17 April 2012

Short Story : BIG FAILURE

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

Kang[1] Sabri was very busy preparing a big feast. He was the chairman of Regency Election Committee and there would be an election of the head region next month. The big feast was to choose the people’s leader.
            Mang[2] Engkon, a parking man in the local market, said that a leader had to be the one who was willing to pay for the parking fee. Kang Endin, whose daily job was driving somebody to a place they wanted with his motorcycle and they would pay him for the service, mentioned that a leader should have been able to repair damaged roads. Jang[3] Ukon, who just graduated from vocational school, explained that a leader had to able to provide jobs. A farmer, Mang Uhi, told that a leader could have been provided fertilizer. While Ma[4] Cioh, who just stayed at home every day, said that a leader should have been the one who could provide cheap food price.

            He got that point very clearly. That was the reason why he did his job very well and with great carefulness since the early phase of candidates’ verification until they passed the qualifications. .
            From the beginning, the healthy candidates were proven by health certificate and candidates with good behavior got certificates from the police. The smart ones had proof from senior high school certificate and diploma certificate.
            Nevertheless, no institution could give information about the candidates’ truth, courage, and honesty. Kang Sabri just tried to have a fair mind, since there were no tools to prove these traits except their own confession.
            From several couples registered before, there were only two who met the requirements. Drs.[5] Wawan Gunawan and Dra.[6] Luna Yahya, which was called ‘Waluya’ couple, and the other was ‘Hegar’ couple, the blending of Ir.[7] Herman Suganda and Drs. Rahmat Santosa. Kang Sabri invited these two couples to the committee office to sign an agreement. Both of them had to agree that no fraud was allowed in the campaign time. Quarrelsome was also forbidden, moreover if it involved people who just copycatted. 
            The office’s yard had been planted with poles in the ground. At the top of each poles, colorful red and white fabric waved. Kang Sabri wore bendo citak[8] and wrapped in réréng[9]. One of his friends wore headband, yet without carrying kris, kujang[10], or machete.
            A moment later, Waluya came in a large group. So did Hegar group who followed in the next few minutes.
            The guests were seated comfortably in the front rows. It was like waiting for the wedding couple to say marriage vow. They came in various clothes; normal casual, suites and ties, safari costumes, or batik. Either they showed off their wealth through elegant clothes or showed off their politeness, no one knew.

            The event was opened with the word ‘Basmallah’, reading Qur’an holy verse, and foreword from Kang Sabri. He only gave very short speech, “Let us watch Tarawangsa[11] show and please no need of giving applause at the end of the show.”
            The show began. Monotonous melody swept the room, slipping through and waking everyone’s souls, thrilled the deepest feeling inside. Drs. Wawan Gunawan and Ir. Herman Suganda felt as if stroked by the breezing wind and touched their skin, hair, ears.
            The dancers were all middle-aged woman who wore kebaya[12] and brought handkerchiefs. They moved harmoniously along with the melody. No frown, no wink. They only focused on the sound of the tarawangsa’s and the harp’s strings.

            On his chair, Ir. Herman leaned to the front, swayed by the soft melody. The eyes were half-closed and the ears were opened half wide. His mind wandered into the door, the show arena, and to the edges of the arena. “What a shame if I’m defeated by that little man,” he spoke in his heart. Then he grinned as he saw the tall and firm Luna Yahya.
            Drs. Wawan leaned on his chair. He also was caught up by the melody. He closed his eyes and tapped his fingers along with the rhythm. “I shouldn’t be defeated, although he was far taller than me,” he decided. He grinned as remembering Kungfu Panda movie. The big and tall hero also had a small and short master.
            The easiest and quickest way to measure enemy’s strength was by looking at his or her physical appearance for sure.
The melody made Drs. Wawan shake his body and Ir. Herman nod his head. Kang Sabri did the same. This show was over after playing 3 song pieces.

The trumpets blew, small drum bit, and the gong was struck. The show of kendang penca[13] was started.
Little children appeared on the stage to dance ibing rampak[14]. They looked very attractive in penca[15] clothes properly fitted to them and head bands. They moved here and there with vivid and skilful movement.
The rhythm that changed from slow to fast caused the audience’s eyes open, like Ir. Herman’s. The first clearest thing he saw was a large arena with noisy cheers of the audiences. In the center, stood firmly Drs. Wawan with half-calf pants. Looking at this, he hunted to the center with the same kind of pants and topless.
Here was the place for a one-to-one fight. Here, was the place for wrestling and now it was the time to see who the champion was, to show off their skill and power.
There were more audiences to come, making a cheering crowd. They shouted and shrieked.
“Smack down!”
“Knock him down!”
“Punch1 Punch!”
“Slam down!”
The election supervisor who would be the game referee entered the arena, checked out for the weapon on the contender’s body. One of them announced the rule. “No holding each other’s tightly with your hands around them, even with your armpits No strangle and do not talk anymore.”
He stepped out of the arena. The crowd cheered loudly, being happy of watching their future leaders fight and hit.

The contenders muttered. They seemed like spelling any kind of magic spells. They kept their distance and then met their opponent. Bam! The sound of a harsh bumping was heard. Their body movements were not looked different with fighting sheep or fighting chicken. Their jump, hit, and beat were like the ones in Naruto cartoon or The Legend of Aang.    
They both raised their heads and panted. Sweats could be seen flowing from heads, armpits, and chests. No one would be willing to lose.

The rhythm now changed. It became faster. Some teenagers entered the arena to demonstrate penca, play machete and trident.
The brighter the day, the hotter it was. Inside the hall, the heat could be felt by everyone. They tried to cool the body heat by fluttering hands, newspaper, or book in front of their bodies. Machetes swung and its glossy side was shining. It became a shield to repulse the opponent’s attack.
The show was closed by the sound of the small drum. The penca masters filled up the arena too.

The contenders still fought furiously in the center of the arena. One dragged, the other one moved sideways.
“Oh no! I lose,” Ir. Herman spoke in his heart while panting.
“Yikes! I lose!” Drs. Wawan said with trembling knees.
“He’s tall and strong indeed.”
“This short man is tough.”   
The audience became noisier, even more there were who stroke cans, small drums, blew trumpets. All sounds there were like the sound of thousands wasps.

When the small drum stopped and the gong’s sound finished the melody, the fighting was over,
Kang Sabri stood up from his chair and said, “Choosing a leader is not by taking advantages for one self, punching, wrestling, talking as loudly as you can. Tarawangsa gave us a clear clue that there should be harmony between body and soul, also between what we said and done. While it’s true that in penca, a strong and skilful body is important. Penca taught us to have a good body, both physically and mentally, so that we can fight for the truth. The next performance is Sintren[16]. Let this performance be a symbol and reminder for all of us that we can’t let ourselves to be tied up or handcuffed by corrupt motives or coveted by things of little value. Please forgive me if I say this to you as if I knew everything. This is just an information that we all should know.”

Ir. Herman was woken up from his daydream and glanced at Drs. Wawan. So did on the other hand. They both nodded. They took out handkerchiefs to wipe sweat on their foreheads and wiped faces with their palms.

The performance started now.
The dancers were single ladies who were wrapped up stiffly with polypropylene rope, It was like a magic show when the ladies could get loose from the rope bound and changed their clothes in just a few minutes. This performance also played three songs.
The dancers also wore black glasses. When money was being thrown at them, they all fell themselves down to the money and stood up again when they had got the money.                    
When all art performances finished, here came the time to sign the agreement. All candidates signed the agreement by the witness of a representative of security apparatus. After that, there were short words given and continued with shaking hands.
About a hundred people flooded the arena. Beggars, street musicians, secondhand pickers, all wanted to greet these candidates. Old women, old men, children, women and men, crippled ones, strong ones, monkey performers, the ones bringing guitars or flutes, and so much more queued to greet our next leaders.
There was a funny moment when a monkey which was brought by its performers, asked for money with its eyes wandered everywhere. But when it had been given a thousand rupiahs, it jumped quickly to the performer’s shoulders.

Shaking hand’s time was over. Kang Sabri closed the event by saying,” This event has been finished. I hope that this moment can be a foundation to all of us. Please forgive me for any mistakes happened and no lunch. The lunch was all given to a group of poor men who came here before. Let’s say ‘Hamdallah’ to close this event.”
Journalists then surrounded Kang Sabri and asked him many things aggressively. The most questions asked were surely about the reason of having art performances. Even there is someone who asked with a joke why there was no lunch for the guests. Kang Sabri continuously answered all of the questions. He explained that no prohibition by the statute of election committee of having tarawangsa, kendang penca, and sintren performance. So did inviting poor men.

A week later…
The group of Waluya came to the election committee office. Although Kang Sabri was busy, he was perforce to meet this group. Waluya explained their coming was to resign from the election. The reason was a feeling appeared after greeting with so many people that they could not be honest to their own selves and was afraid of unable to feed hundreds or even thousands of people.
Just a minute after Waluya said the reason, Hegar group suddenly appeared. They brought the same purpose with the previous but with a different reason. They felt that they did not have a clear understanding of the area where they would lead later on. Instead of taking the wrong direction, they decided to step back earlier. They were afraid of being punished after no longer holding the position.

These two couples had been ready to be insulted, blamed by their parties which had supported them, instead of being blamed by people later.
Kang Sabri pondered and deeply thought for quite a long time, like a drunken monkey. Cold sweats started to appear on his forehead, his face turned pale, hands shook, vision got blur, and his hands touched anything. Why could this happen? He thought. He decided to ask to go first to take wudu[17]. The cold water that touched his face, hands, and legs along with a sincere prayer strengthen him again. “I also will put down my position, I’d been failed to select candidates. Maybe I’m accursed since that signing event wasn’t closed by prayer.”

On the morrow….
The headline of every newspaper mentioned, “Resigned Together. The chairman of Election Committee and the two couples of regent candidates.” This became a hot topic on TV, in the radio, on the internet, in the coffee shop, on the streets, everywhere.
“A group of foolish men!” said Jang Ule, a newspaper deliverer.
“Foolish?” His friends seemed confused.
“Yea, such fool people they are. It’s hard to earn blood money nowadays, even more the legal one. They’ve had positions but retreated from it.”
“Ah dunno. For me, it’s no difference at all either to have a leader or not. Life is still difficult. But, having an RT[18] and RW[19] leader is necessary for making a certificate of poverty,” he ended his argument with a giggle.
In the TV talk show, a political observer justified this recent action, “Well, being resigned from the beginning is a right thing to do when it’s hard to be honest.”
The other one immediately joined the conversation, “How could you? The salary of a regent is only seven million rupiahs per month, while daily lifestyle needs seven millions.”
The observer looked ready to give a quick reply, but the host cut him, “You two seems sharing with each other. Just wait after the commercial break.” 

[1] Brother (also used in conjunction with personal names, official title, etc)
[2] A term of address to younger brother of father or mother, also in conjuction with proper names, titles of office, etc
[3] A term of address to a lad
[4] Mother (as an address by children)
[5] Drs. is the abbreviation of ‘Doctorandus’. It is a title for male who finishes bachelor degree, but this title is no longer commonly used in Indonesia now
[6] Dra. is the abbreviation of ‘Doctoranda’. It is a title for female who finishes bachelor degree, but this title is no longer commonly used in Indonesia now
[7] Ir. Is the abbreviation of ‘insiyur’ ( = engineer)
[8] Ready-made head cloth
[9] A kind of fabric
[10] A Sundanese traditional weapon
[11] An antique (melody bringing) string instrument (with 2 or 3 strings, played with a bow of horsehair)
[12] Indonesian traditional clothes
[13] Instrumental combination (consisting of two small drums, a small gong and the trumpet) to accompany a penca performance.
[14] A refined type of Sundanese dance
[15] Art of self-defence (often carried out as a dance using stick, machete, etc. accompanied by music or special composition)
[16] A kind of performance (with burning incense and singing of songs) by girls (where one of the participants, hand tied behind her back under a bell-shaped basket covered with a cloth, puts on a set of clothes laid out)
[17] To perform riyual ablution before prayers in Islam religion
[18] The abbreviation of ‘Rukun Tetangga’ (Neighborhood Community)
[19] The abbreviation of ‘Rukun Warga’. It is the unity of many neighborhood communities 

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