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Tuesday March 28th 2017

The Old Man and the Street

Hawé Setiawan

Journal | Wednesday, 26 May 2010 | sundanesecorner.org

I was in an angkot on my way to a nearby Bandung suburb on Monday when an old man next to me attracted me with his story. He identified himself uyut, and he called me asép. He is 75 years old, living in Padasuka, not far from the well-known Saung Angklung Udjo, that is a place built by the late musician Udjo Ngalagena, where people perform traditional bamboo music for tourists. He just returning from Subang, so he said, after settled a family feud on the matter of legacies. I said that I was born in Subang, and have been living in Bandung since 1980s.

For a man that has been so old, he was looked fresh and healthy. Well, he smoked a kréték cigarette with a pipe, and yet he said that he couldn’t stop smoking even though he had tried to do so. It appeared to me that he likes to talk. And his Sundanese was very familiar. I like him, for the way he talks resembled that of my late grandparents. As we were moving along the crowded street, I tried to listen to his whole story.

“I was an héiho,” said he, referring to his experience in the era of Japanese occupation. He still remembers some expressions in Japanese, about which I know nothing. After the independence, he joined Indonesian army, fighting against the insurgent militia of Darul Islam in Garut in 1940s. And he showed me his right little finger that was said of being cut in the battlefield.

As a veteran he have often visited Gedong Saté, one of colonial white houses in Bandung where the present day West Java government works. He said that high-ranking government officials, and also parliament members, obtain huge salary. “Look, a parliament member obtains a salary of amount Rp 30 million per month. But what have they done for us? Nothing, son,” he said.

At the end he gave me some moral admonitions. He quoted, among others, a Sundanese proverb: melak bonténg ngadahar bonténg, melak cabé meunang cabé, those who do wrong thing will gain bad thing, and those who do right thing will gain good thing. He also suggested me to consume laja beureum.

“And don’t forget to send your children to good schools!”

“Well, Uyut, nice to see you.”***

Vocabulary:

angkot from angkutan kota, city transport

asép from kasép, good looking son

beureum red

bonténg cucumber

cabé chilli

gedong building

héiho derived from Japanese, army in the era of Japanese occupation

kréték kind of clove cigarette which has no filter

laja a herb, cardamom

uyut from buyut, great grandfather

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