Tuesday, 4 March 2008

It’s a Small World

Sometimes it’s amazing to see how small the world is. The internet is also flattened the world. Recently I read the autobiography of Kris Biantoro, an Indonesian famous entertainer. He mentioned an Australian name, Dr. Ron Witton, as his friend and his student for Javanese language. It surprised me because I knew this scholar through a mailing list in the internet. I was interested in his study about the Afrikaans language and the influence it got from the Malay language. I’ve got the verification that he is indeed the same person mentioned in Kris Biantoro’s book.

Another interesting story I’ve found in Kris Biantoro’s biography was the nationalism seed implanted on him by his teacher in Java. The name of the teacher is Pak Wignjo. My parents believe that this teacher should be the same person who was very close to our family, Wignjosoemarsono. I need to meet Kris Biantoro to verify this one, but if it is true that would be the proof of great nationalism in this very humble teacher. I think Pak Wignjo also contributed the building of nationalism in me. My parents addressed him as a stepfather to my family. A humble teacher who moved into politic (but remain humble as I remember), his picture can be seen in one of the shelves in my parents’ living room.

My husband bought the book “Dari Penjaja Tekstil Sampai Superwoman” (a biography of eight Chinese Peranakan Writers written by Myra Sidharta) quite a long time ago. Perhaps it was intended for me, as he is not the bookaholic type, but forgot about it in his desk. He brings it down today. It is a surprise as I was just write about the Chinese Peranakan in my blog.

I’ve read this book somewhere, and intended to buy it with the other books about the Chinese Malay Literature. But I was surely not reading it carefully and thoroughly. Today I was astonished to see a familiar name in this book. In page 106, Myra Sidharta mentioned a writer’s name: Soh Lian Tjie. She was my grandmother. Actually she was the big sister of my father’s mother. She stayed single and lived alone in Jakarta. When we were still in Makassar we used to come to Jakarta and went out with her. After moving permanently to Jakarta, she was the grandmother for me and my brothers. Our own grandmother (her younger sister) lived in Makassar and came only occasionally.

She changed her name into Indonesian name Nora Suryanti. She lived in a small house in Menteng. It used to be the Waringin street, so we did call her Oma Waringin. She was also a contributor to the Indonesian Observer. I knew from whom I inherited this interest towards arts and cultures. Yet, I was not her favourite grandchildren. She preferred boys than girl, but I became closer with her when she was weak and having her last moment in Jakarta. Her little sister moved her back to Makassar, away from her friends and books… a sad story. My family objected, but we could not do anything. I don’t know where all her books gone. I remember that her last wishes were to be cremated, and the ashes should be thrown to the sea so she could travel the world through the sea. Her little sister didn’t grant it. She was buried in Makassar, none of her close friends attending. While her wishes weren’t bothered by her little sister, ironically this little sister asked to be cremated in Jakarta (while all her friends were in Makassar). I’ve got to fought anger in my heart while attending her little sister’s requiem here. I knew I should forgive her…hopefully their spirits are rest in peace now!

I’m mostly attracted to Oma Waringin because of her collection of books and her various trips to foreign countries. She worked as a tour guide after resuming her work as a civil servant. When I graduated from my Senior High School I remember asking my father to enter the school of tourism. He objected as he thought his auntie was a special case, yet he thought that the image of a woman tour guide was still bad. Perhaps this interest made me ventured into being a volunteer guide for the National Museum here.

Citizen Journalism has fired the writing spirit back into me. It is also made me came back to my old activities (I need to get a more balance life though!). But the most important thing is that it helps me digging into me…the world may be small, but humans are always deeper than that!

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