Who Do You Think You Are? (Part 2)

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Previously on the first post (http://akhlispurnomo.net/2013/08/22/who-do-you-think-you-are-im-insert-any-nouns-here/), my grandmother told me some prominent, worth-telling childhood events.

As she tried to remember some prominent life events in the bitter past when Japanese troops were in town, she also mentioned about Bukhori. He was the most affluent man in the village of Karang Wetan, now known as Prambatan Kidul, at the time. Bukhori had more than he needed but seemed to be stingy enough for all the neighbors, including my grandmother. “This man was so thrifty he refused to provide the needy some alms to survive the hard times,” she said. The Japanese could have been killed her and her family. But instead of doing so, the ruthless Japanese soldiers targeted Bukhori and seized all his crops. All the rice held in three big trucks was taken just like that. No money was given as reward for the sweat of growing the paddy. Very outraging to Bukhori but what he could do about it anyway? Nothing. Nonetheless, my grandmother learned a lesson from that: never get stingy no matter what.

Another random story was told.
This time, my grandmother told me how she started working at a local cigarette factory, they called this type of work ‘mbathil’ (a Javanese local rather archaic slang still used now). Her mother, whom she called Nyai, persuaded her to work there. But it was a shame for my grandmother because she, as a young girl, didn’t have any proper ‘selendang’ (a type of shawl-like piece of garment). Upon hearing the complaint, Nyai got a brilliant idea. She cut her ‘kendhit’ (a piece of long fabrics worn and fastened around a Javanese woman’s waist, usually worn to stay slim especially after giving a labor to a new-born baby) into two, making it look like selendang.
My grandmother really didn’t want to shame herself when it came to fashion decency. She deemed wearing ‘tapeh’ (worn by a Javanese woman in the lower part of her body – from hips to toe, some Javanese also call it ‘jarik’/ ‘jarit’) made of ‘mori’ (white cheap fabric from cotton, usually used to cover a corpse when buried in accordance with Islamic fashion). The majority of women in the village during the Japanese occupation wore ‘kadhut’ or a piece of cloth that is a lot cheaper than mori, that causes itch on someone’s skin. The scarcity of proper, decent and affordable fabrics for laymen at the time was ignored by the Japanese. They didn’t think the Javanese deserved that. A lot more issues to come as the war was raging in Pacific and proper clothing was just not in their priority list.
Wearing kadhut was never fashionable (that is why now we used it as cheap sack material for rice). Its color is brown, the texture is so rough. “When they got itchy, they knew they had to lay the kadhut (worn as their tapeh) under the midday sunlight in hope that the god-damned white-colored worms and bugs inside the fibers would get out or perish instantly so they could wear it back later with better ease.” There was another type of fabric called ‘ondol’, made of kapuk, a cotton-like material, but one cannot let it wet, meaning that it is not washable. And not washing regularly leads to another source of problem, too. You can imagine the scale of germs colonies thriving in it.

The Japanese attacked the village.
That early morning, my grandmother found out some Japanese airplanes hovering above Karang Wetan, our small ‘dusun’ (=subvillage). It was still around 6 o’clock in the morning and she thanked God the government had provided all the people some spots to hide from the Japanese troops. Her mother finished cooking rice to feed the whole small family: herself, my grandmother and my grandmother’s older borther. The place to hide was actually not a bunker or basement of a huge building with lots of thick shields but merely a deep trench covered by banana leaves and maybe some other hard covering materials. It was not the right time to complain about the safety, they just got in to get safe. She was so scared to get down into the trench but she had to. Every adult male also ran away from homes. Safety went first. They didn’t want to die in vain. They were only untrained civilians with no arms or weapons in hand and the Japanese hunted agressively the males in order to kill them all. The trench in which my grandmother hid was packed with a lot of babies, young children, and some Indonesian soldiers.
Some males in the village got killed. One of them lost his life after a deadly bullet was shot towards him. The poor wretched man, who according to my grandmother earned a living as a blacksmith making ‘bendo’ (a type of big sickle-like knives to cut wild grass to feed cattle), hid but as he felt so afraid he dashed out of the bushes. In a blink of an eye, a Japanese soldier who had a riffle with him shot the scared man in fear of missing a Dutch spy or enemies.

(To be continued)

One thought on “Who Do You Think You Are? (Part 2)

  1. […] But in family history, there is no or much less political influence. Families here, as far as I know, don’t really care about their family history (not even document or record that carefully) because of course even if one can manipulate it, what can s/he benefit from the distorted chronicles? Not much. In the process of writing, I need to really workd hard on understanding the explanation of my paternal grandmother. She hardly speaks Indonesian, and never ever learned English in her lifetime so the one and only language she employed is Javanese, which happens to be my mother tongue. Yet, as I have been growing older, Javanese has gotten less and less spoken around me because Indonesian (bahasa Indonesia) started taking place in academic and other formal contexts. Even English was first introduced to me when I was a sixth grader. I was happily embracing the foreign language just like a new toy. And it IS a toy to play with, linguistically speaking. I hoped to learn more by acquiring English, and I really did. I had always wanted to live outside my hometown, where almost my entire family reside. And English enabled me to do that. Reaching out something new. That is what I want: newness, novelty. I didn’t give stability a damn because it translates to boredom. I refused to embrace the teaching world in which the majority of my family members earn a living, partly because there is part of me saying:”You don’t have to follow them. Find your own path or you’ll be sorry for good!” So I did and thus far there has been no remorse in my life for listening to this voice in me. There are of course a price to pay but the excitement seems to be surmounting the ordeals. Muntianah, my paternal grandmother, had been raised as an orphan since her being an 8-month old fetus. Her mother (my paternal great grandmother) had died many years ago. I still recall her face and remember her funeral back then. There was no hollow feeling or great terrible loss sensation because I was too young to even think of and experience such painful emotion. I knew people mourned, wept, prayed for her peace up there but I just couldn’t make sense of the whole situation, like “She died. Oh, so what?” All I cared about was that I knew I could still watch my afternoon cartoon series on TV and eat foods I liked and went to school with all of my homework that day properly answered and being free from the fear of being grounded by the teacher. So that makes me help understand why the younger brother of my deceased cousin looked lively and act normally still even after he found out his eldest sister lost her life following a series of legs amputation procedures. He has his own world and the sister was apparently like a nice-looking gadget to his eyes; something cool to have but not his (almost) entire world. One day, young Muntianah was told by her mother to clean up the house in and out. In the meantime, the mother was doing her chore: preparing foods. Kudus, like other towns in Java during Japanese colonial era which only lasted a few yet very bloody years, experienced food scarcity. Muntianah knew first handedly people around her dying of extreme hunger. But that very day, the family was lucky enough to be able to find things to eat: waloh (pumpkin-like fruit) and kangkung (a type of green vegetable having thicker stalks than spinach). Young Muntianah was struck by a bundle of ‘treasure’ thrown away in the rubbish basket. She opened it and found that in it there was some garlic and onion. Definitely not something worth getting rid of! She shrieked at her mother who was still cooking. “What’s wrong?” my grand grand mother said to her daughter. She replied and showed the garlic and onion, “I found these, Nyai (yes, she seriously called her mom this way to show respect which in today’s context sounds more like a total derogatory joke)!” She later found out Nyai had deliberately put all of them into the rubbish basket, only to test how much young Muntianah really cared about the entire household, even what was thrown into the rubbish basket. Nyai was really really stern when it came to household management. Young Muntianah had better clean all the floor of the house, refill the bath tub (in which one couldn’t soak him/herself like in what we have seen in the West), and make sure the house chores done very well or else she had to miss the breakfast. The breakfast was ento-ento. It went without saying that it wasn’t the best or most delicious food ever but that was what they could afford that time. The texture of ento-ento was not particularly pleasant to the tongue. As coarse as pebbles, only you could swallow that safely. As a good mother, Nyai also sometimes treated her daughter when she knew she still had enough money even that meant there was very little extra money she could spend. Off they went to “Menoro”, which was an area of Sunan Kudus’ cemetery (as it was told by the ancestors). Sunan Kudus is like a local saint here. Along with Sunan Muria (whose corpse was laid in Mount Muria, according to folklores). They were two of the 9 walis (Wali Songo) who helped spread the Islamic teachings around Java that used to be Hindu and Buddha-centric. Nyai was there to buy a serving of delicious home-made soup which was usually accompanied by rice. Young Muntianah jumped with joy. It was the word “rice” that made her act that way. Rice was a culinary luxury of the era. Japanese troops would choke any natives to death in case they caught one hiding or eating rice for themselves or their own family members. High quality rice was to be sent only to the Japanese. But Indonesians as we know didn’t accept that as it was. There were many methods devised to violate the rule. People could enjoy rice but only when there was no single Japanese soldier around. Nyai was happy to give what her daughter wanted but Young Muntiah was far than happy. She was disappointed upon knowing that gobet (I hardly know what this is but it is very likely that gobet is another pariah’s food) was the replacement of rice in her ‘extraordinarily nourishing’ menu. Young Muntianah was never ever a fan of school. In almost every occasion, she reminded the audience (well, you know, it is her descendants) of how awful the system of education of the time to her eyes. She held begrudge towards a highly disciplined male teacher wearing blangkon (Javanese male attire). “He (the teacher) was insanely inhumane. He made a student stand inside the school restroom all day long. The poor student couldn’t help telling his parents and everyone as soon as he was done from being grounded. Everyone dreaded such teacher,” she reminisced looking up to the house ceiling. It was still the same house she used to live with her mother decades past, only much bigger and taller. My father and uncles had helped her renovate the house. (to be continued=> http://akhlispurnomo.net/2013/09/08/who-do-you-think-you-are-part-2/) […]

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