THE WEEPING FIG – JATI WARINGIN

In Indonesia, the tree is called the Jati Waringin but it is more commonly known as the Weeping Fig.

The Weeping Fig  is a fantastic tree that attracts a large number of birds whenever it produces figs.

It is a sprawl of a tree in an urban environment where its invasive roots are hardly welcoming to its arborous hosts.

The Little Garuda has flown a long way in a short time and has found refuge here, made new friends.

Birds come for the fruit, for the insects and for the leaves to line their nests.

They spreaad the seeds onto branches of the tree where they germinate and develop.

Raptors are attracted to the swarms.

Human life passes by with total disregard and ignorance.

Except for one individual who has affinity with nature at play and knows the story of the Little Garuda.

That story is unfolding before his eyes.

Reality meets surrealism.

The succulent fig of the Waringin is the enlargement of a stem tip that becomes hollow and fleshy.

The figs are rich with starch, sugars, minerals as well as proteins and fats.

Within its cavity are tiny flowers.

The pollination of the flowers is the task of the fig wasp.

The fig wasp forces its way inside the fig to seek out the sterile gall flowers and lay their eggs.

The process of laying the eggs is coupled with the emission of pollen to the female flowers.

These tiny female flowers eventually develop into fruit.

The ripening of the fig is timed with the hatching of the wasps eggs and the maturity of the male flowers.

The male fig wasps die after mating with the female.

The female wasp is able to emerge from the fig and repeat the process.

Both the fig and the fig wasp are dependent on each other for their existence.

Without the fig plant, the wasp cannot multiply.

Without the fig wasp, the fig plant cannot form seeds.

The Jati Waringin is a truly fantastic tree.

The Little Garuda will not settle here.

This is just one short story from her youth in the journey of life.

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THE LITTLE GARUDA

The wishful fourteen year old made a decisive choice on that fateful April day which would shape the rest of her life.

Twenty years have passed since.

Today, at the break of dawn, she has returned for the first time to the Crocodile River.

This was the lowlands and hills of Palembang Province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Palembang City itself was still several hours drive away.

This is her world and it is like no other on this earth.

Countless times she had come here since she discovered the place as a recently-turned five year old.

She had always come alone and in all these nine years, she had never seen another human being once.

Nobody had discovered her secret getaway.

Nature was truly her friend here.

It was the perfect place to shape a personal destiny.

On her fifth birthday, she received a book about Sumatran birds from her favourite uncle, the eldest brother of her father.

The impact was like putting a telescope into the hands of a star-gazing astronomer.

From Trogons to Kingfishers, from Pheasants, Eagles and Hawks to Broadbills and Babblers, she knew them all.

When asked a few months later by her schoolteacher what she wanted to be when she grew up, she replied that she wanted to be a bird so that she could fly and see the world.

The whole class laughed including the teacher but the girl meant what she had said.

They called her the Little Garuda.

On that April morning, she rode her bicycle home from school, oblivious of the news that awaited her.

There was a sizeable gathering of people at her home.

She knew that her Uncle’s wife had passed away a month or so before and that there had been much discussion within the family of his re-marriage.

Nothing could prepare her for the news which greeted her that her parents had promised her to her Uncle as his new wife, she merely a girl of fourteen and he a widower three times her age.

She was commanded to her room after a swift ceremony and joined by her Uncle  while the door to the room was locked from the outside.

She undressed as she felt compelled to do and knelt down before his naked frame standing before her, not to give sexual favour but in prayer.

In the endless time that passed while they were alone in the room, the Uncle touched her whole body and attempted penetration to her most virtuous part but did not succeed.

She had resisted his penetration with all her will and might given to her by God.

It was he who finally knocked the door and made an exit from her ungiving presence.

Her only uttered words to him before he left were to tell him hat she was as free as any bird and she would fly away to see the world, as was her dream and her destiny.

He could do nothing to prevent it.

He knew that a gift could not and should not be the price to coerce or compromise an unwilling party into marriage.

The young girl did not sleep that night.

She waited her moment near the breaking of the dawn and made her escape on the bicycle to the place of solittude she knew so well.

She feigned to jump from the bridge but lacked conviction for the final action.

She was understandably confused but not afraid.  She knew that God was watching over her.

She descended the rocky cliff from one side of the bridge to the salty waters edge.

She knew the danger.  This was a calculated risk.

Two twenty-foot crocodiles appeared from the murky waters and rushed towards her but then suddenly braked, menacing in their appearance,  not attacking her.

Then, in a quite extraordinary moment, this girl nonchalently patted the heads of the two crocodiles before they suddenly retreated into the waters and swam away.

Today, the young fourteen year old remembered the moment and the choice she made.

She returned to the bridge where she had left her bicycle.

She knelt to pray for a prolonged period of time, it could have been hours.

Today was no different.  She prayed.

There was a cavity in the weak structure of the bridge and she pushed her bicycle through it into the salty waters of the river she had been immersed by a few minutes before.

The shattered bicycle shattered against the boulder rocks but did not get swept away.

Today, unsurprisingly to her, the corroded remains of the bicycle remained in the salty waters.

Twenty years ago, she raised herself after prayer and looked down at the Crocodile River one final time.

Those who doubted her before would not doubt her now.

Another phase in her life was about to begin.

The Little Garuda flew away.

THE STRANGER OF UNSOUND MIND

I first came to Indonesian shores in the spring of 1997 and I acquainted her in a restaurant in the city of Jakarta.

She was an exciting, exquisite, extraordinary creature with a radiant beauty.

I was then a mature man of forty years and she was a sweetie just turned twenty.

I tell you honestly that I love her now as I loved her then.

I still call her my wife but we have long not been together and she is married to another.

All it took was a declaration to the Court and a judicial dismissal after three strikes.

Then it was in with the new and out with the old, except the old remained to be looked after by the new in the same house for a number of years afterwards.

It is a painfully long time since I have ever seen another living soul.

It has been so long that over time, I have forgotten my age.

It has been even longer since a kiss was tasted and enjoyed from the lips of the one woman on this earth whom I dearly love.

And I can barely recall the last time she uttered a single word in my presence, let alone to me.

I love her so much.  I always dream about her.

Last night, I dreamnt I had died.  She took my corpse away in the car to a far away place and dropped it with carefree abandon into a river to be taken by crocodiles.

She watched over from the bridge fifty metres above but shed not one tear.

I used to be a lawyer in England and I gave her everything I could, everything she wanted.

Later, after several years of marriage, when her mother became sick with cancer, we made the decision to come and live in Indonesia.

I gave up the career in law and made do with becoming an English teacher.

For this duration, little did I know or understand about the country Indonesia which had embraced my life for more than a decade.

How little did I realize that love would come at such enormous cost.

I truly loved this woman and believed that she loved me.

Now I know that could not be the case.

There comes a time in a man’s life when he is so obviously not the man he used to be and not able to provide.

I know you will say I am crazy and of unsound mind, that I am living out a fantasy derived from self-pity, depression, loneliness, isolation and dimentia.

That may indeed be so.

I know I do not live alone,  I see shadows on the walls and ceilings which sometimes pirouhette in erotic postures.

And I hear noises which echo to the core of my being.

There are monsters all about which come to attack.

I know it is impossible to kill a cockroach and cockroaches are all about in my squalor.  They represent to me humanity in another form.

If I died tonight, slumped on the floor in a slovenly stench, nobody would know for days, perhaps even weeks of my desperate demise.

But the predators would have their field day in the preliminaries.

It would have come to that.

I am a stranger in a foreign land and have become the unwelcome tourist who has overstayed his welcome.

There is only one escape.

About the partner of my wife, I guess that he is strong, loyal, faithful, loving, honest and reliable, youthful.

All of the things I am deemed to be not.

I know they think that I do not have any comprehension of what is going on and that they are doing their best for me in the circumstances.

But I do understand.

I am certain that my dear wife aches for finality.

The time for that finality has surely come.

CROCODILE TEARS OF AN INDONESIAN WANITA

It was a two day drive to the Crocodile River in the Palembang district of south Sumatra.

It was from a remote spot on the hanging bridge that she had once stood compromised as a fourteen year old girl many years before.

She was back for the first time in twenty years for a reason.

A forgivable and redeemable mission.

Her short nimble frame struggled to take the heavy lifeless body from the boot of the car.

She unsipped the corpse from its modified body bag and dragged it with all her might to the weather-made cavity on the bridge.

The body was then thust fifty metres downward into the torrent of the Crocodile River.

The head smashed against boulder rocks and blood splattered.

The body briefly floated downstream.

Then the crocodiles came and feasted upon their prize prey.

There were no tears in her eyes or emotion on the woman’s face but she hummed quietly and melodically a Sumatran song remembered from her childhood.

Two crocodiles fought for the right to drag the limp body beneath the waters before the victorious one and the body disappeared from view.

Before returning to the car, the body bag was burnt and those remains too were also nonchalently discarded into the river.

The man had died several days before of probable natural causes in his room at the house which she shared with him.

There are some who might suggest that she had motive for killing the man who was her lawful husband but the simple truth is she did not.

They had not slept together in many years and there were no outward signs to the world that they were even married to each other.

They lived in different worlds and totally separate lives.

He was twenty five years her senior and a stranger in a foreign land.

To anyone who asked, he had simply returned home to his native land.

Their only child was grown and away living in England, an infrequent commmunicator to this father.

As for other relatives, they were either unknown or long blown in contact.

The slumped body had been lying there for four days before it was discovered.

Not the wife or the maid or a passing visitor, it seemed, had any inclination of the man’s demise.

On the night that she discovered her husband’s body, the wife requested her lover to make love to her for two long hours on the bed where the corpse lay.

There was an air of pre-meditation about the actions of the widow.

It was the lover who then prepared a makeshift body bag and placed the body inside it.

The widow alone, by insistence and persistence, dragged the body into the boot of the car in the dark of the night.

There was no blood.

There would be no delay.

The journey was immediate.

The woman did not change the clothes which her lover had impetiously re-arranged while callously agreeing to her sexual request.

This was a course of action that only she could explain.

The two day journey from her home on the southern outskirts of Jakarta city to this distant Sumatran outpost across the Sunda Straits was slow but certain.

When she arrived at the Crocodile River, the widow prayed for several hours before undertaking the task of disposing of the body.

She had suffered too for all these years.  Nobody can or will ever begin to understand.

Her actions in all their excess were her way of gaining release for a lifetime culmination of distress and enforced tolerance.

There would be no crocodile tears for the passing of a loved one.

Still to this day, five years on, now married to a man she purports to love, a selfie picture of the widow at the Crocodile River on that May day serves as a screensaver on a smartphone and profile for social media.

It is irrefutable yet damning evidence that there are, of course, two sides to every story.

THE JESUIT PRIEST

Yesterday, in a coffee shop in a town in a faraway land, I met a Jesuit priest.

While drinking a capuccino latte and eating a sugar-coated cinammon doughnut, I made my one and only confession.

I confessed that I was not a catholic, that I did not know the meaning of the word, that I believed in the notion of God but not the Christian one which affiliated with Jesus as its figurehead.

Years ago, I watched ‘The Mission’ and only last week I watched ‘Silence’, directed by American Martin Scorcese.

As I understand it, the essence of both films was that a soldier of Jesus Christ, defined as a Jesuit, should go to a foreign land and spread the gospel of the Christian faith.

Or do I mean the catholic faith?

Why is it that I spell Christian with a capital letter and catholic without?

I became intrigued to learn that the supreme head of the catholic church, the Roman Pontiff himself, the Pope, elected to that position in March 2013, was a Jesuit priest.

There was a wry smile and a short shriek of laughter from the Jesuit priest sitting in my presence.

The sudden clasp of our hands and looking into each other’s eyes was a touching moment of unforgettable silence.

As I now know, the Jesuit priesthood was a religious order formed in 1534 by a Spanish soldier by the name of Ignatius Loyola.

To become a Jesuit priest, the man told me, entailed the taking of vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for a lifetime.

Jesuits, like Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines and other such religious orders, are not attached to a diocesan parish church like their secular brothers.  Nor are they accountable to bishops.

Jesuits are licensed by the Pope himself to spread the gospel, so to speak.

Forgive the abrasiveness of my thinking but I must stand to question the need at all to evangelize and apostasize in the twenty-first century to a seemingly well-educated, science-orientated, objective-thinking global populus.

And what is apostasy if it is not to be defiant based on rational opinion or belief about a system, authority or situation perceived to be different?

I could see all too clearly in the eyes of the Jesuit priest that he had abandoned nothing or no one in his absolute determination of human faith.

He was no defector,  no deserter, no whistleblower, no rebel, no mutineer, no betrayer of his nation state.

There are, of course, pockets of civilisation in underdeveloped countries but I am not dissuaded from thinking that the Jesuit Priest is overstepping the boundaries of his mission.

So why does he sit before me?

And why do I sit with him?

It was I who traced him on the internet by social media.  It was I who requested the meeting taking place between us today.

This is a Jesuit priest of the twenty first century who has a smartphone at his fingertips, an online presence, wears a baseball cap and can speak seven languages fluently.

This is my confession.

His mission has taken on a different sphere, a bit like an astronaut going into space to explore the unknown, the universe.

Yes, that is it.  Catholicism means Universal.

Except there are those Christians in the world who have declared themselves to be protestants, lutherans, anglicans, prestbyterians, orthodox.

Today is actually Sunday Twenty-Third of April.

The Jesuit Priest knows it is the celebrated birthday of William Shakespeare, the English playwright who came from the town of Stratford upon Avon.

He takes the words right out of my mouth when he refers to the harbouring of Jesuit priests in the Shakespeare family home by William’s father John and the hiding of the sacred Borromeo testament.

He has never been to England but I hail from that town and I have so many times been to the famous cottage on Henley Street where the events he vividly described supposedly took place.

His ‘take’ on the historical events were different from mine but it mattered not.

Once a lawyer, I am now an English teacher and I have a mission in my life too to teach students the English language so that they can, possibly, have a better, brighter future.

The mission of the Jesuit Priest and the English teacher, it seems, though not fused, is therefore linked and the same.  To deliver a message.

The charming young waitress serves us both a second (free) cup of coffee.  I take another bite of my delicious doughnut.

The clock on the huge white church which shadows the  square strikes eleven on this April Sunday morning.

The hearty congregation disperse into the environs of this northern Indonesian coastal city.

Sunday school, alas, was a long time ago in my life but suddenly I am reminded that catechism, another word I did not fully understand,  is no more than explaining belief as a compilation of doctrine and teachings.

It always remains open to question but I have got the message.

What we nearly all accept today is that there are many different intepretations of faith besides our own and we should not be so stubborn or short-sighted as to believe that ours is the only way.

Not today.  Not any day.  Not any way.

The Jesuit priest has heard my confession.

There was no farewell.  No selfie.  No bill of conscience.

My soul can be at peace because, now, today, I know the truth.

THE DRUG DEALER OF KALIBATA

I asked a young lady the other night what her job was and she said that she was a drug dealer in the Kalibata district of Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta.

It was spoken in jest but I took her at her word.

She said that she had been interested in medicine ever since she went on a first aid course as a kid but she confessed to not having the ‘stomach’ to become a doctor or a nurse.

So she thought it would be okay if she pursued a healthy interest in drugs.

One day, she came home from school and told her unsuspecting parents that she wanted to be a drug dealer.

You can just imagine her parents reaction to what their thirteen year old daughter had just said.

A lock was put on the medicine cupboard within minutes and the young girl, always one to experiment with stuff, was viewed forever thereafter with suspicion.

Her parents were, however, a lot more receptive to their daughters ‘calling’, so to speak, when she made her grades at school and persuaded her parents to support her admission to Pharmaceutical College.

Her father might well have been a brain surgeon and her mother a cancer therapy specialist  but this was a ‘gal’ who had her head quite often between her knees but nevertheless firmly screwed on the right way.

Her first visitation into the world of narcotics was weaning her little Bro off the fags when he was ten years old and advising him that a little bit of the ‘white stuff’ would make his hair fall out.  Literally!

When it came to a boyfriend saying on a first date that he was on Viagra, it was time to crutch him and turn the other cheek.

Denver was, after all, just an ordinary teenager growing up in a shit-hole of a city in the third world (which was not third world at all but just thought it was or pretended it was).

And this teenage chick who was given Denver as a name because her parents got stuck for twenty-four hours at an airport of that name somewhere in the United States without ever getting to see the city.

God bless America!

In a gap year, she got to do voluntary work with poor kids in Africa (what was the name of the country again?) and she talked tougher than tough with Mexican drug barons who had no idea how to handle a drug dealer from an asian penitentiary called Kalibata somewhere on another planet.

Denver went to exotic pastures to know more about the sources of the drugs and to meet, incognito, the morons who marketed unlicensed pharmaceuticals for purely commercial gain, knowing they did more harm than good.

So much for the internet, thought Denver!

Then one day the prodigal lass grew up a bit, drew on her early years of experience …

And became the drug dealer she had always dreamed of.

In many ways she was the quiet assassin,the custodian of the Kill Pill.

Break the law and the laws of nature, you would have Denver to account to.

It was not just cosy and convenient but just plum plush and certainly handy that Denver opened her drug store smack bang next to the police station which handled the biggest jurisdiction of anti-drug law enforcement in the city of Jakarta.

Denver was ‘minting it’.

The little wench (and she was extraordinarily tiny for a lady of such stature) was on a roll and unstoppable.

She was the most popular chemist in town.

She was the Pharmaceutical Princess of Kalibata.

She was the Drug Baroness of Kalibata.

If I let you into a little secret, you won’t be able to have your cake – and eat it!

That’s the story of Denver.  Some story!

EVI L – A SEXUAL ASSASSIN

This is the story of a young girl with whom I am acquainted in Indonesia.

Her name is Evangelina but she is better  known as Evi L and she is certainly no angel.

Evi is twenty eight years old and lives in the overspill town of Cikarang to the east of Jakarta.

She is largely uneducated having only attended primary school until the age of nine.

Her mother was and still is a common prostitute, though these days, she masquerades her sexual activites through massage work in the local parlour.

Evi is not untypical of many girls in sub-culture Indonesia who were partly raised by grandparents and has no idea who her father was or is.  Nor does she care to know.

Evi is best described as a chumpy, cheerful lass with a sensual smile but lacking in creditable charisma and is certainly no raving beauty.

Men are dogs to her and it is not hard to understand why she thinks that.

Within her insular socialised islamic community, it is quite common for young girls to get married for convenience, certainly not for love.

The convenience is usually as fundamental as money to pay a few bills or a home for a bed to sleep and may be very short-lasting.

In a moment I will tell you more about Evi and her many marriages and why people call her a sexual assassin.

Evi has been married nine times.  Each marriage was of a short duration.  One only lasted a few hours.

Her victims have included an uncle, a tenant farmer, a science teacher, a taxi driver, a policeman, a building contractor, a government official, a nobody.

Evi is a prodigious man-eater and the men keep coming.

Evi is childless and will remain so because she cannot conceive.  An accident in childhood.

Evi is what you might call a modern day witch with supernatural powers over men but she knows nothing about mixing strange potions, casting spells or practicing magic.

As a muslim, she prays five times daily, wears a hijab most days, fasts and rides a motor cycle with a crash helmet.

She is the ultimate trickster.  Nobody controls her.  Her actions and behaviour seem entirely normal

So how can this be?

Men are lured into her lair and the assassination begins, though not always immediately.

Her reputation goes before her but the application of social media and jungle of fast food restaurants provide the wealthy forest for her predatorial antics.

In truth, nobody can say she kills men with intent and many die, it is said, with a wry smile on their face.

Some local folk suggest Evi is sexually diseased and transmits the disease in a dog-like way, not dissimilar to rabies.

One thing is for sure.  Evi may be crazy but she is not mad.

Evi L is the wicked witch who never stands out from the crowd.

Behind closed doors, however, a husband does not know what he is letting himself in for.

Now you might wonder how I am acquainted with this girl.

And that is a very good question.

No, I have never sought to get acquainted with her mother and nor do I have any intention whatsoever of proposing marriage to Evi.

Not under any circumstances.

Let us just say for the record that she is not my type.

I know Evi because, believe it or not, one of her jobs (and she does have more than one) is that she is a domestic helper (home help if you like or what indonesians might call a live-out maid or assistant) for one of my friends who happens to live in the Cikarang area.

And it is my friend who shared the details of the life story, such as it is, of her domestic helper.

The fact that she has social acceptance for gaining local employment and being a good muslim provides the perfect social endorsement for Evi L to go about her business.

Her next victim lies in wait.