4 years of undergrad, 4+ years of full-time work (and being in front of classes and interpreting in panel discussions in front of hundreds of people), this is still happening.
…yes, I went all the way to Japan to become like this…
4 years of undergrad, 4+ years of full-time work (and being in front of classes and interpreting in panel discussions in front of hundreds of people), this is still happening.
…yes, I went all the way to Japan to become like this…
An interesting video, looking back at another long-put discrimination against Chinese Indonesians in terms of names.
Back then, in the New Order, a decree was made to get Chinese Indonesians to choose their allegiance, whether they are going to stay true to their Chinese inheritance and deny Indonesian citizenship or instead become the latter, forcing them then to adopt Indonesian names.
The video then contemplates on its implications on the children of those first generations who experienced name-changing policy and decided to get Indonesian names, as well as naming their offsprings with Indonesian names later on.
My family from my mother’s side is a long-line of generations of Chinese Indonesians. Though unfamiliar with its history, I know enough that my grandfather underwent this period. I also know that my maternal family line is of Hokkien Chinese and that my granddad’s Chinese name was The Oen Siang (although, do pardon me, I might misspelled the last name). He later adapted the Indonesian name Untung Gunawan. My grandmother herself is a Klang Chinese who was adopted into a Hokkien family, and her Chinese name was then changed from Siek Ngo San to Kwee Kien Nio. Later she adopted the Indonesian name Haryani Tedja Mertadiwangsa. From my mom’s faint recollection of her childhood, she did acknowledged that 6 of her elder siblings still obtain Chinese names from my grandparents and that my mom did, too, although her name was not recorded officially and later unused and forsaken. All that remains is a distant, meaningless name of The Poe Liang. Afterwards, none of the grandchildren I know have Chinese names. Now, only my cousins’ children would get Chinese names if they got married to someone of Chinese inheritance as well. I know for sure two of my nephews have Chinese names and their parents use the names frequently at home.
No doubt, this is one of the domino effect of the 1965 coup and one of the worst massacre in the Indonesian history.
As a child of multicultural identities, I spent quite some time in my teens struggling with my own cultural inheritance and identity. My parents’ separation and, later, divorce, did little to help. Not that I think had it not happen in the first place it would be easier for me to obtain a sense of ethnic identity.
My paternal grandfather himself is a Balinese while my grandmother is a Javanese, making me, technically, a Balinese as well since the line passed down from my father.
Growing up mostly in Jakarta, initially, I didn’t even realise that this struggle of identity exists in the first place. I spent most of my childhood in my paternal grandma’s home in Jakarta, where, fortunately, I was either too ignorant or simply never experienced any discrimination being partially Chinese Indonesians. The fact that I don’t at all look Chinese physically did crossed my mind, too, but at the same time, I barely understood the word “discrimination” and “racism” in the first place back then. Although my grandma’s household carefully shows a slight, faint gap of the hierarchical structure of race (e.g. Javanese vs Chinese Indonesians), religion (e.g. Islam vs Christian), and even of master and servant, they never showed any discriminative attitudes toward people whom I’ve met who are different. I spent my childhood in an elementary school, where most problems revolved around my flunked grades and ranking, and trivial friendship problems. I never noticed any of my friends whose races are different, and I distinctly remember getting confused over a friend’s statement who said that she didn’t want to be friend with someone because this someone is of different religion. Seriously, that didn’t make any sense to me.
Then, back at my grandma’s home, I’d spent the rest of my day playing too much with the babu‘s kids who are of my age. I remember playing badminton too much, losing way too many shuttlecock somewhere in the field, and buying too many rackets and shuttlecocks replacements. I didn’t even understand why my mom wouldn’t let me transfer to the babu‘s son’s school which is much, much nearer to my grandma’s house (which means I wouldn’t have to wake up very early anymore every morning, only to get to the school late every single day). I didn’t realise that she (and maybe my grandma, too) minded because the school she sent me to is a more expensive, probably better, private school. No one made me feel different there. In fact, now that I think about it, they perhaps pitied me and spoiled me too much because I’m a broken-home little brat.
Then in middle school, I started to experience identity crisis. In my small hometown, there is a stark difference between being a Chinese or a Javanese , a Christian or an Islam, and a master or a servant. Oh, but actually, I need to correct on the religion part. I didn’t see or experience any religious discrimination, really. The friends I’ve met and known are tolerant and very polite, so I should cross that one out. But it became clearer to me, first of all, what it meant to be someone of a more well-off family. We’re not filthy rich, no (some family members might), but my mom and I were definitely not rich enough to own anything fancy. But our family is rich enough to pay for servants.
My cousins’ first reaction upon seeing me kissing a little babu‘s daughter on the cheek was terrified. In a surprised tone (and not in a good way), I was asked why the hell I would kiss a servant’s daughter. In return, I was too surprised of the question itself to give any answer. That was the first time I understood that as one of the “masters,” I was not supposed to kiss them.
Another thing that was clearer to me is the gap existence of those of different race. Amongst my Chinese-looking cousins, strangers would think that I am their babu. When my mom knew, she was furious. That’s when I realised that having a different skin tone could account to something. People would be genuinely surprised when they found out that the Chinese-looking person next to me is my kin. That they are really related to me. And the fact that apparently I wasn’t adopted.
Although ignorant at first, slowly, I started to feel inferior of my skin colour. I hated myself because I was dark-skinned. I hated God because there are people of mixed inheritance, but their inherited genes allowed them to inherit their one of their parents’ narrow eyes or fair skin. I used to hate having wide eyes. And some boy-classmates’ mockery of how big, electrified-looking my eyes are did little to elevate my moods. I thought the way people discriminate me was because I didn’t look Chinese enough. Or perhaps my stupid inferiority made the discrimination exist where there were actually none. And I blamed my not-looking-Chinese-enough for it. I walked home from school one day, taking a shortcut through an empty alley when a guy riding a motorbike came from behind and stopped to squeeze my right boob so hard and then left me stunned and speechless. As I continued walking, an old guy apparently stood nearby and saw everything and said that he didn’t do anything initially because he thought the guy was my friend. Later, I felt very ashamed and humiliated, and again, I blamed my look which is not Chinese enough. I thought if I looked more Chinese, if I had fairer skin and/narrower eyes, if I didn’t look like a babu, this would never happen to me. He wouldn’t dare to touch me had I look like a Chinese nonik.
Only when I entered university and met a lot more people of different cultural background did I realise that not all Chinese Indonesians are discriminative towards those of non-Chinese. It took me quite some time until I finally stopped hinting to strangers that I’m actually partially Chinese because I was afraid of discriminations. Yet what happened next was the complete opposite. As soon as I found out that I could claim my Balinese inheritance (at least until I probably marry a guy of non-Balinese inheritance), I started telling people that I am a Balinese, who was born and raised in Java. It was easier, though, really. No more shocked responses and disbelief statements, although I still did smiled when the old Chinese lady who opens a warung with a tasty Chinese food called me “nonik” instead of “dek.” Only recently did I finally admit to people who ask that I’m also partially Chinese. Back then, I would deny it until my co-worker who found out then told those who asked that I’m actually partially a Chinese Indonesian, too.
I was really surprised upon reading an article by Vltchek who tells a story of a Chinese Indonesian who experienced sexual harassment and later felt ashamed and humiliated, then instead blamed her Chinese inheritance. I thought that those stuffs only happened because you don’t look Chinese enough. That was a significant eye-opener for me, because that’s when I started to explore further of the horrible, discriminative history of the government, from the colonial era up to now, against the Chinese people. How people could hate the Chinese because back then people assimilate Chinese with communism. But even that is only one of thousands of reasons to discriminate Chinese, and some of them are ridiculously fabricated. And the very sad thing is, how easily some people in the country could still be manipulated by racism.
When I watched a family’s story in the documentary film “40 Years of Silence,” I began to understand even better why Chinese Indonesians could be very discriminative to non-Chinese. I wouldn’t blame them, really. Not to mention the racist comments uttered to Ahok who’d become the first Chinese-Indonesian governor of Jakarta, it’s just appalling how shallow the comments uttered and that’s maybe an understatement. But then again, I think now more and more people are becoming more combative against racism, and care less about it. I’d like to believe that more people are beginning to value people more on their personal qualities and performance and characters, and not on their race or religions. Also that those with the racist comments are decreasing in number and who knows, they might be paid to utter such comments.
As I was too spoiled and inferior about myself, not to mention ignorant, I was too focused on my own identity crisis, never thought that the similar things, if not worse, could also happen to others (aside from the calamities of the 1998 riots), but now that I know more about it, I wonder whether all these are simply trivial matters to be shrugged off, compared to those who might have experienced much, much worse discriminations growing up.
P.S. I’m thinking of writing another post someday when I found out more of maternal family’s genealogy because after talking to my mom after writing this, my mom just mentioned another family history, saying the the Javanese inheritance in the family is actually passed down from my granddad-____-‘ It’s just getting more complicated.
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.
Found this reading survey here, and I thought this is not a bad idea to kill time and share some books that I’ve read.
Favorite fictional character?
Lisbeth Salander (from Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy), Sugar (the smart whore from Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White), and Flora Aemilia (from Gaarder’s Vita Brevis).
It’s been a while ever since I wrote my last post, and after procrastination after procrastination, I finally able to write this one.
So let’s do a little flash back to avoid confusion.
Starting from June 2011, I had been living in a wonderful city in East Java called Malang. Without realizing it, I apparently have gotten more fond to this city more than I intended to. And I realized that only now because on the third week of June, I will have to move again to the bigger Surabaya. It’s only about 3-5 hours from Malang, really, but still, the thought of leaving Malang so soon makes me feel sad.
Anyway, another reason to love (and hate, actually) Malang is because every year, the city held an event called Festival Malang Kembali or also known as Malang Tempoe Doeleoe (the word “Tempoe Doeloe” is written in the old Indonesian spelling). The best English equivalent that I could think of is “Malang From the Past.” Why so? Because on this event, you could see street sellers and sponsor institutions or organizations recreate warung (a diner where they usually sell food at a cheap price, and the food sold is usually traditional food, or Chinese food nowadays) or buildings in a way that it feels like you’re back in the colonial and post-colonial era. Simply put: Indonesia from the past. Well, Malang, to be more precise.
So this event was held on 24 June – 27 June on two big streets (nearby my place, luckily) called Ijen and Semeru. The latter was, thankfully, only used for a few km. Apparently this event caused the traffic route to change as well because starting from several miles around those two were blocked, and this caused another street (also near my place) to be extremely crowded and even caused traffic jam (which doesn’t usually happen in a small city like Malang unless you’re lining up for the basement parking lot at the mall) because all vehicles were rerouted over there.
I was pretty excited about this event because, of course, what else could a person who always dream that time machine really exists other than reenacting the days from the past through this event? Although the event turned out to be quite different than what I had imagined, I did had a lot of fun. The event turned out to be a very, VERY big kind of pasar malam (translated literally to “night market,” which is indeed a market that usually opened during the evening and usually offers cheap food, drinks, goods, toys, snacks, etc), and a very crowded one, too. Of course the only difference is that the goods being sold were goods from the old times, the sellers were dressed in Javanese traditional dress, and their kiosk were built like Javanese huts or gazebo that you would usually see in the middle of a rice fields or in villages in rural areas. I’ll post a lot photos below, and you could see that they actually sold old coins and paper money, dating back to the era where the Kingdom of Majapahit still reigned (around 1293-1500; at least they claimed the coins to be from the Majapahit era) as well as newspaper dating back from the 1900’s. (I mean, where the hell did they get those!?)
I was exploring the festival only on the night of the first day and the third day on the afternoon. Then I met this old man selling a toy kids used to play with in the past. I asked him–let’s refer to him as Pak S (FYI, ‘pak’ is how you refer older man in my country to show respect–it’s an abbreviation of “Bapak”)–about the toy because even though I recognize the shape, I never played with it when I was a kid. He told me it was his toy back when he was a little kid (he’s 72 years old now), and he was there in the festival only to sell those toys. On his usual days, he told me he’d usually stay at home with his family, and sometimes repair shoes in his workshop in Sukarno-Hatta (a street name in Malang) if someone’s shoes needs repairing. Anyway, I asked him what it is called, and he said something that sounds to me like, “Tulup,” but again, my ears might deceive me. Later I found out that it’s more famous with the name “Pletokan.” It’s a kind of toy gun made of bamboo. You put crushed papers or newspaper into both sides of the Pletokan, and then, with the thinner stick, you pulled from one side, and the paper on the other side would fly out, though it won’t be so far, really. He kindly showed me how to play with that, and he was so nice.
Since I’m moving to another city, this might be my first and last festival, although I wouldn’t wish so. But I’m glad that I took many pictures. I’m just hoping I could see another one next year, but we’ll see, aye?