Sunday, 26 July 2009

The Amazing Internet

The internet is amazing...It keeps amazed me every day...

I was not really want to use this blog as a personal diary. It should only be a diary of a citizen reporter. Yet, readers are the magic reason to publish a more personalized post. Readers who posted their comments sometimes made me ventured into my personal story. John and Jean-Jacques used to trigger me into that kind of personal writing. Books that I've read also have the same effect. One book that made me posted a rather long personal post was a book from Myra Sidharta "Dari Penjaja Tekstil Sampai Superwoman". She mentioned my grandma's name, and I put my personal remembrance in that post.

Several days ago, I've got a message in my FaceBook messages. A man named Yerry Wirawan is asking me about my grandmother. He is researching for his doctorate in France and would like to know more about Soh Lian Tjie. Just a few days after that I've got a call from my aunt, "Hey, someone is asking for your phone number. Ibu Myra Sidharta would like to speak about something that you've written in your blog. Is it OK to give your number?" Off course...why not?! I am an admirer of Ibu Myra, and actually I also know his son. I've got updated news about Amir Sidharta from his FB, but never know that his mom is looking for my phone number :)

Yesterday I went to meet Ibu Myra in her home. A wonderful house...lots of stairs (she warned me not to be lost inside her house...hehehe men can read maps...women get lost in a beautiful house...especially with that shelves of books! I'll be lost voluntarily...hehehe)

From Yerry and Ibu Myra I've found out something about my grandmother, something special that I've never think about before...

Oma Waringin did write an autobiography, but it was never had a chance to be published. Actually one of her last wishes was to have this book published, yet her health became unbearable and after being moved back to Makassar she was quickly came into dementia. Loosing her home, her books, and her friends were killing her quicker than her other illness.

Reading her biography gave the insight of how a young girl from Sulawesi grew up with this Republic. She was born in 1914, the eldest of sixteen brothers and sisters. Sixteen...can you imagine? Even my grandmother can not imagine it. In her draft for the biography she wrote, "This very regular childbirth with just a time space of two or three years, filled me with frightening amazament..."

Yerry told me that he could find in the library a clipping from Pemberita Makassar (a newspaper that I've never heard of before, it was a clipping from the 30s. Googling it made found this link, informed me that the newspaper was founded in 1903) featuring my grandmother in a uniform of pandu (that was how we called both scout and girl guides in Indonesia, nowadays we use the word "Pramuka"). For this one, she had mentioned in her draft: "This was to be my first real camp. I felt so happy to belong to this group. We were divided into several tents which were put up on a small plateau from where we had a beautiful view of the volcanoes Merapi and Merbabu."

Perhaps her first camping experience and her sight of Merapi and Merbabu was making a very deep impression on her. I knew that she was always keen on helping those researchers who came for Indonesian volcanoes. A couple of them were Katia and Maurice Krafft. I thought there was a backpack of this couple in Oma's house, a backpack that was never taken back by the owner as they were killed when filming the eruption of Mount Unzen.

Grandma used to help people making film of Indonesia. The film Indonesia Indah 1 and 2 for the IMAX theater in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah was also with her guidance. I remember how proud I was seeing her name on the big IMAX screen, together with other names thanked for the film..."Nora Suryanti".

Ibu Myra told me that it was Ibu Claudine Salmon who called her asking for the biography. (More about Ibu Claudine in bahasa Indonesia can be read in this blog). It is actually a surprise that she considered my grandmother's story as an important one.

For us, she was great because she worked as PNS (the civil servant), things that seemed difficult for younger Chinese Indonesian generation like me(actually this was not really true, because I've also read in Kompas about a researcher in LIPI...yet before the reformation it was never publicly shown. I think we were afraid entering the public service as we would see no future in it...a prejudice perhaps, actually we should try and fight for it). Then she was an expert in cultures as she wrote as contributor to various publications, she traveled a lot as guides, translated Indonesian books into English or Dutch (I think mostly into English). On the other hand, she was also seemed as a weird Indonesian woman as she had chosen to stay single, and keep living by her own in her (very) small house in Yusuf Adiwinata. The street was used to be the Waringin street, and Oma prefered her house to be called the Waringin house, perhaps it was how we were also permitted to call her Oma Waringin (in the beginning it was not so open in front of her...).

Yet, nothing seems really special. But referring back into her notes which she ended in the glitter of Merdeka Palace in 1949, I saw something special. She was there in the palace, saying to the first President and Ibu Fatmawati, "Selamat Bapak Presiden," and "Selamat Ibu", when the first president and the first lady moved into the Palace after the Dutch formally transferred its sovereignty to the Republic of Indonesia. "It was the greatest moment of my life!" she claimed. I was in the Palace fifty-nine years after her presence there, but I came as a citizen tourist (read this post).

I am still amazed by the internet, how it helps me find another way of looking into my own grandmother's story...


Qoenang-Qoenang said...

Perpaduan antara cerita detektif, napak tilas dan sejarah. Grandma dari mami atau papi? Klo mami juga suka nulis ya? Jadi paham darah menulis dan nasionalis menurun dari mana .. GBU Kak Retty ...ditranslate sendiri aja deh :D

Retty N. Hakim said...

My grandma from my father's root. My grandma from my mom also shared us artistic and creative talent...Thank you Inge, may God bless you and your family too!

Reymos said...

Yeah, it is nice to know how internet makes our history revived and of course to find more about our family descendance. All the best. Rey

Retty N. Hakim said...

Thank you Rey, it is also nice to meet people through their blogs. Perhaps I can also learn more about Tagalog from you? We (Indonesian) used to know some singers from your country...they introduced us to the language.

Leather Diaries said...


Thanks for sharing.