat his head with both hands.

“Damn it all!” he screamed, stumbling through the bushes. Close to the narrow walk bordering the rice paddies, a few cassava plants had sprouted. Stalks of rice still rose from the soil like tiny bundles of thin sticks; the leaves were parched. He had plowed the land and tended to the seedlings on this plot. Yet, the ground of the rice paddies was hard and cracked. The plants had perished, the seed wasted.

At the cassava patch, Hasan clenched his fists when he saw the uprooted plants. Boar tracks explained the damage. Hasan cursed. His stomach hurt; he thought of his wife’s and child’s stomachs.

He eventually decided to take home the boars’ leftovers. Hasan dug for the remaining roots with his hands like a scavenger. The immature tubers were hard, like tree roots.

At home, Hasan handed Saudah the meager harvest.

She silently boiled the thin, tough roots.

Though it was only noon, Hasan yearned for sleep. During the five days he was trapped in the woods, he could only catnap along with the other farmers and the rebels. A ceaseless anxiety kept everyone awake.

After a while of tossing and turning on his cot, Hasan still could not fall asleep. Neither was his passion aroused when he looked at his wife. Although he had been away from home for five days, and normally his desire for her could be sparked at any time of the day or night, he remained unmoved, even after she lay down next to him.

“I’m going to pick the chili peppers,” he told her, jumping out of bed and grabbing an empty sack next to the door.

***

Now Hasan moved between the chili beds with an urgency to fill his harvest bag. His calloused hands trembled slightly as he picked the peppers, regardless of the fruit being red or green. His fingers, skilled and swift, plucked each pepper from every hanging stem. Sometimes, in his haste, he seized the rotten ones that had not fallen off the stem. He tried to stay focused on the task at hand, but failed miserably. A shadow followed him relentlessly, circling nearby.

Hasan was alone as twilight draped the field. While gathering the peppers, he could not keep himself from looking around as if there was another presence, someone standing behind him like a ghost. He worried about suddenly being surrounded by a military squad. Soldiers on surveillance often concealed themselves in the bushes for hours before unexpectedly appearing without a sound.

They would never believe that he was merely a man working the fields. No one would still be wandering in the fields when it was almost dark. Unless, of course, they were starving rebels stealing the farmers’ crops.

Hasan wanted to get the job done quickly. He knew the price of chili peppers was at a high. If he could harvest them all, he would be able to buy a sack of rice, enough for his family to live on for a month. His wife would have no need to complain, and his son would not beg to be fed.

The row of peppers he had picked looked like wild animals had foraged there. Some branches were broken, some fruit scattered on the dirt. Hasan realized the damage. He knew the broken branches would wither and drop their leaves.

He seemed to make such little progress while time passed so quickly. Now, all chili peppers—ripe, green, or still in bud, and even the rotten ones—were bagged. The sack was full. He could sort the good from the bad later that evening at home.

Hasan straightened himself. His heart pounded when he realized how late it was. Delight and fear filled him. He imagined his wife and son, anxiously waiting for him to come home with rice.

Hasan hurriedly tied the top of the sack with a used plastic strap. He looked in all directions, then dragged the bag down a path between thick weeds. He deliberately did not carry the sack on his back, to avoid being noticed from afar. Hasan crept forward, lugging the bag behind him.

When he reached a portion of the path that was blocked from view by high shrubs, Hasan was able to walk upright and felt relieved. Even if there were soldiers out there, they would not be able to spot him. The surrounding grove gave him cover.

Hasan thought of his wife and child. Come what may, he must always return to the fields to plant rice, cassava, and chili peppers. The rice and cassava could be eaten. The peppers could be sold to Dullah. If the price was right, his wife would be able to buy groceries, clothes, and other things at the Idi Market. Hasan had no wish to join the war. He merely wanted to live a happy life with his wife and child.

Suddenly, like the silhouette of a ghost passing by, several figures dressed in camouflage jumped out of the nearby bushes. Soldiers.

Hasan gasped and let go of the sack of peppers. Something hard slammed into the nape of his neck. Before he could utter a sound, Hasan collapsed.

***

Belenggu Emas

Iksaka Banu was born in Yogyakarta, October 7, 1964. He graduated from the Institut Teknologi Bandung with a degree in graphic design. He started writing when he was ten years old. Kawanku and the children section of Kompas published him. Koran Tempo and several other magazines featured his stories in 2000. Pena Kencana listed “Mawar di Kanal Macan” and “Semua Untuk Hindia” in the best twenty Indonesian short stories in 2008 and 2009. His short story collection “Semua Untuk Hindia” (Gramedia  2014), won the 2014 Kusala Sastra Khatulistiwa Award in the prose category.

Iksaka can be reached at iksaka@yahoo.com

Copyright ©2017 Iksaka Banu. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2017 by Maya Denisa Saputra.

***

 

Belenggu Emas

 

Ruang tamu ini sangat nyaman. Mungkin karena semua jendelanya dibuka lebar sehingga udara sejuk Koto Gadang bisa leluasa masuk, membawa pergi sisa kepenatan tubuh akibat terguncang-guncang selama enam jam di dalam kereta api uap milik Soematra Staatsspoorwegen yang bertolak dari Padang kemarin siang.

Kulirik Nyonya Joanna Adriana Westenenk yang duduk di sebelahku. Kurasa ia juga merasakan keletihan yang sama meski sudah terbiasa bertandang ke wilayah-wilayah jauh semacam ini.

Tujuh tahun yang lalu, suaminya Louis Constant Westenenk, menjadi terkenal karena keberhasilannya dalam mengatasi Kerusuhan Kamang yang disebabkan penolakan penerapan pajak di Kamang pada bulan Juni 1908. Kini ia menjabat sebagai Residen Benkoelen.

Aku berteman baik dengan Nyonya Westenenk, tetapi tidak menduga bahwa ia benar-benar menepati janji, mengajakku ke tempat ini. Sebuah tempat yang menurutnya akan membuat mata sekaligus hatiku terbuka lebar. Tentu saja perjalanan ini di luar kegiatan resmi suaminya. Dan aku merasa sedikit nekat bepergian sejauh ini hanya berdua saja dengan Nyonya Westenenk. Bertiga, sebetulnya. Karena selalu ada ajudan yang menemani Nyonya Westenenk.

“Louis tak bisa menemani,” kata Nyonya Westenenk kemarin. “Ada sejumlah acara di Padang bersama Asisten Residen dan para pemuka adat setempat.”

Aku mengiyakan. Seharusnya suamiku juga diundang mengikuti acara itu, tetapi ia telanjur ditugaskan kantornya ke Solok bersama beberapa Kepala Insinyur lain. Bulan lalu ia sudah mengirim surat permintaan maaf kepada Asisten Residen.

Maka, di sinilah aku sekarang. Bebas mengikuti kata hati. Ya, sudah lama aku menginginkan petualangan liar semacam ini, meski tampaknya aku harus lebih sering melatih kesabaran, duduk berlama-lama di atas bangku kereta api yang keras. Setiba di Fort de Kock, kami beristirahat semalam, lalu pagi hari tadi berkereta kuda ke tempat ini.

Tak jauh berbeda dengan rumah-rumah Hindia lain yang biasa dimiliki pejabat bumiputera terpandang, rumah besar. Empat keping jendela gaya Prancis menjadi penyeimbang di kiri-kanannya pintu depan. Ada pula bangunan tambahan, memanjang di kedua sisi rumah utama. Mirip ruang kelas. Itulah bagian yang sesungguhnya paling penting dari bangunan ini. Ingin sekali aku segera melongok isinya, yang konon telah membuat gempar banyak pejabat Belanda di seantero Hindia. Tetapi tentu saja aku harus sabar menunggu hingga tuan rumah muncul.

“Onne biasa datang sekitar jam setengah sepuluh,” kata wanita dalam busana Minang yang tadi menyambut kami. “Dan bila tak ada keperluan lain Onne akan terus di sini hingga sore hari,” sambungnya sambil menyuguhkan dua cangkir teh hangat serta sejumlah kudapan. Ia memperkenalkan dirinya sebagai Zaiza, atau barangkali nama lain yang kurang-lebih berbunyi seperti itu. Bahasa Melayunya bercampur dengan logat setempat. Agak sulit bagi telingaku yang sudah sangat terbiasa mendengar Bahasa Melayu Batavia atau Melayu Jawa.

“Terima kasih. Kami memang datang terlalu pagi. Tak apa, kami akan menanti kedatangan beliau.” Nyonya Westenenk mengangguk.

Zaiza minta izin kembali ke belakang.

“Onne adalah nama panggilan wanita yang akan kita temui nanti,” bisik Nyonya Westenenk. “Artinya: kakak.”

Aku mengangguk, lalu memutar pandangan ke beberapa sudut ruangan. Di hadapanku, dekat jendela, berderet buku berbahasa Belanda, Arab, dan Melayu. Tersimpan rapi di dalam sebuah lemari berkaca dengan empat ambalan. Di ujung kanan ada rak pendek, sarat tumpukan koran terbitan dalam dan luar negeri. Sementara di sisi kiri tergantung sebuah potongan kain yang dikerjakan dengan kehalusan yang menakjubkan. Mungkin itu salah satu contoh tenunan yang dikerjakan di sini. Dan terakhir, di atas meja, tampak terbitan terbaru sebuah koran yang belum lama ini menjadi perbincangan hangat di antara kami. Benar-benar ruang tamu yang sarat peradaban.

Bukan hal aneh menjumpai pemandangan serupa itu di ruang tamu para pejabat Belanda. Tetapi saat ini aku tengah berada di dalam sebuah bangunan yang jauh dari keramaian kota, milik seorang pribumi. Tepatnya, seorang wanita pribumi.

Seolah mengerti yang kupikirkan, Nyonya Westenenk menyentuh pundakku sembari melempar senyum.

“Ini belum semuanya, Nellie,” bisiknya. “Tunggu sampai kau berbicara dengannya. Dengarkan pemikiran-pemikirannya.”

“Ya, Nyonya,” sahutku. “Banyak berita tentang orang ini. Seharusnya aku malu. Ia berani menyuarakan dirinya sendiri di tengah tekanan hebat lingkungannya. Sementara aku, lihatlah, betapa menyedihkan diriku di hadapan suami.”

“Berhentilah menyalahkan diri.” Nyonya Westenenk memperbaiki letak sarung tangan putih berpola renda yang dikenakannya.  “Hindia Belanda tidak sama dengan Eropa. Di sini semua berjalan lebih lambat. Bahkan orang kulit putih pun tak bisa melangkah gegas. Tetapi bukan berarti kita tak sudi merentangkan kedua tangan lebar-lebar menyambut perubahan yang sedang menggeliat. Perubahan yang sebentar lagi membuat lompatan besar di seluruh penjuru dunia ini. Di Barat, di Timur, di seluruh penjuru dunia, wanita sedang bergerak.”

“Dan suami Anda sungguh luar biasa, membiarkan Anda pergi ke sini hanya ditemani olehku dan seorang ajudan, sementara aku harus mencuri waktu selagi suami bertugas ke luar kota.”

Kulirik jendela. Tampak Joep, ajudan Tuan Westenenk sedang asyik bercakap dengan kusir kereta yang tadi mengantar kami ke sini.

“Louis sama saja dengan pria-pria lain di dunia. Pernah terlihat rapuh, tidak percaya diri, bahkan sangat tidak ramah kepadaku saat berkobar kerusuhan Kamang tujuh tahun lalu,” Nyonya Westenenk kembali memahat senyum tipis di wajahnya yang tirus. “Tetapi setelah perang berlalu, ia kembali seperti yang kukenal sebelumnya. Memberi banyak kelonggaran. Dengar, aku tak ingin mencampuri urusan rumah tanggamu. Aku lebih dahulu kenal dengan Theodor Makenbrug, suamimu, dibandingkan dirimu. Ia teman dekat Louis. Sejauh yang kutahu, tak ada yang salah dengannya. Kalau tampak keras, barangkali karena ia mengkhawatirkanmu. Belum terbiasa melihat istrinya ikut sengsara, berpindah-pindah rumah di negeri ini. Louis dulu juga begitu.”

“Saya rasa semua memang tergantung dari mana kita melihat, Nyonya. Betul, ia baik hati dan setia. Itu satu hal,” kataku sambil bangkit, berjalan mendekati dinding dekat lemari buku yang menyimpan foto keluarga. Cukup aneh melihat banyak foto manusia di rumah ini.  Biasanya, sesuai tafsir agama yang mereka anut, keluarga Muslim Minang pantang memindahkan wajah ke atas sehelai kertas foto. Aku dengar, menurut mereka haram membuat tiruan ciptaan Allah. Tetapi rupanya keluarga ini bukan hanya terbiasa berfoto, mereka tahu persis bagaimana tampil anggun di depan kamera. Anak-anak lelaki berdiri gagah dalam seragam kelasi Victoria seperti yang biasa dikenakan para sinyo Belanda, sementara anak-anak perempuan mengenakan gaun dan sepatu putih. Dari semua sosok yang terpampang di situ, harus kuakui bahwa pemilik rumah ini ternyata memang telah memiliki tatapan sangat tajam sejak masa kanak-kanak.

“Theo setia. Aku tidak mengeluhkan Theo dari sisi itu,” aku melanjutkan bicara. “Dan barangkali Anda benar. Masuk akal bila semua itu membuatnya sangat khawatir. Tetapi untuk hal lain…” aku tidak merampungkan kalimat, karena kulihat Nyonya Westenenk tidak menyimak. Ia sibuk membolak-balik koran yang ia ambil dari rak. Kuurungkan pula niat untuk mengajaknya kembali membicarakan pokok masalah awal.

Ya, aku tidak mengeluhkan Theo dari sisi kebaikan hati dan kesetiaan. Tak pernah kudengar sedikit pun berita miring tentang dirinya. Padahal setiap malam hampir semua kelab, baik di Batavia, Bandung, atau Semarang sarat kisah perselingkuhan.  Mulai dari yang menggelikan, hingga yang mengerikan.

Aku bertemu Theo pertama kali di Singapura pada suatu petang yang sejuk oleh siraman hujan tiga tahun lalu. Seorang teman ayahku berulang tahun. Kami merayakannya dengan meriah di Singapore Club, sebuah perkumpulan para pialang saham yang terletak di lantai atas Hotel Adelphi.  Sejak kematian Ibu, aku sering menemani Ayah pergi ke segala pelosok. Termasuk menghadiri acara di tempat-tempat khusus semacam ini. Dan seperti mendiang Ibu dahulu, aku juga berperan sebagai malaikat penjaga. Tak ingin melihat Ayah kelewat mabuk sehingga harus digotong pulang.

Malam itu, kubiarkan Ayah melayari kegembiraan masa lalu bersama teman-temannya di meja bilyar, sementara aku memilih menyendiri di kursi besar dekat beranda dengan sebuah buku, mengenakan kebaya putih, serta sarung panjang. Menjauh dari gerombolan lelaki yang tak putus berteriak, “Boy, lagi, setengah!” sambil mengacungkan gelas wiski kosong kepada pelayan.

Beberapa wanita berkumpul juga di ruangan ini, tetapi tak ada seorang pun yang kukenal, dan aku terlalu malas untuk berbasa-basi.  Jadi, kubenamkan saja wajahku pada halaman buku.

Maka di sudut itulah beberapa saat kemudian, seperti penyulap yang muncul secara gaib dari balik tirai, seorang pria mendadak berdiri di depanku, mengangsurkan segelas cherry brandy. Wajahnya sangat Belanda. Penuh sudut di sana sini. Di atas bibir, sepotong kumis berwarna gelap menjulur rapi. Serasi dengan jas hitam yang dikenakannya.

“Lihatlah, betapa meriah malam ini. Seorang bidadari berkulit putih dalam balutan sarung Melayu, berkelana menyusuri bait-bait Tagore,” katanya. “Tetapi kusarankan engkau mencoba dahulu sekecap dua kecap minuman ini. Dan aku menyebut diriku sendiri Makenburg. Theodor. Panggil saja Theo. Insinyur di salah satu perusahaan ayahmu.”

“Cornelia. Nellie. Terima kasih. Suka Tagore?” kujemput gelas dari tangannya seraya mengutuk dalam hati keisengan ayahku menyodorkan orang ini. Tapi tidak seperti pria-pria pilihan Ayah sebelumnya, kurasa kali ini aku bertemu orang yang bisa kupertimbangkan lebih jauh. Ya. Getaran halus itu. Aku bisa merasakannya.

“Aku sering mendengar orang membicarakan Gitanjali.” Sangat berhati-hati Theo duduk di sebelahku. “Sayang sekali, untuk lelaki yang setiap hari bergaul dengan besi, mur, dan beton, sangat langka kesempatanku membaca karya sastra dunia. Tetapi engkau boleh yakin bahwa aku tidak melewatkan Max Havelaar. Sungguh berguna untuk orang yang ingin bertandang ke negeri asal kisah itu ditulis.”

“Itu salah satu buku kesukaanku. Setelah membaca, ada semacam panggilan untuk memperbaiki keadaan di sana. Seperti yang dikatakan Rudyard Kipling dalam salah satu sajaknya…”

The White Man’s Burden?” potong Theo.

Kutinju lengannya sambil mecibirkan bibir. “Lihat, ada seorang pendusta di sini. Kau penggemar sastra pula rupanya!”

Kami tergelak.

“Engkau menyukai wanita yang gemar membaca buku sastra?” pancingku.

Theo mengangkat bahu, memanjangkan bibir sejenak sebelum menjawab sambil tersenyum, “Asakan ia juga gemar membaca buku resep makanan Eropa dan Hindia.”

“Ah, tidak suka wanita yang mandiri? Bagaimana pendapatmu tentang Aletta Jacobs?”

“Demi Tuhan, Nellie. Kita sedang berada di tengah suasana gembira. Dan kau mengajakku berkelahi!” seru Theo sambil mengangkat kedua tangan, memasang kuda-kuda bertinju.

Kami tertawa.

Itu pembicaraan awal kami yang sangat bersahaja. Setelah itu, Theo mulai kerap bertandang ke rumah kami di Singapura. Sekali-dua mengajak aku dan Ayah bersantap malam di luar. Enam bulan kemudian kami menikah. Menjelang dua tahun usia pernikahan, setelah lelah menunggu kehadiran jabang bayi yang tak kunjung tiba, memaksa agar diperbolehkan mengikuti Theo menduduki posnya yang baru di Batavia. Melalui pertengkaran sengit, akhirnya Theo bersedia membawaku serta.

Kami tinggal di kawasan Gunung Sahari. Sebuah wilayah dekat pantai. Udara di situ sangat panas dan lembab. Tiada hari tanpa keringat, sehingga aku lebih sering mengenakan kain-kebaya dibandingkan pakaian Eropa. Seperti anjuran seorang rekan wanita Ayah, aku selalu mengenakan kebaya putih. Selain memantulkan panas, putih adalah warna kebaya kelas atas yang sebaiknya dipilih oleh wanita Eropa bila ingin memakai busana gaya tropis. Aku juga semakin terampil menggulung rambut tinggi-tinggi. Kini leher dan kuduk terbebas dari rasa gatal akibat panas.

“Aduh, Nyonya. Cantiknya!” Asih, babu kami, menggoda.

“Seperti Dewi Nawangwulan,” Mang Udin, kusir bendi langganan kami ikut menimpali. Entah apa yang ada di pikiran mereka melihatku berpakaian seperti itu. Tetapi menurutku mereka tampak senang.

Setelah kami pindah ke Padang, aku tetap berpenampilan demikian. Awalnya Theo tidak memberi tanggapan apapun soal rambut dan pakaianku. Namun pada suatu sore tiba-tiba ia mengajakku duduk di tuinhuis, jauh dari penglihatan para jongos dan babu kami.

“Ada baiknya engkau tidak terlalu sering berpakaian seperti itu,” ia menunjuk kebaya dan kainku. “Terutama di tanah Sumatera ini. Barangkali akan jauh lebih baik bila engkau tidak pernah lagi mengenakan semua itu.”

“Oh, mengapa?” aku terperanjat. “Apakah aku melanggar suatu larangan yang dikeramatkan di sini?”

Theo mengisi pipa gadingnya dengan tembakau. “Memang, ada kaitannya dengan mereka, tapi ini soal lain.  Bukan perkara keramat. Coba pindahkan sebentar sudut pandangmu ke pihak kita.”

Aku terdiam. Berusaha berpikir keras, namun tetap tidak menemukan sesuatu yang keliru. Sebenarnya aku bahkan samasekali tak mengerti apa yang dikatakan oleh suamiku.

The white man’s burden. Ingat?” Theo meloloskan serangkaian asap dari mulutnya beberapa kali. “Kita ingin mengubah keadaan, mengubah mereka. Bukan berubah menjadi mereka. Bukan merendahkan diri di hadapan para babu, jongos, atau tukang bendi. Aku tak pernah suka dengan orang Inggris, tetapi aku setuju pendapat Raffles dan Kipling. Orang kulit putih harus menjadi teladan untuk segala hal. Termasuk berbusana. Coba lihat, meski Raffles sangat memahami budaya daerah, bahkan menulis buku tentang Hindia, ia melarang pejabat memakai kain atau mengunyah sirih.”

“Ah, begitu rupanya,” aku menghela napas. “Tadinya kukira aku telah melanggar aturan setempat. Ternyata persoalannya jauh lebih sederhana.”

“Ini bukan persoalan ringan,” mendadak suara Theo meninggi membuatku menarik tubuh ke belakang.

“Maaf,” kataku lirih. “Tetapi hampir semua istri pejabat Eropa di Singapura tidak risih mengenakan sarung atau cheong sam. Para suami bahkan secara berkala mengenakan baju gaya Tiongkok. Sejauh yang kuingat, hal itu tidak menurunkan wibawa mereka di depan jongos maupun babu. Di Batavia kemarin, semua warga Belanda juga memakai sarung, kebaya, dan baju takwa. Engkau tidak merasa terganggu?”

“Kita bukan di Batavia,” Theo mengetuk pipa, membuang sisa abu. “Di sini orang masih mudah menghunus parang untuk alasan yang sulit kita cerna. Kita harus tegas, sedikit keras. Harus diingatkan bahwa jarak dengan kita tetap ada. Salah satunya dengan cara saling menjaga kehormatan. Mengenakan busana masing-masing. Jarak dan ketegasan akan memunculkan rasa segan, yang pada gilirannya akan membangun kepatuhan. Setelah patuh, mereka bisa kita didik, kita bentuk menjadi lebih baik. Semua untuk kebaikan mereka juga akhirnya. Dan tentu semua ada tahapannya. Bayangkan, di belakang kita boleh jadi mereka membuat lelucon. Menganggap kita seperti badut saat mengenakan busana mereka. Bagaimana pula perasaanmu melihat seorang jongos memakai jas?”

“Jongos? Tentu saja. Tetapi para bupati kerap mengenakan jas dan baju pesiar gaya Eropa. Kita tidak keberatan, bukan? Dan Nyonya Westenenk….”

“Ah, Adriana itu. Meski istri pejabat tinggi, ia jenis wanita yang tidak bisa kau jadikan panutan. Kehadirannya di rumah sangat langka. Kasihan Louis. Adriana tidak bisa seenaknya mempergunakan dalih pekerjaan sosial untuk bepergian ke sana ke mari tanpa suami di sisinya.”

“Ia tidak plesir, Theo. Aku tahu apa yang ia lakukan dengan wanita-wanita pribumi, baik di Agam maupun di Benkoelen. Ia memberi ruang bagi mereka untuk berkembang. Dan setahuku suaminya mendukung.”

“Louis tak tahu apa-apa tentang tata krama. Itulah yang memaksaku menemuimu sore ini. Aku tak mau kau bertingkah seperti Adriana. Ia seperti penyakit menular. Siapa yang ia dekati, berubah menjadi liar. Aku tak ingin orang bergunjing tentang dirimu. Selain itu, hendak kalian apakan wanita-wanita pribumi itu? Kalian ingin mereka melompat-lompat dengan kaki terangkat ke atas menari cancan? Di Eropa, engkau mungkin bisa jungkir balik menabrak tradisi. Seperti Aletta Jacobs, pujaanmu itu. Bekerja di luar rumah atas nama sendiri. Bahkan menuntut hak memilih wakil rakyat. Tetapi sekali lagi, tidak di sini!” Theo menyimpan pipanya lalu masuk ke dalam rumah, meninggalkanku sendiri ditaman dengan sejuta kegundahan.

Hari itu senantiasa kuingat dalam hidup, karena merupakan awal pertikaian tak berkesudahan dengan suamiku. Ada saja yang ia persoalkan. Pilihan makanan, cara bicara dengan babu, jongos, atau larangan bergaul dengan seorang nyai yang tinggal di dekat kami. Celakanya, semua selalu berujung pada pengurangan hak-hak istimewaku. Semakin lama ruang gerakku semakin sempit. Belakangan, lewat sebuah keributan hebat, ia tidak lagi memperbolehkanku membeli koran walau masih boleh menikmati buku. Kubalas perlakuannya dengan pindah tidur ke kamar lain. Kukunci pintu. Lalu kuhabiskan malam-malam panjang dengan menulis sajak atau karangan lain dalam berlembar kertas.

Akhirnya kemarin, saat Theo sedang pergi ke Solok, aku nekat mengikuti ajakan Nyonya Westenenk ke Koto Gadang. Kusuap jongos dan babu agar tidak menceritakan peristiwa ini kepada Theo. Ini kesempatan langka. Aku harus bertemu dengan wanita Minang yang luar biasa ini. Wanita yang telah menjadi ilham banyak orang di Hindia. Yang telah mendirikan sekolah, memberi bekal ketrampilan menenun, menjahit, serta membordir bagi kaumnya, agar tidak semata menggantungkan nafkah dari belas kasihan suami, atau sekadar menjadi perhiasan tak bernyawa. Serta yang paling penting, agar tidak jatuh kelembah nista, menyewakan tubuh untuk bertahan hidup saat suami mereka meninggal.

Tiga tahun lalu wanita ini bahkan maju lagi selangkah, menjadi pemimpin sebuah surat kabar khusus wanita. Sungguh, semakin bulat tekadku ke sini. Aku ingin diperbolehkan sesekali mengisi ruang pendapat pembaca di dalam surat kabarnya. Membantunya membuka belenggu emas yang sering dipasang kaum pria untuk mengecoh wanita.

“Ah, Nellie. Apakah tumpukan buku itu mengganggu pendengaranmu?” suara serak Nyonya Westenenk menarik sukmaku kembali ke ruang tamu besar yang sejuk ini. “Lihat, yang kau tunggu sudah datang. Pendiri sekolah Amai Setia dan pemilik suratkabar Soenting Melajoe. Beliau sendiri. Tak lain dan tak bukan.”

Kuikuti arah pandang Nyonya Westenenk.

Seorang wanita berusia tiga puluhan berdiri di pintu masuk. Kulihat wanita yang kuimpikan itu. Berdiri dengan tas rotan tersampir di pundak. Ia lebih pendek dari yang kubayangkan. Bahkan terlihat semakin mungil dengan kain ikat berwarna kesumba di kepalanya. Tetapi aku bisa melihat jelas semangat hidup yang berkobar dari kedua belah matanya. Juga dari kuatnya genggaman saat ia menyambut uluran tanganku serta berkata dengan suara lantang dalam bahasa Belanda yang sangat fasih, “Ik ben Roehana Koeddoes. Welkom op de ambachtschool genaamd Amai Setia. Van mevrouw Westenenk heb ik vernomen dat u een interessant manuscript over vrouwen heeft voor mijn krant. Saya Roehana Koeddoes. Selamat datang di Sekolah Kerajinan Amai Setia. Saya dengar dari Nyonya Westenenk Anda punya banyak naskah menarik tentang dunia wanita untuk surat kabar saya?”

***

The Golden Shackle

Maya Denisa Saputra was born on July 30, 1990 in Denpasar, the capital of Bali, and grew up on Indonesia’s “island of the gods.” She left briefly to finish her education, a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance from the UK-based University of Bradford in Singapore. While holding a position in the accounting department of a family business, she pursues her interests in writing, literary translation, and photography.

She can be reached at: maya.saputra@gmail.com

 

 

***

 

 

 

 The Golden Shackle

 

The living room looked very comfortable, with wide-open windows so the cool air of Koto Gadang could freely enter the room. The breeze gently blew away the fatigue caused by sitting for six hours on the steam train owned by the Soematra Staatsspoorwegen that had departed from Padang yesterday afternoon.

I glanced at Mrs. Joanna Adriana Westenenk, who sat next to me. Even though she was accustomed to traveling all over Western Sumatra, I assumed she felt the same kind of exhaustion that I did.

Seven years ago, her husband, Louis Constant Westenenk, had made his mark in government service during the June 1908 tax rebellion known as “The Night of Kamang.” He now was the Resident of Bengkoelen.

I was a good friend of Mrs. Westenenk, but I hadn’t expected that she would keep her promise to bring me with her to this place. She had told me this visit would enlighten both my mind and soul. I felt rather adventurous for traveling this far away with only Mrs. Westenenk.

Actually, there were three of us; the Resident’s wife was always accompanied by an aide.

“Louis won’t be able to come,” Mrs. Westenenk had said yesterday. “He has to attend a government affair in Padang.”

My husband had been invited to the same event, but had received an assignment from his office to travel to Solok with all the other engineers. He sent his regrets to the new Assistant Resident last month.

Hence, here I was—free to follow what my heart wanted. I had been longing to go on an adventure like this for a long time. I just had to practice sitting on the hard bench of a train coupé to develop my endurance. We had stayed overnight at Fort de Kock before heading for this place in a horse-drawn carriage early this morning.

Just like other Indies-style houses owned by high-ranking local officers, the walls of this house were made from wood. Four French-style windows flanked the front door. There were other buildings as well, built on both sides of the main building. They looked like classrooms. I really wanted to take a look inside those rooms; they had reportedly caused an uproar among Dutch officers across the Indies. But I had to wait patiently until the owner of this house appeared.

“Onne usually arrives around half past nine.” The woman who had greeted us when we arrived was dressed in Minang clothes. “And if she isn’t required to go anywhere else, Onne will stay here until evening.” The woman had introduced herself as Zaiza, or something similar to that, and served us hot tea and snacks. Her Malay was mixed with local dialect. I was accustomed to Malay with a Batavian or Javanese accent, and I had to adjust to the way she spoke.

“Thank you. We did arrive too early. It is fine, we will wait for her.” Mrs. Westenenk said.

Zaiza excused herself.

“Onne is the Minang way of respectfully addressing a woman,” whispered Mrs. Westenenk. “It means older sister.”

I nodded and turned my attention to the room. Near the window, books in Dutch, Arabic, and Malay were neatly stacked in a glass bookcase with four shelves. In the right corner, a rack was filled with local and foreign newspapers. A skillfully woven piece of cloth—a sample of local textiles, perhaps—hung on the wall. This living room showed a high level of refinement.

It would not be uncommon to find such an ambience in the living rooms of Dutch officers, but I was now far from the city, in a home of a native. To be more exact, I was in the home of a native woman.

Mrs. Westenenk lightly tapped my shoulder and smiled, as if reading my mind.

“This is not all, Nellie,” she whispered. “Wait until you talk to her, listen to her ideas.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” I answered. “I’ve heard a lot about this woman. She bravely speaks up for herself—unlike me, who is a pathetic presence at my husband’s side.”

“Stop blaming yourself.” Mrs. Westenenk adjusted the white lace gloves she wore. “The Dutch Indies is not the same as Europe. Everything moves slower here—even the white people can’t move quickly. It doesn’t mean that we are not willing to welcome change. In the West, as well as the East, women around the world are moving.”

“Your husband is a very understanding person for letting you come,” I said. “I had to sneak out between my husband’s assignments.”

“Louis is just like any other man in this world. I’ve seen his fragile, insecure side—he was even hostile to me when the riot in Kamang broke out seven years ago.” Mrs. Westenenk forced a smile. “But he returned to his normal self after the war ended, giving me a lot of freedom. Listen, I don’t want to meddle in your personal affairs. I’ve known your husband long before you and, as far as I know, there’s nothing inherently wrong about him. If he seems to be difficult, it might be because he’s concerned about you. He’s not used to seeing his wife suffer from moving here and there. Louis was like that, too.”

“I think it’s all about our perceptions, Ma’am. It’s true that he’s good-hearted and faithful.” I stood up and walked toward the bookcase where the family portraits were displayed.

I thought it was strange to see so many photographs. I knew it was forbidden for a Muslim Minang family to immortalize themselves on film; just like it was haram—condemned by the Islamic law—to reproduce the human likeness on paper. This family, however, seemed to be accustomed to taking photographs. The boys looked dashing in their Victorian-style sailor suits, which were usually worn by the Dutch boys; the girls wore gowns and white shoes. Judging from the photographs, I conceded that the owner of this house had a sharp look ever since she was a child.

“Theo is faithful—I don’t have any complaints in that regard. And maybe you’re right, It makes sense that such unrest would make him anxious. But, for other things…” I noticed Mrs. Westenenk was no longer paying attention to me. She was busy flipping through a newspaper she had taken off the rack.

I had never doubted Theo’s faithfulness or kindness. Despite the fact that all the clubs in Batavia, Bandung, and Semarang were filled with talk of adultery, I had never heard any rumors about him. The stories varied, from foolish to scary ones.

I had met Theo for the first time in Singapore, three years prior, at a birthday party of my father’s friend. We celebrated it at the Singapore Club, on the upper floor of the Adelphi Hotel. Ever since my mother’s death, I frequently accompanied Father on his travels, including attending events in clubs like this. Just like my late mother, I acted as his guardian angel. I didn’t want to see Father get so drunk he had to be carried home.

That night, I let Father have a good time with his friends at the billiard table. Wearing a long sarong and white kebaya, the native long-sleeved blouse worn over a wrap-around skirt, I secluded myself with a book and took a seat in a large, deep, easy chair near the verandah. Thus, I was at some distance from the crowd of men who continuously yelled, “Boy, fill up!” while waving empty whiskey glasses at the waiters.

There were a few other women in this room, but I didn’t know any of them. Too lazy to engage in small talk, I hid my face by holding up the book.

A moment later, like a magician who magically appears from behind the curtain, a man stood in front of me holding out a glass of cherry brandy. His angular features made him look very Dutch. A neat, dark moustache matched the black of the suit he wore.

“Ah! What a wonderful evening it is. A fair-skinned angel clothed in Malay apparel going through the verses of Tagore,” he said. “I recommend you take a sip or two of this drink. I’m Theodor Makenburg—just call me Theo. I’m one of the engineers in your father’s company.”

“Cornelia. Nellie.” I took the glass from his hand while silently cursing my father’s silly idea to send this man. However, unlike the previous men he had introduced to me, I had now met someone I might consider further. Yes, I did feel that gentle stir.

“Do you like Tagore?” I asked.

“I often heard people talk about Gitanjali,” Theo replied, carefully taking a seat next to me. “Unfortunately, a man who spends his days befriending iron, bolts, and concrete bars, rarely has the opportunity to read the world’s literary works. But you can be assured that I didn’t miss the Max Havelaar. It’s a very useful book for those who are going to visit the Dutch East Indies.”

“It’s one of my favorite books. I felt kind of compelled to improve the situation there after I read it. Just like what Rudyard Kipling said in one of his poems—”

The White Man’s Burden?” Theo interrupted.

I gently punched his arm and pursed my lips. “Look, we have a liar here! It seems that you’re a fan of literary works!”

We laughed.

“How do you feel about women who read literature?” I fished.

Theo shrugged and pursed his lips before answering with a smile, “As long as she also likes reading European and Indies cookbooks.”

“Ah, you don’t like independent women? What do you think of Aletta Jacobs?”

“For God’s sake, Nellie—we’re at a party and you’re looking for an argument.” Theo raised his hands in a boxing stance.

We laughed again.

That was our first conversation. Things were simple, uncomplicated. Theo started to visit our house in Singapore frequently. Once or twice, he invited Father and me to dine out. Six months later, we were married.

Almost two years into the marriage and tired of waiting for a baby who never came, I demanded that Theo allow me to come with him to Batavia, his new post. After a heated argument, he finally relented.

We lived in the Gunung Sahari district, near the beach. The climate there was hot and humid; not a day went by without perspiring profusely. I preferred to wear sarong and kebaya, instead of European clothing. Following advice from Father’s female colleagues, I wore a white kebaya. In addition to its ability to reflect heat, white was the upper-class color of choice for European women opting to wear tropical clothes. I also became skilled in putting my hair up in a bun. My neck was now free, and the heat did not make me itch.

“You look very pretty, Ma’am!” Asih, our maid, teased.

“You look just like the angel Nawangwulan,” the coachman added. I had no idea what they thought when they saw me wear such clothing, but they looked pleased.

When we moved to Padang, I continued dressing this way. At first, Theo did not pay any attention to my hair or the way I dressed. One day, however, he asked me to sit with him in the gazebo, out of sight of our houseboys and maids.

Theo pointed to my sarong and kebaya. “I advise you not to dress like that too often—especially here in Sumatera. It’s probably better if you don’t wear those clothes at all.”

I was shocked. “Have I breached some local taboo?”

Theo filled his ivory pipe with tobacco. “Well, it has something to do with the people here, but it’s not about violating anything sacred. Please try looking at the situation from the Dutch viewpoint.”

I silently racked my brains but could not come up with any wrongdoings.

Theo blew out several smoke columns. “The White Man’s Burden, remember? We want to change the situation, change the people, instead of changing into one of them. We should not lower our position in front of our maids, houseboys, or coach drivers. I never liked the British, but I agree with what Lieutenant-Governor Stamford Raffles and Kipling thought. The white men have to become an example in all things, including the way we dress. Look at Raffles, even though he had an excellent understanding of local culture, he forbade his officers to wear a sarong or chew betel nut.”

“Ah, I see—I thought I had broken some local taboo. This matter is much simpler.”

“It’s not a simple matter!” Theo’s raised voice made me jerk back.

“I’m sorry,” I replied. “But almost all wives of the European officers in Singapore wear sarong or cheongsam.  Even their husbands sometimes wear Chinese-style clothing. This doesn’t have any bearing on the way their servants perceive them. Last time we were in Batavia, all of the Dutch women there wore sarong and kebaya, and the men wore takwa shirts. Were you disturbed by that?”

“We’re not in Batavia.” Theo tapped his pipe to discard the ashes. “Here, people still pull out their machetes for reasons we can’t comprehend. We should remind them that the distance between us still exists—one way to do this is by maintaining respect for each other. We should keep to our own way of dressing. Distance and assertiveness will help build obedience.

“It’s all for their own good,” Theo continued. “Imagine, they might be laughing behind us, thinking us fools for wearing their clothing. How would you feel if you saw a houseboy wear a suit?”

“A houseboy? That would be silly, of course. But the regents often wear a suit and European clothes. We don’t mind that, do we? And Mrs. Westenenk—”

“Ah, Adriana. Although she’s the wife of a high-ranking officer, she’s not someone you should look up to. Poor Louis. Adriana shouldn’t use social work as an excuse for her traveling around without her husband.”

“She’s not traveling for fun, Theo. I know what she has done for the native women in Agam and Bengkoelen. She gives them room to grow. And as far as I know, her husband supports her cause.”

“Louis doesn’t know anything about local manners. That’s why I asked to see you this afternoon. I don’t want you to follow what Adriana does. She’s like a contagious disease—anyone who gets close to her becomes just as wild. I don’t want people to gossip about you. Besides, what are you going to do with those native women? Do you want them to kick up their heels and dance the can-can? In Europe, you might be able to break away from tradition, like your idol Aletta Jacobs, who works away from home using her maiden name, even demanding the right to vote. But I’m telling you, not here!”

Theo put his pipe away and went inside, leaving me in the garden with a million of restless thoughts.

It was a day I would remember forever, because it led to endless arguments with my husband. He protested everything—from my choice of our food to the way I talked to the maids and houseboys—and forbid me to socialize with a nyai, the native companion of a Dutchman who lived near us. Everything led to further restrictions of my privileges. Finally, after a clash, he refused to let me buy newspapers, even though I was still allowed to enjoy books. I took revenge by moving to another bedroom. I locked the door and spent long nights writing poetry and essays on numerous pieces of paper.

Then, yesterday, when Theo left for Solok, I recklessly accepted Mrs. Westenenk’s invitation to visit Koto Gadang. I bribed the houseboys and maids to not tell Theo. This was a rare opportunity. I had to meet this amazing Minang woman who had become an inspiration to so many people in the Indies. She had founded a school for women and taught them handicrafts—weaving, stitching, and embroidering—so they would not have to depend on their husband’s income. And, most importantly, they would not become destitute and be forced into prostitution after their husbands died.

Three years ago, this woman had taken a step further, by becoming the editor-in-chief of a newspaper for women. This only strengthened my desire to see her. I wanted to write for the opinion column of her newspaper. I wanted to help her unlock the golden shackle that men so often use to trap women.

“Ah, Nellie. Did you get lost in those books?” Mrs. Westenenk’s voice called me back to the spacious, cool living room. “Look, the one you’ve been waiting for has arrived. There’s the founder of the Amai Setia School and editor of Soenting Melajoe newspaper. That’s her, no one else but her.”

I followed the direction of Mrs. Westenenk’s gaze.

A woman in her thirties stood at the front door with a rattan bag slung across her shoulder. She was shorter than I had imagined, and the crimson headband she wore around her head made her look even smaller. But I clearly saw the passion for life in her eyes, and the strength of her handshake communicated the same when she took my hand and introduced herself with a clear voice in fluent Dutch.

Ik ben Roehana Koeddoes. Welkom op de ambachtschool, Amai Setia. Van mevrouw Westenenk heb ik vernomen dat u een interessant manuscript over vrouwen heeft voor mijn krant.”

“I’m Roehana Koeddoes,” she said.Welcome to the Amai Setia Vocational School. I heard from Mrs. Westenenk that you have an interesting article about women for my newspaper.

—***—

Gusti, Doa Siapa Yang Akan Kaudengar?

Junaedi Setiyono was born in Kebumen, Central Java, on December 16, 1965.

Setiyono is drawn to historical fiction related to the Java War (1825-1830). He is the author of three award winning novels. Glonggong, (Serambi, 2007), Arumdalu (Serambi, 2010), and Dasamuka, (Penerbit Ombak, 2017). Setiyono was also awarded a scholarship from Ohio State University as part of his doctorate degree in language education, which he received in 2016 from the Semarang State University. The English translation of Dasamuka by Maya Denisa Saputra will be forthcoming from Dalang Publishing under the same title in May 2017.

He can be contacted via his email address: junaedi.setiyono@yahoo.co.id

Copyright:
Copyright ©2017 Junaedi Setiyono. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2017 by Maya Denisa Saputra.

***

 

 Gusti, Doa Siapa Yang Akan Kaudengar?

 

Mas Agung adalah kakak tertua kami. Sepeninggal Bapak, Mas Agung menjadi pengganti Bapak. Ibu senang bahwa kami, tujuh bersaudara, tetap rukun seperti halnya pada saat Bapak masih ada. Tentu hal itu tidak lepas dari kepemimpinan Mas Agung. Maka ketika kakaknya Ibu, Budhe Mujirah, mendapat masalah, dan aku tidak sanggup membantu menyelesaikan masalahnya, tidak bisa tidak tumpuan kami ada pada Mas Agung.

Ya, aku pun menulis surat untuknya.

***

Purworejo, 10 Maret 2005

Mas Agung yang baik,
Bila tidak karena Budhe Mujirah, aku tidak akan menulis surat ini, Mas. Sebenarnya sudah sejak sepekan yang lalu beliau memintaku untuk mengirimimu surat, tapi baru kali ini aku bisa. Bukan karena sibuk tetapi karena aku harus menata hati terlebih dulu. Ya, ini tentang langgar kita.

Sejak Bapak wafat, aku memang tidak terlalu memperhatikan apa yang sudah dilakukan warga pada surau yang didirikan eyang buyut kita itu. Dan, kurangnya perhatian yang kuberikan adalah karena tampaknya keluarga kita semua setuju, bahkan merasa senang, dengan apa yang telah dilakukan warga terhadap langgar Eyang. Pernah kukatakan padamu kalau sikapku itu, selain karena Mas dan adik-adik semua sudah setuju, juga karena kesadaran betapa kita tidak bisa apa-apa. Selain itu, juga mungkin kita semua punya kekhawatiran bakalan dicap oleh warga kampung sebagai orang yang tidak setia pada agamanya.

Aku memang setuju-setuju saja pada rencana warga yang dipimpin oleh Pak Lurah, yang juga Pak Kiai kita, untuk memugar langgar yang sudah berdiri jauh sebelum negeri kita merdeka. Kita sendiri waktu itu terlalu miskin untuk memperbaiki langgar kita; untuk agak menutupi kemiskinan kita, biasanya kau menyamarkannya dengan bilang pada Pak Lurah kalau kita harus mendahulukan mana yang lebih penting. Paling-paling kita menjaga supaya atapnya tidak bocor dan rayap – yang mampu menembus lantai tegel – tidak naik merambati dinding menghabisi usuk dan reng; setahun sekali kita kapur temboknya, dan sekitar sepuluh tahun sekali kita cat semua kayu-kayunya. Ya, seingatku cuma itu.

Dana keluarga kita memang sudah habis untuk biaya kuliah kita tujuh bersaudara. Ibu memang menghendaki kita semua menjadi orang terpelajar, menjadi sarjana. Kita anggap dana itu sudah habis, karena selain menyekolahkan kita, Ibu harus selalu memiliki uang simpanan untuk biaya perawatan kesehatan Ibu sendiri; apa lagi, sekarang Ibu makin mudah sakit.

Maka ketika Pak Kiai rawuh ke tempat kita dan minta izin untuk mengganti genting kuno itu dengan genting pres sokka, kita semua setuju dan berkali-kali mengucapkan terima kasih. Genting kuno itu memang sebagian sudah kita ganti dengan genting yang lebih baru. Namun, genting yang lebih baru itu ukurannya tidak sama dengan genting yang dulu dipasang oleh Eyang. Dengan bermacam-macam jenis genting yang kita pasang untuk mengganti genting lama yang sudah aus atau pecah tentu berakibat kurang baik. Kalau hujannya deras akan tempias, dan menyebabkan para jamaah sesekali mengusap wajahnya karena risi kena kepyuran air dari atap.

Kebanyakan dari kita memang tinggal dan bekerja di Jakarta. Saudara-saudara sekandung kita lainnya tidak ada satu pun yang tinggal bersama Ibu menjaga langgar kita di Purworejo, kota tempat kita semua dilahirkan. Ada yang melanjutkan belajar, ada yang bekerja setelah menyelesaikan kuliah. Karena kita bertujuh hidup berpencar di berbagai kota, kita pun sepakat patungan untuk membayar tetangga terdekat agar menemani Ibu. Dan, untung ada Budhe Mujirah yang tinggal tidak jauh dari Ibu.

Maka kita maklumi saja kalau akhirnya warga memperbaiki langgar tanpa sepengetahuan kita karena mungkin mereka telah berusaha mencari tapi tak berhasil menemui kita. Dan Ibu, kita sudah tahu persis sifatnya, pasti hanya akan mengatakan: sumangga kula nderek, silakan saja saya setuju.

Untuk itulah atas usulku ketika itu: bagaimana kalau langgar itu kita wakafkan saja. Karena pada kenyataanya langgar itu memang sudah menjadi milik warga, bukan lagi milik keluarga kita. Dan, kau dan adik-adik setuju. Kita berdua lalu mengurus surat-suratnya hingga terbit surat bukti kepemilikan tanah. Ya, urusan itu selesai dengan melegakan. Ini sungguh menenteramkan karena kita merasa sudah menyenangkan hati Ibu. Ingat ‘kan kalau Ibu sering membisiki mengingatkan kita, bahwa kita ini “jelek-jelek” masih termasuk trah kesuma rembesing madu? Suatu trah yang salah satu cirinya adalah memegang teguh pituduh putra becik nyirami mring kulawarga, anak yang baik menyiram kebaikan kepada keluarganya.

Sekitar lima tahun yang lalu, kita sepakati pulang menjelang hari raya Idul Fitri dan kembali ke tempat kerja setelah shalat Ied. Namun, setelah Bapak berpulang ke rahmatullah, pada Juni 2002 yang lalu, Ibu menasihati kita untuk tidak harus pulang bersama-sama menjelang Lebaran. Ibu katakan, “Kepulanganmu itu lebih banyak mudharatnya daripada manfaatnya.”

Aku diam-diam berterima kasih atas usul Ibu itu karena memang kupikir beliau benar. Tapi tentu saja kurang baik kalau hal itu yang mengusulkannya adalah kita, anak-anaknya. Maka kita sepakat untuk pulang menjenguk Ibu pada hari ulang tahun kita masing-masing dan merayakannya – istilah Ibu, mensyukurinya – bersama Ibu di rumah tua kita yang letaknya berdampingan dengan langgar, rumah di mana ari-ari kita ditanam di pekarangannya.

Nah, karena itulah sejak berpulangnya Bapak tiga tahun lalu kita jarang berkumpul bersama-sama di rumah Ibu. Adik-adik bilang, kita ‘kan bisa berhubungan setiap saat pakai telepon atau HP. Jadi tak ada masalah kalau tidak dapat berkumpul setiap hari raya. “Kumpul ora kumpul asal mangan, kumpul tidak kumpul asal semuanya makan…,” begitu candamu ketika itu.

Sekarang ini setahuku memang hanya aku dan kau Mas, yang masih memikirkan langgar kita yang dulu dikenal orang dengan nama “Langgar Trunan” – karena eyang buyut, yang mendirikan langgar itu, dikenal dengan nama Eyang Truno. Dan sejak beberapa tahun yang lalu dapat kita amati perubahan-perubahan pada saat kita setahun sekali shalat di dalamnya.

Mas pasti ingat kejadian-kejadian dan percakapan kita. Perubahan pertama adalah digantinya genting lama dengan genting pres yang menjadikan langgar tampil mentereng. Perubahan berikutnya adalah lantai yang dikeramik. Ingatkah ketika kau berbisik, “Sebenarnya lantai tegel yang dibangun oleh Eyang Truno sesaat sebelum meninggalnya itu masih bagus dan bahkan makin lama makin tambah mengkilat.” Dan, tidak kutanggapi pernyataanmu karena memang keramik putih lebih menjamin kebersihan. Kotoran sekecil apapun, tahi cicak misalnya, akan kelihatan di atas hamparan lantai putih bersih.

“Lalu lantai tegelnya dibuang ke mana?” kejarmu ketika itu.

“Tidak dibuang, tapi keramik itu langsung dipasang di atasnya,” jelasku.

Jawabanku rupanya belum memuaskan rasa ingin tahumu, dan kau berujar, “O, begitu. Dananya dari mana Dik? Kamu tahu?”

“Iuran warga. Itu yang bilang Budhe Mujirah,” jawabku.

Kita pun berpikir, memang lebih nyaman shalat ditempat yang putih bersih. Dan, konon setelah dikeramik warga yang shalat jamaah di langgar ini tambah banyak. Ya, syukurlah kalau begitu. Dan, kita santai-santai saja.

Nah, sekarang aku ingin membagi pengalamanku pada saat aku kembali datang di kota kelahiran kita tahun ini untuk merayakan ulang tahunku yang ke tiga puluh sekaligus menengok Ibu yang makin tampak renta dan sakit-sakitan.

Ketika itu aku seperti biasa pergi ke langgar untuk shalat, dan aku mendapati bahwa warna putih keramik menyenangkan itu sekarang sudah berganti dengan warna hijau karpet yang menyejukkan.

Waktu aku tanya bagaimana cara mendapatkan dana untuk membeli karpet sebagus itu, Budhe Mujirah menjelaskan dengan berapi-api seperti biasanya bahwa warga dengan suka cita menyumbangkan uangnya untuk membeli karpet itu. Bahkan warga mengusulkan untuk juga melengkapi langgar dengan alat pendingin.

Namun, karena aku tahu siapa itu Budhe – satu-satunya orang di lingkungan sekitar langgar yang berani bilang tidak pada Pak Lurah – aku menanggapinya dengan bercanda, “Termasuk Budhe? Budhe juga setuju?”

Dan, seperti biasa beliau akan meninggikan suaranya, “Selain aku tentu saja semua setuju!” dengan tekanan pada kata aku. Ya, begitulah Budhe, entah sudah berapa kali kudengar lengkingan suara beliau pada saat membincangkan kebijakan Pak Lurah.

Dan, seperti biasa beliau lalu bercerita dengan menggebu-gebu tentang banyaknya warga yang jadi pengangguran karena kena pehaka padahal mereka kebanyakan beristri lebih dari satu dan masing-masing istri beranak banyak. Juga tentang banyaknya perempuan muda, baik gadis maupun janda, yang jadi “nakal.”

Mas, dari genting pres, keramik, karpet, dan kipas angin aku bisa setuju, meski Mas berkali-kali bilang iuran-iuran itu dikhawatirkan akan membebani warga. Yang tidak dapat aku setujui adalah adanya rencana untuk mengganti karpet baru yang sudah ada dengan karpet yang lebih baru dan kemudian mengganti kipas angin dengan alat pendingin ruangan. Itulah yang tidak dapat aku setujui.

Pada saat aku menanyakan hal ini, salah seorang anggota takmir menjawab, “Karpet lama bukannya tidak terpakai, tapi bisa digunakan oleh warga yang ngunduh tahlilan tapi tak punya tikar atau tikarnya tak mencukupi.” Lalu dia melanjutkan penjelasannya bahwa karpet baru akan jauh lebih sedap dipandang mata, “Bukankah dengan dirancang seperti sajadah dengan gambar masjid megah nantinya para jamaah akan berderet shalat dengan lebih teratur?”

“Bukankah karpetnya masih bagus, Pak Lurah?” begitu tanyaku ketika secara kebetulan bertemu dengan beliau pada saat shalat maghrib.

Pak Lurah menjawab, “Betul Den Pras, tapi karpet ini kasar dan tipis. Dengkul bisa ngilu dan jidat bisa perih. Apalagi jika jidat dan dengkulnya kurus dan layu seperti punyanya Yu Mujirah. Karpet yang baru jauh lebih tebal dan gambarnya bagus. Ini sebetulnya demi orang-orang yang sudah sepuh seperti Yu Mujirah”

Aku kejar, “Bagaimana dengan rencana mengganti kipas angin dengan alat pendingin ruangan? Apa itu juga benar?”

Dan dengan penuh semangat dia membela diri, “Benar, karena kipas angin itu kurang menyejukkan, bahkan bisa bikin kami-kami ini, orang yang sudah tua, jadi masuk angin. Apalagi yang memang pada dasarnya tidak sehat seperti Yu Mujirah. Alat pendingin ruang lain lagi, cess krenyess … sejuk, tanpa angin dan tanpa bunyi uwuk-uwuk. ”

Aku tetap mengejarnya, “Tapi selain alat pendingin ruangan itu butuh tenaga listrik yang tidak sedikit, pemasangannya akan merombak bangunan langgar ini secara keseluruhan. Jendela kayu itu semua akan diganti dengan jendela kaca?”

Barangkali aku sudah berhasil menghabiskan kesabaran Pak Lurah, dan dengan roman muka jengkel dia berkata, “Ya, dan untuk masalah dana Den Pras tidak perlu khawatir. Bukankah selama ini warga tidak pernah merepoti keluarga besar Eyang Truno? Apalagi merepoti orang seperti Yu Mujirah? Tidak pernah, ‘kan?”

Kata-kata ini untukku cukup menyinggung, maka aku pun tak perlu lagi berbasa-basi. Aku pun lugas berkata, “Pak Lurah, saya memang tidak setiap hari shalat di sini, tapi saya dapat amati, bahwa meski sudah pakai keramik, sudah pakai karpet, para jamaah shalatnya masih pakai sajadah. Jadi sama saja dengan ketika shalat di atas lantai tegel yang dibangun Eyang dulu. Juga tentang aliran udara, hal ini sudah dipikirkan betul oleh Eyang. Lihat, begitu banyak jendela! Dan, Pak Lurah tahu bahwa gaya rancang bangun langgar inilah yang mengilhami perancang gedung kelas nasional pada saat dia diminta merancang bangunan masjid di Jakarta, ‘kan? Rumah ibadah berbentuk joglo dengan sebagian dinding dari kayu yang dihiasi ukiran Jepara inilah bentuk tampilan rumah ibadah yang khas Indonesia!”Aku pikir dengan perkataanku ini percakapan kami akan selesai. Namun, ternyata aku keliru.

Dengan senyum tipis dia berujar, “Maaf Den, sebetulnya karpet tebal berpola gambar masjid dan juga alat pendingin ruangan itu sudah kami beli, dan ada di rumah saya saat ini. Selanjutnya tinggal menarik iuran warga. Dan memang warga sudah setuju untuk iuran kok.” Dia berhenti sebentar, tajam melirikku sekilas, dan cepat meneruskan, “Memang untuk dapat dimasukkan menjadi golongan orang-orang yang nantinya masuk surga itu perlu pengorbanan harta benda. Semua warga sudah setuju … kecuali satu orang yaitu Yu Mujirah. Mungkin karena merasa diri keturunan ningrat, jadinya ya biasalah … tidak merakyat. Dan Den Pras tahu sendiri ‘kan kalau Yu Mujirah itu orang yang tidak waras?” Begitu Pak Lurah menyelesaikan ucapannya dengan enteng.

Mas, aku sungguh tak bisa menerima cucu kesayangan Eyang Truno dibilang orang sinting. Namun, rasanya tidak ada gunanya bersitegang dengan Pak Lurah. Aku tidak mampu berbuat apa pun selain bergegas menjauhinya – ya, dengan berbalik dan melangkah meninggalkannya. Tanganku yang terkepal pelahan kuregangkan. Kutarik napas dalam-dalam dan pelahan kuhembuskan. Kupandangi jendela-jendela kayu berukir yang sebentar lagi akan amblas. Tak mampu aku menahan diri, kupeluk dan kucium salah satu daun jendela yang ada di dekatku.
Pak Lurah mengawasiku dengan pandangan penuh tanda tanya.

Mas, aku tak peduli jika sekarang aku juga dianggap tidak waras oleh Pak Lurah. Namun, rupanya masalah dengannya berkembang, tidak berhenti sampai di situ saja. Bahkan, perkaranya kini berimbas pada Budhe Mujirah.

Tetangga yang kita minta menemani Ibu menelponku sekitar seminggu yang lalu. Dia katakan bahwa tiga hari lalu atap teras rumah Budhe Mujirah, yang sudah makin rapuh dan doyong ke arah langgar, membawa masalah. Beberapa gentingnya melorot dan ada yang jatuh menimpa kepala salah seorang jamaah langgar. Katanya, orang-orang menggelandang Budhe Mujirah ke rumah Pak RT. Mas, apa yang sebaiknya kita lakukan sekarang? Aku berdoa semoga masalah ini dapat segera diselesaikan dengan baik.

Aku tunggu jawabanmu.

Dari adikmu Prasojo.

Lord, Whose Prayer Will You Listen To?

Maya Denisa Saputra was born on July 30, 1990 in Denpasar, the capital of Bali, and grew up on Indonesia’s “island of the gods.” She left briefly to finish her education, a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance from the UK-based University of Bradford in Singapore.

While holding a position in the accounting department of a family business, she pursues her interests in writing, literary translation, and photography.
She can be reached at: maya.saputra@gmail.com

 ***

 

Lord, Whose Prayer Will You Listen To?
by
Junaedi Setiyono

 

Mas Agung is our eldest brother. After our father passed away, Mas Agung stepped up to fill his role. Mother was glad to see that all of us, seven siblings, maintained the same harmonious relationships we’d had during the time Father was still around. This, of course, could only happen under the guidance of Mas Agung. Therefore, when Mother’s older sister, Budhe Mujirah, faced a problem I could not help her with, it was only natural that I turned to Mas Agung.

Hence, I wrote him a letter.

***

Purworejo, March 10, 2005.

Dearest Mas Agung,

If it were not for Budhe Mujirah, I wouldn’t bother you. Actually, she asked me to write to you last week. I delayed, however—not because I was busy. I had to sort out my own feelings first, as this is about our langgar.

Since Father passed away, I haven’t paid too much attention to what the villagers did to the prayer house that was built by our great-grandfather. This lack of concern came from the assumption that our family seemed to agree—was happy even—with the changes the villagers were making to Eyang’s langgar. I once told you that I took such a stand because you and everyone else seemed to approve. I also realized there wasn’t much we could do. Perhaps we were all afraid to be considered apostates of our religion if we objected to improvements made to a langgar that was built long before the independence of our country in 1945.

I had no qualms about the villagers’ remodeling plans for the langgar, under the leadership of our lurah, who also is our Pak Kiai. Aside from the fact that we were sure that a person who is the village chief, as well as the elder of our congregation, would do the right thing, we were too poor to shoulder the expenses ourselves. In order to conceal our financial situation, you told the lurah we needed to prioritize the execution of repairs. At least we kept the roof from leaking and prevented the termites that managed to crawl out from under the floor tiles from destroying the walls. These are the only things I can remember.

The education of the seven of us had depleted our family funds. Mother always wanted to see us become well-educated people with university degrees. Aside from providing for our education, our family savings also funds care for Mother, as her health is beginning to decline.

So, when Pak Kiai visited and asked permission to replace the old roof tiles with new, factory-made tiles, we immediately agreed and thanked him over and over again. At some point, we did replace some of the original old roof tiles. However, the size of the new tiles was different from the timeworn, broken ones, and this, of course, created a problem. When it rained hard, water would seep through and drip on people’s heads, making them wipe their faces uncomfortably.

As you know, most of us live and work in Jakarta now. None of us stayed in Purworejo, where we were all born, to live with Mother and take care of our langgar. Some of us left to study, while those who graduated from university found jobs elsewhere. As the seven of us are spread all over, we all agreed to jointly give money to a close neighbor to keep Mother company. And, fortunately, Budhe Mujirah does not live too far from Mother.

This is why we accepted it when the villagers renovated the langgar without consulting us. It was possible that they searched for us to no avail. And knowing Mother, she would only have said, “Sumangga kula nderek: I agree, please go ahead.”

For that reason, I suggested that we bequeath the langgar to the community. In reality, it already belonged to the public and was not ours anymore. Everyone agreed, and you and I took care of the necessary documents needed to transfer ownership of the property. The procedure ended smoothly and was a huge relief to us, because we also felt that we had pleased Mother. I’m sure you remember Mother often reminds us in whispers that, no matter what, we’re still descendants of trah kesuma rembesing madu, a clan that carries the distinctive quality of adhering to the concept of putra becik nyirami mring kulawarga: good children will be a blessing to their family.

About five years ago, we all agreed to go home just before Eid al-Fitr and return to work after the Eid prayer. However, after Father passed away in June 2002, Mother advised that we not all come home on Eid al-Fitr together. “Your homecoming creates more trouble than it is worth,” she said.

I secretly thanked Mother for her suggestion. She was right—but it would not have been appropriate if any of us children had made the suggestion. We agreed to go home on our own birthday and celebrate it—Mother prefers the term “give thanks”—with her in our old house next to the langgar; the house where our umbilical cords were buried in its yard.

This is why, after Father’s passing three years ago, we rarely gather at Mother’s house. Our younger siblings said that since we can connect at any time via telephones and cell phones, it won’t be a problem if we can’t meet on Eid al-Fitr. “Kumpul ora kumpul asal mangan: whether we gather or not, the most important thing is we all are still able to eat,” you joked at the time.

As far as I know, today, only you, Mas, and I are still concerned about our langgar—once known as Langgar Trunan, because our great grandfather who built it was known as Eyang Truno. We have noticed changes when we say our prayers there once a year.

I’m sure you remember these changes and our conversations. The first was the replacement of the old roof tiles with the new factory-made ones, which gave our langgar a luxurious appearance. Next came the ceramic floor tiles. Do you remember whispering, “Actually, the cement tiles Eyang Truno had installed just before his passing were still fine and would look shinier as time passes.”

I did not respond. The white ceramic floor tiles were better for hygiene purposes. The smallest dirt—the droppings of a cicak house lizard, for example—could be easily spotted on the surface of the white floor tiles.

You continued, “Then, where were the old floor tiles discarded?”

“They weren’t thrown away. Those ceramic tiles were put directly on top of them,” I explained.

My answer did not satisfy you, and you pressed on, “Do you know where the funds came from?”

“The villagers pooled their money. That’s what Budhe Mujirah said.”

We finally agreed that it was more comfortable to pray in a shiny and clean place. Reportedly, after the installation of the ceramic floor tiles, more villagers came to the langgar for congregational prayers. For this, we could only be thankful, and we relaxed.
Now I’d like to share what I saw when I returned to our hometown to celebrate my thirtieth birthday and visited Mother, who looks even frailer.

As usual, I went to the langgar to do shalat and noticed that the nice-looking white floor tiles had been replaced with a calming green carpet.

I asked Budhe Mujirah how the villagers managed to raise the funds to buy such a beautiful carpet; she explained that the villagers gladly donated their money and even suggested installing an air conditioner.

Knowing that Budhe was the only person who would dare to say no to the lurah, I responded jokingly, “Including you, Budhe? Were you also agreeing?”

As usual, Budhe raised her voice and spat, “Everyone agreed except me,” emphasizing the word me. Well, that’s our Budhe. I’ve lost count on how many occasions she raised her voice when she talked about the lurah’s policies, and then continued to rant about the villagers who were unemployed, even though most of them had more than one wife, and each wife had many children, and the many young women, virgins and divorcees alike, who went astray.

Mas, even though you repeatedly told me you worried that all their contributions would burden the villagers, I still can go along with clay roof tiles, ceramic floor tiles, rug, and fan. However, I object to replacing a rug that still looks new, and replacing the fan with an air conditioner. I really can’t agree with that.

When I asked the board about it, one of the administrators replied, “The old rug is now used to accommodate villagers who don’t have any or enough mats for a memorial service.” He also explained that the new carpet was even more pleasing to the eyes.

“Would a design resembling a prayer mat depicting a grand mosque not make the praying congregation line up more orderly?” he asked.

When I happened to meet the lurah during shalat maghrib, the sunset prayer, I asked him,

“Pak Lurah, isn’t the rug still in good condition?”

The lurah answered, “You’re right, Den Pras, but the material feels rough on the skin and it’s thin. Our knees ended up hurting and our foreheads scratched. This would be even more so for those who have thin and old knees and forehead, like Yu Mujirah. The new rug is much thicker and has a beautiful design. Actually, we do this for older people like Sister Mujirah.”

“Then, what about the plan to replace the fan with an air conditioner?” I quickly asked. “Are you really going to do that?”

Pak Lurah passionately defended himself. “Yes, I will. The air from the fan is not cool enough, and it might even make us old people catch a cold, especially those who are frail like Yu Mujirah. The air conditioner operates differently. The air is cool, but there’s no wind nor any humming sound.”

I continued to pressure him, “Aside from the huge amount of electricity needed to power the air conditioner, its installation will cause a major change to the overall appearance of this langgar. Are those wood windows going to be replaced with glass ones?”
Perhaps I had managed to exhaust the lurah’s patience.

“Yes,” he replied, irritated, “and Den Pras doesn’t have to worry about the funding. After all, the villagers have never bothered the family of Eyang Truno, nor someone like Yu Mujirah. Right?”

His words offended me, and I no longer felt the need to make small talk. I said straightforwardly, “Even though I don’t pray here every day, I notice that, despite the ceramic floor tiles and carpeting, members of the congregation still use their prayer mats. So, there’s no difference between what they pray on now and when the langgar still had the cement floor tiles Eyang had put in. And the ventilation was also something Eyang had already thought about. Look how many windows there are.

“The joglo roof and partially wooden walls decorated with Jepara carvings make this place of worship unique. The pyramid-shaped roof even inspired a nationally renowned architect who was commissioned to design a mosque in Jakarta.” I thought my statement would end our conversation. Well, I was wrong.

He smiled cynically and replied, “I’m sorry, Den, but actually, we already purchased the thick rug with a mosque design and the air conditioner. The items are now stored at my house. We only need to pool the money from the villagers. They have agreed, anyway.” He paused for a while, to give me a sharp glance, and continued. “Indeed, to be able to join those who go to heaven, a material sacrifice is needed. Everyone has agreed. Everyone except for one person: Yu Mujirah. Maybe because she considers herself nobility, she figures she’s above worrying about the common folks. And you probably know that Yu Mujirah isn’t thinking right,” the lurah ended lightly.

Mas, I really couldn’t accept that he called Eyang Truno’s most beloved granddaughter a crazy person. However, there was no point in being stubborn and arguing further with the lurah. I couldn’t do anything else except quickly distance myself from him.

I relaxed my fingers and opened my clenched fist. I took a deep breath, then slowly exhaled. I took a long look at the wooden windows that would soon be gone. Not being able to restrain myself, I embraced and kissed one of the window shutters near me.
The lurah watched me, perplexed.

Mas, I don’t care if I’m now the one who’s regarded as insane by the lurah. But, our problems with him are far from over. They’ve now extended to Budhe Mujirah.

The neighbor we often ask to accompany Mother called me about a week ago. She told me that the roof over Budhe Mujirah’s verandah, which was old and leaned towards the langgar, had caused a problem. Some of its tiles slid off and fell on a worshipper’s head. She also said that the villagers confronted Budhe Mujirah and hauled her off to the lurah’s house.

Mas, what should we do now? I pray that this problem will get resolved soon.

I’ll be waiting for your answer.

From your brother,

Prasojo

Nyai Dan Noni

Anindita Siswanto Thayf was born in Makassar, April 5, 1978. Her love for books began when she was in kindergarten. She started to write because she likes to let her imagination run free. She chose to become a writer as she got tired waiting for some company to hire her. The original of Daughters of Papua, Tanah Tabu won the 2008 Dewan Kesenian Jakarta (Jakarta Arts Council) Novel Competition.

Anindita holds a degree in Engineering from Universitas Hasanudin, Makassar. Public speaking makes her nervous. For the sake of her imagination and writing process, she now lives at the tranquil slope of Mt. Merapi, surrounded by salak pondoh plantations. She lives with her husband, Ragil N.

She can be reached at bambu_merah@yahoo.com.

Copyright © 2015 Anindita S. Thayf. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright © 2015 by Stefanny Irawan

***

Nyai Dan Noni

(Nyai)

Malam sudah datang lagi, yang kesepuluh, kau mendesah. Kakimu tertuntun menuju tempatmu yang biasa: pojok paling dalam. Relung paling hangat dan tersembunyi dimana kau selalu setia menunggu kunjungan subuh. Kau duduk sambil menajamkan pendengaran, cerabih binatang malam membuatmu merasa seolah sedang menyaksikan pagelaran wayang, bukannya berada di tempat yang menakutkan. Ada suara khas sang dalang. Nyanyian mendayu para sinden. Alunan gending yang akrab. Sesekali, kau bahkan merasa bisa mendengar seruan penonton dan gema tepuk tangan mereka. Semua itu memesonamu. Menghanyutkan sadar sampai tiba-tiba secubit rasa geli menyentilmu. Rupanya, ada yang sedang mengerikiti kakimu. Kecoak! Sertamerta kau bergerak menjauh. Tapi hanya sebatas itu. Tidak sampai menjerit panik—sebab itu bukan kau.

Kau memang seorang perempuan, tapi tidak seperti dia yang datang empat hari lalu. Yang cengeng dan manja. Yang peka dan perasa. Dia yang kau benci karena telah memaksamu berbagi tempat sempit ini. Lebih daripada itu, kau membenci semua yang ada pada dirinya; rambut pirang yang mengingatkanmu pada masa kejayaanmu dulu, bola mata yang membiru gundu dan terlihat begitu angkuh, juga kulit sewarna roti gandum, bahkan suaranya yang mirip dengkur palsu kucing.

Uhh! Kau sangat membenci yang terakhir itu—dasar bangsa penipu! Membuatmu kerap disesaki keinginan untuk mencekiknya. Menguburkan kuku-kukumu pada daging pucat leher jenjangnya. Kau yakin bisa membunuhnya. Mematahkan batang lehernya dengan cepat. Bukankah tanganmu terbukti cukup kuat karena terbiasa mencabut rumput dan memeras cucian? Bukankah pula tubuh perempuan itu tampak serupa tunggul pisang kering, yang besar tapi rapuh?

Tanpa sadar, bibirmu memainkan ringis kemenangan. Dengan membunuhnya, kau berharap mendapat sedikit kesenangan. Mendadak, tanganmu bergerak begitu cepat. Langsung menuju sasaran. Dan…

Plakk! Kriek!

Denyar kematian seketika terasa. Ada yang mati tanpa sempat lari. Kecoak itu. Kau tersenyum senang. Kebencianmu sedikit terlampiaskan.

***

(Noni)

Sebenarnya, kau sangat suka malam. Remang-remangnya kau anggap romantis. Dinginnya menuntunmu pada pendiangan cinta yang membara. Apalagi ketika sinar purnama menyirami tubuh dan rambut pirangmu maka saat itulah mimpi terindahmu menjadi nyata.

Kini, yang terjadi adalah sebaliknya. Kau sangat membenci malam. Malam telah mewujud monster mimpi buruk paling seram. Yang mendatangkan dingin dan mampu meradangkan tulang. Yang mengundang sejumlah makhluk kecil menjijikkan untuk berpesta di luar sarang. Namun, yang paling mengerikan adalah kengerian yang membuatmu selalu berjaga-jaga setiap kali sore mulai mengajak matahari melarikan diri seperti saat ini.

Kau sudah hapal, angin yang lembab akan datang dari arah kiri. Karena itu, kau sengaja memilih duduk di sudut kiri ruangan paling luar. Merapatkan tubuh letihmu pada dinding. Mencoba memulung sisa kehangatan yang masih ada, tapi sia-sia. Tempat terhangat di ruangan ini sudah dikuasai oleh perempuan itu. Yang kasar dan tidak beradab. Si pemarah yang keras kepala. Dia yang kau benci karena membuatmu merasa selalu terancam. Lebih daripada itu, kau membenci semua yang ada pada dirinya; rambut hitam mengikal, bola mata sewarna jelaga yang menyorot tajam, suara yang sekeras salakan anjing, juga kulit kecoklatan milik pribumi, mengenangkan kau pada masa lalu mu.

Uhh! Kau sangat benci pada bangsa itu—dasar bangsa rendahan! Kau tiba-tiba ingin menggigit lehernya. Menanamkan geligimu yang putih-kuat di sana, tepat di urat besar. Kau yakin bisa membunuhnya. Membuat darahnya meruah.

Ayahmu adalah seorang dokter yang sering membagi ilmunya tentang bagian tubuh manusia yang mematikan jika terluka. Kebiasaan perempuan itu duduk sambil menutup mata. Mudah sekali menyerangnya.

Tanpa sadar, ujung bibirmu menukik aneh. Dengan membunuhnya, kau berharap mendapat sedikit ketenangan. Kau baru saja ingin menyusun sebuah rencana ketika tiba-tiba…

Plakk! Kriek!

Ada yang bergema dari sudut ruang tempat perempuan itu bertahta. Suara nyaring yang mengusir hening dan menggerakkan kepalamu untuk berpaling. Di sana, dalam remang, kau menyaksikan pemandangan yang membuatmu bergidik. Di atas lantai, seekor kecoak terkapar mati dengan perut pecah. Dan, di telapak tangan perempuan itulah terlihat isi perutnya.

Huekk! Tak tahan, kau muntah.

***

“Sudah cukup! Kau telah membuat sabarku habis. Benar-benar perempuan sial, Kau. Sial!” terdengar teriakan kesal si perempuan berambut hitam pada perempuan berambut pirang, yang langsung disusul dengan terjangan penuh kemarahan. Gerakan anjing pendendam.

“Tunggu dulu! Tunggu! Ada apa denganmu?! Kau mau membunuhku, ya? Dasar gila! Kau sudah gila!” pekik panik si pirang berhamburan tanpa sela. Dia benar-benar tidak menduga. Serangan si rambut hitam terlalu kalap untuk dihentikan. Sebagai anak dari keluarga terhormat yang selalu menjaga sikap, situasi ini baru baginya. Ia tidak pernah terlibat perkelahian. Para penjaga selalu ada. Tapi kini, dinding penjara Jepang telah mengurungnya. Dia bukan lagi noni terhormat seperti dulu. Dia terbuang di sini. Tidak berarti.

“Kau telah menghinaku, Perempuan Sial! Kau barusan muntah di depanku. Apakah kau sengaja, hah?!” perempuan berambut hitam balas menjerit sepenuh paru-paru. Saat ini, dia merasa telah mencapai puncak jemu. Emosinya membumbung. Inginnya terus mengamuk. Keluwesan sikapnya yang dulu mampu menggaet hati seorang meneer hingga menjadikannya nyai, dipaksa menguap oleh kejamnya penjara Jepang. Dia bukan lagi nyai meneer Administratur tersayang seperti dulu. Dia terbelenggu di sini. Tidak bernilai.

“Tidak! Tidak begitu. Kau salah paham. Salah!” Si pirang masih mencoba menghentikan serangan. Tapi, si rambut hitam sudah gelap hati. Serangannya makin menyakiti. Serangan pelampiasan.

“Kau telah mengotori tempat ini dengan bau busuk sisa makananmu, Juffrouw! Kau akan kubunuh. Kubunuh!” Si rambut hitam lantas menduduki perut si pirang. Berusaha menjepit tubuh lawannya, yang terus memberontak, dengan kedua kakinya yang kuat hingga meletupkan serangkaian jerit histeris dari mulut si pirang.

Godverdomme. Perutku! Perutku!!!”

Mendengar umpatan dalam bahasa asing itu, perempuan berambut hitam malah semakin kalap.

“Pikirmu, aku tidak tahu apa yang kau katakan itu, hah?! Dasar perempuan asing tidak tahu diri. Penjajah sialan! Kafir!”

“Kaulau bangsa jongos yang tidak tahu diri. Perempuan bodoh! Mulut kotor! Kau yang kafir!”

Tak terhindarkan, ruang penjara sempit itu berubah menjadi kancah pergumulan. Tubuh-tubuh bergelut dalam amuk. Mencoba saling remuk dengan gigi dan kuku. Kulit pun terkuak. Daging terkoyak. Rambut-rambut tercerabut. Semuanya menghamburkan darah. Hingga…

Disertai pekik marah, tiga orang sipir penjara berkulit kunyit dan bermata kuaci menyerbu masuk ke tengah arena pergumulan. Mencoba memisahkan kedua perempuan yang lepas kendali itu dengan kasar. Dengan pangkal popor senapan dan sepatu lars. Dengan tamparan dan makian. Sebagai balasannya, erangan demi erangan saling bertalun. Jerit kesakitan pecah. Rintihan ampun menyela. Sebagai jawaban, caci maki dan suara tamparan diterima oleh perempuan-perempuan itu.

“Tutup mulutmu, Pelacur! Beginilah kalian akan selalu diperlakukan jika terus membuat kacau. Anjing-anjing betina gila!”

Malam kembali sepi ketika derap tiga pasang sepatu itu bergerak menjauhi penjara, meninggalkan dua sosok tubuh yang terkapar kesakitan dalam paluh darah.

***

(Nyai)

Kau memaksa membuka matamu yang bengkak. Rasanya berat dan perih. Tapi kau ingin melihat, meskipun hanya merah yang pertama kali tampak. Darah. Dengan menahan sakit, kau mencoba bergerak—tidak bisa. Lalu, kepalamu berusaha berputar—ternyata bisa. Sedikit gerak memutar ke kanan. Dan, saat itulah kau melihat dia. Si pirang.

Dia terbaring meringkuk serupa bayi dalam rahim. Terlihat selemah kulit jagung. Wajahnya menengadah ke arahmu; pucat, penuh lebam, bernoda darah. Noda yang memudarkan kecantikannya dan menyembunyikan matanya yang terpejam. Kau melirik bagian bawah tubuhnya yang bermandikan darah. Sudah matikah dia? Tanpa diundang, ibamu muncul.

Entah apa yang telah membawa seorang gadis pirang cantik sepertinya masuk ke dalam neraka dunia ini. Dalam hati, kau mencoba menebak. Apakah dia tidak sempat kabur bersama keluarganya saat Jepang menyerbu? Ataukah, dia diculik dari rumah?

“Ah, keluarga. Rumah,” desahmu pilu. Lalu, terbayanglah kisah hidupmu.

Seandainya Belanda tidak pernah kalah perang dan Jepang tidak menemukan negeri ini, kau meramalkan kalau hidupmu akan bahagia selalu. Dimanja oleh tuanmu. Dilayani para babu. Dibanggakan bapak-ibu. Sungguh indah hidupmu dulu, meskipun hanya menjadi nyai.

Tapi hidup memang penuh kejutan. Ketika Jepang datang, suamimu malah pergi. Kembali ke negaranya tanpa mau membawamu. Alasannya, tidak ada tempat untukmu di sana. Ah, betapa laki-laki itu telah melukai setiamu. Membiarkanmu menjadi harta rampasan perang bersama barang peninggalannya yang lain.

“Dasar kafir!” begitulah makimu selalu. Sejak itu, kau sangat membenci setiap orang berkulit pucat, termasuk si perempuan berambut pirang. Namun kini, keadaannya tidak jauh beda darimu. Haruskah kau tetap membencinya?

***

(Noni)

Kau tidak bisa bergerak. Tak mampu merasakan apa-apa. Mungkin tubuhmu melumpuh atau kau sudah mati. Tapi rasa hangat bercampur nyeri yang datang kemudian dari arah selangkang menyadarkanmu bahwa kau masih hidup. Tapi…

“Perutku,” kau mendesis lemah dengan kekhawatiran meraja. Bayimu yang baru berusia dua bulan sedang tertidur lelap di dalam sana. Kau bertanya-tanya bagaimana keadaannya; semoga ia selamat. Namun, kesakitan yang merebak jelas dari balik kulit perutmu langsung memberikan jawaban.

“Tidak ada. Dia sudah tidak ada!” Kau memekik lirih. Matamu dipaksa membuka oleh kucuran air mata yang menderas. Saat itulah kau melihat dia. Si rambut hitam.

Dia terbaring terlentang dengan wajah menengok ke arahmu. Begitu mengenaskan; bengkak, penuh darah kering, bibirnya sobek. Matanya terbuka setengah dan terlihat hampa sinar. Sudah matikah dia? Tanpa diduga, rasa kasihanmu timbul.

Entah apa yang membuat seorang perempuan pribumi menjadi tawanan Jepang. Dalam hati, kau mencoba menebak. Apakah dia seorang mata-mata yang dikhianati seseorang? Atau, apakah dia telah melakukan kesalahan?

“Ah, pengkhianatan. Kesalahan,” gumammu penuh sesal karena teringat kisahmu sendiri.

Seandainya kau mau mendengar perkataan orang tuamu dan tidak menuruti gelora cinta muda, tentulah kini kau sudah berada di atas kapal menuju daratan Kincir Angin bersama mereka. Tapi cinta telah meniupkan jampinya kepadamu.

Kau terbius kejantanan seorang laki-laki pribumi. Terpesona sopan santunnya sebagai pegawai ayahmu yang setia. Kau pun nekat melanggar batas. Menjalin kasih terlarang. Memasrahkan diri pada dosa…. hingga kau hamil. Dengan terpaksa, semuanya berjalan sesuai keinginanmu. Kalian akan dinikahkan seminggu lagi. Sungguh indah jika rencana itu terwujud, begitu pikirmu, meskipun harus mengorbankan mereka yang kau cintai: keluarga.

Namun, hidup selalu punya rencana rahasia. Kemenangan bangsa kuning. Kekalahan bangsa putih. Seluruh keluargamu bergegas mengungsi, kecuali kau, yang lebih memilih mengikuti pribumi itu. Calon ayah bayimu. Sang cinta sejati. Sebagai balasan, tanpa malu, dia mengabdi pada Saudara Tua berkulit kuning yang baru dikenalnya. Tanpa cinta, dia menyerahkanmu sebagai bukti kesetiaan.

“Dasar pribumi!” begitulah makimu selalu. Sejak itu, kau sangat membenci setiap penduduk asli, termasuk si rambut hitam. Tapi kini, keadaannya tidak jauh berbeda darimu. Haruskah kau tetap membencinya?

***

Kedua perempuan itu masih sibuk dengan luka dan pikirannya masing-masing. Di saat yang sama, derap langkah berpasang-pasang sepatu terdengar mendekat. Para sipir membuka pintu, mendekati dua sosok tubuh yang tergeletak lemah di atas lantai. Satu per satu, tubuh-tubuh itu digerayangi dengan kasar.

“Air. Air,” si rambut hitam mengerang.

“Dokter. Aku perlu dokter,” si pirang meminta.

Namun, sejak dulu, hidup memang tidak pernah adil kepada kaum perempuan. Tanpa setahu keduanya, kengerian yang sebenarnya baru saja akan terjadi. Tangan-tangan berkulit kuning itu merobek pakaian mereka satu per satu. Sejumlah laki-laki dengan mata-mata sipit yang memerah dan menyorotkan nafsu liar mulai memperkosa keduanya. Nyai dan noni terlambat untuk menyadari bahwa seharusnya mereka tidak saling membenci seperti ini; bahwa sebenarnya musuh mereka tiada lain adalah laki-laki.

The Mistress and the Lady

Stefanny Irawan is a published short story writer and freelance editor and translator. Her first short story collection, Tidak Ada Kelinci di Bulan! (No Bunny on the Moon!), was published in 2006. She is passionate about theatre and got her Master’s degree in Arts Management at State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo under the Fulbright scholarship. She is currently an adjunct lecturer at Petra Christian University, Surabaya, Indonesia.

She can be reached at stef.irawan@gmail.com.

***

The Mistress and the Lady
by
Anindita Siswanto Thayf

(Nyai / Mistress)

Darkness fell on the tenth night. You sighed. Your feet moved to your usual place: the deepest corner, the warmest hidden nook where you faithfully wait for the break of dawn. As you sat with closed eyes and expectant ears, the sound of nighttime animals made you feel as if you were at a wayang show instead of this creepy place. You recognized the dalang’s distinctive voice, the enchanting singing of the sinden, and the familiar gending music. Every now and then, you even heard the cheering audience clap their hands. All of that amazed you. It took you to another place, until suddenly a ticklish tingle on your foot snapped you back to reality. A cockroach! Shocked, you jerked away immediately. That was it. You didn’t scream in panic. That was so not you.

Yes, you’re a woman, but you’re not like she who arrived four days ago. The spoiled, crybaby woman, emotional and over-sensitive. You hated her for making you share this tiny place. More than that, you hated everything about her, the blonde hair that reminded you of your past golden era, the arrogant look in a pair of round, blue eyes, her wheat-colored skin, and her voice that sounded like the false purr of a cat.

You especially hated hypocrisy; what a deceitful race she belonged to! She often filled you with the urge to strangle her, to bury your nails deep into her pale, long neck. You were sure you could kill her in an instant by snapping her neck. Your hands were strong from pulling weeds and wringing out the laundry. Her body looked like a dry banana stump—big yet fragile.

Your lips folded into a victorious grin. You expected a little fun from this killing act. Your hand suddenly moved fast, right on the target.

Whack! Splat!

The aura of death filled the room instantly. The cockroach had died an inevitable death. You smiled, happy to have released some of your hatred.

***

(Noni / The Lady)

You actually loved nighttime. You found its dusk romantic. Its coolness guided you to the smoldering furnace of love. You liked it best when the full moon illuminated your body and blonde hair and your most wonderful dream came true.

But now, it was the complete opposite. You hated everything about the night. Nighttime had turned into the most terrifying monster in your nightmare. The one that summoned cold and inflamed the bones. The one that lured a number of disgusting little creatures out of their nests. The most frightening thing, though, was the terror that kept you constantly on your toes every time the sun escaped the afternoon sky.

You knew by now that the humid wind would come from the west. That’s why you chose to sit at the farthest left corner of this room, leaning your body closely against the wall to pick up what was left of the warmth. But your attempts were to no avail. The other woman occupied the warmest spot in this room. That rude, uncivilized woman; the grumpy and stubborn one. You hated her for making you feel threatened all the time. You hated everything about her. The dark, wavy hair, the piercing, coal-black eyes, her loud, bark-like voice and brown skin, were like the other indigenous people of this land, and reminded you of your past.

You truly hated the people of this country. They were a cowering nation. You suddenly wanted to bite her neck, bury your white teeth deep into the vein. You were confident you could kill her, make her blood flow all over. Your father, a doctor, had taught you about the vulnerable areas of the human body. Attacking her would be easy. She was in the habit of sitting with her eyes closed.

The corners of your lips curled. You hoped to get some peace by killing her and started to formulate a plan.

Whack! Splat!

The noise came from the corner where that woman reigned. The silence-shattering noise made you turn toward her. Through the darkness you witnessed a bloodcurdling scene. A cockroach lay dead on the floor, its entrails smeared on the woman’s palm.

Unable to hold it any longer, you vomited.

***

“That’s it! You drive me to the limit of my patience. Damn you, woman! Damn!” the black-haired woman shouted before she charged at the blonde like a vengeful dog.

“Wait a second! Wait! What’s wrong with you? Are you trying to kill me? You’re crazy,” the blonde woman screamed, frantically. She had not seen the attack coming and was unable to stop it. As a daughter of a respected family, she had never been involved in a fight, and this situation was completely new to her. Then, her bodyguards were always around. But now, these Japanese prison walls surrounded her. She was no longer an honorable noni, a young lady. Exiled here, she felt worthless.

“You insulted me, bitch! You puked in front of me. It wasn’t an accident, was it?” the black-haired woman yelled at the top of her lungs. She had had enough. Her emotions soared, and she wanted to rage on. Her graceful mannerisms, which had won the heart of a meneer, a Dutch gentleman who had made her his mistress, had dissolved within the walls of this cruel Japanese prison. She was no longer the nyai, the mistress, of her beloved meneer administrateur. She was shackled here, meaningless.

“No! You misunderstood. You’re wrong!” The blonde still tried to stop the attack, but the black-haired woman went berserk.

“You ruined this place with the foul stench of your vomit, juffrouw, miss! I’m going to kill you. I’ll kill you!” The black-haired woman planted herself on the blonde’s stomach. She used her two strong legs to squeeze the still-struggling woman so hard it made the blonde scream hysterically.

Godverdomme, damn! My stomach! My stomach!”

The Dutch swearword set off the black-haired woman even more. “You think I don’t know what you said, huh! You ungrateful foreigner! Colonialist bastard! Infidel!”

“You ungrateful servant nation. Stupid, foul-mouthed woman! You’re the infidel!”

The tiny cell transformed into a fighting arena. The two women wrestled furiously and tried to destroy each other with their teeth and nails. They tore each other’s flesh and pulled locks of hair. Blood splattered everywhere.

Three wardens with turmeric skin and watermelon-seed eyes rushed into the middle of the arena. They tried to separate the two uncontrollable women with force using their rifle butts and boots, slaps and curses. Groan after groan answered them. Painful screams. Mercy-pleading whimpers interrupted them.

“Shut up, whores. This is what you get for causing chaos here. Crazy bitches!”

The night was silent once again after the stomping boots moved away from the cell where two figures were left writhing in pain and blood.

***

(Nyai / Mistress)

You forced your swollen eyes open. It was difficult and painful. You wanted to see more, even though all you saw at first was only red. Blood. Holding back your pain, you tried to move. You couldn’t. Then you tried to turn your head. You succeeded in turning a little to your right and saw her, the blonde.

You wondered what brought a pretty blonde girl like her to this hell on earth. You tried to guess, Was she not quick enough to escape with her family when the Japanese attacked? Or did they kidnap her from her home?

“Ah, family. Home,” you whispered sadly and thought about the story of your life.

If only the Dutch had not lost the war and Japan had never come to this country, you figured your life would have always been happy. Your blond keeper would have spoiled you, your maids would have served you, and your parents would have been proud of you. What a wonderful life you once had, even though you were just a nyai, the mistress of a Dutch man.

Life is indeed full of surprises. When the Japanese came, your keeper left. He went back to his country without bringing you along. He said there wouldn’t be a place for you there. Ah, how that man betrayed your loyalty, leaving you among the war spoils for the Japanese.

“Infidel,” you cursed him. From then on, you hated every pale-skinned person with all your heart, including the blonde woman. Her situation is not much different from yours now. Should you still hate her?

***

(Noni / The Lady)

You couldn’t move or feel a thing. You wondered if you were paralyzed or had died. The warmth and pain surging from between your legs a moment later made you realize you were still alive.

“My stomach,” you whispered faintly as your worry escalated. The fetus of your two-month-old pregnancy had been sleeping soundly inside your belly. You wondered how he was doing, if he had survived. The pain that spread underneath the skin of your stomach provided the answer.

“Gone. He’s gone!” You let out a hushed cry. The growing stream of tears forced you to open your eyes. That was when you saw her. The black-haired lady.

She lay on her back looking at you. Her face was swollen, blotched with dried blood, her lips split. Her half-open eyes seemed empty. Was she dead? Unexpectedly, you felt pity for her. You didn’t know what made an indigenous woman a Japanese prisoner. You tried to guess. Was she a spy and had someone turned her in? Had she made a mistake?

“Ah, betrayal. Mistake,” you murmured as you recalled your own story.

If only you had listened to your parents and hadn’t followed the foolish passion of young love, you surely would have been on the ship with them and, by now, heading to the Land of Windmills. But love cast its spell on you.

The masculinity of an indigenous young man had captured your heart. He was your father’s loyal guard and charmed you with his good manners. You steeled yourself to break the boundaries and engaged in a forbidden relationship. You succumbed to sin until you became pregnant. Everything then was forced to be the way you wanted it. You were to be married in a week. How wonderful would that be, you thought, even though you had to sacrifice those you loved, your family.

Life always has a secret plan. The victory of the yellow-skinned people. The defeat of the whites. All members of your family quickly moved away, except you who preferred to be with the indigenous man, the father of your child, your true love. In return he shamelessly served the yellow-skinned Older Brother he just met and handed you to them as proof of his loyalty.

“Indigenous scumbag!” That was how you cursed him. Since then, every inch of you hated every indigenous person, including the black-haired woman who now shares your predicament. Should you still hate her?

***

The two women were still occupied by their wounds and their thoughts when the stomping of boots came closer. The jail keepers opened the cell door. They approached the two weak women on the prison floor and forcefully groped their bodies.

“Water. Water,” the black-haired one groaned.

“Doctor. I need a doctor,” the blonde pleaded.

History had proven that life never treated women fairly. Little did either woman know of the terror about to happen. When yellow hands ripped their clothes, and the men with red, alcohol-induced, passion-ridden slanted eyes, proceeded to rape them, it was too late for the nyai and noni to realize they shouldn’t hate each other. They shared a common enemy: men.

(Merapi slope, 2014)

 

Mariantje dan Pasangan Tua

Born in Lipulalongo, a small village of clove growers in Central Sulawesi, Erni Aladjai earned her degree in French literature from the Hasannudin University in Makassar, Sulawesi. She has worked as a journalist in Makassar, was also a news editor. Erni is currently a full time writer and a freelance fiction editor. Local as well as national media have published several of her poems, essays, and short stories. Her novel, Kei, took first place in the 2011 Jakarta Arts Council novel competition. Other award-winning works include “Sampo Soie Soe, Si Juru Masak” at the 2012 Jakarta International Literary Festival. Her two novellas, Rumah Perahu and Sebelum Hujan di Seasea, took second and third place in the 2011 Sayembara Cerber Femina. Erni is also the author of the novels Pesan Cinta dari Hujan (Insist Press, 2010) and Ning di Bawah Gerhana (Bumen Pustaka Emas, 2013).

“Mariantje dan Pasangan Tua” (“Mariantje and the old Couple”) first appeared in Media Indonesia newspaper on April 21, 2013 copyright © Erni Aladjai. Revised version copyright © 2014 by Erni Aladjai. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright © 2014 by Nurhayat Indriyatno Mohamed.

 
 

***

Mariantje dan Pasangan Tua

Pada Rabu pagi yang bercahaya, mereka terbangun dalam satu selimut. Pagi ini, Laura dan Don masih bersama. Tak ada yang pergi lebih dahulu. Tuhan masih ingin melihat mereka melewati hari-hari baru. Tiap malam, saat jelang kelopak mata mengatup, Laura akan memasukkan jemarinya ke sela-sela jemari Don. Itu kebiasaan rahasia dia, yang hanya diketahui Mariantje.

Perlahan-lahan Laura bangkit dari ranjang, mengamati rambutnya yang setiap helainya telah berwarna kelabu. Mengamati pipi dan dagunya yang merosot. Tiga tahun lalu, dia masih sering duduk di depan meja rias ini, menyemir rambutnya sembari bersenandung lagu jaz kuno. Dia dan Don penyuka jaz. Mereka menikmati musik itu sejak pertama kali masuk Batavia.

Dia masih ingat baik, suatu malam, Batavia begitu ramai, beberapa musisi Filipina datang ke Batavia mencari kerja. Di ruang masuk hotel dan jalan-jalan, mereka mengenalkan alat musik angin. Trompet. Saksofon. Bolero. Rumba. Ah kenangan itu selalu bagai embusan angin sore yang menenangkan. Ingatan dia pada irama jaz pertama kali di kota ini selalu abadi di kepalanya, sebab pada hari itu juga, sesuatu yang membuatnya bahagia telah terjadi.

Mula-mula Don—yang sekarang terus “lelap” di belakangnya itu—membeli dua buah karcis untuk menonton pertunjukan jaz di Hotel Des Indes. Waktu itu, umur Don tujuhbelas tahun. Masih muda dan senang memakai topi bowler―serupa topi yang sering dikenakan Charlie Chaplin, celana pantalon dan jas.

Sementara Laura berumur enambelas tahun. Mengenakan gaun sifon bertabur bunga lotus, dia naik trem bersama Don. Mereka naik trem listrik pertama. Dia mendengar keterangan itu dari pembicaraan dua orang meneer dalam satu gerbong. Dan pada saat irama saksofon soleano dari si musisi Filipina itu terdengar di langit-langit hotel Des Indes, bersamaan itu juga Don memasangkan sebuah cincin perloop, verlooft di jari manisnya.

***

Laura menyukai pagi. Dia tak pernah mau melewatkan saat matahari keluar. Dan pagi ini, dia tak lagi menyemir rambut. Laura Tua seolah telah berjanji pada setiap helai rambutnya, bahwa mulai hari ini hingga di kemudian hari, rambutnya tak akan lagi “sesak napas” oleh baluran pewarna rambut yang kaku. Tak ada lagi sarung tangan. Tak ada lagi bubuk semir Tancho di atas meja riasnya.

Wanita tua itu kemudian melangkah ke ambang jendela kamar. Jendela itu selalu dia umpamakan layar bioskop. Di sana, di balik kacanya, ada dua pohon kersen dengan batang saling silang. Sangkar burung nuri peliharaan Don tergantung di salah satu tunggulnya. Setiap pagi, si nuri akan menyapa ketika Laura membuka tirai.

“Selamat pagi, sayangku!” itulah yang dikatakan si nuri. Don yang mengajari burung nuri itu menyapa Laura saban pagi. Seolah ketika itu, Don sudah tahu kalau suatu hari dia hanya bisa berbaring dengan selang di hidung. Penyakit telah mematikan sebelah tubuhnya. Laura tua mengangguk, menertawai burung nuri yang mengoyang-goyangkan pantatnya.

Lalu ucapan yang sama juga selalu dia dengar dari mulut Mariantje. “Selamat pagi, hari ini Nyonya tampak sehat dan bercahaya.” Laura tertawa.

Mariantje perempuan tinggi-besar, berkulit kelam, dan rambut diikat saputangan itu riang memasuki kamar Laura sambil membawa tongkat pel. Mariantje baru saja selesai merebus kentang untuk sarapan pagi Laura. Mariantje membantu segala hal di rumah Laura. Dia memasak. Mencuci pakaian. Menyetrika. Menyapu pekarangan dan belanja. Sudah lima tahun perempuan asal Sanger, Manado itu bekerja pada Laura.

Setiap Sabtu pagi, ada tambahan belanja yang ditugaskan Laura padanya. Laura memintanya pergi ke Senen, membeli novel terbaru yang akan Laura bacakan untuk Don menggunakan kaca pembesar. Laura menyukai cara Mariantje bekerja.

Mariantje menyukai rumah Laura. Wangi jeruk, sederhana, dan senantiasa terdengar alunan jaz. Setiap pagi, Mariantje akan mengengkol gramofon kuno milik Laura, memasang piringan hitam lagu jaz yang dipesannya.

“Pagi ini Natalie Cole, Mariantje!”

Bagi Mariantje, ada banyak keharuan di rumah Laura. Seperti dua malam lalu, saat dia datang memeriksa keadaan Laura. Dia lihat perempuan tua itu duduk di sisi Don, membacakan Don sebuah buku bersampul merah. Laura percaya, meski Don tak bisa bergerak lagi, tapi Don masih bisa mendengar. Seperti biasa, suara Laura terdengar gemetar.

“Don sayang, aku akan membaca sebuah penggalan sajak Heine yang dikutip dalam Max Havelaar. Aku pikir kau mungkin menyukainya,” kata Laura. Setelah berdeham, ia mulai membaca. “’Nun di sana menderau air sungai yang suci, di sana kita menyelam di bawah naungan palma… mimpikan impian yang serba bahagia.’ Jadi bahagialah, Sayang!”

Diam-diam, di bingkai pintu kamar Laura, Mariantje melihat pemandangan itu dengan haru. Laura memang seorang pembaca novel yang baik. Yang sedang dibaca Laura adalah Max Havelaar terbitan tahun 1977, yang Mariantje beli di Jalan Kwitang. Dulu, si pedagang buku membujuk Mariantje agar membelinya. “Ini buku bagus, Pram dan Kartini membacanya, kau harus punya!” katanya.

***

Setelah membaca novel seperti biasa, Laura menemui Mariantje. Mereka bercakap di dapur. Ini kali Laura melakukan pembicaraan sungguh-sungguh dengannya. “Mariantje, saya minta maaf tak bisa membayar gajimu beberapa bulan ini. Saya sedih, namun kau tak pernah mengeluhkan itu.”

“Nyonya jangan minta maaf. Membolehkan saya tinggal di sini, itu sudah lebih dari cukup.” Mariantje menggenggam tangan Laura.

“Jika, suatu hari saya tiba-tiba pergi, maka kunci rumah saya selamanya milikmu. Itulah yang mampu saya wariskan padamu. Tolong rawat burung nuri Don. Kelak jika ada museum jaz di kota ini, sumbangkanlah piringan hitam kami.”

“Terima kasih telah mengurus saya dan Don,” tambah Laura setengah berbisik.

“Tak perlu mengulang-ulang terima kasih, Nyonya. Sayalah yang berterima kasih.”

Sudah empat bulan memang, Mariantje tak lagi dibayar oleh Laura. Uang pensiun Don dan Laura bahkan hanya cukup untuk biaya perawatan Don, makan seadanya, dan membeli buku terbaru setiap pekan.

Mariantje tak mengeluh. Baginya mengenal Laura adalah kebahagiaan. Mariantje ingat wajahnya lebam, bibirnya pecah pertama kali dia bertemu Laura.

Mereka bertemu di toko. Laura datang membeli mayones dan susu manis kental. Mariantje datang membeli sebungkus biskuit untuk mengganjal perutnya. Tak ada yang peduli dengan wajah lebam dan bibirnya yang pecah. Semua orang hanya memperhatikan rak belanja. Satu-satunya orang yang menanyakan keadaannya hanyalah Laura.

“Kenapa wajahmu? Kau jatuh?” tanya Laura mendekat. Tanpa menunggu jawaban, Laura menggandeng tangan Mariantje ke rumahnya. Di sana, Laura mengompres dahi, pipi dan bibir Mariantje dengan es batu.

“Kenapa Nyonya mau membawa saya masuk?”

“Kau terluka.” Itu saja jawaban Laura. Ia memberi Mariantje pakaian, sebuah daster bergambar kembang sepatu. Memberinya selimut, dan mengantar Mariantje ke kamar tamu.

Bertemu Laura, membuat Mariantje yakin untuk berpisah dari Tigor. Dia tak tahan dengan segala hal yang ada pada Tigor. Bau bir. Membanting telepon. Menyembunyikan uang. Menggebrak meja. Merontokkan kaca jendela. Mariantje lari pada tengah malam ke rumah Laura. Semua ini terjadi sekitar lima tahun yang lalu.

***

Minggu pagi, Mariantje berangkat ke gereja. Mariantje ingin berdoa agar Don dan Laura tetap sehat. Ia sangat takut jika Tuhan memanggil kedua orang itu. Jika boleh memilih, Mariantje berharap dia yang mati lebih dulu. Dia tak punya siapa-siapa di Pulau Jawa selain Laura. Mariantje menghitung, besok tepat 170 hari Don terbaring di tempat tidur. Sungguh waktu yang sabar bagi Laura.

Dalam perjalanan pulang dari gereja, Mariantje singgah membeli bunga. Dia membeli setangkai mawar merah dan setangkai mawar putih.

Mariantje melangkah pelan-pelan ke kamar Laura dengan bunga mawar di dadanya. Kamar begitu sunyi. Di sana, di atas ranjang berseprai putih, Laura berbaring miring, tangan kanannya melingkari tubuh Don yang terlentang dengan mulut terbuka.

Mariantje menghampiri Laura. Perlahan-lahan jari telunjuknya menyentuh lubang hidung Laura. Tak ada embusan. Mariantje meraba tangan Laura. Begitu dingin. Air mata Mariantje mulai mengalir, membasahi pipi. Perutnya bergolak.

Tiga jari kanannya kemudian menyentuh pergelangan tangan Don, dia tak merasakan ada denyut di sana. Don sudah bebas.

“Mungkin memang sudah saatnya mereka pergi,” batin Mariantje. Dia terisak. Teringat pembicaraan dia dan Laura tempo hari, “Mariantje, sudah lama saya ingin pergi bersama Don. Pergi selama-lamanya. Konon di dunia sana, kami akan kembali muda. Bukankah itu indah, Mariantje?”

***

Mariantje and the old Couple

Nurhayat Indriyatno Mohamed is the managing editor of the Jakarta Globe, an English-language newspaper in Jakarta. He was born and raised in Tanzania, and has a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Natal, Durban, in South Africa. At age 24 Hayat decided to move to Indonesia, the land of his father’s birth, and was immediately smitten by the novelty of it all.
A chance encounter led to a newspaper job, and another presented him with the opportunity to translate into English a book by the award-winning author Okky Madasari. Hayat is the translator of Erni Aladjai’s award winning novel Kei.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

***

Mariantje and the old Couple
by
Erni Aladjai

It was a bright Wednesday morning and they woke up under the same blanket. Laura and Don were still together. Neither had gone first. God wanted to give them a new day. Every night, just before she closed her eyes, Laura laced her fingers with Don’s. It was her secret habit, only Mariantje knew about.

Laura got up slowly from the bed and looked at her reflection in the mirror. She studied her hair, every last strand was gray, her cheeks and chin sagged. Just three years earlier, she often sat before the mirror dyeing her hair while humming along to an old jazz number. She and Don loved jazz. They enjoyed it since the first time they came to Batavia.

She still remembered it well, that crowded night when groups of Filipino musicians came to town looking for work. From the entrances of hotels and in the streets, they introduced their instruments and their music: trumpet, saxophone, bolero, rumba. Ah, the memory was like a soothing afternoon breeze. Her memory of the first time she heard jazz in the city was one that would remain with her forever, because on that day something happened that made her happy.

Don, who was right now lying there behind her, had bought two tickets to a jazz show at the Hotel des Indes. He was seventeen at the time and he loved wearing bowler hats, the kind Charlie Chaplin often wore, with pantaloons and a jacket.
Laura was sixteen. She wore a chiffon dress with a lotus motif and took the tram with Don. It was the first electric tram, she overheard two Dutchmen saying inside the car. When the sounds of the saxophone played by Soleano, the Filipino musician, rose to the ceiling of the Hotel des Indes, Don slipped an engagement ring onto her finger.

***

Laura loved the morning. She never wanted to miss a single sunrise. And this morning, she didn’t dye her hair. It was as though Old Laura had made a deal with her hair, from today onward, she would no longer choke her hair in a thick coating of dye. There would be no more gloves, no more of the Tancho powdered dye on her dressing table.

She moved to the windowsill. She always saw the window as a movie screen. There, behind the glass, stood two kersen trees, their trunks intertwined. The birdcage where Don kept his parrot hung from one of the branches. The bird greeted Laura every morning when she opened the curtains.

“Good morning, my love!” the parrot would say. Don had taught the bird to greet Laura in the morning. It was almost as though he knew that one day he would be confined to the bed with a tube in his nose. The illness had paralyzed half of his body. Laura nodded and laughed as the parrot shook its tail.

Mariantje also greeted her every day. “Good morning! You look healthy and radiant today.”

Laura laughed.

Mariantje was a tall, large woman, with dark skin. She wore her hair tied up with a bandana. She came into Laura’s room holding a mop. She just finished boiling potatoes for Laura’s breakfast. She did all the chores around the house: she cooked, did the laundry, ironed, swept the yard and shopped. She came from Sanger in Manado and had worked for Laura for five years. Laura liked the way Mariantje worked.

Every Saturday Laura added a little something to Mariantje’s shopping list. She would ask her to go to Senen and buy the latest novel. Later, Laura would read the book to Don with a magnifying glass.

Mariantje liked Laura’s house. It was simple, it smelled of oranges, and always filled with jazz music. Every morning Mariantje wound up Laura’s old gramophone and put on the jazz record Laura wanted to listen to.

“Natalie Cole this morning, Mariantje!”

Mariantje experienced many touching moments in Laura’s house. Two nights ago, she came in to check on Laura and found the old woman sitting next to Don and reading to him from a book with a red cover. Laura believed that even though Don could no longer move, he could still hear. Her voice quivered like it usually did.

“Don, my love, this is a passage from Max Havelaar in which he quotes the poet Heine. I thought you’d enjoy it.” She cleared her throat and began to read. “‘And in the distance roars ever/ The holy river’s loud flood./ And there, while joyously sinking/ Beneath the palm by the stream,/ And love and repose while drinking,/ Of blissful visions we’ll dream.’ So be happy, my love!”

Mariantje quietly watched the scene from the doorway. She was touched. Laura read well. The book was Max Havelaar by Eduard Douwes Dekker, published in the 1977 edition. She had bought it on Jalan Kwitang. The seller had persuaded her to buy it. “It’s a good book. Pram and Kartini read it, you have to have it!” he said.

***

After reading to Don, Laura, as usual, looked for Mariantje. They talked in the kitchen. This time Laura talked about something serious. “Mariantje, I’m really sorry I haven’t been able to pay you these past few months. It saddens me, and you never complain about it.”

“There’s no need to be sorry. Letting me stay here is more than enough.” Mariantje clasped Laura’s hand.

“If one day I’m suddenly gone, the keys to my house are yours for good. That’s all I can pass on to you. Please take care of Don’s parrot. And when one day there’s a jazz museum in this city, give them the old records,” Laura said. “Thank you for taking care of Don and me,” she added in a half-whisper.

“There’s no need to keep thanking me, ma’am. I’m the one who should be thanking you.”

It had in fact been four months since Laura had last paid Mariantje. Don and Laura’s pension was only enough for Don’s medical care, simple meals, and a new book once a week.

Mariantje didn’t complain. To know Laura was a source of joy. She remembered her face was bruised and her lip split the first time she met Laura.

It was at a store. Laura had come in to buy mayonnaise and condensed milk. Mariantje was there to buy a pack of cookies to tide herself over. No one cared about her bruised face and her bleeding lip. People just looked at the shelves. Laura was the only person who asked whether she was alright.

“What happened to your face? Did you fall?” Laura asked as she came closer. Without bothering to wait for an answer, she took Mariantje by the hand and led her home. Laura made a compress of ice cubes and placed it on Mariantje’s chin, cheeks and lips.

“How come you brought me into your house?”

“You’re hurt.” That had been Laura’s answer. She gave Mariantje a house dress with a hibiscus motif. She also gave her a blanket and showed her to the guest room.

Meeting Laura had make Mariantje determined to leave Tigor. She couldn’t stand anything about him. He reeked of beer. He threw the phone at her and hid money. He slammed the table and broke the glass in the windows. Mariantje ran away in the middle of the night to Laura’s house. That was some five years ago.

***

On Sunday morning, Mariantje went to church. She prayed for Don and Laura to stay healthy. She was terrified that God might call both of them. If she could choose, Mariantje hoped that she would be the first to die. She had no one in Java except for Laura. Mariantje made a mental count: tomorrow would be 170 days since Don was bedridden. It was truly a trying time for Laura.

On her way home from church, Mariantje took a detour to buy some flowers. She bought a single red rose and a single white one.

She walked softly to Laura’s room with the roses pressed to her chest. The room was exceptionally quiet. Laura lay on her side on top of the white sheets, her right arm embraced Don, who lay on his back with his mouth open.

Mariantje went up to Laura. She gently placed her finger against Laura’s nostril. There was no movement of air. She grabbed Laura’s arm. It was cold. Mariantje began to cry. Her stomach hurt.

She placed her fingers on Don’s wrist. There was no a pulse. Don was free.

Perhaps it was their time to go. Mariantje cried. She remembered her talk with Laura the day before. “Mariantje, I’ve wanted for so long to go away with Don. To go away forever. It’s said that in that other world, we’ll be young again. Isn’t that beautiful, Mariantje?”

***

Hikayat Kura-kura Berjanggut

Azahri was born in the village of Lamjamee, Banda Aceh, in October 1981. Before the tsunami in December 2004, he studied in the Literature and Language Program at Syiah Kuala University, Banda Aceh. His first book of short stories, Perempuan Pala, was published in 2004 and long-listed for the Khatulistiwa Literary Award. In 2005, Azhari received the Free Word Award from Poets of All Nations, The Netherlands. In 2002, Azhari established Komunitas Tikar Pandan; through its cultural programs, the organization strives to achieve peace, fairness, and equal opportunities for all Acehnese people. Azhari is also the founding editor of the cultural journal Gelombang Baru (New Wave), published in Banda Aceh. He is currently working on a novel and essays about Aceh.

“The Tale of the Bearded Turtle” first appeared in the Tempo Newspaper, Sunday, March 4, 2007 edition; copyright © Azhari. Revised version copyright © 2014 by Azhari. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright © 2014 by Wikan Satriati.
 
 
 
 
 
 

***

Hikayat Kura-kura Berjanggut

Dahulu kala, ketika waktu masih ditentukan oleh beberapa orang, dan kapal-kapal masih bergantung pada kecerlangan bintang-bintang dan nujuman, dan para perompak masih musuh utama Sultan, hiduplah seorang Tukang Cerita yang mengandalkan kebohongan. Pada musim di mana angin gila dan angin ekor duyung menguasai lautan, ramailah bandar oleh para awak kapal yang menunggu amuk lautan reda. Saat gempita itulah si Tukang Cerita turun dari gunung. Sehabis asar dia selalu datang ke bandar itu, karena dia bergantung hidup pada kemurahan hati para pelaut yang terbius oleh kisah-kisahnya.

Pelaut-pelaut itu memberinya kain Koromandel, keramik Campa, permadani Persia, batik Jawa, kemenyan Barus, candu Magrib, dan kisah-kisah pelayaran. Segala pemberian itu, oleh Tukang Cerita, dijual kembali setelah bandar tak lagi ramai. Sementara kisah-kisah pelayaran adalah bahan-bahan cerita baru baginya, yang dikocoknya dengan begitu lihai, sehingga nyaris tidak kelihatan rupa aslinya. Dalam melumatkan cerita, mulutnya itu sempurna tiada terkira, melebihi batu giling yang paling tajam sekalipun. Para pelaut malang itu tak pernah sadar bahwa kisahan Tukang Cerita itu ialah apa yang pernah mereka ceritakan.

Setiap dia menyelesaikan cerita, yang terkesan dipanjang-panjangkan, dia bertanya pada dua-tiga orang pelaut, “Bagaimana ceritaku barusan? Kalian percaya? Pengalaman apa yang kaudapat dalam pelayaran kali ini, Ranir? Wahai, Pasha, ceritakan padaku tentang gadis-gadis negeri Atas Angin?”

Maka berceritalah para pelaut itu, sementara dia mendengar dengan saksama sambil mengangguk-anggukkan kepalanya. Saat para pelaut itu satu demi satu selesai bercerita, dia bertepuk tangan, tentu bukan untuk menghormati kepiawaian mereka, namun karena dia sudah menemukan bahan kisah baru untuk saat mendatang.

Mulut Tukang Cerita sama tajamnya dengan Zulfikar, pedang kesayangan Sultan. Dan kelak dia binasa di ujung Zulfikar. Konon kabarnya, dia binasa karena Kura-kura Berjanggut.

Kisahnya tentang Kura-kura Berjanggut telah membuat Sultan begitu terhina. Mungkin maksudnya mulia: dia ingin menghibur para anak kapal yang telah menunggu lama di bandar oleh huru-hara di lautan. Tapi mungkin saja Sultan menangkap maksud lain dari kisah itu.

Pada hari-hari menjelang putusnya leher Tukang Cerita oleh Zulfikar, kapal-kapal yang merapat di Bandar Lamuri tak terbilang jumlahnya, bahkan berderet hampir menyentuh tepi cakrawala! Kapal-kapal itu singgah bukan oleh musim angin gila atau angin ekor duyung. Laut tenang. Langit bercahaya. Tak ada waktu yang lebih bagus untuk berlayar selain pada musim ini. Tapi ini waktu perompak Lamuri mengganas. Sudah bertahun-tahun tak terdengar kabar berita tentang para perompak itu. Tak ada yang bisa menerka kapan muncul dan hilangnya rompak Lamuri. Tak juga ahli nujum kepercayaan Sultan. Bahkan, bertambah cemaslah raut wajah para saudagar kapal tatkala melihat kapal-kapal perang Sultan yang memburu perompak pulang dengan layar hangus dan tiang roboh, padahal kapal-kapal perkasa itu telah dilengkapi dengan meriam dan bubuk mesiu buatan Turki Usmani.

Bandar Lamuri sebenarnya tempat menunggu yang paling pas bagi kapal-kapal itu disebabkan oleh kedudukannya tepat di mulut pintu antara bandar-bandar Atas Angin dan bandar-bandar Bawah Angin. Namun sejak lima tahun terakhir bandar itu sepi, sejak orang kulit putih merebut Bandar Malaka. Begitu Malaka direbut, penguasa putih langsung menurunkan ongkos merapat kapal setengah kali lipat dari bea Bandar Lamuri. Hal ini tak lepas dari peran Si Ujud.

Memang khianat Si Ujud itu! Geram suara Sultan yang melaknat Si Ujud masih terdengar sampai hari ini. Menurut Hikayat Taman-taman Kenikmatan yang dikarang oleh pengarang istana paling cemerlang pada masa itu, Sultan menyesal kenapa ia tak memancung leher Si Ujud dengan Zulfikar, ketika orang celaka itu menghasut sekelompok orangkaya lingkaran Kleng untuk memberontak. Sultan hanya menghukum-buang Si Ujud ke Malaka.

***

Tentu saja si pengarang istana yang cerdas punya alasan kenapa Sultan tak memancung Si Ujud. Tersurat dalam hikayat itu, Sultan masih menyimpan sesal yang dalam karena pada tahun yang lewat dia dengan ringan melayangkan Zulfikar ke leher anak kandungnya, yang dituduhnya telah membagi kenikmatan dengan seorang selir kesayangan Sultan. Menurut hikayat itu pula, setelah si anak kandung binasa, Sultan berjanji untuk menyimpan Zulfikar dan hanya menggunakan pada saat-saat yang penting.

Namun tidak begitu menurut para ahli hikayat, terutama orang kulit putih, yang hidup ratusan tahun kemudian. Menurut penafsir berkulit putih itu, Sultan menyimpan Zulfikar karena pada malam hari setelah pemancungan itu Sultan beroleh mimpi yang aneh. Dalam mimpi itu Sultan didatangi seorang sahabat Nabi, yang mengatakan bahwa Zulfikar merupakan pedang kesayangannya, biasa dipakai untuk membela agama anjuran Nabi. Dan Sultan sempat bertanya: wahai Saidina, bagaimana bisa pedang ini berada di tangan Kadi Malikul Adil dan kemudian Kadi menyerahkan padaku? Sang Sahabat hanya menjawab: laut begitu luas, maka laut dapat menghanyutkan segala sesuatu kepada siapa saja, kepada orang yang saleh maupun yang tidak.

Sejak mimpi itulah Sultan menyimpan Zulfikar.

Nasib Si Ujud berubah setelah orang kulit putih merebut Malaka dan menumpas penguasa taklukan Lamuri. Sultan Lamuri tak kuasa menghentikan langkah orang kulit putih di tanah taklukannya, dan hanya mampu menatap saja dari seberang lautan. Sebab di tanahnya sendiri pada saat yang bersamaan meletus pemberontakan orangkaya Lingkaran Kleng sekutu Si Ujud, yang melarikan diri ke hutan Halimun. Ketika Sultan berhasil memadamkan pemberontakan itu, orang kulit putih sudah terlalu kuat di Malaka. Beberapa serangan kilat oleh balatentara laut Sultan dipatahkan oleh orang kulit putih. Maka Sultan berencana menyiapkan perang yang lebih besar dan matang terhadap para penakluk itu. Untuk itu, kapal-kapal perang yang dilengkapi meriam paling ampuh dan terbaru telah dipesan kepada Kekhalifahan Usmani. Maka kas kesultanan harus ditambah. Maka ongkos masuk kapal di Bandar Lamuri dinaikkan.

Si Ujud kemudian diangkat sebagai penasihat orang kulit putih khusus untuk masalah Lamuri dan tanah-tanah taklukannya. Maka ia menyampaikan beberapa siasat untuk melemahkan Lamuri. Begitu Sultan menaikkan ongkos masuk kapal, ia sarankan penguasa kulit putih di Malaka untuk menurunkan tarif masuk kapal di Malaka setengah dari harga Bandar Lamuri. Hasilnya akan kelihatan pada musim angin buruk mendatang. Benarlah, hampir setengah dari kapal-kapal yang dulu singgah di Lamuri pindah ke Malaka. Itulah mengapa Bandar Lamuri sepi selama lima tahun terakhir.

Maka Sultan menyesal tak memancung kepala Si Ujud dengan Zulfikar.

Bandar Lamuri bertambah sepi tatkala orang kulit putih mendirikan sebuah rumah bordil yang besar sekali di Malaka. Muka Berseri nama rumah kenikmatan itu, yang langsung diusahakan di bawah kesyahbandaran. Ini juga saran Si Ujud. Berkata dia, “Betapa aku sering mendengar sepinya hati para pelaut setiap kapal mereka singgah di Lamuri. Di sana tak ada rumah bordil sebab tak diizinkan Sultan yang alim. Padahal sudah kubilang berkali-kali bahwa para pelaut itu tak semuanya seagama dengan kita. Belum selesai aku bicara, kulihat Sultan sudah memegang Zulfikar-nya. Siapa tak gentar melihat pedang itu. Selama ini hati pelaut yang sepi hanya dihibur oleh bual dan cerita bohong Tukang Cerita sialan. Sungguh kasihan nasib pelaut yang singgah di sana.”

***

Sementara Si Tukang Cerita sendiri, sejak sepinya Bandar Lamuri, sudah jarang turun ke bandar. Dia telah begitu banyak kehilangan pendengar setianya. Dia hanya turun gunung apabila mendengar hal-hal besar terjadi di bandar.

Begitulah, kali ini Tukang Cerita pun turun ke bandar begitu ia mendengar banyaknya kapal yang merapat di bandar akibat mengganasnya perompak Lamuri.

“Berceritalah, Tukang Cerita. Berceritalah. Kau pasti punya simpanan cerita yang tak terkira. Aku khusus membawakanmu anggur kekekalan yang disimpan di dalam gudang rumah orang Peranggi. Anggur ini tak hanya menghangatkan tubuhmu tapi juga pikiranmu. Kau harus mencobanya,” sambut seorang anak kapal.

“Ya berceritalah, Tukang Cerita. Ceritakan tentang perompak Lamuri, kalau kau tahu tentang mereka,” berkata anak kapal yang lain.

“Hoho, jangan salah sangka, kawan-kawan semua. Hari ini aku tak akan menceritakan tentang rompak Lamuri, belum saatnya. Dan janganlah kalian dirisaukan oleh perompak itu. Biarlah para nakhoda dan saudagar, juga laksamana dan Sultan Kita Yang Mulia saja yang memikirkan itu. Mari kita bersenang-senang terlebih dahulu. Bukankah sudah lama kita tak berjumpa?” jawab Tukang Cerita.

Maka berceritalah Tukang Cerita sore itu tentang segala ihwal. Bercerita sepanjang malam sampai matahari terbit lagi keesokan harinya. Bercerita pula beberapa anak kapal tentang bandar-bandar yang mereka singgahi, dan pengalaman cinta mereka di setiap bandar. Melupakan kapan kapal-kapal mereka bisa angkat sauh dari Bandar Lamuri, dan kapan janji Sultan menumpas perompak yang mengganas itu terlunasi.

Berhari-hari Tukang Cerita bercerita menghibur para anak kapal yang menunggu Sultan menumpas perompak Lamuri. Sampai Tukang Cerita kehabisan ceritanya, sampai anak-anak kapal sadar bahwa telah begitu lama mereka menunggu di Bandar. Mereka masih menunggu datangnya kabar baik dari kesyahbandaran.

Hingga suatu hari, di tengah tuturan Tukang Cerita, datanglah beberapa puluh orang mendekat ke kerumunan itu. Melihat siapa-siapa yang datang, berdirilah ia seketika menghentikan kisahnya.

“Singkat saja, Tukang Cerita. Hari ini aku ingin mendengar perkara bajak laut Lamuri. Aku tahu kau tahu segalanya tentang mereka,” berkata seorang nakhoda tua.

“Tun, kau rupanya, nakhoda kapal Ikan Pari. Apa kabar perempuan berleher gading dari Magribi?” tanya Tukang Cerita.

Bersemu merah paras nakhoda tua itu.

“Katakan sejujurnya apa yang sebenarnya terjadi di laut kita?”

“Dan kau, Abdul Kadir, jurumudi ternama kesayangan saudagar Barus, kawan lama sekapal yang bersumpah tak akan menjejak tanah sebelum orang putih meninggalkan Malaka. Apakah aku harus terharu? Kau melanggar sumpah untuk tidak mendengar ceritaku?”

Yang paling takjub mendengar percakapan itu ialah para awak kapal yang belia usianya. Baru tahu mereka ternyata Tukang Cerita punya hubungan dengan para petinggi mereka.

“Tidak. Aku tidak tahu apa-apa tentang rompak Lamuri. Karena mereka tak ada lagi. Dan bukankah Sultan sudah berjanji untuk menumpas perompak di laut secepat laju kapal kalian?” kata Tukang Cerita.

“Kau bohong, kau tahu segalanya, bukankah kau bagian dari perompak itu? Dan tidakkah kaudengar satu armada belum kembali setelah dua Jumat mengejar kapal perompak? ”

Heninglah semua jamaah mendengar pernyataan terakhir Abdul Kadir.

“Kau benar belaka, Abdul Kadir. Kita berdua pernah menjadi bagian dari rompak Lamuri. Semua orang di bandar ini tahu. Tapi itu dulu, berpuluh tahun silam, ketika kalian, wahai anak-anak kapal yang belia, belum melihat dunia. Aku nakhoda kapal perompak Lamuri yang paling ditakuti di selingkar laut Atas dan Bawah Angin, dan kau, Kadir, adalah salah seorang jurumudi kapal yang paling kukagumi. Di tanganmu kemudi kapal kita secepat Zulfikar memenggal kepala. Itu dulu, waktu Sultan masih membutuhkan kekuatan kita di lautan. Sampai suatu hari Sultan Kita Yang Mulia mengatakan dia tak membutuhkan kita lagi sebagai sekutu lautnya. Hari itu Zulfikar baru saja tiba di tanah ini. Seorang mufti dari seberang lautan mempersembahkan pedang itu kepadanya,” kata Tukang Cerita.

“Hari itu kukatakan kepada Sultan, jika saja tiang-tiang kapal kita bisa bicara, akan mereka katakan bahwa orang kulit putih dalam perjalanan menyeberang ke mari dan kitalah kekuatan pertama yang akan mencegah kedatangan mereka. Dan bukankah kalian tahu apa jawaban Sultan waktu itu? Pamanku itu hanya memelukku dan berucap, terima kasih, wahai kemenakan, atas peringatanmu. Kita semua kecewa mendengar ketetapan hatinya, tapi kita menghormati Sultan kita, mematuhi kata-katanya. Maka aku menolak saranmu untuk melakukan pemberontakan, wahai Qaran,” kata Tukang Cerita sambil mendekat ke arah seorang abesy, lalu memeluk orang itu, “Sudah besarkah anak dara Bukharamu? Kuharap kau selalu memenuhi janjimu untuk mengunjunginya setidaknya dua tahun sekali.”

“Ya. Aku dalam perjalanan untuk berjumpa Zulaikha. Tapi kabar tentang perompak itu menghentikan langkahku di bandar ini. Bandar yang sejujurnya tidak ingin kuinjak lagi. Hanya karena kudengar kabar tentang perompakan di laut Lamuri, maka kuarahkan kemudi ke bandar celaka ini. Dan kukira kau kembali dipanggil Sultan.”

“Wahai Qaran dan kawan-kawan lama lainnya. Huru-hara di lautan menyebabkan kita berjumpa lagi. Tak pernah terbayang olehku kita bakal berjumpa lagi seperti ini. Sultan punya keputusan, kalian juga punya, begitu pula denganku. Kalian meninggalkan Lamuri untuk selamanya, pergi entah ke mana, juga merasa kecewa denganku yang tak mampu membela kepentingan kalian. Sementara aku yang tak ingin ke mana-mana, karena cintaku pada tanah ini, memilih berumah di dalam hutan. Kutampik rumah pemberian Sultan. Lama di dalam hutan, hilanglah pengetahuanku tentang lautan. Sekali-sekali aku turun ke bandar dan menjadi Tukang Cerita, bertanya-tanya tentang kabar kalian dari para anak kapal yang mau mendengar ceritaku. Dengan begitu lunaslah sedikit rinduku pada kalian,” kata Tukang Cerita.

“Kalian akan pergi dari hadapanku. Dan memang itu yang harus kalian lakukan sebab aku tak lebih tahu dari kalian siapa sesungguhnya para perompak Lamuri itu. Kini kuharap kalian masih mau mendengarkan ceritaku tentang Kura-kura Berjanggut. Kisah ini dulu sering kuceritakan kepada kalian, di tengah lautan, di atas geladak kapal saat angin mati, saat kita berhari-hari dalam jemu yang panjang menunggu datangnya angin. Seperti kalian ketahui, begitu aku selesai menceritakan Hikayat Kura-kura Berjanggut, esok harinya layar kapal menarik angin dari segala penjuru,” kata Tukang Cerita.

“Di antara kalian masih ada yang percaya, mungkin sampai hari ini, hikayat itu adalah mantra penarik angin. Tapi ini adalah leluconku dengan mualim kita yang cerdas itu. Dia melihat bintang-bintang di langit, dan mengatakan padaku bahwa tujuh hari lagi angin akan berembus. Maka aku mengumpulkan kalian semua di atas geladak. Dan menceritakan hikayat itu. Betapa gembira kalian tatkala aku menceritakan hikayat itu, sebab kalian bakal terbebaskan dari hari-hari menunggu angin yang membosankan. Semoga dengan hikayat ini kapal kalian bisa berlayar esok hari,” kata Tukang Cerita. “Simaklah.”

Dahulu kala, ketika segala binatang dan pepohonan masih bisa bicara, dan bandar ini belum bernama, hiduplah seekor raja kura-kura yang menguasai selingkar lautan ini. Kura-kura itu disegani oleh makhluk sepenjuru lautan karena kecepatan dan keperkasaannya.

Sampai pada suatu hari di ujung lautan terlihatlah sebuah kapal. Di atas geladak kapal itu terlihat seekor unta. Hanya seekor unta.

O, keperkasaan dan kuasa membuat raja kura-kura menjadi kurang waspada.

Padahal petuah lama mengatakan, apabila kau melihat sebuah kapal dengan unta di atas geladaknya, segera usirlah kapal itu. Sebab itu adalah unta yang diusir Nabi Sulaiman, nabi junjungan segala binatang. Dosa apakah yang membuat orang sesabar Sulaiman berbuat begitu? Di tanah Sulaiman, dia telah menyebarkan banyak fitnah dan kebohongan, sering membuat Sulaiman susah tak kepalang.

Dalam pembuangan, unta itu masih saja menyebar kabar kebohongan ke seluruh penjuru lautan, karena dengan itulah dia mendapatkan doa para penguasa dunia. Bukankah tak ada raja yang sudi berdoa untuk unta usiran Sulaiman?

Kebohongan sang unta membuat sesiapa yang percaya menjadi gelap takdir hidupnya, sepekat kabut yang menudungi kapalnya.

Seperti kura-kura yang pernah hidup di bandar ini.

Kepada kura-kura, sang unta mengatakan, sungguh aneh kura-kura yang dilihatnya ini, sebab di tanah Sulaiman dan di seluruh penjuru lautan yang pernah disinggahinya, semua kura-kura ada janggutnya. Marahlah kura-kura mendengar kabar ini. Berkata ia, katakan padaku di mana aku bisa membeli janggut, wahai unta pembawa berita?

Kau tak perlu menghabiskan seluruh kekayaanmu kalau hanya untuk mendapatkan sejumput janggut di dagumu, begitu pesan Sulaiman, berdoa sajalah untuk keselamatan unta kelana ini. Maka akan tumbuhlah janggut di dagumu itu, jawab unta sambil tertawa. Begitu sang unta berdusta.

Maka berdoalah kura-kura untuk keselamatan si unta. Setelah mendapatkan doa raja kura-kura, unta itu pun pergi dengan hati seluas samudra bersama kapalnya dan kabut yang memayungi kapalnya.

Maka hitam-pekatlah hidup si kura-kura sampai anak cucunya hingga hari ini. Perhatikanlah, sungguh lambat jalannya kura-kura sekarang. Sampai sekarang makhluk itu masih saja merayap mencari-cari janggutnya yang jatuh di tanah, sebab ia menyangka Sulaiman melemparkan begitu saja janggut itu.

***

The Tale of the Bearded Turtle

Wikan Satriati is a graduate from the Faculty of Letters of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Wikan is an experienced editor specializing in manuscripts of literary and cultural content, and works as a freelance translator. She translated Harry Aveling’s essays from English into Indonesian for inclusion in an anthology of Indonesian poetry, Secrets Need Words: Indonesian Poetry 1966–1998 (Center for International Studies, Ohio University, 2001). IndonesiaTera published the Indonesian translation in 2004 by under the title Rahasia Membutuhkan Kata: Puisi Indonesia 1966–1998. Yayasan Adikarya IKAPI (Indonesian Book Publishers Association) Book Program chose the publication as a quality book.

Wikan is the author of two children books: Gadis Kecil Penjaga Bintang (The Star’s Caretaker), published by KataKita in 2008, and Melangkah dengan Bismillah (Walking with the Name of God) by KataKita, 2006. Currently she works as a publication assistant at the Lontar Foundation, a non-profit institution whose primarily goal is the introduction of Indonesian literature to a world readership through translations of Indonesian literary works into English.

Wikan can be reached at wikan_satriati@yahoo.com.

***

The Tale of the Bearded Turtle
by
Azhari

A long time ago, when time was still determined by many people and ships relied on shining stars and ancient astronomy, and pirates were the Sultan’s main enemy, there lived a storyteller who relied on lies. When crosswinds controlled the sea, the harbor was crowded with sailors who waited for the sea to calm. At such boisterous time, the storyteller came down from the mountain. He always came to the harbor after asr, the afternoon pray time, for he relied on the generosity of the sailors he mesmerized with his stories.

The sailors gave him Coromandel cloths, ceramics from Campa, Persian carpets, Javanese batik, Barus incense, opium from Magrib, and their voyage stories. After they left, the storyteller sold the gifts and the sailor’s tales became fodder for his new stories. He mixed them with such skill that the original stories were barely recognizeable. His mouth reshaped the stories the same as a sharp knife whittled a piece of wood. The poor sailors never realized that his stories were the same as the ones they had told him.

He embellished the stories in every retelling. After he finished, he asked two or three sailors, “What do you think? Do you believe the story? What happened on that journey, Ranir? Oh, Pasha, tell me about the girls in the Upper Country.”

When the sailors told their stories, he listened carefully. He clapped when they finished, not so much to applaud their skill, but because he had found material for the future.

The storyteller’s tongue was as sharp as Zulfikar, the Sultan’s favorite sword. And he died at the tip of Zulfikar because of “The Bearded Turtle.”

His story about the turtle humiliated the Sultan deeply. He had noble intentions: to entertain the sailors who waited a long time at the harbor because of the unrest at sea. The Sultan interpreted the story differently.

In the days leading to the storyteller being beheaded by Zulfikar, countless ships were docked at the Lamuri harbor. The line almost touched the edge of the horizon. Neither cross winds nor stormy weather prevented the ships from sailing. The sea was calm, and the sky luminous. It was the best time to set sail. But also for pirates to attack.

No one could predict when the pirates appeared or sailed away, not even the Sultan and his trusted clairvoyants. The crew of the merchant ships worried when they saw the Sultan’s warships return with scorched sails and broken masts, although the mighty ships had been armed with cannons and gunpowder made in Turkey.

Due to its strategic position between the harbors of the Upper Country and Lower Country, the Lamuri harbor was the best place for the ships to dock. However, white men had seized the Malacca harbor five years previously and since that time, Lamuri was deserted. The new rulers of the Malacca harbor had reduced their docking fees to half of those at Lamuri.

Ujud had a hand in this. He was a traitor, indeed. The Sultan’s furious cursing of Ujud could still be heard. According to The Saga of the Pleasure Gardens, written by the most brilliant palace author, the Sultan regretted not cutting off Ujud’s head with Zulfikar when the wretched man incited a group of rich Kleng men to revolt. Instead, the Sultan exiled him to Malacca.

***

The briliant palace author had a reason why the Sultan did not behead Ujud. As written in the saga, the Sultan was remorseful for having swung Zulfikar at the neck of his own son, who was suspected of sharing pleasures with the Sultan’s favorite concubine. Also, according to the saga, after his son died, the Sultan promised to put Zulfikar away and only use the sword at important moments.

But it wasn’t like that, said the saga experts, especially the white men who lived hundreds of years later. According to one white interpreter, the Sultan stored Zulfikar because of the strange dream he had the night after beheaded his son.

In the dream, the Sultan was visited by a companion of the Prophet who said Zulfikar was his favorite sword and used to defend the Prophet’s religion.

The Sultan asked: “Oh, Sayyidina, how come this sword was in the hands of Kadi Malikul Adil and why did he give it to me?

The companion replied, “The sea is so vast, it can bring everything to anyone, pious or not.

Since that dream, the Sultan kept Zulfikar locked away.

The fate of Ujud changed after the white men seized Malacca and crushed the rulers who had once been conquered by Lamuri. The Sultan of Lamuri was unable to stop the white men from entering his land. All he could do was stare across the ocean because of a rebellion happening at the same time. Rich Kleng men were allies of Ujud, who had fled to the Halimun Forest.

While the Sultan succeeded in quelling the rebellion, the white man became too strong in Malacca. Quick attacks by the Sultan’s sea armies were defeated by the white man. The Sultan planned to use larger armies and more mature strategies against the conquerors. He equipped his warships with the latest and most powerful cannons ordered from Turkey. Consequently, the imperial treasury needed more money and the Sultan raised the docking fees for the Lamuri harbor.

Ujud was appointed a special adviser to the white man to help resolve Lamuri and its conquered land problems. He suggested a plot to weaken Lamuri. As soon as the Sultan raised the fees at the Lamuri harbor, Ujud told the white man in Malacca to lower the fees in Malacca harbor to half the price. The result appeared in the upcoming bad wind season. Almost half of the ships that used to stop at Lamuri then docked in Malacca. That’s why the Lamuri harbor was deserted during the last five years.

The Sultan regretted he did not behead Ujud with Zulfikar.

Lamuri lost again when the white man set up a huge brothel in Malacca. The management of the Shining Face was placed directly under the harbor rulers. This was also Ujud’s suggestion. He said, “I often heard the sailors pour out their lonely hearts when their ships stopped at Lamuri. There were no brothels because the pious Sultan did not permit it, even after I told him that not all sailors had the same religion as us. Before I could finish, the Sultan gripped his Zulfikar. Who would not be afraid when looking at that sword? The lonely sailors were only entertained by the rambling fantasies of a poor storyteller. I pity the sailors whose ships docked there.”

***

Since the Lamuri harbor was empty, the storyteller rarely came to the city. He had lost many of his faithful audience. He only left the mountain if he heard something important was happening in Lamuri.

He went to the harbor because he had heard that many ships had thrown anchor due to the recent pirate activity.

“Tell us, oh storyteller. Please,” a mate welcomed him. “You must have countless stories. I brought a special aged wine from the Peranggi cellars. This wine will warm your body and your mind. You should try it.”

“Yes, tell us about the Lamuri pirates if you know about them,” said another sailor.

“Ho, ho. Do not get me wrong, my friends. Today I’m not going to tell you about the Lamuri pirates, not this time. Leave worry about the pirates to our captains and merchants. Let the admirals and His Majesty the Sultan think about it. Let’s have fun. We haven’t seen each other for such a long time,” the storyteller replied.

That afternoon, the storyteller told many stories. He talked through the night until the sun rose the next day. In turn, the sailors told him about the harbors they had visited, and their love experiences in every town. They forgot their ships couldn’t depart from Lamuri, and the Sultan’s promises to quell the pirates had yet to be fullfiled.

Day after day, the storyteller entertained the sailors who waited for the Sultan to defeat the pirates. The storyteller ran out of tales, and the saillors realized how long they had been on shore. They still waited for good news from the harbor authorities.

One day, in the middle of a story, a dozen men approached the gathering. The storyteller rose and halted.

“Storyteller, let me be brief. Today I want to hear about the Lamuri pirates. I know you know everything about them,” said an old captain.

“Oh, Tun, is that you? The captain of the Pari Fish? How is the Magribi woman with an ivory neck?” asked the storyteller.

The old captain’s face flushed.

“Tell us truthfully, what is actually happening on our seas?”

“And you, Abdul Kadir, the famous navigator and favorite of the merchant Barus, old friend and shipmate who vowed to never set foot on this land until the white man had left Malacca. Should I be touched? Are you breaking your oath to never again listen to my stories?”

The young sailors were surprised to hear the storyteller had a relationship with their superiors.

“No, I don’t know anything about pirates because they no longer exist. Didn’t the Sultan promise to eliminate pirates at the sea as fast as your ships can move?” said the storyteller.

“You’re lying, you know everything. Aren’t you one of the Lamuri pirates? Not a single ship has returned since they went to chase the pirates two weeks ago.”

Everyone was silent after Abdul Kadir’s statement.

“You’re absolutely right, Abdul Kadir. Both of us were Lamuri pirates. Everyone in this harbor knew. But that was decades ago, before these young mates were born. I was captain of the most feared Lamuri pirates in Upper Country and Lower Country, and you, Kadir, were the navigator I most admired. In your hand, our ship moved as fast as Zulfikar would behead us. At that time, Sultan still needed our power at sea. Then, one day, His Majesty the Sultan said he no longer needed us. It was the day a mufti brought Zulfikar to this land. The Muslim holy man from across the ocean presented the sword to him,” the storyteller said.

“That day I said to the Sultan, ‘If the masts of our ship could talk, they would say that the white man was on its way, and we are the frontline force to prevent their arrival.’ And don’t you remember what the Sultan said? The Sultan, my uncle, hugged me and said, ‘Thank you, oh my nephew, for your warning.’ We were disappointed about his stubborness, but since we respected our Sultan, we obeyed him. So I refused your advice to rebell, oh Qaran.”

The storyteller walked to an Abysinian and hugged him.”How is your daughter in Bukhara? Is she a big girl now? I hope you’re keeping your promise to visit her at least once every two years.”

“Yes. I’m on my way to visit Zulaikha. But news about the Lamuri pirates made me stop at this wretched harbor where I never wanted to set foot again. I thought the Sultan had called you back.”

“Oh, Qaran and other old friends. The unrest at sea has brought us together. I never imagined we’d meet again like this. The Sultan made his decision, so did you and I.

“You, too, left Lamuri forever, to go anywhere. You were also disappointed that I was unable to fill your needs.

“Because of my love for this land, I didn’t want to go anywhere and chose to settle down in the woods. I refused the house the Sultan gave me. Living in the woods for such a long time has made me lose my knowledge of the oceans. I come to this city occasionally as a storyteller. I always listen for news about you from the sailors who want to hear my stories. This is how I have somewhat satisfied my longing for you,” said the storyteller.

“You will have to leave me. You have to because I do not know any better than you who the real pirates are in Lamuri. Now I hope you’re still willing to listen to my story about the Bearded Turtle. I used to tell you this story in the middle of the sea, on the deck during the long boring days while waiting for the wind. You knew that the day after I finished telling the tale, our sails would be pulled by the wind from all directions.

“Even to this day, among you are those who believe that the tale was a spell to attract the winds. It was only a joke between me and our briliant navigator. He looked at the stars in the sky, and told me that in seven days the wind would blow. Then I gathered all the men on deck and told the tale. How excited you were. You knew you would soon be free from the boring day-to-day waiting for the winds. Hopefully with this tale, your ships can sail tomorrow,” said the storyteller. “Now listen carefully.”

A long time ago, when the animals and trees could talk and the harbor of Lamuri had yet to be named, a turtle king reigned over this part of the ocean. He was respected by the ocean creatures for his speed and strength.

One day, a ship appeared on the horizon. On the deck stood a camel. Just a camel.

His strength and power made the turtle king less vigilant.

The old adage says, if you see a ship with a camel on deck, expell it at once because the camel has been expelled by the Prophet Solomon, lord of all animals. What kind of sin had the camel committed to make a prophet as patient as Solomon do that?

In the land of Solomon, the camel had spread much slander and lies that caused a lot of trouble. The camel continued to spread false stories from his exile because that way he was able to influence the rulers of the world. Without his lies there wasn’t a single king willing to pray for a camel the Prophet Solomon had banished. Everyone who believed the camel’s lies was doomed to live in misery and their destiny was as black as the fog that covered its ship. And so it was for the turtle that lived in this harbor.

The camel told to the turtle king how odd he looked, because in the land of Solomon and in all the countries across the oceans he ever visited, every turtle had a beard. The turtle king became angry when he heard this. He said, “Tell me where I can buy a beard, oh camel the news messenger.”
“According to Solomon, you do not have to spend your wealth to grow a pluck of beard on your chin. Pray for the safety of this nomadic camel and a beard will grow,” said the camel with a laugh, and so told his lie.

The turtle king prayed for the camel’s safety and the camel went away with a heart as big as the ocean.

And today, turtles still believe the lie. Notice how slow a turtle walks. The poor creature crawls on the ground looking for its beard, because it thinks Solomon might have thrown it away.

***

Percakapan Patung-Patung

Indra Tranggono, born in Yogyakarta on March 23, 1960, is a cultural observer and widely published short story, script writer. Between 2002-2012 his short stories appeared seven times in the Kompas Short Stories Selection. Iblis Ngambek (The Sulking Devil Penerbit Kompas, 2003 and Sang Terdakwa (The Defendant Yayasan untuk Indonesia, 1998) are two of his best known short story collections.

Indra is an editor of the anthology of Yogyakarta poets, Sembilu: Antologi Puisi 21 Penyair Yogya (Pustaka Pelajar, 2005).

Indra’s recent publications include the following monoplays: “Saputangan Fang Yin” (Fang Yin’s Handkerchief), 2013, has been performed at the Gedung Societet in Yogyakarta and “Negaraku sedang Demam” (My Country has a Fever), 2011, has been performed in the Teater Arena in Surakarta. The drama “Monumen” (“The Monument”) – Yayasan untuk Indonesia, 2002, was performed in Yogyakarta. Together with Agus Noor he wrote monologue scripts for, “Lidah Pingsan” (“Fainting Tongue”) 1997, performed in Jakarta, Lidah (Masih) Pingsan” (“Tongue (Still) Fainting”) 1998, performed in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Surakarta and Malang and “Mayat Terhormat” (“The honorable Corpse”), 2000, performed at the Purna Budaya theater in Yogyakarta and at Taman Ismail Marzuki in Jakarta. In 1999 Indra co-authored “Brigade Maling” (“The Burglars Brigade”) with Heru Kesawamurti and Agus Noor, performed at the Teater Gandrik in Melbourne, Australia.

In 2012 Indra received an award from the Yogya Literature Foundation founded by Prof. Dr. Rachmat Djoko Pradopo. Indra is still actively writing.

“Percakapan Patung-Patung” (The Statues’ Conversation) first appeared in Kompas 2002, and in the short story collection, Iblis Ngambek (The Sulking Devil Penerbit Buku Kompas, 2003), copyright © 2002, 2003 by Indra Tranggono. Revised version copyright © 2014 by IndraTranggono. Published with permission of the author. Translation copyright © 2014 by Wikan Satriati.

***

 

Percakapan Patung-Patung

Bulan sebesar semangka tersepuh perak tergantung di langit kota, dini hari. Cahayanya yang lembut, tipis berselaput kabut, menerpa lima sosok patung pahlawan yang berdiri di atas bangunan Monumen Joang yang tidak terawat dan menjadi sarang gelandangan. Cahaya bulan itu seperti memberi tenaga kepada mereka untuk bergerak-gerak dari posisi mereka yang berdiri tegak. Mereka seperti mencuri kesempatan dari genggaman warga kota yang terlelap dirajam kantuk dan ringkus selimut.

Lima patung itu, tiga lelaki dan dua perempuan, menggoyang-goyangkan kaki, menggerak-gerakkan tangan, kemudian duduk, dan ada juga yang tiduran. Mungkin mereka sangat letih karena selama lebih dari empat puluh tahun berdiri di situ. Wajah mereka yang kaku pun, dengan lipatan-lipatan cor semen beku, kerap bergerak-gerak seperti orang mengaduh, mengeluh, menjerit dan berteriak.

“Dulu, ketika jasad kita terbujur di sini, kota ini sangat sunyi. Hanya beberapa lampu berpendar bagai belasan kunang-kunang yang membangunkan malam. Kini, puluhan bahkan ratusan lampu berpendar-pendar seterang siang. Negeri ini benar-benar megah,” ujar patung lelaki yang dikenal dengan nama Wibagso sambil mengayun-ayunkan senapannya.

“Tetapi, lihatlah di sana, Bung Wibagso. Kumpulan gelandangan tumpang tindih bagai jutaan cendol sedang makan bangkai anjing dengan lahap. Dan di sana, lihatlah deretan gubug-gubug reyot dengan gelandangan yang dijejalkan, bagai benalu menempel tembok gedung-gedung.

Mulut mereka menganga, menyemburkan abab bacin seperti bau mayat, mengundang jutaan lalat terjebak di dalamnya. Ya, Tuhan mereka mengunyah lalat-lalat itu,” desis patung lelaki bernama Durmo.

Ratri—patung perempuan yang dulu dikenal sebagai mata-mata kaum gerilyawan, menukas, “Itu biasa, rekan Durmo. Dalam negeri yang gemerlap, kemiskinan selalu dirawat sebagai ilham kemajuan. Kita mesti bangga, negeri ini sangat kaya. Lihatlah di sana, deretan rumah-rumah mewah menyimpan jutaan keluarga bahagia. Ada mobil-mobil mewah, ada lapangan golf pribadi, ada pesawat terbang pribadi. Dan lihatlah di sana, ada orang berdansa sampai pagi. Ya, ampun… malah ada yang orgi.”

Patung Sidik, yang sejak tadi menyidiki dunia sekitar dengan pandangan nanar, melenguh bagai sapi menghadapi maut di ruang jagal. “Ternyata, mereka hanya mengurus perut dan kelamin sendiri. Aku jadi menyesal, kenapa dulu ikut memerdekakan negeri ini.”

“Aku pun jadi tidak lagi percaya diri sebagai pahlawan!” timpal Durno. “Kita berdiri di sini tak lebih dari hantu sawah. Ternyata mereka tak sungkan, apalagi hormat kepada kita. Buktinya mereka menggaruk apa saja.”

“Bung Durmo, kita jangan terlalu sentimental. Aku rasa mereka tetap hormat kepada kita. Buktinya, mereka membangunkan monumen yang megah buat kita,” ujar Wibagso.

“Tapi kenapa kita hanya diletakkan di sini, terjepit di antara gedung-gedung besar? Masa monumen pahlawan kok cuma dislempitkan,” gugat patung perempuan bernama Cempluk, yang dulu dikenal sebagai pejuang dari pos dapur umum.

***

Angin bertiup mengabarkan hari sudah pagi. Gelandangan-gelandangan yang tidur melingkar di kaki monument menggeliat bangun. Mulut mereka menguap, kompak. Bau abab bacin yang membadai dari sela gigi-gigi kuning menguasai udara hingga tercium oleh para patung pahlawan.

Sontak, para patung pahlawan itu berdiri dan kembali ke tempat semula, sebelum keheningan pagi kembali dirajam hiruk-pikuk kota, sebelum udara bersih pagi dicemari deru napas kota yang keruh.

Di tempat masing-masing, patung-patung pahlawan itu terus bergumam.

Yu Seblak, pelacur kawakan yang dikenal sebagai danyang alias “penunggu” monumen itu, duduk takzim di kaki monumen. Tangannya diangkat hingga atas kepala sambil menggenggam dupa yang mengepulkan asap. Kepulan asap itu menari-nari mengikuti gerak tangannya. Ke kanan, ke kiri, ke atas, dan ke bawah. Gerakan Yu Seblak diikuti lima-enam orang yang duduk di belakang perempuan berdandan menor itu. Yu Seblak bergumam, meluncurkan kata-kata mantera.

“Aku mendengar ada banyak orang berdoa pada kita. Mereka memberi kita sesaji. Ada bunga-bunga. Ada jajan pasar. Ada rokok klembak menyan.” Mata Wibagso terus mengikuti upacara yang dipimpin Yu Seblak.

“Kurang ajar! Kita dianggap dedemit! Malah ada yang minta nomer lotre segala! Ini apa-apaan, Wibagso?” teriak Durmo.

“Ssstttt. Tenanglah. Apa susahnya kita membikin mereka sedikit gembira? Anggap saja ini selingan dalam perjalanan kita menuju jagat keabadian,” ujar Wibagso.

“Tapi kalau pahlawan sudah disuruh mengurusi togel, itu kebangetan!” protes Cempluk.

“Hidup mereka gelap, rekan Cempluk. Mereka hanya bisa mengadu kepada kita, karena yang hidup tak pernah mengurusi nasib mereka, malah menghardik mereka. Misalnya para wakil rakyat, mandor-mandor negara,” tutur Ratri.

Dalam irama cepat, Yu Seblak terus mengucapkan doa. Setelah itu, Yu Seblak menerima keluhan para “pasiennya”.

“Wah, kalau para pahlawan disuruh ngurusi garukan pelacur ya nggak bisa. Punya permintaan itu mbok yang sopan gitu lho.”

“Habis, saya selalu kena garuk, Yu. Jadinya “dagangan” saya sepi. Eh, siapa tahu, para petugas yang galak-galak kayak buto itu, takut sama Kanjeng Wibagso dan semua pahlawan yang ada di sini,” ujar Ajeng, perempuan berparas malam itu sambil menyerahkan amplop kepada Yu Seblak.

Yu Seblak, dengan tangkas langsung memasukkan amplop kecil berisi uang itu ke dalam kutangnya. “Yaaah, permintaanmu akan aku usahakan. Semoga Kanjeng Wibagso dan kawan-kawannya bisa mempertimbangkan.”

Wibagso tersenyum. Sidik manggut-manggut. Durmo tampak tersinggung.

“Mereka ini payah. Garuk-menggaruk pelacur, kere, atau gelandangan itu kan bukan urusan kita. Ngadu ke Dewan dong. Mereka kan punya wakil rakyat,” ujar Durmo.

“Ah, anggota Dewan kan lebih suka kasak-kusuk untuk berebut kekuasaan dan bagi-bagi uang dari hasil menjual undang-undang dan peraturan. Atau mereka lebih sibuk mengatur siasat untuk menjebol APBN dan APBD,” ucap Sidik.

“Otakmu politik melulu,” sergah Wibagso. “Kita tampung saja permintaan mereka.”

“Tapi urusan kita banyak, Bung. Kita masih harus mempertanggung-jawabkan seluruh perbuatan selama kita hidup. Jujur saja, waktu berjuang dulu, aku menembaki musuh tanpa ampun seperti membasmi tikus.” Mata Durmo menerawang jauh.

“Kenapa gelisah? Perang memungkinkan segalanya terjadi. Kita tidak mungkin bersikap lemah-lembut kepada musuh yang mengincar nyawa kita. Kita terpaksa membunuh bukan demi kepuasan melihat mayat-mayat mengerjat-ngerjat karena nyawanya oncat. Kita hanya mempertahankan hak yang harus kita genggam,” Wibagso mencoba menghibur Durmo yang dikenal sebagai gerilyawan paling berani menghadapi penjajah.

“Semua harus kita pahami sebagai risiko dari pilihan kita. Dan kita yakin saja, malaikat-malaikat tahu dan mencatat kebaikan kita. Terutama malaikat penghitung pahala manusia,” timpal Ratri.

***

Malam berikutnya, gelandangan-gelandangan kembali tidur di kaki monumen. Ada yang gelisah, ada yang tampak tenang, ada yang mendengkur. Hawa dingin tajam menusuk tulang. Patung-patung itu merasa sedih dan terharu menatap para gelandangan yang setia menemani mereka.

Dari radio penjual rokok di samping monumen terdengar warta berita malam, “Monumen Joang untuk mengenang jasa lima pahlawan yang gugur dalam pertempuran Kota Baru melawan pasukan Belanda, akan dipugar. Kedudukan para pahlawan pun sedang diusulkan untuk ditingkatkan dari pahlawan lokal menjadi pahlawan nasional. Pemerintah Daerah telah menyiapkan dana pemugaran sebesar tiga milyar.”

Lima patung itu mendengarkan berita dengan khusuk. Mendadak Wibagso meloncat girang. Ratri menari-nari. Namun, Cempluk tampak tidak bahagia. Ia hanya diam tepekur. Durmo tak kunjung berhasil melucuti kegelisahannya. Sidik tetap diam, mematung meskipun sudah puluhan tahun menjadi patung.

“Kenapa kalian diam? Kenapa? Berita itu mesti kita rayakan,”ujar Wibagso.

“Apa yang penting dari berita itu? Apa? Mau dipugar, terserah. Mau diapakan ya terserah…. Aku sendiri tidak terlalu bangga jadi pahlawan. Ternyata negeri yang kumerdekakan ini akhirnya hanya jadi meja prasmanan besar bagi beberapa gelintir orang. Sementara jutaan mulut lain menjadi tong sampah, hanya dapat mengunyah sisa-sisa pesta,” ucap Sidik dengan wajah muram.

“Soal negeri ini tidak lagi jadi urusan kita. Tugas kita sudah selesai. Kita tinggal bersyukur melihat anak cucu kita hidup bahagia,” sergah Wibagso.

“Tapi jutaan orang bernasib gelap itu terus menjerit. Jeritan mereka memukul-mukul rongga batinku,” mata Sidik menatap tajam wajah Wibagso.

“Ah, sudah jadi arwah kok masih sentimental. Sudahlah.”

“Tapi perasaanku masih hidup!”

Wibagso mendekati dan merangkul Sidik. “Bung, untuk apa memikirkan semua itu. Capek. Pusing. Saatnya kita istirah.”

“Terus kita hanya diam? Diam melihat berbagai kebusukan itu terjadi di depan kita? Begitu?” Sidik meradang.

“Lantas mau apa? Ingat, kita hanya arwah.”

“Hanya arwah?”

“Ya, apa pun sebutannya, kita tak bisa apa-apa lagi. Dunia kita sudah beda dengan mereka yang masih hidup. Soal keadaan negeri kita ini, memang tidak semuanya membahagiakan kita. Ada yang hidup enak, ada yang susah. Wajar, kan? Dan ingat, hidup ini perlombaan. Ada pemenang dan ada pecundang.”

Sidik tampak kesal dan malas mendengarkan ucapan Wibagso. “Aku ini sudah capek dengar khotbah macam itu. Dulu, waktu hidup selalu diceramahi, diguyur petuah-petuah. Eeeh sudah mati pun masih disuruh menelan nasihat. Capek, Bung, capek.”

Ratri yang sejak tadi menunjukkan wajah kesal pada Sidik, kontan bilang, “Jangan-jangan kamu ini kurang ikhlas berjuang, Bung Sidik?”

Sidik meradang. “Kurang ikhlas bagaimana? Kakiku yang pengkor ini telah kuberikan kepada perjuangan. Bahkan, jantungku kurelakan menjadi sarang peluru-peluru musuh.”

“Oooh… kalau soal kayak gitu, penderitaanku lebih dahsyat! Kalian tahu, ketika aku merebut kota yang dikuasai musuh, puluhan peluru merajamku. Tubuhku luluh-lantak. Tapi aku puas. Berkat keberanianku, nyali kawan-kawan kita terpompa. Dan, akhirnya kita berhasil memenangkan pertempuran. Ini semua berkat aku!” ujar Wibagso.

“Enak saja kamu bilang ‘aku’!” sergah Durmo. “Dalam pertempuran itu, aku dan Sidiklah yang berdiri paling depan. Kami menghadapi musuh satu lawan satu. Dan di mana kamu, Wibagso? Di mana? Kamu lari terbirit-birit ke hutan dan ke gunung. Dan kamu tanpa malu menyebut dirimu sedang bergerilya!”

“Tetapi akulah yang punya gagasan untuk menyerang. Aku juga yang memimpin serangan fajar itu!” Wibagso tak kalah meradang.

“Siapa yang mengangkatmu jadi pemimpin, Wibagso? Siapa? Waktu itu, kita tak lebih dari pemuda yang hanya bermodal nyali besar. Tak ada jabatan. Tak ada perbedaan kedudukan. Apalagi pimpinan resmi di medan perang!” hardik Durmo.

“Tapi perang tak hanya pakai otot, Bung. Perang juga pakai otak. Pakai siasat. Dan akulah yang menyusun siasat itu!” napas Wibagso naik turun.

“Tapi siasat tanpa nyali bagai kepala tanpa kaki!” bantah Durmo.

“Bung Wibagso,” tukas Sidik, “kenapa kamu sibuk menghitung-hitung jasa yang sesungguhnya hampa?”

Wajah Wibagso memerah. “Sidik, belajarlah kamu menghargai jasa orang lain. Jangan merasa paling pahlawan!”

“Kapan aku membangga-banggakan diri? Kapan? Kamu ingat, waktu berjuang dulu, aku justru menghilang saat Panglima Besar mengunjungi kawan-kawan yang berhasil menggempur musuh. Kalau aku mau, bisa saja aku mencatatkan diri menjadi prajurit resmi, tercatat dalam buku negara. Dan aku yakin, saat negeri ini merdeka, aku mampu jadi petinggi yang bisa memborong proyek. Tapi, puji Tuhan, maut keburu menjemputku,” ujar Sidik.

“Begitu juga aku,” sergah Durmo, “Aku berpesan kepada anak-anakku, kepada seluruh keturunanku agar mereka tidak mempersoalkan kepahlawananku demi minta uang tunjangan yang tidak seberapa. Itu pun masih banyak potongannya!”

“Munafik! Kalian munafik!” bentak Wibagso.

Bulan kembali mengerjap.

Angin terasa mati.

***

Napas kota kembali berhembus. Jantung kota kembali berdenyut. Gelandangan, pelacur, dan pencopet sudah bangun dan kembali memulai kesibukan masing-masing. Ada yang berangkat mengamen, mengemis, menyemir sepatu. Ada yang masih malas tiduran di tikar.

“Ajeng, kamu mau kemana?” tanya Yu Seblak.

“Ke penginapan. Ada janjian,” jawab Ajeng sambil mengoleskan gincu ke bibirnya.

“Wah, bakal dapat duit banyak, nih. Mau kencan dengan siapa, Jeng?” Yu Seblak menggoda.

“Kok mau tau aja? Rahasia dong.”

“Aku tahu, pasti kamu kencan dengan si Jumingan, Satpol PP itu. Benar, kan? Dia itu memang tergila-gila sama kamu. Eh, kalau pulang tolong bawakan aku oleh-oleh, ya. Nasi gudeg telur. Ini kan berkat doa yang kusampaikan kepada para pahlawan itu. Dulu kamu kan minta ‘dagangan’mu laris, iya kan?”

“Beres, Yu. Gudeg sayap juga boleh. Tambah paha juga bisa,” tawa Ajeng berderai.

“Kamu cantik. Sudah berangkat sana.”

Kalur, pencopet yang sudah punya “jam terbang tinggi”, bangun. Menenggak sisa air mineral. Ia duduk di samping Karep yang diberi gelar “gelandangan intelektual” karena gemar bicara dengan kalimat-kalimat yang sulit dipahami. Karep asyik membaca koran.

“Berdasarkan analisis saya, rencana pemugaran monumen ini hanya trik pemerintah. Pasti ada agenda-agenda tertentu,” ucap Karep.

“Jadi, kalau monumen ini dipugar, kita malah kehilangan tempat, ya?” tanya Kalur.

“Jelas, dong!”

“Kalau benar-benar terjadi?”

“Ya, kita harus turun ke jalan. Kita kerahkan semua gelandangan di kota ini.”

Mendadak terdengar siaran warta berita dari radio transistor milik Yu Seblak. “Drs. Gingsir, Walikota yang menggantikan Raden Mas Picis, membatalkan rencana pemugaran Monumen Joang. Menurut dia, proyek itu mubazir. Apalagi pengajuan kedudukan menjadi pahlawan nasional bagi Wibagso dan kawan-kawan telah ditolak Tim Pakar Sejarah Nasional. Rencananya, dana sebesar tiga milyar dialihkan untuk memberikan bantuan pangan kepada masyarakat prasejahtera.”

Beberapa gelandangan sontak bersorak. Mereka menari. Ada yang memukul-mukul galon air mineral, kaleng biskuit, botol-botol, dan ember. Ada yang berjoget sambil menenggak minuman keras.

***

Bulan pucat, diringkus kabut. Kota kembali tidur berselimut kegelapan. Namun di sebuah gedung pemerintah daerah, tampak lampu menyala.

“Saya setuju saja jika Den Bei Taipan mau bikin mall di sini,” ujar Drs. Gingsir, usai menenggak anggur.

“Terima kasih. Terima kasih. Bapak ternyata sangat welcome. Saya sudah menyiapkan segalanya. Termasuk dana untuk ini dan itu. Dan saya setuju, prinsip kerjasama ini adalah bagi hasil keuntungan. Bagaimana kalau saya mengajukan angka 30:70.” Den Bei menenggak anggur.

“Den Bei, saya mesti mengusulkan hal ini pada Dewan. Dan biasanya, jawabannya agak lama. Anda tahu sendiri, mereka juga butuh angpao. Yaahhh… seperti biasanya. Dan, lancar tidaknya segala urusan ya tergantung besar kecilnya angpao,” ujar Gingsir sambil tertawa.

“Apa dalam hal bagi hasil keuntungan masih ada masalah?”

“Ya, terjemahkan sendiri. Anda kan konglomerat yang cerdas.”

“Bagaimana kalau… kalau… 35: 65. Ini sangat besar. Tidak ada tawaran segila ini.”

“Tampaknya angka itu masih telalu kecil. Dan saya masih bisa menawarkan proyek ini kepada konglomerat lain. Saya kenal beberapa penguasaha besar dari Ibu Kota.” Gingsir mencoba menggertak.

Wajah Den Bei tampak terlipat. Keningnya berkerutan. “Bagaimana kalau 40:60? Ini peningkatan yang sangat progresif dan signifikan.”

Well… well… well…. Itu angka yang bagus.”

Keduanya tertawa.

“Dan Den Bei masih bisa bikin mall di kota ini. Berapa pun. Anda bisa pilih, alun-alun, bekas benteng Rotenberg, atau di Monumen Joang.”

“Semua tempat akan saya ambil. Tapi, berdasarkan pertimbangan strategi ruang, saya akan bangun dulu mall di Monumen Joang. Tempat itu sangat seksi. Tepat di tengah kota.”

“Oooh, itu pilihan yang cerdas, visioner. Saya nggak keberatan monumen yang kumuh itu digusur.”

Keduanya tertawa. Keduanya jabat tangan.

***

Beberapa hari kemudian, terjadi keributan di Monumen Joang. Cahaya matahari yang sangat terik seolah semakin membakar suasana yang memanas.

“Pengkhianat! Culas! Licik. Sombong! Penguasa demi penguasa datang ternyata hanya bertukar rupa. Mereka tetap saja menikamkan pengkhianatan demi pengkhianatan di tubuh kita!” Wibagso menghentakkan kakinya hingga bangunan monumen itu bergetar.

“Mereka menganggap kita tak lebih dari bongkahan batu beku. Mereka hendak menggerus kita menjadi butiran-butiran masa silam yang kelam!” teriak Ratri.

Sidik, Durmo, dan Cempluk tersenyum.

“Kenapa kalian diam? Kita ini akan diluluhlantakkan! Lihatlah buldoser-buldoser itu datang. Berderap-derap. Kita harus bertahan. Bertahan!” pekik Wibagso.

Terdengar suara petugas penggusuran dari sebuah megafon. “Kalian harus menyingkir! Menyingkir!!” Suara itu tumpang-tinding dengan deru mesin buldoser.

Di depan monumen, Yu Seblak memimpin penghadangan penggusuran. “Kita harus bertahan. Kita lawan buldoser-buldoser itu! Ajeng, Karep, Kalur di mana kalian? Di mana?” teriak Yu Seblak. Wajahnya menyala.

“Kami di sini! Di belakangmu!” jawab mereka kompak.

Deru mesin buldoser semakin keras, mengepung monumen. Para petugas penggusuran tampak berjaga-jaga bersama ratusan polisi bersenjata lengkap. Buldoser-buldoser semakin merangsek. Moncongnya tampak ganas, siap menyeruduk monumen.

“Lihatlah, mereka yang hanya gelandangan saja membela kita. Mestinya kalian malu!” teriak Wibagso.

“Wibagso! Kalau kami akhirnya melawan itu bukan membela kepongahan kita sebagai pahlawan. Tapi membela mereka yang punya hak hidup!” teriak Sidik.

“Aku tak butuh penjelasan. Aku hanya butuh kejelasan sikap! Ratri, meloncatlah kamu, masuk ke ruang kemudi, lalu cekik leher sopir buldoser. Cempluk, tahan moncong buldoser itu. Ganjal dengan tubuhmu. Sidik dan kamu Durmo, hancurkan mesin-mesin buldoser itu. Cepat!” Wibagso mengatur perlawanan seperti mengatur para pejuang ketika menghadapi tentara-tentara penjajah.

Buldoser-buldoser terus merangsek. Menerjang orang-orang yang tetap bertahan. Karep, Ajeng, dan banyak gelandangan lainnya, berlarian lintang-pukang.

“Kalian benar-benar pengecut!” teriak Yu Seblak.

“Sia-sia melawan mereka. Jumlah mereka ternyata buaanyak sekali!” teriak Kalur.

“Kita menyingkir saja! Pahlawan saja mereka gilas, apalagi kecoa macam kita. Menyingkir! Menyingkir!” Karep mencoba menarik Yu Seblak yang tetap berdiri beberapa meter dari buldoser-buldoser.

Yu Seblak tetap bertahan. Tetap melawan. Ia lucuti pakaiannya. Tinggal celana dalam dan kutang. Dasternya ia kibar-kibarkan ke udara.

“Dasar kalian penindas! Ayo lawan aku! Ayoooo!”

Buldoser-buldoser itu tanpa ampun menggilas tubuh Yu Seblak. Terdengar jeritan.

Wibagso tersentak. Ratri menjerit seperti kemasukan setan. Durmo, Sidik, dan Cempluk, tampak kalap. Mereka mengamuk. Menghantam buldoser-buldoser itu dengan benda apa saja. Namun, sia-sia. Justru patung-patung pahlawan itu kini bertumbangan dan hancur dilumat buldoser-buldoser.

***

Bulan di angkasa mengerjap. Angin mati.

“Kalian telah membunuh kami untuk kedua kalinya,” ujar Wibagso lirih.

Ucapan itu menerobos pembukaan resmi mall oleh wali kota Drs. Gingsir dan hingga kini, suara-suara patung-patung itu masih terus mengalun, bergema menembus lapisan-lapisan waktu. Namun hanya telinga setajam kesunyian yang mampu menangkap suara itu, gugatan itu.

***

The Statues’ Conversation

Wikan Satriati is a graduate from the Faculty of Letters of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Wikan is an experienced editor specializing in manuscripts of literary and cultural content, and works as a freelance translator. She translated Harry Aveling’s essays from English into Indonesian for inclusion in an anthology of Indonesian poetry, Secrets Need Words: Indonesian Poetry 1966–1998 (Center for International Studies, Ohio University, 2001). IndonesiaTera published the Indonesian translation in 2004 by under the title Rahasia Membutuhkan Kata: Puisi Indonesia 1966–1998. Yayasan Adikarya IKAPI (Indonesian Book Publishers Association) Book Program chose the publication as a quality book.

Wikan is the author of two children books: Gadis Kecil Penjaga Bintang (The Star’s Caretaker), published by KataKita in 2008, and Melangkah dengan Bismillah (Walking with the Name of God) by KataKita, 2006. Currently she works as a publication assistant at the Lontar Foundation, a non-profit institution whose primarily goal is the introduction of Indonesian literature to a world readership through translations of Indonesian literary works into English.

Wikan can be reached at wikan_satriati@yahoo.com.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

***

 

The Statues’ Conversation

At dawn, a silvery moon the size of a watermelon hung in the city sky. Its soft light layered with mist illuminated the five statues of the heroes on top of the Joang Monument, a neglected war memorial that now served as a shelter for the homeless. The moonlight seemed to energize the statues, enabling them to move out of their rigid pose. It was as if they took the opportunity to free themselves from the grip of the townsmen who were still sound asleep in the folds of their blankets.

Each of the five statues, three men and two women, shook their legs and moved their hands. Some of them sat, while others lay down. Standing for more than forty years had tired them out. The rigid faces cast in concrete often grimaced like living people that moan, complain, scream, and shout.

The statue known as Wibagso unslung his rifle. “In the past when our bodies lay here, the town was very quiet. At night only a few dozen lights glowed like fireflies. Now, tens, even hundreds of lights, shine as bright as daylight. This country is really great.”

“But look there, Brother Wibagso. A group of hobos jostle each other like maggots feasting on a dog’s corpse. And there, rows of rickety huts where the homeless are crammed together like parasites clinging to the walls of buildings.

“The odor coming from their gaping mouths is like the stench of decaying corpses and attracts millions of flies. Oh, my Lord, they’re chewing those trapped flies,” hissed the statue of a man named Durmo.

Ratri, the statue of a woman known as a spy for the guerrillas, snapped, “That’s normal, Brother Durmo. In an affluent country, poverty is always nurtured as an inspiration for progress. We should be proud. This country is very rich. Look there, rows of luxury homes are occupied by happy families. There are luxury cars, private golf courses, and even private airplanes. And over there, people dance until the morning. Gosh, they’re even having an orgy.”

Sidik, whose statue examined the world around him with dazed eyes, moaned like a cow facing death in the slaughterhouse. “They are only concerned with their own stomachs and genitals. I’m really sorry to have participated in the liberation of this country.”

“I too am no longer sure about being a hero,” Durmo said. “We stand here being nothing more than scarecrows in the fields. They show us no consideration, let alone respect. They uproot anything shamelessly.”

“Do not get too sentimental. I think we still have their respect. As you can see, they built a magnificent monument for us,” said Wibagso.

“But why did they put us in this narrow spot? How come a memorial for war heroes is tucked away here?” the statue of Cempluk, a woman known as a soup kitchen worker, bellowed.

***

The morning breeze brought a new day. The homeless sleeping at the foot of the monument woke and stretched. They yawned in unison. A foul odor from their yellowed teeth filled the surrounding air and wafted by the statues of the heroes.

The statues returned hurriedly to their own place before the quiet morning was claimed by the hustle and bustle of the city, before the hot cloudy breath of the city polluted the clean morning air.

Standing in their original positions, the statues kept mumbling.

Yu Seblak, the senior prostitute known as caretaker of the monument, sat in prayer at the foot of the monument. She held a pot of smoldering incense as she raised her hands above her head. A whirl of dancing smoke followed the movements of Yu Seblak’s hands—to the right, left, up, and down. Yu Seblak’s gestures were followed by the handful of people that sat behind the woman with striking makeup. She chanted a mantra.

Wibagso followed the ceremony led by Yu Seblak. “I hear people pray to us. They even bring us offerings, flowers, snacks, and incense cigarettes.”

“Damn! They consider us ghosts. Some of them even asked for a prediction of a winning lottery number. What the hell is this, Wibagso?” Durmo shouted.

“Shhh. Calm down. What’s wrong with giving them a little happiness? Think of this as an intermezzo in our journey toward eternity,” Wibagso said.

“When they ask heroes to predict winning lottery numbers, it is too much,” Cempluk protested.

“Their lives are troubled, Comrade Cempluk. They can only complain to us. No one among the living cares. They only berate them,” said Ratri.

Yu Seblak continued her chanting in a fast rhythm. After she was done with her prayers, Yu Seblak received various complaints from her “patients.”

“It is impossible to ask the heroes to prevent hookers from being arrested. It’s not proper.”

“I always get arrested, Yu. That’s how I lost my customers. Who knows? The city officials might fear Kanjeng Wibagso and the other heroes and not arrest me again. Please help me, Yu.” Ajeng smoothly handed Yu Seblak an envelope.

Yu Seblak quickly slipped the envelope into her bra. “Let’s see. Hopefully, His Excellency Wibagso and his colleagues will consider your request.”

Wibagso smiled.

Sidik nodded.

Durmo looked offended. “They are hopeless. The arrests of prostitutes, beggars, and bums are none of our business. They should complain to Parliament, with representatives of the community among its members.”

“The parliamentarians are more interested in vying for power and dividing the bribes they receive for breaking regulations and laws. Or they are too busy trying to put their hands on the country’s money. The parliamentarians won’t do anything,” said Sidik.

“You only think of politics. Let’s just collect their complaints,” said Wibagso.

Durmo looked into the distance. “But we have many things to do, man. We still have the responsibility to account for what we did when we were alive. During combat, I shot our enemies mercilessly, just like I’d shoot a rat.”

Wibagso tried to cheer up Durmo. “Why are you bothered? War allows everything. We could not be gentle to an enemy that preyed on our lives. We did not kill them for the satisfaction of seeing their bodies convulse as they died. We only claimed our rights.”

“We have to regard everything we experienced as a consequence of the choice we made, and believe that the angels recorded our good deeds and will see to it that we are rewarded,” Ratri chimed in.

***

The next night the homeless went back to sleep at the foot of monument. Some of them looked restless, others seemed calm and snored. The statues looked with pity and affection at the homeless who faithfully kept them company.

From a cigarette stall beside the monument, a radio broadcasted the evening news: “The Joang Monument, which is a tribute to five warriors killed in the Kota Baru battle against the Dutch army, will be restored. A proposal to raise the heroes’ status from local to national heroes has been issued. The district government has earmarked three billion rupiah for the refurbishment fund.”

The five statues heard the news. Wibagso jumped up in delight. Ratri began to dance, but Cempluk seemed unhappy. She appeared to be quietly thinking. Durmo remained anxious while Sidik stood motionless, statue-like, even though he had been a statue for decades.

“Why are you silent? We should celebrate,” Wibagso said.

“What’s so important? I don’t care what they will do to this monument. Let them restore it or whatever, I just don’t care. I’m not proud to be a hero. The country I fought for became a cornucopia for only a few people, while millions of others are sentenced to be garbage cans for the remnants of the party,” Sidik said, somberly.

“The affairs of this country are no longer our business. We did our jobs. We only have to be grateful to see our children and grandchildren live happily,” Wibagso snapped.

“But millions of ill fated people continue to scream. Their screams pound at my heart.” Sidik glared at Wibagso.

“Please, you’re a spirit now. How can you be so sentimental? Don’t worry about it.”

“But my heart is still alive.”

Wibagso embraced Sidik. “Brother, don’t keep thinking about this. It will make you tired and frustrated. It’s time for us to rest.”

“So, we just keep quiet? Do nothing while so much wrong happens in front of us? Is that what you want?” Sidik was furious.

“But what can we do now? We’re no longer alive, we’re only spirits.”

“Only spirits?”

“Whatever you call it, we can’t do anything any more. We live in a different world than those who survived. Regarding our country, it’s true, not everything makes us happy. Some people have a good life and others don’t. That’s normal, right? You also have to remember that life is a race. There will be winners as well as losers.”

Sidik looked annoyed and reluctantly listened to Wibagso. “I’m tired of listening to sermons. When I was alive, I was preached to all the time. My elders filled me with advice. And wouldn’t you know, I’m expected to listen to advice even after my death. I am tired, Brother, I am tired.”

Ratri glared at Sidik and said, “Don’t tell me you fought the revolution half-heartedly, Brother Sidik.”

“How can you say that?” Sidik responded angrily. “My crooked foot is a result of the battle, and I even exposed my chest to their bullets.”

“In that case, I suffered worse. When I seized an enemy-controlled city, dozens of bullets were fired at me mercilessly and perforated my body. But I was satisfied. My bravery encouraged our friends and we managed to win the battle in the end. All of it happened thanks to me,” said Wibagso.

“It’s easy to stake your claim to fame,” Durmo snapped. “During that battle, Sidik and I stood in the very front of the battlefield. We faced the enemies at the front line. Where were you, Wibagso? You scampered into the forest and mountains and shamelessly claimed to be a guerilla fighter.”

“But I had the idea to attack. I also led the attack that dawn,” Wibagso retorted.

“Who made you our leader, Wibagso? We were nothing more than a group of young men with lots of guts. There were no official positions, no hierarchy. Especially no commanders of the war,” said Durmo.

“To win the battle, we not only needed physical power, we needed brains too. We needed to use strategy,” said Wibagso.

“But strategy without guts is like having a head without legs,” Durmo argued.

“Brother Wibagso,” Sidik said, “Why are you busy tallying merits that actually amount to nothing?”

Wibagso blushed. “Learn to appreciate accomplishments of others. Don’t act as if you were the only hero.”

“I don’t remember boasting. When did I do so? I left when the commander in chief came to visit after we successfully destroyed the enemy. I could have enlisted as an official soldier and be recorded in the state’s annuals. If I had done that, today I would be a high state official and acquire many projects. Thank God I died before that happened,” said Sidik.

Durmo retorted. “I told my children and other descendants not to mention my services just to get a meager allowance, which would also have many deductions.”

“All of you are hypocrites,” Wibagso railed.

The moon blinked.

The air was heavy.

***

The city breathed again. Hobos, prostitutes, and pickpockets woke and started their daily activities. Some went hawking, and others went begging or to polish shoes. Then there were those who lazily stretched on their sleeping mats.

“Where are you going, Ajeng?” asked Yu Seblak.

“To the motel. I have an appointment.” She applied her lipstick.

“You’ll be making a lot of money. Who is your date today, Jeng?” Yu Seblak teased.

“Why do you want to know? It’s a secret.”

“It’s Jumingan, the police officer. He’s crazy about you. By the way, don’t forget to bring me back gudeg rice with egg. This happened because I sent your prayer to the heroes.”

Ajeng laughed happily. “Sure, Yu. You can even ask for gudeg with chicken wings or thighs.”

“You look gorgeous. Just go now.”

Kalur, a skilled pickpocket, woke and drank his remaining mineral water. He sat down beside Karep who was called the intellectual bum because he liked to read and spoke in long sentences that were difficult to understand. Karep was absorbed in the newspaper.

“According to my analysis, the monument restoration plan is a trick of the government. There must be a hidden agenda,” Karep commented.

“If the monument is restored, we won’t be able to live here, right?” asked Kalur.

“Yep, that’s right.”

“What will we do if it really happens?”

“We will take to the street. We’ll mobilize all the homeless in this city.”

Their conversation was interrupted by the newscast from Yu Seblak’s transistor radio. “Dr. Gingsir, the new mayor who replaced Raden Mas Picis, has canceled the Joang Monument restoration plan. According to him, the project is superfluous. Moreover, the petition to raise the status of Wibagso and his colleagues to that of national heroes has been rejected by the national history expert team. The fund of three billion rupiah will be used to provide food stamps to the poor.”

Some of the bums cheered and started to dance. Others banged on mineral water containers, biscuit cans, bottles, and buckets. They danced while drinking cheap liquor.

***

Fog cloaked the pale moon. The city had gone back to sleep. However, in the local government building, the lights were still on.

Dr. Gingsir sipped his wine and said, “I agree with your idea to build a mall here, Den Bei Taipan.”

“Thank you. You are very supportive, sir. I’ve set everything up, including the necessary funds. I agree the main purpose of this collaboration is to share the profits. What do you think if I offered a thirty–seventy split?” Den Bei gulped his wine.

“Den Bei, I have to propose this plan to the zoning board. Usually they need quite a bit of time to respond. As you know, they will also need angpao, a bribe. That’s just the way it is, and the way things are handled depends on the size of bribe we provide,” Gingsir said with laugh. “Is there a problem with the profit share?”

“You figure that one out. You’re a smart businessman.”

“How about thirty-five–sixty-five? This is huge. No one will give you such a crazy offer.”

“It’s too small. I can offer the project to others. I know some great businessmen in the capital,” Gingsir bluffed.

Den Bei’s face darkened. His forehead wrinkled. “How about forty–sixty? This is a very progressive and significant enhancement.”

“Well, well, well. That’s a good number.”

Both of them laughed.

“You will have the opportunity to build as many malls in this city as you want. Just choose the place: the city square, the old Rotenberg fortress, or the Joang Monument.”

“I’ll take all of them. But because of space, I will build my first mall in Joang Monument location. It’s a very viable site, right in the middle of the city.”

“That’s a smart choice, even visionary. I don’t mind having that crumbling monument removed.”

They laughed and shook hands.

***

A few days later, the heat of the sun was met by upheaval around the monument.

“Traitor. Liar. Cheater. Windbag. The authorities come and go, and are all the same. They continue to stab us in the back with their betrayals.” Wibagso stamped his foot and made the monument shake.

“They think we’re nothing but blocks of cold stone. They want to grind us into the grains of a dark past,” Ratri said.

Sidik, Durmo, and Cempluk smiled.

“Why are you silent? We will be destroyed. Look at those bulldozers coming. March on. We have to survive,” cried Wibagso.

An eviction officer shouted through a loudspeaker, “You have to leave. Get out.” His voice overlapped the roar of bulldozers.

In front of the monument, Yu Seblak led her friends to stop the eviction. “We have to survive. We will head off the bulldozers. Ajeng, Karep, Kalur, where are you?” cried Yu Seblak. Her face lit up.

“We are here. Right behind you,” they replied in unison.

The roar of bulldozer engines grew louder and surrounded the monument. Eviction officers and heavily armed police stood guard. The bulldozers pushed ahead, their compact boomers ready to plow into the monument.

“Though they’re just bums, they still try to defend us. You should be ashamed,” said Wibagso.

“We don’t fight to defend our pride as heroes. We fight for those who have the right to defend their lives,” cried Sidik.

Wibagso organized their defense as if he were ordering the revolutionist when fighting the colonial army. “I don’t need any explanation, just your firm support. Ratri, jump into the cab and strangle the driver. Cempluk, hold the boom and block it with your body. Sidik and Durmo, destroy the engines. Go, hurry.”

The bulldozers moved ahead and ran into the remaining homeless. Karep, Ajeng, and the others scampered.

“You are cowards,” said Yu Seblak.

“It is useless to fight. They’re so many of them,” said Kalur.

“Let’s just get out. If they are willing to crush the heroes, they definitely won’t care about cockroaches like us. Get out. Get out.” Karep tried to drag Yu Seblak, who stood a few meters from the bulldozers.

Yu Seblak remained. Still fighting, she took off her clothes until she wore only her panties and bra. She fluttered her dress in the air.

“Hey, you bullies. Come and fight me. Come on!”

The bulldozers pushed ahead and crushed Yu Seblak. There was a scream.

Wibagso startled. Ratri screamed hysterically. Durmo, Sidik, and Cempluk, went crazy. In a rampage they hit the bulldozers with anything they could get their hands on. But all their efforts were in vain. The bulldozers toppled the statues, collapsed and crushed the heroes.

***

The moon blinked in the sky. The wind died.

“You have killed us twice,” Wibagso said in a whisper.

His voice penetrated Dr. Gingsir’s speech at the official opening of the mall. The voices of the heroes will echo through the passing of time, but only an ear sharp enough to hear silence can hear those voices, those grievances.

***

Rumah Kawin

Zen Hae is the author of poetry, short stories, and literary criticism. He has published a short story collection, Rumah Kawin (KataKita, 2004), and a book of poetry, Paus Merah Jambu (Akar Indonesia, 2007), the latter ranked in the top five for the Khatulistiwa Literary Award 2008 and named the “Best Literary Work of 2007” by Tempo magazine. Zen Hae completed his study of Indonesian Language and Literature at IKIP Jakarta (now Jakarta State University) in 2004. He has worked as a journalist, an infotainment scriptwriter, part-time lecturer, and for an NGO. He was a member of Literature Committee of Jakarta Arts Council (2006–2007), chairperson of the same committee (2006–2009), and chairperson of the Analysis and Criticism Department of Jakarta Arts Council (2011–2012). Since 2012, Zen Hae has been the publishing manager at Komunitas Salihara.

“Rumah Kawin” (The Wedding House) first appeared in the June 4, 2003 issue of Kompas, copyright © 2003 by Zen Hae. Revised version copyright © 2014 by Zen Hae. Published with permission of the author. Translation copyright © 2014 by Indah Lestari.

***

 

Rumah Kawin

Lagu “Malam Terakhir” baru saja berakhir dari mulut Gwat Nio dan Karna Suling. Para wayang cokek sudah mengosongkan kalangan, bersiap-siap untuk pulang. Para panjak membereskan alat musik mereka. Tetapi Mamat Jago masih saja berdiri sambil memeluk Sarti di tengah kalangan.Tangannya terus meremasi pantat Sarti dan menyorongkan mulutnya ke mulut wayang bermata burung hantu itu.

Bau anggur kolesom kembali menerpa hidung Sarti. Ia melengos dan berusaha mendorong tubuh Mamat Jago sekuat tenaga, tetapi dengan cepat Mamat Jago meraih tangan Sarti dan melipatkannya ke pinggangnya.

Kali ini Mamat Jago menggoyang-goyangkan pinggangnya sambil terus menekan pantat Sarti. Batang zakar Mamat Jago terasa seperti ikan gabus, menekan selangkangan Sarti.

Wayang cokek itu meringis, mencoba menggeser pantatnya.

“Aih jangan tinggalkan Abang, Manis. Jangan biarkan pancuran ini ngucur sendirian. Aaaghh.”

“Heh, Minan, gesekin gua lagu ‘Ayam Jago’. Gua mau ngibing lagi,” teriak Mamat Jago, tiba-tiba.

Minan Balok, si tukang teh yan, celingukan. Balo si tukang gambang menggelengkan kepalanya. Pemain musik lainnya menangguk. Tak mungkin lagi mereka main. Ini sudah pukul dua pagi. Sudah waktunya rombongan Gambang Kromong Mustika Tanjung pimpinan Tan Eng Djin dari Teluk Naga berhenti main.

Sahibul hajat, keluarga Lie Ban Hoa dari Salembaran dan keluarga Fai Koen Atmadja dari Kapuk, sudah meminta mereka berhenti sejak setengah jam lalu. Sebab izin keramaian yang mereka dapatkan dari aparat keamanan setempat hanya sampai pukul satu.

“Heh, budek lu. Gua masih banyak duit. Kalo perlu pala lu semua gua beli. Gua mau nyawer lagi. Ayo,” teriak Mamat Jago sambil menuding-nuding para panjak yang masih bersambut pandang.

Sarti kembali mengibaskan tangannya. Menarik tubuhnya dari pelukan Mamat Jago yang kian sempoyongan. Terlepas.

Sebagai gantinya satu tamparan tangan kanan Mamat Jago mendarat di pipinya. “Sundel lu!” maki Mamat Jago sambil melempar cukin merah hati ke wajah Sarti.

Sarti meringis dan memegangi pipinya, berlari ke arah wayang lain yang sejak tadi hanya bisa memandanginya dengan cemas.

Ini sudah kelewatan, pikir Eng Djin. Anak buahnya memang boleh dipeluk, dicium, atau dibawa ke mana saja, tetapi pantang disakiti. Ia pun keluar dari sela-sela gong dan menghampiri pengibing mabuk itu. Merendengnya. “Maaf, kita harus berhenti, Bang. Kalau tidak cokek kita bakal ditubruk polisi.”

“Jangan takut, Koh. Mereka semua teman saya. Ayo, main lagi.

Bang Minan mulai menggesek teh yan-nya, tetapi segera Eng Djin menggoyang-goyangkan tangan kirinya. “Mendingan Abang pulang saja. Nanti kita-kita juga yang repot.”

“Sial dangkalan lu,” maki Mamat Jago. Dengan sisa tenaganya disodoknya perut Eng Djin, tetapi ia menepiskan tangan itu. Mamat Jago balas menyerang dengan pukulan siku yang diruncingkan—gentus tubruk.

Eng Djin jatuh terduduk.

“Engkoh jangan bikin saya malu ya. Saya jawara kampung. Jago berantem. Semua orang bisa saya bikin jatoh deprok.”

Eng Djin bangkit dan mundur selangkah. Bersandar pada tiang. Dipandanginya kepalan tangan Mamat Jago yang padat berisi. Empat belas jurus ilmu pukul memang masih dikuasainya, tetapi ia sadar, tidak mungkin menandingi kemahiran pukulan jawara kampung Bulak Petir ini. Namun, ia akan melawan sebisanya kalau Mamat Jago menyerang lagi. Itulah cara ia mempertahankan harga dirinya di depan anak buahnya.

Ternyata, tidak. Mamat Jago hanya memasang jurus. Kuda-kudanya kelihatan goyah. Tubuhnya goyang seperti orang-orangan sawah.

Tiba-tiba, dua orang berjaket kulit hitam, si Gondrong dan si Cepak, masuk ke kalangan. Eiiitt, Mamat Jago mengalihkan kuda-kudanya ke arah dua orang asing itu. Mencoba lebih awas, ia kibas-kibaskan kepalanya.

Si Gondrong lantas mencabut revolver dari balik jaketnya dan mengacungkannya ke udara.

Orang-orang terkesiap. Ada juga yang menjerit.

“Bapak-ibu saya minta berhenti. Bubar!” Si Gondrong memerintah.

Dengan sigap Si Cepak mencekal tangan Mamat Jago, memitingnya, memborgolnya, dan menyeretnya seperti sekarung tahi ayam.

***

Entah sudah berapa lebaran lewat setelah penangkapan itu. Mamat Jago tersenyum. “Sudah lama sekali,” gumamnya. Saat itu dengan mudah ia masuk-keluar sel. Ditangkap malam, keluar pagi; dibekuk pagi, dilepas sore; masuk sore, keluar malam. Anak-anak buahnya akan mengantarkan uang tebusan, tak lama setelah ia digelandang polisi. “Polisi teman Abang,” katanya berkali-kali kepada anak buahnya. Setelah itu ia akan dengan leluasa datang lagi ke rumah kawin, ngibing dan minum, membuat keributan bila perlu.

Tetapi, itu dulu. Ketika kekayaan dan kehormatan didekapnya dengan dua tangan. Ketika jual-beli tanah kebun dan sawah di kampungnya sedang ramai-ramainya. Setiap saat orang datang dan pergi dari rumahnya. Membawa dan mengambil uang. Pekerjaannya sebagai calo tanah sangat sibuk kala itu. Pernah suatu ketika anak buahnya harus memanggul berkarung-karung uang ke rumahnya untuk membebaskan berhektar-hektar sawah yang kini menjadi bandar udara itu. Orang-orang kampungnya pernah berkata, ia tidur bukan di atas kasur kapuk, tetapi di atas kasur uang.

Sekarang ini semuanya sudah lain. Kekayaan dan kehormatannya rontok sudah, seperti pohon kelapa disambar petir. Meranggas dan mati. Tanahnya yang dulu hektaran kini hanya tinggal sepekarangan saja, menciut bagai kelaras terbakar. Di atasnya berdiri rumah yang dulu pernah menjadi rumah termegah dan termahal di kampungnya—kini sudah menjadi sarang kumbang, ngengat, dan laba-laba. Kosong, kusam, sepi. Mobil dan motornya entah di tangan siapa.

Puluhan kerbaunya tak berjejak lagi. Kambing dan ayam hanya tinggal sekandang. Anak buahnya yang berjumlah puluhan sudah pergi meninggalkannya, mencari majikan baru begitu ia bangkrut.

Masroh, istri yang tak pernah lagi disentuhnya sejak diserang TBC, wafat dua tahun lalu. Tiga anak perempuannya sudah dibawa suami mereka ke kota lain. Menjadi orang rantau. Satu anak lelakinya menjadi pengojek untuk menghidupi istri dan empat anaknya. Hanya ia dan si bungsu yang tinggal di situ.

Ah, betapa perihnya kehilangan ini. Mamat Jago batuk satu-dua. “Apa ada obatnya?” ia bergumam.

Pekerjaan sebagai calo tanah sudah tidak dilakoninya lagi. Tidak ada lagi orang yang mau menjual kebun dan sawahnya. Tanah warisan mereka sudah habis terjual, tinggal yang kini mereka tempati. Dan itu tak mungkin mereka jual, kecuali kalau mereka mau menjadi gelandangan di kampung sendiri. Lahan-lahan yang tadinya menjadi sumber penghidupan mereka kini sudah berubah kegunaannya.

Ratusan hektar sawah itu sudah dibikin rata tanpa pematang dan diberi pagar besi setinggi dua meter di tepinya. Di tengahnya membujur dua jalur landasan beton, dari barat ke timur. Ia dan orang kampungnya hanya bisa memandangi pesawat terbang yang lepas landas dan mendarat. Hanya mereka yang pernah naik haji mampu menaikinya. Di malam hari pesawat-pesawat itu berubah menjadi kunang-kunang raksasa yang tubuhnya tetap berkelap-kelip meski melayang di batas langit terjauh.

Pabrik-pabrik juga sudah berjalan siang dan malam. Siapa pun orang terkaya di kampungnya tidak mungkin membangun dan memiliki pabrik-pabrik itu. Mereka hanya petani penggarap dan pedagang kecil, tidak mungkin menguasai modal dan teknologi perpabrikan secanggih itu. Tapi, anak-anak mereka, lelaki dan perempuan, si bungsu juga, senantiasa berbondong-bondong, keluar masuk pabrik, dengan seragam. Mereka sudah menjadi manusia pabrik yang mau tidak mau dibayar murah oleh tauke-tauke dari Korea, Jepang, dan Taiwan.

Rumah-rumah mewah juga sudah dibangun dan ditempati orang-orang yang tidak pernah mereka kenal sebelumnya. Orang-orang kampung memang tidak mampu membeli dan menempati rumah mahal itu, tetapi mereka masih bisa menjadi pengojek di perumahan itu dengan motor yang dibeli dari hasil menjual tanah warisan mereka. Mereka masih bisa menikmati jalan-jalan aspal yang lurus-menyiku, sungai kecil yang jernih dan dibeton tepinya, taman yang indah, sambil memandangi rumah-rumah besar dengan pintu dan jendela yang melengkung. Rumah-rumah yang dahulu mereka saksikan di layar-layar lenong. Di tambah gonggongan anjing, tentu saja.

Mamat Jago menarik napas dalam-dalam sebagaimana ia menarik kenangan-kenangan yang terkubur dalam liang gelap masa lalunya. “Aku butuh obat,” ia bergumam sembari menelan ludah.

Aroma tanah basah dibawa angin selatan melintasi padang ilalang setinggi pinggang. Hujan akan segera turun. Musim penghujan sudah tiba dan akan makin tinggi curahnya menjelang Lebaran Cina atau Tahun Baru Imlek. Musim kawin akan tiba juga. Rumah-rumah kawin di Kampung Melayu, Kosambi, Salembaran, dan Sewan akan ramai lagi. Ia rindukan semua itu.

***

Dalam mimpinya sore itu, Mamat Jago mendatangi lagi rumah kawin Teratai Putih. Orang-orang menyingkir begitu ia memasuki pintu utamanya. Ia memasang langkah tegap seorang jawara kampung. Hanya di sinilah aku bisa menikmati lagi seluruh kesenangan dan kehormatan hidupku, pikirnya sembari tersenyum. Bukankah sudah bertahun-tahun belakangan ini ia tidak menikmati dua hal itu lagi. Ya, di sinilah orang akan memuji kelihaiannya ngibing yang dipadu dengan keindahan jurus-jurus pukulnya, kekuatannya menenggak berbotol-botol bir bercampur anggur kolesom, keroyalannya nyawer. Dan tubuh wayang yang panas dan memabukkan! Liukan dan goyangan yang membangkitkan syahwat! Aih, lelaki mana yang bisa tahan.

Nyai Sirah, si tukang cuking, menyambut Mamat Jago dengan selendang merah hati, seperti dulu. Perempuan bersusur sebesar telur puyuh itu kemudian mengalungkan selendang itu di leher Mamat Jago, tanda ia harus turun ke kalangan, memilih wayang mana yang ia suka.

Tapi hanya Sarti yang ia tuju. Ditatapnya Sarti yang duduk di pojok, bersebelahan dengan Minan Balok. Kali ini Sarti memakai kaus hijau daun pisang bergambar naga merah jambu yang melintas dari bawah ke atas dan celana capri krem. Dengan pakaian itu ia tampak lebih muda dari usianya yang sebenarnya. Sedikit gemuk membuat lekukan-lekukan tubuhnya tampak nyata dibalut pakaian yang serba ketat itu.

Darahnya berdesir. Ditariknya tangan wayang cokek kecintaannya itu. Sarti tersenyum dan mengikuti Mamat Jago dengan langkah merpati. Pengibing dan wayang lain sengaja mengosongkan kalangan, memberi penghormatan atas kembalinya si raja ngibing dari Bulak Petir itu.

Dengan dagu yang sedikit mendongak Mamat Jago menebar pandangan ke seluruh ruang. Tak lupa ia mengangkat kedua tangan yang dikepalkan, tanda hormat kepada sahibul hajat, kedua mempelai, dan Tan Eng Djin.

Bang Minan menjawab salam Mamat Jago dengan menggesek teh yan-nya.

“Ayo, Minan, gesekin gua lagu ‘Ayam Jago’. Gua mau ngibing lagi.”

Teh yan digesek, disusul gambang, kecrek, gong, suling, dan kempul. Susul-menyusul. Jalin-menjalin. Gwat Nio sudah melantunkan suaranya yang garing-melengking seperti suara burung titutit.

“Ayam jago jangan diadu, kalau diadu jenggernya merah.
Ayam jago jangan diadu, kalau diadu jenggernya merah.
Baju ijo jangan diganggu, kalau diganggu yang punya marah.
Baju ijo jangan diganggu, kalau diganggung yang punya marah.”

Tapi Sarti tidak juga menggoyangkan tubuhnya. Tangannya dibiarkan terkulai.

Mamat Jago meraihnya, melipatkannya ke pinggangnya, merapatkan pelukannya. Tubuh perempuan itu terasa dingin, seperti daun dadap pengusir demam anak-anak. Ia menatap paras Sarti; bibirnya terkatup, matanya terpejam. “Ayo, Sarti, jangan kau goda Abang seperti malam-malam dulu!” kata Mamat Jago sambil menggoyang-goyangkannya tubuh Sarti. Ditepuk-tepuknya pipinya, tak ada gerakan sedikit pun. Dipandanginya para panjak. Semuanya berhenti main. Tak ada yang bergerak. Semua dingin dan biru. Seperti keramik Cina.

Mamat Jago membopong Sarti keluar. Penonton yang semulai menyesaki kalangan dan halaman rumah kawin sudah tak ada lagi. Dengan was-was ia menjejaki halaman, menerobos hujan senja yang turun bagaikan lapis-lapis kelambu. Sepanjang jalan pohon-pohon meliuk-mabuk, rumah-rumah bisu-merunduk. Nyala lampu listrik dan patromaks tampak setengah hidup setengah mati. Ia susuri jalan aspal, memotong sungai, membelah padang ilalang.

“Kau tidak boleh mati, Sayang. Hiduplah bersama Abang. Di rumahku kau akan hangat.” Dikecupnya bibir Sarti. Air liur nya yang bercampur air hujan masuk ke mulut Sarti.

Si mata burung hantu itu tersedak. Tubuhnya menggeliat. Tangannya meraih leher Mamat Jago.

Ia tersenyum dan mempercepat langkahnya.

Malam dan hujan pertama benar-benar telah mengepung kampung Bulak Petir. Dari kejauhan rumah Mamat Jago yang terletak di tepi sawah bera dengan jalan yang lurus memotong pematang tampak bagaikan lukisan luntur. Satu-dua lampunya menyala.

Ah, anak yang baik, pikir Mamat Jago. Pasti Si Bungsu menyalakan lampu-lampu itu sebelum berangkat ke pabrik untuk kerja malam.

Cahaya lampu-lampu itu senantiasa membangkitkan keriangan masa mudanya. Bukankah dulu ketika masih berpacaran, bahkan setelah menikah dan anak-anaknya belum lahir dan menyesaki rumah, ia dan Masroh selalu berlarian di atas pematang sawah begitu hujan pertama turun. Setelah basah kuyup oleh air hujan barulah mereka mandi di sumur senggot yang airnya terasa lebih hangat daripada air hujan. Buatnya, laku itu semacam perayaan untuk datangnya musim hujan.

Pintu rumahnya tidak terkunci. Dasar anak ceroboh, maki Mamat dalam hati, pasti Si Bungsu lupa menguncinya. Ia mendorong pintu dengan punggungnya dan langsung menuju kamar tidur. Ia membaringkan Sarti di ranjang. Di situlah dulu Masroh mengembuskan napas terakhirnya dengan tubuh kurus kering dan sepasang payudara yang serupa jeruk busuk.

Mamat melucuti seluruh pakaian basah dari tubuh Sarti dan menyelimuti tubuh itu dengan kain batik yang dulu pernah dipakai untuk menyelimuti mayat istrinya. Ia pandangi wajah Sarti yang tertidur pulas. Dalam keremangan wajah itu berganti-ganti dengan wajah istrinya.

“Pacarku, biniku.”

Mamat Jago mengecup bibir Sarti. Bibir itu terasa bergerak. Balas melumat.

Tangan Sarti perlahan mendekap Mamat Jago. Ia mulai bernapas satu-dua. Hangat, panas, gemuruh.

Mamat Jago balas mendekapnya lebih erat lagi. Kini kehangatan menjalari tubuh mereka berdua.

Sarti mengerang sambil mencengkeram punggung Mamat Jago. Dalam sekejap mereka telah bergumul di atas kasur ringsek. Mereka saling memagut-mematuk-mengecup-merenggut- mencakar-mengular, terbakar.

Tiba-tiba, brak! Mamat Jago kaget dan melepaskan pelukannya.

Eng Djin, si Gondrong, dan si Cepak sudah berdiri di pelangkahan pintu. Buru-buru Mamat Jago meraih dan mengenakan celana kolornya.

“Sadarlah, Bang. Sarti sudah mati,” kata Eng Djin.

Mamat Jago menoleh.

Sarti terbaring telanjang kaku dengan sisa-sisa keringat yang meleleh di sela-sela payudaranya.

Tak percaya Mamat Jago menepuk-nepuk pipi Sarti. “Ayo, manis, bangun. Ada Koh Eng Djin dan teman Abang datang,” bisiknya ke telinga Sarti.

“Relakan kepergiannya, Bang. Nyebut, Bang.”

Mamat Jago masih tak percaya. Ia mengguncang-guncangkan tubuh Sarti. Kaku, dingin, biru. Tangisan pilu kemudian meledak dari mulutnya. Tangis yang sudah lama sekali baru terdengar lagi. Ketika Masroh mati pun ia tidak terbujuk untuk menangis.

Eng Djin hanya menarik napas menyaksikan lelaki malang itu. Tanpa aba-aba Si Gondrong dan Si Cepak langsung membekuk Mamat Jago. Mereka menggelandang Mamat Jago dan memasukkannya ke mobil jip.

Sepanjang jalan kedua polisi yang diakui sebagai temannya itu tidak mengajak Mamat Jago bicara. Si Cepak sibuk menyetir, Si Gondrong asyik merokok.

Mamat Jago mengamati borgol di tangannya yang kadang berkilatan oleh cahaya yang menembus kaca mobil. Baja antikarat ini benar-benar membuatnya tidak berkutik.

Terutama ketika mobil terguncang-guncang di jalan berlubang, tubuhnya terpental dan membentur pintu belakang mobil. Ia mengaduh dan Si Gondrong hanya menoleh dengan rokok yang tetap terjepit di bibirnya.

Akhirnya Mamat Jago menyandarkan tubuhnya ke jok dan membuang pandangannya ke kaca pintu belakang. Ia menyaksikan cahaya lampu-lampu rumah yang meleleh dan membentuk garis panjang bergelombang. Tapi ia juga melihat tubuh Sarti yang telanjang berkeringat mengikuti mobil yang entah menuju ke mana. Tubuh Sarti melayang seperti ikan terbang. Benarkah Sarti sudah mati? Mungkinkah aku menyenggamai mayat, Mamat Jago membatin. Bukankah di atas ranjang Sarti balas membalas kecupan dan pelukannya dan mereka bergumul hebat seperti di malam-malam dulu.

Tiba-tiba mobil berhenti. Pintu belakangnya dibuka paksa. “Keluar lu!” Bentakan Si Gondrong membuatnya ternganga. Mamat Jago tak punya lagi kuasa untuk menolak. Ia melompat. Telapak kakinya amblas di hamparan pasir.

Si Gondrong dan Si Cepak menggiringnya ke sebuah tempat gelap. Ada debur ombak. Kersik daun. Serbuk garam yang menempeli bibirnya. Ia menduga-duga pantai apa ini. Mungkin Tanjung Kait, Rawa Saban, Kamal, atau pantai yang belum pernah ia kunjungi. Dorongan keras membuatnya tersandung karang dan tersungkur. Butiran pasir asin memenuhi mulutnya.

“Kami tidak pernah benar-benar berteman denganmu. Kami berteman untuk bisa membekuk bajingan macam kau. Malam ini hidupmu tamat,” suara Si Cepak mengalahkan deru ombak.

Dor! Dor! Dor!

Darah meleleh dari tiga lubang di pelipis dan dahi Mamat Jago. Diserap pasir, dijilat ombak, larut di air.

***

Dor! Dor! Dor!

Mamat Jago terjaga. Ia bangkit, seperti ada yang mengusap wajahnya. “Sarti!” ia memanggil. Tak ada jawaban. Ia kemudian mengusap dahi dan pelipisnya. Tak ada darah. Hanya air hujan dari genting bocor! “Mimpi apa lagi ini?” katanya, heran. Ia duduk di tepi ranjang. Ditajamkan pendengarannya, rentetan tembakan itu masih terdengar. Aih, ia tersenyum, rupanya hanya suara petasan dari rumah kawin! Ia berjalan menuju jendela dan menguakkannya. Hujan sudah berhenti, tetapi air masih menggenang di pelataran rumahnya. Begitu juga kenangannya pada Sarti, Eng Djin, Si Cepak, dan Si Gondrong. Dan Sarti! Mengapa kau muncul dalam mimpiku dengan cara seaneh itu, ia membatin lagi.

Tanpa membuang waktu ia membuka lemari dan mengambil pakaian terbaiknya. Baju safari dan celana panjang krem, topi laken coklat tua, sandal kulit hitam, tongkat kayu dengan gagang berukir kepala naga membuat ia merasa gagah kembali. Tapi cermin buram di depannya tak bisa menyembunyikan pipinya yang mulai keriput dan kantung matanya yang bergantung. Lama ia tatap wajah tuanya sehingga ia terbatuk. Tubuhnya terguncang-guncang, bayangnya terkekeh-kekeh. “Dasar bini sialan!”

“Aku harus kembali ke rumah kawin itu.” Mamat Jago mengetuk-ngetukkan ujung tongkatnya ke lantai teraso. Tiga kali. Hatinya mantap.

Rumah kawin Teratai Putih masih seperti dulu. Orang-orang masih menyingkir begitu Mamat Jago masuk kalangan. Ia kembali memberi hormat kepada sahibul hajat, kedua mempelai, Tan Eng Djin, panjak, dan wayang cokek yang secara bergantian membalas salamnya.

Tapi Sarti hanya memonyongkan mulutnya dan mengembuskan asap rokoknya ke arah Mamat Jago.

Si Tua itu hanya tersenyum dan membalas Sarti dengan lagak serupa.

Sarti langsung menggilas puntung rokok dengan kelom geulisnya. “Sudah lama Abang gak ke sini. Sarti kangen,” kata Sarti sambil mengalungkan cukin merah hati ke leher Mamat Jago.

“Abang banyak urusan, Neng,” kata Mamat Jago sambil mendekap pinggang Sarti.

Tanpa diminta, Minan menggesek teh yan-nya.

Bunyinya yang lirih membuat Mamat Jago mendekap Sarti lebih mesra lagi. Seperti ada lubang hitam di dada Mamat Jago yang hanya bisa tertutup jika ia mendekap wayang cokek kecintaannya itu. Bait pertama lagu “Stambul Siliwangi” kemudian mengalun dari mulut Gwat Nio.

“Ya jika begini, kalo begini, Karna, nagalah ya naganya.
Aih, kayulah ya biduk, kayulah biduk ya dimakan api.
Ya kalo begini, kalo begini, Sayang, apa rasanya.
Aih, badanlah hidup, ya badan hidup, ya rasanya mati.”

Karna menyusul dengan suara bergelombang. Sesekali Mamat Jago mengikuti,

“Ya bunga mawar, Manis, bunga mawar, Jiwa Manis, dari Kahyangan.
Ya indung-indung, ya jeruk purut, Nona.
Ya jeruk purut, Jiwa Manis, harum baunya.
Ya belajar kenal, Nio, belajar kenal, Jiwa Manis, tidak halangan.
Aih. . .indung-indung, ya cuma awan.
Ya cuma awan, Jiwa Manis, ada yang punya.”

Para pengibing dan pasangannya turut melingkari Mamat Jago dan Sarti. Tapi tak ada yang sanggup menari. Semuanya hanya berdekapan. Tiba-tiba Mamat Jago terbatuk. Suaranya kisut, napasnya turun naik.

Sarti mengusap-usap punggung Mamat Jago. “Abang sakit.”

“Abang sakit cinta.”

“Berobat dong.”

“Enggak ah. Abang kepingin ke rumah kawin aja. Ke dokter Sarti.” “Ah, Sarti banyak pasen.”

“Rawatlah Abang, Bu Dokter. Jadiin saya satu-satunya pasen.”

“Tong ah.”

“Tadi Abang mimpiin Sarti dan semua orang di rumah kawin ini.”

“Masak? Apa ceritanya.”

“Ah, malu nyeritainnya.”

“Apaan?” Sarti mencubit paha Mamat Jago.

“Kita main dokter-dokteran.”

“Ih, jorok.” Sarti meremas selangkangan Mamat Jago.

Mamat Jago mengerang dan menekan pantat Sarti.

Kali ini Sarti membiarkan Mamat Jago meremas dan menekan pantatnya. Ada api yang meletup dari bekas lubang hitam itu. Suhu badan Mamat Jago merambat hangat dan menjalar ke tubuh Sarti.

Api menjalar ke tubuh pengibing dan wayang cokek lainnya. Semuanya terbakar.

Para penonton menelan ludah. Seorang anak kecil, sembari berjongkok, meremas selangkangannya.

“Pulang yuk sama Abang.”

“Pulang ke mana.”

“Pulang.”

Batuk Mamat Jago meletus lagi, bertanding dengan suara gambang. Napasnya seperti bunyi perahu ngadat. Hingga pada satu pukulan gong, napasnya mereda.

Sarti menjerit.

Orang-orang menoleh.

Tubuh Mamat Jago bertumpu di tubuh Sarti.

“Terus main. Gua bakal mati kalo gambang berhenti,” kata Mamat Jago dalam dua kali jeda. Setengah berbisik, setengah menjerit.

Para panjak tetap diam. Pelan-pelan tubuh Mamat Jago merosot ke lantai.

Sarti meletakkan kepala Mamat Jago di pangkuannya. Ia tersenyum, hanya bisa tersenyum, sambil mengusap-usap wajah Mamat Jago.

Dalam hitungan detik Mamat Jago masih bisa menyaksikan wajah Sarti berubah menjadi wajah seorang perempuan muda. Itulah perempuan yang pernah mengajak Mamat Jago tamasya ke sebuah pulau kecil di pantai utara. Saat itu Mamat Jago baru khatam membaca Quran. Sebagai hadiah perempuan itu mengajaknya tamasya. Mereka berdua saja ke pulau penuh pohon kelingkit, elang bondol, burung camar, ganggang, rajungan itu. Masa tamasya paling indah itu mungkin hanya beberapa menit, satu dua jam, seharian, berkali bulan. Mamat Jago tak bisa mengingatnya lagi. Tapi ia hafal betul senyum perempuan itu. Dan ia merasa bahagia.

***

The Wedding House

Indah Lestari was born in Singapore and lives in Jakarta, Indonesia. She completed her B.A. in English Literature from Padjadjaran University, Indonesia, and an M.A. in English Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. She translated JM Coetzee’s Disgrace and another novel (in editing process) into Indonesian. Her poems have appeared in Bacopa, Revival, and The White Elephant Quarterly in 2013.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

***

 

The Wedding House

Gwat Nio and Karna Suling had just finished the song, “The Last Night,” and the dancers emptied the arena. The musicians were putting their instruments back into their cases as Mamat Jago still stood embracing Sarti amid the crowd. He pinched Sarti’s behind and tried to kiss the big-eyed dancer on the mouth.

The odor of cheap Chinese wine stung Sarti’s nose. She turned her head away and tried to shove Mamat Jago with all her might, but he seized her hand and pulled it around his waist. Gyrating his hips, he continued to squeeze Sarti’s buttocks and press his penis, swollen like a snakehead fish, against Sarti’s groin.

The dancer grinned and tried to pull away.

“Please don’t leave me, sweetheart. Don’t let this downspout spill on the ground.”

People started to watch them. Some smiled while others started to worry.

“Hey, Minan, play ‘Ayam Jago (The Cock).’ I want to dance again,” Mamat Jago yelled.

The teh yan player, Minan Balok, looked around him. Balo, the xylophone player, caught his look and shook his head. The other musicians nodded in agreement with him. Playing another song was impossible. It was already two in the morning, and time for the Gambang Kromong Mustika Tanjung Band, led by Tan Eng Djin from Teluk Naga, to stop playing.

The hosts, the Lie Ban Hoa family from Salembaran and Fai Koen Atmadja from Kapuk, Jakarta, had asked them to stop half an hour ago. The permit they had obtained from the local authorities was only valid until one o’clock.

“Hey, are you deaf? I’m still loaded. If needed, I can pay for the lot of you. I want to dance again and tip the dancers big. Come on!” Mamat Jago shouted, signaling the band players who were still unsure of what to do.

Mamat Jago wobbled more and more.

Satri broke loose from him. As a result, a slap landed on her cheek. “You bitch!” he scolded, and tossed a maroon scarf at her face.

She grimaced and touched her cheek, then ran to the other dancers who had been watching worriedly from a distance.

This is too much, Eng Djin thought. One could hug, kiss, or take his dancers anywhere, but hurting them was not allowed. He walked between the gongs to the drunken dancer and pulled him aside. “I’m sorry, we have to stop. Otherwise the police will arrest us.”

“Don’t worry. All of the police officers are my friends. Let’s start again. Let the orchestra play.”

Minan started to play the teh yan, but Eng Djin waved his hand, suggesting that he stop. “You better go home. If we continue, we’ll get in trouble.”

“Damn you!” Mamat Jago tried to punch Eng Djin in his stomach, and the man warded him off. Mamat Jago attacked again by shoving his elbow straight into his opponent. The elbow strike landed Eng Djin on his behind. “Don’t embarrass me. I’m the champion of this village, a fighter champion. I can beat up anyone.”

Eng Djin rose and took a step back. He leaned on a pole and looked at Mamat Jago’s bulky fist. While he had mastered fourteen martial art movements, he knew he would not be able to beat the Bulak Petir village champion. However, he would fight his best if Mamat Jago attacked again. That was how he would save face in front of his men. Swaying like a scarecrow, Mamat Jago only glared at him.

Two men wearing black leather jackets, one with long hair and the other a crew cut, entered the arena.

Whoosh. Mamat Jago turned to the two intruders. Trying to be more alert, he shook his head.

Longhair pulled a revolver from inside his jacket and pointed it up.

The crowd gasped.

Crewcut grabbed and locked Mamat Jago’s arms, and dragged him along like a sack of chicken manure.

***

Many years had passed since that arrest.

Mamat Jago smiled and mumbled, “That was a long time ago.” In those days he could be jailed as easily as he was released. Arrested at night, he was free in the morning; or admitted in the morning, free in the evening, and so on. His men always bailed him out not long after the police took him in. “The police are my friends,” he repeatedly told his men. As soon as he was free, he would return to the wedding house whenever he liked, to dance and drink and make a scene if necessary.

But that was when he held wealth and respect in both hands, and the real estate business of selling rice field plots in his village was booming. Everyone who came to his house brought and took money. His job as a land broker kept him very busy. Once, one of his men had to carry sacks of money to his house for acquisition of the land where the airport is now. The villagers used to say that he slept on a bed of money instead of kapok.

Now everything was different. His wealth and respect had dried up like a coconut tree struck by lightning. The hectares of land he use to own had shrunk like scorched banana leaves to the size of a lawn. Mamat Jago’s house was once the most luxurious and expensive house in the village. Today it was empty, dingy, and silent, and home to moths, beetles, and spiders. Who knows who owned his cars or bikes. There was no trace of his water buffaloes. Only a herd of goats and a coop of chickens were left. His men, there had been about ten or twenty, had left him, looking for new employers after he went bankrupt.

Masroh, his wife whom he did not touch after she contracted tuberculosis, had died two years ago. Their respective husbands moved his three daughters out of town. One of his sons worked as a motorcycle transport driver to support his wife and four children. Only his youngest son and he lived in the house.

“Oh, this deprivation is agonizing.” Mamat Jago coughed a bit. “Is there a cure for this?” he mumbled.

He no longer worked as a land broker. No one wanted to sell his plantation or paddy field. The locals had sold all of their inherited land until only the land their houses stood on was left. They could not sell unless they wanted to be homeless in their own village. The use of the land that provided their livelihoods had changed. Hundreds of hectares were leveled, the dikes were gone, and a two-meter high iron bar fence enclosed everything. Two concrete platforms stretching from west to east lay through the middle of the area.

The locals, including Mamat Jago, just watched the airplanes landing and taking off. Only those on a pilgrimage could afford to board them. At night the planes changed into giant fireflies, blinking as they flew to the farthest horizon.

There were also factories operating day and night. It was impossible for the village’s richest people to build and own a factory. They were only sharecroppers and petty traders, and could not run a business or master the sophisticated technology used in the factories. Yet, their children, boys and girls, even the youngest child, always flocked to and from the factories in uniform. They became involuntary underpaid factory workers, employed by Korean, Japanese, and Taiwanese tycoons.

Luxurious houses were built and occupied by people they did not know. The locals could not afford the houses and had to work as motorcycle taxi drivers in the neighborhood. The bikes were bought with the money from the sale of their inherited land. They still could enjoy the straight and zigzag asphalt road, the clear creek with a concrete sidewalk, and beautiful parks, while looking at the arched doors and windows of the mansions. They used to see them on the open-air movie screens, for which there was no longer space. To complete the scene there were also barking dogs, of course.

Mamat Jago inhaled deeply as if pulling the memories buried deep in the dark hole of his past. “I need my medication,” he mumbled and swallowed.

The smell of wet soil brought by the southern wind crossed the meadow with hip-high pampas grass. It would rain soon. The monsoon had come and the rainfall would be heavier approaching the Chinese New Year. Then the wedding season began. Wedding houses in Kampung Melayu, Kosambi, Salembaran, and Sewan in Jakarta would be crowded again. He missed all of that.

***

That afternoon during his siesta, Mamat Jago dreamed he visited the White Lotus Wedding House.

People gave way as soon as he entered through the main door. He walked with the confidence of a village champion. Only here can I enjoy the pleasure and honor again, he thought, smiling.

It had been two years since he experienced any of it. Yes, here people praised his dancing and fighting skills, his ability to drink bottles of beer and Chinese wine, and his gene