Semarang Keynote

Semarang, November 7, 2018

Keynote: Celebrating Language Month with Renewing the Youth Pledge

Lian Gouw

Universitas PGRI

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

I’m grateful to the administration of PGRI University, in particular to Pak Prasetyo and Ibu Maria Yosephin, for this opportunity to discuss a concern that is foremost in my mind and directs my everyday conduct. This concern is the importance of protecting the sanctity of our Indonesian language from undue infiltration from the English language. Today’s lifestyle tends to gear toward globalization, rather than preserving our own culture and language.

I’m aware of the resistance from academia, government officials, and everyday people toward my effort. However, it works better for me to follow my heart than to win a popularity contest.

After several encounters with various individuals, including close friends who are professionals in the language field, I decided to figure out why I’m so bothered by what I see as an abuse of our language. I came up with the following.

Perhaps it all starts with my own language experience. Life has made me keenly aware of the all-important role language plays in our everyday lives. Language is the most important tool in communication. To stifle someone is similar to destroying his soul. From ancient times till today, language is the most powerful secret weapon to overthrow the enemy.

Examples include:

– God brought the Babylonians to their senses by destroying their language

– The Dutch forced their language upon us during colonization

– People of occupied countries during WWII were forced to learn German and Japanese    At the onset of our independence, President Soekarno declared Bahasa Indonesia the official language of the Republic of Indonesia. With his wisdom, President Soekarno realized that we, a nation spread across more than 17,500 islands, between Sabang and Merauke, needed a strong, unifying allegiance to help us hold our own against other large countries. He led us Indonesians to unity with our coat of arms that reads Bhinneka Tunggal Ika — Unity in Diversity — urging us to unite under one flag and communicate in one official language, Bahasa Indonesia.

I’m in total agreement that every language needs constant development to serve a growing nation. This growth, in turn, introduces new words and terminology. And here, then, lies the task of our linguists to come up with words and phrases that still represent our language not only in cadence and sound, but also in the way we think. This takes expertise and a lot more than merely sandwiching an English word between an Indonesian prefix and/or suffix.

In my opinion, our lackadaisical attitude toward our native language is rooted in our reluctance to put out the effort and our desire to appear as someone with a Western education.

I wonder why neither the sound nor the cadence of words — such as memfokus, berkommunikasi, ngeprin, webset — don’t bother anyone and why their use is preferred over the traditional Indonesian memusatkan perhatian, berhubungan, mencetak, situs.

Our linguists are not only tasked to search for a word that fits in our language, but as Indonesian citizens, also to be responsible gatekeepers of the Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia, the official Indonesian Dictionary.

From conversations about this topic with several linguists, language teachers, students, government officials, and workers in the private sector, I came away with the following troubling observations.

I seldom met anyone who shared my concerns. For the most part, people just shrugged their shoulders and said, “Oh, well, that’s the way it is. We can’t really do anything about it.”

This solicited my emphatic reaction: “Of course there is! We can do a lot! Start by not joining those who destroy our language. Second, counter their actions by setting an example and refusing to participate in their inappropriate behavior.”

The following responses really saddened and alarmed me.

“Dengan use kata-kata itu, kita kan menunjukkan kita tidak ketinggalan zaman. Kita hidup now, bersifat global…, berpendidikan….” (Translation: “By using those words, we show we are progressive. Using those words, we prove to be a part of today; we show ourselves as being global and well-educated.)

Another student said, “Me-use word bahasa asing kan cool, Bu!” (Translation: “Don’t you think that using foreign words is cool?”)

Good God, help me. If this student — a product of his parents’ and teachers’ upbringing — is supposed to be a pillar of our future society, what kind of a future can our country and nation hope for? The situation dismays and concerns me, especially because, while pondering this issue, I cannot ignore the sacrifices of our forebearers who bequeathed us our independence and, as a result, granted us the right to freely use our own language.

Born in an independent country, our youth take for granted the fruits of their ancestors’ toil for freedom. Able to freely enjoy the amenities of independence, perhaps it is difficult for our youth to be mindful of the past and be grateful for their living conditions.

This, then, is my lament regarding the use (and miss-use) that our language receives in dialogue and on the page, in formal as well as in mundane matters.

It is easy to launch complaints or fret about things one doesn’t agree with. Coming up with a solution to the problem is much more difficult. To me, complaining without offering a solution is useless, and I usually respond to complaints by asking the complainer, “So what do you plan to do about it?”

I was very happy, therefore, when I came up with several possible solutions to the Indonesian language infiltration dilemma.

Operating from the students’ reactions during our conversation and the fact that students play a big role in the future of our country, I asked myself, Why does this young person think like that? What makes them think that using foreign words in their conversation will depict them as educated or debonair? I came up with the following answers.

  1. It is Indonesian public opinion that the use of bastardized Indonesian words is a sign of being educated and alludes to the fact the person has a Western education or, at the least, fraternizes with foreigners.
  2. There is no love or pride in regards to our own language.
  3. Despite the fact that Indonesia has been independent for 73 years, we still suffer the consequences of colonialization, which erased our self-worth and pride. Colonialism instilled in us that we are worthless and taught us that unless we adapted the colonialists’ lifestyle, we would not be treated equal.

Based on the above, I conclude that our language is in a precarious situation.

  1. As a nation, we still suffer from a lack of self-worth
  2. Indolence is a characteristic of people who live in the tropics

With this knowledge, what can we do to remedy the problem?

I feel that it is vital to reignite the fire of nationalism that lit our revolution — the blazing fire that provided Indonesian people with hope, self-confidence, and the courage to break free from the tyranny of colonialism. It is time to rekindle the fire that President Soekarno started during those days of revolution.

By rebuilding nationalism and national pride, the desire to protect and serve our country will be awakened; and self-respect will automatically be fostered. The school system, starting with kindergarten and ending in higher education institutions, is an excellent growing ground for the seed of nationalism. Geography, history, cultural, and language studies are all avenues to awaken nationalism.

I still remember, when growing up, how careful we were to only speak proper Dutch. Mispronunciation or inappropriate word or phrase usage resulted in insults. We therefore did everything we could to meet the Dutch standard.

It therefore puzzles me that we now don’t seem to apply this notion to our own language. I am saddened by the realization that not only youngsters are guilty of violating our language, but adults are also very much guilty of committing the same crime.

Proper language should be used at all times. During colonial times, it would have been impossible for anyone to obtain a desk job without proper language skills. In the publishing world, a mastery of language is obviously a must.

Now, what is a “mastery of language”?

As a publisher, I consider someone to master a language if they, aside from being able to speak and write in that language, also has a full understanding of what is written in that language. Some who master a language, other than understanding what is said and written in that language, also can think, feel, see, hear, and touch in that language. In other words, one lives the language one masters.

In his poem “Immigrant Blues,” Li-Young Lee, an American poet born in Jakarta, says about learning a foreign language, “Practice until you feel the language inside you…”

He doesn’t say, “until you can understand, speak, or write it.” No, he says, “Until you feel.” Only after one has acquired this relationship with a language, does one master it.

Before we, as a nation, start chasing dreams of becoming citizens of the world —especially in the areas of literature — and set out to explore and embrace other foreign cultures and languages, let us pause a moment to focus on how much we know about our own culture, and what kind of mastery we have of our own language.

With the great probability that Indonesian parents use English-corrupted Indonesian language in their communication with their children, it seems that today, teaching our youth to master our mother tongue has become problematic. This problem becomes even bigger when parents send their children to an international school where, of course, English is used as the working language, and Indonesian is most likely not in the curriculum.

Because I subscribe to the English saying, You need to walk the talk, meaning, you need to act and do as you say, I execute what I believe might keep our language from vanishing and remaining independent. I take great care in my everyday Indonesian communications, and particularly those as a publisher, to use proper Indonesian language.

My actions are motivated by a fierce sense of nationalism and a deep love for the country of my birth.

I’d like to end my talk by, together, renewing the vow of the Indonesian youth, 90 years ago. On October 28, 1928, they pledged, Kami Poetra dan Poetri Indonesia, mendjoenjoeng bahasa persatoean, Bahasa Indonesia.” — We, the sons and daughters of Indonesia, respect the language of unity, Indonesian.



November 9, 2018 –

Launch Lolong Anjing di Bulan by Arafat Nur

Hosted by University of Sanata Dharma Dies Natalis Program.

Dra. Novita Dewi, M.S., M.A.(Hons), Ph.D.

Review Lolong Anjing di Bulan – English Language Translation

As Lolong Anjing di Bulan is my introduction to Arafat Nur’s writing, I can’t compare it to any of his other work, some of which have won literary awards. From this one novel, I draw the conclusion that Nur writes with one thing, and one thing only, in mind: love. He loves his world — the world of words. He loves life and, above all, he loves mankind.

In Lolong Anjing di Bulan, the Aceh landscape appears vividly on the page. Readers who are used to the scenery of paddy fields, fodder crops, and trenches — typical of Java countryside — will be taken by the difference in the Acehnese landscape depicted in this novel. The everyday life of a population of farmers, placed amid turmeric fields, coconut groves, and plots of mountain rice, immediately engages the reader. Nazir, the narrator, as well as his parents and sisters are vividly present. The reader can also easily envision the story of Nazir’s grandfather and grandmother, whose lives end tragically.

Because Nur’s writing finds its essence in love, I did not find the passages that described violence — such as reducing a body to bloody, broken bones — excessive. While Nur addresses neither the government’s nor the rebels’ brutality harshly, his powerful writing still stirs the reader’s conscience.

Every human being is called upon to protect and love the life God has endowed us with. God, alone, is the owner of life. War denies all of this. From the very beginning, this novel attests to the vanity of war. We are supposed to highly regard the culture of life, and war is a celebration of death.

From the many eloquent passages in which Nur describes Aceh’s dark history, my favorite is the description of a harvest in his grandfather’s banana orchard. While the writing here turns anthropocentric, it still describes life. In the interest of time, I will simply quote a paragraph.

Once every three months, a banana wholesaler would come in a Chevrolet pickup with two workers dressed in dark uniforms. The two workers would walk through the orchard, looking for banana clusters that were ready to be harvested. With their sharp machetes, they expertly cut through the soft trunks of banana plants. The first slash was applied with measured strength, in the middle of the trunk, and left the plant still erect. The slanted, second slash caused the plant to bend slowly, as if offering its fruit respectfully. (Nur p.124 Blood Moon over Aceh)

I’m still trying to figure out why this passage affects me so much. While I haven’t pondered intensively over the author’s metaphor, I feel it is safe to assume that here, Nur tells his reader that if nature is treated kindly, it will treat us well in return. The bountiful harvest which provides the family with a livelihood is the result of the grandfather’s painstaking care of the banana grove. Ironically, it is in that exact banana grove that little Nazir is introduced to the meaning of the word resistance.

The passage describes frightened young Nazir witnessing soldiers pillaging his grandfather’s banana grove while unsuccessfully looking for rebels. When the soldiers take off with a bunch of ripe bananas, Nazir understands why the Acehnese rebels are not afraid of the soldiers. They do not believe that the military presence was meant to protect the people. With his young mind, Nazir concludes that war derives from a passion to resist. A notion much stronger than fear.

This novel is a statement of reconciliation evidenced by Nur representing both sides equally on the page: the villagers’ hatred and fear, and the angry frustration of determined, uniformed individuals persecuting rebels who seem to be present everywhere.

Nur points out the succession of calamities that would befall a family if one of the family members joined the resistance movement. As a result of Nazir’s uncle Arkam being a commander in the rebellion, Nazir loses all of his loved ones. The army, without mercy, eliminated everyone suspected of being a rebel.

Nazir is not motivated by revenge when he decides to take up weapons. Yearning for life, he wants to end the perpetuation of killing and acts on si vis pacem, para bellum – if you want peace, prepare for war.

I conclude that through Lolong Anjing di Bulan, Nur encourages everyone to read as much as possible. Literature indeed enriches the imagination while discouraging intolerance. Nur provides us with examples of this in his writing, which is a testament of his own deep love for literature, life, and humanity.


Pohon Pu Tao Tua

Teguh Afandi likes to write short stories, essays, and book reviews. He won The Golden PEN Award from the Strategic Human Resource Program, took first place in the Femina Short Story Competition, and placed third at the Green Pen Award issued by the Indonesian Department of Forestry. Teguh’s short stories have been published by several newspapers, including Harian Pikiran Rakyat, Tribun Jabar, and Femina, a women magazine. His book reviews have been featured in Koran Tempo, Jawa Pos, and Jurnal Ruang, an online publication.

Teguh is employed as an editor at a Jakarta-based publishing house.

He can be reached at

Copyright ©2018 by Teguh Afandi. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2018 by Laura Harsoyo.


Pohon Pu Tao Tua


Di halaman rumah Boneo, sebatang pohon pu tao yang lebih sering disebut pohon jamblang, tampak payah menopang tubuhnya yang semakin tua. Tinggi batangnya tak melebihi genting rumah. Cecabangan menyeruak membuat tajuk mendompol, tetapi kering karena banyak daun rebah ke tanah oleh kelelahan. Pohon pu tao itu berdiri sama tua dengan rumah si empunya. Hanya, rumah yang dulu berlantai tegel hitam dan berdinding papan kayu nangka kini sudah berubah dengan lantai keramik warna metalik dan dinding bata dan jendela kaca.

Sudah lama pula pohon pu tao itu tak pernah berbuah. Memang, ketika musim berbuah datang, akan tumbuh bunga dan bakal buah yang merimbuni tajuk. Namun, pohon pu tao terlalu lemah untuk mempertahankan sebiji buah pun. Walau pu tao berbuah lebat sekalipun, tidak akan ada yang berniat memakannya. Buah dari pohon tua itu sudah disingkirkan dari meja makan. Buahnya masam tidak menimbulkan minat.

Meski pohon pu tao itu sudah sedemikian tua, Boneo belum berniat menebangnya. Dia masih takut akan nasihat ibunya.

Kata Harmunik, jangan sampai ditebang pohon pu tao itu sebelum Boneo menikah dan punya keluarga baru. Bagaimanapun, pohon itu kenangan hidup atas almarhum ayah dan hari kelahiran Boneo.

Ayahnya menanam pohon pu tao ketika tahu anak pertamanya adalah lelaki. Anak lelaki kelak membawa tanggung jawab untuk mikul dhuwur mendhem jero. Mengangkat derajat orangtuanya dan mewarisi nama keluarga.

Harmunik terus marah-marah. Akhir-akhir ini, banyak hal kecil yang mengusik kemarahan Harmunik. Seolah-olah segala sesuatunya tidak berada di tempat semestinya dan membangkitkan kekesalan. Dedaunan pu tao yang luruh karena angin membuatnya mengomel. Suara anak-anak yang riuh sepulang sekolah membuatnya gerah. Semua dirasakannya salah. Penyebab utamanya ialah Boneo yang belum juga menikah. Seperti pohon yang masuk musimnya, tapi enggan menumbuhkan buah.

“Kamu ini kenapa, Boneo? Pekerjaan sudah mapan, harta juga sudah cukup, tapi masih belum juga mau menikah,” Harmunik berbicara dengan nada yang cukup tinggi. Anak satu-satunya itu seperti menutup telinga dari semua omongan Harmunik dan para tetangga.

“Belum ada yang cocok,” Boneo menjawab santai. “Meski menikah adalah hukum alam, tidak mungkin bila dipaksakan.”

Kesendirian Boneo sempat menimbulkan desas-desus kurang baik, bahwa dia adalah keturunan Luth yang ditenggelamkan hujan batu karena suka sesama jenis. Bagaimana mungkin seorang lelaki bereperawakan kekar, wajah tak terlalu buruk, pendidikan tinggi (yang membawanya ke kedudukan yang baik di kantor), tapi terus melajang hingga umur kepala empat. Pastilah ada sesuatu di benak Boneo yang tidak beres.

Akan tetapi, desas-desus itu terbantahkan ketika suatu kali Boneo pulang bersama seorang wanita berpipi kuning mentega. Para tetangga –yang selalu tidak sabar bila melihat berita baru– tersenyum bangga.

Perjaka mapan yang tidak lekas kawin penanda dua hal, sakit jiwa atau tenggelam dalam kemaksiatan. Nyatanya hubungan dengan wanita berpipi mentega itu tak lebih dari selembar almanak bulanan. Boneo kembali berjalan sendirian sambil mengulum senyum tanpa penyesalan.

“Ayahmu pasti menangis di kuburnya, Boneo!”


“Keturunannya putus di kamu,” Harmunik terhenti sampai di situ. “Percuma ayahnya menanam pohon pu tao ini, penanda kebusukanmu.” Ada keputusasaan dalam nada bicara Harmonik.

“Apa tidak menikah itu tanda busuk, Bu?”

“Apa yang hendak kamu cari setelah semuanya kamu dapatkan? Pendidikan, pekerjaan? Apa tidak hendak kamu mencari pasangan?” Pertanyaan Boneo dijawab dengan pertanyaan kembali.

“Belum ada yang cocok,” selalu itu yang dikatakan Boneo sebagai alasan penutup percakapan.

Seolah aneka alasan lain akan dibantah Harmunik, kecuali yang satu ini.

Kerutan yang telah berdiam di wajah Boneo semakin dalam ketika dia tersenyum dan melaju meninggalkan Harmunik. Air mata membasahi pipi Harmunik. Dia meraung seperti koak sepasang gagak yang mewartakan kematian bagi keturunan Boneo.


Harmunik mulai sering melamun. Mata sayu menatap dahan putau yang semakin sepuh. Kulit kayu mengelupas dierami sarang semut. Beberapa klarapsejenis kadal yang mampu terbang, beranak-pinak di rongga pokok pu tao. Rasanya, ada bagian di hatinya yang mulai keropos. Saban hari, sindiran dan gunjingan tetangga seperti jarum kasur yang dilesatkan tepat ke dada Harmunik.

“Silsilah keluarga seperti pohon semakin ke tua semakin rimbun. Banyak keturunan,” kata suami Harmunik ketika menanam pu tao tepat pada hari menanam ari-ari Boneo. Pohon pu tao adalah tanda keberlanjutan keturunan. Selama keturunannya masih hidup, pu tao harus tetap dijaga. Sebaliknya, selama pu tao masih berdiri tegak, selama itu pula keturunannya harus dilanjutkan.

Darah yang tumpah di dipan saat melahirkan Boneo tidak boleh sekejap menguap. Terlebih, dulu, pernikahan Harmunik ditentang semua orang. Bagaimana mungkin, Harmunik yang sekadar putri penjual serabi kuah minggah bale dengan menikahi lelaki bergaris biru di pembuluh nadinya. Meski tidak beroleh restu keluarga mertua, Harmunik menikah dengan dampak tak diperkenankan menggunakan nama keluarga. Sudah dilepas menjadi sebatang pohon baru yang tidak ada kaitannya dengan dahan induk.

“Makanya aku pilih pu tao,” Harmunik mengingat perkataan suaminya. “Pu tao tidak berharga, tapi selalu ada buah yang memaniskan lidah.”


Semakin lama, pohon pu tao semakin tidak menunjukkan daya. Sebagaimana Harmunik yang tak kuasa menahan kuasa tua. Angin kencang mematahkan beberapa dahan. Dedaunan rontok ke tanah. Halaman rumah Harmunik dipenuhi rerontokan daun dan cabang-cabang pu tao yang saling silang. Hingga selesai masa duha, Harmunik tak berniat membersihkannya. Dia hanya menunggu kepulangan Boneo dari perjalanan dinas luar kota. Harmunik memendam gejolak perasaan yang beriak laiknya air di buluh yang digoyang lindu.

“Bu, kutebang saja ya pohon pu tao itu?” tanya Boneo sore itu, selepas perjalanan dinas.

Harmunik masih diam.

“Bu, Boneo janji, tahun depan akan menikah. Hanya, Boneo belum menemukan calon yang sesuai.”

“Apa saja, terserah kamu,” Harmunik tidak berselera menjawab.

“Sekarang, Boneo mau menebang pohon pu tao tua itu,” Boneo gegas berdiri.

Dia kemudian memanggul kapak lalu mendekati pokok pu tao. Dengan beberapa tebas saja, pohon pu tao sudah rebah ke tanah. Dengan kapak juga, Boneo merampasi dahan-dahan lalu memotong-motongnya menjadi beberapa bagian dengan ukuran sepadan. Dia menumpuk potongan dahan itu di tepian teras. Bisa dijadikan kayu bakar atau arang untuk membakar jagung, pikirnya. Boneo mengelap peluh di dahi dan bahu. Lalu, dia masuk ke dalam rumah, ingin mendinginkan suhu badan.

Harmunik masih terdiam di kursi. Sebingkai foto pernikahannya tergeletak di pangkuan. Matanya terpejam. Beberapa jenak sebelumnya, ketika pertama kali terdengar suara berdebam, saat pokok pu tao tua membentur tanah pekarangan, Harmunik menyebut-nyebut nama Allah, mewiridkannya dengan suara begitu lemah.

Cahaya senja menerobos lewat kisi-kisi jendela, membentuk pola di kulit Harmunik. Pohon pu tao yang biasa menghalau cahaya kini sudah tiada.

“Bu, sekarang rumah kita lebih cerah. Tidak ada penghalang sinar matahari lagi.” sambil meraih segelas air dingin, Boneo melanjutkan, “Bu, kemarin Boneo bertemu dengan Amhar, kawan kuliah dulu, yang sama-sama belum punya pasangan. Besok, Boneo kenalkan sama ibu.” Senyum Boneo mengembang.

“Bu, kalau tidur di kamar,” kata Boneo. Dia mendekati tubuh Harmunik yang sudah lemas.

Pohon pu tao itu sudah ditebang. Harmunik tak lagi merisaukannya.


Old Pu Tao Tree

Laura Harsoyo was born in Makassar, South Sulawesi, and grew up in Palembang (South Sumatra) and Surabaya (East Java), where she graduated in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Airlangga University. She loves to read literary works and is interested in writing fiction. During her 21-year career in the hospitality industry, she wrote articles for Chef!, a culinary magazine in Jakarta, as well as translated some articles in organizational publications. She currently works as a freelance translator in fiction and nonfiction writing. Laura translates from Indonesian into English.

Laura can be reached at:




The Old Pu Tao Tree


In Boneo’s front yard, a pu tao tree—better known as a jamblang or Java plum tree—seemed to have trouble holding up its aging frame. The height of the trunk did not break the roofline of the house. Its branches created a thick canopy, but the foliage was dry; many leaves had fallen to the ground.

The pu tao tree was as old as its owner’s house. The house had originally been built with black tile flooring and walls made of jackfruit wood boards, but now had a ceramic tile floor in a metallic color, brick walls, and glass windows.

It had been a long time since the pu tao tree had borne any fruit. After the tree flowered, young fruits would fill the leafy canopy. However, the pu tao tree was too weak to mature even a single fruit. And even if the tree had borne fruits, no one would be interested in eating them. The fruit of the pu tao tree was no longer served at the table; its sourness made it undesirable.

Even though the pu tao tree was old, Boneo had no intention of cutting it down. He still respected his mother’s advice.

Harmunik had said not to cut the pu tao tree down before Boneo married and had his own family. After all, the tree was a living memory of his late father, as well as of Boneo’s birth.

His father had planted the pu tao tree when he found out that his firstborn was a boy. A son would carry the responsibility of upholding his parents’ reputation while covering up their shortcomings. He would raise his parents’ stature and inherit the family’s royal surname.

Lately, many little things incited Harmunik’s anger. It was as if everything was not where it should be, and that provoked her resentment. The pu tao leaves that the wind had blown to the ground bothered her. The loud voices of children returning from school annoyed her. Everything felt wrong. The main cause was Boneo, who had no plans to marry. He was like a mature tree that was reluctant to bear fruit.

“What’s wrong with you, Boneo? You have a steady job, you have enough money, and still you don’t want to marry.” Harmunik spoke in an agitated voice. It seemed her only child had no ears for her words or the neighbors’ gossip.

“I haven’t found the right one yet,” Boneo answered casually. “Even though marriage is a law of nature, it’s impossible to enforce.”

Boneo’s extended bachelorhood had provoked an unfavorable rumor that he was like the people in the story of Lot, who were struck by a meteor shower for being attracted to the same sex. How was it possible that an athletic, handsome man, with a good education (which had landed him a good position in his office), stayed single until he was in his forties? Something must have gone wrong in Boneo’s mind.

The rumor became disputable, however, when Boneo came home with a woman who had a smooth, creamy complexion. The neighbors—who were always eager to check out good news—smiled proudly.

If a well-established bachelor didn’t marry, it could only point to two facts: either he was mentally ill or steeped in immorality. It turned out that Boneo’s relationship with the fair-skinned woman did not last longer than a month. After that, Boneo walked alone again, smiling and without regrets.

“Your father must be crying in his grave, Boneo.”


“His lineage will end with you.” Harmunik stopped. “It’s pointless that your father planted this pu tao tree; now it’s a sign of your corruptness.” There was despair in her voice.

“Is being single a sign of corruptness, Mom?”

“What are you looking for, after all that you’ve acquired? Education? More money? Don’t you want to find a partner?” Harmunik answered Boneo’s question with questions.

“I haven’t found the right one yet,” Boneo said to end the conversation.

Harmunik disputed all other reasons except for this one.

Boneo’s smile deepened the wrinkles around his eyes; he started to leave.

Tears ran down Harmunik’s cheeks. Her howling sounded like a pair of crows proclaiming the demise of Boneo’s descendants.


Harmunik began to daydream frequently. She often rested her glazed eyes on the old pu tao tree. Ants had nested in the bark, and klarap— flying lizards—had bred in the tree’s hollow. She felt that a part of her heart had started to become hollow. The neighbors’ daily innuendos and gossip were large needles that pierced into her chest.

“A family is like a tree. The older it gets, the denser its foliage becomes. More descendants,” Harmunik’s husband had said when planting the pu tao on the day Boneo’s placenta was buried. The pu tao tree was a symbol of the continuity of the family’s lineage. As long as the descendants were still alive, the pu tao tree must be kept. Conversely, as long as the pu tao tree was still standing, the procreation must continue.

The blood that had been spilled while giving birth to Boneo could not be removed. From the onset, Harmunik’s marriage was opposed by everyone. Harmunik, daughter of a serabi kuah vendor—a Javanese rice pancake vendor—was fortunate to marry a man with royal bloodlines. Harmunik’s marriage went forward without her in-laws’ blessings, and, as a result, she was not allowed to use the family’s royal surname. She was an offshoot that had been deemed incompatible with the parent tree.

“That’s why I chose the pu tao,” Harmunik remembered her husband saying. “The pu tao might be worthless, but it is a prolific producer and will always provide a snack.”


Just like Harmunik, who couldn’t hold back the aging process, the pu tao tree was getting older and losing its vigor. A strong wind broke some of its branches, and Harmunik’s yard was filled with broken, tangled branches and rotting leaves. Even though it was past the Duha praying time—around nine in the morning—Harmunik had no intention of cleaning up. She was waiting for Boneo to return from an out-of-town business trip. Harmunik was filled with turmoil; she felt as if she was pounding water in a mortar. After he returned from his business trip that afternoon, Boneo asked, “Mom, should I just cut down the pu tao tree?”

Harmunik remained silent.

“Mom, I promise I will get married next year. It’s just that I haven’t found the right one yet.”

“I don’t care; it’s up to you.” Harmunik did not feel like responding.

“All right, then I’ll cut down that old pu tao tree.” Boneo sprung to his feet and went to fetch an ax. With a few strikes, he felled the pu tao. Boneo stripped the branches and cut them into pieces of equal size. He piled the wood on the edge of the porch. It could be used as firewood or charcoal to roast corn. Boneo wiped the sweat off his forehead and shoulders, then went inside to cool off.

Harmunik was still sitting silently in her chair. Her wedding photo lay on her lap. Her eyes were closed. A few moments earlier, when she heard the thud that the old tree made as it hit the ground, Harmunik had called the name of Allah repeatedly, in a weak voice.

The light of dusk broke through the window lattice and formed a pattern on Harmunik’s skin. The pu tao tree that used to shade the room was gone now.

“Mom, our house is brighter now. Nothing is blocking the sunlight.” Reaching for a glass of cold water, Boneo continued, “Mom, yesterday I met with Amhar, a college friend, who’s also still single.” Boneo’s smile widened. “Tomorrow, I will introduce Amhar to you,” he said. “Mom, you better take a nap in the bedroom.” Boneo approached Harmunik’s limp body.

The pu tao tree had been cut down, and Harmunik no longer worried about him.


Kei: Kutemukan Cinta di Tengah Perang

Book Description

Kei: Kutemukan Cinta di Tengah Perang by Erni Aladjai is the original of Kei.

Mari kuceritakan kisah sedih tentang kehilangan. Rasa sakit yang merupa serta perih yang menjejakkan duka. Namun, jangan terlalu bersedih, karena aku akan menceritakan pula tentang harapan. Tentang cinta yang tetap menyetia meski takdir hampir kehilangan pegangan.

Mari kuceritakan tentang orang-orang yang bertemu di bawah langit sewarna biru. Orang-orang yang memilih marah, lalu saling menorehkan luka. Juga kisah orang-orang yang memilih berjalan bersisian, dengan tangan tetap saling memegang.

Mari, mari kuceritakan tentang marah, tentang sedih, tentang langit dan senja yang tak searah, juga tentang cinta yang selalu ada dalam tiap cerita.


Product Detail

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Language: Indonesian
  • ISBN: 9797806499