A Bandung-based poet reflects the development of his city
Lands | Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 | sundanesecorner.org
Until 1960s Bandung’s town square (well-known as ‘Alun-alun Bandung’) and its surroundings had been a centre of public amusement (and shopping). So was the historic Asia-Afrika Street. The square itself was still wide-open. Turtledoves flied and sang every morning. The present time ‘Masjid Raya’ (Grand Mosque) was still known as ‘Masjid Agung’ (Great Mosque).
At the eastern side of the square three theatres stood in a row. Elita was at the farthest north. Varia, the biggest theatre, was in the middle. And at the southern side there was Oriental. At the southern corner there was Radio City. In the era when any Dutch thing should be nationalized, the four theatres were renamed. Elita became Puspita, while Varia became Nusantara. Aneka was the new name for Oriental, so was Dian for the previous Radio City.
In turn, the three old theatres were strangely demolished. And there appeared a shopping mall. The new building was called Palaguna Nusantara. It was poet Wahyu Wibisana that found the name. It was a three-storey building. Four storeys, to be more precise, for it had also a parking lot at the basement. Shops occupied the first floor, selling textile fabrics, audiocassettes, and clothing. Above it there were culinary stalls. And theatres occupied the highest floor. At the northern side of the building there was Bank Duta ‘Duta Bank’, one of the president’s family toys.
Palaguna was then the first shopping mall ever built in Bandung. It was the only of the kind in the city. Very busy. Many came from surrounding regencies for shopping or enjoying movies.
For some reason, however, the building was becoming more and more deserted. The theatres were finally closed. The sellers moved to another places. The previous crowded and sparkly place had become dreary, bleak, and no one was willing to come.
Some said that one of the reasons was the parking area. Bandungers were reluctant to go for shopping in the area that has no parking space. What causes Asia-Africa Street, to the west of the square, until now less interesting is the difficulty to find parking space nearby.
What a poor place. Such a magnificent building was eventually abandoned. And it didn’t just happen on Palaguna. Miramar building, at the northern corner, faced the same fate. The same is true for Sumur Bandung bookstore.
The news spread lately that Palaguna would be renewed. It was the new elect Vice Governor Deddy Mizwar that said it. According to the former film actor, it would be transformed into the largest library in the city. About a year later, however, we heard another story. People say that what will be built at the place was not a library but a shopping mall. Inside the mall there would be a bookstore. And the library? Forget it.
At once people expressed a protest. Why build another mall? There had been many-deserted mall. The protest was increasingly hard when people heard the news that it was Dian one of the old buildings that would be demolished. Don’t destroy the city’s heritage!
I have no ideas of what will happen. Deddy Mizwar must have certain purpose by speaking about Palaguna. The fact that he swiftly forgets about the library seems to be understandable for he doesn’t come from book lover communities. What he has said so many times in so many occasions is his dream to build a movie theatre in every West Java’s city. Cinemas and libraries are usually very far apart.
The land where Palaguna is located has high economic value. It must be expensive. It attracts many businessmen. Businessmen know well how to amuse statesmen. Once it was said that a businessman from Jakarta visited a government official in West Java. They chatted informally. And when the guests left the room, the officer saw a pair of car keys with a complete vehicle registration papers.
That’s what happened before the Reformation. Many have changed since that time. The Corruption Eradication Commission recently arrested Constitutional Court Chief Justice in bribery scandal. And so did several mayors, regents, and governors.***
—Abdullah Mustappa is Bandung-based poet and editor of Sundanese weekly magazine Manglé. By his kind permission, the article above is translated by Hawé Setiawan from Sundanese.