Suatu Subuh di Cihanjuang

Candra Padmasvasti was born in Bandung, October 11, 1974. She was raised in a family that values education and literature. Reading and keeping a diary have been her passions since childhood. As a consultant in children’s and women’s rights for national and international institutions, Candra often writes activity reports, training materials, and policy drafts.

The Sacred Waterfall is her first short story. Writing this story has underscored her belief that writing demands the courage to dream and an honesty to oneself.

Candra can be reached at c.padmasvasti@gmail.com.

 

 

Suatu Subuh di Cihanjuang

 

Alunan karinding, alat musik dari bilah bambu khas Jawa Barat, mengeluarkan nada tinggi melengking, berpadu dengan embusan angin malam yang dingin. Karinding selalu dimainkan di acara adat. Suara mendengung hasil perpaduan sentilan jari dan tiupan udara dari mulut si pemain, membuat suasana di pertemuan adat terasa mendebarkan.

Setelah acara selesai. Panitren, sang penjaga adat, berlari dari Bale Saresehan menghampiri jendela dapur Uwa Enok yang masih terbuka. “Sudah diputuskan! Citrik akan dinikahkan dengan Kang Dayat!” ujarnya di antara tarikan napas dan langkah kakinya yang bergegas menjauh. 

Uwa Enok yang sedang duduk di atas dipan di dekat jendela dapurnya langsung menutup wajah dengan kedua telapak tangannya. Wanita tua itu menangis, berusaha mencerna berita yang disampaikan oleh panitren.

Citrik yang sedang duduk menghangatkan tubuhnya di depan hawu, tungku kayu bakar, seketika merasa mual. Pepes jamur, lauk makan malam tadi, terasa mengimpit kerongkongannya. Gadis remaja tigabelas tahun itu menggelugut membayangkan Mang Dayat, lelaki paruh baya yang biasa dia panggil paman, akan menjadi suaminya.

Pernikahan Mang Dayat dengan Bi Nenden memang belum dikaruniai keturunan. Perilaku mereka sangat berlawanan, Mang Dayat suka berbicara, sedangkan Bi Nenden sangat pendiam. Perempuan di kampung kerap menggunjingkan kelakuan Mang Dayat, yang sering punya hubungan khusus dengan perempuan dari luar Cihanjuang. Sebagian dari mereka menuduh Bi Nenden yang tidak dapat memberikan anak, sebagai alasannya.

Mengapa harus aku yang memberinya anak? Citrik merasa jijik. Tangannya menarik tepian kain sarung dari sisi kedua lengannya, membungkus tubuh mungilnya, dan membenamkan kepalanya.

Citrik teringat kejadian beberapa hari lalu. Kala itu dia dan Uwa Enok sedang berjalan sepulang dari sungai.

Tiba-tiba dari barisan pohon, Mang Dayat muncul menghadang mereka. “Aduh wanginya,” goda Mang Dayat sambil mendekatkan kepalanya ke arah tubuh Citrik.

Citrik langsung menjerit dan berlindung di belakang badan Uwa Enok. Gelung Citrik terlepas, rambutnya yang hitam jatuh tergerai melewati pundaknya yang basah. Tubuh gadis itu hanya dibalut kain sarung, selepas mandi di sungai.

Citrik merinding karena masih bisa merasakan napas Mang Dayat di lengannya.

“Mau apa kamu, Dayat?” Uwa Enok membentak.

“Mau menikah dengan ponakanmu,” ujar Mang Dayat tergelak. Bau minyak rambut Mang Dayat tercium begitu kuat, mengalahkan wangi sabun mandi dari tubuh Citrik dan Uwa Enok. Mang Dayat mengusap kumisnya sambil menatap Citrik. Mata lelaki tua itu bergerak menyapu wajah pucat Citrik. Pandangannya menjelajahi leher yang jenjang lalu turun ke pundak nan putih. Bola matanya kian membesar saat tilikannya tiba pada pinggul sintal Citrik yang terbalut kain sarung basah.

“Jangan kurang ajar!”  Uwa Enok berteriak marah.

“Aku akan buatkan rumah terbagus di Cihanjuang untukmu, Citrik,” ucap Mang Dayat merayu Citrik tanpa menghiraukan hardikan Uwa Enok. “Kamu bisa dapat semua yang kau mau dengan uang hasil usaha ternakku.” 

Citrik masih tidak menjawab, kedua tangannya terus memeluk keranjang berisi baju yang baru dicuci sebagai tumpuan tubuhnya yang gemetar.

“Anak ini sudah mendapat rumah dari ku.” Uwa Enok berucap sambil mengangkat dagu, matanya menatap tajam lelaki yang ada di depannya. Lalu bibirnya mengatup, tarikan napasnya yang pendek diembuskan lewat kedua lubang hidungnya. 

“Rumah usang bekas perawan tua tidak pantas untuk gadis cantik seperti Citrik,” ejek Mang Dayat diikuti suara tertawanya yang menjengkelkan.

Wajah Uwa Enok memerah. Tangannya mengepal menahan amarah. “Awas! Aku laporkan kepada sesepuh adat!” Uwa Enok berteriak lantang.

Mang Dayat justru tertawa liar. “Dengan kepandaian ilmu sirep akan aku tembus mimpi sesepuh adat. Dia akan menuruti semua kemauanku.”

Uwa Enok tersentak. Dia diam kehabisan kata-kata.

Melihat perubahan sikap Uwa Enok, Mang Dayat kembali tertawa keras. Kedua tangannya bertengger di pinggang, menampakkan perutnya yang montok berguncang. “Aku berkuasa di Cihanjuang! Perempuan tua macam kamu tidak ada artinya bagiku.” Mang Dayat menunjukkan jari telunjuknya ke arah Citrik. “Dia milik aku!”

Citrik merasa dirinya diperlakukan layaknya barang untuk dimiliki. Tenggorokannya tercekat menahan tangis.

Uwa Enok masih diam mematung.

Mang Dayat berlalu menjauh.

Uwa Enok berbalik badan dan memeluk Citrik.

Keduanya bertangisan di sisi jalan setapak. Sesaat mereka merasa agak tenang, Uwa Enok mengajak Citrik pulang ke rumah.

“Ayo pulang malu jika ada yang melihat kita sedang bertangisan,” Uwa Enok mengusap air mata Citrik, “Kita pasti akan dapat jalan keluarnya.”

Kalimat terakhir Uwa Enok membuat hati Citrik tenang. Dua perempuan itu pun berjalan menuju ke rumah.

***

Keesokan harinya, pendar matahari lamat-lamat menerobos celah dinding dapur yang terbuat dari bambu. Citrik masih masygul menerima keputusan adat. Hanya dengan memasak pikirannya dapat teralihkan. Wangi dapur ini yang berlantai tanah dengan empat batang kayu pohon hanjuang di setiap sudutnya, seakan menjadi rahim ibu yang memberinya rasa tenteram. Uwa Enok pernah bertutur tentang pohon hanjuang. Batangnya terkenal kuat menopang bangunan. Daunnya berwarna merah dan hijau, melambangkan keseimbangan antara manusia dan alam. Menurutnya, pohon hanjuang adalah lambang perempuan Cihanjuang, yang kuat dan mampu menjaga keseimbangan keluarga. Singgasana perempuan Cihanjuang adalah dapur, tempat dia bertahta, mengolah apa yang diberikan alam menjadi makanan untuk keluarganya. “Kelak dapur dan seluruh isinya ini akan menjadi milikmu, Citrik,” Uwa Enok berkaul.

Tangan Citrik menggeser selot kayu, membuka jendela. Angin pagi yang dingin membuat pipinya yang putih bersemu merah. Kedua matanya menatap langit sejenak. Alis mata yang tebal dan bulu mata yang lentik, membuat Citrik terlihat cantik alami.

Dia teringat saat datang bersama Bapak dari Bandung ke Cihanjuang di bulan Agustus 1949. Cihanjuang, desa kecil di pegunungan Sukabumi adalah tanah kelahiran Bapak dimana Uwa Enok, kakak perempuan satu-satunya, menetap. Bapak menangis di pangkuan Uwa Enok, sambil menceritakan perihal rumah yang dibakar dan Ibu yang dibunuh gerombolan Tentara Islam Indonesia.

Saat itu, usia Citrik masih lima tahun. Kejadiannya terjadi begitu cepat. Malam itu dia terbangun sudah berada di gendongan Bapak. Pandangannya kabur tertutup asap, napasnya sesak oleh udara yang terasa panas sampai ke dada. Bapak berusaha keluar dari rumah, berlomba dengan jilatan api yang berasal dari rumah-rumah lainnya. Orang-orang berlarian, suara jeritan dan tangisan terdengar dimana-mana. Bapak dan Citrik menanti Ibu keluar dari rumah untuk mengajaknya berlari menjauhi kampung. Namun sayang, Ibu tidak pernah keluar dari rumah.

Bapak sering bercerita tentang dendamnya pada gerombolan yang membuat Ibu mati. “Kartosoewirjo, pemimpin gerombolan itu tidak puas dengan kemerdekaan Indonesia yang masih dibayang-bayangi Belanda,” kata Bapak berapi-api, “Dia memaksa Jawa Barat menjadi Negara Islam Indonesia.”

Menurut Bapak, gerombolan itu bergerilya di hutan-hutan untuk mempertahankan diri dari kejaran TNI-AD. Mereka membutuhkan persediaan makanan yang banyak. Biasanya, saat tentara Indonesia tahu bahwa gerombolan akan mendatangi kampung untuk mencari bahan makanan, mereka akan meminta warga kampung mengungsi. Gerombolan itu mengharuskan setiap rumah menyediakan beras atau bahan makanan di teras rumah. Jika tidak disediakan maka mereka akan merusak atau membakar rumah tersebut.

“Malam itu gerombolan Tentara Islam Indonesia di Tasikmalaya menyerang markas TNI-AD disana sehingga TNI-AD di wilayah Kabupaten Bandung harus berpindah tugas ke sana. Tidak ada yang tahu bahwa gerombolan itu akan datang ke kampung kita,” ujar Bapak pilu.

Sejak itu, setelah sekian tahun tinggal di Kabupaten Bandung bersama Ibu dan Citrik, Bapak kembali tinggal di Cihanjuang, kampung kelahirannya. Hari-hari Bapak hanya diisi dengan meratapi kematian Ibu. Sampai akhirnya Bapak mulai sering berbicara sendiri dan julukan orang gila melekat pada dirinya.

Tak sampai dua tahun sejak Citrik tinggal di Cihanjuang, pada suatu subuh Uwa Enok menemukan tubuh Bapak sudah kaku. Ajal menjemput Bapak di kala tidur. Kedukaan yang menimpa Citrik, membuatnya tumbuh menjadi gadis pendiam, yang jarang bergaul dengan anak-anak sebayanya.

***

Jemari Citrik yang lentik mengambil tiga batang kayu bakar, memasukkan satu per satu ke lubang hawu. Citrik menempelkan bibirnya yang tipis pada sepotong bambu pendek lalu meniupkan udara ke arah bara sampai menjadi api. Tiba-tiba dia tersadar belum melihat Uwa Enok sejak fajar.

Walaupun Uwa Enok terkenal jarang berbicara, Citrik selalu merasa lebih tenang jika berada di dekatnya. Uwa Enok adalah pengganti orang tuanya.

Citrik mengangkat langseng, alat untuk memasak air dan mengukus makanan, dan meletakkannya di atas hawu.  Langseng tembaga berwarna kuning keemasan itu terlihat seperti topi pesulap terbalik. Citrik berpendapat memasak itu memang mirip melakukan pertunjukan sulap.

Uwa Enok lah yang memperkenalkannya pada serunya memasak. Semua orang di Cihanjuang mengakui kepiawaian Uwa Enok memasak, karena masakannya selalu mendapat pujian dari sesepuh adat. Kata Uwa Enok, kemampuan memasak penting bagi perempuan Cihanjuang, tidak saja karena nikmatnya masakan akan membuat keluarga bahagia, tapi juga sebagai bentuk syukur atas apa yang kita dapatkan dari alam.

Saat masih tinggal bersama orangtuanya, Citrik membayangkan dia akan bersekolah seperti anak-anak lain. Namun bayangan itu pupus, karena di Cihanjuang belum ada sekolah. Anak-anak di Cihanjuang belajar dari alam.  Mereka belajar makna kesabaran dan keuletan melalui bertani.

“Alam adalah guru terbaik bagi manusia,” demikian wejangan Uwa Enok saat mengajarkan tentang ngahuma, menanam padi di ladang dengan cara tumpang sari. Padi ditanam bersama tanaman jagung dan pisang yang sudah ditanam terlebih dulu, sehingga tanah menjadi subur dan panen melimpah. Adat ngahuma ini adalah aturan yang tidak boleh dilanggar, supaya manusia tidak lupa dari mana dia berasal dan menghormati alam yang telah memberinya kehidupan.

Suara ketukan keras diikuti bunyi pintu dapur yang didorong kasar menyadarkan Citrik dari lamunannya. Dia membalikkan badan.

Terlihat Bi Nenden berjalan cepat menghampirinya. Istri dari Mang Dayat itu terlihat marah, tidak seperti biasanya. “Kamu pikir bisa memiliki suamiku karena kamu lebih muda?” Bi Nenden berteriak.

Citrik kaget merengket ketakutan.

“Perempuan tidak tahu malu!” Tangan Bi Nenden mendorong lengan Citrik dengan keras.

“Nenden!” Sebuah suara keras terdengar dari arah luar. Uwa Enok berjalan mendekat.

Saur kudu dibubut!” Uwa Enok mengingatkan falsafah adat untuk berbicara dengan hati-hati. “Ini rumahku. Kamu harus menghormatinya!” Uwa Enok berdiri di depan Citrik dengan sikap melindungi. Bibirnya bergerak merapalkan sesuatu. Tiba-tiba udara dapur terasa lembab. “Aku pun tak sudi Citrik menjadi istri kedua suamimu,” kata Uwa Enok tegas.

Semburat marah di mata Bi Nenden perlahan berubah menjadi tatapan kosong dan dia pun menangis tersedu-sedu. “Hampura, mohon maaf, Bi Nenden merajuk sambil berjongkok. “Kamu tahu bagaimana aku sudah lelah menghadapi suamiku yang buta oleh nafsu.”

“Dari mana suamimu belajar ilmu sirep?” Uwa Enok bertanya dengan nada memaksa. Pandangannya menyelidik menatap mata Bi Nenden yang langsung terlihat gugup.

“Dia belajar kepada seseorang dari selatan Pulau Jawa.” Bi Nenden menjawab lemah. “Ilmu itu menghancurkan suamiku.” Bi Nenden terisak.

Uwa Enok mengambil gelas dari rak bambu, mengisinya dengan air dari kendi, lalu meniup gelas itu sebelum disodorkan kepada Bi Nenden yang langsung meminumnya habis.

Uwa Enok berjongkok sejajar dengan Bi Nenden dan berbisik dengan suara lirih, “Mari kita ke mata air untuk minta petunjuk dari Nyi Mas Hanjuang.” Mata air Nyi Mas Hanjuang adalah tempat sakral yang berada di balik bukit. Uwa Enok sering berdoa di sana.

Kedua perempuan itu perlahan bangun dari jongkok. Uwa Enok menatap mata Bi Nenden lalu mengangguk dan menggerakkan kepalanya ke samping sebagai ajakan untuk berangkat. Mereka berjalan keluar dari dapur.

Jantung Citrik berdegup kencang saat dia memandang punggung kedua perempuan yang terlihat menjauh itu.

***

Hari sudah gelap, tapi Uwa Enok tak kunjung pulang sejak berangkat ke mata air Nyi Mas Hanjuang bersama Bi Nenden. Walaupun Citrik tahu Uwa Enok sudah biasa pergi ke mata air, hati Citrik tetap khawatir. Apakah Uwa Enok sudah makan? tanyanya dalam hati. Dia memandang lauk ulukutek leunca yang dimasaknya tadi pagi masakan kesukaan Uwa Enok yang terbuat dari oncom, campuran peragian tempe dengan leunca, jenis sayuran lalapan yang banyak tumbuh di daerah Jawa Barat. Citrik menunggu Uwa Enok sambil bergolek di pembaringan. Tidak berkuasa untuk tetap terjaga, akhirnya gadis itu pun terlelap.

***

Di tengah malam Citrik masih terlelap di pembaringan. Sinar lampu cempor membuat bayangan lekuk pinggulnya tampak di dinding. Suara tokek yang keras membuat Citrik terjaga dari tidurnya. Gadis itu mencari tubuh Uwa Enok di sebelahnya, tetapi hanya ada dirinya di pembaringan. Uwa Enok kenapa masih belum kunjung datang?  Citrik mengkhawatirkan Uwa Enok yang harus berjalan jauh ke mata air Nyi Mas Hanjuang.

Citrik teringat saat pertama kali berdoa di mata air Nyi Mas Hanjuang tahun lalu. Saat itu Citrik baru saja selesai mendapat haid yang pertama, dan Uwa Enok mengutarakan padanya bahwa sudah waktunya Citrik belajar doa khusus karena sudah menjadi perempuan dewasa. Perjalanan ke mata air Nyi Mas Hanjuang harus melewati hutan larangan. Hutan yang membentang di punggung bukit ini adalah wilayah sakral yang dilindungi oleh adat. Peraturan adat melarang wilayah hutan larangan digunakan untuk bercocok tanam, apalagi memotong pohonnya tanpa ijin dari sesepuh adat. “Tidak boleh pakai alas kaki dan tidak boleh bicara sepatah kata pun.” Uwa Enok menjelaskan adab sebelum melewati hutan larangan.

Malam itu, suara jangkrik yang riuh berirama menemani perjalanan dua orang perempuan, melalui hutan larangan.  Citrik berjalan di belakang Uwa Enok yang memegang obor. Citrik teringat rasa dingin di telapak kakinya saat menapaki tanah yang lembab. Baju hangat dan kain kebaya tebal tidak mampu menahan angin gunung yang menusuk sampai tulang. Saat itu, sebenarnya dia sudah lelah dan kedinginan, tapi mengadu pada Uwa Enok hanya akan membuat perempuan tua itu gusar. Citrik sudah hapal tabiat Uwa Enok. Jika keinginannya tidak terpenuhi pasti akan marah, berbeda dengan sifat dirinya yang selalu mengalah.

Air terjun Nyi Mas Hanjuang adalah sebuah bengkahan kecil di antara tebing. Mereka tiba di sana hampir tengah malam. Cahaya obor menunjukkan bebatuan besar di sekitarnya. Citrik mendengar suara air yang keras, menunjukkan air terjun ini deras dan letaknya cukup tinggi.

Uwa Enok menjura dan duduk di atas batu, diikuti oleh Citrik.

Tetap tanpa suara, Citrik langsung mengambil sesajen dari kain gendongan. Baskom berukuran kecil berisi satu ekor ayam panggang, sebuah kelapa muda dan bunga kenanga segenggam tertata rapi di atas batu.

Uwa Enok membakar dupa. Lalu kedua perempuan itu duduk bersila, mulai berdoa. Hanya terdengar derasnya suara air terjun, Citrik semakin tenggelam dalam semedinya. Wajah dan tubuhnya basah terkena cipratan air yang memandikannya. Rasa dingin di tubuhnya berangsur-angsur menjadi biasa. Wangi dupa memenuhi relung hidung dan mengantarkan pikiran Citrik melayang, mengapung, membubung bersama mantra yang mengalir dari bibirnya.

“Aku terima yang kau berikan” sebuah suara wanita yang lembut tiba-tiba terdengar di antara rapalan mantra. Nadanya jelas dan terdengar bersahaja. Suara itu bukan masuk ke telinga Citrik, lebih tepat terdengar di dalam kepalanya.

“Saya sudah melengkapi seluruh syarat yang Nyi Mas minta,” suara Uwa Enok, masih terdengar di dalam kepala Citrik.

“Ada di tanganmu,” suara lembut itu terdengar lagi.

Uwa Enok mengatupkan kedua telapak tangannya di atas kepala untuk beberapa saat, lalu menariknya ke pangkuan dengan gerakan cepat. Sesaat dibukanya kedua telapak tangan, terlihat besi tipis dan kecil berwarna emas kehitaman sepanjang telapak tangan. Uwa Enok kembali menjura dan mengucapkan rasa terima kasih.

“Keris ini adalah titipan yang harus kau jaga” suara lembut itu kembali terdengar, “Gunakanlah untuk menjaga keselarasan antara manusia dan alam.”

Uwa Enok kembali mengucapkan terima kasih lalu menyentuh lengan Citrik mengajak pamit pulang. Mereka berjalan menjauh dari mata air. Perjalanan pulang tidak seberat saat berangkat, terasa lebih cepat berlalu. Mereka tiba di kampung saat subuh mulai menyentuh punggung Gunung Cimentang.

Citrik melamun sambil rebahan di pembaringan. Lamunannya mengantarkan kantuknya kembali menyerang. Gadis itu pun kembali tertidur pulas.

***

Kabut subuh masih menyelimuti kampung Cihanjuang, ketika Uwa Enok membuka pintu dapur. Perempuan tua itu masuk dengan gerakan perlahan. Buliran keringat terlihat di dahinya, dia nampak kelelahan namun bibirnya tersenyum saat memandang Citrik yang terlelap di atas dipan bambu. Uwa Enok menarik selimut yang tergulung di kaki Citrik, dan menyelimuti tubuh gadis itu. Diusapnya kepala Citrik perlahan, sebelum merebahkan dirinya untuk beristirahat.

***

Saat malam Jumat Kliwon, malam Jumat yang dikenal keramat oleh penghuni Dessa Cihanjuang, Citrik menyiapkan sesajen di dapur seperti biasanya. Empat butir telur rebus, segelas kopi pahit, lima kuncup bunga mawar, segenggam bunga kenanga, satu butir kelapa hijau, dan satu sisir pisang mas. Sesajen disimpan di pojok ruangan bersisian dengan hawu. Uwa Enok yang mulai membakar dupa, merogoh isi kutang dan mengambil kain putih yang membungkus Keris Nyi Mas Hanjuang. Perlahan Uwa Enok menempatkan keris itu di antara sesajen setelah melepaskan kain pembungkusnya.  

Harum dupa mengisi dapur sampai ke langit-langit. Asap dupa dan hawu bersatu. Citrik duduk bersila di sebelah Uwa Enok. Keduanya menjura ke arah sesajen lalu menempatkan kedua telapak tangan di atas tungkai.

Uwa Enok mulai membaca mantra dengan suara lirih.

Hanjuang beureum hejo.  Hanjuang berwarna merah hijau.

Hanjuang nu ngaleupaskeun. Membebaskan simpul yang tercengkeram. 

Ti kiwa tengen luhung mancur. Hanjuang pembawa ilmu. 

Poek mongkleng sateuacan isuk. Di gelap gulita sebelum pagi.

Mantranya berbeda dari yang biasa kita baca setiap malam Jumat ya, Uwa?” tanya Citrik

“Perintah Nyi Mas Hanjuang.” Uwa Enok menjawab tanpa memandang wajah Citrik.

Melihat bahasa tubuh Uwa Enok, Citrik enggan bertanya lebih lanjut. Dia pun memejamkan mata dan mulai mengikuti rapalan mantra Uwa Enok. Beberapa saat kemudian, udara di dapur terasa lebih panas. Citrik melayang, mengapung, membubung bersama mantra yang mengalir dari bibirnya. Malam semakin tua, kabut dingin menyelimuti Cihanjuang, dan wangi kenanga ajek di dapur sepanjang malam.

***

Matahari dari balik Gunung Cimentang mulai beranjak naik. Citrik terlihat cantik menggunakan kebaya putih dan sarung berwarna hijau. Dia menunggu Uwa Enok menyiapkan dirinya untuk hadir di acara adat.

Tirai kamar tersibak dan Uwa Enok melangkah keluar. Wangi kenanga kembali menelusup ceruk hidung. Dia mengenakan kebaya putih yang biasanya, tetapi dia terlihat berbeda. Uwa Enok terlihat sangat anggun. Rambutnya disanggul cepol ke atas. Walaupun kulitnya telah keriput, tetapi terlihat bersinar. Uwa Enok tersenyum dan mengajak Citrik mengikutinya.

Citrik berjalan di belakang Uwa Enok, sesekali mencoba bersisian agar dapat mengintip wajah Uwa Enok. Citrik memeluk baskom berisi kue apem di dadanya, risau terjatuh.

Di Bale Saresehan sudah banyak warga yang datang untuk berdoa. Semua mata memandang Uwa Enok yang melangkah masuk. Dagunya terangkat, cepolnya yang tinggi membuat tulang pipinya menonjol.

Di ujung ruangan, terlihat kain batik dengan corak daun berwarna hijau dan merah, menutupi tubuh manusia beralaskan tikar pandan. Tadi pagi, panitren memukul kentongan dan mengabarkan kematian Mang Dayat kepada warga. Mang Dayat ditemukan meninggal saat tidur. Tubuhnya sudah kaku kala subuh menyentuh bumi.

Bi Nenden terlihat duduk menunduk di dekat jenazah.

Citrik menempatkan baskom yang dia pegang bersama kumpulan sesajen di dekat jenazah, lalu duduk di sebelah Uwa Enok. Wangi pandan di sekitar jenazah terpintal bersama harum kenanga dari tubuh Uwa Enok. Nada karinding melambat. Sebentar lagi acara doa kematian akan dimulai. Citrik melirik ke arah Uwa Enok.

Mata Uwa Enok memandang ke arah Bi Nenden.

Perlahan kepala Bi Nenden terangkat dan keduanya saling menatap.

Uwa Enok pun mengangguk lamban.

Sekelebat, Citrik melihat ada segaris senyum tipis di wajah kedua perempuan itu. Citrik tertegun. Daun-daun pohon hanjuang di sekitar Bale Saresehan berlenggok tertiup angin. Kematian selalu mengundang pilu, tapi kali ini tidak.

 

*****

 

The Sacred Waterfall

In 2005, Umar Thamrin received a Fulbright grant and a Catherine and William L. Magistretti Graduate Fellowship for his graduate studies in the United States. He completed his Ph.D. in Southeast Asian Studies with the designated emphasis in Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2016. Before returning to Indonesia in 2017, he received a one-year appointment as a research and teaching fellow at the University of Oregon.

Back in his home country, Umar became disturbed by several social conditions he encountered there, and is saddened that the common people have remained marginalized while society ignores the lessons of its history. These conditions have prompted him to think, to remember, and to write. He is currently teaching linguistics at Alauddin State Islamic University.

Umar can be reached at: umar2x.umar@gmail.com

 

The Sacred Waterfall

 

The reverberating tones of a bamboo karinding, mingled with the sighs of the cold night wind. As was custom, the Sudanese mouth harp was played during a meeting of the village elders. With the karinding placed between his lips, the player tapped the end of the instrument with his fingers to create the thin vibrations that added to the tension in the Bale Sarasehan.

At the end of the meeting, a village elder rushed from the civic center to Uwa Enok’s open kitchen window. “It’s confirmed!” cried the panitren to the old maid. “Citrik will marry Dayat!” Panting, he hurried away.

Seated on a bench inside the open kitchen window, Uwa Enok covered her face with both hands and wept, trying to make sense of what the panitren’s announcement meant for her niece.

Thirteen-year-old Citrik huddled near the hawu. The kitchen’s clay stove warmed her. The pepes — roasted mushrooms wrapped in banana leaves — she had eaten at dinner weren’t settling well in her stomach. Now, hearing the panitren’s words, she shivered, picturing the middle-aged man she’d always addressed as uncle becoming her husband.

Dayat and his wife, Bi Nenden, were childless. The couple were complete opposites. Dayat was talkative; Bi Nenden was quiet. The women in the village gossiped about Dayat’s affair with a woman who lived outside of Cihanjuang, a small village near Sukabumi in West Java. Some of them blamed Bi Nenden’s infertility for Dayat’s infidelity.

Why do I have to be the one who gives him children? Disgusted, Citrik nestled her slender body into her sarong and buried her face in her arms. She thought about the incident with Dayat that had happened a few days ago. Remembering the old man’s breath on her arm, Citrik shuddered.

***

That day, she and Uwa Enok had been walking home after doing laundry and bathing in the river. Citrik’s sarong was wrapped tightly around her body; her wet black hair fell loosely over her damp shoulders.

Unexpectedly Dayat had emerged from behind the treeline and blocked their passage. Leaning into Citrik, he teased, “My, my, don’t you smell nice!”

Startled, Citrik ducked behind Uwa Enok.

“What do you want, Dayat?” Uwa Enok had snapped.

“I want to marry your niece.” Mang Dayat chuckled. The cloying smell of his pomade completely smothered Citrik’s and Uwa Enok’s clean fragrance. The old man stroked his mustache and peered into Citrik’s pale face. His greedy gaze slid down her slender neck, landing briefly on her white shoulders, and — eyes widening — settled on the curves of Citrik’s hips swaddled in the wet sarong.

“Don’t be vulgar!” Uwa Enok screamed, furiously.

Mang Dayat ignored Uwa Enok and continued leering at Citrik. “I’ll build the most beautiful house in Cihanjuang for you, Citrik. I can give you everything you want with the money I make in my cattle business.”

Citrik remained silent behind her aunt, pressing her full basket of freshly-washed clothes against her trembling body.

Uwa Enok raised her chin and glared at Dayat. “Citrik will inherit my house,” she hissed through pressed lips.

Dayat laughed. “An old house from an old maid is not suitable for a girl as beautiful as Citrik.”

Fury flushed a dangerous red in Uwa Enok’s face. “Watch your mouth!” she snarled. “I’ll report you to the elders!”

Dayat burst into boisterous laughter. “With my sirep, mantra, I can hypnotize the elders, and, under the spell of my magic, I can make them do anything I say!”

Uwa Enok gasped.

Taking full delight in springing his secret on Uwa Enok, Dayat put his hands on his hips, and snickered, exposing his fat shaking belly, “I’m the law in Cihanjuang! I don’t listen to old maids like you.” Pointing at Citrik, he declared, “She’s mine!”

Citrik’s throat tightened, trying to swallow the terror of being treated as an object that could be owned by another.

Uwa Enok stood rigid until Dayat walked away. Then she turned around and hugged Citrik. In tears, they held one another on the side of the path until they calmed down. Uwa Enok wiped Citrik’s tears. “Let’s go home. People are looking at us,” she said and soothed,

“We’ll find a way out of this problem.”

***

The morning after the village elders’ decision, as the sun crept between the bamboo slats of the kitchen wall, Citrik, still upset, tried to distract herself by preparing breakfast. This kitchen, with the floor’s earthy aroma and the four strong hanjuang tree trunks anchoring each corner, felt as safe as a mother’s womb.

Uwa Enok had told her about the hanjuang tree. Its trunk, widely praised for its strength, was used as building pillars. Its red and green leaves symbolized harmony between mankind and nature. Uwa Enok had also told her that hanjuang trees were like the Cihanjuang women, who had to be strong to maintain unity in their families. Cihanjuang women reigned in the kitchen, where they turned nature’s gifts into sustenance for their families. “This kitchen, and everything in it, will be yours, Citrik.” Uwa Enok had promised her.

Citrik unhooked the wooden latch and pushed the window open. The cold morning breeze brought some color to her pale cheeks. Her thick eyebrows and curled eyelashes added to Citrik’s natural beauty. For a moment, she stared at the sky.

***

Citrick and her father first moved to Cihanjuang from the Bandung Regency in August 1949. Cihanjuang, a small village in the mountains surrounding Sukabumi, West Java, was her father’s home village, where Uwa Enok, his only sister, lived. Her father had wept on Uwa Enok’s lap as he told her about the Islamic Armed Forces of Indonesia setting fire to their village.

Citrik was five years old. It had happened so fast. She remembered waking up in her father’s arms, her vision blurred by the thick smoke. She gasped as the hot air filled her lungs.

Clutching her to his chest, her father raced out of the burning house, with the fire raging around them. Outside was a chaos of panicked people running, screaming, and crying.

Citrik’s mother didn’t make it out of their house.

“That night, a mob from the Islamic Armed Forces in Tasikmalaya attacked the Indonesian Army’s headquarter there,” Citrik’s father told his sister bitterly. “No one expected the mob to attack our village. That mob leader, Sekarmadji Maridjan Kartosoewirjo, wants West Java to become the Islamic State of Indonesia. According to him, the current government is allowing the Dutch to maintain control and therefore he is planning an insurgence.”

When the Indonesian Army came too close, the Islamic Armed Forces mob retreated to the forest. Because the mob needed a large supply of food to survive while hiding in the forest, they demanded that each village household leave rice and other food items on the porch before they abandoned their villages. They destroyed the houses of those who did not comply.

After having lived for so many years in the Bandung Regency with Citrik and her mother, Citrik’s father’s days back in his home village were filled with grieving his wife’s death.

Soon, he began talking to himself, and neighbors started whispering about “the crazy man.” Then, one morning, Uwa Enok found her brother, after living less than two years in Cihanjuang, lying cold on his bed. He had died in his sleep.

Grief made Citrik grow into a quiet, lonely girl.

***

Citrik’s slender fingers placed three sticks of firewood, one by one, into the hawu hole. She pressed her thin lips against a short piece of bamboo and gently blew air onto the coals until they flamed. Citrik wondered where Uwa Enok was that morning. Even though Uwa Enok rarely spoke, Citrik felt safer when her aunt was around.

Citrik lifted the langseng and placed it on the hawu. The large copper pot was used to boil water, but it was also used as a water pan for steaming. The golden yellow pot looked like an upside-down magician’s hat. Cooking, Citrik thought was just like performing a magic show.

It was Uwa Enok who had introduced Citrik to the adventure of cooking. In Cihanjuang, Uwa Enok was known as a skilled cook. The village elders always praised her culinary talent. Uwa Enok said that cooking was an important skill for Cihanjuang women to possess, not only because well-prepared food brought joy to their family, but also because it was an expression of gratitude for nature’s gifts.

Uwa Enok taught Citrik many things. While living in Bandung, Citrik had assumed she would go to school like the other children. But that notion disappeared when she and her father arrived in Cihanjuang, which had no schools.

“Nature is our best teacher,” Uwa Enok had advised Citrik, while showing her ngahuma, farming rice by intercropping. Rice was planted next to corn and bananas to fertilize the soil, resulting in a more abundant harvest. The ngahuma was an important tradition that reminded humans of their humble origins and to respect nature as the source of life. Thus, children in Cihanjuang learned the meaning of patience and courage through farming.

A loud knock on the kitchen door startled Citrik from her daydream. She whirled around as the door flung open with a loud bang.

Bi Nenden rushed in, her placid face contorted with outrage. “You think you can steal my husband because you’re younger?” shouted Mang Dayat’s wife.

Stunned, Citrik began to tremble.

“Shameless bitch!” Bi Nenden grabbed Citrik’s arm and shoved her hard.

“Nenden!” Shouted a voice from outside. Uwa Enok walked through the door. “Saur kudu dibubut!” she said, standing protectively in front of Citrik. “This is my house. You must be respectful!” Uwa Enok’s lips moved, as if chanting silently, and the air in the kitchen turned damp. “I don’t want Citrik to be your husband’s wife, either,” she said.

The fury in Bi Nenden’s eyes dissolved into a blank stare. She started to cry. “Hampura, forgive me,” Bi Nenden moaned as she slumped into a squat on the earthen floor. “If only you knew how tired I am of dealing with a husband who’s blinded by lust.”

“Where did your husband learn hypnotism?” Uwa Enok asked, looking intently at Bi Nenden.

“He learned it from someone in the southern part of Java,” Bi Nenden answered softly between tears. “That knowledge destroyed my husband.”

Uwa Enok took a glass from the bamboo rack and filled it with water from a clay jug. She blew her support on the glass before handing it to Bi Nenden, who emptied it immediately.

Uwa Enok squatted on the floor next to Bi Nenden. “Let’s go to the waterfall to ask Nyi Mas Hanjuang for advice,” she whispered encouragingly. The Nyi Mas Hanjuang waterfall was a sacred place on the other side of a sacred forest on the mountain ridge. Uwa Enok often went there to pray. The old woman looked into Bi Nenden’s eyes, nodded, and tilted her head toward the door. The two women rose and slowly walked out of the kitchen.

Watching the two women’s backs as they walked away, Citrik’s heartbeat quickened.

***

It was already dark, but Uwa Enok and Bi Nenden had not returned home from their visit to the Nyi Mas Hanjuang waterfall. Even though Citrik knew that Uwa Enok was accustomed to visiting the waterfall, she still worried.

Looking at the ulukutek leunca she had cooked earlier that morning, Citrik wondered if Uwa Enok had eaten yet. The traditional Sundanese salad was her aunt’s favorite dish. It was made from oncom, fermented tempeh, and fruit and leaves of leunca, black nightshade, a flowering plant that grew in West Java.

Citrik decided to lie down while waiting for her aunt’s return. Unable to stay awake, the girl finally fell asleep.

***

Midnight came, and Citrik was still fast asleep on her bed. The light of the oil lamp cast a shadow of her curved hip against the wall. A gecko’s deep, throaty call woke Citrik. The girl looked for Uwa Enok next to her, but she was alone on the bed. Why is Uwa Enok not home yet? Citrik grew more worried. It was quite a long walk to the Nyi Mas Hanjuang waterfall.

Citrik thought about another midnight, one year ago, when she had prayed for her first time at the Nyi Mas Hanjuang waterfall. Citrik had just completed her first menstrual cycle, and now that she had become a woman, Uwa Enok told her it was time to learn the special prayers.

To get to the Nyi Mas Hanjuang waterfall, they had to travel through  an enchanted forest on a mountain ridge protected by traditional law. The area could not be used for farming, and no trees could be cut without permission from the village elders. “We must walk barefooted, and we are not allowed to speak,” Uwa Enok had explained to Citrik before they entered.

That night, accompanied by the lively chirping of crickets, Uwa Enok and Citrik walked barefoot through the sacred forest. Citrik walked behind Uwa Enok, who carried a torch.

Citrik still remembered how cold her feet were as she stepped across the damp ground. Her warm clothes and heavy kebaya, long-sleeved blouse, had not been enough to protect her from the cold mountain wind that pierced her to the core. But although she was tired and cold, Citrik knew better than to complain. She knew her aunt’s character well. Unlike herself, who was always compliant, Uwa Enok became angry when she didn’t get her way.

It was almost midnight when they arrived at the Nyi Mas Hanjuang waterfall. The water broke out of a steep cliff. The light from Uwa Enok’s torch illuminated the large steep rocks around it. Citrik could hear the roar of cascading water, which told her that the feeder stream was heavy, and the waterfall was high.

Uwa Enok bowed and sat down on a flat rock. Citrik silently unfastened the sarong sling that held their offerings. She took the small bowl filled with a roasted whole chicken, a young coconut, and a handful of cananga flowers, and arranged everything neatly on the rock.

Uwa Enok lit incense. Then, seated cross-legged, they began to pray. The only sound came from the rushing water. Citrik sank deeper into her meditation as the falling water misted her face and body. The scent of the incense filled Citrik’s nostrils. Her thoughts drifted as her mind followed the cadence of the mantra she recited.

“I accept your offering.” A soft female voice interrupted Citrik’s silent chanting. The voice was clear and its tone unassuming.

“I have done everything you asked for.” Citrik heard Uwa Enok’s voice.

“It’s in your hands,” answered the soft female voice.

Uwa Enok clasped her hands above her head. She held them there for a moment before bringing them down to her lap with one swift movement. When she opened her hands, she held a thin piece of metal the length of her palm. Uwa Enok bowed and expressed her gratitude.

“This kris is entrusted to you,” said the soft female voice. “Use it to maintain harmony between humans and their natural environment.”

Uwa Enok again thanked the spirit. She touched Citrik’s arm, motioning that they were leaving. The journey back home was not as laborious as their trip to the waterfall. They arrived at the village as dawn crawled up the back of Mount Cimentang.

Citrik’s mind wandered as she remembered that first visit. Soon, she fell asleep again.

***

The early morning mist still veiled Cihanjuang when Uwa Enok opened the kitchen door. The old woman entered slowly. Perspiration dampened her forehead. Though exhausted, she smiled looking at her niece, fast asleep on the bamboo cot. Uwa Enok pulled up the blanket that had rolled down to Citrik’s feet and covered the girl. She gently stroked Citrik’s head before lying down beside her.

Thursday nights were sacred nights in the Cihanjuang village, and Citrik prepared the offerings in the kitchen as usual. Four boiled eggs, a cup of black coffee, five rose buds, a handful of cananga flowers, a young green coconut, and a hand of lady-finger bananas.

She placed the offerings in the corner of the room next to the hawu.

Uwa Enok lit the incense. She reached inside her camisole and took out the Nyi Mas Hanjuang kris, wrapped in white cloth. She slowly unwrapped the kris and placed it carefully among the other offerings. The scent of incense spiraled up to the kitchen ceiling, its smoke mingling with that of the kitchen fire.

Citrik sat cross-legged next to Uwa Enok. Placing their palms on their thighs, they bowed toward the offerings.

Uwa Enok began to whisper a chant in Sundanese.

Hanjuang beureum héjo,

Hanjuang is red and green,

Hanjuang nu ngaleupaskeun,

Hanjuang frees those in bondage,

Ti kiwa tengen luhung mancur,

Hanjuang brings knowledge,

Poek mongkleng sateuacan isuk,

During the dark hours before the break of dawn.

“Uwa, is the mantra different from the one we usually chant on Thursday nights?” Citrik asked.

“It is the way Nyi Mas Hanjuang ordered it,” Uwa Enok answered, without looking at Citrik.

Sensing that now was not a good time to question her aunt any further, Citrik closed her eyes and began to follow Uwa Enok’s chanting. A few moments later, the temperature in the kitchen rose — it became very hot. As she recited the mantra, Citrik fell under its spell. The night was growing older and a cold fog shrouded Cihanjuang. Throughout the night, the cananga fragrance lingered in the kitchen.

***

The rising sun peeked out from behind Mount Cimentang. Citrik looked beautiful, dressed in a white kebaya and green sarong. She waited for Uwa Enok to get ready.

The room’s door curtain parted, and the fragrance of cananga filled Citrik’s nostrils again. Uwa Enok wore her usual white kebaya, but she looked different — she looked elegant. Her hair was tied in a bun on top of her head, and her wrinkled skin was radiant. Uwa Enok smiled and asked Citrik to follow her.

Carrying a bowl of apem, steamed cakes made of palm sugar and rice flour, Citrik walked behind Uwa Enok. Worried that she would drop the bowl, Citrik held it tightly against her chest. Every so often, Citrik moved next to Uwa Enok to glance at the older woman’s face.

At the Bale Saresehan, many people had already arrived to pray. All eyes were on Uwa Enok as she entered the hall with her chin raised. Her high bun accentuated her cheekbones.

At the end of the hall, a batik cloth patterned with green and red leaves covered a body lying on a pandan mat. Earlier that morning, a village elder had beaten the bamboo drum and announced Mang Dayat’s death to the villagers. Mang Dayat had died in his sleep. His body was already stiff when the first light of dawn broke through the horizon.

Bi Nenden sat next to the body, staring at the floor.

Citrik placed the bowl of cakes with the other offerings near the shrouded body, then sat down next to Uwa Enok. The pandan’s fragrance mixed with the cananga scent from Uwa Enok’s skin. The karinding music tapered off. Soon, the funeral prayer would begin. Citrik glanced at Uwa Enok.

Uwa Enok was looking at Bi Nenden.

Bi Nenden raised her head slowly, and the two women looked at each other.

Uwa Enok nodded briefly.

Stunned, Citrik saw the two women exchange faint smiles.

The foliage of the hanjuang trees around the Bale Saresehan swayed in the wind.

Death usually invites grief and mourning — but not this time.

 

*****

 

 

 

 

 

.

Jejak

Wina Bojonegoro is the recipient of the 2018 Anugerah Sabda Budaya Sastra Award from Universitas Brawijaya, the 2021 Beritajaim.com Award. She has been writing short stories since 1988. Her stories have been published in several national media and dozens of anthologies.

In March 2021, she established Perempuan Penulis Padma to accommodate graduates from Padmedia, a writing group of female writers. Wina lives in Omah Padma, Pasuruan. She can be contacted at wina.bojonegoro@gmail.com, and more information about her can be found at www.winabojonegoro.com.

 

Jejak

 

Lelaki yang rambutnya memutih itu duduk di teras samping rumahnya, menatap pohon mangga lalijiwo yang tengah menunggu musim panen tiba. Seharusnya Wibowo bahagia, seperti musim-musim sebelumnya. Tetapi kali ini, ada sesuatu yang meruyak pikirannya.

“Aku telah gagal,” gumamnya seraya menghela nafas panjang seolah dia hendak membuang segenap benih kekacauan.

“Kita tidak gagal.” Suara istrinya menelikung dari arah samping, melalui kembara hening yang menggenggam sore itu. “Dia berhasil menyelesaikan pendidikan strata dua di Jerman dengan beasiswa. Sekarang telah bekerja sebagai peneliti pada lembaga besar dengan gaji yang bagus. Kita tidak sia-sia mendidiknya.”

Wibowo menoleh ke samping. Di kursi yang sejajar dengan dirinya duduk Respati Rahayu, yang telah dinikahi lebih dari tiga puluh lima tahun. Selama ini perempuan itulah yang mendukungnya untuk menentukan apapun. Pilihan hidup, membangun rumah, bahkan memilih calon menantu di antara sekian lelaki yang disodorkan anak semata wayang mereka.

“Kurasa kita selama ini sepakat, bahwa keberhasilan orang tua dalam mendidik anak bukan sekedar ditandai pada pendidikan tinggi.” Wibowo ingin berpidato panjang lebar, tetapi melihat isterinya menyuguhkan teh serai kesukaannya, dia menelan ludah, lalu membuang nafas lagi. Direguknya teh serai wangi yang selalu menjadi teman mereka berbincang di sore hari. Irisan jahe dalam campuran serai menerbitkan pedas hangat di tenggorokannya. Kosarasa yang selalu dikenang saat mereka berjauhan, teh serai dengan irisan jahe buatan Respati Rahayu.

“Sementara orang lain tidak tahu harus bagaimana menangani pendidikan anaknya, kita berhasil menanamkan nilai, bahwa sekolah dengan bea siswa itu sebuah kehormatan.” Sang isteri memulai lagi. “Kita tak perlu menyuap agar anak kita mendapatkan pendidikan baik. Mulai SD sampai S2 dia selalu masuk sekolah terbaik. Palupi tumbuh menjadi anak mandiri, tanpa merepotkan kita. Ini pencapaian kita sebagai orang tua.”

“Keberhasilan orang tua, yang paling penting adalah menanamkan nilai-nilai kebangsaan,” ujar Wibowo sembari menggenggamkan tangan. “Pendidikan memang sangat penting; tetapi menanamkan nilai kebangsaan, itulah dasar dari semua sikap dan perilaku.”

Respati Rahayu menoleh kepada suaminya dengan mata memicing. “Jadi anak kita tidak punya wawasan kebangsaan?” Suaranya meninggi. “Kurang apa? Dia hapal pancasila. Punya bendera di lemari yang siap dikibarkan kapan saja, hapal lagu Indonesia Raya tiga stansa.” Mata Respati yang biasanya lembut, kali ini terlihat nyalang. “Malah kita punya seperangkat gamelan yang masih dimainkan. Kita menggunakan bahasa Jawa dan bahasa negara dalam perbincangan sehari-hari. Anak kita juga….”

“Bagaimana bisa kamu bilang anakmu itu berkebangsaan?” Wibowo menyela. “Mencari nama buat calon anaknya saja impor. Apa tidak ada nama Indonesia atau Jawa yang indah dan gagah?” wajah Wibowo yang sudah tegang sejak semula, menjadi kian kencang. Lelaki Jawa yang bersikeras membangun joglo di bagian depan rumah induk itu terlihat sangat masgul.

Nama Wibowo Besari yang disandangnya adalah pesan leluhur yang berarti: lelaki berwibawa, digdaya tanpa menyakiti, besar tetapi tidak jumawa, mengayomi tanpa merendahkan. Nama itu serupa titah sang romo yang pernah menjabat sebagai camat di kawasan Tejowangi ini.

Wong Jowo ojo nganti ilang Jawane. Jadi orang Jawa jangan sampai hilang jati dirinya.” Ucapan ayah Wibowo Besari itu, dijadikan pegangan dalam menjalani hidup. Sebab demikianlah takdir telah disematkan atas dirinya sebagai wong Jowo, maka dibuatlah rumah joglo, pendopo seni, sebagai ciri kejawaan dan membeli seperangkat gamelan slendro dan pelog. Lalu, dia mengajak para tetangga memainkannya. Sesekali jika rejeki membaik, keluarga ini mengundang tetangga untuk kenduri di rumah joglo itu. Nasi tumpeng dengan ayam ingkung, ayam panggang dalam keseluruhannya, menjadi hidangan wajib yang disuguhkan.

***

Terngiang di kotak ingatan Respati perselisihan lama antara dirinya dan sang suami. “Palupi Retnaningrum Hapsari itu kepanjangan. Cukup dua nama seperti kita. Wibowo Besari. Respati Rahayu.” Keluh Respati sembari mengelus perutnya yang membuncit.

“Diajeng tahu artinya tiga nama itu?” Tanya Wibowo muda dengan senyum menggoda.

“Ya tahulah. ‘Palupi’ artinya teladan. ‘Hapsari’ artinya permata yang bersinar. Sek sek… ‘Retnaningrum’ artinya apa ya Mas?”

“Retnaningrum artinya kepribadian yang luwes dan welas asih. Jadi harapanku anak ini kelak menjadi pribadi yang welas asih, berhati mulia, menjadi teladan bagi orang-orang di sekelilingnya.” Sepasang mata Wibowo muda berkilau.

“Itu kalau anak kita perempuan. Lha, kalau lelaki?” Respati melirik tajam ke arah suaminya.

“Dia akan kuberi nama Jagad Reksaning Bawono. Tetapi kata bu bidan, anak kita perempuan.” Wibowo tersenyum lebar, tanda kemenangan.

Saat itulah Respati paham bahwa nama dalam tatanan kemasyarakatan Jawa memiliki aturan tak tertulis. Satu nama menandakan keluarga itu dari golongan petani atau pekerja tingkat bawah. Dua nama biasa digunakan dalam keluarga pegawai pemerintahan, guru atau pedagang. Tiga nama lazim digunakan keluarga ningrat atau pejabat tinggi. Namun, saat ini penggolongan itu tidak lagi menjadi pakem. Meski begitu, Wibowo memiliki pendirian: menggunakan nama Jawa pada anak cucunya adalah wajib, agar darah yang mengalir di tubuh mereka terpantulkan dari nama yang disematkan.

***

Kabar saat Palupi mengandung anak pertama, tentu menjadi sebuah cahaya bagi pasangan yang terlambat memiliki cucu. Hasil pemeriksaan USG mengabarkan anak dalam kandungan Palupi adalah perempuan. Wibowo mulai menderas nama berminggu-minggu, hingga suatu hari dia tampak tersenyum simpul di rumah joglo.

“Aku telah menemukan nama yang tepat buat cucu kita,” katanya pada Respati yang menyusul duduk di kursi rotan jengki. “Maharani Mahisa Suramardini.” Dengan pengucapan patah-patah dan suara didengung-dengungkan, Wibowo mengucapkan nama itu disertai wajah puas.

Respati mendelik.

“Kenapa? Hebat kan?” tanya sang suami.

Respati menggeleng. “Orang Jawa kalau keberatan nama bisa sakit-sakitan.”

“Tunggu dulu.” Wibowo melanjutkan dengan mata berbinar-binar, “Maharani Mahisa Suramardini adalah gelar Ratu Sima, raja Kalingga yang mashur. Dia bukan saja ratu yang adil dan bisa menerima perbedaan agama, namun juga cantik jelita. Budi pekertinya luhur, sehingga dicintai kaum jelata, disegani golongan kelas atas.”

“Tapi kita ini bukan golongan atasan, Pak. Apalagi trah raja atau ratu. Kita cuma pensiunan pegawai negeri. Kebetulan saja mertuaku pensiunan camat. Masa iya memberi nama cucu seberat itu?” tangkis Respati dengan pikiran ruwet. Setelah diam sejenak, dia berkata, “Mengeja namanya saja susah. Bagiku nama Ningsih, Endang, Wati, itu jauh lebih mudah dan indah.”

Wibowo tersenyum lebar, “Sudah kurenungkan berminggu-minggu. Kucarikan padanan dan perbandingan, lihat itu di buku catatanku. Ada berapa ratus nama dengan artinya?” Wibowo meraih buku catatan bersampul biru di atas meja kecil, mengacungkannya pada Respati sambil berkata, “Ini perjuangan tak mudah untuk menemukan nama yang tepat buat cucu pertama kita. Sebagai kakek, aku ingin turut andil dalam melestarikan nama, tanda kecintaan kita pada leluhur.”

Respati hanya bisa mengangkat pundak. Darahnya pun Jawa tulen, seluruh urutan garis leluhurnya adalah Jawa. Namun dalam melakoninya sehari-hari, suaminya jauh lebih Jawa dari dirinya.

Wibowo memegang teguh falsafah Memayu Hayuning Bawana yang memiliki makna menjunjung tinggi kemanfaatan diri bagi dunia dan isinya. Barang siapa berbuat kebaikan, dia akan selamat dunia akhirat. Salah satu wujudnya adalah, menolak pagar beton atau besi. Dia menggantinya dengan pagar pohon beluntas, yang ditanam rapat mengelilingi batas halaman sebagai kesadaran hidup bertetangga yang saling menghidupi. Beluntas itu menjadi sayuran yang boleh diambil siapa saja sebagai bahan urap-urap atau pecel.

Merasa telah menemukan wangsit nan jitu, Wibowo menelpon Palupi dengan gegap gempita. “Maharani Mahisa Suramardini. Ini nama yang luar biasa, Ndhuk. Jejak kita sebagai wong Jowo akan terekam dalam nama anakmu. Kelak ketika dia dewasa, orang-orang luar sana akan mengenal anakmu sebagai orang Jawa. Jangan lupa, jika ada yang bertanya, kakeknya yang memberi nama!” calon kakek itu tertawa riang.

“Romo…,” suara Palupi mengandung keengganan, dari nadanya dia terdengar ingin melawan.

“Bagaimana? Bagus kan nama pilihan Romo?” Nada bangga Wibowo masih tergambar.

“Tapi Romo, maaf, kami telah menemukan nama buat bayi kami.”

Jawaban Palupi itu seketika mencegah Wibowo untuk berkata selanjutnya. Raut wajahnya mendadak kaku dan pasi. Dia menatap istrinya, yang juga tengah menatapnya.

Kekecewaan mewarnai mata sang calon kakek.

“Lalu siapa nama yang akan kau berikan pada anakmu?” Respati tampak mencoba mencairkan ketegangan yang mendadak hadir di antara dua pihak.

“Alexa Caroline Andromeda,” jawab Palupi kembali riang, seakan dia telah menemukan gugusan bintang di langit yang mudah diraih dengan kedua lengannya.

“Artinya?” tanya sang ibu lagi.

“Alexa itu bahasa Yunani, artinya perempuan pembela manusia. Caroline artinya tangguh dan mengagumkan. Andromeda adalah nama gugusan bintang di alam semesta yang sangat luas, jauh lebih besar dari Bimasakti.”

“Kenapa harus pakai bahasa Yunani? Tidak adakah nama asli Indonesia atau Jawa yang cukup memadai sebagai pengganti anak perempuan hebat?” Sesungguhnya ini kalimat Wibowo. Respati mencoba mengutipnya.

“Anu Bu, sudah terlanjur.” Suara Palupi terdengar gamang.

“Terlanjur bagaimana? Wong anak belum lahir kok.” Sekarang Respati yang mulai merasa masgul. Dia tak ingin anaknya salah menyikapi bayinya, sesuatu yang sangat dilarang dalam budaya Jawa.

“Sudah memesan pakaian bayi, keranjang tidur, dan lukisan dinding kamar tidur dengan nama itu.” Nada suaranya menurun, seakan menyesal telah menyampaikan.

“Kamu kok lancang tho, Nduk?” Wibowo menyela. “Kamu jangan nggege mongso ⸺ mendahului kehendak Tuhan. Jangan membeli perlengkapan bayi sebelum upacara tingkeban yang diadakan saat kandungan berusia tujuh bulan agar kamu dan bayimu sehat dan persalinannya lancar. Keheningan hadir setelah kalimat itu terlontar.

“Palupi, kamu tahu kenapa huruf ha na ca ra ka itu nyaris lenyap?” tiba-tiba sang ayah mendesak.

Palupi terdiam.

Respati membasuh wajah dengan kedua tangan, menyadari kegentingan akan panjang.

“Sepertinya anak-anak muda sudah tidak ngajeni leluhurnya.” Wibowo berhenti sejenak, kemudian melanjutkan dengan suara meninggi, “Kenapa nama saja harus impor? Nama seharusnya digunakan untuk menjaga nilai kedirian, agar anak-anak muda tak lupa akar leluhurnya.” Wibowo menunggu tanggapan Palupi. Ketika tidak juga muncul, dia menyerang, “Mestinya kalian malu sama orang Jepang. Mereka maju. Mengikuti jaman, tapi perilakunya tetap Jepang. Budaya mereka abadi. Hurup kanji dipakai sampai sekarang.” Wibowo berhenti terengah-engah sebelum menyambung dengan tegas, “Nama mereka pun tetap Jepang.”

Palupi tetap membeku.

Dengan berusaha menerobos keheningan, Wibowo mengakhiri dengan berteriak, “Kamu apa? Jawa? Indonesia? Bule bangsa apa?”

***

Sejak hari itu, Wibowo enggan berbicara dengan Palupi, anak perempuan yang dulu sangat dipujanya. Dia lupa, Palupi pernah menjadi bahan pembicaraan di pertemuan apapun, dengan siapapun.

Respati, sebagaimana seorang ibu, selalu berusaha menjadi jembatan dalam hubungan antara ayah dan anak yang membeku sejak persoalan nama itu mencuat.

“Ndhuk, apakah kamu tak ingin menyapa romomu lebih dulu?” Sang calon nenek menelpon tanpa sepengetahuan suaminya.

Palupi mendesah.

Embusan napasnya terdengar oleh Respati yang meneruskan dengan desakan, “Apa sulitnya menerima usulan nama romo?” Pertanyaannya hanya disambut dengan jeda panjang.

Kemudian Palupi berkata, “Bu, Palupi memang orang Jawa. Itu darah yang mengalir di tubuh saya tak dapat disangkal. Namun, sebagai seseorang, saya berhak memberi nama anak saya sesuai dengan selera. Seperti Romo dulu juga memberi nama Palupi sesuai dengan keinginan Romo dan Ibu.”

“Boleh. Tetapi yang tidak disukai romo adalah nama impor itu. Gunakan nama Jawa atau Indonesia yang mampu menjadi jati diri leluhurmu.” Dada Respati penuh, tetapi ditahannya kuat-kuat. Sebagai ibu, dia tidak pernah mengalami perselisihan seruncing ini dengan anaknya. “Seandainya kamu tahu, bagaimana romo berjuang menderas nama buat cucu pertamanya, kamu akan bangga ditakdirkan lahir dari benihnya.”

“Saya mengerti. Tetapi saya harus menghormati suami saya. Dia punya hak memberi nama pada darah dagingnya.”

Bendungan yang menahan beban akhirnya meluber. Pelan-pelan air mata bergulir di pipi Respati yang telah kehilangan kemulusannya. Matanya kelabu. Benar, dia tak salah mendidik Palupi. Tetapi sungguh, dia tak menyangka akan sekokoh ini sikapnya. “Apakah kamu sudah bicara dengan suamimu soal nama itu?” suara parau meluncur dari tenggorokan Respati.

“Belum. Seperti Ibu menghormati sikap Romo, saya pun menghormati suami. Bukankah itu yang Ibu ajarkan? Saya menunggu waktu yang tepat untuk membahas soal nama Jawa dengan Bang Syarif. Pada saat itu baru saya akan usulkan.”

Hening menjaga jarak di antara ibu-anak.

“Ibu berharap suamimu mengerti.” Respati merendahkan suaranya. “Nama yang kita sematkan untuk anak kita adalah upaya melestarikan jatidiri. Kelak mereka pasti akan menelusuri jejak budaya dan leluhurnya, setidaknya dimulai dari bertanya arti namanya,”

Respati merasa menemukan kalimat yang tepat. “Ciri khas daerah dalam nama itu akan selalu dibawa oleh si anak ke mana pun dia pergi, dan menjadi ciri khas di negeri manapun, dia akan dikenali sebagai anak Indonesia, khusunya Jawa.”

Palupi tahu, ketika ibunya telah berbicara dalam nada rendah, itu adalah perasaan penting yang keluar dari hati. Dia tidak menyela ketika ibunya melanjutkan, “Tetapi meski terlahir sebagai wong Jawa, kami tak ingin menjadi kolot. Masih ingat? Ketika kamu menyodorkan calon suami, pertanyaan romo waktu itu bukan kenapa bukan orang Jawa? Apakah sudah punya rumah? Dari keluarga apa? Tidak kan? Pertanyaan Romo hanya satu: apakah dia menjunjung tinggi kehormatanmu sebagai perempuan?

Terdengar isak kecil dari seberang.

Respati menahan diri agar tak larut dalam suasana. Dia menyadari, dalam dunia yang serba cepat dan tanpa batas saat ini, menjaga jejak kebangsaan melalui nama amatlah muskil. Nama berbau dunia luar seringkali lebih terlihat kekinian. Menjaga nama-nama Jawa tetap digunakan bagaikan menegakkan benang basah.

***

Makan malam yang seharusnya sederhana dan riang sebagaimana tiga tahun berjalan, tidak lagi malam ini. Palupi terlihat menahan gelombang di dadanya. Sementara Syarif Hidayatullah, sang suami, mengunyah makanan lambat-lambat seperti tak ada rasa dalam masakan itu. Suara televisi menyiarkan berita banjir di sana sini, membuat Palupi semakin tegang. Dia mematikan TV.

Lelaki campuran Bugis – Palembang yang meminang Palupi dengan seperangkat alat sholat dan perhiasan emas itu menyudahi makan malam dalam diam. Dia meneguk air putih lalu berdiri, tak ingin melanjutkan perbincangan yang sudah dimulai oleh Palupi sejak mereka duduk di ruang makan itu.

“Tunggu, Bang. Kita belum selesai,” sergah Palupi.

Syarif kembali duduk dengan enggan, jemarinya memain-mainkan gelas yang telah kosong.

“Kumohon Abang bisa menerima ini. Soal nama anak kita, dan soal upacara tingkeban yang diminta Ibu.” Suara lembut Palupi terdengar seperti rayuan.

Syarif menatap isterinya dalam-dalam. Isi kepalanya mengatakan tak ingin membahas soal nama anak, baginya itu harga mati. Orang tua berhak memberi nama anak masing-masing tanpa campur tangan siapapun.

“Memang tidak menyenangkan hidup sebagai anak tunggal.” Suara Palupi berubah menjadi tegas. “Ada kewajiban secara tidak tertulis untuk meneruskan adat, dan leluhur. Aku sudah berusaha menolak mereka soal nama dan tingkeban, tapi hasilnya aku bertengkar dengan Romo dan Ibu ⸺ sesuatu yang tidak pernah terjadi seumur hidupku.” Palupi tertunduk, air mata bergulir di sepasang pipinya.

Syarif menutup mulutnya dengan kedua tangan sambil sikunya bertelekan pada meja. Ada selembar rasa bersalah melintas di hatinya. Tetapi sisi lain menolak. “Bukankah setiap anak perempuan yang diserahkan kepada mempelai pria saat akad nikah, menjadi hak sepenuhnya sang suami?” suara Syarif pelan dan datar, tetapi Palupi menyahut dengan cepat.

“Suami memberi mahar pada isteri bukan berarti membeli.” Kalimat itu terdengar garang di telinga Syarif, perempuan ini seperti bukan Palupi yang biasanya. “Murah sekali jika seorang lelaki membeli perempuan dengan seperangkat alat sholat, lalu dia berhak sepenuhnya atas perempuan itu.” Palupi menatap tajam mata suaminya yang hitam kelam.

“Berapa biaya yang dikeluarkan lelaki untuk mendapatkan seorang perempuan dalam keadaan terbaik mereka? Lalu bandingkan dengan berapa biaya orang tua merawat anak perempuan itu sejak dia dalam kandungan, hingga usia pantas menikah. Berapa nilai modal yang ditanam?”

Kata-kata yang sudah tersimpan di mulut Syarif raib.

“Aku menyerahkan diriku padamu, suamiku, karena aku mencintaimu.” Berbaris-baris kalimat telah siap dilontarkan oleh Palupi, tetapi dia menjaga martabat suaminya.

Syarif terlihat makin membeku.

“Setelah seluruh cinta mereka tumpah ruah demi anaknya semata wayang, agar aku menjadi perempuan berpendidikan dan berbudi pekerti baik, sehat jasmani dan rohani, aku menyerahkan diri sepenuhnya untukmu secara suka rela. Sekarang, sulitkah bagimu menerima nama hadiah dari orang tuaku karena semata kau ayah bayi ini?”

Syarif melihat sepasang mata istrinya berkilat. Selama tiga tahun pernikahannya, Palupi tidak pernah bicara berapi-api seperti malam ini.

“Baiklah.” Akhirnya Syarif merendah. “Nama bayi pertama boleh memakai hadiah dari romo. Tetapi soal tingkeban, itu tidak ada dalam ajaran agama kita.”

Palupi berdiri gesit, tubuhnya terlihat tegap meskipun dalam keadaan hamil menjelang tujuh bulan. “Adat dan agama dua hal yang tak bisa menyatu, Bang. Mereka berjalan beriringan seperti rel kereta untuk mencapai satu tujuan, kerukunan.” Palupi meninggalkan Syarif sendirian di ruang makan dan berjalan cepat-cepat menuju kamar untuk menelpon ibunya.

***

Kyai Brajadenta, gamelan milik keluarga Wibowo, siang itu mengalun lembut di rumah joglo Wibowo. Gamelan yang ditabuh oleh sebelas lelaki dan beberapa perempuan tetangga itu menampakkan sisi terbaik dari sebuah pasugatan, jamuan untuk tamu-tamu yang dihormati. Suasana ramah dan penuh canda memenuhi joglo dan rumah induk yang rimbun oleh pepohonan. Orang-orang yang belum tentu setahun sekali berjumpa, hari ini berkumpul dalam suasana semanak.

Semalam telah dilakukan pengajian untuk mendoakan sang ibu dan janin dengan sajian makanan langka, tujuh buah tumpeng ditambah jajanan pasar, ketan kolak, pisang raja. Sekarang saatnya rangkaian upacara lengkap yang dimulai dengan siraman.

Sebuah sudut telah disiapkan dengan hiasan aneka kembang dan jambangan berisi air dari tujuh sumber dan bunga tujuh rupa: mawar, melati, kenanga, gading, sedap malam, kemuning, pacar banyu. Palupi dengan riasan sederhana dan kemben jumputan merah hati, menggunakan hiasan melati ronce menutupi pundak dan dadanya. Dia duduk di sebuah kursi kayu, siap memulai upacara siraman oleh para tetua termasuk keluarga besan yang jauh-jauh datang dari Makassar.

Syarif tak henti menebar senyum. Keluarga besar di Makassar ternyata menyambut baik upacara adat tingkeban ini. Para perempuan justru sangat senang dan sukarela mengenakan kebaya dan jarit, sedangkan para lelaki menggunakan blangkon dan beskap. Segala keriuhan itu menjadi sebuah tontonan menarik di mata adik bungsu Syarif, yang mengabadikan semuanya untuk santapan youtube.

*****

 

Traces

Alvin Steviro was raised in an evangelical family. He became obsessed with existential questions and Western philosophy during his teenage years. Steviro holds a bachelor’s degree in English Studies and a master’s degree in Cultural Studies.

In addition to his interest in social, political, and cultural issues, he also addresses the practical sides of life. He is currently employed as a content writer and freelance translator.

 

 

 

Traces

 

The man with greying hair sat on the side porch of his house, looking at a lalijiwa mango tree, laden with fruit ready to harvest. Wibowo should’ve felt as happy as he had the seasons before, but this year, something disturbed him terribly. “I have failed,” he murmured and sighed deeply, wishing to rid himself of the unrest.

“No, we haven’t.” His wife’s voice rose from alongside him, breaking through the stifling silence of the afternoon. “She finished her master’s study in Germany with a scholarship. Now she’s working as a researcher at a big institution, earning good pay. We didn’t raise her in vain.”

Wibowo looked at Respati Rahayu, his wife of more than thirty-five years. During all those years, this woman had supported his decisions on everything: from life choices to decisions regarding the construction of their new home and even selecting a son-in-law from the many candidates their only child introduced to them. “I thought we agreed that the parents’ success in educating their child is not measured by how educated the child turns out to be.”

Wibowo was about to embark on a long lecture, but when his wife offered him his favorite lemongrass tea, he merely swallowed and sighed once more. He then took a sip of the fragrant tea, their ever-faithful companion during their afternoon talks. Sliced ginger in the tea warmed his throat. It was the vocabulary of taste that lingered in his mind whenever they were apart ⸺ the lemongrass tea with ginger, brewed by Respati Rahayu. His wife resumed their conversation. “While a lot of people don’t know how to handle their children’s education, we taught our daughter that getting a degree with a scholarship award is an honor. We did not have to bribe anyone to secure a good education for our child. She always went to the best schools, from elementary to graduate studies. In addition, Palupi grew into an independent adult who doesn’t trouble us. This is our achievement as her parents.”

“The most important achievement as her parents is to impart the value of nationalism,” Wibowo said, clenching his fists. “Education is very important, yes, but nationalism is the foundation of a person’s character.”

Respati Rahayu squinted at her husband. “You don’t think our daughter is nationalistic enough?” Her voice rose. “She can recite the Pancasila — Indonesia’s official philosophical theory — by heart. In one of her closets she stores an Indonesian flag she can raise anytime. She can sing all three stanzas of the Indonesia Raya, our national anthem. What more do you expect of her?” Respati’s gentle eyes now flashed. “We even have gamelan instruments that we still play! We speak Javanese and Indonesian in our daily conversations. Our daughter also —”

“How can you say that your daughter is nationalistic enough?” Wibowo interrupted. “She even chose an imported name for her child as if there are no Indonesian or Javanese names that carry a sense of beauty or pride!” Wibowo’s taut face tightened even more. Sorrow clouded the eyes of the Javanese man who had insisted on building a joglo — a large gazebo with a traditionally trapezoid-shaped roof — in front of the main house.

His name, Wibowo Besari, carried an important message from his ancestors: he was to be a gentleman, an unbeatable man who does no harm, a man noble yet humble, a protector who doesn’t belittle others. Wibowo’s name resonated his father’s wishes.

“A person of Javanese descent should never let go of his Javanese-ness,” his father had told him. “He should never lose his identity.” His father, who once served as the head of the Tejowangi district, considered a name to be a directive of one’s lifestyle. Fate had made Wibowo a Javanese man, and, as befitted a Javanese man, he showed his Javanese-ness: He built a joglo and bought slendro and pelog gamelan instruments to play. Occasionally, when he came by some extra money, he invited his neighbors to the joglo for a kenduri, a celebration of gratitude, where he served the Javanese staple dishes for such an occasion: nasi tumpeng — coned rice cooked in coconut milk, turmeric, and other spices — and ayam ingkung, a whole spiced, roasted chicken.

***

“Palupi Retnaningrum Hapsari is too long,” Respati remembered arguing with her husband while being pregnant of their daughter. “A two-word name, like we have: Wibowo Besari, Respati Rahayu, is enough,” she had grumbled, rubbing her growing belly.

“Do you know what the three words mean, dear?” Young Wibowo had teased, smiling.

“Of course, I do! ‘Palupi’ means role model. ‘Hapsari’ means shining gem. And ‘Retnaningrum’ — wait, what does ‘Retnaningrum’ mean?”

“Retnaningrum means a flexible and compassionate personality. I hope that one day this child will be a generous, noble person admired by the people around her.” Young Wibowo’s eyes sparkled.

“That’s if our child is a girl.” Respati peered at her husband. “What if it’s a boy?”

“Then I’ll name him Jagad Reksaning Bawono!” Wibowo grinned victoriously. “But the midwife said that our child will be a girl.”

It was then that Respati realized that there were unwritten rules for naming in the Javanese community. Having only a one-word name marked a person as coming from a low, working-class or farming family. Civil servants, teachers, and traders commonly had two-word names. Three-word names signified a lineage of royal blood or high-ranking officials.

While such name-ranking was no longer relevant in modern Indonesian times, Wibowo was firm. His children and grandchildren must be given three-word Javanese names that reflected the rank of blood that flowed through their veins.

***

The news that their daughter, Palupi, was expecting her first child brought some light to the lives of the old couple who had waited a long time for a grandchild. When the sonogram revealed that Palupi’s child was a girl, Wibowo started thinking of possible names. For weeks he pondered, until one day, Respati found him sitting in his joglo, smiling.

“I have found the perfect name for our granddaughter,” he said to his wife when she pulled up a wicker chair and joined him. “Maharani Mahisa Suramardini.” Wibowo looked content as he carefully pronounced each word.

Respati’s eyes widened.

“What’s the matter?” Wibowo asked smugly. “Isn’t it perfect?”

Respati shook her head. “According to Javanese belief, a child with such a pretentious name may be prone to illness.”

“Now, just wait a minute.” Wibowo’s eyes glowed. “Maharani Mahisa Suramardini is the title of Queen Shima, the seventh-century ruler of the great Kalingga kingdom. She was not only fair and capable of reconciling religious differences, but she was also beautiful. She was noble, so she was loved by the commoners and respected by royalty.”

“But we’re not nobility, dear, let alone royalty,” Respati countered, confused. “Yes, your father was a district head before he retired, so we’re just a family of a retired civil servant. Would it be proper to give our grandchild such a regal name?” After a moment of silence, she continued, “Just spelling the names is already difficult. For me, names like Ningsih, Endang, and Wati are easier to pronounce and more beautiful.”

Wibowo smiled radiantly. “I’ve thought about this for weeks! I searched for names and compared them. Look in my notebook. You’ll see how many hundreds of names and their meanings I went through.” Wibowo reached for a blue notebook on the small table and handed it to Respati. “Finding the best name for our first grandchild wasn’t easy. As her grandfather, I’d like to partake in conserving our traditional names, as a token of love for our ancestors.”

Respati could only shrug. Like all of her ancestors, she, too, was full-blooded Javanese. But, when it came to adhering to Javanese culture and tradition, her husband had far more Javanese-ness than she did.

Wibowo clung to the philosophy of Memayu Hayuning Bawana — doing the best you can for the world and everything that lives within it. Those who did good in this life would be rewarded in the hereafter. In practicing this belief, Wibowo refused to build a concrete wall or iron fence around his home. Instead, he planted a camphorweed hedge which would also be beneficial for the neighborhood as anyone was allowed to take cuttings of the camphorweed for their vegetable salad.

Certain that he had found the perfect name, Wibowo excitedly called Palupi. “Maharani Mahisa Suramardini!” he crowed into the phone. ” It’s perfect! Our Javanese bloodline will be recorded in your daughter’s name. As she grows up, people will recognize your daughter as a Javanese. Don’t forget to tell everyone who asks that her grandfather gave her the name!” The soon-to-be grandfather laughed cheerfully.

“Dad,” Palupi’s voice was filled with reluctance.

“So what do you think?” Wibowo could not hide his pride. “Didn’t I pick a great name?”

“Yes, Dad, but we’ve already picked a name for our baby.”

Wibowo stiffened, speechless. His face fell. He looked helplessly at his wife, who stood looking at him.

“So,” Respati said into the speaker phone, wanting to relax the sudden tension between the two, “what will you name her?”

“Alexa Caroline Andromeda,” Palupi replied happily, as if she had plucked a star from a celestial constellation.

“What does it mean?” Respati inquired.

“Alexa comes from a Greek word that means a woman who fights for mankind. Caroline means tough and amazing. Andromeda is the name of a galaxy greater than the Milky Way!”

“Why do you want to borrow Greek words?” Respati spoke Wibowo’s words for him. “Aren’t there any Indonesian or Javanese names that describe an amazing girl?”

“Oh, well, Mom, it’s a done deal.” Palupi sounded anxious.

Now Respati was the one who started to feel concerned. In Javanese culture, a baby’s name wasn’t a “done deal” until the baby was born. Respati didn’t want her daughter’s actions to tempt fate. The Javanese culture strongly opposed making any preparations for the baby’s birth before the fetus was seven months old. She probed, “How can that be? The child hasn’t been born yet.”

“Mom, we’ve already ordered monogrammed clothing and a crib. The mural in the baby’s room also has that name on it.” Palupi lowered her voice as if she were sorry for having told them.

“How dare you!” Wibowo interrupted “You can’t act ahead of God’s will! You can’t buy things for the baby before the seventh month of your pregnancy, when we hold the tingkeban ritual for you and your baby’s wellbeing and an easy delivery!”
Silence followed Wibowo’s outburst.

“Palupi.” Wibowo suddenly probed, “Do you know why the ha na ca ra ka letters, the Javanese script, have nearly vanished?”

Still, Palupi remained silent.

Respati wiped her face with both hands. She realized this argument would last for some time.

“It seems that this younger generation no longer respects their ancestors.” Wibowo’s voice rose again. “Why do you have to use foreign words for something as essential as a name? A name should be used to preserve one’s sense of self, so that the young won’t forget where they came from!”

Wibowo stopped, waiting for Palupi’s response. But as Palupi gave none, he grew more furious. “You should be ashamed! Look at the Japanese. They are a developed nation. They’ve adapted to the times, but their behavior is still Japanese. Their culture is eternally Japanese. Their kanji script is still used to this day.” Wibowo caught his breath then continued firmly, “Their names are still Japanese!”

Palupi still would not respond.

Desperate to break through her silence, Wibowo shouted, “What are you? A Javanese? An Indonesian? Or are you a foreigner? From which country?”

***

Ever since that day, Wibowo refused to talk to Palupi, the daughter he had always been so proud of, the daughter who had been the topic of every conversation he had regardless of with whom and the occasion.

Just like any mother would, Respati tried to repair the rift between father and daughter. The soon-to-be grandmother called her daughter without telling Wibowo. “Dear, shouldn’t you reach out to your father first?”

Palupi only sighed.

Respati heard her sigh and pressed on. “What’s so difficult about accepting your father’s suggested name for the baby?”

The question was met by a long pause before Palupi eventually replied. “Mom, I am Javanese. There’s no denying that the blood that flows through my veins is Javanese. But as an individual, I have the right to name my child the way I see fit ⸺ just like you and Dad named me ‘Palupi’ according to your wishes as my parents.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Respati conceded. “What your father doesn’t like are the foreign names. Can’t you use some Javanese or Indonesian names that pay tribute to your ancestors and heritage?” Respati had never experienced such a sharp disagreement with her daughter. It bothered her very much but she rallied, “If only you knew how your father labored over his first granddaughter’s name, you would be proud to be his daughter.”

“I understand, Mom. But I have to respect my husband’s preferences, too. Syarif also has a say in naming his own child.”

Respati’s strength crumbled. Slowly, tears rolled down her wrinkled cheeks. She knew she had not steered Palupi wrong, but she had never expected her daughter to hold on this strongly to her opinion. “So have you discussed the name problem with your husband?” Respati’s asked hoarsly.

“No, I haven’t. I’m still waiting for the right time to discuss Javanese names with Syarif. When we do I’ll let him know what I think. I respect my husband just like you respect Dad. Isn’t that what you taught me?”

Silence strained the distance between mother and daughter.

“I hope your husband will understand.” Respati lowered her voice. “The name we give to our children is an attempt to preserve our Javanese identity. One day, the children will trace their cultural and ancestral origins, first and foremost by asking what their names mean.”

Respati felt she had found the right words. “The uniqueness of a place will be stamped in the name a child will carry wherever it goes. Whichever country your daughter travels to, she’ll be known as an Indonesian, more specifically, a Javanese.”

Palupi knew that when her mother lowered her voice, she was sharing her innermost feelings. Palupi didn’t interrupt, and Respati continued. “Although we’re born Javanese, we also try to be less old-fashioned. Do you remember when you first introduced Syarif to us? Your father didn’t ask you why he wasn’t Javanese; he didn’t ask whether Syarif owned a nice house; he didn’t ask which family he came from. He didn’t. He only asked you if this suitor upheld your honor as a woman.”

Respati heard her daughter’s choked sob through the phone. She steeled herself, not allowing the emotionally-charged atmosphere to get the better of her. She realized that in a borderless world where everything moved at lightning speed, conserving traces of nationality was an arduous, quixotic task. Foreign names sounded more modern. Preserving Javanese names was like trying to keep a wet thread standing upright.

***

Dinner had always been simple and joyful over the course of three years of marriage, but not tonight. Palupi was noticeably restless while her husband chewed his food indifferently. The TV broadcast of widespread flooding added to Palupi’s anxiety, and she turned it off.

Syarif Hidayatullah, the Bugis-Palembang man who had courted Palupi with gold jewelry and a Islamic prayer rug, beads, robe and Quran, finished his dinner in silence. Reluctant to continue the conversation Palupi had started when they first sat down to dinner, he finished his glass of water and rose.

“Wait, dear.” Palupi touched his arm. “We’re not done.”

Reluctantly, Syarif sat back down and started spinning the empty water glass.

“Please accept the Javanese name for our child,” Palupi pleaded softly, “and the tingkeban ritual that my mother is asking for.”

Syarif held his wife’s eyes. He was done with this discussion. The naming issue was non-negotiable. It’s the parents’ right to name their children without anyone’s interference.

“It’s not simple being the only child.” Palupi continued in a firmer tone. “There are unwritten responsibilities and expectations about passing on cultural and ancestral heritages. I tried to refuse their suggestions for the baby’s name and their request to hold the tingkeban ritual, and all I accomplished was getting into a fight with my parents ⸺ something that has never happened.” Palupi bowed her head, tears running down her cheeks.

Syarif planted his elbows on the table and dropped his chin into his hands, covering his mouth. Guilt crept into his heart, but his mind was made up. “When a daughter is handed over to a man in a wedding ceremony, doesn’t she become her husband’s possession?” Syarif asked matter-of-factly.

Fury rose in Palupi. “No! Just because a husband presents his wife with a dowry, it does not mean that he purchased her!”

Her words struck Syarif as harsh. This wasn’t the Palupi he knew. He glared at her.

“If a man could purchase full ownership of a woman in the prime of her life with just some gold jewelry, a set of Islamic praying beads, robe, mat, and Quran, then how does that expenditure compare to how much her parents spent on raising her, from conception till she walks down the aisle? How big was their investment?”

Syarif swallowed the words he had been ready to speak.

Palupi was ready to deliver several carefully prepared sentences, but she was mindful of her husband’s dignity. She said, “I surrendered myself to you, my husband, because I love you.”

Syarif remained silent, dumbfounded.

“After my parents gave all their love to their only child and raised me to be an educated and well-mannered woman in good physical and spiritual health, I voluntarily handed myself over to you. Now, why is it so hard to accept the cultural gift from my parents in the form of a Javanese name for our baby just because you’re the father of this child?”

Syarif saw the anger in his wife’s eyes. During their three years of marriage, Palupi had never once spoken with such force as she had tonight.

“All right,” Syarif slowly conceded. “Our first child can be named according to your father’s gift. But our religion doesn’t acknowledge the meaning of a tingkeban ceremony.”

Despite her large belly, Palupi rose quickly and straightened herself. “Tradition and religion are two things that cannot merge. They walk side-by-side, like railroad tracks headed for one destination ⸺ in this case, harmony!” Palupi left Syarif sitting at the dining room table and hurried to the bedroom to call her mother.

***

Gamelan music floated softly through Wibowo’s joglo. Played by men and women from the neighborhood, it was the best part of welcoming the honored guests. A warm and relaxed atmosphere filled the joglo and the main house, surrounded by mature trees. People who might not see each other even once a year, came together that day for the celebratory occasion.

The previous evening, prayers were said for Palupi and her unborn baby. Seven trays of coned rice surrounded by miscellaneous rare side dishes, native Javanese snacks, a sticky rice compote, and a special variety of banana were served. Today, it was time for the complete tingkeban ceremony, which started with the siraman a component of the ritual.

In a corner, decorated with flowers, stood a special container filled with water from seven different sources and seven different types of flowers: rose, jasmine, cananga, magnolia, tuberose, orange jasmine, and impatience. Palupi wore simple make-up and a red, tie-dyed kemben, bustier. A shawl of laced jasmine covered her shoulders and chest. Seated on a wood chair, Palupi was ready for the siraman. All present elders, including those on her husband’s side who had come all the way from Makassar, stood ready to pour a ladle of the flowered water over her.

As for Syarif, he could not stop smiling. His family had gladly accepted the tingkeban ceremony. The women were excited to wear the kebaya, Javanese long-sleeved blouse, and sarong. The men eagerly donned the traditional blangkon, Javanese cap, and beskap, jacket. All these formalities delighted Syarif’s youngest brother, who recorded everything for a YouTube presentation.

 

*****

Welcome Bapak Prasetyo and Ibu Ota

A heartfelt welcome to the new Consul General of the Republic of Indonesia in San Francisco, Prasetyo Hadi, and his wife, Sekti Kirana Jati.

We are touched and honored by their visit to Lian’s residence so soon after their arrival in San Francisco and thank Ibu Riena Dwi Astuty, Consul of Information and Social Cultural Affairs, for thoughtfully arranging this introduction. We also thank Ibu Riena Sarojo, secretary to the Consul General for escorting the honored guests to the meeting.

The pleasant afternoon was filled with insightful conversation and building a solid foundation for close collaboration between the KJRI SF (Konsulat Jenderal Republik Indonesia San Francisco) and Dalang Publishing. We look forward to working together in bringing English language translations of Indonesian literary works ⸺ works that introduce our history, culture, and social concerns — to the United States and the world beyond.

In Memoriam

Foto Rinto sdh Mandi

Rinto Andriono

August 22, 1974 – November 29, 2021

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Rinto Andriono, one of our talented writers, for the Your Stories column of our website. Rinto’s writing reflects his deep concerns for the environment as well as the human condition. We had just published his latest work, The Third Gender, when we received the very unsettling news of his death. Earlier this year, we featured Pongo’s Caring Tree, which expresses Andriono’s compassion for nature.
Rinto Andriono passed away at 8:30 a.m. on November 29th, 2021, in Dr. Sardjito Hospital, Yogyakarta from a heart attack.

He is survived by his wife, Dati Fatimah, a son and a daughter.

Farewell, dear friend. May you rest in peace.

Yang Beralih

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 Andriono passed away at 8:30 a.m. on November 29th, 2021, in Dr. Sardjito Hospital, Yogyakarta from a heart attack.

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Rinto Andriono, one of our talented writers. He is survived by his wife, Dati Fatimah, a son and a daughter.

Farewell, dear friend. May you rest in peace.

 

 Yang Beralih

 

Matahari sudah tinggi, udara Yogya sudah berjam-jam membungkus badan Soumi dengan gerah. Lengket, panas dan lembab menyatu mengumpulkan resah. Soumi resah, hatinya sangat resah. Resah yang berkepanjangan membuatnya gundah. Gundah pada kehidupan sepinya. Kehidupan yang dipilihnya sendiri semenjak itu. Hidup yang telah memenangkan hati memang bisa jadi sulit, karena ternyata hidupnya tidak selalu bisa dimenangkannya. Tetapi bukan semata-mata dia yang membentuk hidupnya – ada dengus bengis yang turut mendorongnya menyeberangi jati dirinya.

***

“Soumi, bangunlah, sudah subuh!” teriak Karyo dari luar kamar.

Saat itu ibu Soumi sedang menginap di rumah sepupunya yang belum sehari menjanda. Soumi ditinggal serumah hanya berdua dengan Karyo, suami Ibunya yang tentara. Karyo bukan bapak kandungnya. Soumi adalah buah pernikahan ibunya dengan suami sebelumnya. Ibunya dan Karyo tidak beranak. Hanya Soumi semata wayang anak mereka.

Ingatan Soumi cepat mengisi sepenuh kesadarannya, dia sudah terbiasa bangun sebelum subuh. Galibnya ibunya menjerang air di perapian. Pagi ini, dia yang akan melakukan itu tanpa ibunya. Soumi riang dan ringan. Bagai kedasih yang berbahagia dia bangkit dari pembaringan. Soumi segera menyahuti Karyo sambil melangkah membuka gerendel kamarnya.

Tiba-tiba dengan sangat berdaya, pintunya terdorong terbuka. “Heh ….” Seolah kerbau dungu Karyo mendengus dan menyergapnya.

“Ahh ….” Soumi tidak cukup sigap dan berdaya untuk melawan.

Ratusan lukisan hidupnya koyak seketika. Lukisan-lukisan yang polos tentang masa lalunya, yang warna-warni tentang cita-citanya, yang bergelora tentang cintanya dan yang masih samar-samar tentang masa depannya. Semua berubah bagi Soumi pagi itu. Seketika, dia menjadi kain mota yang koyak, luruh dan tidak berguna!

***

Dari dalam kamarnya, Soumi membaui wewangian badan Karyo yang sudah mandi dan hendak pergi bekerja. Seketika Soumi mual. Lantas dia mendengar Karyo pergi sambil bersiul-siul, seolah tidak terjadi apa-apa.

Soumi bergegas pergi ke kamar mandi dengan hati luluh lantak. Dia mandi lama sekali. Seolah noda yang dipaparkan Karyo sangat sulit hilang, dia menggosok tubuhnya lagi dan lagi. Air bilasan mengalir tanpa henti, tapi perasaan ternoda dalam hatinya tetap tidak mau pergi.

Kembali di kamarnya, dia menekuri foto-foto dirinya, kemudian berucap, “Apa gunanya foto-foto ini?” Dia membakar semua foto-foto masa kecilnya, raport sekolah, ijazah tiga kali kelulusan di SD, SMP dan SMA, kartu penduduk serta akta kelahirannya. Dia mengemasi barangnya sekaligus mengemasi batinnya. Soumi merasa harus meninggalkan rumah lamanya dengan segala kelemahan dan kekalahan sebagai perempuan yang pernah dikenalnya.

“Aku tidak mau hidup sebagai perempuan!” ikrar Soumi yang masih dalam tubuh perempuannya, “Dunia ini memang bukan untuk perempuan!”

Sekarang Soumi memang menjadi butuh jati diri yang baru. Namun Soumi belum memikirkan, kemungkinan menjadi lelaki. Dia masih jijik dengan jenis kelamin Karyo.

“Aku tidak ingin berubah menjadi pemerkosa seperti Karyo! Aku juga tidak akan lagi menjadi korban permekosaan siapa pun!” kata Soumi mantap meninggalkan rumahnya.

Bagi Soumi, rumah sudah kehilangan teduhnya, bahkan, dia pergi tanpa merasa perlu menghiraukan pintunya yang masih dibiarkan menganga. Dia hanya meninggalkan pesan pendek untuk berpamitan pada ibunya. Riwayat rumah itu sudah padam bagi Soumi.

“Ini sudah bukan rumah!” Soumi pergi dari rumahnya, sekaligus meninggalkan jati dirinya.

***

Setelah mencobai hidup di Malang dan Surabaya, akhirnya Soumi terdampar di Yogya. Kota berhati nyaman yang telah membuka diri untuknya. Soumi sekarang bertubuh lebih kekar. Dia melatih dirinya dengan bela diri tinju dari Thailand. Rambutnya pun terpotong pendek dan rapi. Dia menggunakan jel rambut yang pekat. Jejak sisir nampak jelas di rambutnya.

Sebelum wabah covid, Soumi bekerja menjadi pramusaji di sebuah rumah makan modern. Pembawaannya yang rapi bahkan cenderung halus membuatnya banyak disukai orang-orang. Pekerjaannya pun membaik, dia tidak hanya menjadi pramusaji namun telah dipercaya menjadi penyelia. Soumi merasa hidup kini telah berpihak padanya. Namun semua kandas setelah wabah covid berjalan hingga bulan kedelapan. Rumah makannya tidak lagi sanggup melawan gempuran kehilangan pelanggan disertai kenaikan harga-harga bahan baku. Benteng penghidupan. Soumi pun ikut runtuh bersamaan dengan itu.

Siang itu, dia berpeluh mengantri. Wabah covid yang berumur setahun telah memakan kehidupannya hingga tersisa remah-remah terakhir. Soumi mengantri untuk mendaftar menjadi penerima Bantuan Langsung Tunai (BLT) dari pemerintah.

“Nama?” tanya petugas Kepanewonan Mergangsan pendek.

“Soumi.”

Petugas yang bosan mendongak, mendesak, “Yang benar?”

“Benar, Pak, saya Soumi.” Soumi menegaskan diiringi goresan enggan sang petugas di borang pendaftaran.

“Kau laki-laki atau perempuan?” tanya sang petugas menyelidik.

“Bukan keduanya.” jawab Soumi dengan penuh keyakinan.

Petugas itu berhenti menulis. Dia bersandar di kursinya seolah paling benar. Dia menarik nafas dalam-dalam seperti mempersiapkan sebuah ceramah panjang tentang ragam jenis kelamin yang diijinkan untuk surat-surat kependudukan di negara kesatuan ini. Serangkaian kata berhamburan dari mulut ceroboh tak bermasker. Mulai dari pilihan di borang hingga perintah agama. Intinya, Soumi harus memilih, laki-laki atau perempuan. Titik!

Bagi Soumi, perintah mengisi borang ini sangat berat. Dia enggan membuka kenangan pahit masa lalunya – saat dia masih perempuan dan lemah. Meski sekarang sudah tidak menganggap dirinya perempuan, dia tidak lantas menyebut dirinya laki-laki. Dia sudah mantap dengan dirinya yang bukan keduanya. Kemantapan itu seiring dengan kekosongan jati dirinya yang mulai terlukis dengan gambaran diri yang baru. Soumi merasa nyaman dengan dirinya sekarang yang jauh dari dirinya dahulu, tetapi dia tetap bukan Karyo yang laki-laki dan bengis serta jumawa.

“Coba lihat KTP?” pinta petugas yang mulai putus asa dengan keterangan Soumi.

“Saya tidak punya KTP, hanya kartu penduduk musiman dari Kelurahan,” jawab Soumi.

“Tidak punya KTP tidak boleh mendapat BLT.” kata petugas pendek memungkasi upaya Soumi untuk menyambung hidupnya.

Soumi sebenarnya enggan beradu mulut, tetapi dia sangat membutuhkan BLT untuk kelangsungan hidupnya. Dan jawaban dari petugas di manapun selalu seragam. Jawaban yang sudah dihafal Soumi dari pengalamannya mengurus surat-surat kependudukan. Seolah memutar pita rekaman rusak, Soumi pun mengulang membacakan berbagai rujukan Kesepakatan Internasional tentang pengakuan terhadap jenis kelamin ketiga. Masalah ini sebetulnya bisa teratasi bila Soumi pulang ke kampung halamannya dan mengurus surat pindah. Tapi itu mustahil bagi Soumi karena Karyo masih hidup dan dia sudah tidak menginginkan jati dirinya yang lampau. Lukisan yang telah koyak biarlah usang. Soumi sedang melukis yang baru.

“Urus KTP dulu, baru bisa ambil BLT,” kata petugas ketus memungkasi adu mulut dengan berteriak, “Antrian berikutnya!”

***

Di bulan Maret 2021, Soumi dan kawan-kawannya telah memasuki bulan kelima kehilangan pekerjaan di rumah makan. Wabah ini mengharuskan mereka memutar otak lebih kencang. Inilah saatnya dimana dunia manusia berubah sedemikian cepat sehingga meninggalkan manusia-manusia yang hidup di dalamnya. Para manusia tunggang-langgang mengikuti dunianya yang telah bergeser tidak sekehendaknya. Ini ibarat rumah yang justru pergi meninggalkan penghuninya.

Soumi dan kawan-kawan pun berangsur kehilangan isi tabungannya dengan pasti. Mereka berusaha menyambung hidupnya dengan berbagai cara. Mengurangi catuan makanan harian adalah pilihan pertamanya. Soumi pun berkeras untuk tidak berobat meski batuk atau demam datang mendera. Soumi telah berpindah ke kamar sewaan yang lebih sempit, kumuh, terpencil, tetapi murah. Sambil mencari pekerjaan apa pun yang mungkin diraihnya.

Kawan-kawannya pun berlaku sama. Pilihannya, terus berusaha sebisanya atau punah. Suatu ketika mereka bersepakat bertemu. Kepencilan masa wabah membuat mereka saling terasing. Mereka butuh bertemu di taman kota untuk sekedar mengadukan keluh dan mendengarkan resah.

“Kau sekarang jadi apa, Gar?” tanya Wulan, dulu sesama pramusaji dengan Soumi.

“Aku jualan ikan cupang,” jawab Tegar, mantan kasir rumah makan yang tegar. “Ikan kecil biaya pemeliharaannya irit.”

“Aku bikin lumpia, tapi harus pesan dulu baru nanti kubuat dan kukirim ke pemesan.” terang Wulan.

Soumi senang kawan-kawannya terus berusaha semampunya. Di masa wabah ini yang penting obah mamah – terus bergerak meski hasilnya sedikit, hanya cukup untuk makan.

“Sekarang pendapatan keluarga kami menjadi lebih sedikit,” papar Wulan, “anak-anak sudah tidak pernah bisa plesir lagi.”

“Ya … tidak ada lagi cukup uang untuk kebutuhan sampingan,” lanjut Tegar, “semua mendapat rejeki tipis-tipis tapi rata, ini waktunya berbagi.”

“Sudah sebulan ini, kami selalu melewatkan sarapan, bukan karena ingin langsing seperti orang-orang gedongan, tapi biar irit,” timpal Wulan.

Lain Wulan dan Tegar, lain pula Yanto. Dia adalah mantan satpam rumah makan. Tubuhnya kekar dan sehat. Memenuhi syarat sebagai penjaga keamanan yang baik. Namun nasibnya tidak sebagus badannya. Yanto ketularan covid dan menghabiskan dua setengah minggu di rumah sakit untuk sembuh dari penyakit ini. Dia sampai harus menggadaikan kendaraannya untuk mencukupi kebutuhan keluarganya.

Hidup mereka seperti buah simalakama; bila tidak bekerja maka tidak bisa makan tetapi bila terus berusaha maka bahayanya adalah kemungkinan tertular covid.

“Rasanya bagaimana, Yanto?” tanya Tegar.

“Kau pernah merasakan influensa yang sangat berat?” tanya Yanto kembali.

“Iya,” jawab Tegar.

“Nah, rasa itu kau kalikan tiga, begitu rasanya.” terang Yanto. “Pertama kau akan kehilangan penciumanmu, lalu zat asam tidak bisa disera tubuh karena paru-paru berlendir. Bila tak dibantu pasokan zat asam, kau akan lemas dan menemui ajal.”

“Hiiii.” nyali Tegar mengkeret.

Soumi mendapati Jamila, mantan tukang masak di tempat kerjanya dulu, menyendiri dan kurang bersemangat.

“Hai, Jamila.” sapa Soumi.

“Kita ini menyaksikan rumah makan tempat kita bekerja tidak mampu lagi mencari makan.” kata Jamila, tukang masak yang sudah belasan tahun bekerja di situ, seolah menyesali keadaan.

“Sekarang kau kerja apa, Jamila?” tanya Soumi.

“Aku belum dapat, seumurku sudah susah mencari kerja dan memulai dari awal lagi.”

“Tapi kau bisa memasak!” yakin Soumi, “Usaha yang besar memang bertumbangan, tapi usaha yang kecil masih ada peluang tumbuh kembang.”

“Tidak mungkin aku bisa hidup, aku butuh biaya besar.”

“Heh, kau tidak boleh patah.”

Jamila tidak menyahuti Soumi, Dia mengeloyor pulang.

Mereka berpisah, hingga seminggu kemudian, mereka bertemu lagi.

Mereka berkunjung ke rumah sewaan Jamila sebagai pelayat yang hendak menghormati Jamal untuk terakhir kalinya. Wabah covid ini memang seperti saringan yang telah memisahkan manusia yang kuat dari yang lemah dengan garis pembatas yang tegas.

Dari teman-temannya, Soumi tahu bahwa Jamila menderita hepatitis C semenjak dari Jamila masih bujangan tua yang dikenal sebagai Jamal.

***

Sepanjang hidupnya Jamal telah lelah memperjuangkan KTP untuk mendapat Bantuan dari Badan Penyelenggara Jaminan Kesehatan (BPJS). Penyakitnya membutuhkan perawatan berlanjutan yang tidak murah. Dia membutuhkan pengobat yang mahal. Semua ongkos perawatan kesehatan itu tidak mampu dibayarnya. Saran kepala desa di kampungnya, Jamal bisa saja mendapatkan KTP asal tidak terlalu keras kepala untuk mengakui bahwa dia berkelamin lelaki.

“Surat Kelahiranmu laki-laki kan, Mal?” kata Kepala Desa, “Isian jenis kelamin di KTP-mu ikut Surat Kelahiranmu saja, biar nanti bisa dapat BPJS.”

“Iya.” kata Jamal berat.

“Nyatanya yang busuk menggantung itu juga kelamin laki-laki,” sindir Kepala Desa, “jakunmu itu lho, tidak bisa menipu, hahaha ….”

Namun hingga setua ini Jamal alias Jamila enggan mengakui kenyataan tubuhnya. Semenjak akil balik dia tidak pernah merasakan dirinya sebagai laki-laki. Jamal remaja tidak pernah menyelesaikan sekolah menengahnya. Dia tidak betah terus menerus dirisak oleh kawan-kawan juga gurunya. Mereka memanggilnya banci.

Ayahnya pun gemar memukulinya dan ibunya tidak berdaya. Ayahnya tidak bisa menerima Jamal yang berperilaku gemulai seperti perempuan. Dia mendidik Jamal kecil dengan penuh kekerasan karena keyakinannya agar Jamal bisa menjadi lelaki tulen. Dia berpikir, bila sering dipukuli maka Jamal akan berubah menjadi seperti lelaki.

Jamal remaja yang tidak pernah ingin menjadi laki-laki, memilih kabur dari rumah. Dia lebih senang dengan jati diri Jamila-nya. Dia merasa lebih nyaman memasak dan memakai daster yang sejuk. Jamila cukup beruntung, dia tidak pernah terpaksa melacur. Kebisaannya memasak menjaga hidupnya dengan tetap bekerja puluhan tahun dari warung hingga rumah makan. Jamila piawai mencampur bumbu dan mengolahnya sehingga tiap-tiap rempah mengeluarkan rasa terbaiknya.

Namun kini, demi agar ongkos pengobatannya bisa ditanggung negara, akhirnya Jamal luluh. Dia menyerah. Dia nyaris mendapatkan KTP laki-laki untuk mengurus BPJS. Namun takdir berkata lain. Hidupnya telah lebih dahulu luluh sebagai korban pemaksaan jati diri. Kematian adalah cara termurah untuk menghemat biaya pengobatan seorang waria sakit, penganggur, dan putus asa.

***

Sambil menunggui jasad Jamila di rumahnya, Soumi mengenang sahabatnya. Dia berkenalan dengan Jamila di rumah makan itu, sebagai rekan kerja. Namun pertemuan itu sangat bermakna. Jamila membuat Soumi mampu menuntut kembali hidupnya. Soumi masih ingat bahwa Jamila adalah tukang masak yang diandalkan di rumah makan itu. Dia baik pada sesama rekan kerja. Dia kakak yang baik bagi Soumi. Sayangnya, di akhir hidupnya, Jamila harus berjuang keras membujuk negara untuk mendapatkan pengakuan dengan jenis kelamin ketiganya. Perjuangannya itu berpacu dengan penyakitnya. Sayang, penyakitnya berjalan lebih cepat dari pada perjuangannya. Saat Jamila mau mengalah menerima pilihan antara dua jenis kelamin yang disediakan oleh negara, penyakitnya sudah semakin genting.

Jamila yang selama ini mendukung Soumi dan menghibur hatinya. Dia yang menyembuhkan luka-luka hati Soumi. Jamila yang memperkenalkan Soumi pada banyak paguyuban orang-orang berjenis kelamin ketiga. Dari paguyuban itu, Soumi tahu bahwa Tuhan tidak hanya menciptakan siang dan malam, tetapi ada juga fajar dan senja seperti Jamila dan kawan-kawan. Mereka perempuan yang terjebak dalam tubuh lelaki, atau sebaliknya. Bahkan yang seperti Soumi, yang tidak merasa aman sebagai perempuan tetapi merasa jijik sebagai lelaki pun ada dan mereka saling menguatkan jati diri.

“Bukankah fajar dan senja yang membuat semesta menjadi lebih indah?” kata mendiang Jamila pada Soumi dulu, “Jika hanya ada siang dan malam maka bumi akan membosankan.”

Soumi benar-benar mencamkan perkataan Jamila itu. Dia mulai bangkit melukisi lagi kain mota hidupnya dengan berbekal kalimat itu. Soumi merasa dia berhak pula hidup di dunia sebagai ciptaan Tuhan yang setara dengan yang lain. Dia boleh saja tidak merasa sebagai laki-laki atau perempuan, tapi Soumi adalah manusia, itu yang ditekankan Jamila.

“Aku juga manusia.” tegas Soumi saat itu.

“Dulu, sosok banci adalah wajar di pertunjukan wayang kulit,” cerita Jamila pada Soumi dalam salah satu obrolannya,

“Betulkah?” tanya Soumi.

“Iya dan ketahuilah wayang kulit adalah cerminan dari masyarakat kita.”

“Lelaki dan perempuan sama-sama dibutuhkan dalam hidup ini.” lanjut Jamila, “Batari Durga yang garang, sebelumnya adalah Dewi Uma yang lembut.”

“Ya, Dewi Uma moksa menjadi Batari Durga yang raksasa dalam rangka melawan nafsu Batara Guru.” timpal Soumi lamat-lamat. Dia pernah mendengar kisah itu. Kisah perubahan jati diri Dewi Uma itu yang mendorong Soumi menjadi seperti sekarang ini. Dia menolak sebagian sisi perempuan dirinya yang lemah dan berusaha menambalnya dengan sisi lelakinya yang kekar. Namun Soumi tidak serta-merta menganggap dirinya lelaki. Dia beralih menjadi jenis kelamin ketiga yang membuatnya menjadi lebih nyaman sekarang ini. Dia sekarang lebih siap bila harus membela diri jika dirundung Karyo lagi.

“Hidup kita pun seharusnya begitu, siapapun setara di muka bumi ini dan harus saling menjaga,” pungkas Jamila.

Namun rupanya, cita-cita Jamila tidak terjadi hingga ajal menjemputnya. Kawan-kawannya tetap harus mengasongkan tubuh Jamila, mencari kampung yang masih mau menerima jenazah waria di kuburan milik mereka. Sedikit kampung yang mau menerima pemakaman waria. Mereka menganggapnya sebagai aib. Akhirnya sebuah kampung di perbatasan Kota Yogya dan Bantul mau menerima, itupun dengan biaya bedah bumi yang tidak mudah ditanggung oleh kawan-kawan waria yang terdampak kemelut keuangan pada waktu wabah covid ini.

***

Wabah ini diikuti oleh masalah keuangan yang menekan semua pengeluaran warga. Beberapa bidang usaha bahkan tidak dapat bertahan memperebutkan pelanggan yang semakin sedikit. Seperti rumah makan tempat Soumi dan Jamila bekerja. Sebagian besar mahluk indah jenis kelamin ketiga ini bekerja di bidang jasa. Jasa-jasa itu adalah kebutuhan yang akan disingkirkan warga dari senarai belanjanya bila pendapatan menurun. Perempuan mengurangi belanja perawatan tubuh di salon. Pria hidung belang tidak lagi beruang untuk membiarkan mulut waria memuaskan kelaminnya. Tidak ada uang kecil untuk waria pengamen.

“Ih, maharani amat, mengubur bangkai saja semahal itu ongkosnya?” kata Shinta, waria yang menawarkan jasa di Perlimaan Kalasan.

“Ah, kau jangan sirsak, cin, jangan pelita hati begitu, ini demi Kak Jamila.” sanggah Diana bendahara patembayan saat menghimpun saweran agar Shinta tidak culas dan pelit.

Akira kan sudah lama tidak laku nyebong!” aku Shinta.

“Ah … nggak percaya, kau tiap malam berapose begitu?” Dewi menawar.

“Covid, Boo … akira jual harga obral ini ….” kata Shinta sambil mengangsurkan uangnya yang kumal.

“Cari BLT sana, kan pemerintah sudah bagi-bagi enam ratus kepeng.” sahut Dewi sambil menyambar uang Shinta.

“Nggak dapat BLT, Booo …,” nyinyir Shinta, “Aku nggak ada KTP.”

“Ahhh … kau sembuh dulu dari banci, baru bisa punya KTP,” Dewi mengelak.

“Emang banci itu penyakit, koq pakai sembuh? Kata Dinsos, itu penyakit kemasyarakatan,” pungkas Shinta masih dengan nada nyinyir.

Soumi yang dari tadi menguping pembicaraan para pelayat di rumah Jamila membatin, Huh, penyakit kemasyarakatan ….

Bagi Soumi yang sudah belajar dari Jamila ini adalah akar masalahnya. Selama jenis kelamin ketiga dianggap sebagai penyimpangan yang harus diluruskan oleh negara maka selamanya nasib Jamal-Jamila yang lain akan selalu begitu. Mereka akan terus diburu dan dipaksa untuk menerima jati diri yang hanya memperhitungkan bentuk alat kelamin yang menempel di tubuh. Padahal pengakuanlah yang dibutuhkan Jamila dan kawan-kawan.

“Waktu fajar dan senja memang sempit, karena itu mereka yang terlahir tidak siang dan tidak malam adalah kelompok yang terbatas jumlahnya.” Soumi menderas mengulang perkataan Jamila tentang kaum waria.

“Namun bukan berarti kita bisa ditindas”, berontak batin Soumi, “hidupku pun akan seperti Jamila, akan kuhabiskan untuk melawan!”

Soumi teringat bahwa Jamila pernah bercerita bahwa di Sulawesi ada adat yang pernah mengakui lima jenis kelamin secara setara di masyarakat. Di Bugis selain laki-laki dan perempuan, ada calalai yang bertubuh perempuan tetapi mengambil peran-peran laki-laki dalam kesehariannya. Ada juga calabai yang memerankan peran perempuan namun bertubuh lelaki. Dan jenis kelamin kelima, adalah kelompok para bissu yang tidak laki-laki maupun perempuan. Soumi merasa nyaman dengan kelompok ini. Kelimanya pernah diakui disana secara adat, meski adat sekarang sudah sering digugat.

“Orang-orang hanya belum mengerti,” tiba-tiba suara Jamila menyahut di kepala Soumi. Dengan sangat jelas, Soumi seolah melihat sosok Jamila. Dia melihat Jamila melempar senyum.

“Jamila ….” sapa Soumi lirih.

“Kau hanya perlu terus mewartakannya.” kembali suara Jamila mengiang.

“Akan kulakukan sepenuh hidupku,” janji Soumi mantap.

“Kita semua tercipta setara,” Jamila yakin sebelum bayangannya kembali memudar.

Soumi kembali nelangsa kehilangan Jamila yang seumur hidupnya gagal berdamai dengan khalayak.

Bisik Soumi memandang tubuh kaku Jamila yang sedang menunggu pengangkutan ke liang lahat. Hati Soumi merasakan sedemikian, pelupuk matanya menghangat seketika. Air matanya kemudian merebak. “Jamila, aku tahu, kau ingin mati sebagai perempuan.”

*****

Yogyakarta, Mei 2021

 

 

 

The Third Gender

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 Third Gender

 

It was already midday, and the stifling, muggy, Yogyakarta air enveloped Soumi’s perspiring body. The humidity made Soumi restless. And as the restlessness dragged on, she became depressed about her lonely life — the life she had chosen on that terrible day. Indeed, anyone’s life could be difficult, for it might not always turn out to be the most rewarding. But Soumi had not deliberately chosen this life. A violent force had driven her to cross the boundary of her identity.

***

“Soumi, get up!” Karyo shouted from outside Soumi’s room. “It is dawn already!”

That morning, Soumi was home alone with Karyo, her mother’s husband. Soumi’s mother was staying with her cousin, whose husband had died the day before. Karyo, who served in the military, was not Soumi’s biological father. Soumi was the only child from her mother’s previous husband, and she was the only child in the family. Soumi’s mother and Karyo didn’t have children.

Soumi was used to getting up before dawn, and she quickly rose. Usually, her mother boiled the water. This morning Soumi would have to do it herself. Happy like a lovebird flying into the morning, she answered Karyo’s call and lifted the door latch.

The door slammed into her, shoved open forcefully by Karyo, who lunged at her, snorting like a bull in heat.

Caught off guard, Soumi was neither ready — nor strong enough — to fight back.

Hundreds of life’s memories tore apart all at once: the innocence of her past, the colorful fantasies of her aspirations, the passionate hopes of love to come, and the anticipation of her unknown future. Everything changed that morning. Her entire life had turned into a torn, crumpled, useless canvas.

***

Afterwards, in her room, Soumi smelled Karyo’s cologne. He had showered and was ready to go to work. Soumi felt nauseated. She heard Karyo leave, whistling as if nothing had happened.

Totally undone, Soumi rushed to the bathroom. She showered for a long time. She scrubbed her body over and over again as if she could never wash away the stain Karyo had left on her. But despite the endless streams of water, she could not rinse away the blotch in her heart.

Back in her room, Soumi pulled out her photo albums and scrapbooks. What good are these for? she thought, and she burned all her childhood pictures, her school diplomas, her identification card, and her birth certificate. Then she packed up what was left of her belongings, along with her heart. Soumi felt forced to leave the house she had lived in as a female, with her weaknesses and defeat.

“I don’t want to live as a female anymore!” Soumi declared to herself. “This world definitely doesn’t belong to women!”

Now Soumi would need a new identity. She considered disguising herself as a man, but she was disgusted by the male sexuality. “I don’t want to be a rapist like Karyo!” Soumi said firmly to herself. “Nor do I want to ever be raped by anyone again!”

For Soumi, the house had lost its protective meaning. She was no longer a part of the house’s story. She left a short message for her mother. “This is no longer home,” Soumi said, and, leaving the front door wide open, she left the house, as well as her sexual identity as a woman.

***

After trying to make a living in Malang and Surabaya, Soumi arrived in Yogyakarta. The charming city welcomed her. Soumi now had a masculine appearance. She wore her hair short and neat, and she used hair gel that made grooves in her freshly combed hair. She practiced self-defense with Thai boxing.

Soumi worked as a waitress in a modern restaurant. Her well-kept, almost delicate appearance made many people like her. She did her job well and was promoted. Soumi felt that life was finally on her side. But it all ended during the eighth month of the COVID pandemic. The restaurant could no longer survive the decreasing number of customers and the increasing cost. Soumi’s life fell apart together with the restaurant.

A year into the pandemic, Soumi stood in a long queue, drenched in perspiration. The ongoing COVID pandemic had depleted the last of her savings. She was now lined up to register for the cash subsidy the government was providing.

“Your name?” asked the unmasked officer from the Mergangsan District.

“Soumi.”

The bored officer looked up. “Really?”

“Yes, sir. My name is Soumi.” The officer scribbled on the registration form.

“Male or a female?” The officer scrutinized Soumi.

“Neither,” Soumi answered firmly.

The officer stopped writing. He leaned back in his chair with a righteous air. He took a deep breath, readying himself to deliver a long speech about the legal aspects of the gender entry on the government application form. A barrage of words burst from his mouth. His lecture started by pointing out the stated gender options on the registry form and went on to discuss the religious views on the matter. Bottom line, he said, Soumi had to choose between being male or female. Period!

Soumi filled out the form with difficulty. She didn’t want to remember the bitter past when she was a weak woman, but she did not refer to herself as a man either. She had affirmed to herself that she was neither man nor woman, and she had begun a fresh painting of herself on a new canvas. She felt comfortable with her new self — someone very different from her previous self, but still not a man, like Karyo, who was cruel and conceited.

“Your ID, please?” The official was losing patience with Soumi.

“I don’t have an ID. I only have the temporary resident registration card from the precinct.”

The officer abruptly ended Soumi’s application to survive. “Without a proper ID, you are not eligible for the subsidy.”

The official answers were always the same, wherever she went. She remembered the answers well from her attempts to obtain legal identity documents. Over and over again, sounding like a broken record, Soumi recited the list of the many international agreements that recognize the third gender, which is neither male nor female.

Soumi could solve the problem by obtaining relocation papers from the authorities in her former neighborhood. But for Soumi, that was impossible because Karyo still lived there and she didn’t want to face him — or her former self. The torn painting of her past should be left to deteriorate; Soumi was painting a new one.

“After you obtain the proper ID, you can come back and get the subsidy,” the official said bluntly and turned away. “Next in line!” he shouted.

***

In March 2021 it was five months that Soumi and her workmates had been laid off from their job at the restaurant. The pandemic had forced them to get creative to survive. The world was spinning so fast, it left its inhabitants behind. People were required to catch up with a world that had moved on without their consent, like a house that had abandoned its residents.

Soumi and her friends had depleted their savings. They tried to survive in various ways. Eating less was their first option. Soumi decided not to see the doctor when she had a fever and cough. Soumi moved to a smaller room. The boardinghouse was located in a secluded corner of a slum, but the rent was cheap. She tried to find any job she could get; her friends were doing the same. They either survived or perished.

One day, the friends all arranged to meet at the city park. The isolation necessitated by the pandemic had alienated them from one another. They needed to meet just to share their worries.

“What are you doing now, Gar?” Wulan asked Tegar. Like Soumi, she used to work as a waitress.

“I am selling betta fish, the Siamese fighting fish,” Tegar answered. He used to be the cashier. “Taking care of these small fish is cheap.”

“I make and deliver spring rolls, on order,” Wulan said.

Soumi was happy that her friends were doing their best to survive. During this pandemic, it was critical to do whatever was necessary to make enough to eat.

“Because money is so tight,” Wulan continued, “the children can’t have a vacation.”

“Yeah, we no longer have extra money for entertainment,” Tegar answered. “Our meager income is spread thin.”

“This month,” Wulan added, “we skipped breakfast, not because we eat a rich person’s diet, but to save money.”

Just as things were different for Wulan and Tegar, they were also different for Yanto. He had been the restaurant’s security guard. His athletic build had made him a good fit for the job, but, unfortunately, his immune system was not as strong as his body. He caught COVID and spent almost three weeks in the hospital. Yanto had to pawn his vehicle to pay the bills.

Their lives were in a no-win situation – if they didn’t work, they could not eat; if they did work, they risked catching COVID.

“How did it feel to have COVID, Yanto?” Tegar asked.

“Have you ever caught a really bad cold? Multiply that feeling by three, and you’ll get an idea of how it felt. First, you lose your sense of smell; then, you can’t breathe because your lungs are filled with phlegm. Unless you get oxygen, you suffocate and die.”

Tegar cringed. “Oh, gawd!”

Soumi walked over to Jamila. The cook at their former workplace sat alone, not engaging with the others.

“Hi, Jamila,” Soumi said. “What are you doing now?”

“I don’t have a job. It is difficult for someone my age to find a new job and start all over again.” Jamila, who had worked at the restaurant for more than ten years, lamented the situation. “We have witnessed how the restaurant where we worked lost its business.”

“But you can cook!” Soumi asserted. “The big businesses may have collapsed, but a small business might still have a chance to grow.”

“It is impossible; I need a lot of money.”

“Hey, don’t lose hope!” Soumi encouraged.

Instead of answering, Jamila went home.

The friends parted only to meet again one week later when they went to Jamila’s rented house to pay their last respects to her. The pandemic functioned as a sieve, separating the strong from the weak. Jamila was suffering from hepatitis C — and had been ever since she had been known as Jamal, an old bachelor.

***

Jamal had tried for many years to obtain a formal ID so that he would be eligible for the government’s health insurance subsidy to treat his hepatitis C. The treatment for his illness was expensive, and he could not afford to pay the medical expenses. The village chief had told him that it was quite possible to obtain a formal ID if Jamal would just check the box for “male” on the application.

“Your birth certificate states you are a male, right?” the village chief asked. “Just fill out the form according to the information on your birth certificate. After that, you can apply for health insurance.”

Jamal hesitated.

“Look,” the village chief sneered, “that thing hanging between your legs is a male sex organ — and you cannot hide your Adam’s apple either.”

But Jamal refused to accept his physical appearance. Since adolescence, he had never identified as a male. Jamal, the teenager, didn’t finish high school. He could not bear the bullying from his classmates and teachers. They called him banci — a fag.

His father often beat him, and his mother was powerless to protect him. His father could not accept Jamal’s effeminate behavior, and he believed that beating Jamal would toughen him up. If I beat him often, he’ll change and become a real man, the father thought.

But Jamal had no intention of ever being identified as a man, and he finally chose to leave home. Jamal was much more comfortable being known as Jamila. He felt better when he could cook wearing a loose long dress. He was lucky enough that he did not have to resort to becoming a prostitute. For decades, Jamila worked as a cook in small eating stalls and then moved as a chef from one restaurant to another. Jamila was an expert in mixing spices to bring out the best flavor of each component of the dish.

But now that Jamila had to depend on a government subsidy for her hepatitis C medication, she gave up. She could have obtained a formal ID as Jamal, a male, but fate had a different plan for her. Caught between gender identities, Jamila’s life quickly deteriorated. Death was the cheapest way out for a sick, unemployed, and desperate transgender.

***

At Jamila’s wake, Soumi reminisced about her friend. She had met Jamila in the restaurant, but their relationship was more meaningful than that of mere co-workers. Jamila enabled Soumi to move on with her life. Jamila had been a respected chef at the restaurant; she had been kind to her workmates and was like a good sister to Soumi, who had watched Jamila’s struggle to convince the government to acknowledge her choice of gender. Soumi also had watched Jamila racing against her disease’s progression, and losing the race. When Jamila finally gave in and chose the gender “male” stated on the government form, her disease had become acute.

But all through her struggle, Jamila had supported Soumi. She helped mend Soumi’s broken heart. She introduced Soumi to the transgender community and support systems. Soumi learned that God not only created night and day, but also dawn and dusk. Soumi and her friends were neither night nor day; they were people trapped inside mislabeled bodies. As individuals with conflicting identities, Soumi and her friends supported each other.

“Aren’t dawn and dusk making the universe more beautiful?” Jamila used to ask Soumi. “This world would be a dull place with only night and day.”

Soumi had taken Jamila’s words to heart when she started the new painting on the canvas of her life.

Jamila had stressed to Soumi that although the current world might not allow her to choose something other than being a man or a woman, she was still a human being who had the right to live as one of God’s creations, just like everyone else.

“I am a human being,” Soumi asserted to herself.

Soumi also remembered Jamila telling her, “There used to be transgender characters in the shadow puppet play.”

Really? Soumi had wondered then.

“The shadow puppet play simply reflects the condition of our society.” Jamila started to explain. “Men and women are both needed in this life,” Jamila said. “The character Batari Durga is indeed fearsome, but before that, she was as gentle as Dewi Uma.”

“Yes,” Soumi said softly, “Dewi Uma attained moksha and became the giantess Batari Durga to fight the lustful Batara Guru.”

Soumi had heard that story. The transformation of Dewi Uma had encouraged Soumi to become who she was now. While she rejected the weak female part of herself and tried to supplement it with the tough male part, Soumi didn’t automatically consider herself to be a man. Instead, she had slipped into the third gender to make herself comfortable with the way she felt now. She was prepared to defend herself should a Karyo attack her again.

“Everyone who lives on this earth is equal and must look after each other,” Jamila had concluded.

But Jamila’s aspiration was not fulfilled until her death. Her friends carried her body from one village to another, trying to find a village cemetery that would accept a transgender for burial. Most villages considered having a transgender buried in their cemetery a stigma. Finally, the friends found a village on the outskirts of Yogyakarta, bordering Bantul, that allowed them to bury Jamila in their cemetery. They were charged an exorbitant fee, which they had collected with great difficulty from their financially-strapped transgender friends.

***

“Ew, that’s a lot of money!” exclaimed Shinta, a transgender who worked as a prostitute near the Kalasan intersection. “Does it cost that much just to bury a dead body?”

The pandemic had put a financial burden on everyone. Most transgenders had to work in the service sector. When people’s incomes decreased, they cut their spending on luxuries first. People cut back on personal grooming. Pleasure seekers didn’t have enough money to pay the transgender prostitutes. There was no small change for transgender buskers.

“Aw, don’t be such a tight ass; this is for our sister Jamila,” Diana retorted, trying to keep Shinta from being stingy while she was collecting money for Jamila’s burial.

“I haven’t been able to hook up with a john for a long time,” Shinta whined.

“Oh, I don’t believe you. How much do you charge for a trick?” Dewi asked.

“It is COVID, dear, I’m having a sale.” Shinta handed over some crumpled bills.

Dewi grabbed Shinta’s money. “Go get some subsidy; the government is handing out six hundred thousand!”

“No subsidy for me, dear,” Shinta sighed. “I don’t even have an ID.”

“Ah, first you must be cured from being a queer, then you can get an ID,” Dewi shrugged.

“Yeah, who says that being a queer is a disease that has to be cured?” Shinta asked, sarcastically. “The social service says that being queer is a social disease.”

Soumi, listening to the conversation at the wake, thought, Social disease, huh …

Soumi had learned from Jamila that this attitude was the root of the problem. As long as the third gender was considered an aberration, the fate of the other Jamal–Jamilas would stay the same. All they actually needed was recognition and acceptance.

Soumi repeated Jamila’s words: “The dawn and dusk do not last long; therefore, they who are not born as day or night are limited in number.”

But that doesn’t mean we can be persecuted. Soumi’s spirits rose. “I will be like Jamila; I will spend the rest of my life striving for justice.”

Soumi remembered Jamila telling her that a tradition in Bugis, Sulawesi, recognizes five equal genders in society. In addition to man and woman, there is calalai, a woman who has the role of a man in society. There is calabai, a man who has the role of a woman. The fifth gender, bissu, is neither male nor female. Although tradition recognizes these five genders, today, many contest it.

Suddenly, Soumi heard Jamila’s voice: “People just do not understand.” It was so clear, she almost could see Jamila smiling at her.

“Jamila …” Soumi said, softly.

“Keep spreading this awareness.” Jamila’s voice continued.

“I will do it for the rest of my life,” Soumi promised.

“We are all created equal,” Jamila declared before her shadow faded away.

Soumi was overcome with her loss of Jamila, who had failed to make peace with society. With her eyes burning and tears running down her cheeks, Soumi looked at Jamila’s corpse, waiting to be buried. Soumi whispered, “Jamila, I know that you wanted to die as a woman and you did.”

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Horas, Ibu!

Reni Renatawati was born on January 6, 2001 in Jakarta, Indonesia, from parents who come from the islands of Sumatra and Java. She is a senior student at the Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana in Salatiga, Central Java, Indonesia where she studies English literature. Reni, who enjoys reading, drawing, and listening to music, dreams of becoming a professional writer. Her fiction writing is based on her research about cultural and social issues which are currently being experienced by Indonesian communities. She hopes to raise an awareness of these problems in the Indonesian population.

Reni can be reached at renirenataharianja16@gmail.com

 

 

Horas, Ibu!

 

Hembusan semilir angin senja memainkan rambut Jakob yang mulai memutih. Kedua netranya menatap nanar tanah merah tempat ibunya dikubur. Sudah lewat duabelas tahun, sejak kematian ibunya, dan limabelas tahun tanpa kehadiran kedua saudaranya yang lenyap di tanah orang karena beralasan mau mengadu untung dan nasib. Kedua saudaranya yang pergi ke tanah Jawa dan menghilang dari Siborong-borong, kampungnya di Sumatera Utara, kini berdiri di samping Jakob, menatap kubur ibu mereka dengan khidmat sembari membiarkan para tukang gali kubur membongkar kubur dan peti mati ibunya.

Di tanah batak, adalah hal wajar untuk keluarga melakukan upacara kematian bagi para leluhur, termasuk kepada orang tua yang telah lama meninggal dengan memindahkan tulang belulang mereka ke tempat yang lebih baik dari sebelumnya. Maksud dari adat ini adalah untuk menghormati mereka. Saat itu pula, seluruh sanak saudara haruslah kembali dari perantauan ke kampung halaman untuk mempersiapkan upacara, seperti yang sedang terjadi pada keluarga Jakob dan kedua abangnya.

***

Dua bulan yang lalu, saat Jakob dan istrinya hendak berjualan di pasar, kedua abangnya tiba-tiba muncul di halaman rumahnya. Walau waktu itu matahari belum tampak, tetapi Jakob bisa melihat wajah kedua abangnya yang secerah mentari. Ketika istri Jakob menyambut mereka ramah, Jakob membeku di ambang pintu. Dia baru tersadar ketika istrinya menggoyangkan bahunya dan memintanya untuk segera memotong babi peliharaan mereka untuk dijadikan jamuan. Meskipun Jakob melakukan apa yang diminta istrinya dan menerima kedua abang beserta keluarga mereka masuk, hatinya meneriakkan kata tidak suka dengan kedatangan mereka.

Ketidaksukaan Jakob pada abang-abangnya itu bukan tanpa alasan. Saat kedua abangnya memutuskan untuk pergi hampir dua dasawarsa yang lalu, ibu sedang sekarat dimakan penyakit. Dan seakan mengejek harapannya, ibunya yang mati-matian bertahan hidup akhirnya pergi tanpa pamit dalam tidur. Tidak memiliki uang yang cukup, Jakob menguburkan ibunya di belakang rumah dengan acara sederhana, tanpa kehadiran kedua abangnya.

Tiga hari setelah kedatangan dua abangnya, saat matahari telah lama terbenam dan seluruh keluarga mereka sudah tertelan mimpi, tiga pria masih terjaga dibawah rona lampu teplok. Tidak ada sepatah katapun yang keluar dari bibir mereka sampai akhirnya abang tertua, amang Lamsihar menghembuskan napas panjang sambil menatap Jakob lekat-lekat. “Kami sudah mendengar soal ibu,” katanya pelan, “Dia dikubur dimana, Jakob?”

Jakob tidak segera menjawab. Buta karena amarah dan kesedihan, dia kembali menatap kedua abangnya dan menarik napas dalam-dalam, seakan enggan untuk memberitahukan keberadaan ibunya. Tapi dalam hatinya, Jakob sadar kalau kedua abangnya juga berhak untuk mengetahui keberadaan ibu mereka. Mau bagaimanapun keadaan mereka dan dirinya, mereka adalah keluarga. Pada akhirnya, Jakob menghembuskan napas perlahan, dan memberitahu mereka bahwa dia di kubur di belakang rumah.

“Kenapa ibu dikuburkan di sana?” tanya amang Ruhut, “Bukankah dulu ibu pernah bilang kalau dia ingin dikuburkan di antara leluhur kita?”

Mendengar perkataan amang Ruhut, hati Jakob serasa diiris pisau tumpul. Dia berusaha mengatupkan bibirnya serapat mungkin. Jakob mulai tertawa lirih, tetapi masih cukup terdengar oleh kedua abangnya yang menatapnya bingung. Dalam hati kecilnya, Jakob berharap kalau abangnya mengerti kesusahan dan sakit hati yang dicicipinya saat pemakaman ibunya terjadi.

“Hatiku sakit melihat kalian berdua,” tutur Jakob sambil mengepalkan kedua tangannya, berusaha mengendalikan rasa perih di hatinya yang kembali muncul, tetapi gagal ketika dia kembali menatap kedua abangnya dengan netranya yang memerah dan berkaca-kaca. “Abang bisa saja makmur di tanah Jawa. Punya uang, punya jabatan, punya keluarga yang sejahtera, tapi rasanya sekarang semuanya percuma saja.”

“Apa maksudmu, Jakob?” tanya amang Lamsihar dengan suara bergetar.

“Buat apa uang sebanyak pasir lautan, jabatan setinggi awan kalau kalian tidak pernah mendengar ratapan ibu?” Sambarnya pedas, “Jujur saja aku heran dengan ibu yang menangisi dua orang yang melupakan keluarganya di kampung.”

Jakob melihat air muka amang Ruhut yang mengeras, sementara amang Lamsihar hanya terdiam dengan lekukan memilukan menghiasi wajahnya yang keriput. Tidak ingin menuang minyak ke dalam api, Jakob berdiri tanpa mengatakan apapun dan meninggalkan kedua abangnya dalam kesunyian.

Sesampainya di kamar tidur, istri Jakob yang mengetahui sikap Jakob terhadap kedua abangnya berusaha menenangkan suaminya. Dia mengatakan bahwa ibu mertuanya tak akan senang dengan sikap Jakob yang terkesan kekanak-kanakan, dan tidak mau mendengarkan kedua abangnya yang sudah datang jauh-jauh demi melihat ibu mereka yang sudah tiada. “Adalah salah kalau kau mengusir mereka, Pak,” katanya selembut kain satin, “Jangan lupa, kalau kalian itu saudara satu darah dan ibu.”

“Lantas kenapa?” tanya Jakob sembari menggelengkan kepalanya, “Aku bukan marah karena mereka pergi ke Jawa demi memperbaiki keuangan mereka. Aku marah karena tidak sekalipun mereka pulang untuk menjenguk ibu. Dan sekarang, setelah ibu sudah mati selama dua belas tahun, mereka baru datang? Sudah tidak ada gunanya lagi keberadaan mereka disini.”

Tak mengatakan apapun, istrinya duduk di samping suaminya dan mengelus-elus pundaknya.

“Pak,” sanggah istrinya, “sadarkah kamu kalau apa yang baru saja kau katakan itu jahat? Janganlah hatimu jadi gelap karena ketidaktahuanmu itu.”

Jakob diam seribu bahasa sementara istrinya melanjutkan, “Bukalah hatimu, Pak. Beri mereka kesempatan dan waktu, itu saja.” Ujar istrinya meyakinkan.

***

Paginya, Jakob tengah bersiap untuk memberi makan ternak ketika tanpa sengaja dia melihat kedua abangnya yang tengah mengisap tembakau di depan rumah sambil menyesap kopi hitam yang masih mengepul. Sayup-sayup, Jakob dapat mendengar apa yang tengah mereka bicarakan. Dia tidak dapat mempercayai telinganya ketika amang Ruhut mengangkat suaranya, menyatakan penyesalannya karena tidak pulang kampung lebih cepat.

“Aku hanya bisa berandai, Bang,” ucapnya lesu, “seandainya aku pulang lebih cepat, mungkin aku masih bisa bertemu ibu. Dan mungkin saja Jakob tidak semarah ini.”

Jakob termenung. Ucapan amang Ruhut terus menerus berputar dalam kepalanya tanpa henti. Namun Jakob menggelengkan kepalanya dan pergi dari tempatnya berdiri tanpa memiliki niat untuk membuka hati. Rasa sakit hatinya sudah terlalu dalam menguasai dirinya.

Selepas memberi makan babi dan ayam peliharaannya, Jakob berjalan sembari mengenang ibunya. Pikirannya sekalut hatinya.

Saat Jakob melihat sekitarnya, dia sudah berdiri di samping kuburan ibunya dibelakang rumahnya. Jakob menatap kuburan ibunya sambil menghela napas panjang sebelum tersenyum kecil. Dia merasa kalau ibunyalah yang membawa dia kemari.

“Bu, ini anakmu, Jakob,” sapanya dalam hening, “Maaf kalau beberapa hari ini aku tidak bisa datang menjenguk.”

Jakob menceritakan kepada ibunya yang berada di langit bahwa kedua abangnya sudah kembali dari tanah Jawa setelah lama menghilang ditelan waktu dan bumi. Dia juga menceritakan keluh kesah yang tersembunyi dalam hatinya yang tidak memiliki kesempatan untuk berbicara.

“Entahlah Bu,” desahnya lirih, “Rasanya sudah tidak ada lagi yang benar dalam diriku ini,” katanya sambil menatap langit biru. “Aku merasa… apa yang aku lakukan ini tidaklah benar.”

Tidak ada yang menjawab selain suara tawa keponakannya dari dalam rumah. Jakob mengerjapkan kedua matanya beberapa kali sebelum menghela napas panjang sembari mengusap wajahnya yang sekasar pasir dengan gusar. Batinnya lelah. Sungguh, dia berharap ibunya dapat berbicara kepadanya sekarang dan memberikan sebuah petunjuk atau apapun. Namun kenyataan bahwa ibunya tidak lagi akan bisa membantu, menamparnya keras. Pada akhirnya, Jakob memutuskan untuk kembali masuk ke rumah tanpa mendapatkan jawaban dari siapapun.

***

Malamnya, Jakob terbangun dari tidurnya dan tidak bisa mempercayai matanya. Dia yakin sekali kalau semalam dia jatuh tertidur di dalam kamarnya dan bukannya di alam terbuka. Terlebih, yang membuat Jakob bergegas bangkit berdiri dari pembaringan adalah keberadaan ibunya yang tengah duduk bersila di sampingnya. Seakan mengajaknya untuk menari, rumput dihadapannya bergoyang dengan gemulai. Rambut ibunya yang digelung rapi dan mulai berwarna seputih tulang tersisir oleh angin. Ibunya menatap Jakob hangat dan tidak mengatakan apapun sambil menepuk tanah di sampingnya, meminta Jakob untuk duduk. Ragu-ragu, Jakob duduk di sebelah ibunya dengan kaku.

Tak ada yang berbicara di antara mereka untuk waktu yang cukup lama. Jakob sibuk dengan pikirannya yang mulai meracau. Dia sama sekali tidak tahu apakah ini tanda petaka, atau petunjuk dari Tuhan.

“Jakob,” panggil ibunya, “Bagaimana kabarmu?”

Jakob terdiam. Belum pernah dia mendengar suara ibunya yang sehalus sutera, bahkan ketika ibunya masih hidup. Mati-matian Jakob berusaha menahan tangis dengan mengangguk-anggukan kepalanya.

Ibunya mengelus pucuk kepala anaknya. Terlihat jelas guratan kebahagiaan terpancar dari wajahnya. “Bagus, bagus,” ibunya terus mengatakan hal yang sama sembari membiarkan Jakob tidur bertumpu pada pangkuannya, “Ibu lihat, kedua abang mu sudah pulang, ya.”

Jakob mengangguk dalam diam dan menutup kedua matanya, menikmati sentuhan kasih ibunya yang sudah lama tiada.

“Ibu senang sekali saat akangmu pulang setelah sekian lama tinggal di tanah Jawa,” ucapnya bahagia sebelum menatap netra Jakob dengan matanya yang bersinar, “Ibu lihat anak-anakmu dan anak kedua akangmu baik-baik.”

Jakob hanya mengangguk.

“Jakob, anakku,” lanjutnya, “Kenapa dengan hatimu, Nak?”

Jakob tercengang mendengar ibunya. Dia benar-benar tidak menyangka kalau ibunya mendengar perkataannya pagi tadi. Ingin rasanya dirinya bangkit dan membela dirinya, tapi bagai tersihir, tubuhnya tidak menuruti kemauannya.

“Mendengar perkataanmu pagi tadi, aku jadi teringat saat kamu berusaha membela keluarga kita empatbelas tahun lalu,” katanya sambil tertawa renyah.

Perkataan ibunya membuat Jakob teringat saat dirinya melemparkan tinju ke wajah salah satu pedagang yang dikenalnya di pasar. Sesungguhnya, Jakob tidak ingin menimbulkan kekacauan, tapi cibiran pedagang itu pada keluarganya membuat dirinya lepas kendali.

“Mana ada keluarga yang lupa akan kedudukannya!” serunya pada Jakob, “Tak pernahkah ibumu mengajari soal itu? Atau memang benar kalau sudah tak ada adat di keluargamu dengan mengizinkan akangmu pergi merantau dan membiarkan mereka melupakan dari mana mereka berasal?”

Hari itu pula, ibunya berkali-kali berlutut meminta maaf kepada seluruh orang di pasar karena keributan yang berkesan kekanakan yang dilakukan Jakob.

“Apa yang kau lakukan ke pedagang itu sama dengan apa yang kau lakukan pada kedua akangmu,” tuturnya, “Kau tidak mau mendengarkan kedua akangmu dan terlalu berpaku pada sakit hatimu.”

“Lalu aku harus apa?” tanya Jakob lemas, “Bukannya sudah terlambat buat mereka untuk melihat ibu?”

“Mereka kemari bukan tanpa alasan,” jawab ibunya sabar, “Ingat apa yang pernah istrimu katakan beberapa malam lalu?”

“Ya. Dia memintaku untuk membuka hatiku,” jawab Jakob sambil menahan tangis.

“Kalau begitu, lakukanlah,” kata ibunya sambil mengusap rambut Jakob yang seputih tulang, “Ibu yakin, mereka datang untuk kebaikan kalian bertiga.”

Jakob mengangguk lemah. Rasa berat di hatinya kini sirna terbawa angin saat air mata mengalir deras dari kedua matanya dan membasahi pakaian ibunya yang tertawa sambil menepuk-nepuk bahu Jakob.

“Janganlah menangisi aku, Nak,” hiburnya, “Tangisilah hatimu, dan ingat kalau tidak ada kata terlambat untuk meminta maaf.” Ibunya kini bangkit berdiri dan mulai berjalan menjauhi Jakob yang termenung menatap punggung ringkih ibunya yang semakin menjauh dan menghilang terbawa angin.

Jakob menutup kedua matanya, membiarkan air mata yang menggenangi kedua pelupuk matanya mengalir melintasi pipinya yang tirus sebelum terbangun dari tidurnya.

Istrinya yang tidur di sebelahnya terbangun. Dia mendapati suaminya yang duduk di ranjang, gemetaran dengan wajah seputih kertas. “Ada apa, Pak?” tanya istrinya sambil mengusap pelan pungung Jakob yang berkeringat.

“Aku tidak apa,” jawab Jakob dengan suara bergetar, “Hanya, mendapat sebuah pencerahan.”

***

Lepas beberapa hari, seluruh keluarga dari Jakob dan kedua abangnya berkumpul di ruang tengah. Jakob sendiri duduk diam sambil sesekali menghisap tembakau saat abangnya membenarkan tempat duduknya dan mulai berbicara mengenai alasan mereka pulang kampung. “Abang sudah membicarakan ini dengan amang Ruhut jauh sebelum kami sekeluarga berencana untuk datang, dan Ruhut beserta keluarga bersedia ikut serta,” ujar amang Lamsihar, “Akan tetapi Jakob, adat ini tidak akan bisa dilakukan tanpa restu darimu juga.”

Jakob menatap lurus amang Lamsihar. Meskipun dia paham akan adat yang dimaksud oleh kedua abangnya, rasa penasarannya memadamkan bara amarah yang tersisa dalam hatinya. “Apa maksud abang berdua?” tanyanya sebelum dia bisa menguasai bibirnya.

“Kami mau minta keikutsertaan dari keluargamu untuk memindahkan tulang belulang ibu ke tempat yang lebih baik.” balas amang Lamsihar, “Itulah alasan kami datang di saat yang bersamaan.”

“Kami tahu mungkin sudah terlambat bagi kami untuk bisa melihat ibu,” sambung amang Ruhut sambil tersenyum sendu, “Tapi hanya inilah yang bisa kami lakukan, setidaknya agar beliau bisa memiliki tempat peristirahatan yang lebih layak.”

Isak tangis terdengar dari bibir Jakob, diiringi dengan air mata yang mengalir semakin deras. Kedua abangnya terkejut melihat tangisan Jakob dan menanyakan ada apa gerangan. Jakob mengutarakan segala yang ada di dalam hatinya selama ini, terutama amarah yang menguasai dirinya. Berkali-kali Jakob membungkukan badan hingga kepalanya nyaris menyentuh lantai, memohon pengampunan dari kedua abang dan keluarganya.

“Jakob, janganlah membungkuk,” sambar amang Ruhut, “Kami juga sama bersalahnya dengan dirimu. Biarlah kita memperbaiki apa yang rusak, diawali dengan memindahkan ibu ke tempat yang lebih baik.”

Pagi itu, kabut yang seakan menutupi rumah kini lenyap, diganti dengan rona hangat matahari.

***

“Horas! Horas! Horas!” seru para penggali kubur, menandakan tulang ibu si empunya acara telah ditemukan. Jakob bersama abang-abangnya segera membalas seruan yang bermakna doa ucapan syukur itu. Mereka sudah siap dengan kain putih di tangan masing-masing untuk menerima tulang ibu mereka. Mereka membawa tumpukan tulang ibunya ke tempat yang telah disediakan untuk dibersihkan dengan air campuran kunyit dan jeruk nipis.

Saat Jakob membersihkan tulang ibunya, perkataan ibunya menghampiri pikirannya. Terngiang di telinganya suara ibunya yang lembut, yang menyibakkan tabir amarah yang menyelubungi mata hatinya. Satu-satunya suara yang membimbing hati Jakob keluar dari ketersesatan di kekelaman. Air mata kelegaan meleleh dari pelupuk mata Jakob.

*****

Rest in Peace, Mother!

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.

 

Rest in Peace, Mother!

 

The late afternoon breeze ruffled Jakob’s graying hair. He stared at the red earth of his mother’s grave. Twelve years had gone by since his mother’s passing, and fifteen years without the presence of his two brothers, who had left Siborong-borong, their village in North Sumatra, to seek their fortune in Java. Now, the two brothers stood beside Jakob, gazing solemnly at their mother’s grave while the gravediggers unearthed her coffin.

One of the Batak customs is to honor deceased ancestors, including those who died long ago, by moving their bones to a better burial place and holding a proper funeral ceremony. On such occasions, all relatives had to come home to prepare for the ceremony, and this was now happening in Jakob’s family.

***

Two months ago, when Jakob and his wife were about to leave their house to sell some produce at the market, his two brothers and their families suddenly appeared in his front yard. Even though the sun had not yet risen, Jakob could see his two brothers were as cheerful as the sun. While Jakob’s wife greeted them kindly, Jakob stood frozen in the doorway. He only returned to reality when his wife shook his shoulder and asked him to go slaughter one of their pigs to prepare a welcome feast. Although Jakob did as his wife asked and invited his two brothers and their families to come in, he spurned their arrival.

Jakob’s anger with his brothers was not without reason. When his two brothers decided to leave home fifteen years ago, their mother was suffering from a severe illness. Despite Jakob’s hopes and her desperate attempts to survive, their mother died in her sleep without saying goodbye. Not having enough money for a proper burial, Jakob buried his mother in his back yard with a simple ceremony, without the presence of his two brothers.

Now, three days after the arrival of his two brothers, after the sun had long set and the other family members were fast asleep, the three brothers sat by the light of the oil lamp. They were silent, until finally Lamsihar, the eldest brother, sighed. “We heard about Mother’s passing,” he said quietly. “Where did you bury her, Jakob?”

Jakob did not answer immediately. Consumed by anger and sadness, he looked silently at his brothers. As if reluctant to reveal the location of their mother’s grave, Jakob took a deep breath. Deep in his heart, Jakob knew that his two brothers had the right to know this information, and that despite their circumstances, they were still family. Jakob sighed, “Our mother is buried in the back yard.”

“Why did you bury Mother there?” asked Ruhut, the middle brother. “Didn’t she say that she wanted to be buried among our ancestors?”

His brothers looked at him, confused.

Jakob wanted his brothers to understand the heartache he had experienced at their mother’s makeshift funeral. “It hurts me to look at the two of you,” Jakob said, clenching his fists. He tried to control the pain in his heart, but couldn’t. Looking at his two brothers with red teary eyes, he said, “Perhaps you succeeded in making your fortune in Java — you have money, you have position, your families are privileged — but now all of that seems pointless.”

“What do you mean, Jakob?” asked Lamsihar in a trembling voice.

“What’s the use of owning as much money as there is sand on the beach, and holding a position as high as the clouds, if you never listened to Mother’s crying?” Jakob snapped. “Honestly, it always surprised me why Mother cried for two men who had deserted their family.”

Jakob saw Ruhut’s jaw set, while Lamsihar remained silent, a sad curve settling on his wrinkled face. Not wanting to add any more fuel to the fire, Jakob rose and, without saying anything, left his two brothers.

In their bedroom, Jakob’s wife tried to calm him. She knew how her husband felt toward his brothers. Nonetheless she told him that his mother would not be happy with his childish attitude and his refusal to listen to his two brothers. Afterall, they had come from far away to see their deceased mother. “It would be wrong for you to throw them out, dear,” she said softly. “Remember that you are blood brothers.”

“So what?” Jakob shook his head angrily. “It doesn’t bother me that they went to Java to better their financial situation; it bothers me that they not once came home to see Mother. And now, they come twelve years after she died? There’s no point in having them here anymore.”

Jakob’s wife sat down beside her husband and caressed his shoulder. “Darling,” she soothed, “don’t you realize that what you just said is evil? Don’t close your heart because of your ignorance.”

Jakob remained silent.

His wife continued reassuringly, “Open your heart, dear. Just give them a chance and time. That’s all.”

***

The next morning, Jakob was preparing to feed the livestock when, by chance, he saw his two brothers smoking in front of the house while sipping their hot, black coffee. He could faintly hear their conversation and couldn’t believe it when he heard Ruhut loudly regret not returning home sooner.

“If only,” Ruhut said wearily to his brother, “I had come home earlier, I might have seen Mother, and maybe Jakob wouldn’t be so angry.”

Jakob contemplated Ruhut’s words echoing in his mind. Then, shaking his head, Jakob was again consumed by resentment and continued on without any intention of forgiving his brothers.

After feeding his cattle, pigs, and chickens, Jakob paced aimlessly around, thinking about his mother and feeling troubled. He soon found himself standing beside his mother’s grave in the garden behind his house. Jakob stared at his mother’s resting place and exhaled a long sigh. Smiling a little, he felt that it was his mother who had brought him here.

“Mother, here’s your son Jakob,” he said quietly. “I’m sorry I couldn’t visit you for a few days.” Jakob told his mother that his two brothers had returned from Java after having been gone for a long time. He also told her about the grievances he carried in his heart.

“I don’t know, Mother,” he sighed softly. “I don’t think I’m a good person.” Looking up at the blue sky, he continued, “I feel that what I’m doing is not right.”

No one answered. There was only the sound of his nephews’ laughter from inside the house. Jakob blinked a few times before taking another deep breath. Irritated, he ran a hand across his weathered face. He was tired and fervently wished that his mother could talk to him now and advise him. Realizing once again that his mother was not available to help, upset him. Finally, Jakob turned to go home, even though no one had answered his questions.

***

Later that night, Jakob woke up and couldn’t believe his eyes. There was his mother, sitting cross-legged beside him. The grasses in front of them swayed gracefully as if tempting her to dance. Jakob was sure he had fallen asleep in his room and not outdoors, but he rushed to get up. His mother’s hair was neatly tied back and had started to turn as white as ivory. The wind sifted playfully through the strands. She looked at Jakob warmly and patted the ground beside her.

Hesitating, Jakob stiffly sat down next to his mother.

For a long time, neither of them spoke. Jakob was preoccupied with his jumbled thoughts. He had absolutely no idea if this was a sign of disaster, or a sign from God.

“Jakob, how are you?” his mother asked.

Jacob remained silent. He had never heard his mother speak with such a silken voice, even when she was still alive. Nodding his head, Jakob desperately tried to hold back his tears.

Jakob’s mother caressed the top of his head. Happily, she said, “It is all right; things are good.” While motioning Jakob to lay his head on her lap, she said, “I know that your two brothers have come home.”

Jakob nodded. He closed his eyes and enjoyed his mother’s loving touch that he had missed so much.

“I’m very happy to see your brothers have come home after living in Java for such a long time,” Jakob’s mother continued cheerfully. Her eyes sparkled. “I see that your children and your brothers’ children are doing well.”

When Jacob nodded without commenting, his mother continued, “Jakob, what’s wrong with you, Son?”

Jakob was surprised. He had not expected that his mother had heard him talking to her that morning. He wanted to lift his head and defend himself, but somehow, he couldn’t.

“What you said this morning reminded me of the time you tried to defend our family fourteen years ago.” Jakob could hear the smile in her voice. He remembered that day in the market when he punched a shopkeeper he knew in the face. Jakob had not meant to cause any trouble, but had lost his temper when the man insulted his family.

“How can one forget his family?” the shopkeeper had yelled at Jakob. “Didn’t your mother ever teach your brothers about that? Or does your family no longer uphold any tradition and thus allows your brothers to leave and forget their homeland?”

On that day, his mother repeatedly knelt to apologize to everyone in the market for the childish commotion Jakob had caused.

“What you did to that shopkeeper back then is the same as what you’re doing to your two brothers now,” she said. “You don’t want to listen to your two brothers because your anger won’t let you.”

“Then, what should I do?” asked Jakob miserably. “Isn’t it too late for them to visit you, Mother?”

“They’re not here without reason,” his mother answered patiently. “Remember what your wife said a few days ago?”

“Yes,” replied Jakob, holding back his tears. “She asked me to open my heart.”

“Then listen to her,” his mother said, stroking Jakob’s graying hair. “I’m sure your brothers came for the good of the three of you.”

Jakob nodded in relief. He no longer felt burdened. He burst out crying, wetting his mother’s clothes with his tears. His mother laughed and patted Jakob’s shoulder.

“Don’t cry for me, my child,” she comforted. “Cry for yourself. Remember that it’s never too late to make amends.” Jakob sat up as his mother rose. He watched his mother’s frail back slowly disappear in the wind.

Jakob closed his eyes. When he opened them, he was in his own bed with tears flowing down his hollow cheeks.

His wife, asleep next to him, woke up. Gently rubbing Jakob’s damp back, she felt him shaking and saw his ashen face. “What’s the matter, Jakob?”

“I’m fine,” Jakob replied in a quivering voice. “I’ve just had some revelations.”

***

A few days later, Jakob and his two brothers gathered in the living room with their families. Jakob sat quietly, occasionally taking a drag of his cigarette, as Lamsihar adjusted his seat and started talking about the reason for coming home. “I discussed this situation with Ruhut long before we planned to visit,” Lamsihar said. “Ruhut and his family were willing to join us. Still, Jakob, it is not possible to perform this funeral ceremony without your consent.”

Jakob looked evenly at Lamsihar. Although he knew about the custom his two brothers were talking about, his curiosity about their sincerity snuffed the last of the burning embers of anger he still carried in his heart. “What do you two mean?” he asked.

“We would like to ask your family to participate in moving Mother’s remains to a more suitable place,” replied Lamsihar. “That’s why we all came home together.”

“We knew that it was too late for us to see Mother,” Ruhut added, with a sad smile. “But this is the only thing we can do at least Mother can have a better resting place.”

Jakob began to sob.

His two brothers were shocked by Jakob’s reaction. Jakob confessed that anger had taken the better of him all this time. Bowing several times until his head almost touched the floor, he begged for forgiveness from his two brothers and their families.

“Jakob, stop it, please!” Ruhut exclaimed. “We are just as guilty as you are. Now, let us fix what is broken, starting with relocating Mother’s grave to a better place.”

That morning, the fog that usually covered the house was gone. It was replaced by the warm glow of the sun.

***

“Horas! Horas! Horas!” the gravediggers called out, signaling they had found the bones of Jakob’s mother. Jakob immediately joined his two brothers in responding to the call which meant a prayer of thanksgiving. The three brothers stood, holding white cloths in their hands, ready to receive their mother’s bones.

They carried the bones to the place they had prepared, and cleaned them with a mixture of turmeric and lime juice.

While Jakob cleaned the bones, he recalled his mother’s words. Her gentle voice had removed the shroud of anger that had covered him. Hers was the only voice that had been able to guide him out of the darkness. Tears of joy streamed from Jakob’s eyes.

 

*****

Selamatan for Panji’s Quest

 

San Mateo, September 27, 2021.

True to Dalang’s custom, we celebrated the launch of Panji’s Quest, Oni Suryaman’s English language translation of Tembang dan Perang by award-winning author Junaedi Setiyono (PT Kanisius 2020), with a selamatan a traditional Indonesian celebratory meal used to welcome and ask blessings for anything new, as well as to give thanks.

The still-prevailing COVID situation forced us to trim our usual guestlist of thirty-six to four and hold the event on Lian’s front patio instead of in a rented meeting room.

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We are grateful and honored by the presence of the Consul General of the Republic of Indonesia in San Francisco, Simon Soekarno and his wife, Evelyn Soekarno, as well as the Consul of Cultural Affairs, Riena Dwi Astuti, and her husband, Ishkak, at the traditional nasi tumpeng meal.

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Because everyone spoke Indonesian, we conducted the entire event in that language. Pak (the Indonesian way of addressing men of stature) Simon delivered the opening remarks, and Ibu (the Indonesian way of addressing women of stature) Riena discussed Dalang’s role as cultural ambassador for Indonesia’s literature. Both Pak Simon and Ibu Riena were presented with a book set of Tembang dan Perang and Panji’s Quest. We all enjoyed the home-cooked traditional food and a pleasant afternoon in good company and invigorating conversation.

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Ririn

You can attend the event remotely by clicking on this link Selamatan Panji’s Quest.

In Memoriam

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With deep sadness, we join in mourning the passing of Budi Darma. A prolific award-winning writer and revered educator, Prof. Budi Darma was a cornerstone of Indonesia’s literary world. Dalang Publishing is honored to share two of his numerous short stories — Tukang Cukur (The Barber) and Mata Yang Indah (Beautiful Eyes) — on the Your Story page of our website.

 

PresentationDSC01213 Budi Dharma1

As a tribute to Pak Budi’s influential contributions to the enrichment of Indonesian literature, in addition to his decades-long teaching and mentoring accomplishments, we share a few of his popular, wise advice to young writers:

  • To write, you first need to read many books.
  • Without the written word, a civilization cannot progresstherefore, write!
  • Writing is not merely scribbling letters and words. Writing familiarizes the reader with literature.

Indonesia lost a literary icon and education master, but we gained so much from the life of Budi Darma. Above all of his accomplishments as a writer and educator, he was a kind and generous person whose writing was a pursuit of truth. The best way to honor him and show our gratitude is to nurture the seed his spirit left in everyone he touched.

Rest in peace, our friend.

Hikayat Jarot di Agustusan

Born in Ponorogo, East Java, on October 21, 1977, widely-published author Han Gagas is an alumnus of the Faculty of Geodesy at Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta. His short stories have appeared in mass media such as Horison, Kompas, Tempo, Republika, and Suara Merdeka. His novel Orang-orang Gila was published by Buku Mojok in 2018. In June 2021, Interlude Publishers published his latest work, Sepasang Mata Gagak di Yerusalem, a short story collection. Balada Sepasang Kekasih Gila was the winner of the 2020 Falcon Script Hunt competition, and Falcon Pictures has signed to turn the novel into a movie. Gagas’s travel journal, titled Adzan di Israel, will be published by Ivory Publishers at the end of 2021.

Han Gagas currently lives in Solo, Central Java. Aside from working on his own writing, he also manages an online publication Nongkrong.co He can be reached at han.gagas@gmail.com

***

 

 

Hikayat Jarot di Agustusan

 

Para penghuni kolong jembatan sebagian masih terlelap; sebagian ngopi, sebagian yang lain mancing dan menjaring ikan. Ada pula yang mendengarkan siaran radio, “Pidato Kemerdekaan oleh Bapak Presiden, dilanjutkan lagu kebangsaan Indonesia Raya.”

Jarot sedang membangun bedeng untuk tempat tinggalnya. Saat matanya melihat gitar bas terapung mengalir di arus sungai, dia berlari mengambil. Jarot membersihkan, dan mulai memperbaikinya.

Jarot mau ngamen dengan gitar bas itu buat cari uang. Dia membuat senar dari ban dalam sepeda, dan memasangkannya. Dia coba memetik dan berbunyi “dung-dung-dung.”

Jarot mulai bernyanyi menjajal gitar, sebuah lagu didendangkan:

Di sini senang, di sana senang. Di mana-mana hatiku senang. Lalalalalalala, lalalalalala, lalalala, lalalalalaa, lalalalala, lalalala….

***

Jarot menenteng gitar bas memasuki perkampungan yang penuh bendera merah putih, umbul-umbul terpasang di tepi jalan, berjajar-jajar, semarak karena Agustusan, perayaan kemerdekaan. Dia mendekati sebuah rumah dan mulai menyanyi.

Halo-halo Bandung, ibu kota Periangan. Halo-halo Bandung, kota kenang-kenangan, sudah lama beta… tidak berjumpa dengan kau, sekarang telah menjadi lautan api, mari bung rebut kembali!

Jarot bernyanyi dengan gegap gempita, hingga banyak orang yang mendengar pada senyum-senyum sendiri.

“Edan, ngamen pakai lagu kebangsaan, hehehe,” terdengar suara seseorang.

Jarot juga menyanyi lagu Indonesia Raya, suaranya semangat penuh seluruh.

“Indonesia Tanah Airku/Tanah Tumpah Darahku/Di sanalah aku berdiri jadi pandu ibuku/ Indonesia-kebangsaanku/Bangsa dan tanah airku/Marilah kita berseru/Indonesia bersatu.”

Banyak orang yang mendengar jadi turut menyanyi, terutama pada kalimat, Indonesia bersatu! Seruan itu menggetarkan dan mengobarkan semangat semua terlecut sifat kebangsaannya bahkan beberapa anak mulai mengekornya saat mengamen.

Orang-orang tua, yang dimulai oleh seorang mantan pejuang kemerdekaan yang berbaju coklat, juga ikut. Jadinya mulai banyak orang-orang tua termasuk emak-emak turut mengekor Jarot.

Sambil menyanyi makin semangat, Jarot mengamen dari rumah ke rumah, termasuk kios-kios dan toko.

Semua yang mengekor ikut menyanyi bagai paduan suara jalanan yang penuh gelora. Bulan Agustus, bulan perayaan kemerdekaan Republik Indonesia, ini tahun terasa lebih ramai dan semangat. Sebagian warga segera mengenakan pakaian terbaik yang mereka miliki, sebagian lain mengambil ember untuk suara tabuhan. Suara Jarot dan paduan suara jalanan itu makin menggetarkan bendera merah putih dan baliho yang berkibar-kibar di seantero jalanan.

Saat menemukan bendera berkibar di depan SD, Jarot berhenti dan berteriak, “Siiiiiiaaaaaaappppp! Graaaakkkk!!” Orang-orang tua yang mengekornya, termasuk anak-anak turut berdiri dalam keadaan siap.

“Kepada bendera merah putih, hormaaaatttttttt graakkk!” seru Jarot.

Jarot menghormati bendera. Orang-orang mengikuti.

Masyarakat yang menonton jadi senyum-senyum sendiri.

Tak jauh dari arak-arakan Jarot, di sebuah warung, sejumlah orang bercakap-cakap sambil makan.

“Orang edan, gemblung kok diikuti!”

“Ndaklah, dia menyatukan mereka, coba lihat, itu ada yang sukunya Batak, Jawa, Sunda, macam-macam jadi satu, iya khan hehehe….”

“Iya seh, hehehe.”

“Eh, pengamen itu siapa namanya?” tanya yang lain. Dia menunjuk Jarot yang wajahnya seperti orang lugu, hidungnya pesek, dan giginya tonggos.

“Jarot tha, kenapa?”

“Asyik orangnya, kemarin aku lihat dia membersihkan sungai. Sampah-sampah dia kumpulkan dan dia pilah mana yang secara alamiah dapat terurai dan mana yang tidak, sebagian dia bakar. Dia juga menanami bantaran sungai dengan bibit pohon mangga.”

“Wah, sungai yang bersih sana itu tha?

Ibu penjual yang mendengar ikut menyahut: “Iya, Jarot yang bersihin!

***

Lambat laun sejumlah penduduk membantu Jarot maka sungai yang sebelumnya sangat kotor dan dipenuhi semak belukar itu kini jadi lebih bersih dan tertata. Seiring berjalannya waktu pohon-pohon makin membesar dan meninggi membuat lingkungan sekitar sungai jadi rindang dan teduh, sehingga jadi tempat yang enak buat memancing. Kadang-kadang pula Jarot ikut memancing, dan memperoleh hasil yang lumayan untuk lauk makan.

Makin hari kehidupan di sekitar sungai makin bertambah maju, dengan dibangunnya taman dan tempat bermain anak-anak. Saran itu adalah usulan yang disampaikan Jarot di rapat warga yang disetujui Ketua RT dan RW. Dengan bantuan dana dari pemerintah kota, taman dan tempat bermain anak itu dibangun. Makin majulah kehidupan di sekitar sungai, dan itu jadi percontohan tempat-tempat lain untuk memajukan wilayahnya masing-masing.

Jarot sendiri makin dikenal sebagai penggiat lingkungan. Kehidupan di tepian sungai itu yang sebelumnya sepi-sepi saja sekarang berkembang.

Jasa parkir dibuka di dekat bantaran sungai, beberapa warung tenda dibuka untuk melayani pengunjung taman. Toko pulsa, tukang cukur, warung nasi, jualan es, jualan bensin dan toko kelontong mendadak ramai, bisa dibilang berkat Jarot usaha para warga sekitar jadi makin laku, makin banyak mendatangkan keuntungan.

Jarot sendiri tak memungut beaya dari siapa saja yang ingin menikmati taman dan tempat bermain anak-anak itu. Hanya ada seorang tetangga yang bertugas mengawasi kendaraan sambil memasang kaleng besar buat wadah uang seikhlasnya untuk membayar parkir. Lembaran-lembaran uang yang masuk ke dalam kaleng itu nanti akan digunakan untuk kebutuhan warga, khususnya untuk membantu biaya pengobatan bila ada yang sakit, dan biaya melahirkan.

Hari-hari jadi penuh kesibukan, penuh kesungguhan. Semua berjalan sesuai adatnya selama beberapa tahun hingga pada satu malam yang tak biasanya, Jarot bermimpi aneh yang membuatnya merasa gelisah, merasa terancam.

Ada bayangan gelap membekapnya malam-malam. Jarot megap-megap tak berdaya, dan terbangun saat dia nyaris kehabisan napas. Keringat dingin bercucuran di dahi.

Dia tak tahu siapa pemilik bayangan itu. Jarot mulai menyelidiki hal ikhwal yang barangkali berhubungan dengan mimpinya. Dia menelisik ke dalam dirinya sendiri. Dia tahu ada sikap suka dan tidak suka dari warga masyarakat mengenai dirinya. Baginya semua itu wajar sepanjang dia tak diganggu, dia sendiri tak berniat mengganggu yang lain, dia akan menjalani semua hal dengan hati ringan.

Dia selalu percaya pada naluri yang kerap terbukti, bahwa ada orang lain yang tak menyukai kehadirannya. Pastinya pemilik bayangan itu. Wajahnya gelap.

Saat Jarot mencoba menerawang lebih dalam dan khusyuk, secara aneh tabir hitam menutupi parasnya membuat muka itu jadi rata. Hanya bagian pakaian yang samar-samar bisa dilihat. Setelan bajunya rapi, berjas dan berdasi, jam berantai emas terselip di saku baju, dia bersepatu selop.

Mimpi buruk tak cuma sekali mendatanginya. Termasuk malam itu, mimpi lebih menyeramkan! Tak hanya bayangan gelap yang membekap tetapi juga puluhan orang datang menyerbu, sedangkan sosok malaikat kematian pun datang mengancamnya. Dini hari itu, Jarot terbangun dengan keringat bercucuran, bayangan itu tak juga lekas pergi. Cukup lama dia terbangun dan cukup lama bayangan itu ada di pelupuk matanya, seakan menjerat ingatannya. Jarot segera mendaraskan wirid yang panjang, bersembahyang sampai subuh menjelang hingga hatinya merasa tenang.

Hari itu Jarot berpuasa.

Dia berpikir barangkali dalam hidupnya pernah melakukan hal tak baik yang tak dia sadari. Dia ingin menebus hal tak baik itu yang barangkali ada hubungannya dengan mimpi buruknya selama ini. Semua hal baik dia upayakan di hari itu, namun kesialan bisa datang kapan saja, tanpa diduga.

Malam itu sesudah Jarot berbuka puasa, seperti biasa dia mempersiapkan diri dengan semangat untuk esok hari merayakan hari kemerdekaan. Jarot mengumpulkan bendera untuk persiapan upacara bendera.

Tiba-tiba datang puluhan orang.

“Jarot!” teriak seseorang.

Dalam kegelapan, gelaran air sungai masih terlihat hamparannya karena tersirami cahaya sinar rembulan. Lampu merkuri di pojok jembatan berkemilau bergoyang-goyang karena

cahayanya terhambat bebatuan.

Tak banyak orang di kolong jembatan pada malam itu, andai pun ada akan menyingkir melihat puluhan orang datang membawa ancaman.

“Keluar kau!” teriak orang-orang itu lebih keras.

Jarot tergeragap, hatinya berdesir, jantungnya berdetak tak biasa, namun dia segera menenangkan diri, melangkah keluar dari bedengnya.

“Ada apa? Tenang, semua bisa dibicarakan.”

“Persetan dengan omonganmu!”

Beberapa orang langsung merangsek menyerang Jarot, mengeroyoknya.

“Tenang, sabar, apa mau kalian? Ayo bicara baik-baik,” kata Jarot sebelum berbagai tonjokan dan tendangan menghantam tubuhnya, bertubi-tubi. Hidungnya berleleran darah, perutnya nyeri tanpa ampun. Kepalanya pusing, pening, ngilu, dan rasa nyeri meradang di sekujur tubuhnya.

“Pergi dari sini kalau kau tak mau mati!” Hajaran itu berlangsung makin beringas tak peduli.

Jarot diam tak melawan. Tubuhnya tersungkur ke tanah.

“Minggat! Kalau besok kau masih ada, kau akan kami habisi!”

“Ingat itu!”

Sejumlah orang meludahi muka Jarot, “Cuihh! Cuihh! Cuihh!”

“Pergi jauh dari sini! Kalau tidak, kau mampus! atau mereka warga kampung akan kami habisi, rumah mereka akan kami bakar!”

***

Diluar sepengetahuan Jarot, sesudah kejadian malam itu, di sebuah kantor pemerintah daerah, seorang yang berbaju rapi, berjas dan berdasi, dengan jam berantai emas di saku kanan dan bersepatu selop, berbincang dengan seseorang.

“Bagaimana?”

“Sudah kami bereskan, Tuan.”

“Bagus. Tak ada yang bisa menghubungkan gembel itu denganku, karena beberapa bulan lagi pembangunan baru akan dimulai, hahaha.”

“Benar sekali Tuan, hehehe.”

Lelaki yang dipanggil tuan itu puas siasatnya berhasil dengan baik. Dia tahu betul bahwa Jarot bisa jadi ancaman pada pembangunan jembatannya. Dia tahu Jarot punya kemampuan menghalangi rencana pembangunan yang akan merubuhkan jembatan lama dan menggantikannya dengan yang lebih lebar dan besar.

Namun perbaikan itu tidak akan dapat terlaksana tanpa merusak taman Jarot dan menyingkirkan penduduk desa. Belum tersebut dampak pembangunan yang akan timbul pada lingkungan sekitar sungai. Seorang pengusaha juga telah berjanji akan mendirikan sebuah pabrik besar di tepi sungai itu baginya.

Semua jalan telah ditempuhnya. Sesama teman pejabat pemerintah sudah disuap. Hanya baru-baru ini dia menyadari ada perubahan pola pikir dari warga di sekitar jembatan dan sungai, dan itu berasal dari pergerakan yang disebarkan oleh Jarot. Hal itu mudah dilihat dengan semakin bersih dan tertatanya lingkungan sekitar sungai. Dia yakin Jarot bukan orang sembarangan. Dia yakin, Jarot disusupkan oleh gerakan kelompok tertentu. Setidaknya oleh para penggiat lingkungan, atau HAM, LSM kiri, atau kelompok ikatan buruh.

***

Di malam menjelang hari perayaan kemerdekaan, Jarot melangkah kesakitan menjauhi kampung yang telah membuatnya jatuh cinta. Malam itu malam yang naas bagi kehidupan Jarot yang direnggut kebebasannya.

Di hari kebebasan bangsa Indonesia dari penjajah, Jarot terusir dari gubuk tempat tinggalnya selama ini.

Paginya, orang-orang kampung geger, semua bingung tanpa Jarot.

Tak ada Jarot yang memandu upacara bendera, tak ada lagi arak-arakan dan paduan suara yang membahana di kampung itu tepat di Hari Kemerdekaan.

*****

 

Jarot’s Independence Day

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.

 

***

 

 

Jarot’s Independence Day

 

Some of the folks who lived under the bridge were still asleep; some sat drinking coffee; others fished the river. Still others listened to the radio broadcast: “The President’s Independence Day speech will be followed by the national anthem, Indonesia Raya.”

Jarot was building a shelter to live in when he saw a bass guitar floating in the river. He ran for it. After Jarot caught the instrument, he cleaned it and tried to fix it. He used the inner tubes of a bicycle to make strings for the guitar. Fancying himself performing with the bass guitar to earn money, he tried to pluck. Boom, boom, boom!

Strumming the guitar, Jarot sang, “I’m happy here, I’m happy there. I am happy everywhere. Lalalalalala, lalalalalala, lalalala, lalalalala, lalalalala, lalalala …”

***

Carrying his bass guitar, Jarot entered the village, decorated with red and white Indonesian flags and banners lining the roadsides in celebration of Indonesia’s Independence Day on August 17. He approached a house and began to sing.

“Hello, hello, Bandung, capital of the Periangan. Hello, hello, Bandung, city of memories. I haven’t seen you for a long time; now you’ve become a sea of​​ flames; let’s reclaim it!”

Jarot sang so loud that he made many people smile.

“He is crazy, singing patriotic songs,” someone said, laughing.

Jarot also sang Indonesia Raya with enthusiasm.

“Indonesia is my homeland, the land where I spilled my blood. It’s where I stand to support my fatherland. Indonesia is my nationality, my nation and homeland. Let us shout: Indonesia unite!”

Many people began to sing along, repeating, especially, the phrase “Indonesia unite!” It was such a rousing call that it ignited everyone’s feelings of nationalism. Some children even began to follow the street singer, as he moved about the village.

The elderly, led by a brown-uniformed ex-freedom fighter, also joined. Thus, many adults, including mothers, started to trail behind Jarot.

Jarot’s singing became more and more enthusiastic as he went door to door, visiting food stalls and shops.

His followers looked like a lively street choir. This year’s August celebration of the independence of the Republic of Indonesia seemed livelier and more spirited. Some residents put on their best clothes; others took pails to use as drums. The voices of Jarot and the street choir seemed to make the red-and-white flags and banners decorating the streets flutter faster.

When Jarot saw the flag flying in front of an elementary school, he stopped and shouted, Attention!” The parents and children who followed him straightened up.

“Salute the colors!” cried Jarot and saluted the flag.

Everyone followed suit.

The bystanders watching them, smiled.

In a food stall, not far from the Jarot-led procession, a number of people were eating and making comments.

“Foolish people. Why are they following Fatso?”

“Jarot unites them. Look! Amongst them are Bataknese, Javanese, and Sundanese. Don’t you think all of them are having a good time together?

Even some of the old people have joined him!” The commenter laughed.

“Hey, what’s the busker’s name?” another asked, pointing at Jarot.

With his flat nose and protruding teeth Jarot looked like the village fool.

“That’s Jarot. Why?”

“He is a busy person. Yesterday, I saw him taking trash out of the river. After he sorted the garbage, separating the biodegradable from the non-biodegradable, he burned some of it. He also planted mango saplings on the riverbanks.”

“Wow! Is that the river he cleaned up over there?”

The food stall owner was listening to the conversation and chimed in, “Yes, Jarot is the one who cleaned it!”

***

Gradually, over time, a number of residents began helping Jarot clean up the river. Previously very dirty and filled with shrubs, the river was now cleaner and the surroundings were better managed. As time went by, the trees grew bigger and taller, creating a cool and shady environment, a good place for fishing. Sometimes Jarot joined the fishermen and caught a good meal.

At a community meeting, Jarot put forth an idea that was approved by the neighborhood and hamlet leaders. With help from the government’s city funding, the community built a park and children’s playground. Life around the river became more prosperous, and the settlement became a model for other places to develop their rundown areas.

Jarot became increasingly recognized as an environmental activist. The previously dreary life on the riverbanks was now flourishing.

A parking lot and several tent stalls opened near the riverbank to serve visitors. Cellphone shops, barbershops, food stalls, a gasoline outlet, and variety stores now buzzed with customers. Jarot could be credited for the booming businesses of the local residents, as well as for their now thriving lives.

Jarot did not collect any fees from people who wanted to enjoy the park and the children’s playground. Instead, a person from the neighborhood was put in charge of the parking lot, where visitors could place their voluntary donations in a large can. The money was used to help residents with medical expenses, such as childbirth.

Jarot’s days were filled with noble activities. Everything continued as usual for many years until one night, he had a strange dream that made him feel uneasy and threatened.

In his dream, a dark shadow appeared and swiftly smothered him until he could hardly breathe. Gasping helplessly, Jarot woke up just as he was about to suffocate. Cold sweat dripped down his forehead.

He didn’t know who the shadow belonged to. Jarot began to investigate things that might explain his nightmare. He looked within himself. He knew that in the community there were people who liked him and people who disliked him. To Jarot, this was to be expected, as long as no one disturbed him. He was a light-hearted person and did not intend to bother others.

But Jarot had always believed his often-proved instinct that some people didn’t like his presence. Jarot figured that one of these people must be the owner of the shadow. His face was dark. When Jarot tried to take a better look, the black veil that covered the strange figure flattened his face. Only his clothes were vaguely visible. Standing in loafers, the figure was dressed in a nice suit and wore a necktie. A gold chain was attached to the watch tucked in his vest’s pocket.

The nightmare returned. This time, the dream was even more sinister. Not only did the shadowy figure rush in, but so did dozens of people. The dark shadow of the “angel of death” was amongst them.

Jarot woke up sweating profusely. The image of the shadow remained, even after Jarot had been awake for a long time. It seemed to be stamped into his memory. Jarot immediately recited a long wirid, hoping that the prayer said after the regular prayers, would calm him.

That day, Jarot fasted.

He wondered if perhaps he had inadvertently done something wrong. He wanted to make up for the bad thing that might have something to do with his recurring nightmare. All day, he tried to do good, but he knew that bad luck could come at any time, unexpectedly.

That evening, after Jarot broke his fast, he prepared himself with his usual enthusiasm for the celebration of Indonesia’s Independence Day. Inside his shack, Jarot was gathering flags for the flag ceremony when suddenly dozens of people stormed the bridge.

“Jarot!” someone shouted.

In the darkness, the riverbank was visible, basking under the moonlight. The light from the lantern at the corner of the bridge, shimmered between the rocks.

There weren’t many people under the bridge that night, and even if there had been, they would have fled when they saw dozens of menacing people arrive.

“Get out!” the people shouted louder.

Jarot staggered, his heart hammering. Quickly, he calmed himself and walked out of his shack.

“What is wrong?” he asked the crowd. “Calm down. Everything can be discussed.”

“To hell with your talk!” Several people charged at Jarot, ganging up on him.

“Calm down, be patient, what do you want? Let’s talk!” Jarot cried before he was overtaken by the mob and repeatedly punched and kicked. His nose was bloodied. His stomach hurt terribly. He was dizzy and ached all over.

“Get out of here if you want to stay alive!”

The beating from the mob accelerated without mercy. Jarot did not fight back. He fell to the ground.

“Get lost! If you’re still around tomorrow, we’ll kill you!”

“Remember!”

Several people spat on Jarot’s face. Ptui! Ptui! Ptui!

“Leave! Or you’ll die! We’ll burn this village and kill the residents!”

***

Later that night, a local government official was holding a conversation with a man standing in loafers, wearing a nice suit fitted with a necktie. A gold chain was attached to the watch tucked in the man’s vest pocket.

“Well?” the official asked.

“We’ve taken care of it, sir.”

“Good! I don’t want to have anything to do with that scumbag. In a few months, the new bridge construction project will start.” The official laughed.

“That’s right, sir,” the man said, joining in the laughter.

The official was satisfied that his scare tactic had worked. Only recently had he noticed a change in the mindset of the population living under the bridge and on the riverbanks. Jarot’s ideas had changed them. This was evidenced by the cleaner and more orderly environment around the river. He was sure that Jarot was not an ordinary person, and he was sure that causes such as human rights activists, leftist NGOs, and labor union groups supported Jarot.

Therefore, the official knew very well the threat that Jarot posed to carrying out his bridge construction plans. He also knew that Jarot had the ability to block the construction project, which could not take place without destroying Jarot’s shack and removing the other villagers in order to tear down the old bridge and replace it with a wider and bigger one. The negative impact that the development would have on the river’s environment was another factor, as was the large factory that a businessman promised to build for him on the riverbank.

But now, all safety measures had been taken. The official had even bribed his government colleagues.

***

On the eve of Indonesia’s Independence Day, the day when the Indonesian people celebrate their freedom from the colonizers, Jarot left the place he had fallen in love with. He was evicted from the shack under the bridge, which he had called home all this time and pain-ridden from the fateful night that had stripped off his freedom.

On the morning of August 17, there was a big commotion among the villagers. Without Jarot, everyone was confused. And on that Independence Day there was no one to direct the flag ceremony, no one to lead the parades, and no one to direct the street choirs in the riverbank settlement under the bridge.

 

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bincang Sastra: Kelindan Penerjemahan Sastra

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The following are events that took place in Indonesia.

Click Bincang Sastra: Kelindan Penerjemah Sastra for a recording of the event.

https://www.suaramerdeka.com/hiburan/pr-04694746/webinar-bincang-sastra-balai-bahasa-jawa-tengah-narsum-saya-berutang-budi-pada-cerita-panji

https://suarabaru.id/2021/08/09/upaya-mengangkat-karya-sastra-indonesia-ke-dunia-internasional/

 

 

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

 *****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

*****

Mengadang Pusaran on Zoom

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We are pleased to share this virtual book discussion of Mengadang Pusaran (PT Kanisius 2020) the second Indonesian language translation of Only A Girl by Widjati Hartiningtyas. The well attended event was hosted by the Department of Language and Literature of the Faculty of Cultural Science of Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogjakarta in collaboration with the Association of Indonesian Scholars of Literature, Commissariat UGM and followed by a lively discussion.

 

 

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.

*****

 

 

Dalang at the Borobudur Writers and Cultural Festival

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Borobudur Writers and Cultural Festival – November 23, 2020

We are closing 2020 on a happy note with a virtual participation in the Borobudur Writers and Cultural Festival. At the event we were able to introduce PT Kanisius as the publisher of Mengadang Pusaran (PT Kanisius 2020) a new Indonesian language translation of Only A Girl by Widjati Hartiningtyas of a novel by Lian Gouw and Tembang dan Perang (Kanisius 2020) Junaedi Setiyono’s new novel now in translation by Dalang Publishing and scheduled for publication at the end of next summer.

We were pleased to have Junaedi Setiyono, author of Tembang dan Perang, Flora Maharani, Kanisius’ editor for both books, Widjati Hartiningtyas translator of Only A Girl, Marius Santo, cover designer of both books, and Asri Sastrawati, one of the back cover reviewers for Mengadang Pusaran share the stage with us.

Please click here for a recording of the event.

Taking Indonesian Literature to America

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Burlingame Public Library: May 21, 2019

Dalang Publishing was honored by an invitation from the Burlingame Main Public Library in Burlingame, California, to introduce our offerings and work to their readership. Thanks to Cynthia Rider, the Adult Services Librarian, the event was heavily promoted and well attended.

We are grateful to Ibu Riena Dwi Astuty, Consul of Cultural Affairs at the Indonesian Consulate in San Francisco, for attending the event with her office staff, Cindy German and Andrian Mulia.

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Cynthia Rider’s warm welcome was followed by publisher Lian Gouw’s introduction of Dalang Publishing and brief mention of Dalang’s ten titles. In addition, Bu Lian gave the audience a glimpse of her native Indonesia.

She then gave a presentation and reading of Dalang’s most recent publication, Blood Moon over Aceh, Maya Denisa Saputra’s English language translation of Lolong Anjing di Bulan by Arafat Nur. Bu Lian concluded the event with a Q&A.

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After the event, the audience mingled and visited the book table while enjoying some refreshments, which included lapis Surabaya, an Indonesian cake served at special events, accompanied by a hot cup of Indonesian tea.

Blood Moon over Aceh by Arafat Nur Launch at the Indonesian Consulate in San Francisco

On February 9, 2019, Dalang Publishing launched Blood Moon over Aceh, the English-language translation by Maya Denisa Saputra of Lolong Anjing di Bulan by Arafat Nur, at the Indonesian Consulate in San Francisco. Nur used the Aceh Conflict as the backdrop of his novel, and he used Aceh, known as the gateway to Mekah, for the setting.

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Acting Consul General Hanggiro Setiabudi honored us with opening remarks, and Ibu Lian presented him a copy of Blood Moon over Aceh, as well as its original, Lolong Anjing di Bulan, for the Consulate’s library.

Hanggiro’s presentation, Aceh Today, showcased Aceh’s significant economic growth and infrastructure that has occurred subsequent to the novel’s time period, 1989–2002.

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Blood Moon over Aceh is Dalang Publishing’s tenth publication. Ibu Lian expressed her gratitude to the Consulate for its support of each publication’s launch before presenting the work through slides of the story’s location and a short reading.

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Refreshments included an array of authentic Indonesian sweet and savory snacks.

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The Selamatan for Blood Moon over Aceh

On February 9, 2019, Dalang Publishing celebrated its publication of Blood Moon over Aceh, Maya Denisa Saputra’s English translation of Lolong Anjing di Bulan by Arafat Nur with a Selamatan in San Mateo, California.

Despite the raging storm, about 26 invitees were present. We were honored by the presence of Bapak Hanggiro Setiabudi, Acting Consul General, of the Indonesian Consulate in San Francisco; Bapak Susapto Anggoro Broto, Consul of Consulair Affairs; Ibu Riena Dwi Astuty, Consul of Cultural Affairs; and Ibu Cindy German, her assistant.

Sylvia Tiwon, professor of Southeast Asian Studies at UC Berkeley; Virginia Shih, librarian of SOEA Library at UC Berkeley; and Jacqueline Siapno, one of the back cover reviewers of Blood Moon over Aceh, were also among the attendees.

In addition to pointing out the importance of Nur’s work, Siapno generously shared some of her experiences during the time she lived in Aceh.

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Ibu Lian started the evening with opening remarks and a presentation of a copy of Lolong Anjing di Bulan and Blood Moon over Aceh to Bapak Hanggiro for the Consulate’s Library.

In turn, Bapak Hanggiro expressed his gratitude and acknowledged Dalang Publishing’s efforts to bring Indonesian literature to the Western world. He also shared his personal ties with Aceh and the government’s continued efforts to develop Aceh.

Dinner was started by Ibu Lian presenting the top of the tumpeng to Bapak Hanggiro as the guest of honor.

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Because the novel’s story is set in Aceh, we served ayam tangkap and plik’eu, two authentic Acehnese dishes, as part of the regular side dishes that accompany the nasi tumpeng. Agem was in charge of the food preparation — a delicious spread that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

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The evening ended with Ibu Lian reading a short excerpt of Blood Moon over Aceh.

As usual, the guests were given a copy of the celebrated publication as a party favor.

 

An Evening in Indonesia

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Dalang Publishing was invited to participate in “An Evening in Indonesia,” a cultural event that the Indonesian Consulate in San Francisco hosted on October 12, 2018. To us, aside from an opportunity to draw attention to our press, it was a wonderful opportunity to commemorate the Soempah Pemoeda, the pledge that young Indonesian nationalists in the Second Youth Congress made on October 28, 1928, to uphold Bahasa Indonesia, the language that unites us.

Dalang’s titles, as well as our canvas illustrating that historic moment, drew much attention.

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Meanwhile, we are moving full force toward the press date of Blood Moon over Aceh, the English language translation by Maya Denisa Saputra of Lolong Anjing di Bulan by Arafat Nur (Penerbit Universitas Sanata Dharma 2018). An excerpt of the work is featured as this month’s short story on the “Your Stories,” “Current” page of our website, dalangpublishing.com.

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Dalang will participate in the launch of Lolong Anjing di Bulan on November 9, 2018 at the Universitas Sanata Dharma in Yogyakarta. Java.

 

On November 13, 2018, we will present the title at Universitas Syiah Kuala in Banda Aceh, Sumatra.

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Association for Asian American Studies

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Dalang Publishing hosted a book table at the recent Conference of the Association for Asian American Studies in the St. Francis Hotel at Union Square in San Francisco, March 29–31, 2018.

Sadly, Dalang was the only conference exhibitor with books on Indonesia among the 23 exhibitors attending. Dalang counted some 48 guests to our table. We made some good new contacts and, although we sold only 21 books, we are happy with the interest that was shown for Indonesian literature.

But noticing how actively the Japanese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean populations were represented at the conference — and knowing that there are some 145,000 Indonesian citizens and according to a recording on Wikipedia some 100.000 Indonesian diaspora were living in the USA in 2010 — the absence of Indonesian representation in the conference program and conference attendance is disappointing and frustrating to those of us who are committed to spreading the history, culture, and beauty of Indonesia through writing.

Another concern arose at the conference, and it’s a concern that must be addressed by all who love Indonesia and are concerned about its future: Three people, at separate times, asked why I — a person of Chinese descent — was promoting Indonesian literature, when the Indonesians are “known” to massacre and discriminate against the Chinese. If highly educated people believe this, then we must work to reach all populations who are influenced by false propaganda. We cannot hope for a better future if we keep dwelling on a tumultuous past.

On a different note, thanks to Tuti, Dalang Publishing is proud to celebrate one full year of short story publishing with our April 6 website bilingual publication of Pohon Pu Tao Tua / The Old Pu Tao Tree by Teguh Afandi — translated by Laura Harsoyo.

We hope you have enjoyed the stories that have appeared on our website, without fail, every first Friday of an even month and that you will continue to support us.

We are now reading submissions year-round and look forward to receiving submissions that meet our writer’s guidelines as posted on this website. http:// dalangpublishing.com/writers-guidelines. Thank you for your support of our mission to contribute to the landscape of Indonesian literature.

Happy New Year 2018

We, at Dalang Publishing, wish you a healthy and fulfilling New Year.

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This video, a generous gift from the talented videographer Ditto Priutomo Aimir, will now start the PowerPoint presentation at our events.

We invite short story writers of historical and cultural fiction to send us their manuscripts. Please check the Writer’s Guidelines page of our website for manuscript preparation.

Look for a new short story, every first Friday in February, April, June, August, October, and December, at the Your Stories page. The next one will be available on Friday, February 2, 2018.

 

Happy New Year!

October 9–November 16, 2017: Home for Seven Weeks

This year’s trip home to Indonesia began with a totally unexpected, extremely generous offer from Dr. Enny Anggraini — chair of the 5th Literary Studies Conference, hosted by the Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta on October 12 and 13, 2017 — to deliver a keynote based on my thoughts and experiences as an Indonesian diasporan author and publisher.

I folded my fear of losing our Indonesian language not only into my keynote, but also into the theme of this year’s talks and the translation workshop I held. As it turned out, “From immigrant to diasporan, a homecoming of the heart,” gave me the opportunity to address my concerns and “bring home” several diaspora voices, ranging from poetry, novels, short stories, and children’s books to cookbooks. It was good to see a healthy interest in the divergent material, back home.

During the seven weeks I spent traveling from Yogyakarta to Semarang, Salatiga, Surabaya, Bandung, and Jakarta, I had ample opportunity to share my concerns regarding the rapid deterioration of our Indonesian language, not only due to the tremendous influx of English words that we are daily exposed to, but, even more, due to the sad fact that we Indonesians, as a nation, feel compelled to show a certain level of education by sandwiching English words between proper Indonesian prefixes and suffixes. It was, in a sense, rather mind-blowing to notice how much people were unaware of how this behavior butchers our own language.

I was grateful to be given the opportunity to share with our youth and educators my need to create a new awareness regarding the place of language in the realm of nationality, in the true sense of the word, and in the spirit of the years of the revolution, when our first president, Soekarno, called our nation to unite, under one flag, using one language: the Indonesian flag and the Indonesian language.

Hopefully, the seeds I tried to sow regarding active support for Indonesian studies and literature by offering a solid educational basis for our future authors, translators, and literary critics, will germinate. New contacts and rekindled relationships give me the courage to continue trying to share our colorful history and rich culture with the American reader through English language translations of the original work.

Despite a packed work agenda, there was time to enjoy reconnecting with old friends and visiting places I relate to as “home.”

The following photographs will give you a glimpse of my seven, wonderful weeks home. Unfortunately, I caught a very bad cold on the plane, hence this tardy posting.

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Yogyakarta – October 10–19, 2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017: At The 5th Literary Studies Conference, hosted by the Sanata Dharma University, I presented, “From immigrant to diasporan, a homecoming of the heart.”

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Link to event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97fHmZLXxnQ

…is a homecoming of the heart enough to earn back the privilege of being considered a part of the Indonesian population?

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Friday, October 13, 2017: Dalang Publishing was given the opportunity to present, “The importance of literary translation” as a panel that represented each part of the publications of the original and translated work. We featured our latest publication, Maya Denisa Saputra’s English translation of Dasamuka by Junaedi Setiyono, along with the original novel, published by Penerbit Ombak.

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Link to event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XUyozMHOnA

Translations of novels enable readers around the world to enjoy the work of writers of different countries and, not only become privy to these writers’ techniques, but also get a glimpse into the souls of the individuals who the story is written about.

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Kartika Nurul Nugrahini from Penerbit Ombak: In our opinion, the success of a publication depends on the impact it has on its readers. In order to share information or make cultural exchanges, translation is almost a necessity.

Junaedi Setiyono: I write historical fiction because I not only want to present the beauty of language in the form of a story, but I also want my readers to appreciate what happened to their ancestors, when preparing for their own future.

Maya Denisa Saputra: I hope that my translations will serve as a cultural connector of the Eastern and Western worlds by bringing the culture of Indonesia to Western readers.

 Ari J. Adipurwawidjana, literary critic: Work that can help us, as a nation, recover from the historical and cultural amnesia we are suffering from is worthy of a translation.

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After the presentations, Jun and Maya were busy signing copies of Dasamuka.

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The last session of the conference was a panel discussion moderated by Elisabeth Arti Wulandari from the Sanata Dharma University between delegates of the University of San Tomas, in the Philipines, Maria Luisa Torres Reyes and Joyce Arriola,  Inseop Shin from the Konkuk University in Korea, and myself.

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Link to event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcc9KwBMnnU&feature=youtu.be

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Monday, October 16, 2017: Dalang presented at the Sanata Dharma University: “Peran terjemahan dalam menduniakan sastra Indonesia,” an open lecture and panel discussion on the role of translation in bringing Indonesian literature to the world stage, followed by a book presentation of Dasamuka.

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Link to event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fb_3laJ266s&feature=youtu.be

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Free time in Yogya was spent retracing Dasamuka’s steps and rekindling old friendships.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017: “Mengangkat sastra Indonesia ke panggung dunia melalui penerjemahan,” an open lecture regarding translation, held at the Universitas Muhammadiyah in Purworedjo.

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It is impossible to be a translator without first mastering one’s own language.

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Semarang and Salatiga – October 19–25, 2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017: Karangturi hosted “Mencari jalan untuk meningkatkan mutu karya penulis Indonesia di masa depan,” a discussion regarding ways to raise the quality of writing, held with about 40 teachers from grade, middle, and high schools.

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The basis of any writing is language. It is imperative that an author, translator, and publisher master the languages they are working in. Language gives us a voice. Without a voice, we will no longer be.

 

No trip home would be complete without spending a few days at my friends Lisa and Harjanto Halim’s house and sharing a meal with Inge Widjajanti and her husband.

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The highlight of every trip to Indonesia is the time spent “home on the ranch” at Havana Horses.

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Surabaya – October 26–November 1, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017: “The importance of literary translation,” a translation workshop hosted by the English Department of Petra University.

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Link to event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khLsfh1r1vY&feature=youtu.be

Local color and subtle, cultural, eccentric nuances are often lost when a translation has been edited by an editor who only has a mastery of the target language.

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It’s always fun to share a meal with old friends.

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Bandung – November 1–8, 2017

Friday, November 2, 2017: Padjadjaran University hosted an open lecture, “Peran bahasa dalam perjalanan rohani dari perantau menjadi diaspora,” followed by an enacting of excerpts from Dasamuka by Junaedi Setiyono, Dalang’s latest publication, and student discussions of Potions and Paper Cranes, the English language translation of Perempuan Kembang Jepun by Lan Fang and my novel, Only A Girl. The background of the room provided by the university is my favorite! (see photo).

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Link to Event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67EbCQ8XWU0&feature=youtu.be

As an Indonesian diasporan, I consider it my duty to protect and honor the Indonesian language.

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In Bandung I enjoyed Pak Ari’s gracious hospitality

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Jakarta – November 9–16, 2017

November 13, 2017: “A seminar on language and literature” (“Seminar nasional bahasa dan sastra”), held by Universitas Pamulang.

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It is sad that, at this moment, we as a nation, who have successfully reclaimed our independence, now voluntarily subject ourselves to enslavement and domination by everything Western to the point that we even sacrifice our language by allowing the heavy infiltration of the English language.

A highlight of this event was the student presentation of a poem by Muhammad Wildan, a docent at the Faculty of Indonesian Literature at Pamulang, titled, “Negeriku” – “My Country” — of which I quote in closing:

My Country-

Can you try

Telling me

What, exactly, is happening to you,

My dear country…

 

***

A Glimpse Into Indonesian History Through Story

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Photos by Gemah Rahardjo and Robert Kato.

On Saturday, August 19, 2017, Florey’s Books, located in Pacifica, CA, hosted the event, “A Glimpse Into Indonesian History Through Story” which offered us the opportunity to introduce our nine titles and present Maya Denisa Saputra’s English translation of Dasamuka by Junaedi Setiyono, our newest publication.

Proprietor Aaron Schlieve has been a staunch Dalang supporter and instrumental in helping us promote Indonesian literature. In addition to presenting Dalang’s titles we also discussed Indonesia and its rich culture.

 

Dalang Publishing goes to Oregon

 

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Ibu Lian visited Portland, Oregon, to attend the Historical Novel Society Conference (June 22-25, 2017). Despite her packed conference schedule we managed to introduce Dalang’s publications to the Multnomah Public Library, Broadway Books, Mother Foucault’s Bookshop, and Wallace Books. Powell’s City of Books­ – the biggest independent book store in the world, already carries Dalang’s titles and we simply dropped in to establish personal contact.

We hope to see our books soon readily available in Oregon.

Book Launch for Dasamuka by Junaedi Setiyono

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The Consul General of Indonesia for San Francisco, Bapak Ardi Hermawan, and his family, along with Bapak Hanggiro Setiabudi, Consul of Economic Affairs, and Bapak F. Bernard Loesi, Consul for Information and Socio-Cultural Affairs, honored us with their presence at the launch of Dasamuka, our ninth book.

Sylvia Tiwon, professor of South and Southeast Asian Studies at UC Berkeley; Virginia Shih, librarian of the SOEA Library at UC Berkeley; and George Anwar, lecturer at the Dept. of Engineering at UC Berkeley, were among the thirty guests.

 

Selamatan for Dasamuka

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Saturday, May 20, 2017, was a happy day for Dalang Publishing. After a year of hard work, the time had arrived to welcome our new title, Maya Denisa Saputra’s English language translation of Dasamuka by Junaedi Setiyono.

The Selamatan was held at the Highlands Recreation Center in San Mateo, California. We were honored by the presence of Bapak Hanggiro Setiabudi, Bapak F. Bernard Loesi, and Ibu Riena Sarjono, all from the Indonesian Consulate in San Francisco. Among the other guests were Sylvia Tiwon, professor of South and Southeast Asian Studies at University of California, Berkeley; Virginia Shih, librarian of the SOEA Library at UC Berkeley; and Cynthia Rider, librarian of the Main Burlingame Public Library in Burlingame, California.

A Selamatan is a traditional Javanese dinner that is held to welcome anything new, as well as to give thanks to and ask the blessings from anyone who had anything to do with bringing about the new entity.

It is customary to serve nasi tumpeng – a yellow cone-shaped rice dish symbolic of a mountain of fortune (hence the gold color) along with side dishes that represent the bounty of the land, the sea, the skies, and creations by man. It is an ancient Indonesian belief that Gods reside on top of the mountain, and it is customary to serve the top of the cone /tumpeng to the guest of honor.

On behalf of Bapak Ardi Hermawan, the Consul General of the Indonesian Consulate in San Francisco, Bapak Hanggiro Setiabudi offered the opening remarks at the Selamatan, during which he acknowledged and praised Dalang’s efforts to bring Indonesian literature to America.

Ibu Lian then presented him with copies of the original and English language translation of Dasamuka.

Endorsements from academia in Indonesia as well as the United States can be found on the book’s back cover and in its title section of the Our Books page of Dalang’s website, www.dalangpublishing.com

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After Ibu Lian presented the tumpeng to Pak Hanggiro, everyone enjoyed the traditional Indonesian dinner of yellow coconut rice, spicy beef stew, tumeric spiced fried chicken, shrimp and eggs with chili sauce, spiced fried tempe and dried fish, and a mixed-vegetable and shredded coconut salad. Hot tea, Kue Pepe (sweet rice cake), and Lapis Surabaya (Indonesian layered pound cake) were offered for dessert. Keroncong music was played in the background during the dinner.

 

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A PowerPoint presentation with visuals of historical figures and local settings mentioned in Dasamuka, followed by a short reading from the English translation by Ibu Lian, ended the Selamatan.

 

2017 Association for Asian American Studies Conference

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April 13–15, 2017, at Portland, Oregon.

Dalang Publishing, along with 18 other publishers, was an exhibitor at the AAAS Conference. The conference theme was “At the Crossroads of Care and Giving.”

We were very lucky to be placed between Duke University Press and Johns Hopkins University Press, as we drew a lot of interest from visitors to these well-known presses.

Among those who showed interest in our titles were researchers and professors of Southeast Asian studies and many librarians. The book sales generated by the conference were pleasing.

Aside from being an exhibitor, we also attended the conference to support Asri Saraswati, a lecturer at Universitas Indonesia in Jakarta, who is currently a doctorate student from the State University of New York at Buffalo. One of the topics in Asri’s presentation was “How does Indonesia’s colonial and post-colonial politics of race coincide with the Asian American experience?” Unfortunately, there were only three Indonesians attending the conference. Yet, based on the questions and conversation at Asri’s presentation and the visitors to our booth, we feel that there’s a great interest in Indonesia.

 

 

Entrepreneur Club’s Business Innovation Showcase Day

 

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March 10, 2017, at Foothill College in Mountain View, California.

Thanks to the efforts of Indonesian students in charge of the event, Dalang Publishing was offered a table to display its titles. Tegishtha Andhika Iman Soewarno, Aleisha Fiona Nurfirman, and Cindy Tjuarsa’s interest in our work and support of our mission is commendable.

Without the collaboration of the young men and women who are the future of our nation, it would be extremely difficult to achieve our goal of honoring our country by introducing Indonesian literature to the Western World.