Monday, 27 February 2012

The Great Indonesian Novel - 5

Stung into action by Boyo's resumption of Anti-Danube, we continue the ongoing series with This Earth of Badly-Raised Twilight - Chapter 5 - March 1920

William of Orange Polder Windmill Rotterdam Pancake Li staggered back to his dormitory yet again, the taunts and half-bricks of his red-faced, long-nosed bullying Dutch classmates ringing in his ears. And yet again he felt forced to ponder - for the benefit of the reader - the cruel contrast between the illusory, cultured Holland he had grown up to love and the cold, harsh reality as described so searingly by someone who had never actually been there. It didn't seem to matter how hard he tried to fit in, the Dutch would forever look down upon him as a native and despise him. William, tears in his eyes, ran out of his Amsterdam school, through the coconut grove and along by the rice paddies. He looked up at the distant volcano and swatted away a mosquito.

"Curse the Hollanders!" he spat. "If only my father knew what he was putting me through! My eyes have been duly opened to the iniquity of the white men, and there remains little for me to do here except seek an early return to my native land to work for eventual independence. That and drink large quantities of cheap gin in backstreet dives with Surinamese ladies of negotiable affection, of course. Actually, come to think of it, there's no reason for me to go home immediately..."

-o-o-o-o-

Far away in Soerabaja, Min - the simple village goat-carrier-turned-dokar-driver-turned-satay-seller turned vice-president of Goodyear Tyres (Southeast Asia) division with responsibility for marketing - who still nursed within him a hopeless passion for the lovely yet cruelly mistreated Royabot was driving past the batik market in his chauffeur-driven car when his eye was suddenly caught by the careworn yet beautiful face of the woman for whom he had, with notable inefficiency, been searching for many years. "Stop the car!" he blurted out, causing a minor traffic pile-up involving four bicycles, a handcart, an old woman carrying a medium-sized restaurant on her back and three bullocks. He flung open the car door, knocking a malnourished child into a storm-drain, and stumbled towards the face's owner.

"Royabot?"

Raden Roro Royabot looked up at him, to see the kindly face that had filled her many flashback-musings about the essential goodness of simple village folk over many chapters.

"Min? Oh - I see you have a car now. The goat-carrying business must be booming."

"I am no longer a goat-carrier. It's a long story, for which I refer you to the previous three chapters. But I hear that you have left your cruel and exploitative husband."

"Yes."

"And become a batik seller in the market."

"Yes."

"And that you could possibly do me a chicken coconut curry with lemon grass on white bread."

"I beg your pardon?"

"They tell me you do Siamese sandwiches for sailors."

Royabot lowered her beautiful, dark eyes in shame and confusion. "I have much to explain to you, clearly. Possibly with the aid of diagrams"

"Ah."

"But first, we must fish my sadly malnourished son, Hayamwuruk Gamelan Komodo-Dragon Hopeless-Dream-of-Independence Batik Li, out of that storm-drain at once."

"Ah, yes. Sorry about that..."

"And if only we could afford food and a proper education for him."

"Royabot" he said gently, putting his arm around her shoulder, "I am but a simple village goat-carrier-turned-dokar-driver-turned-satay-seller turned vice-president of Goodyear Tyres (Southeast Asia) division with responsibility for marketing and know but little of these things, but it seems to me that if you were to marry a kindly and now sufficiently wealthy man - a simple village goat-carrier-turned-dokar-driver-turned-satay-seller turned vice-president of Goodyear Tyres (Southeast Asia) division with responsibility for marketing, for example - he could afford to feed you and your son properly and pay for his education at a pesantren (or rural Islamic boarding school for those reading in translation) where his native Islamic education as a santri or Orthodox Muslim Scholar will contrast nicely with his brother's sojourn in Holland and allow for some descriptions of the Muslim nationalist movement over the coming decades."

"Wah, Min - of course I will marry you. For your cleverness, you deserve this."

4 comments:

No Good Boyo said...

Eloquent. I'm still waiting for the dancing bit, though.

Special Brew Man said...

nice, Goodyear tyres have been round since 1920 - Ill have to catch up on the other chapters, its Flashman without Flashman.

Gyppo Byard said...

Sorry Special Brew Man, but I have to ask - what shape were they *before* 1920?

I'll get me coat...

Special Brew Man said...

They were inverse shoulder shaped, this elevated the driver and allowed him a better down the nose view of the natives.