March 29, 2008

Muhammad Yamin

Muhammad Yamin

Indonesian writer and politician, member of the leftist Murba Party. Yamin became President Sukarno's principal 'myth-maker'. He started his career as a writer in the 1920s, when Indonesian poetry was marked by an intense and largely reflective romanticism.

Yamin was one of the pioneers of modern poetry in Indonesia. He was born in Sawah Lunto in West-Sumatra. Yamin started to write in Malaya in the Dutch-language journal Jong Sumatra in 1920. His first published collection of poems Tanah Air appeared in 1922. His early works were tied to the clichés used in Classical Malay.

Yamin studied law in Jakarta, graduating in 1932. Yamin worked in Jakarta until 1942 specializing in international law. Yamin's political career started early and he was an active participant in the nationalist movement. In 1928 the Second Congress of Indonesian Youth proclaimed Malay, since known as Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia), the language of the Indonesian nationalist movement. Yamin made an initiative through the organization Indonesia Muda that Bahasa Indonesia be made the foundation of a national language. Today it is the republic's official language and the principal vehicle for innovative literary expression. Nevertheless attempts at writing modern literature have been made in most of Indonesian major regional languages.

During the Japanese occupation (1942-1945) Yamin worked for the Japanese-sponsored confederation of nationalist organizations, the Centre of People's Power (Putera). During and after the struggle for independence Yamin held important posts in the governmental administration. He died in Jakarta on October 17, 1962.

Yamin's first works appeared in the 1920s. He made much use of the sonnet form, borrowed from Dutch literature. At that time among the major writers was the national activist Abdoel Moeis (1898-1959), whose central theme involved the interaction of Indonesian and European value system. In 1936 Pandji Tisna's (1908-1978) Sukreni, gadis Bali was published, which remains possibly the most original work of pre-independence fiction, and deals with the destructive effect of contemporary commercial ethics on Balinese society. Distinctly innovative poetry began to appear in the 1910s. The European sonnet form was especially popular, but the influence of traditional verse forms remained strong. Although Yamin experimented with the language in his poetry, he upheld the classical norms more than the younger generation of writers. He published plays, essays, historical novels and poems, and translated works from such authors as Shakespeare (Julius Caesar) and Tagore.

Indonesian literature from the 1920s to the 1960s: The earliest Indonesian novels were published in the 1920s. Punjagga Baru (The New Writer) literary school, which was established in 1933, influenced greatly the development of Indonesian literature. Another movement, 45 Group, reflected the ideas of the independence struggle. Among its members was the poet Chairil Anwar, who died at the age of 27, but released the poetry from the bonds of traditional forms and literary language. Other important writers: Sanuse Pane, Idrus, Surwarsih Djojopuspito, Achdiat Karta Mihardja, Toha Mohtar, Mochtar Lubis (imprisoned by the Sukarno regime for four years), Pramoedye Ananta Toer. The first Indonesian dramatist to gain wide recognition was Utuy Tatang Sontani (1820-1979). Poetry in Javanese since independence has been dominated by St. Iesmaniasita and by Muryalelana (b. 1932), preindependence fiction in Sundanese was almost synonymous with the name of Mohamad Ambri (1892-1936). The finest Chinese-Indonesian novelist was Liem King-hoo. The most substantial work of fiction in Dutch by an Indonesian author was the novel Buiten het gareel (1940) by Suwarsih Djojopuspito.

For further reading: Modern Indonesian Literature by A. Teeuw (1979); The Emergence of the Novel in Modern Indonesian and Malaysian Literature by Ali A. Wahab (1991); Southeast Asian Novel: Indonesia in Encyclopaedia of the Novel, Vol 2., ed. by Paul Schellinger (1998)

Selected works:

TANAH AIR, (1922)
GAJA MADA, (1948)

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March 28, 2008

Taufiq Ismail (1)

The Republic is Ours
English version
translated by Harry Aveling

There is no other choice. We must
Go on
Because to stop or withdraw
Would mean destruction

Should we sell our certainty
For meaningless slavery,
Or sit at a table
With last year's murderers
Who end each sentence
'As Your Majesty wishes'?

There is no other choice. We must
Go on.
We are the people with sad eyes, at the edge of the road
Waving at vans and crowded buses.
We are the tens of millions who live in misery
Beaten about by flood, volcano, curses and pestilence,
Who silently ask for freedom
But are ignored in a thousand slogans
And meaningless loud-speaker voices.

There is no other choice. We must
Go on.

Indonesian version

Kita adalah pemilik syah republik ini

Tidak ada pilihan lain. Kita harus
Berjalan terus
Karena berhenti atau mundur
Berarti hancur

Apakah akan kita jual keyakinan kita
Dalam pengabdian tanpa harga
Atau maukah kita duduk satu meja
Dengan para pembunuh tahun yang lalu
Dalam setiap kalimat yang berakhiran
'Duli Tuanku'?

Tidak ada pilihan lain. Kita harus
Berjalan terus
Kita adalah manusia bermata sayu, yang di tepi jalan
Mengacungkan tangan untuk oplet dan bus yang penuh
Kita adalah berpuluh juta yang bertahun hidup sengsara
Dipukul banjir, gunung api, kutuk dan hama
Dan bertanya-tanya diam inikah yang namanya merdeka
Kita yang tak punya kepentingan dengan seribu slogan
Dan seribu pengeras suara yang hampa suara

Tidak ada pilihan lain. Kita harus
Berjalan terus

Give Indonesia Back to Me
English version
translated by Harry Aveling

Indonesia's future is two hundred million gaping mouths.
Indonesia's future is 15-watt light globes, some white and some black, lighting alternately.
Indonesia's future is a game of Ping-Pong, going on all day and all night with a ball shaped like a goose egg.
Indonesia's future is the island of Java sinking under its population of one hundred million people.
to me.

Indonesia’s future is one million people playing Ping-Pong night and day with a goose-egg under the 15-watt light globes.
Indonesia’s future is Java sinking slowly because of the weight of its burden and then the geese swimming on top of it.
Indonesia’s future is two hundred million gaping mouths, with 15-watt light globes in them, some white and some black, lightning alternately.
Indonesia’s future is white geese swimming as they play Ping-Pong on top of the sinking island of Java and taking the hundred million 15-watt globes to the bottom of the sea.
to me.

Indonesia’s future is a game of Ping-Pong going on all day and all night with a ball shaped like a goose-egg.
Indonesia’s future is the island of Java sinking under its population of one hundred million people.
Indonesia’s future is 15-watt globes, some white and some black, lightning alternately.
Indonesia’s future is two hundred million gaping mouths.
to me.

Kembalikan Indonesia Padaku

Hari depan Indonesia adalah duaratus juta mulut yang
Hari depan Indonesia adalah bola-bola lampu 15 watt,
sebagian berwarna putih dan sebagian hitam, yang
menyala bergantian.
Hari depan Indonesia adalah pertandingan pingpong
siang-malam, dengan bola yang bentuknya seperti
telur angsa
Hari depan Indonesia adalah pulau Jawa yang
tenggelam karena seratus juta penduduknya.
Hari depan Indonesia adalah satu juta orang main
pingpong siang malam dengan bola telur angsa di
bawah sinar lampu 15 wat.
Hari depan Indonesia adalah pulau Jawa yang pelan-pelan
tenggelam lantaran berat bebannya kemudian
angsa-angsa berenang di atasnya.
Hari depan Indonesia adalah dua ratus juta mulut yang
menganga, dan di dalam mulut itu ada bola-bola
lampu 15 wat, sebagian putih dan sebagian hitam,
yang menyala bergantian.
Hari depan Indonesia adalah angsa-angsa putih yang
berenang-renang sambil main pingpong di atas
pulau Jawa yang tenggelam dan membawa seratus juta
bola lampu 15 wat ke dasar lautan.
Hari depan Indonesia adalah pertandingan pingpong
siang malam dengan bola yang bentuknya seperti
telur angsa
Hari depan Indonesia adalah pulau Jawa yang
tenggelam karena seratus juta penduduknya.
Hari depan Indonesia adalah bola-bola lampu 15 wat,
sebagian berwarna putih dan sebagian hitam, yang
menyala bergantian.
Hari depan Indonesia adalah dua ratus juta mulut yang

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March 26, 2008



In Java, it is called Bharatayuda Jayabinangun, a war to end the conflict between Pandawa and Kaurawa, which where cousins from the same dynasty - Bharata's. The winners should continue the dynasty ruling over Hastinapura Empire.

It was an unavoidable war designed by heaven's power to eliminate all evil elements in the world. There were two opposite camps, fighting to ruin each other. But not every person involved directly in the battle, they were exception.

Kresna by divine decision was not allowed to involve in direct battle, using his power and weapon to crash Kaurawa, because of this happened, Kaurawa should be melted instantly by powerful Kresna. He was permitted to act as Pandawa's advisor and coachman of Arjuna. Destarata and Widura remained neutral. Baladewa did not agree with a war solution, had left the battlefield.

Some elder figures such as Bisma, Durna, Kripa, and King Salya although they were against Duryudana's attitude, due to their own reasons had to join Kaurawa's forces. Sengkuni and Karna with full determination also joined to Kaurawa.

On the side of Pandawa were famous Ksatrias from Cempala kingdom such as Drestajunmena, the woman archer Srikandi, from Wirata Kingdom, Utoro and his brothers – Resi Seto and Sanga, Setyaki from Dwarawati. The sons of Pandawa, the brave and powerful Gatotkaca, Abimanyu, Bambang Irawan.

Seeing the list of fighters, the war in Kurusetra terrain should be dreadful! Dewi Kunti and Karna - The Mother and Son. When both sides were preparing for the war a mother was worried for the destiny of one of her sons, her eldest son. Viceroy Karna of Awangga, was a chief warrior of Kaurawa, going to fight his own brothers - Pandawa in 'alive or die' battle. She confessed her mistake by not telling Karna and Pandawa that they were brothers - her sons. The mother Dewi Kunti was same as any mother in earth, could not see her own sons going to kill each other. Secretly and decisively he went to see Karna in his residence.

The viceroy was amazed by her visit, and then asked her, "What could a son of coachman do for you, queen Kunti, the mother of the noble Pandawa?”

"You are not a son of a coachman, Adirata is not your father, your father is God Surya and your mother is me, Kunti, who is also the mother of Pandawa, your own brothers", Kunti said.

Then Kunti told Karna the real story. She begged Karna, in this very critical moment; it was right to leave the bad character of Kaurawa and joined his brothers - Pandawa who were on the right side.

Kunti continued, "By joining your brothers Pandawa, all of you should be a powerful force able to eliminate whatever evil in the world. Please Karna, my son, or Suryaputra (son of God Surya), do it as a reflection of your mother's love!”

Karna the brave warrior was shocked to hear this sudden evidence, his senses told him that what Kunti said was true and he could feel also the approval of God Surya. After having composed of himself Karna replied sadly, "What you have asked me, dear mother, is against Ksatria's character. What you have done to me since I was born had robbed my right of a mother's love. I have eaten the rice of Kaurawa and I have been given position, luxurious life and trusted by them. I have also advised them to go in war, and now all of a sudden, I join Pandawa. What will people think of me? I have betrayed my trust, I am a traitor!” Trying not to be emotional he further said, "In respect of your order to me, dear mother, I will not do any harm to Pandawa in the war, no matter what they are going to do to me. I will not kill them, except to Arjuna. So Pandawa will remain five persons, the fifth is either Arjuna or me. Please apologize me!”

Dewi Kunti could say nothing, and then she left after giving him a big hug. She asked to herself, "Who could avoid the fate of life?” She hoped God should bless him.

The Battle in Kurusetra

Resi Bisma - The Great Fighter

On the first day of Bharatayuda Jayabinangun, Resi Bisma was appointed by Kaurawa as their commander in chief (senapati), Pandawa entrusted this duty to Drestajumena, elder brother of Drupadi and Srikandi. Bisma the grand father of Pandawa and Kaurawa proudly accepted the position of senapati saying that as a Ksatria, he should prefer to die in the battlefield than lying in bed with sickness.

Minutes before the war started, Yudistira went to his grand father Bisma alone, kneeling to great him and said, "I apologize that today I have to fight you in this unavoidable war. But I would like to let you know that the big family of Pandawa love and respect you sincerely. I would like to ask your blessing in this holy war".

The great Bisma almost cried, touching lightly Yudistira head and replied, "Deep in my heart, I always love you Pandawa and Kaurawa, I am sorry that I have failed to prevent this war and worse I am compelled to join the opposite side due to my commitments to Destarata. I don't hesitate that you are on the right side. Fight as a true Ksatria and you would win. May God bless you"?

Then Yudistira did the same thing by visiting Kripa and Salya.

The war began, Bisma fought as a lion, and the other warriors from both side too. In the first day, from Pandawa side Utoro and Seta of Wirata were killed. Duryudana was happy.
In the third day, after evaluating the situation, with many victims on Pandawa force, Kresna advised that Bisma had to be killed right away. Arjuna was hesitating, how could he killed his own family, guru, in the battle. Should it be better if Pandawa gave up their demand?

The wise Kresna advised Arjuna on morality, ethics of ksatria, Karma, Darma, etc, among other he said, "Born as ksatria, you must be ready at anytime to live and to die on a tip of a weapon. Holy duty of ksatria is to serve the country by deflating enemies in the war to win the truth". The advice of Kresna to Arjuna during Bharatayuda was called Bagawadgita.

Pandawa's forces in the meeting had decided Srikandi to lead Pandawa's army's against Bisma. Bisma upon seeing Srikandi tried to avoid her. He knew that his death should be in the hand of a tomboy woman. Although he already knew that, his lifetime was numbered, he fought bravely. Many arrows shot by Srikandi, helped by Arjuna penetrated his old body, finally he felt down (the name of Srikandi is very famous in Indonesia. Nowadays, many careers woman in Indonesia with respect are called Srikandi Indonesia).

Bisma dying surrounded by Pandawa and Kaurawa, he told Duryudana, "You are the one who could stop this war. Don't be greedy to your own cousins Pandawa. As for my self I am dying in piece, I have paid my debts to Kaurawa".

Duryudana refused to stop the war, and accused him that Bisma had always on the side of Pandawa. Then Bisma said to Karna nicely, "I knew your secret, Batara (god) Narada told me that you are the son of Batara Surya with Dewi Kunti, you should take the side of your younger brothers Pandawa, the real ksatriaS, fighting for the truth".

Karna knelt to him respectfully replied, " My respected grand father, with all my love to you, I have to join Kaurawa, who have take good care of me for the whole life. This is the ethic of ksatria, I'll sacrifice my life to pay my debts".

Bisma whispered slowly, "it is your determination that is the best way". Bisma death mourned deeply by all fighters.

Meanwhile many Kaurawa's brothers had died in the hand of Bima. Pandawa had also paid dearly – Bamang Irawan, a son of Arjuna died in the heroic battle.

Kaurawa had a new commander in chief, Guru (teacher) Durna, master of war strategy and skillful fighter. In the thirteenth day, Ongko Wijaya or Abimanyu got killed very cruelly. He was tortured heavily in an uneven battle, beaten by Durna, Aswatama, Sengkuni, Dursasana, after being trapped by Jayadrata. Pandawa was in mourning, especially Arjuna, the father of Ongko Wijaya.

In this sudden moment, came their grand father - Abiyoso, he told them no need to grieve
too deeply, they had to remember the natural law of life and death.

The Death of Jayadrata

In the following mourning, Arjuna vowed to kill Jayadrata before sunset. Bima in anger killed again several brothers of Kaurawa, Gatotkaca showing his ability to fly, hit to dead many enemies' soldiers. Burisrawa, a strong Kaurawa's supporter was de-headed by Setyaki's sword.

It was already afternoon, Jayadrata was always staying far from Arjuna. Jayadrata was afraid to fight face to face with Arjuna. Kresna shot his mighty Cakra (arrow with sharp disc head); it is the heirloom of Batara Wishnu. The effect was surprising, clouds covered the sun. The fighters thought it was already sunset, the battle of today stopped and resumed again for tomorrow. Jayadrata wanted to spot where Arjuna was, lifted his head.
Arjuna had prepared his powerful heirloom - Pasopati, an arrow given to him from Batara guru (Arjuna had used Pasopati to kill a powerful king giant Niwata Kawaca, who attacked the kingdom of Heaven). The arrow hit Jayadrata's neck; his head rolled in the earth and died.

Guru Durna was Killed in War

Kresna the great advisor for Pandawa knew that Durna was not easy to be defeated, some tactics must be used to weak him. Durna was a begawan (priest) but his love to his son Aswatama had made him taken a wrong decision to side with Kaurawa. Kresna asked Bima to kill Kaurawa's elephant by name Aswatama (the name was the same as Durna's son), after that all the soldiers had to shout strongly and repeatedly, "Aswatama was dead!”

The thunderous yells were heard by Durna, he was shocked whether it was true. He decided to ask a confirmation to Yudistira, the man who never lied in his whole life. Yudistira replied the confused Durna softly, "Yes, Aswatama, the strong elephant is dead". The worried Durna only heard the words 'Aswatama - dead'. He was totally demoralized; he could not imagine living without his beloved son Aswatama, the one he hoped to continue his aspirations of life. He could not concentrate in battle; as a result he was killed in the hands of Drestajumena.

Gatotkaca, Son of Bima

Gatotkaca who had ability to fly was the air force of Pandawa; his powerful magic blows had victimized a lot of Kaurawa fighters. He led an army of giant from his own kingdom - Pringgondani.

Duryudana was worried to see the storming attacks of Gatotkaca's army. He instructed Karna to eliminate Gatotkaca immediately, otherwise more and more Karna's soldiers should die within a short time.

Karna at that time was busy to start a duel fight against Arjuna. He was the only one in Kaurawa forces who had an heirloom arrow, which could kill Arjuna. The heirloom's name was Kunta Wijaya Danu . Karna heard a thunderous storm in the sky and a black cloud moving. He knew by instinct that it must be Gatotkaca in action. He shot his Kunto to that cloud whilst going forward to face Arjuna.

When baby Gatotkaca was born, his navel could not be cut with any knife. Upon advice from a wise man, the navel was cut by the casing of Kunto arrow. But the Kunto's casing penetrated inside his stomach permanently. The fate had predicted that when the arrow Kunto returned to its casing then Gatotkaca should die. When Gatotkaca was a youngster, by accident he had killed his giant uncle, Kalabendana. The spirit of Kalabendana had been waiting to revenge. He knew the fate of Gatotkaca's death in Bharatayuda. The shot of Karna in fact did not hit the target, the arrow Kunto could not reach Gatotkaca who flied too high. In a very quick move, Kalabendana's spirit took Kunto and told him, “You have to return to your casing, I'll help you". So, with the help of Kalabendana's spirit, Kunto hit Gatotkaca. Gatotkaca's spirit together with Kalabendana's went back happily to the eternity.

Adipati Karna or Suryaputra

He was a very powerful or sakti chief warrior, respected highly by friends and enemies. He had a very strong and high position in Hastinapura, fully trusted by Duryudana. He had no reason at all to complain in his life, he had everything a man should posses; wealth, power, pride, love of his family. Everything seemed to be perfect, if he was a son of coachman. But secret of his personality, which just had been uncovered, by his real mother Dewi Kunti and Bisma had moved his emotions.

In the eve of his first day as Kaurawa's commander in chief, Arjuna secretly visited him. He had the most difficult moment in his life. Arjuna was his ardent enemy, his competitor in archery, the man he hated most up to now, and at the same time was also his brother.
Arjuna suddenly stood in front of him, knelt and greeted him honestly with full of respect and said clearly, "Please accept my sincere respects and Pandawa's respect to you. I come here to ask your apologies for all which had happened to our mother, Kunti send her love for you and also all Pandawa love you, our eldest brother".

Karna, upon seeing Arjuna's attitude could say nothing, he was deeply moved. What he could do was just a slightly nod with tears hanging on his eyes. Arjuna went on, his heart was beating, "Our brother, Yudistira and all of us, have decided to listen to you as our eldest brother, we will obey your decisions. If we win this war you are the one who become the emperor of Hastinapura. We believe that from now on, you will be always with us, your own brothers".

Upon listening and feeling what his brother said, Karna, the powerful Adipati - chief warrior could not overcome his emotions, trying to stop the bursting tears, he embraced Arjuna firmly. Both of them, the mighty ksatriaS, who did not recognized the word 'surrender' in battlefields, in reality were only human beings, could only speak with emotion, showing deep love to each other. After a while, both of them were self-composed. Karna tried to speak calmly, "Arjuna, my dearest brother, deep in my heart, I love all of you - my Pandawa brothers and I also do love our mother Kunti. I am very grateful for your decisions; it's really the most respectable honor for me. I'm telling you that the mistake is mine, as I fight only for my own welfare and happiness and to defend my powerful position, full with material wealth, I have to take the wrong side in Bharatayuda. I admit that it's shameful for a ksatria", he paused and then continued. "I personally beg you to understand my position; please convey this massage to all my brothers. As for you, Arjuna, tomorrow don't hesitate to face me in the battle, we'll fight as true ksatria. I'm prepared to be killed to preserve my good name. Use all your skill, use all your power. May God bless you"? Then they embraced again each other without a word and Arjuna asked his permission to leave.

In the next morning, Karna wore his white dress, impressive and charming. White dress means holy and in fact he was prepared to die. With his sharp authoritative voice, he commanded his troop to be in the formation and ready to attack. Karna's coachman was King Salya.

On the other side, Arjuna sits in his carriage coached by King Kresna. Karna and Arjuna looked very determent but their hearts were governed by emotions of family love. Should they continue? Coachmen, Salya and Kresna knew the feeling of Karna and Arjuna and advised them to behave as true warriors. The battles around them had started fiercely. Karna had just shot his Kunto arrow to Gatotkaca. His carriage was heading forward to face Arjuna. They exchanged shootings of many arrows.

All of a sudden, Karna's carriage was torn into pieces, hit by Gatotkaca's body falling from the sky. He was thrown away. With no carriage he met Arjuna directly. He was aware that Arjuna had several heirlooms, which should kill him. But he would be happy to be killed by a mighty, powerful ksatria -Arjuna, his own brother. He was happy that his brothers would be glorious rulers in Hastinapura, not the mad Duryudana.

At that time, the heirloom arrow of Arjuna - Pasopati hit him, and Karna felt down, killed heroically in the battle. His death was mourned deeply by Kaurawa and Pandawa. Although Karna had fought for Kaurawa but as the eldest brother of Pandawa, Pandawa family with full heroic ceremony held the incineration of his body.

King Salya, the Senopati of Kaurawa

King Salya, in his heart he preferred to be with Pandawa, but he was trapped by Duryudana in such a way so that he had to join Kaurawa. He fought with all his strength, he had a powerful spell (aji) called 'CANDRA BIRAWA'.

When he spelled the mantra (aji) a lot of giants came out from his ears, and killed a lot of Pandawa's soldiers. Pandawa forces were deteriorated. Again, the wise Kresna knew his secret. The only man who could face him was Yudistira, considered as the holiest man of all the people. He was honest, kind-hearted and never lied.

The CANDRA BIRAWA giants, would not attack if it was not attacked, they did only counter-attack. When Salya spelled CANDRA BIRAWA, it was only one giant appeared, but if this giant was killed then he would become two life giants, two would become four and then sixteen, etc. They would multiply themselves to be hundreds and thousands of giants. The soldiers who were counter-attacked by CANDRA BIRAWA giants should be death definitely, their whole blood were sucked.

Yudistira was a man who did not like to fight, he should meet Salya but instructed by Kresna not to attack the CANDRA BIRAWA giants. The giants were confused; they did not know what to do, in facing a passive man. The giants soon reduced their total numbers. From 1000giants became 10 and then became 1, the original CANDRA BIRAWA giant.

The CANDRA BIRAWA went back into the ears of the owner. Salya had to fight without the help of his spell; he was getting tired as he was an old man. When Yudistira released his heirloom JAMUS KALIMOSODO, Salya had not enough power to defend himself, he got killed right away.

The Death of Duryudana
After Salya's death, there was no alternative for Duryudana to lead the Kaurawa himself. He was alone now; all his loyal friends and warriors had been killed. He was rather dying himself than suffering to live together with Pandawa. He ran to nearby river but chased by Bima, then fought by using big GADA (bludgeons). Each fighter, full with anger and hatred, wanted to kill his enemy as quickly as possible. Duryudana did not surrender easily, although he had no hope for the future anymore. Kresna showed the weakness point of Duryudana and told Bima what to do. Bima hit Duryudana's thigh with his big GADA RUJAKPALA. Duryudana collapsed and could not move anymore. He was dead in agony. The evil king or the king of evil at last died.

Bharatayuda was over now, the good and the truth had defeated the evil, the greediness. The price of this glorious day was too heavy for Pandawa, in Hastinapura lived a lot of widows and orphans.

In the night after the war was considered over, the son of Durna - Aswatama, together with Kripa and Kartamarma, treacherously slip into Pandawa's camp. Then killed some Pandawa's family and then burned the camp and ran away hiding in the forest. Drupadi saw who had done dishonest killing. The following morning, they were captured by Pandawa and eliminated.

Yudistira, Emperor of Hastinapura

There were no more obstacles for Yudistira to govern the country wisely. Hastinapura was a prosperous and peaceful country, respected highly by its neighbors and maintained good relation with other countries.

Destarata and Gendari, the parent of Kaurawa, lived together with Kunti, the mother of Pandawa. They were treated honorably by Pandawa and always been respected as their own parents. All the Pandawa's sons were dead in Bharatayuda, to some extent, the death of all Pandawa's son was Arjuna's mistake. He had successfully helped God Guru by killing a giant king Niwatakawaca who menaced to ruin Suralaya, the God palace. God Narada, in the name of God Guru, had given him a Goddess - Supraba to marry; besides he was promised by Narada that Batara Guru should grant him whatever a request he made. Arjuna, accompanied by Semar, spontaneously replied, he wished that after the Bharatayuda all Pandawa remained alive. This request was agreed by Narada.

Semar was shocked to hear the conversation. He told Arjuna that when a man asking something from God, it should be clearly and precisely. In that case Arjuna should ask for the life of Pandawa and their children, not only for Pandawa. But the deal was done, the fate should prove.

Luckily Pandawa had one descendant, the grand child of Arjuna, Parikusit, the son of the late Abimanyu and Utari. Parikesit was the crown prince of Hastinapura.
Destarata and Gendari after living honorably with Pandawa for several years, decided to live as hermits in a lovely place to donate the rest of their life for samadi (meditation), Dewi Kunti as sign of solidarity joined them. Pandawa in tears respected this decision as it was in accordance with the teaching of darma.

Parikesit, the New Emperor of Hastinapura

After almost three decades in power, in the situation of relatively - peaceful and prosperous, Pandawa decide to resign from public life. The crown prince Parikesit had been educated properly with Pandawa themselves as his teachers, considered mature enough to rule the country. Also the younger generation, as a result of a wise and proper training was ready to live in harmony.

The Pandawa's generation, their loyal and respected friends like Kresna and his families had already passed away. So, it was the time also for Pandawa to leave all matters related with life in the world.

Parikesit had received all the knowledge previously mastered by Pandawa. In short, he knew and should practice the three darma, consist of: (1) Darmaning Pendito Utomo. DARMA: a good teaching or way of life; PENDITO: a priest, a saint, dedicated his entire life to God Almighty, for a perfect an correct behavior and action; UTOMO: a perfect and correct behavior and action; a first class quality. Meaning: he had to think and do as a good PENDITO. (2) Darmaning Ratu Gung Binatoro. RATU: king or queen; GUNG: from AGUNG – great; BINATORO: from Batoro-God, a very honorable god's behavior. Meaning: He had to think, consider and do like a great respected king must be just and wise. (3) Darmaning Satrio Wirotomo. SATRIO: a title of nobility: knight, in ordinary life: gentleman. Satrio is always considered of a man with noble quality, well educated, having good conduct and behavior. WIRO: dare, not afraid. Meaning: He had to think and act using his brains. He must be polite and knew what's right and wrong. He must work hard and always ready to defend the truth, combating the evil at whatever cost.

In Javanese life, the position of Pendito (Begawan, resi, priest, and saint) and Ratu (king or queen and all noble family) are considered much respected, even close to divine quality. So, all their words and deeds are considered right. They are called the PANUTAN, the one that should be followed and obeyed. A Javanese proverb says:

SABDO PENDITO RATU means that everyone who has said or promised something must fulfill or honor it.

Nowadays, a real leader, must posses the three Darma, following the example of the WAYANG KULIT philosophy. Parikesit was inaugurated as the new Emperor to continue the ruling of Pandawa dynasty, guided by the holy principles of three Darma.

Pandawa Return to Where They Came From

Pandawa together with Drupadi having satisfied with their life in earth, voluntarily and consciously left the palace compound. Walking to purify their souls they went to mount Mahameru (Semeru). The top of this mountain was considered sacred, a place next to heaven where holy Gods live. That was an episode full with spiritual teaching. Pandawa they were five - Yudistira, Bima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sadewa, but in fact symbolizing the life of a person with the five senses, Drupadi symbolizing the real feeling of a man.

In their existence of life, Pandawa had always together, they could not be separated one by the others, in good or in bad situation. If one of them was separated, Pandawa's should not be in balance. This reflects the life of a person as a whole. In this journey to eternity, one by one of them felt down and disappeared.

At first, Drupadi, symbols of human life and feeling, the latest was Yudistira or Puntadewa or Darmakusuma, the holder of the kingdom (of life), the leader of the other four brothers (four senses). He was seriously (Susetyo) leading the others four.
The second was Bima, who strongly and determinedly (Santoso) protecting Pandawa. The third was Arjuna, who was alert to keep the truth (benar). The fourth was Nakula, who was clever and skillful. No goal could be reached without a skill (pintar). And the fifth was Sadewa, who always accomplished everything with the principle at high morality (susila & tatakrama). A human being has to pass the above symbols in his life on this earth. In short he must have a holy heart, doing right & correct things, patient, polite, love others, and never hurt others, so that he lives safely. In order to reach the condition of holiness, in preparation to be the united again with his holy origin (from where he came from before his birth). Sometimes a man needs to be in solitude, where he should practice self-denial, with limited food, sleep, sex and should not speak over the bad conducts of other people and should not torture animals... That kind situation should enlighten him to kill all of desires of five senses and oppress his lust. He should be able more easily to concentrate in Samadi (meditation).

To achieve this holy goal, the soul purity, the mediator has to kill all the desires of lucrative food and material wealth as well as bad or wrong or sinful hearth's wishes.
Pandawa had solemnly done that to achieve pure reflection or reality of holy life. In the gate of heaven, God Indra, the ruler of heaven and God, Yamadipati, who was authorized to snatch human soul from his body, stopped Puntodewo. They forbid Puntodewo to enter the heaven by bringing his ugly dog. If he insisted to bring it then he would enter the hell. Puntodewo was firm; he would not leave his dog, the ugly dirty creature, as his dog was loyal till the end. Suddenly the dog vanished and turned out to be god Darma, his own spiritual father, who would like to test Puntodewo.

After passing the gate, Puntodewo was in the dark place, uncomfortable and sting, joining his Pandawa families. From that place, he could see the Kaurawa lived in the beautiful palace, surrounded with a garden full of flowers and birds. They were eating, drinking, talking with a big smile. He was surprised and shocked how it could happen with him and his family. After several days, he was approached by Gods and Goddesses that he would be transferred to live in heaven by joining Kaurawa, living the other Pandawa and family behind. He rejected the offer completely.

At last Puntodewo had passed the whole test, and he and other Pandawa and family all of a sudden saw light and lived in heaven like they deserved. Pandawa was thrown to the darkness of hell before living in a bright heaven, it was meant to give a lesson to human beings that he or she should suffer before enjoying a good life.

Heaven is the holiest place, which only the creator - God Almighty could give permission to live in, is a place preserved for holy souls of good people. The basic philosophy of Pandawa's journey life is: SANGKAN PARANING DUMADI. SANGKAN: the origin where it comes from. PARAN: the destination where it goes. DUMADI: human being

Above all wayang kulit reflecting in God, in eternal life and supernatural. A life of human beings by the wish and decision of God Almighty originates from holy things, by birth should perform his or her duty properly in the world, and if not fails, should return to his or her holy origin again.

(Suryo S. Negoro)

Read More......

March 25, 2008

Chairil Anwar (3)

Twilight at Little Harbor

English version

This time no one's looking for love
down between the sheds, the old houses, among the twittering
masts and rigging. A boat, a prau that will never sail again
puffs and snorts, thinking there's something it can catch

The drizzle brings darkness. An eagle's wings flap,
brushing against the gloom; the day whispers, swimming silkily
away to meet harbor temptations yet to come. Nothing moves
and now the sand and the sea are asleep, the waves gone.

That's all. I'm alone. Walking,
combing the cape, still choking back the hope
of getting to the end and, just once, saying the hell with it
from this fourth beach, embracing the last, the final sob.

Indonesian version

Senja di Pelabuhan Kecil

Buat Sri Ajati

Ini kali tidak ada yang mencari cinta
di antara gudang, rumah tua, pada cerita
tiang serta temali. Kapal, perahu tiada berlaut
menghembus diri dalam mempercaya mau berpaut.

Gerimis mempercepat kelam. Ada juga kelepak elang
menyinggung muram, desir hari lari berenang
menemu bujuk pangkal akanan. Tidak bergerak
dan kini tanah dan air tidur hilang ombak.

Tiada lagi. Aku sendiri. Berjalan
menyisir semenanjung, masih pengap harap
sekali tiba di ujung dan sekalian selamat jalan
dari pantai keempat, sedu penghabisan bisa terdekap

English version

Soldiers on guard at night

Time passes. I do not know what fate awaits time.
Agile young warriors, strong old men, with sharp eyes,
Dreaming of freedom, as certain as the stars in the sky,
stand beside me, on guard over this dead region
I love those who dare to live
I love those willing to enter the night
The night fragrant with dreams, stripped of dust ...
Time passes. I do not know what fate awaits time.


Indonesian version
Prajurit jaga malam

Waktu jalan. Aku tidak tahu apa nasib waktu?
Pemuda-pemuda yang lincah yang tua-tua keras, bermata tajam,
Mimpinya kemerdekaan bintang-bintangnya kepastian
ada di sisiku selama menjaga daerah yang mati ini
Aku suka pada mereka yang berani hidup
Aku suka pada mereka yang masuk menemu malam
Malam yang berwangi mimpi, terlucut debu ...
Waktu jalan. Aku tidak tahu apa nasib waktu!

Read More......

Chairil Anwar (2)

English version

If you like I'll take you back
With all my heart.

I'm still alone.

I know you're not what you were,
Like a flower pulled into parts.

Don't crawl! Stare at me bravely.

If you like I'll take you back
For myself, but
I won't share even with a mirror.

Indonesian version
Jika kau mau kuterima kau kembali

Dengan sepenuh hati

Aku masih sendiri

Kutahu kau bukan yang dulu lagi
Bak kembang sari sudah terbagi

Jangan tunduk! tantang aku dengan berani

Kalau kau mau kuterima kau kembali
Untukku sendiri tapi
Sedang dengan cermin aku enggan berbagi
English version


Like my mother, and my grandmother too,
plus seven generations before them,
I also seek admission to Heaven
which the Moslem party and the Mohammedan
Union say has rivers of milk
And thousands of hours all over.

But there's a contemplative voice inside me,
stubbornly mocking: Do you really think
the blue sea will go dry
--and what about the sly temptations
waiting in every port?
Anyway, who can say for sure
that there really are houris there
with voices as rich and husky as Nina's,
with eyes that flirt like Yati's?
Indonesian version

Seperti ibu + nenekku juga
tambah tujuh keturunan yang lalu
aku minta pula supaya sampai di sorga
yang kata Masyumi + Muhammadiyah bersungai susu
dan bertabur bidari madu

Tapi ada suara menimbang dalam diriku,
nekat mencemooh: Bisakah kiranya
berkering dari kuyup laut biru,
gamitan dari tiap pelabuhan gimana?
Lagi siapa bisa mengatakan pasti
di situ memang ada bidari
suaranya berat menelan seperti Nina, punya kerlingnya Yati?

Read More......

Chairil Anwar (1)


English version

If my time should come
I'd like no one to entice me
not even you

No need for those sobs and cries

I am but a wild animal
cut from its kind

Though bullets should pierce my skin
I shall still strike and march forth

Wounds and poison shall I take aflee.
Till the pain and pang should disappear

And I should care even less
I want to live
for another thousand years

Indonesian version


Kalau sampai waktuku
Kumau tak seorang ‘kan merayu

Tidak juga kau

Tak perlu sedu sedan itu

Aku ini binatang jalang
Dari kumpulannya terbuang

Biar peluru menembus kulitku
Aku tetap meradang menerjang

Luka dan bisa kubawa berlari
Hingga hilang pedih peri

Dan aku lebih tidak perduli
Aku mau hidup seribu tahun lagi

English version

At The Mosque

I shouted at Him
Until He came

We met face to face.

Afterwards He burned in my breast.
All my strength struggles to extinguish Him

My body, which won't be driven, is naked with sweat
This room
Is the arena where we fight
Destroying each other
One hurling insults, the other gone mad.

Indonesian version

Di Mesjid

Kuseru saja Dia
Sehingga datang juga

Kamipun bermuka-muka

Seterusnya Ia bernyala-nyala dalam dada.
Segala daya memadamkannya

Bersimbah peluh diri yang tak bisa diperkuda

Ini ruang
Gelanggang kami berperang

Satu menista lain gila

Read More......

Seno Gumira Ajidarma

The Sound of Rain on Roof Tiles[1]

By Seno Gumira Ajidarma
Translated by Patricia B. Henry

“Tell me a story about fear,” said Alina to the storyteller. And thus the storyteller told the tale of Sawitri:

Every time the rain let up, a tattooed corpse would be found sprawled at the entrance of the lane. That was the reason Sawitri always felt a trembling in her heart every time she heard the sound of rain starting to tap on the roof tiles.

Her house, in fact, was situated on the corner, where the lane joined the main road. Sometimes at night, she could hear sounds like gunshots, and the sounds of car engines disappearing into the distance. But even on those frequent nights when she had heard nothing, whenever the rain let up tattooed corpses always appeared, sprawled at the entrance to the lane. Indeed, perhaps she hadn’t heard anything because of the sound of the rain coming down so hard. A heavy rain, you know, can often be very scary. Especially if your house isn’t a sturdy building, has a lot of leaks, can get flooded, and could be crushed if even a small tree fell on it.

Then too, Sawitri might not have heard anything because she’d been sleepy and might have nodded off. Perhaps the radio was turned on too loudly. She liked to listen to Indonesian pop songs while she sewed. Her eyes often stung from squinting at the eye of a needle in the light of a 15 watt bulb. When her eyes stung and watered she would shut them for a moment. Shutting her eyes for a moment like that, she would listen to a fragment of song from the radio. And while she listened, sometimes she nodded off. But without fail, every time the rain let up, a tattooed corpse would be sprawled at the entrance to the lane.

In order to see the tattooed corpse, Sawitri only needed to open the side window of her house and look to the right. She had to lean over if she wanted to see the corpse clearly; otherwise her gaze was obstructed by the shutter. She had to lean over until her stomach pressed against the window sill, and the spatters of the remains of the rain dripped onto her hair and also on part of her face.

Her chest was always tight and her heart pounded hard every time the rain ended and the sound of the last raindrops were like a song ending. But Sawitri still kept on opening the window and looking to the right while leaning over to see the corpse. Even if she had nodded off while the rain came down in the middle of the night with its gentle rhythm that invited people to forget about this impermanent world, Sawitri always woke up the moment the rain let up. She would immediately open the window, then look over to the right while leaning out.

She always felt fear, but she still always wanted to look closely at the faces of the tattooed corpses. If the corpse had already drawn a crowd of her neighbors, Sawitri too would take the opportunity to go out of the house and make her way through the crowd until she could see the corpse. She didn’t always succeed in seeing its face because sometimes it was too late and the corpse had already been covered with a cloth. But Sawitri was relieved if she’d been able to see any part of the corpse at all, be it the foot, the hand, or at the very least its tattoo.

Sawitri had on occasion lifted the cloth covering the corpse in order to see its face, but she didn’t want to do it again. A couple of times when she’d lifted the cloth, what she’d seen was a face twisted into a grimace, with staring eyes wide open and teeth showing in a grin, as if it were still alive. A face to make your hair stand on end.

However, as it turned out, Sawitri usually did not join in crowding around with her neighbors. She was almost always the first person who saw the tattooed corpses. When the rain hadn’t quite stopped, so that it hung like a glittering screen in the yellowish glow of the mercury street lights, the shape of the sprawled body really looked like an animal carcass. Sawitri would only look for a second, but it was enough for her to keep the mental picture of how the blood had spattered on the wet cement, and how the shape itself also quickly became wet, and how the person’s hair and whiskers and draw-string shorts were wet too.

Not all the faces of the tattooed corpses were horrible. Sometimes Sawitri had the impression that the tattooed corpse was like a person sleeping soundly, or a person smiling. The tattooed people slept soundly and smiled in the soothing embrace of the gentle rain which, in Sawitri’s eyes, sometimes looked like the curtain of a theatre stage. The pale, yellowish light of the mercury street lamps sometimes made the color of blood on the person’s chest and back look black instead of red. It was the blood which distinguished the tattooed corpses from sleeping people.

Sometimes the eyes of the tattooed corpse stared straight at Sawitri when she turned to the right after opening the window and leaning out after the rain had let up. And Sawitri often felt that she was observing them right at the moment their lives were ending. The eyes were still alive at the moment when they met hers. And Sawitri could feel how those eyes in their final gaze had so much to tell. So often had Sawitri locked eyes with those tattooed bodies, she felt she could tell with only a glance whether the person still lived or had already died. She could also sense immediately whether the soul of the person was still in his body, or had just left, or had long since flown, who knew whether to heaven or to hell.

Sawitri felt she had seen many stories in those eyes, but that the retelling of them would be extremely difficult. She sometimes felt that the person wanted to scream that he didn’t want to die, that he still wanted to live, that he had a wife and children. Sometimes also Sawitri saw eyes that were questioning. Eyes that demanded. Eyes that rejected their fate.

But the well-built tattooed bodies just remained wet, wet from blood and rain. Flashes of lightning made the blood and the wet body shine, and the blood and rainwater on the cement also shone. The heads drooped forward or back, as decreed by their individual fates. It might happen that the head faced downwards, kissing the earth, or it might gaze upwards at the sky, with eyes wide open and mouth gaping. And at those times when the rain hadn’t stopped completely, Sawitri saw how the gaping mouth filled up with rain water.

Sawitri felt that her neighbors had gotten used to the tattooed corpses. In fact she thought that the neighbors were delighted every time they saw a tattooed corpse sprawled at the entrance to the lane whenever the rain let up and the corpse lay bathed in the light from the yellowish mercury lamps. From inside her house which was situated at the corner of the lane, Sawitri heard everything they talked about. They screamed and yelled while crowding around the sprawling corpse, even though sometimes the rain hadn’t completely ended, and the children shouted gleefully.

“Look! Another one!”

“Dead as a doornail!”

“Smashed like a damn bug!”

“Now he knows what it feels like!”

“Right, now he knows what it feels like!”

“The filthy dog!”

“Right, the filthy dog!”

Sometimes they kicked the corpse around, too, and stomped on its face. Sometimes they just dragged the corpse the length of the road to the office of the subdistrict chief, so that the face of the tattooed person was smeared with mud because the neighborhood folks had dragged him by the legs. Sawitri never went along with the procession of cheering happy people. It was enough for her to open her window every time the rain let up, to look to the right while leaning over, and then to close it again after seeing a tattooed corpse.

Sawitri would take a deep breath once it was clear that the corpse wasn’t Pamuji. Didn’t Pamuji also have a tattoo like those corpses, and wasn’t it also true that some of the corpses that lay sprawled at the entrance to the lane every time the rain let up were friends of Pamuji? Once in a while Sawitri recognized those friends among tattooed corpses, like Kandang Jinongkeng[2], Pentung Pinanggul[3]....

The corpses were sprawled there, really like rat carcasses that had been tossed into the road. Sawitri felt their fate was worse than that of slaughtered animals. The corpses were sprawled there with their hands and feet tied together. Sometimes their hands were tied behind their backs with plastic string. Sometimes only their two thumbs were tied together with wire. Sometimes, in fact, their feet weren’t tied. Indeed there were some who weren’t tied up at all. However, those corpses who were not tied up usually had more bullet holes in them. The bullet holes formed a line on the back and chest, so that the beautiful tattooed drawings were ruined.

Sawitri sometimes thought that the shooters of the tattooed people had in fact purposely ruined the pictures. Actually, they shot them in all sorts of unnecessary places, although they could just shoot them in the fatal spots. Did they shoot at those non-fatal places only because they wanted to make the tattooed people feel pain? Sometimes a tattooed picture was destroyed because of bullet holes in those non-fatal places.

She always looked carefully at the tattoos of the people who were sprawled at the entrance to the lane every time the rain let up. That was the way Sawitri recognized Kandang Jinongkeng. He was face down, but the light of the mercury street lamp was strong enough for Sawitri to recognize the tattoo on his back which was now full of holes -- a piece of writing, MAMA DEAR, and a picture of a cross on his left arm. Sawitri could remember clearly the drawings on those corpses: anchors, hearts, roses, skulls, women’s names, various writings, all sorts of large letters....

Sawitri always looked carefully at the tattoos because Pamuji also had a tattoo. She had once tattooed her own name on Pamuji’s chest. She had written on the chest of that man: SAWITRI. Further, the writing was surrounded by a picture of a heart as a sign of love. Sawitri remembered she needed two days to perforate Pamuji’s skin with a needle.

But it wasn’t just Sawitri’s name which was tattooed on Pamuji’s chest. She always remembered that on his left arm there was a picture of a beautiful rose. Beneath the rose was the word Nungki. According to Pamuji, that was his first sweetheart. And then there was a drawing of a nude woman. On the chest of the naked woman there was the word Asih. According to Pamuji, again, he had once fallen in love with Asih, but it hadn’t come to anything. Sawitri knew Asih. In earlier times they had been prostitutes together in the Greater Mango district. It was because of Asih that Sawitri had gotten to know Pamuji in the first place. Ah, the dear old days gone by!

And so the rain kept coming down, as if in a bad dream. For the past few years, since the tattooed corpses had been showing up sprawled out on every corner, life itself had become like a bad dream for Sawitri. From that time on, Pamuji had vanished without a trace.

At first, the sprawled-out corpses turned up almost constantly. Morning, noon and night, there were corpses sprawled in the corners of the market, floating by in the river, lying sunk in the ditches or scattered along the toll roads. Every day the newspapers carried pictures of tattooed corpses with bullet wounds at the base of the skull, in the forehead, the heart, or between the eyes. Sometimes the tattooed corpses had even been tossed, in broad daylight, onto the main roads, from cars which swiftly disappeared. Those corpses which fell into the midst of a crowd of people caused quite a commotion. People crowded screaming around the corpse and created a traffic jam. Sawitri had seen this with her own eyes while out shopping one day. She saw the dust rise up in a cloud after the corpse had hit the ground. The billowing dust had made it difficult for her to breath. Pamuji, oh Pamuji, where could you be?

The pictures of the corpses eventually disappeared from the newspapers, but the tattooed corpses still turned up with the same characteristic signs. Their hands and feet were tied. They had fatal gunshot wounds, but there were still other bullet holes in places that would not cause death. If they had been shot in those non-fatal places first, surely the pain had been awful, Sawitri thought to herself. How much more so with hands and feet tied like that.

Had Pamuji already turned up sprawled out someplace, like the corpses at the entrance to the lane? Sawitri had received a letter from Pamuji with no return address, but only once. Sawitri in fact was certain that Pamuji wouldn’t be caught. Pamuji was very clever. And if the shooters gave Pamuji a chance to fight, it was by no means certain that he would lose. Sawitri knew, Pamuji was very good at fighting. But, if every time the rain stopped there was always a corpse sprawled at the end of the lane, who could guarantee that Pamuji wasn’t going to suffer the same fate?

This was the reason Sawitri always trembled every time the sound of the rain was heard tapping on the roof tiles. Every time the rain ended, at the entrance to the lane there it would be, a sprawled-out tattooed corpse. Their eyes always stared in Sawitri’s direction, as if they knew that Sawitri would open the window and then look to the right….

“At the end of the story will Sawitri meet again with Pamuji?” Alina asked the storyteller.

And thus the storyteller answered: “I cannot as yet answer you, Alina, the story still isn’t over.”

Jakarta, July 15, 1985

[1]“Bunyi Hujan di Atas Genting” from “Penembak Misterius: Trilogi” (The Mysterious Shooter: A Trilogy), in Penembak Misterius: Kumpulan Cerita Pendek (The Mysterious Shooter: A Collection of Short Stories) by Seno Gumira Ajidarma. Jakarta: Pustaka Utama Grafiti, 1993.
[2]Jail Dodger
[3]Club on the Shoulder

Read More......

Goenawan Mohamad

Writing Under Duress
Goenawan Mohamad tries to stop the fire

By Felix Cheong

Goenawan Mohamad, Indonesian poet, and founder and editor of the influential weekly magazine Tempo, was born in 1941 in a small town in Central Java. He grew up in a family whose destiny was intricately tied to politics. His parents were detained in the 1920s in an internment camp for their involvement in a left-wing nationalist movement. In 1947, his father was re-arrested and executed.

As a young poet in his 20s living in Jakarta, Goenawan was drawn into a bitter literary and political controversy when he signed a manifesto protesting social realism in the arts, which was being imposed by the then powerful Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Deemed a 'counter-revolutionary', Goenawan fled to Europe with the help of friends, and studied in Belgium.

Back in Jakarta in 1971, he co-founded Tempo, which despite a two-month ban in 1984, managed over the years to carve out an independent voice in an increasingly controlled political environment. It was eventually banned in 1994, driving Goenawan and his colleagues to write in a network of underground publications until reviving Tempo in 1998, after President Suharto's fall.

Goenawan has won a Harvard University Nieman Fellowship for journalism and the International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists. In 1999, he was nominated by World Press Review as International Editor of the Year.

The sprightly 62-year-old poet was in Singapore in January for the Wordfeast Poetry Festival. Felix Cheong interviewed him over coffee at the Swissötel The Stamford’s café.

FC: As someone who’s been in the press for more than 30 years, what’s your definition of free press... one that’s arrogant?

GM: An arrogant press is better than an arrogant government in power. At least it has no monopoly on violence. [When] the state has a monopoly on violence and it’s arrogant, it is dangerous.

The question is how you would define which behaviour is arrogant and which is not, and who is entitled to give such a definition or criteria.
My idea of free press is a press that doesn’t have to have a permit, a license, from the government to publish, a press that is not open to censorship, from behind the doors or from above.

FC: Under current president Megawati, is there greater press freedom in Indonesia?

GM: [The greater press freedom was] not because of Megawati, but was in fact started by Habibie. The first move to free the press was under Habibie’s administration. Megawati just followed the rule, because the law now prohibits the government from censoring the media.
It’s just a question of whether things have changed a little bit since Habibie’s time.
FC: You once compared being an editor with being the captain of a hijacked plane. Was there any point over the past 30 years when you feared for your life and your family’s?

GM: Not that dramatic! But of course, the pressure was there. I don’t think the Suharto regime would have touched me physically. It had already created a problem by arresting Pramoedya [Ananta Toer] and banning his novels from being read. I don’t think they would’ve liked to repeat the same mistake by arresting me.

FC: But was there harassment?

GM: Harassment – in the sense that sometimes you’re summoned by the department of information and threatened.

After Tempo’s ban, I joined an alliance of independent journalists that protested the banning and censorship and licensing. Three of the members were jailed because we published an illegal underground newspaper. We worked mostly underground. That was very risky, yes.

FC: Has it ever occurred to you that Tempo might, at some point, cease to be relevant?

GM: To be honest, I’ve never thought about that, because it’s hard to measure your relevance. The only thing you get is the response from the public – letters to the editor, sales, and the way the magazine is being used as part of the public discourse. Otherwise, we could never guess how relevant we were.

FC: Has the editorial team done a lot of soul-searching about the role of the magazine in Indonesian society today?

GM: We did a lot of self-censorship in the past. We made a mistake by doing this. Like, the situation in East Timor could’ve been better if there were a free press. Many abuses of human rights could’ve been prevented if the government could just allow the press to stand up and report what had happened.
We had our mistakes; we made our compromises.

FC: Such as?

GM: I remember there was a group of young ethic Chinese men who came to my office and told me their father was being tortured by the local military. He was arrested and accused of selling pornography, and tortured and murdered. They wanted this story to be out, but I didn’t dare [report it]. So I feel guilty about it.

FC: So the role of the journalist is not just to report the facts but to also be responsible for exposing evil?

GM: It’s not about exposing. It’s about giving the voice to people who have no means or access to speak, or to express their need for survival. Exposure is only the consequence of that kind of journalistic duty.
Journalism is not to tell the truth, because sometimes we don’t know about the truth. Journalism is part of a common effort to tell the truth, to the best of knowledge and information. We should not be regarded as the messenger of truth and justice. It would be presumptuous.

Sometimes people think freedom is something akin to responsibility. Actually, if you’re not free, you’re not responsible. How can you be responsible if you’re not free? Parrots cannot responsible. Robots cannot be responsible.
When you have freedom, you can say something that can help people from being abused. And that’s responsibility.

It’s also the media’s responsibility to tell the government not to make mistakes. It’s kind of an early warning system. That could also be part of promoting the quality of public debate and discourse. That’s also responsibility.

FC: How is journalism as practised in the West different from that in the East?

GM: Let’s not think of journalism as a monolithic entity. There’re many different kinds of newspapers, many different kinds of media. For example, I don’t really like American television. But I’d be happy to read the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times as examples of good journalism. Different degrees of quality and sense of responsibility among different media in the world.

The [notion that the] difference between western and eastern media is mostly ideological – it’s not true. It’s not accurate.

I don’t think The Straits Times is, in that sense, very Asian, expressing Asian values. What are those values actually? You have to answer those questions.

FC: Has Goenawan the journalist ever interfered with Goenawan the poet?

GM: Yes, oftentimes. When I was an editor, I hardly wrote any poetry. I started to be active only towards the later part of my career as editor.

The language used is different. In poetry, you don’t negotiate. You don’t quote other people. You quote yourself, something that’s closer to yourself.

That’s why I’m no longer a journalist, basically. I just write my column once a week, that’s all. I don’t even have an office in Tempo.

You have a Senior Minister. I’m a Senior Editor. That’s powerful though… not as influential as Mr Lee Kuan Yew – he’s an institution, I’m not.

I interviewed him before he came to Jakarta for the first time. Long time ago. Very smart, very bright. Of course, he was a man in power; I’m not. So, different perspective. But no doubt a first-class brain. Not that I like him.

FC: Auden once said poetry makes nothing happen. To what extent do you agree with this?

GM: That’s a normal excuse of a poet: that you write poetry that claims it’s going to make things happen. And then he’d sit back and do nothing. A poet is just like an ordinary citizen or human being. When there’s a fire you have to stop the fire, not write about it. Otherwise, you won’t be part of the world.

Let’s remember that Mao Zedong’s poetry didn’t change the world. His revolution did. So it’s not enough just to be a poet. You have to have people too.

FC: Writer, journalist, editor, activist: by which label would you like to be remembered?

GM: A writer. I’m not really an activist. I was forced to be an activist. I prefer to write.

FC: What’s next for Goenawan Mohammad?

GM: Writing, writing, writing, dying. I don’t know what retirement is. I’m a retired editor. I’m no longer in charge. A new person has taken my place. I’m happy with it. So technically, I’m retired now. But can you retire from writing? Maybe you could, when you feel your writing has become very stupid, predictable. Then you should stop writing. But not many writers are aware of that decline. I don’t know whether I’m on the decline. I hope I’m still good in my skills.
(cited from QLRS Vol. 3 No. 4 Jul 2004)

Read More......

Rieke Dyah P.

A Bathroom's Daydream

It might be good,
not to take notes of life
in the pages of diary book
One time,
if we read it again
sweet, makes us want to go back
bitter, makes our sorrow unforgettable
It might be good,
reflect on life
in a quiet bathroom
No need to be ashamed,
to remember, smile or cry
After that,
flush all of them
be ready to receive new food
that is better than yesterday

Renungan Kloset

Ada baiknya,
tak mencatat hidup
dalam lembarlembar buku harian

Suatu masa,
jika membacanya lagi
manis, membuat kita ingin kembali
pahit, membuat duka tak bisa lupa
Ada baiknya,
merenung hidup
dalam kloset yang sepi
Tak perlu malu,
mengenang, tersenyum atau menangis
Setelah itu,
siram semua
bersiap menerima makanan baru
yang lebih baik dari kemarin
Yogya, 01102001
Good Morning, God!

I open the window,
God greets me
"what do you want today?"
"God," I said, "liberate all the oppressed souls"

God smiles through fragrance of roses

My parrot sings happily enjoying the smell
I open the cage
extend my hand inside
touch her
She looks at me in doubt
I nod my head
She flies to the blue sky
Good morning God
Thank you
Selamat Pagi Tuhan
Kubuka jendela kamar,
Tuhan menyapa
“apa yang kau inginkan hari ini?”
“Tuhan” kataku, “merdekakan jiwajiwa tertindas”

Tuhan tersenyum di semerbak mawar

Nuriku berkicau lirih mencium harumnya
kubuka sarangnya
ulurkan tangan
Ia menatap tak percaya
aku mengangguk
Ia terbang menuju langit biru
Selamat pagi Tuhan

Jakarta, 01102001
RRI, 06:00 WIB (Radio of the Republic of Indonesia, 06:00 West Indonesian Time)
: Attorney General Baharudin Lopa

They're over, the cheerful songs greeting the morning

I pour a glass of water, and drink it all
you're talking over there in the corner,
delivering the news
to us [listeners]
to [everybody]

An obituary pierces the morning dew

the sun jumps up suddenly
the bird stops singing
nature sorrows
listen to the breeze whisper!
"soon, this dry soil will crack even more"

Another song is played again

I light a cigarette, blow the smoke
I see some people laugh, in the smoke
to joyfully welcome the bad news

Jakarta, 04072001
RRI, 06:00 WIB
: Jaksa Agung Baharudin Lopa
Usai sudah lagu-lagu ceria menyambut pagi

Kutuang segelas air putih, meneguknya tuntas
kau bicara di ujung sana,
menyampaikan kabar
pada kami
pada kita semua

Sebuah berita kematian menusuk embun

mentari terlonjak
burung berhenti bersenandung
alam berkabung
dengarkan bisik angin!
"sebentar lagi, tanah ini semakin retak!"

Sebuah lagu didendangkan

Kunyalakan sebatang rokok, menghembus asap
kulihat ada yang tertawa, dalam asap
menyambut suka cita, sebuah kabar duka

Jakarta, 04072001
Why Do I Love You?

your eyes look at my eyes
your fingers touch my fingers
you smile, I’m flattered;
a simple beginning of love
Your love is no more than a morning
that always wakes (me) up

you open the net of my heart,
you pour the wine into my cup,
two centimeter from the bottom,
‘I don’t want you to be drunk’, you said

your love is no more than light that
accompanies the night

no enchant chain of words,
my words sink into your hugs
your words are foundered in my hands’ reach,
your heartbeats thunder my chest, explode but does not
scratch, ripples but does not become waves,
moves softly,
closes my eyes and your eyes in the beauty
that does not soar

Your love is no more than a swallow of water that
quench my thirst

you do not let my sorrow becomes cry,
you do not let my laugh makes me be forgetful,
you never put stocks in my leg so that
I can walk, run,
you never tie chains in my hands,
so that I can hold the world,
to materialize hope,
Your love is the blanket that calms me

you let me:
go and come in your poem
to choose the lyrics to write my story
Your love is the wind that guides me
you liberate me
into an independent soul

that’s why
I love you

Cengkeh, 24012003
Mengapa Aku Sayang Padamu?

matamu memandang mataku,
jemarimu menyentuh jemariku,
kau tersenyum, aku tersipu;
awal kasih yang sederhana,
Sayangmu tak lebih dari sepenggal pagi
yang selalu membangunkan

kau singkap kelambu hatiku,
kau tuang anggur dalam cawanku,
dua centi meter dari dasarnya,
'aku tak ingin kau mabuk', katamu

Sayangmu tak lebih dari seberkas cahaya yang
menemani malam

tak ada rangkaian kata yang mempesona,
kata-kataku tenggelam dalam dekapmu,
kata-katamu karam dalam rengkuhanku,
detakhatimu gemuruh dadaku, meletup namun tak
menggores, beriak namun tak jadi gelombang,
berayun lembut,
mengatupkan mataku matamu dalam indah
yang tak menjulang

Sayangmu tak lebih dari seteguk air yang
menghapus dahagaku

kau tak biarkan sedihku menjadi tangis,
kau tak biar tawaku jadi lupa,
kau tak pernah pasangkan pasung di kakiku agar
aku bisa berjalan, berlari,
kau tak pernah ikatkan rantai di tanganku,
agar aku bisa genggam dunia,
meraih harapan,
Sayangmu selimut yang menentramkan

kau biarkan aku:
pergi dan datang dalam puisimu
memilih syair menulis kisah sendiri
Sayangmu angin yang membimbing
kau bebaskan aku
jadi jiwa mandiri

karena itu
aku sayang padamu

Cengkeh, 24012003
I'm Sorry

I'm sorry,
I cannot write a lot
the ink is empty
I scratched the sky last night
with your name....

Jakarta, 12082001

Tak bisa kutulis banyak
Tinta habis
Tadi malam kugoresi langit
dengan namamu......

Jakarta, 12082001

Read More......

March 24, 2008

Sutardji CB

Wellspring of Tears

wellspring of my tears, wellspring of sorrow
wellspring of our tears well
spring of our land

here now we stand
singing of our tears

in the fertility of your land
we secret our hurt
in the grand storefronts of your buildings
we seek to hide our suffering

we seek to secret our grief
to bury the pain and sorrow
but hurt can not be hidden
it spreads everywhere

the world does not end at the limits of sight
and a broad sky awaits
that you can not avoid
wherever you trend
you step on our tears
wherever you fly
you alight on our tears
wherever you sail
you cross over our tears

you have been surrounded
and you can not get away,
not ever, no matter where you go
you must surrender to the depth of our tears.
Translated by John H. McGlynn
Tanah Airmata

tanah airmata tanah tumpah dukaku
mata air airmata kami
airmata tanah air kami

di sinilah kami berdiri
menyanyikan airmata kami

di balik gembur subur tanahmu
kami simpan perih kami
di balik etalase megah gedunggedungmu
kami coba sembunyikan derita kami

kami coba simpan nestapa
kami coba kuburkan dukalara
tapi perih tak bisa sembunyi
ia merebak ke manamana

bumi memang tak sebatas pandang
dan udara luas menunggu
namun kalian takkan bisa menyingkir
ke mana pun melangkah
kalian pijak airmata kami
ke mana pun terbang
kalian kan hinggap di airmata kami
ke mana pun berlayar
kalian arungi airmata kami

kalian sudah terkepung
takkan bisa mengelak
takkan bisa ke mana pergi
menyerahlah pada kedalaman airmata kami


The spread out
Of remnants of fire
Couplets of? clay
The stone’s agony
Ash’s sobs and the sand’s moans
The time’s spittle
The ruins of self
Building’s wrecks
All combined
in the darkness of night
in the blackness of day

I?ve seen the source of fire
For these ashes and heat
Long before the fire
Before the heat and the ashes
Created the spread of

I’ve seen
the seeds of the fire within
the fruit of tears
on the fields that were condemned
for the farmers

I told you once
Be aware,
Be not involve in planting
The seeds of fire
Don’t let yourself
Be plucked by aflamed

So now
Take a look
at the remnants of the blaze
at the burnt couplets
Of? these blacken clay
at the tongue of the bursting sands
And the muteness of the stones
At the ruins of self
Building pieces
At the broken vases
Of the drowning parks
At the broken bayonets
Inside burning flesh
And burning bones

All that left is only silence
Only the lines of
Broken dreams
Only the versifying dead bodies
Grasping expecting meaning
Silence longing for voice
Waiting for utterance
Searching for word

O, may it soon bloom
The truthful lotus
From underneath this
Barren pond

Through the rest of these broken fingers
I tried to scratch the alphabets
On the wall’s pieces
And the sandpile of fire

All I have to write
are still buried
in dead verses

All I have to say
are still trapped
Inside the drowning

O, where is the passion
Where are seloka1,
Gurindam2 pantun3
Talibun4 of my nation?

Only the rhythm of dust
Inside broken charcoal
footprints of blood keep stepping
within a freezing soul
The ruins lay shuddered
The leftover of a smoke and fire dance

Seloka wounded, Gurindam bruised
Pantun can not wake up
Talibun is heaped over
by cinders and dust

Here am I
The burning forest and smokes
The city of dust and bones
A wide spread of infinity
Of pieces of dream
That once occurred
The smashed-up couplets
deserted and empty
searching for loads of meanings
as to return to
an integrated soul!

And behind the piles of
The dried years
Behind the dust
and bones
Within the versified deadbodies
On the ruins of dreams
Inside a deep well
Of? the burning tears
I get the feeling
that the fresh words will
soon arrive
the creative words
not the ones
that simply indicates
what has already exists
unlike the word horses
refers to horses on earth
unlike the word roses
refers to roses and their fragrance
but words that create
that appear from a non-existence
that emerge from emptiness

out of these ruins
out of the burnt bruises
out of these cinders and bones
be hurry, find the words!
Before the wheather gets worse
Before El Ni comes
Before La Ni strikes
Before El Dictador returns

My people,
Get yourselves out
of this dictionary of destruction
Search for words
Find a Saying
As once was in the past
When the youngmen
Found a word
In their pledge

(translated by Nikmah Sarjono)

sisa-sisa api
sampiran pecah tanah
perih bebatuan
sedan abu dan ratap pasir
ludah saat
puing-puing diri
koyak-koyak bangunan
dalam legam malam
dalam legam siang

aku telah melihat muasal api
sebab abu dan bara ini
jauh sebelum api
sebelum bara dan abu
mencipta hamparan

aku telah melihat
bibit api dalam
buah air mata
pada lahan yang digusur
dari pemiliknya

pernah kubilang
jangan ikut menanam
bibit api
jangan sampai engkau
dipetik oleh buah
yang menyala

maka kini
pada sisasisa nyala
pada sampiran hangus
tanah lebam ini
pada lidah pasir pecah
dan kelu batuan
pada puingpuing diri
remah bangunan
pada pecah pot
dan tenggelam taman

pada sisasisa sangkur
dalam hangus daging
dan gosong tulang

yang tinggal hanya lengang
hanya larik-larik
yang pecah angan
hanya bait-bait mayit
yang menggamitgamit
mengharap makna
lengang yang mendambakan suara
mengharap ujar
mencari kata

ah semoga cepat datang
teratai sebenar kata
dari hamparan kolam
kersang ini

lewat sisa-sisa jemari
kucoba menggurat aksara
di pecahan tembok
dan unggun pasir

yang ingin kutulis
masih terpendam
dalam bait-bait diam

yang kan kuucap
masih terperangkap
dalam kerongkongan
yang tenggelam

ah mana gairah
mana seloka
gurindam pantun
talibun bangsaku?

hanya irama debu
dalam arang patah
lengang langkah tapak darah
dalam jiwa membeku
puing henyak terbaring
sisa-sisa tari asap dan api

seloka luka gurindam lebam
pantun tak bangun
talibun tertimbun
abu dan asap

jadilah aku
hutan hangus dan asap
kota debu dan tulang
keluasan tanpa batas
dari remah angan
yang pernah ada
sampiran hancur
lengang dan hampa
mencari muatan makna
agar bisa kembali
menyatu berjiwa!

dan di balik timbunan
tahun-tahun tandus
di balik unggun debu
dan tulang
di larik-larik mayit
di puing angan
di kedalaman gosong
air mata
aku merasa
serasa bakal datang kata
kata yang segar
kata yang mencipta
bukan kata
sekedar menunjuk
apa yang sudah ada
bukan sebagaimana kata kuda
menunjuk kuda yang ada di bumi
bukan sebagai kata mawar
menunjuk mawar dan harumnya yang ada
tapi kata yang mencipta
yang muncul dari ketiadaan
meloncat dari kekosongan

dari balik puing-puing ini
dari balik gosong nyeri
dari balik abu dan tulang-tulang ini
cepat temukan kata!
sebelum cuaca makin memburuk
sebelum datang lagi El Nino
sebelum datang La Nina
agar tak kembali muncul El Dictador

Wahai bangsaku
keluarlah engkau
dari kamus kehancuran ini
carilah kata
temukan ucapan
sebagaimana dulu
para pemuda menemukan
dalam sumpah mereka


I am bleeding today. a black axe lies buried deep in my diary.
breaking open my wednesday blood flows my monday blood flows my
tuesday blood flows my friday blood flows
blood fllows and throbs rushing through the dictionary of my being
everything is convered with blood scarred with deep wounds
my hand body road stars atoms all bleed
I am bleeding today but no one knows the extent of my pain
I shout desolation replies I call silence speaks I ask thorns reply
I sing solitude dances
you send your childrent school you send them year after year
while their hair grows long an their moustache
and pubic hair grows thick
who can translate my pain?
which dictionary knows the right current
not green not yellow not blue not red no colour
the blood splashing inside me is a sea and I am a fish
in a sea pain
corals shell-fish tripangs prawns divers!
we come from the same depth of the same pain
what gnaws me inside it does the same to you
I am walking through my diary today.
I shout I'm torn I mutter I'm feverish
I dream aloud. I am so blood!
if even my shadow touched the ground,
the same ground turned into a clotting blood.
my pain is your pain it is our pain
we come from the same pain.
what tears me inside it is tearing you too
but perhaps you don't knows that. you still don't

translated by Harry Aveling and Sutardji Calzoum Bachri

hari ini aku berdarah. kapak hitam menakik almanakku pecahlah rabuku
mengalirlah pecahlah seninku mengalirlah pecahlah selasaku mengalirlah
pecahlah jumatku mengalirlah
darah mengalir dalam denyut dalam debar. darah nyerbu dalam kamus diriku
dalam rongga pustakaku segalanya terdedah untuk darah
segalanya terbuka untuk luka
badan tangan jalan bintang zarah kalian berdarah
hari ini aku berdarah tapi tak satu pun sampai tahu nyeriku
aku berteriak lengang yang menjawab aku bercakap sepi yang
mengucap aku bertanya duri yang menganga aku bernyanyi sunyi yang menari
kau kirim anakanak ke sekolah kau kirim mereka bertahuntahun dalam
kelas sampai tumbuh janggutnya sampai panjang misainya sampai
lebat jembutnya
siapa dapat menterjemahkan perih?
siapa kamus yang tahu arus
tak hijau tak kuning tak biru tak merah tak warna darah mencemplung
dalam diriku membikin laut dan aku ikan dari pedih lautan.
karang kerang tripang udang penyelam kita dari dalam yang sama
dari pedih yang sama apa yang tersayat dalam diriku ada dalam kalian.
hari ini aku berjalan lewat almanakku aku berteriak koyak
aku menggumam demam aku mengingau risau. aku sangat darah! bahkan
kalau hanya bayangku menyentuh tanah kan menggumpal darah!

pedihku pedih kalian pedih kita
kita dari pedih yang sama.
apa yang tersayat dalamku ada dalam kalian.
tapi mungkin kalian tak tahu. masih tak

Read More......

March 23, 2008


Fragment from Saman

Novel of Ayu Utami

What is the difference between dreams and reality? It was 1979. My father sent me off to a strange new city. It was a vast place, like a jungle, so when I set off for school my mother always gave me two bread rolls. One to eat. The other to tear into little pieces so I could leave a trail of bread to follow on my way home. I learnt a lot from Hansel and Gretel. They had evil father too.

The school I had been exiled to was housed in a very peculiar building surrounded by a river so deep that ancient fish inhabited its depth. Nobody knew how many of them there were; they had been there for hundreds of year and nobody ever seen a dead fish floating on the water. The fins of these fish gave off phosphorescent glow as they swam in the dark crevasses and gullies of the river. But when they reached the surface of the water, their fins would get caught on the algae, sluggish and black with age, rather like a forelock of hair. They rarely surfaced and when they did it was only for a second or two, leaving a fleeting impression of ripples and shadow. Green water. Green moss.

The gates of the school could be raised and lowered with an iron chain that was greasy with oil. When it was lowered the steelspiked wooden palings formed a bridge. When all the pupils were lined up ready to go in the principal would rotate the lever until the gate shut with a loud boom that made your hair stand on end. Any student trying to escape would fall into the river, and those ancient creatures would devour him with more relish than an eel eating a fat, fresh, warm turd.

I used to weep because I wanted to go back to my quiet little town. But there was no way I could escape. It was impossible.

And so I danced.

My body danced. It twirled and writhed like a flower bud cut by children from its stem and then set on a course in a stream. I saw them following me everywhere I went: children following their dancing flower bud from the dikes. When I had finished they would clap their hands.

“Hey new kids, where are you from?”

“I’m descended from the nymph.”

They laughed so hard it knocked me off my feet.

I am descended from the nymphs. I lived in a women’s compound where all the children danced. All around the compound were hills inhabited by giants: the ogre with a protruding jaw, the ogre with flaming hair, the green ogre, the eggplant-nose ogre, the carrot-nose ogre, the radish-nose ogre. Ferocious ogres. They were both the enemies and the butt of jokes by the knights, who dismissed them scornfully as weird, insignificant fugitives. But I fell in love with one of them.

Because the ogres would be killed as vermin if they set foot inside the compound, which was behind the knight’s quarters, I used to meet him secretly under the kepuh tree. We wound about each other like a royal serpent nagagini making love to a common snake. But the gardener caught us and told my father. He have orders for the knight to capture my lover and I was exiled to this town. Here he would tie me to my bed at night and drill me in the

first rules of love. These were his lessons: First. It is the prerogative solely of the male to approach the woman. A woman who chases a man is a whore. Second. A woman shall give her body only to the right man, who shall support her for the rest of her life. That’s what is known as marriage. Later, when I had grown up a little, I decided that marriage was nothing more than a hypocritical prostitution.

In this alien city, every day at sunset my father would give the orders for me to be tied to my bed. Because I was descended from the nymphs. But what he didn’t know was that each night I would learn to enjoy the pain. In the morning I would take pleasure in stretching my limbs when the chains were taken off. During the day I did my lessons at school. Mathematics, science, social science, the state ideology Pancasila, and handicrafts.

The other students sneered at me and one by one began avoiding me. Only one girl would listen to what I had to say. I never knew if she believed what I said or just liked my stories. But she stood by me. Her name was Laila. She’s been my friend ever since

When I was nine I was not a virgin. People didn’t consider a girl who didn’t yet have breasts to be a virgin. But there was something I was keeping secret from my parents:
When they got wind of the fact that I was secretly meeting an ogre, my mother revealed a big secret: that I was actually made of porcelain. Statues, plates and cups made from porcelain come in hues of blues, light green, even brown. But they mustn’t be allowed to crack, because if they do they will thrown on the rubbish dump or used as tombstone ornaments. My mother said I would never crack as long as I kept my virginity. I was taken aback: how could I preserved something I didn’t yet have? She told me that there were three openings between my legs. Don’t ever touch the middle one, she said, because that’s where it’s kept. Later I was disappointed to discover that I wasn’t special. All girls are the same. They might only be teapots, bowls, plates or soup spoons, but they were all made of porcelain. And as for boys? They were ivory: and all ivory cracks. When I grew up I found out that they’re also made of flesh.

When my parents discover that I was going out with an ogre from the forest, the gave me their second piece of advise. Virginity is a woman’s gift to her husband. And virginity is like a nose: once you lose it, it can’t be replaced. So you must never give it away before you get married, because then you will be damage goods. But the day before I was sent to this foreign place I made a decision. I would give my virginity to my lover the ogre.

On that last night, under a purplish moon, I crept out to the pavilion and tore it out with teaspoon. It looked like a red spider’s web. I put it in a wooden Jepara box and gave it to the dog. He was in fact a courier between me and the ogre.
I have become increasingly skeptical of the notion that most ogres originated from India; rather they boarded ships from Europe seeking spices in the East Indies. They had matted hair and sunripened skin because from the West the sun baked their bodies on the decks. And the salty air. This infidel ogres were accompanied by their priests, who were also infidels and ogres, and in the islands of Java and Bali they met brown maidens dancing naked in the river. Girls and older women bathing and washing. In fact slim brown men also bathed naked in the rivers, but the eyes only beheld what was chosen not by the eyes.

I could not possibly know what was in the minds of the ogres if I had not acquainted myself with one of them, who ventured deeper into the interior and spied on me dancing without a thread on my breast in a ditch by the hills. But I knew what was lurking, and because of that I sat down on a rock. Then he emerged from the clump of leaves and confronted me in amazement because I did not gather a cloth to cover my breasts.

“Who are you?” he said.

“People here bathed twice a day,” I replied.

Then he sucked the tip of my breast, unendingly, and told me his story. It was the first time he had sailed so far east. So far that he did not believe he could return to the West, even as the seas made you believe that the earth is round. In this country people thought that those in the East lived according to strange customs. Their men attached decorations to their penises, on the surface or within the skin. Their women, without shame, aroused the desire of their men and also of strangers, since they indulged in sex without any sense of taboo. Then he handed me a journal:


I doubled up with laughter.

“Why?” he asked. “Didn’t you possess me with your nakedness? And your breast are like chocolate milk.”

Then he removed his trousers. Then I knew that the sun had baked his waist, chest and arms. And I told my story:

In my country people speak of your land and our land, your people and our people. We are the noble people of the East. You, the depraved of the West. Your women wear bikinis in the streets and have no regard for virginity. Your school children, boys and girls, live together out of wedlock. In this country sex belongs to adults through marriage even if they were married at the age of eleven and regarded as already mature. In your country people have sex on television. We do not have sex on television. We have the decent foundation of the great East. Your customs of the West are not noble.

Then I handed him a copy of the newspaper that I had used to wrap my panties, It reported on the opinions of bureaucrats about the danger of Western culture through films and consumer products. And also tourists on Kuta beach. Kompas, 1995.
He looked bewildered. “Where are we?”

I said, “Aren’t we in the 20th century?”

He was still puzzled. “This is a very strange place. How could I possibly be in two eras at the same time?”

I said, “Time is a curious thing. How can it separate us from the us in the past?”
And East-West is surely a strange concept, since we were discussing decency while stark naked.
Translated from the Indonesian by Pam Allen

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