Translated from Sundanese into English by Josephine Natania.
NASKAH SUNDA KUNO
01 February 2012
Short Story : When Mom Wanted to be a Representative
By : MAMAT SASMITA Sundanese Version
Translated from Sundanese into English by Josephine Natania.
Translated from Sundanese into English by Josephine Natania.
I had to say that I found it hard to memorize my lessons since my mom’s special guests started to come to my house. They really disturbed me because they came and went all day long as much as they liked. It would not have been really mattered if they had paid a visit just for a while, but in reality, there were a number of them who stayed along the day or until midnight! They were really noisy and deeply absorbed in their conversation, so they paid no attention to their surroundings. I did not like them so much, especially the whiskered man who spoke the loudest.
At first, I did not understand what happened, thinking they were just chatting. Yet, someone said “meeting”. I wondered why, since Mom and Dad never had a meeting, even a neighborhood meeting. “It’s not a big importance,” they would say. Moreover when it was her turn to be the host of Quran recitation, she simply refused. She often made excuses so that the event would not take place at home. Her excuses were not the usual ones, like being busy at the office or having much work to do. Instead, they were like being lazy to cook foods or to spread mats. They all sounded out of senses to me. It was not so difficult to spread mats in our sitting room which was not too wide and only enough for 30 people.
There were a lot of guests talking, but I did not understand what they were talking about. Someone said about tactics and strategy, the others talked about survey result, mass mobilization, rivalry, party, expenses, etc.
Their voices were still heard though my bedroom was in the upper floor and the door was closed and I pretended not to hear anymore. I heard Mom asking many questions and giving much order. She asked for data and support too.
Every guest coming to our house was treated well. They were given snacks, such as cakes, opak, and fruits. If they wanted to eat, rice in bamboo basket along with side dishes had been prepared in the dining room. Coffee was surely always ready to drink anytime.
I was so sorry for Bi Siti, my housemaid. She never stopped working in the kitchen since these guests came. Every day she steamed rice, fried bananas and ulen, made coffee, bought cigarettes, washed dishes, swept and mopped the floor. It went on and on from morning till night.
Astoundingly, Mom bought many books and subscribed newspapers and became diligently reading them. She also watched news on TV or hearing on the radio. In addition, she often browsed the internet recently. The books she liked most to read now were books of politics, power, and constitution. Before, she only bought either culinary or fashion book. I said that it was astounding because I knew my mom was not very fond of reading. When she read newspaper, it was only in a glimpse. But now, she read it with great intense. She cut many articles and made them clipping, not forgetting to mark some important points. Since when did she like politics and get involved in it? I wondered.
I came to understand it all after the family gathering. Either it was a meeting or whatever it called, my family gathered together. There were Ua Uyuh from Cimahi, Mang Dana from Sukasari. Aki Sanusi and Nini Hodijah from Ciawi, and Bi Iyang from Lembang. None of the other guests was allowed to come. It was only for the relatives.
This gathering was held on Sunday morning. “Many more that can come if it is an off day,” she said. Honestly I preferred watching cartoon on TV to attending the meeting, but she insisted. So I reluctantly sat at the corner of the room, near my brother.
My brother whom I called “Aa” was a 5th-semester college student. We were different 6 years in age. I was still in 8th grade.
My father welcomed our relatives and said thank you for their coming. Mom then took the turn to give explanation why they were all gathered here.
The truth was, she nominated herself as a representative. Alas! My mom would become a candidate in the election! Amazing, I thought. That was why Mom was so diligent as to buy political science book, read newspaper, listen to the radio, and watch news on TV.
“I hope for your support and sincere prayer for me, so all my intention can be successful,” she closed her explanation.
Nobody could speak, as the news was much unexpected. After a moment of silence, Ua Uyuh finally spoke, “Are you really sure about it?”
“Well, that’s good if you’ve been sure, so you really intend doing it.”
My brother scratched his body though I guessed it was not itchy at all. He was rather being nervous about something.
“I supposed this is the first time there is someone in our family who gets into politics,” mentioned Bi Iyang. She was my mom’s little sister. Nini Hodijah ever told me that Mom always competed with Bi Iyang. Maybe it was because their ages which were quite similar, only differed for about 2 years. If they had different points of view, they would argue and knock down the table. While if they shared the same opinion, they would stand for each other. “That’s good! We’ll be so proud and our family will certainly have influence over people if one of us becomes a representative,” she continued. It seemed that they would stand for each other this time.
“No, I disagreed!” Aa suddenly exclaimed and the others looked round to him. Then the room was silence again.
“May I know what the reason is?” Bi Iyang asked him.
“This isn’t the way to be a real politikus!” he answered with a high voice.
“Politician,” Mom corrected in a sharp tone, “I hate being called politikus. I’m not a rat, you know?”
“Don’t fuss with it! The meanings are all the same.” Ua Uyuh tried to soothe them.
“Alright..alright. What’s the reason then?” Bi Iyang looked impatient to hear the reason.
“First, Mom has set aside my rights and Rere’s rights to speak our thought.” Rere was my nickname. “Mom enrolled to KPUD behind our back. She has used power to insist and make us follow her own will. Mom has neglected the principles of democracy in our family.” My brother explained systematically so that all of his words could be absorbed by all the hearers. Then he took a plastic glass to drink some water before continuing his argument.
“Second, Mom will be a fake politikus,” Aa stubbornly mentioned politikus, “because Mom doesn’t have any experiences in politic organization. She is only capable in social organization. We know that all sorts of things which are ripped on the outside are only half done, for example bananas that is treated like that won’t have sweet taste. And the third, Mom, do you know the constituent you’re about to represent for? Because I think you know about culinary and fashion much better.”
“Is there the next one?” Bi Iyang was so curious.
“That’s enough for now. I wanted to know Mom’s answer first.” My brother finished his fiery argumentation.
“So they are. What’s your answer, please?” Bi Iyang glanced at Mom. My aunt seemed like a talk show moderator on TV.
“Wait a moment, Bi! Rere hasn’t been asked yet. How about you, Re? Do you agree?” Aa let me have a chance to speak.
I shook my head as a sign of disagreement. I said that Mom would be very busy and Bi Siti would be the one who did the chores. And how about me? When Mom could pet me or when I could talk to her? How I could share my feeling to Bi Siti? Mom frowned as I said that.
Mom gave reply to our objections without any pause. To Aa, she gave long answer but to me she only gave a short one. “Don’t worry, Re. I understand very well about time management.” My dad grinned hearing a debate between mother and children.
“Look! Mom’s answers aren’t based on politic logic, but on social logic.” Aa was still dissatisfied. Then he explained the weaknesses in Mom’s answers. I just closed my mouth since I did not understand what politic logic was like.
Dad had a very good sense to stop this quarrelsome before spreading widely. “As a leader, the head of the family, I suggest that we all respect one another’s will so our family won’t lose its warmth and kindness.”
At once my brother said, “Yes, Dad! But I don’t want tuition fee for me and Rere was given to the party.” Ua Uyuh burst out with laughter as hearing this. “Aha! So that’s the main point of his disagreement.”
“That’s right! Let’s think about how much money ought to be paid to the party. Money for campaign costs such as making T-shirts, printing pamphlets and banners. There’s also money for looking for supporters and succeeding team.”
“It’s not going like that, Aa. This is a good and honest party.” Mom defended her party.
“Is there any good and honest party? Are you sure?”
“Enough said!” Ua Uyuh broke this little fight, “All of us had known about parties. For all expenditures, I leave the matter to the head of the family and how he arranges the money.” Ua Uyuh glanced at Dad. The latter nodded.
“Mother and children nowadays can protest or argue. Well, that’s a good point anyway,” Ua murmured.
When Bi Iyang was going to close the gathering, all of a sudden Aa interrupted once more. “Interruption, Bi! I want to ask something to Mom. Are you ready if you lose later on? If no one votes for you?”
“Ready.” Mom directly responded.
Aki Sanusi then closed the gathering by saying a prayer in Arabic, but he mentioned nothing about Mom’s big plan.
Several weeks before campaign, Mom became so friendly to our neighbors. She npt only greeted them, but also often went around visiting their houses. Even more, she invited them to come to Quran recitation in our house. Yes, in our house!
Before, Quran recitation was held once a month, but now it was changed into once a week! Can you believe that?
Even a pedicab driver, who usually waited for passengers at the end of the street, received Mom’s sudden kindness. She gave him a T-shirt, called out to him to take her to a neighbor’s house although the house was not at a far distance, and gave him extra tip.
The noisy whiskered man came more often and so did the others. These times the number of the guests was increasing. I guessed the whiskered man was the leader of Mom’s succeeding team. Our house was such a hullaballoo.
Forget about memorizing lessons in a peaceful place, sleeping tight was an expensive thing now. Bi Siti had her relative to be her assistant since she was unable to handle with the chores by herself. Bi Iyang came several times to help Mom.
There were many stacks of pamphlets and banner pictured Mom and written “I request for your blessings” in our house. My brother decried, “As if she ever had prayed for others.” I caught no meaning of his saying that, but deep in my heart I felt that he was being cynical to Mom’s behaviors. There were heaps of folded party flag too and bamboo sticks had been prepared for the flag poles in the backyard.
I did not know where the money to afford those stuffs came from. It was certainly a large sum of money. I came to understand why my brother was so concerned about our tuition fee.
There was a strange thing happened too. Mom’s article was published in a newspaper. Wow, unbelievable! But, when she wrote it? Was not she very busy?
I told Aa about it. The news made him cough to vomit. I did not know whether he really vomited or just pretended as an overreaction. However, he said that the article was written by a ghost writer. Ghost writer? I got more confused.
At campaign season, Mom was very busy. She rushed here and there. What a pity to my Dad! He always accompanied Mom everywhere. He became involved in this hectic situation.
Once Mom asked Aa to accompany her too, but he just walked away while saying, “Mom, let’s just respect one another’s will, alright?” These words silenced her.
I did the same as my brother, lazy to get involved in this matter and to support Mom.
Was this the meaning of time management that she said? Nevertheless, there was something to be proud of Mom. She was like an expert in delivering a speech and debating. Still, if it was listened carefully, what she spoke of was just promises. “There are neither speeches nor debates in campaign which will be made into programs,” Aa said.
Mom’s pictures were everywhere. On trees, electricity poles, boundary walls, neighbors’ fences, and …….. on the backs of people. “How awful! They seems having no rules,” Aa fiercely commented. As for me, I was really ashamed seeing those pictures, especially by the time my schoolmates asked about it. I just weakly nodded without speaking.
Above all, it would be more embarrassing if no one voted for her and she loose. Everyone will mock at her and called her a loser. Our family would feel ashamed and it was possible that I would also be called looser, like my mom.
A week after the Election Day, Mom was seen rather dejected. The guests who usually came every day disappeared, moreover the whiskered man. Our home was at peace again. Bi Siti could take some rest and I felt at home once more. I could listen to the radio, watch TV, read books, and enjoy myself on the sofa. Memorizing lessons became an easy thing to do now. Aa whispered to me, “Mom was lose. Don’t speak too much, just remain silent.” I trembled hearing his words. A loser?
Would Mom still be friendly to our neighbors? Would Quran recitation be held here anymore or would she make excuses like before? Would her article ever be published again in newspaper?
I heard Mom was coughing in her bedroom. She caught a cold.
 Glutinous rice crackers
 A kind of cake, made of fine-ground steamed sticky rice with shredded coconut and salt
A term of address to older brother of father or mother
 A term of address to younger brother of father or mother
 Grandfather (also as a term of address to an old man in general)
 Grandmother (also as a term of address to an old woman in general)
 A term of address to younger sister of father or mother
 A term of address to older brother
 ‘If God’s willing’
 The abbreviation of “Komisi Pemilihan Umum Daerah Propinsi” (Province Election Committee)
 Politikus has the same meaning with politician in English. The word “tikus” itself is an Indonesian word for “rat”