Chairil Anwar’s Poetry: Thousand Years’ Words

Chairil Anwar was regarded as Indonesia’s greatest twentieth-century poet. Indonesian foremost literary critic H.B. Jassin proclaimed him to be the founder of Generation ’45 of Indonesian literature. Born on July 22, 1922 in Medan, North Sumatra, Chairil attended the Hollands Inlandsche School (HIS), a Dutch elementary school for the natives. He continued his education at the Meer Uitgebreid Lager Onderwijs, a Dutch junior high school, but he dropped out. At the age of nineteen, Chairil moved with his mother to Jakarta where he came in contact with the literary world. Despite his unfinished education, Chairil had an active command of English, Dutch and German, and he read the works of international authors.

In this paper I attempt to analyze four poems, “Aku” (“Me”), “Senja di Pelabuhan Kecil” (“Twilight at a Little Harbor”), “Rumahku” (“My House”), and “Yang Terampas dan yang Putus” (“The Captured and the Freed”). The selection of these poems is based on the principal theme of each poem, namely: identity, love, poetry and language, and death.

There are several factors that create ambiguity in Chairil Anwar’s language. The first is homonymy, or two words with the same pronunciation but different meanings. Second, multivalence, a word that has more than one meaning, for example baru means “new” and “just”. The third is transposition without formal indication. This has to do with the part of speech. Fourth, the paucity in Indonesian of phrase marker. Another factor is the frequent omission of subject pronouns, articles and copulas, for example adalah (“to be”) (Oemarjati in Echols 553). However, what makes the reading of the poems more intriguing is the English rendering or translation. Translation is a way of interpretation. Yet poetry is open to multiple interpretations. Thus in this paper I will discuss the multiple meanings based on the original Bahasa poems.

 

Aku (Me)

As already mentioned, the main theme of this poem is identity. Here the narrator calls himself binatang jalang, or wild beast. One way of reading a poem is by taking the words’ meanings literally. The attribute of jalang has a sexual connotation (which is lost in the translation. Calling a woman jalang is the same as calling her a whore. The “I” in the poem is “wild” because of his hedonistic life. Chairil indeed had a profane lifestyle. He died young at the age of twenty-six of syphilis, tuberculosis, typhus and cirrhosis of the liver.

However, we can also read the “I” as the initiator of Indonesian modern poetry. Chairil is a pioneer of literature in his era. His style was totally new, a breakthrough. H.B. Jassin said that Chairil Chairil “is the one who brought about a radical break in Indonesian literature” (151). This is why he is often regarded to represent the image of “wild beast” in this poem. He is damned from “the herd”. He is hurt and suffering. However, he does not care about what others think of him. All that matters to him is himself, with “[his] wound and … pain”.

But can a poet be separated from history? The second interpretation is the narrator as a poet in relation to his predecessors. Chairil has complex relations with them. We can name a lot of writers that may have influenced Chairil. This is because he was a keen reader of world literature. Moreover, he was a translator. Some of his translation works are Eliot’s poetry, Rilke’s letters. Andre Gide’s Pulanglah Dia Si Anak Hilang (1948), John Steinbeck’s Kena Gempur (1951). Critics also found that some of his poems were later discovered as adaptations from the poems by, among others, W.H. Auden, H. Marsman, Willem Elsshot, J. Slauerhoff, Archibald MacLeish and Edgar du Perron[1]. True, as TS Eliot says in Tradition and Individual Talent, writer or artist can be judged by the conventions or aesthetics of his predecessors. His works are compared and contrasted with that of the previous era. Some critics also see the influence of Indonesian poet Amir Hamzah (1911-1946) of Pujangga Baru Generation. As a man of letters who wrote in Indonesian, Hamzah gave a lot of contribution to the development of Malay language to become Indonesian national language. Malay words are in his poetry vocabulary. In his letter to literary figure Armijn Pane, Hamzah asserted that Malay is a beautiful language. Bahasa Indonesia is a symbol of heroism and Islam.

However, Chairil is Chairil and Hamzah is Hamzah. Each of them has his own poetic character and philosophy. Hamzah is of East-oriented tradition. He collected and translated poems from the East in Setanggi Timur, published in 1939. Hamzah is rooted in his nation. On the other hand, Chairil was influenced by Western tradition. He included ancient Greek and English myths in his poetry, such as Eros, Ahasveros, as well as Romeo and Juliet.

Besides identity, the poem also talks about God and life. One of the most memorable lines of Chairil is “I want to live another thousand years”. Individualism and existentialism are also the traces of Western philosophy in the poem. German philosopher Heidegger inquires into the “being that we ourselves are”. The individual and the public are always in tension. According to him, ‘I’ is an entity whose essence is exactly to be and nothing but to be. Humans must make a choice every time in order to maintain their liberty. This is further developed by Jean-Paul Sartre, whose proposition is that human is for itself (pour soi) and not emasculated by its determination. Chairil’s wish to live extremely long is a negation of God, seen under the light of Friedrich Nietzsche’s nihilism. The thesis of the death of God is due to the collapse of human morality. Morality is orchestrated by the ‘will to power’. Yet the narrator of “Me” is not an ordinary person. He is exiled, banished by his people. The people or ‘crowd’, in line with Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, is ‘untruth’. The so-called autonomous self-legislating individual is a merely herd animal that deliberately train itself to succumb to the universal morality (Crowel). The ‘bullets [that] pierce [Chairil’s] skin’ are the morality.

In addition to existentialism, Generation of ’45 falls into the thoughts of universal humanism. (Jassin 54). Although this term seems to have been appropriated in Indonesian literary criticism, I find it hard to define. If it is to embrace all humanisms (Renaissance humanism, Judaism humanism, Secular humanism, etc.) the effort would only create problems and contradictions. So I would rather see it as simple humanism, the idea that human is the center of the world. The freedom of expression, of organization and other basic rights are also implied. This goes with the themes of rigorousness, struggle and nationalism, which are typical in the Generation of ‘45. ‘Universal humanism’ was responded by Gelanggang, a self-appointed group which declared to be the heir of the hero of the intellectual circles of Jakarta. Among the members are writers Rivai Apin and Asrul Sani. Although the document was published one and a half year after Chairil’s death, he was associated with Gelanggang, which was founded on November 19, 1946. Gelanggang published Surat Kepercayaan (Letter of Belief) in early 1950. Those who signed Letter of Belief proclaim: “we are the true heirs of world culture and we must perpetuate this culture in our own way”. This statement, which was more like a manifesto, was born out of the endless inquiry into East-West distinction (Djatmiko 249). Gelanggang members’ arrogance is similar to the poets in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s A Defence of Poetry, whom he calls as “unacknowledged legislators of the mankind”. Art is seen to lie only at the hands of the poets. It is assumed that they posses a faculty that common people do not.

 

 

Rumahku (My House)

The poem is to me the most interesting poem to discuss because it talks about language, thus poetry itself. It can be read as self-reflective. The poet ponders upon his creation and the ability of it. The ‘house’ is his imagination and his mind. The house is where he makes poetry. He is married to words and begets poems. Here the poet seems to believe that words are reliable and poems can perfectly convey the thoughts and the feelings. But his house keeps changing, even he loses it. A poet raises different issues. His style can also change.

Death is also a theme of this poem. The poet as if predicts that he will soon die and therefore will not be able to create anymore poem. He cannot survive until the next ‘dusk’, to find another house. He cannot ask God for more time either, even though he says the most beautiful prayer, ‘words as sweet as honey’. However, a poet is actually eternalized by his works. This reminds me of Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVIII:

 

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

 

The poem gives life to the poet because it will last much longer.

The form in terms of the rhyme and number of lines, is quite regular. The rhyme scheme is aa bb cc aa dd ee. This is almost like English (Shakespearean) sonnet, whose rhyme scheme is abba cdcd efef gg. Thus the English poetics is influential to Chairil’s poem.

Chairil enhances Bahasa Indonesia. He includes Malay words into Bahasa Indonesia poems. This is contradictory to John Milton, who did not much coin new words from Latin although he masters the language. He felt that the language of serious poetry had been corrupted by popular writers. Yet there are some Latin idiom and syntax, as Milton prioritizes conciseness.

The poet’s being lost may be interpreted as a dilemma in himself. He is the Generation of ’45, the moment of the birth of nation-state, the culmination of nationalism. He is expected to write about heroism, patriotism, war—the external world. He did write such poems, including Diponegoro, about Indonesian national hero. At the same time, the poet’s tagline, in the same poem, is “sekali berarti, sudah itu mati” (once meaningful, then die). He is individualistic. He writes about subjective issues, such as failed romance, loneliness, religiosity and death. However, we can argue whether TS Eliot’s ‘dissociation of sensibility’, the thoughts and passion not being fused, which characterizes Metaphysical poets, is applicable to this dualism. Writing about war does not mean it does not involve feeling. Subjectivity also plays a role, especially since the poet experiences the struggle in the war.

The issue of the function of poetry, or art in general, tempts me to interpret this poem again. There has been a tussle whether art is for art’s sake or for political means. Between 1950s and 1965 Indonesian literary ideology was roughly divided into two: art as a (communist) medium and art as an independent entity. The first one was professed by Lekra (Institute of People’s Culture), a leftist cultural organization and mouthpiece of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). The second ideology was followed by Manikebu (Cultural Manifesto). The poem can be seen to fall into the first category. Writing is a procreation. It is reproductive because it gives form to something else. This something can be, for example, a party’s propaganda. Art becomes a vehicle for a larger cause.

 

Senja di Pelabuhan Kecil (Twilight at a Little Harbor)

The poem is about an unspeakable agony, deep sadness. Chairil dedicated this poem to a woman Sri Ajati, which was not her real name. She is Mrs. RH Soeparsono, now about 85 years old and is living in Magelang, East Java. Chairil met Sri when she was working as a Japanese radio host in 1942.At that time she was already in a relationship with Soeparsono, who then became her husband. It seems that they shared an interest in literature. Like Chairil, she speaks many languages. She is fluent in Dutch, English, Javanese and four other local languages.

This quatrain has regular rhyme aabb aabb abab, like Yang Terampas dan yang Luput. Damono cited that Derai-Derai Cemara also obeys the strict quatrain rhyme. We can infer that Chairil views that creating a new way of expression requires fixed forms that need to stand against time. A new language of poetry means that which is used widely by its generation. However, a generation can never be fully detached from its predecessor. We can still see the trace of Amir Hamzah in Chairil in the use of pantun, a Malay poetic form that originated from traditional oral expression. Another feature of the poem’s structure is the blank verse. There are enjambments. Sometimes a sentence breaks in the middle, for example the first line of the third stanza there is only one word in the third sentence.

In this poetry we can see how each word is powerful in its ambiguity. A word stands on its own, its relation with the following word is unclear. For example, the word “menyinggung” in the second line of the second stanza is pregnant with several meanings. It is derived from the root word “singgung”, which means ‘(to) mention’, ‘(to) touch’, or ‘(to) offend’.

A clause seems only comprises of random words, with loose relations among each other. The words’ part of speech is ambiguous, whether adjective, verb or noun. This is an issue in Bahasa Indonesia, which highly depend on suffix. For example “desir hari lari berenang” can prosaically translated into “the day’s hiss is running, swimming”. So the juxtaposition of running and swimming is a personification of the ‘day’. The imagery may not make sense but what is featured here is the rhyming “hari” (day) with “lari” (to run).

“Tanah” and “air” are wordplay as the two words together, “tanah air”, means ‘motherland’. Such pairing can suggest the couple. The narrator and the lover are like the boat and the sea; the motherland and the waves

The last line lacks of reference as regards the beach. We are not given information about the other three beaches. And we can interpret the embrace of the last sob in two ways. First, he will meet his love again someday, after he or she arrives at the beach for the forth time (or the second coming). Second, he will walk alone until he reaches the forth beach and then releases his grief. The latter implies pessimistic and is in line with the lack of hope and the goodbye in the previous lines. Of course “four” can be a mere number, and is not much different from five or six.

 

Yang Terampas dan yang Putus (The Captured and the Freed)

Existentialist theme of death is again obvious in this poem, as the narrator names his next destination in life, that is Karet cemetery. This poem was written in the year of his death. That time his health was declining. He says that “the great room where the one [he] want[s] is lying” is cold. His coffin is cold as his life is “darkening”. Tugu, which was translated as ‘columns of stone’ actually means ‘monument’. Monument is something public, fixed, a memorial, a contrast to rimba, or jungle. So does Chairil mean that his wildness will be tamed? Not only tamed, but also made into public, or even a celebration? Tugu can be read as the declaration of Chairil as the pioneer of the Generation of ’45, especially by Indonesian literature ‘pope’ H.B. Jassin.

In the third stanza kau, or you, despite being translated as ‘my heart’, may be seen as Death.  He patiently waits for his death but suddenly realizes that life impulses have never been completely inert (Budiman 23). This mood is depicted in some interpretations of the title. A.H. John proposed the title of The Ravaged and the Broken. His argument was the health of Chairil, ravaged by syphilis and tuberculosis. He also believes that the chill soughing (deru) reaches Karet, rather than the wind blows there. Meanwhile McGlynn’s version of the title is “The Seized and the Severed” (in Yampolsky). All these suggest that the narrator is imprisoned.

But can we read the line that says “But now it’s only my hands that move fiercely” positively? As full of vitality also? The poet would share his all. As he himself says that the will to shake, to scold is part of vitaliteit, life spirit. In art, this spirit precedes beauty, it is chaotisch voorstadium, a preliminary chaotic stage. There is something wild and destructive in the spirit. A poet is not afraid of anything, he is still ‘fierce’. The body may be passive, but he can still move his hand, write. If his mind is free, then he is also free to write, and that is what matters for a poet.

Conclusion

Discussing Chairil’s poem is more like analyzing a puzzle. Each sentence invites many interpretations. A word must be translated into so many senses. Meaning can differ every time we read the poem. This is the strength of his language. The form sometimes complies with earlier tradition, from Indonesia or abroad. The context of the poem is very much important to understand the poem, such as Indonesian independence and the Western existentialism philosophy. Appreciating these four poems would hopefully nourish the understanding of Indonesian poetry, literature, and mind.


[1]   See also Sapardi Djoko Damono’s “Chairil Anwar and New Language of Indonesian Literature
(Tempo, January 10, 2000) where he writes that Kepada Peminta-minta is a collage of foreign poems, Cintaku Jauh di Pulau is an adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca, Kerawang Bekasi Archibald McLeish, and Datang Dara Hilang Dara, which Anwar claimed as his own, is a translation of a Chinese poem.

Rasa in Ratna Sarumpaet’s Play Pelacur dan Sang Presiden

In this article I would like to illustrate the rasas in a contemporary Indonesian play Pelacur dan Sang Presiden (The Prostitute and the President”). The play, written by Ratna Sarumpet, is about a woman who is victimized by the patriarchal society and resists this unequivocally in her own way. The protagonist of the play is Jamila, a prostitute who is sentenced to death for murdering a high-ranking official. Jamila is an obstinate character and her words are colored by tones of anger and protest. Therefore I will focus on Raudra Rasa (furious sentiment) in analyzing the play.

As regards rasa, Bharata Muni said that the mental states are called feelings because they make us feel the goal of poetry. Aesthetic experience is the process of tasting the Rasa. Abhinavagupta concluded that ‘rasa is simply the aim of poetry’ (Gnoli 52). Based on Abhinavagupta’s interpretation of Natyasastra, rasa is juice or flavour. It is a typical Indian concept especially with regard to aesthetics.

Rasa is to be experienced by the reader or spectator of performance. According to Bharata, rasa derives from the merge between the play and the actors’ act (Determinants). Out of this occur Consequents and Transitory Mental States (Gnoli 86). In Natyasastra, eight fundamental bhavas (mental states) are delight (rati), laughter (hasa), sorrow (soka), anger (krodha), heroism (utsaha), fear (bhaya), disgust (jugupsa) and wonder (vismaya). There are 36 occasional, transitory, impermanent states. There are 8 fundamental mental states or Rasa, namely the erotic (srngara), comic (hasya), pathetic (karuna), furious (raudra), heroic (vira), terrible (bhayanaka), odious (bibhatsa), marvelous (adbhuta).

Aesthetical experience is resulted from squeezing out of the poetical word. In drama, words of the actors come with actions. The spectator senses the performance through sight and hearing. As rasa is not revealed, but rather suggested or manifested, it does not lie on the actor. He is only the means, the ‘vessel’ of tasting. The play creates a distance between the spectator and the actor. Then the spectator identifies himself with the actor.

 

“The Prostitute and the President”

The drama starts from Jamila’s confession of killing a cabinet minister named Nurdin. The 26-year-old woman gives herself up and is imprisoned. From her diary, read by warden Ria, we have a glimpse of her childhood. Her father gives her away in trafficking. She is sold and raped, escapes and helps her younger sister to flee a brothel. She also becomes a prostitute, then Nurdin’s mistress. Currently she is pregnant. She is sentenced with death penalty and granted a final wish. She wishes to see the president and a prominent Islamic cleric of the country, which enraged the country.

The plot of the play is not linear. One time we see Jamila in prison and the other is a flashback of Jamila before she is arrested. As there are two time settings in the play, there are two Jamilas. JAMILA 1 refers to Jamila in the past, while JAMILA 2 the present.

Ratna Sarumpaet is the founder of One Red Stage (Satu Merah Panggung) theater troupe. She started her career as a television show director in 1991 for the state-owned television channel, TVRI. The themes of trafficking and sex industry not something that she is unfamiliar with as she is also a political activist. She was awarded the Female Human Rights Special Award by the Asia Foundation for Human Rights in 1998. The play is made into a movie, “Jamila and the President”, directed by Sarumpaet herself. It was nominated as a foreign language film for Oscar in 2009.

 

Raudra, Bibhatsa and Karuna Rasas in the Play

In Natyasastra, raudra rasa is explained as the following:

 

Now (the rasa) called raudra has anger for its permanent emotion. Demons, monsters and violent men are its characters. It is caused by battles. It arises from (sic) such vibhavas as anger, provocative actions (adharsana), insult (adhiksepa), lies, assaults (upaghata), harsh words, oppression (abhiroha, or according to Abhinava, “murderous intent”) and envy.

Aesthetic Rapture, Vol. I, p. 53

Patnaik shows how raudra can coexist with other rasas, namely vira and karuna in Natyasastra. He also evidenced that anger, one of the determinants of raudra, can cause sorrow and incomprehension. In the case of the latter, anger has the potential to arouse bibhatsa rasa or odious.

The evocation of raudra and vira can be seen in Act 5b. Jamila is shocked and furious when she finds out that her sister Dinda is brutally murdered. She has been missing for two weeks and the police do not take any action. The perpetrators are in fact the police officers. JAMILA 2 tells the officers that she knows why Dinda is murdered. Dinda always refuses ‘the present’ of drugs that is given so that the girls can work all night, ‘serving ten men in one night’.

 

JAMILA 1 You police officers are losers!!

Only losers can take a way an innocent person’s like

Like Dinda.

 

[…]

Now, whether you want to prosecute me –

Or kill me, the way you

butchered Dinda, it doesn’t matter to me …..

(Act 5b, 47)

 

Absence of sadness becomes the vibhava of vira rasa. Jamila releases her grief of losing her sister and she is ready to be killed by the police officers who want to keep their reputation. The anubhavas are firmness and heroism. The vira from correct perception also leads to santa as the vibhava of santa is knowledge of Truth (Patnaik 232). Jamila at that point of time realizes that her fate lies on a greater power.

Basically raudra is categorized as a negative rasa, or dukhatmaka according to Abhinavagupta, as it inflicts pain. However, as far as anger and vira rasa are concerned, raudra cannot be easily called negative. The relation between raudra and vira is that, in heroic actions sometimes the elements of fury are apparent (Patnaik 145). Utsaha or dynamic energy (the main sthayibhava of vira) is related to krodha or anger (one of the sthayibhava of raudra). In addition to energy, raudra and vira rasas contain action and correct perception. Anger can actually lead to a state of blindness, where one can do wrong actions or act unreasonably (which is negative). However, the energy in vira is transformed into good deeds, thus vira is a positive rasa.

Raudra rasa can also coexist with bhayanaka and bibhatsa, terrible and odious sentiments. The reason lies on the anubhavas of raudra: ‘beating, breaking, crushing, mutilating, fighting, drawing of blood… red eyes, knitting of eyebrows, defiance, biting of lips, movement of cheeks, pressing one hand with the other, etc’ (Ghosh). Beating, crushing, mutilating and drawing of blood can cause terrible feeling and furthermore disgust or bibhatsa rasa.

Bhibatsa can be evoked from the scene where MRS WARDIMAN regrets the current condition of Jamila. Jamila’s mother puts Jamila under the care of Wardiman family because she thinks it is a respectable family. However, Jamila is abused by MRS WARDIMAN’s husband and son and becomes pregnant. In the beginning of the play, MRS WARDIMAN tells Jamila to name the father of the baby. She says she does not like to see Jamila’s wearing a jilbab or veil. She feels as if she is conspiring with the devil in insulting Jamila’s mother (Opening). She views that the veil is unsuitable for her moral and then she condemns her:

 

MRS WARDIMAN   Your father – sold you to a pimp

when you’re still green

Dying, your mother kidnapped you

from that pimp and took you here

so that you’re safe.

In a house of a respectable family like this

she hoped you grow up well

And what eventually you become?

You are like destined to be a prostitute.

(Opening)

 

Then Jamila stands up and becomes stiff. MRS WARDIMAN’s insults are the vibhava of Jamila’s anger. After some more tensions, Jamila cannot take it anymore. She exits and it is implied that she has committed the murder.

After JAMILA 1 murders Nurdin and his son, she wipes the blood in the dagger onto her veil. She looks at the dagger as if seeing ‘a terrible sin’. She is haunted by what she has done. She remembers that her mother regards her birth as ‘light’, a blessing. Her mother talks about ‘purity and self esteem’. Then she asks what purity and self-esteem really are. There is a terrible sentiment at this moment.

The stage focus shifts. When JAMILA 2 is having a conversation with PRISON GUARD, she advices him to look after his daughters because, she says, “The world is full of greed and hypocrisy, and can pollute and trap them.” (Act I). After saying this, she bends her knees and holds her legs tight, looks straight to the front. In this scene the vibhavas of raudra rasa are anger and insult. Jamila realizes that she is talking about herself, that she is part of the greedy world, and that she is “dirty”. According to Ghosh, the vyabhicaribhavas of raudra rasa are presence of mind, determination, energy, indignation, restlessness, fury, perspiration, trembling, horripilation, choking voice, etc’. In this scene, the vyabhicaribhavas are determination, fierce look and harsh voice. Jamila goes on saying:

 

JAMILA 2  I am one of them, Officer.

I kill people since I was a child.

Since I could not differ the right from the wrong.

 

And that is terrifying.

(Act 1, p.14)

 

Her anger is addressed to herself and in her confession she justifies herself. The battle that causes raudra rasa is within herself.

The society considers Jamila as enemy of the country. She signifies the fall of morality and human values. PRISON GUARD reads out the newspaper to Jamila and tells her that an Islamic organization, Nation’s Faith Defender Forum (FPIB), will go for a demonstration at the court with participants of thousands of people. The organization demands that the trial sentences her to death. However, she calls the organization as “hypocrite moralist militants.” The fictitious FPIB actually refers to Islam’s Defenders Front (FPI), an organization which acts against ‘immorality’ on behalf of Islam. With uncivilized behaviour, FPI members raid on bars and nightclubs also destroy alcohol and pornography material especially during Ramadan month. They take the law into their hands and abuses religion. Jamila claims that those people do not understand morals. She instead proposes that they declare her a dignitary of the organization.

 

Seeing JAMILA 2 being intimate with PRISON GUARD, MRS RIA scolds him and says that his job is to guard the inmate, not to befriend her. Here the vibhava for MRS RIA is jealousy. She does not want Jamila to become a martyr.

However, MRS RIA also sympathizes with JAMILA. She tells her to stop bragging herself because “it may increase [her] punishment” (Act 1). When anger is transformed into violence and destruction, karuna rasa (pathetic sentiment) is evoked. Raudra and karuna have some common anubhavas , for example red eyes and movement of cheeks. In the scene when MRS RIA says that she cares about Jamila, MRS RIA’s face is stiff and her voice is firm—the anubhavas. In the mean time, the vibhava is Jamila’s captivity misfortune, which MRS RIA can feel as she is also a woman. The manifestation of destruction is resulted from her sorrow. This is the intersection between raudra and karuna. In karuna, the effect of sorrow is more important than the cause, while in anger, it is the opposite.

Besides MRS RIA, other people may also pity her. Malik, the LAWYER, tells JAMILA 2 that actually millions of people care about her. They do not want her charge to be interfered with political interests. However, JAMILA 2 is furious with this.

JAMILA 2   Enough! Enough!! Enough !!!!

I told you I don’t need legal defense.

(I, 18)

 

The reason for her refusal of legal aid from the lawyer is she believes she did the right thing. She killed Nurdin the official with her own hands and she does not regret this. She believes that there is no border between the personal and the public affairs. JAMILA 2 says, “Prostitution is politics… I’m no different from politicians” (Act 1). According to her men boast themselves when they talk about morality. Yet, they are very weak when faced with women’s sexuality. The moral value is not upheld anymore, regardless their social status. She says she hates the society for putting politicians at a high level as if they are heroic and holy.

JAMILA – 2  Mrs Ria, do you know what those clerics

think of people like me?

Hell! …..

Ha ha ha …. (I, 21)

 

The scene implies that the clerics are disgusted with Jamila. The clerics are moral upholders while Jamila is exactly the opposite. People like Jamila will go to hell. However, we can also read this the other way around, that Jamila finds the clerics disgustful. There is haasya rasa (comic sentiment) caused by the absurdity of the clerics. Discussing John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger and Allen Ginsberg’s poetry Howl, Patnaik explains that fury is the result of alienation. Jimmy and the ‘I’ feel “the sense of disgust at those who have made these people outcasts” (154). Jugupsa sthayibhava (durable psychological state of disgust) is there and thus bibhatsa rasa (odious sentiment) is also aroused by this scene.

Jamila connects the personal world to the public world. She wants to strategically use her sexuality to disrupt the society. The highest (male) position in the country is at the president. Then she makes her death wish, to sleep with the president, rather than an amnesty from him. This enrages Mrs. Ria. She slaps her and orders her men to take Jamila to isolation room. Yet, when dragged, Jamia laments:

JAMILA 2   Not a single child on earth

Wants to be a prostitute, Mrs Ria.

Not a single child …….. (Act 1, 22)

 

Her distrust of the world is the reason why she had abortion several times when she is working as a prostitute. She reveals this when MRS DARNO, her ex-pimp, pays her a visit at the prison. Jamila says she does not want her future daughters to meet people like MRS DARNO and be raped legally. Neither does she want them to be sex objects nor accused as the destroyer of the nation’s morals. Revenge, past insults, threats and sexual assaults are the vibhavas of raudra rasa here.

Some women are displeased by Jamila, for example the wives of officials. Two of them come to the prison representing the community of officials’ wives. They ask Jamila’s motive of request to see the president. They feel Jamila is being arrogant. Their manner is the anubhava of raudra. WIVE 2 pulls Jamila’s hair and spits at her.

 Jamila’s hatred of her life and the world is also expressed when a Muslim cleric comes to her cell. He wants to guide her to ask for God’s forgiveness. However, Jamila says that she does not need a cleric to do that because he cannot understand her suffering. She asks sharply why he comes now, why was not he be with her when her father gives her away. With the anubhava of her arms stretched she says:

JAMILA 2    Look, Pak Cleric, look!!

Look how dirty and sinful I am.

And don’t say that you are not also

responsible for all this.

(Act 7, 65)

 

 As we can see, the main vibhavas or raudra rasa in “The Prostitute and the President” are injustice and oppression. These reasons of Jamila’s anger drive her toward her disbelieve of the world. The murder of Nurdin can be seen as the greatest manifestation of her fury, the anubhava of drawing blood. However, she cannot be categorized as the ‘bad girl’. With feminist approach, Jamila is the hero. She blames her condition on the society that commodifies women’s body. This play is a critique against the state, the law, trafficking, prostitution and religion.

 


 

Works Cited

Ghosh, Manmohan (trans.) Natyasastra by Bharata Muni, 1967. Calcutta: Calcutta Oriental Press.

Gnoli, Raniero The Aesthetic Experience According to Abhinavagupta. Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series, 1985.

Patnaik, Priyadarshi Rasa in Aesthetics: An Application of Rasa Theory to Modern Western Literature. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld, 1997.

Sarumpaet, Ratna Pelacur dan Sang Presiden (The Prostitute and the President). “Naskah Drama Indonesia” page http://banknaskah-fs.blogspot.com/ downloaded on April 28, 2010.

 

Zaim Rofiqi’s poem

MALIN KUNDANG

 

Recognizing the desert, without meet, without landing

— the only possible non-stop flight

Not having

Chairil Anwar

Do you feel safe?

Or feel there’s no way out?

 

In the hometown

everything neat is indeed still stretched

gracefully

like it used to:

The road’s bends that he has known closely

the alleys that fail to scare him

the faces that do not sow threats

indeed, sometimes, hesitation flashes

when the earth, faces, homes

as if luring:

“Please stay, Sir.

Don’t you want tranquility?”

Yet he already adventured

and the worry he brought from the next harbor

had dispersed, hot

like smallpox

he wanted to keep going

as the worsening hot smallpox

has made him understand:

“This village is not the way back

I’ve traded my dreams

thrown everything that is neat

and flew – perhaps alone – stopping by a land by land

for something I myself don’t understand.”

 

2004


 

ICARUS 

I.

Let’s do it, it’s time

to reshape everything,

also our faces.

It’s time

to flap our wings,

slowly soar

high, and higher

here, high in the air

I know

the labyrinth is just an old story

scattered chaos

no longer

unnerve us

now

I know

with these wings

the sky is revealed

with these wings

the tempest doesn’t terrify us

with these wings

even the azure will shut

 

II.

No, no need to ask

where to?

In the sky

with these twin wings

the wings of dream and hope

I know

I’m not a kite

there won’t be a thread anymore

that drags us

to the left, to the right

with these twin wings

the horizon is no more frightening

with these twin wings

even Olympia is conquered

 

III.

No, Father, you don’t need to come back

crawling, creeping

in the old labyrinth

here, up above the sky

there will be a palace

here

we will build a palace

grander

than Olympia’s ridge

now, let me fly swiftly

high, higher

although I know

these wings

are not as strong as the sun

now, let me be

higher

although I know

this dream

will be ablaze

burned

by the sun

2005


 

KALI 

I found you in every face of a shudra

affectionate, your eyes didn’t say a word

warm, still same

–in my body a tomb lies.

wildly black. flashy frangipanis, scattered.

an unknown tomb. twin headstones.

pleasures radiates. the pleasures of bushes. eternal—

(she lost the east

for after the dawn

you kept on meditating)

I touched you in every hug of a kshatriya

your nipples, your breasts, your body hair, your sighs, your twists,

your navel, your embrace, your lips, your bites,

your testicles, your moan, your sweats, your odor

and thus I love you

–in my body there is a hermit temple. a garden lies.

The scent of grass spreading around.

And there, you can tame your wild thoughts—

(you left her
crawling, sobbing
groping the south
when in the peak of the day,
you still meditate, ignoring the streets)

I saw you in every lick of a vaisya
your eyes, eclipses
burned the wild lusts
your voices, earthquakes
muffled the passions of Eva

–in my body stands a hut of exile.

encircles, the rural breeze. scent radiates

from two splitting rivers—

(tired.

the light tells of dusk

yet she has not found the north)

I felt you in every kiss of a Brahmin

your praising chant pumps my bloodstream

but your silence shrivels my nipples

–in my body there is a purgatory. burns the pious’ sins.

the original sins—

(she felt the west

when everything came close

to the dusk

the robe’s color of the being)

1999


WANG FO 

I.

Between the ripe orange and drunken people’s faces

Ling, there are something we manage to seize:

the colors, the tastes, the forms that feel fresh in the lids,

that make us refuse to lose

although outside, the storm enrages.

So

through canvas,

Ling, through shellac and brush

together we soar and voyage, fly or float

catching vapors in the face of a stall guest in anguish

painting dusk and hills

dragonflies, flowers, or flock of birds

let’s go, Ling, let’s wade

while your age, body, and mind are still buds

before the sunrise turns sunset and sunset shuts

while birds and dragonflies are still hanging

and darkness comes whispering death

let’s profuse and kiss life

as now, Ling, we finally understand

among the colors of noon, the cherries, and the face of the jealous Emperor

something is in fact eternal

like the bright sun, the parrot’s cheer and the lily’s splendor

in the painting we manage to enter

II.

No, no, this isn’t hell,

Ling, just an interval

a moment when the canvas and the sketch, the brush and Chinese ink

must fight against King’s eyes

to dissolve or immortalize, to eliminate or exalt the colors

dusk and women, flowers or ocean’s waves.

And we know, Ling, thus, the King is furious:

“The world only pile of stain!

Thrown into vacuum room

by a mad painter.”

So, Ling, before everything is gone

before the King’s fury burns all the colors

let’s go, we both spread the ark

gone swallowed by colors, sketches and forms

in the canvas that is now perfect

2002

 

 

Translated by Indah Lestari

Joko Pinurbo

Here are some of the translated poems of Indonesian poet Joko Pinurbo.

For the Indonesian version, click here.

ON THE WAY

On the way between the bedroom and the bathroom

We met after waiting for each other long.

She came back from bath, I was going to bath.

Her steps suddenly stopped, her sight hesitated

And I was astonished between nervous and crave.

“Hi, how are you?” we said in chorus.

We bumped into each other, hugging under faint lights.

It was midnight. The house was like a grave.

Dogs were barking. Clock was trembling, terrified.

“Don’t go to the bathroom. You’ll be skinned there.

Follow me to the bedroom. Your pain I will devour.”

“But the bedroom has fallen apart. You will be ruined there.

Join me cruising to the bathroom. Your pain I will devour.”

We were squabbling like foes wanting to beat the other.

“You bastard. I waited long in the bedroom,

you were having great time meditating in the bathroom.”

“Damn you. I waited long in the bathroom,

you were having great time crouching in the bedroom.”

“What if we wrestle in the bedroom?”

“It’s more fun to fight in the bathroom.”

On the way between the bedroom and the bathroom

We did not know who would die first.

(2001)

OR

When I was about to enter the bathroom, from behind the door

a pretty lady in white suddenly appeared

thrusting a knife to my throat.

“Love or life?” she threatened.

“Give me a chance to bath first, Lady,”

I begged her, “to cleanse myself from sin.

Then, you can rape me.”

After I took bath, the lady vanished.

She’s nowhere to see. I came back anxious:

Could she be waiting on the way to ambush me?

What sin did I commit? I never hurt a woman

except when I was born.

When I was about to enter the bedroom, from behind the door

a bald lady in white suddenly appeared

thrusting a knife to my throat.

“Rape or life?” she threatened.

I panicked, I replied randomly, “I choose OR!”

She cackled. “You’re smart,” she said. Then

She kissed my neck and said, “Sleep tight,

my joy and sorrow. I will return to your dreams.”

(2001)

LAY EGGS

With a lot of struggles, finally I

could lay egg. It came out safe,

pitch black.

I am a farmer: everyday

I breed words, and I have not found the word

that could say us.

The word I was looking for, they said, was inside this egg.

I sat on my egg on the bed of words that long had not

given birth to words. I sat on it every night

until I was feverish and my mouth full of babble.

When I sit on my egg, it quietly

jumps, springs on the floor,

then slowly rolls over to the toilet,

and when it almost plunges into the drain

I quickly snatch it and bring it back to the bed.

Where’s my egg? Suddenly a lot of people felt

having lost their egg and thought I stole it

from their bed.

Ah, the egg of words, the egg of woes, finally you hatch.

You bulge, hatch, spill blood.

That’s not my egg! They said.

(2001)

EID HOMECOMING

This May I will come over to my house.

As Father said, “Grandma is missing you, come home!”

Time is so plain and simple sometimes:

Mother was putting dusk on the window.

Grandfather was pouring rain in the yard.

Father was picking me up at some station.

Who’s in the bathroom?

Children were singing, blaring.

Grandmother is dying.

Her body laid peacefully in the pray room,

her cute favorite dolls standing next to her.

“Hey, our bastard is home!” said the lion doll

who still looked sturdy, and she only shivered

when I stroke her hair.

Father had not yet come, while the taxi

that picked me up was waiting by the door.

Farewell, Grandma, goodbye everybody.

Take care of yourself. My regards to beloved father.

On the way to the station I saw father

looking around in the rickshaw, his face

looked older; the rickshaw drove in great haste.

From the taxi’s window I waved at father,

I kissed my palm once, I waved;

he also kissed his palm then waved at me

advising me to be safe in the trip.

So plain and simple, that I did not realize

drops of time were shed off my eyes.

“Your late grandmother took

this taxi yesterday,” said the quiet driver,

who turned out to be my ex-teacher.

(2001)

THE LAST PASSENGER

For Joni Ariadinata

 

Every time I go to my hometown, I always meet the rickshaw puller

who stands by under that banyan tree and ask him

To take me to the places I like.

I don’t know why I really like roaming with his rickshaw.

Maybe because the pedaling is smooth, so the pace is steady.

That night I asked him to take me to a cemetery.

I would strew flowers on the grave of ancestor.

The grave’s location was quite far and I worried that the rickshaw puller

Would be exhausted, but the old man said relax relax.

All the way the rickshaw puller kept telling stories

about his children who travelled to Jakarta

and now thankfully have been successful.

They were busy sought by money and came home only occasionally.

Even if they did, they might not sleep at home

as they were busy with this and that, including seeking loan

for transport fare to go back to the capital.

Only halfway, he was already losing his breath,

his cough bombarded, his head was spinning,

poor him. “Let me pedal, Sir.

You just sit properly, pretending you’re the passenger.”

I put myself out pedaling the old rickshaw to the cemetery,

while the rickshaw puller was sleeping comfortably, maybe even

dreaming, in his own rickshaw.

Reaching the cemetery, I yelled, “Come on, wake up, Sir!”

but the passenger master was just still, even slept more deeply.

I did not know whether I would strew the flowers I brought

on my ancestor’s grave or over the dead body

of the lonely rickshaw puller.

(2002)

MIDNIGHT PHONE CALL

The phone was ringing persistently, I let it.

I had received the call many times and asked

“Who’s speaking?” the reply was only “Who’s this?”

There was a phone call, long and loud,

inside my chest.

“Who’s this, calling in the middle of the night?

Disturbing people.”

“It’s mother, my child. How are you?”

“Mother! Where are you?”

“In here.”

“Inside the phone?”

“Inside your pain.”

Ah, it seems my sleep would be tight.

Tonight my pain will sleep tight.

(2004)

IN OTHER WORDS

Arriving at the railway station, I instantly took a motorbike-taxi.

Maybe it’s good luck, maybe it’s bad luck, I got

a motorbike-taxi rider who, gosh, was my school history teacher.

“Oh, the master from Jakarta comes back to hometown,”

he said. I was embarrassed and felt awkward.

“You don’t mind taking me to my house?”

It was very comfortable being taken home by him

in no time the motorbike stopped in front of my house.

Ah, I wanted to give him some remarkable amount.

Not my luck. I had not opened my wallet, he already

excused himself and vanished just like that.

In the terrace Father was reading the newspaper attentively.

The newspaper looked so tired being reach by him that the letters

came off and fell to the ground, scattered on the yard.

Out of the clear blue sky, Father suddenly

stood up and shouted at me, “In other words,

you will never be able to pay your teacher.”

(2004)

NEW YEAR’S TRUMPET

Mother and I walked around down town

to celebrate on new year’s eve.

Father preferred staying at home alone

as he had to accompany the calendar

in its last moments.

Ay, I found a purple trumpet

lying on the side of the street.

I picked it up

and cleaned it with the bottom of my shirt.

I blew it repeatedly, yet it didn’t make a sound.

Why this trumpet is mute, Mother?

Maybe because it’s made of calendar paper, my child.

(2006)

Translated by Indah Lestari