I just crawled onto my bed when I felt a chronic pain in my stomach.
I should give credits to three of my good friends, because our conversations have led me to writing this.
* * *
“She tried to feel me,” Sri said with terror in her whole face.
“What? What do you mean with ‘trying to feel’ you?” Christine, who was sitting right next to me, asked. She looked just as surprised as me, but I was too stunned to say anything.
“She… Well, I came to say goodbye, of course… She was out when I came here to give you guys a farewell, so… when I saw her on my way out, I thought I’d give a proper goodbye… And then… she told me to come near her, and so I did. But then… she hugged me. Which, I thought, was not a big deal, until… until she tried to grab my butt, and I felt her lips on my neck and her other hand tried to caress my breast, and…— ” Sri stopped, too horrified to continue.
There was a silence for a short time before Christine finally shouted, “She WHAT??”
Again, I was lost for words, still trying to process what I just heard.
“Are you sure that’s what she did to you? I mean, that she wasn’t joking at all?”
Sri shook her head over and over, as if trying responded to Christine’s question and at the same time trying to forget the unpleasant memory of what she just told us in her head.
“I… I don’t know, but I don’t think she was joking. She looked me straight in the eye, and… she didn’t look as if she’s playing around.”
This time, even Christine was lost for words as well. Another silence filled the room.
“I… I tried to back away quickly, to show her that… that I’m not that kind, you know, but she approached. I kept backing away slowly, and then she… she asked me… She asked me whether I was sure to leave, because… She said she could secure a place for me in this class if I want to, give me a second chance to continue my study here. She’d asked her dad and…” Sri stopped.
“And??” Christine asked impatiently.
“I said no right away. I couldn’t think of anything else other than that I have to get away from her that moment, but she grabbed my arm, and asked me… if—” again, Sri stopped, “…if she could arrange for me to study in another class in this school, would I be willing to accept the offer. But by that time, I was much too scared of what she’d do next already, so I shrugged her off and tell her no for the second time, and then I bolted away from her.”
We gasped in surprise and amazement.
“…Are you… Are you okay, Sri?” I finally found my voice and asked her.
“Well, no. But I have to be okay again soon. I… Now I just want to go home and listen to my favorite music while reading my favorite mangas to cast the unpleasant image and memories embedded in my mind already,” she answered with her eyes shut close tightly.
“Well, okay. You go home, and do whatever you want to forget this. It’s your last day here, and you’re supposed to have a wonderful time,” said Christine while patting Sri’s shoulder. Sri nodded weakly. “You be okay, alright?”
“I’m sorry that you have to experienced this, Sri. I also hope you’d be alright.”
“I hope so too. Thanks, girls. I’ll… I think I better go now.”
And so she left, leaving me and Christine again in silence.
Finally, I said, “I never thought… I never thought she would do something like that, you know. I mean… I know she’s a lesbian, and… I thought they usually don’t make a move on someone with different orientation. Well, that’s what my lesbian friends usually do, I think.”
“Me too…,” Christine responded. “It’s… It’s just so out of line! I know she got quite an influence in this place because of her parents and her connections, but… to do so is just… just…
“I’m just sorry—very sorry that it should happened to her—and on her last day here! I… I just hope she wouldn’t dwell on that unpleasant moment.”
“I hope she wouldn’t be traumatized,” I said, though I actually doubted even my own words. I know Sri was quite homophobic. One too many times already, I came across her facebook statuses criticizing, if not scorning, the gays and lesbians community. I worried that this experience would only confirm further her fears and paranoia. Of all people, why it should happen to her? And of all people, why she should be that homophobic?
* * *
I was right. I didn’t even have to wait for the next day to came across her latest facebook status, blaming and scorning gays and lesbians. Usually I managed to ignore them, but this time, she was different.
“These homosexuals should have been banished. It is such an abnormality and simply causing disorder amongst normal people!”
She was sexually harassed. I understand.
In this country, homosexuality is still something very unusual. Even though more and more people are now more open and more accepting toward homosexuality, I think there are still even more people who oppose the idea alone and avoid the subject. Therefore, being harassed like that might be much too… too terrifying.
But should she harbor so much hatred?
“They’re no different from you and me, you know. They’re humans, like us. They eat the same food, they harbor same emotions that we have, and they do the same things we do: go to school, study, work, and such. The only thing different is their sexual orientation.”
Words of a good friend of mine said long time ago flew back to my mind.
Yes, they’re blood and flesh just like me. They’re humans too. They’re not handicapped, nor are they abnormal. They just happen to like those of the same sex.
“Just because they’re homosexuals, it doesn’t mean that they will fall for anyone from the same sex, you see. It’s just like straight people, if a guy is straight, does that mean he would fall for any girl he sees? And will a girl who’s straight fall in love with every guy she meets? They have types and preferences, too.”
This was also said by another good friend of mine. I chuckled hearing that at that time because I remember one time in the past time of that past, when one of my gay friend told me how the guys in the same vocal group avoided him once he joined because they were afraid he would fall for them. I remember him laughing about that instead and said, “Seriously, do they really think they are all that attractive?” and then we laughed together.
I used to wonder as well whether my view could form like this simply because no lesbians ever fell for me, so I feared nothing. I wonder if that’s the case. But, if a guy I don’t like fall for me, wouldn’t I reject him all the same? It’s not like I would like anyone just because I’m straight and it’s a guy, right? Perhaps, then, that’s not the case.
* * *
“You know, I really do regret what happened to Sri this afternoon. I think it’s just unfortunate, and it was so out of line. That moment depicted exactly what homophobic always depicted of gays and lesbians, which is a pity. And Sri happened to be homophobic, indeed. But what she just wrote in her status made me feel sad.
“Maybe… Maybe I was being too sensitive about it, but… still, I couldn’t help feeling sad upon reading it. Should we really treat homosexuality as abnormalities or illness, or something disgusting?
“The problem is not in the sexual orientation, right? It’s not that, but basically it all comes back to character, right? If you’re such a mess, then you’re a mess despite your sexual orientation. And homosexuals can be pleasantly nice too if they are genuinely nice, right?” I talked to the person in mirror in front of me.
“I have nothing against homosexuals. I have plenty of friends who are homosexuals. In the end, it’s her opinion and she is entitled to have her own opinion.
“It is, indeed, a matter of sexual orientation, but she couldn’t really be blamed as well because what she just experienced today is just very traumatic to her.
“It all comes back to each one’s character, I suppose. Straight people could also be very frontal and out of line, I guess… But society just don’t bother too much about them, probably because they’re more socially accepted.
“The point is, as long as people don’t make such a fuss about it whenever they meet homosexuals, I think everyone can be civil about that.” It feels like the person inside the mirror is responding to me.
“I suppose you couldn’t really judge those homophobic just as well, because to them, we’re the ones who do the wrong thing by accepting homosexuals. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective,” the person in the mirror continued.
“Sometimes I feel really offended whenever I came across homophobic people because many of my friends are homosexuals, but after a while, even my gay friends admit that some gays could be very aggressive without putting the other’s sexual orientation into consideration.
“Well, Homophobic people are not the ones defining what homosexuals are like, right? Besides, people here mostly grow up with the idea that such things are just not right, and it’s hard to put such notion aside if you’ve been told that way since you’re little.
“It’s no different, I guess, from making such a fuss about race or religion… There people who also discriminative against the Chinese-Indonesians, or those against Javanese, and so on…”
I sighed. “Well, I don’t think it’s my place anyway to even bother with that, or trying to change the perspective. I can’t tell people what to think, can I?” I asked.
“Well, everyone would think that their opinion is right. It’s not easy to change such thinking. In that sense, then…, there would be no correct answer. No one would be 100% correct. It would all depend on each person’s opinion and each choice we make to believe in which view,” answered the person in the mirror.
“Yeah…, that makes sense.
“I suppose that’s just how the society works,” I said.
“Exactly. It’s usually the majority’s opinion which would later become the acceptable norms and considered as ‘normal.’ Minorities are usually thought as odd, or abnormal, and such.”
“I guess it would then creates stereotyping and overgeneralization, wouldn’t it?”
I passed her by again today.
She is someone unknown to me, and what makes her very noticeable is her deformity, if I’m allowed to use such expression, causing her to limp when she walks, and even that is a mild expression. To be precise, she is actually dragging both her feet in order to move around, probably due to broken bones in her legs, resulting in one leg bending forward and the other behind.
I saw her once in a while, on my way to school in the morning, and just like every passerby on the street, whenever I glimpse her from afar, I would prepare myself to keep walking straight and avoid looking at her direction.
Whenever I look at her, I can never be sure of what I feel toward her, or how I should just as well. Most of the time, it would be pity I feel, but would she feel insulted or hurt by that instead? In movies I’ve watched or books I’ve read, whenever they have such characters, they either beg for pity and even much more, or instead, loathing pity that they would scold or hate the person looking at them with such emotion. Of course, real life is completely different, but usually stories are drawn from reality, aren’t they? And what if I do feel pity? When it comes to pity to those unfortunate, I always wish that I am filthy rich that I have enough money to send them to the doctors or hospitals, and have them treated properly or operated so someone like her could walk just like everybody else. Sadly, just like in most stories, this is no more than just another empty, bulshit talk. I only got so much money to pay for my tuition fee and my monthly allowance. And even if I saved a lot, it would still take years to pay such a lot sum for an operation or proper hospital treatment for them. I could probably pay as much as the down payment and that would hardly be enough. I suppose I could save enough to donate to a charity sometime soon.
But in the end, I simply passed her by, making sure to avoid her gaze and walked past her. I suppose it’s no different than what every other passerby do. I keep thinking that perhaps this is better. If I show her pity, she might not like it. Yet, deep down I know that I tell myself such bullshit because I’m just too afraid to do anything.
Suddenly my mind jumped to a sample novel I just read last night. A work by Daniel Wallace titled The Kings and Queens of Roam caught my attention the other day, and intrigued me enough into reading a sample of it in my Kindle. It’s a story of two sisters, Helen and Rachel McAllister, who were unfortunate enough to have both parents died, and born as orphans in the city of Roam. As if that’s not enough, Rachel was born blind, but she was said to be very beautiful. On the other hand, Helen, though physically healthy and was able to see, was very, very ugly. Rachel was said to be loved by everyone in Roam, and they loved to see her as well because she was so beautiful, but Helen was a terrible sight. People avoided her gaze, and her altogether because they simply couldn’t stand to look at her horrible face. In short, they prefer to consider her invisible whenever possible, and this has caused her a deep grief. She imagined how ironic the situation was: her sister, beautiful but blind, and her, healthy but ugly.
Of course, I know that Helen’s situation was completely different to the woman, but in my mind, I was wondering whether she and Helen would think alike when it comes to how different kinds of people look at her. Then I thought about how I behave and felt very ashamed right away. I was doing exactly like what the people in Roam was doing: I was trying to pretend she’s invisible by avoiding her gaze as well as interaction with her. Then that thought trigger another thought, which then led to me wasting to much time simply wondering what to do next. Even with other physically healthy people around me–in schools and neighborhood–I had trouble socializing with them, pondering too much of what to do and what to say in order to start a conversation or interacting with them (yes, I’m that awkward), so that time, I was spending even more time thinking of whether it would be better to turn around and… and then, what? Greet her? But then, that would be awkward, wouldn’t it, if I simply greet her and then walk away? Give her money? Would food be better? How would she respond, then? Would she be offended, or would she be grateful?
So there I was, wasting my time thinking and thinking over what I should do or say while I kept walking. In the meantime, our distance became longer and longer, and I was more and more further away from her.
Then I continued walking.
In the end, I didn’t do a thing.
In the end, I’m no more than a coward.
How familiar are you with that TED? This is not Ted from the movie Ted, for sure. In case you’ve never heard of it, TED that I’m writing about here is a non-profit organizati
on that holds conferences to spread ideas and information involving the fields of technology, entertainment and design. They usually hold 2 annual conferences (which unfortunately, despite being “non-profit” is REALLY expensive and definitely unaffordable for me and many people I know), and as the TED animo’s spreading across the globe, each country and region can now organize a TEDx event, “x” here meaning the event is local and can be organized independently. In Indonesia, I’ve known of TEDx Jakarta, Ubud, and Surabaya, and there are probably other Indonesian TEDx in other regions which I haven’t known already. The conferences and events are usually talks from invited speakers all over the world (and local speakers, probably, on TEDx event), which then would be recorded in a video and uploaded to YouTube, hoping that others unable to attend the event could still watch and get the same information and ideas previously shared.
I first knew of TED from a lecturer and a senior sharing the videos through Facebook, and later, I began to look for the videos myself. I love TED talks and have been inspired by it until now.
Which is why, October last year I decided to join the TED Open Translation Project. Although hesitating at first, I finally joined the translation project after some glitch in my application.
TED Open Translation Project is actually a volunteer work (which means it’s unpaid work) to translate TED videos to a different language (in most cases: to your native tongue), hoping to expand the ideas and knowledge sharing from TED talks to those who don’t speak languages other than their native tongues, or simply prefer to read in their native tongues through subtitles translated into their languages by the translators.
The concept is simple: the video is translated by one person from the original language to other language (native tongue, L1), and then reviewed by another volunteer-translator of the same language before finally approved and published in the TED official website. When you apply as a translator, usually they would ask what language do you want to translate from and into, and how fluent are you with those language, as well as whether one of the languages is your native tongue.
In case you’re looking on the information on how to be one of the translator, you could:
- Go to the official website, and then find “Translations” on the header of the site.
- Afterwards, you could find on the sidebar the option to join the Open Translation Project (or simply skip the first step and click here). The translation project is using a website called Amara, which you’d be redirected to when you join and want to translate a video.
- You would have to fill out a form, basically your identity, and, as I’ve written above: the languages you want to translate from and into, how fluent you are with those languages, whether any of those is your native tongue, and you would have to explain why you would want to translate TED videos. You should get an email after some time (I’m not sure exactly how it would take, but I suppose it shouldn’t take long) confirming the application process as well as confirming you as one of the translators, finally.
I wrote there that I wasn’t sure because I met a glitch when I applied. I might have accidentally sign up to Amara prior to applying, and hence, I could not join the translation project because to do so, I have to actually sign up from TED’s website, which would then allow me to join the TED team on Amara. Therefore, I ask for help from the Open Translation Group in facebook, in which afterwards, one of them invited me through email to join one. Strangely, I was still unable to apply, so consequently, the administrator finally sign me up manually by sending me some questions from the application form to my email. After several emails, I was finally (FINALLY!) able to join.
In translating the video, you actually have the option to either translate the videos, or to review the ones already translated. If no one has translated the video, you’d be able to translate it, but if someone has beaten you to it, you could only review the existing translation. That’s basically how the system TED used, I suppose, to make sure that the translations are not messed up and understandable by those who speak the translated languages. They would give you deadlines when you first decided to translate or review a video (about 3 weeks to 1 month, if I’m not mistaken), and if you missed the deadline, basically you would have to ask for the task again by clicking the necessary links, unless someone’s already taken over the job, so you could either start on another video or wait until the video translation is available for review.
So far, I have translated 10 videos, all from English to Bahasa Indonesia, and I have to say that most of the time, I enjoy translating it better than reviewing it. I once tried to create the English subtitles for a video that didn’t have any English subtitles yet, but I found to be even more challenging, and after some time, I’m usually stuck with either unclear or unfamiliar words, which, in the end, afraid of creating misleading text, I gave up the task, and told myself that it’d better off with someone who knows English better than me.
I suppose translating TED talks gives you no external rewards other than personal satisfaction, because it takes up your time and patience, I’d say. Whenever I translate the talks, I would always cling on to my the internet connection because I would then use the online dictionary, google translate and google itself to make sure my translation doesn’t sound awkward in Indonesian, which is why I never do the work offline. But it comes with, well, personal satisfaction of completing the translation–yes, getting the work done–and the hope that someone speaking Indonesian (or prefer to watch the video with Indonesian subtitles, or don’t speak any English) would eventually be able to watch and indirectly, me and the other translator finally able to spread and share the ideas. I found TED talks really inspiring, and I would want other people to be able to benefit from it just as much as I do. I suppose that’s where I got the personal satisfaction from. Of course, there’s no way to check whether anyone really watch the videos, but well, I’m crossing my fingers.
I haven’t been translating again since 2 months ago, and only recently taking a break from
speed-reading The Social World of Batavia procrastinating to translate a touching video I’ve already watched a couple months ago and by now is already available with English subtitles. It tells a heart-breaking story of Eleanor Longden, who got diagnosed with schizophrenia and suffered because of mistreatment, but in the end, she survived, and is now even able to help others who experience the same. I find it amazing how she could turn the tables around and even make me wish that I have voices in my head who could support me like they do hers. Well, of course I don’t mean it, but I ended up thinking that she’s very lucky to have the voices that are able help her express her repressed emotions. Most of us I don’t usually do. (click here to see the video on TED website)
Aside from all these
nonsenses rambles, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite videos that I’ve translated below (if you got some time to watch them, I hope you do, and that you enjoy the videos as much as I do). Let me know what you think in the comment below if you don’t mind :)
I had only had a few hours of sleep when I felt someone’s holding my hand tightly. Half-dreaming and half-awake, I saw in front of me the beautiful aging face of my grandmother. She was looking at me, smiling, and asking me questions in language and words I couldn’t comprehend. Partially because I was still trying to be fully awake, and partially because basically, it’s hard to understand what my grandmother is saying most of the time ever since she’s stricken with dementia.
Most of the time, she’d mumble something in Dutch, a language which, sadly, none of her offsprings understand. We would simply reply back in Indonesian whereas she would reply back in Dutch. It’s like she’s only speaking Dutch and that we’re from two very different worlds.
At other times, her mind would wander back to her younger days. She would call me “mother,” or she would call my mom so. And then she’d spotted her oldest son and perceived him as someone else, someone from her past, who are mostly dead and gone now.
All these time, I’ve been writing continuously about my paternal grandfather and his intriguing, but dark past. But recently, I’ve been hanging out with my mom and her family, and watching how my mom taking care of my demented grandma makes me learn, even just a little bit, of my mom’s past and my grandma herself.
Apparently, my grandmother was a refugee in the Japanese-colonized Dutch East Indies when she met my grandfather. She was under my grandfather’s protection, to be precise, living in his house. My grandfather himself was a wealthy Chinese widow, his first wife deceased, leaving him with his children. Despite the age gap, my grandmother being only a few years older from his firstborn, my grandpa and grandma got married anyway.
Whenever I visit my grandpa’s house at Purworejo, Klampok, Central Java (now occupied by one of my cousins and his family), I never ceased feeling awe and spooked at the same time. The house is the very depiction of an old Chinese family house (I’d say it’s resembling the typical Balinese house) where there are small houses inside those wide acres of land. There were remnants of the past, where apparently my grandfather grew and sold some fruits and vegetables to earn the household incomes back then.
One time, when I was visiting one of my aunt’s house, she and my mom gathered in the dining room, talking about their past. Despite being wealthy, my grandpa never stopped pushing my grandma to earn her own income, so she had to work on her own, selling things to the traditional market (I forgot what she sold exactly) to earn extra money. My grandma herself was quite proud, never begging for money from my grandpa. She worked hard, even when the family when bankrupt after my mom was born. I always heard that my mom was born during the most difficult times. My grandma’s oldest son had to left his study in the university to help the family with the newspaper agency business. And even then life was still difficult. They used to eat rice with salt, or soy sauce, and having a salted duck egg for a meal was already considered a luxury for them, and even then they still had to divide one egg into four to be divided for my grandma’s 8 children.
But life is just like a wheel. Sometimes you’re up, and sometimes you’re down, right? And despite the hard and struggling past, most of my grandma’s children are now successful, and my grandma got the chance to enjoy the wealth before she’s stricken with dementia.
Now my mom is taking care of my grandma, who, consumed with dementia, is still pretty robust and strong physically, but whose mind is already eaten away and turned into that of little kid. She becomes very dependent of everyone, especially my mother, and perhaps my mom’s the only person who understand her best.
The last time I came home, I already expected the same thing I’m becoming used to expect of my grandmother these past few years: That she wouldn’t have the slightest idea of who I am, that she’d mistake me as an outsider since I’m her only grandchild with dark skin and doesn’t have the slightest Chinese look, that she’d sleep most of the time, that she’d keep asking the same question over and over, and that she’d mumble either unclearly or in a language I don’t understand (Dutch). Funnily, since she’s Chinese, it would only be logic if she also mumbles in Chinese as well, but I’ve never heard her say anything in Chinese. It’s usually Dutch, or Indonesian, or Javanese.
In the old days, when she was younger, I remember my grandma talking to me gently, kindly, and tried to protect me from anyone or anything who tried to harm me. I remember her wearing kebaya, the Javanese traditional dress, and chewing betel, or sometimes smoking (yes, she smoked). Whenever any of her children or grandchildren was tired, she’d offer to massage us.
I’d chuckled and smiled every time one of those memories crossed my mind, and I can’t help but miss those days. I wish I could turn back the time, and saw another glimpse of my younger grandmother, because those images of her has started to be replaced with her current image: fragile and demented.
There would be stories which, luckily, my mom could laugh at instead of feeling stressed with, of my grandmother. Because of her demented mind, the first days and months she stayed with my mom, she could barely sleep, and that caused my mom to be lacking of sleep just as well. Or sometimes, my mom would wake up, finding my grandmother’s already gone. We’re very fortunate that the neighbors already knew us pretty well, so one of them would find her and guided her home. Once, there was even a pedicab driver who found her astray. All she said at that time–and even now, actually–is that she wanted to go home. All she remembered is her home back then in her childhood and teenage years.
One of the few memories I got of my grandmother that still touched me until now is when her mind was starting to become demented, she’d told me not to go out for too long, or that she’d told me to come up early, because to her, every second could suddenly passed to 6 PM, where it would be dark already, and there would be very few lights on in the streets. One day, she gave me Rp 500,- for my pocket money. At that time, all Rp 500,- could buy me was one cheap candy. I felt choked since I felt like scolding her to correct her errors, yet at the same time tears were already filling my eyes. I managed not to cry in front of her.
My family’s history is really complicated, both from my maternal and paternal sides. But then again, whose family history isn’t complicated, eh? I used to hear that my maternal ancestors were somehow connected distantly to the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, but none of us have any exact idea how it could be anymore. A part that I remembered is that one of our ancestors was actually a child, or perhaps a relative of Hamengkubuwono, who got adopted by one of his Chinese close friends who were childless, and then moved back to China. After he grew up, he returned to Indonesia as a Chinese, and married another Chinese, and then produced more Chinese offsprings (or Chinese Indonesian). No one can really confirm now whether the story is any true or not, and I merely took it a a kind of tale from a distant past, not really caring whether it’s true or not. I could only trace my maternal family line as far as my grandfather, and even I never got to know him. Because of the age gap (about 20 years) between my grandma and grandpa, he was old enough to be my mom’s grandfather when my mom, his last child, was born. My mom was 2 when he passed away. All my mom remembered was that once, he beat up my mom because she was being naughty. But many of her brothers and sisters would remind her how my grandpa used to carry my infant mom on his shoulder whenever he walked around his massive garden where he would sell the fruits and vegetables to feed the family. I remember seeing his photo only once, and all that’s left in my head is merely a vague picture of an old Chinese man. Whenever I heard my mom and her sisters and brothers talked about their past, I kept wondering what kind of person my maternal grandfather was.
Ever since knowing that I can rightly claim my Balinese heritage through my paternal grandfather and my father, I never tell people that I’m Chinese. Partially perhaps because I don’t look like one, and perhaps because I always thought that I cannot tell people so because I’m not 100% Chinese since I don’t look like one, and I don’t speak like one, nor do we still embrace the Chinese culture. But it’s there, and I can’t just shrug it off no matter how disconnected I sometimes feel with it. It’s a part of my family, and a part of my mom that she still holds dear. I suppose now I could say that I’m a Javanese-born Balinese, and about 25% Chinese-Indonesian, despite not speaking any Balinese or Chinese. Well, basically, I’m an Indonesian.
I feel so fucking depressed these last couple of days. I feel like I’m inside a roller coaster of emotion where I would feel so good for a time, and then feeling really sad, or angry, or even depressed right at the next second. I would feel like I’m in heaven in a moment, and the next minute I would already feel like I wanna shoot myself to death.
I wish I were a more stable person. I wish I weren’t so moody. I wish I were a better person. I wish I were more mature than that. But in fact I’m just not and I doesn’t make it feel any better at all.
I wish there hadn’t been such a debate, such an argument, such contradictions in my head. I wish there have been, and always have been, only one voice in my head. But no. It’s been two. Sometimes more, but most of the time, there have always been two. They would create a fight in my head and in the end, I would ride that roller coaster again and again and again. I would feel invincible, but then defeated right away. I would feel like a conqueror, but also a loser.
I really want to understand, but at the same time, I feel like, “Fuck this. Fuck that. I don’t want to give a damn anymore.” But not giving a fuck doesn’t make me feel better as well because I’m not switching sides as well. I’m biased, caught up somewhere not really in between, but not really and completely on one side yet as well, but I’m just stuck there. Suddenly I feel so tired. I’m so fucking tired dealing with all these. I just want to quit. From everything. And everyone. I’m fucking tired. I’M FUCKING TIRED. I just want to shut up and shut down. I want an isolation, but I know it’d would simply make my depression worse. Taking 5-HTP doesn’t always help either, and I’m not sure it’s the solution just as well. I just want to disappear. Forget everything. And everyone. Just fucking disappear. Go somewhere else.
Yes, it’s running away.
Yes, I’m such a coward.
Yes, I’m such a fucking loser.
I’m a fucking loser and I’m fucking nothing.
I don’t have my own opinion and I’m too tired, too fucking scared, too fucked up to do anything about it, nor am I sure I should or want to do anything about it.
Yes, I just want to fucking runaway and escape.
I told you, I just want to shut down.
Shut the hell up.
Just leave me alone.
Another masterpiece by Pramoedya, I have to admit this book has taken me by surprise. The title said it from the beginning: “Tempo Doeloe: Antologi Sastra Pra-Indonesia,” and once I accidentally opened the book halfway before I started to read it, I was mixed with both surprise and thrill to find out that the book is written with the old Indonesian spelling.
The book, compiled by one of Indonesia’s most prominent writer, contains 8 short stories written not by Pram himself, but instead by various different writers in during the late 19th to early 20th century. This was when Indonesia was known as the Dutch East Indies back then. Even though he did discussed a number of literary works written in that era, Pram said that he decided to collect and select only the ones with similar theme that could chronologically sum up the progress of the politics-social-economic situations of the citizens, especially the ones that keeps getting worse towards the natives, starting from the 17th century up to the 19th century. Pram also decided not to change the language style and spelling of the original versions, although I kind of wonder whether he at least simplified it–and this is what I had previously stated as the one that had taken me by surprise earlier. Only recently finishing another book by Pramoedya, Sang Pemula, I decided to move on to this book just because Pram kept referring to this book in his biography of R. M. Tirto Adhi Soerjo. As soon as I found out that the stories are written in Bahasa Melayu Pasar (Malay), I recalled my experience of struggling with the language style used in Sang Pemula, which mostly consisted of articles written by Tirto Adhi Soerjo in Malay language used during his time. Therefore, it’s no wonder that I only expected to meet the same struggle. Turned out I was wrong, and this was what had really strike me.
Despite the old spelling and the old style, as well as the use of words that has now either unused or change in meaning, I found it much easier actually to understand the meaning. Even much easier than when reading Sang Pemula. Pram did provided footnotes for each stories with explanations of those long-forgotten words, but many times I found it unnecessary because I already deduced the meaning, and when I decided to double check, I only found confirmation of what I had guessed before.
Now, the 8 short stories in the book are: Dari Boedak Sampe Djadi Radja (A Slave Who Becomes A King) by F. Wiggers–which tells a story of Surapati, Pieter Elberveld by Tio Ie Soei, Tjerita Rossina (A Story About Rossina) & Tjerita Si Tjonat (A Story About Tjonat), both by F. D. J. Pangemanann, Tjerita Njai Dasima (A Story About Njai Dasima) by G. Francis, and the last two are Tjerita Kong Hong Nio (A Story About Kong Hong Nio) & Tjerita Nji Paina (A Story About Nji Paina) written by H. Kommer.
Looking into an insight of the Dutch East Indies, we could find out more about the condition and situation of the era from multiple perspective (the Natives’, the Chinese’s, and the Indo’s). My personal favorites are Tjerita si Tjonat and Tjerita Kong Hong Nio.
I did learned that the Dutch used to enforce a racial politics where people were supposed to dressed up based on their race, and they would need formal letter of permission to allow themselves wearing outfits belonging to other racial groups. Or that the term “Islam” or “Slam” was used to address the Natives, regardless of their actual religion.
Of course, as a language geek, the language style and the old spelling are amongst those that really intrigued me. Even simple stuff such as “kabaja” that apparently means pajamas, or the term “peloek dada” (literally “hugging one’s own breast”) means folding your arms, and “menjaru” means to disguise yourself, even those really captivates me.
What’s even more interesting is the thought-provoking comments on the back of the book that the enforced New Spelling created by Soeharto’s regime during the New Order is merely politics in disguise, yet it had unfairly treated literary works belonged to the previous Order as old and outdated.
Overall, again, I would highly recommend this book to you who are interested in Indonesian history, or you who are just a language geek like me (I’m still checking my geekiness level… Hold on), or perhaps are interested to the history of Indonesian language. I think at this point we can safely assume that I already fell in love with this book.