06 January 2012

Short Story : GRANDMA HUNTED KITE


By : MAMAT SASMITA                                  Sundanese Version
Translated from Sundanese into English by Josephine Natania.

          
“Sujang, have you been full?” asked Nini[1] Jumsih, looking at her grandson who was eating cross-legged in the middle of the house.
            “Take my meal if you haven’t.” She held out a plate full of rice with fried eel for the side dish.
            “You don’t need to, Mom. Just eat up your lunch.” Kang[2] Sabri spoke for his son. “There’s quite portion for him in tetenong[3].” But Nini Jumsih ignored this remark and still gave her meal.
            Sujang is Kang Sabri’s youngest child whose age was about 4 years and 4 months. It is the normal time for kids to be very fond of food.
            “It’s alright. I give it willingly,” she explained. “Meal is just a small thing since I can’t give any others. Besides, I’ve been full with any kinds of food while Sujang is still a kid with such big appetite.”
            These words silenced him since what her mother said was truly right. Sujang was being gluttonous. “Don’t spoil him too much, Mom.” That was he could only say.
            “Spoil him? I don’t have anything to do that, Sabri!” She silenced him with her words once again.
Honestly, he wanted to be generous to his son and mother, but his work demanded him to use money economically. Every day, with his motorcycle, he drove somebody to the places they wanted and they would pay him for the service. Nevertheless, in the village like this, passengers were not always in certain numbers every time. On Saturdays, he usually got more money because many factory workers went back home from towns or cities.
            If it was taken for daily needs, his earnings could only afford to buy food, while there were five people to feed on. His wife, his two children, his mother who lived together since his father passed away, and himself.
            It was difficult to do any works right now, even more in the village. The costs were also increasing all the time. With this kind of condition, if one always felt dissatisfied, unhappiness would surely follow. 
In addition, Kang Sabri worked in fields to hoe the soil, but it was only sometimes. He also had his own field from selling a small block of land. This land was actually an inheritance from his father, but it was rather infertile, so whatever he planted would not give any crops.
            Actually he was not willing to sell that small block. An inheritance had to be carefully treated. He understood it very well, but as the proverb may say that we must live to its fullest. However, the money he got from selling the land was used well for the family’s needs and so far, thanks to God! They still could eat every day and his motorcycle was in a good condition.

            In the evening…
            The sky was very clear, even no sight of dark clouds above. The wind blew hard from the west to the east side.
            “Hurry, Sujang! Take a bath! We watch kite play in the great rice field,” Nini Jumsih loudly called.
            Sujang stood completely naked. Having just played on the side of chicken’s cage, his body was fully dirty. Probably he caught some undur-undur[4]. 
            “Wait for me, Grandma! I go along with you.”
            The boy got off quickly at once to the shower. Nini Jumsih followed him from behind and took two fistful of harendong[5] leaves.
            “Clean well, dear. Don’t just pouring water! Ah, let me scrub your body.”
            She scrubbed the boy’s body with harendong leaves till all the grime removed. The leaves can be used as soap, though they do not have much foam, but it is good to remove skin dirt.  
            After he put on some clothes, he and his grandma went to the great rice field. They really came on the right time as harvest season had just been over. As far as the eyes could see, the wide flat rice field stretched over on a great distance. It would be pleasant to fly kites there.
            “Wow, there have been many people, Sujang,” whisper Nini Jumsih. “Let’s go to the hut over there! It’s a nice place to watch,” she continued and led the way by holding the boy’s hand. They tracked down the rice-field dikes.
            These two happy people sang song together while watching many children who were trying to catch each other’s kites. The broken kites were the ones to fight for. The children, bringing gantar[6], trooped down towards those kites.
            Shout and laughter were heard from the south. Certainly there was ball game played there. The ball itself was made of straws, rounded to form a ball shape. 
            In the evening like this, the great rice field would always be surrounded with cheerful children, especially after harvest season.
           
            Without any notice, all of a sudden the children came to the hut where Sujang and Nini Jumsih were singing. They ran after a broken kite flying towards the hut. They were all on their guards and put their sticks up as high as their hands supported.
            “You do want a kite, do you?” Nini Jumsih asked Sujang who was flabbergasted, noticing the boys’ bustle. Hearing the question, he only fixed his eyes upon her grandma without uttering a word.
            Two days ago, he fought with his brother for a kite. The brother, instead of giving it, hid it on the attic. Sujang sobbed and rolled round and round on the floor, but neither the father nor the mother paid serious attention to him. “Sujang is still is a kid. He hasn’t been able to fly kite, he may fall forward on the other hand,” said his mother.
            To make Sujang stop crying, Nini Jumsih asked him to pick cécéndet[7] leaves and dig for yams. When the dusk fell out, he successfully brought the leaves and the yams home in both full hands.
           
            Nini Jumsih stroked Sujang’s hair softly.
“If you want a kite, I’ll get it for you, dear”
Sujang leaned over to her while she continually stroked his hair. Maybe it is true that sometimes the love we have for our grandchildren is bigger than the love for our own children.

Nini Jumsih stood, fixed her sarong, and pulled it up a bit.
“Sujang, stay here and wait for me!”
She lifted her head up and looked at the kite flying there. The kite flew closer to the hut. It seemed that the string was broken. She quickly jumped. So did the other children. They both hunted the same thing. She forgot her age and her hunched body. She chased, slightly kicked the boys, and shouted,” That’s mine! That’s for my grandson!” Of course the boys directly set aside, afraid to compete with an old woman. Realizing their changed reaction, she replied them with shy look and glanced back to the kite up there.
Nini Jumsih then tried to grab the tail, but it loosed her grip and swung away to the ditch. The people, who was watching kite play at first, dumbfounded looking at this old woman’s action. Not only her energy was bigger than the young children, but also her jump was above them.
She grabbed once more. Got it! But as a result, she plopped down into a watery ditch. The kite was safe, on the other side she became soggy wet.
Knowing this accident, Sujang jumped towards her grandma. She rose up and shivered but ignored her wet clothes. “Fly this, while the day is  still bright.” Her grandson obeyed her though had not been able to fly it high. The day ran into dawn slowly till tonggeret[8] was heard singing and the mountain wind was coldly felt.
“Let’s go home, Sujang! It’s getting dark. You can try it again tomorrow,” Nini  Jumsih suggested. Tears filled her eyes seeing her grandson so happy to have a kite. He rolled the kite strings into a piece of wood as following her grandma into the house.

“Sabri, come here. Please cover me with the blanket. My body feels cold,” Nini Jumsih shouted.
Kang Sabri came hurrily to his mother, feeling rather worried that she unusually shouted like that. He touched her forehead, getting shocked by the high fever that welcomed him. “Mom, let me put a moist towel on your forehead, will you?” but she refused.
Since that moment, Nini Jumsih was ill and not for a long time till she passed away. Kang Sabri still remembered her last words, “Sabri, take a look at Sujang. Maybe he’s been able to fly kite.”
After her grandma’s death, Sujang just played kite at home. He was afraid to play in the great rice field as no one accompanied him there.
Finally, one day he said, “Grandma, I can fly kite now!”

 


[1] Grandmother (also as a term of address to an old woman in general)
[2] Brother (also used in conjunction with personal names, official title, etc)
[3] A kind of round bamboo basketry (about 0.5 m) with a flat cover to store food
[4] Larva of a kind of an ant-lion which walks backward
[5]  Kind of upright small shrub, member of the Melastomacae family
[6]  Long thin straight bamboo sticks with forked branch in the end to get the kite string easily
[7] Physalis angulata L.
[8] A kind of cicada

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