Lobakan: Antologi Cerita Pendek (Kesenyapan Gemuruh Bali ’65)

I have no idea what ‘Lobakan’ means. I’ve checked both Google and Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian Dictionary) and found nothing about the word, but the words after the colon mean: “A compilation of short stories (The silenced thunderstorm of Bali in ’65).” The number 65 at the end of the title there refers to the year of 1965.

That is the title of the book that I just read.

*edited March 20, 2012 – Just found out from my grandpa that Lobakan is actually a Balinese term for lamp–the old, ancient, petromax lantern. (Doh, I’m such a fake Balinese!)

So, back in December, my grandpa gave me this book Lobakan after I shared with him my interest and findings on one of the darkest history of Indonesia about the PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia/The Communist Party of Indonesia). After getting enough courage to finally asked him about the incident, my grandpa decided to give me this book ‘if I’m interested.’ (He’s gotta be joking. Of course I’m interested!)

Just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a bit of background information based on my findings:

Soekarno, the first president of Indonesia, once proposed a political concept called as ‘Nasakom,’ which literally is an abbreviation of three words: ‘Nasionalisme’ (nationalism), ‘Agama’ (religion), and ‘Komunisme’ (Communism). This is the notion invented by Soekarno as a part of his vision to unite three big political parties existed in Indonesia at that time–PNI (Partai Nasional Indonesia/Indonesian National Party), Islamic parties which were divided into two parties at that time: Masyumi (Partai Majelis Syuro Muslimin Indonesia/Council of Indonesian Muslim Associations) and NU (Nahdlatul Ulama–a traditionalist Sunni Islam group), and PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia/The Communist Party of Indonesia)–in order to create harmonies between the three, and hence: peace amongst society.

By 1965, the member of the communist party had rapidly increased to 3 million people, and this worried the other 2 parties. Negative sentiments against Soekarno also grew as he supported and protected PKI, along with his ideology as it’s similar with his own.

Long story made short, the tension finally broke by September 30, 1965 as a movement called the 30 September Movement kidnapped several Indonesian war heroes in the army and killed them. Hence, General Soeharto (later the 2nd president of Indonesia) took control and provoked massacre of those known or suspected as “communist allies.” As the army publicly announced that the communists had killed Indonesian respected war heroes to encourage and approve the killings (of the PKI partisans), the Islamic forces did the same thing as they labeled those “communists” as atheists–a word that does not make any sense to most Indonesians, even until now, as Indonesia is not an “atheist country.”

Today it is speculated that the movement was actually a coup d’etat provoked by Soeharto and his army friends, backed by the CIA as they were afraid that Indonesia would become a strong ally to the communist (remember the Cold War?) and the PKI and its “allies” were merely victims of false accusations.

Of course, I might get this wrong, so feel free to correct me.

Here are the links to the sources (most of them, of course, will be Wikipedia):

*

Okay, enough about history. As my old man put it, “History is about perspective. The more you read, the more you find out.” Well said, grandpa!

Now, aside from the fact of who actually did what, or who was the bad guy, or even who was right or wrong, the thing is that the massacre killed a lot of innocent people. The army encouraged citizens to kill their neighbors, friends, and even family members without trial. And those were the people who might not even know what on earth PKI actually was. Most of them were actually those who merely hired to entertain the actual PKI members in one of their events/propagandas, or hired as a guard during a PKI meeting, and these people are poor peasants who, even if they actually owned the land or the field they were working on, they were really poor that eating rice was considered a luxury for them. Worse, they could even be poor farmers who didn’t even own a land, and merely working on a landowner’s land and gained almost nothing as a result of their hard work. Uneducated people, already suffered, and then suddenly stabbed or even tortured for reasons unknown to them.

Meanwhile, the religious parties (those who does not want to be associated with atheists) also made propaganda as they identify all communist partisans as atheists. They used folklore, myth, legend, belief, and they toyed with people’s faith to encourage the killings. They believed (and I am not referring to a specific kind of religion here because this includes all kinds of religion existed in Indonesia at that time) that killing communists was a religious duty. I am not a big fan of religion so of course I mock this idea. Were I lived during that time, I would definitely be assassinated.

Many believe that at least half a million people died during that time. In one article I read, people were getting used to seeing tons of dead bodies in the river, floating from one village to another village, spreading awful smells of rotten corpses. “No one wanted to risk coming out of the house,” said my grandpa. If I had not mistaken, the biggest killing happened in either East Java and Central Java or Bali, where they said that it was one step closer to become an anarchy.

These are the stories I read in Lobakan. All of them are, of course, fictionalized, because, as I read in the foreword, most of the victims interviewed (or talked to) tried so hard to erase those tragic events from their memories that most of them tried to deflect or even talked about something irrelevant instead of retelling the truth. In the end, no one actually ever find out what actually happened, and I doubt anyone will ever do.

One of my favorite stories is titled Monolog (Monologue), by Putu Fajar Arcana. It contains a speech of one of the victim of the massacre, who told his story of how he got involved with the PKI (although it is not explicitly stated whether he realized and fully acknowledged PKI at all) and later caught and killed. He said he came from a very poor family, whose field were taken by landowners and later were forced into a huge amount of debt by those landowners where in the end they had to work on the land they were supposed to own. The PKI held meetings talking about possibilities to get their land back, and as a poor peasant, how could they say no? The idea alone already seemed like ‘water from the moon’ (meaning impossible) to them. Later, of course, it costed him his life.

Another favorites are Warisan (Legacy) by Putu Satria Kusuma and Menanti Tantri (Waiting for Tantri) by Soeprijadi Tomodiharjo. The first one tells a story about Wayan Guru who was suspected as a PKI partisan and were hiding at his parents’ house while many people were waiting in front of the house, ready to ambush and slay him. His parents told the masses that Wayan Guru was away in Java, yet they waited. At the same time, Wayan Guru begged to see his son, Kadek, who stayed with his wife in his house near his parents’. He was determined to see Kadek, even if it would cost him his life, but his parents asked him to think it through, because death means missing his son’s 3 months ceremony, as well as watching him growing up.

The latter, Menanti Tantri tells a story about Made Arka Wiratma, an activist in fighting against illiteracy, who got a visit from a respectable figure: The governor of Bali, when he was lying sick on a hospital bed, suffering from malaria. His wife who accompanied him at that time was pregnant with his son. The governor suggested to name the unborn child Rai, taken from Balinese war hero: I Gusti Ngurah Rai. To them the visit was such a great honor. Little did they know that the governor was a leftist, and hence, a PKI partisan, as well as what the visit would cost them later.

What’s ironic is how I Gusti Agung Ayu Ratih put it in the foreword about how the government seemed so easily dismissed the tragedy and instead polished the so-called “The island of the gods” with monuments, malls, hotels and clubs to attract investors and tourists from around the world by making the native of this “island of gods” to work (I actually intent to use the work “slavery”) for these visitors who’d see Bali as, indeed, their “heaven on earth.” Try ask the people whether they think it’s a heaven on earth to them.

*

What? You didn’t expect me to write the complete stories as well as all of the short stories included, right? That wouldn’t be fair to the writers (says the person whose life is devoted to download free stuffs). >:D

I owe my grandpa for willing to give and share this with me, and I love the inscription he wrote on the first page of the book (I always love inscriptions on the first page of my book!) for me:

Bali Trip: A Visit to My Family

Earlier today I went to visit my grand father in Denpasar. For someone who admit to be awkward in socializing with others, not to exclude family, I have to say I had a great day.

As I’m not a morning person at all, I woke up earlier today at about 11ish. 10.30ish. 10.45ish. Around that time. And then my mom finally managed to make me take a shower. (Yes, finally!) So after I cleaned myself, ate my breakfast, and took care of the laundry, I called my grandpa and told him that we’re coming soon. That was around 12 PM.

So we tried to stop a taxi, and finally arrived at grandpa’s house at around 1. Not to mention that we were lost before we finally found his house.

Now, let me get this straight first.

I was born in Java, and I have Javanese, Balinese, and Chinese Indonesian heritage from my parents. My grandpa here is a Balinese. The sad thing is that the last time I visited him and met my Balinese family was 2 years ago. And before that, it was about 19 years ago when I was only 4.

So not only I don’t know my Balinese family very well, I was as well having trouble finding my grandpa’s house in Pekambingan area.

I’m also suck–really suck–at navigation, FYI.

So yeah, we almost enter a stranger’s house, mistaking it for grandpa’s house.

Anyway, I finally called him and asked him to show me direction through phone, and we finally arrived.

Yay! Let me do the happy dancing for a while.

* * *

Okay, happy dancing done.

Then we did some catch up, gave him a Tempe Kripik, which is the traditional food from my hometown (a small city called Purwokerto) and chatted for a while.

After that, we went to visit my grandmother–or my grandpa’s sister-in-law, which I should refer to as Kompyang, or simply Nenek. Oh, she’s actually my great grandma. Then as we chat and chat, I start to recollect the family I have here. Apparently, aside from my grandpa, who I refer to more as Pekak, I have plenty other grandpas (Pekak) and grandmas (Oda): Pekak Ned and his wife, Oda Endang, Pekak Made, Pekak Nyoman, Oda Catri, and Pekak Tude, the youngest of all, who could be simply mistaken as my uncle (Uwe). And then the uncles and aunts: Uwe Sunan, Uwe Leila, and Uwe Surya, my 8 years old uncle (according to the family tree, he’s supposed to be my uncle!).

After visiting each one of them (except for Uwe Sunan who’s in Lombok atm, Pekak Nyoman and Pekak Tude), my Pekak and Oda Endang invited me to see Denpasar Festival 4 which was held in Udayana. The traffic–as it has gone crazier and crazier towards New Year–was a complete disaster. So instead of driving to the location of the festival, we parked the car somewhere near the festival, and then decided to go there on foot. Oh yes, there was a heavy traffic jam.

So there, I held my Pekak’s arm tight, while my mom and Oda Endang went window shopping and ended up shopping, indeed. As we separated ways in the festival, I finally managed to persuade Pekak to have dinner with me as he had not eaten anything since we arrived at noon. It was around 9 at that time. I would definitely starving by then, but he kept reassuring me, saying that he’s fine and I don’t have to worry at all about him.

Of course I was worried.

So finally we stopped at this place selling Kambing Guling, Sate and Soto Ayam.

Gulai Kambing
Soto Ayam

Now, this is my favorite part of the day.

As I accompanied Pekak while he ate his dinner, I started to ask him about the books he has at home.

Pathetically, I just found out earlier today that my grandpa apparently is really smart and open-minded, as well as a devoted reader like me. Only he doesn’t read novel. He read non-fictions about Politics and Philosophy. I was really tempted to steal his Dialogue with Socrates as I glanced at it. But of course I didn’t.

He said he likes reading about Politics and Philosophy, and he’d wanted to major in Social & Politics earlier in the university, but as he was born on October 12th 1940, by the time he entered university, there hadn’t been any university which provides good quality of Social & Politics study around. So he went to study law instead, at Airlangga University in Surabaya.

And that was the time when I finally had enough courage to ask a question I’ve been wanting to ask him for years:

“So, grandpa, I was actually wondering… Were you involved with PKI during the 60s?”

And I got a firm “No,” along with a head shake as an answer.

I think I was actually almost disappointed.

To answer your question: No, I didn’t ask that question out of nowhere.

There has been a rumor–well, not actually a rumor. When I was a kid, my grandma and my dad told me once that my grandpa once joined the PKI, and when the national army went around Indonesia to capture PKI members, he was captured and kept in prison for years.

That’s when my grandma decided to remarry again.

PKI Symbol

Anyway, just in case you’re confused what the hell PKI is, it’s a communist party that once dominated Indonesia. Its career ended after the 30 September Movement, and not until Soeharto resigned in 1998 did people start to wonder and talk about what happened. Sadly, these ‘people’ mostly refer to foreigners who study or interested in Indonesian culture and history. I don’t really know many Indonesian who put so much interests in their own history.

(You could click the link for further, clearer, and more complete information.)

Then my grandpa continued and set things straight:

“I wasn’t involved in PKI, to be precise. I was actually involved in the youth organization in campus. The thing is, after the 30 September Movement, the army started to slay and capture those who either actually involved in PKI or those who simply didn’t oppose PKI’s idealism. As a university student, you know, we were full of idealism and thoughts. We want things to be better, and we urged the government to do it. It’s not that we were pro PKI or against it, but we opened ourselves to good ideas and thoughts, especially related to this country. If PKI offered good solutions for this country’s problem, why should we oppose? Sure, were there any other good solutions offered by others, we’d definitely support it. The problem is, the army didn’t see us that way. At that time, there were many prejudices, and our youth movement in campus was not excluded. They simply accused us as PKI supporters, so they captured us and put us in jail. Without proof.”

I also told him that I’ve watched the movie Sang Penari, which was inspired by Ahmad Tohari’s novel Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk and has the story set in the 1960s–sometime before and after the 30 September Movement. I also told him that I read some articles about the PKI and watched The Year Living Dangerously.

I think he wanted to make sure that I wasn’t prejudice toward him, so he asked me first, what do I know about the ‘Movement’ and the party itself. So I told him all I know and all I read.

“There are two kinds of history. One that is told from this perspective, and another one that is told from that perspective. Only reading and listening from one side of the story could mislead you. The more you read, the more you know the truth.”

I’m not gonna argue with someone whose grades in history are always next-to-excellent. I saw his school certificates earlier–from elementary school up to university. He’s really fond of history, turns out.

“So grandpa, how long were you in jail?”

“10–(noise on the street)–minus 1 month.”

“10… months?”

“No, sweetie. 10 years,” and he chuckled.

“10 years!”

My eyes widened.

“Yes, minus 1 month. Your grandma was pregnant with your dad at that time. 3 months pregnancy. I had to leave.”

I remember my dad told me that it wasn’t until he was entering primary school that he found out that his dad at home is not his biological father. He said he called my grandpa a loon who thought he’s my dad’s dad.

I couldn’t imagine being in a cell for 10 years, with… nothing to do. So I asked him what did he usually do there. He told me about the size of the cell. It’s about 1.5 m x about 3.5 m, if my memory serves. They usually fit 3 skinny men in there, so my grandpa simply chat with them. Playing chess sometimes. Take a shower at 8 AM and later 4 PM.

“And?”

“Well, there’s really nothing much you could do in a place like that. If you’re not strong psychologically, you’d crack.”

Deep in my heart, I was thankful that he was still alive up to now.

Then I told him that in the article I read, many influential and smartass were in the PKI and they were put in prison. One of my favorite author, Pramoedya Ananta Toer was in it.

“Oh, Pramoedya? Yeah, he’s really smart. And kind, too. He used to walk around, back and forth–remember there wasn’t enough space in there, so you could simply go back and forth in the same direction–he’d usually walk with dignity.”

“He was there?”

“Yes, yes.” And he nodded.

My grandpa was talking about my favorite author like he’s this cool guy who you usually met at school. “Oh, him? Yeah, we were in the same class. He’s the one who’d usually ask the most questions in class.”

“It’s just unfair how the government treated those people, pops. I mean, they are not criminals who’d steal your wallet or kill you for your money, right? They’re smartasses, who’d actually be very useful to this country.”

My grandpa nodded. “Yea. I changed cell mates for about three times, and almost all of them are educated abroad and very brilliant.”

Holy shit, my grandpa was there to witness the history! He’s there!

And then we went back to the festival.

While we wait for my mom and grandma as they shopped around, I continued my discussion with grandpa. We changed the subject though, this time.

I don’t really remember how it started, but what I remember most is that I was asking him about Sesajen–the offerings made by the Balinese Hindus for the gods.

Now, what’s really interesting and unique about Bali is the custom of offerings. Other than having tons of Pura’s, every Balinese Hindus has at least their own Pura at the front of their houses. Depends on the size of the house (and depends on how rich you are), the size, height and beauty of the small Pura varies. Well, the term Pura might not be the right one, but this ‘small Pura’ is used to put Sesajen, or offerings. Some houses (mostly the wealthier ones) would also have an altar–like a small hall–aside from the small Pura.

The altar at Kompyang's house. Sure is big.

My Pekak’s and Kompyang’s house are not excluded.

The small Pura at my grandpa's house. Sorry, we were standing in front of of it. Say hi to my pops, though!
The one at Kompyang's house.

Then I asked him about the Sesajen.

He told me that the usual Sesajen is called Canang. People usually make Canang as soon as they finished cooking their breakfast. Before they eat their breakfast, they ought to put chunks of whatever they eat for breakfast in the offerings and then put it in the small Pura. Once they finished this, they could then eat their breakfast. Unless you’re sick or away from home, you should put the Sesajen every day as a prayer for all the meals that you’re gonna eat that day. Praying that the nutrition will fill your body and improve your health, and to make sure you’re not to starve.

Another one is called Banten. This one is only made on special occasion. Tourists could see Banten everywhere in malls in Bali where people would put Banten near the front door, or somewhere on the corner of the street, as a prayer for luck and success for their business. When I was here, my mom’s best friend (who mostly pay for my trip and fun here in Bali) hires a driver. He’s a Balinese and whenever we go around to visit some tourism resorts, I would always see a Banten on the car’s dashboard next to the steering wheel.

Banten in Kuta Square. Apparently neglected, due to the heavy, disastrous traffic. But they say it's fine once the Banten is made and offered.

I love Bali because it’s one place where you’d see art and culture blended into one in harmony.

Later we continued on talking about random subjects and random stuffs.

I found out that apparently our ancestors were part of the Ksatrias. But since we don’t really believe in caste system and instead, believe that caste system would only create further discrimination and prejudice, so we no longer use nor acknowledge it. Awesome, though.

Also, apparently, my great-grandfather used to be in the Dutch army. He was trained in the Dutch school for police, and later, he switched side and join his fellow Indonesian to fight for independence. He died sometime later after that, which caused my grandpa to be fatherless. But my great-grandmother and my grandpa received some benefits as a reward for my great-grandpa’s patriotism. Awesome, again.

I learned a Balinese word “Sing Ken Ken” which means “No problem.” Also awesome.