Berjuang menjadi diri sendiri

Tinggal di pondok pinggiran kota. Dindingnya anyaman bambu, lubang-lubangnya ditutupi kotoran sapi. Benda-benda yang belum terjual, dia simpan di bawah bayang* bambu tempatnya tidur.” Nenek miskin namun dia dapatkan lagi martabatnya. Betapapun berat hidupnya, nenek berjalan dengan kepala tegak. Teladannya mengajariku bahwa tak seorangpun terlalu jatuh tanpa pernah bangkit lagi. Selama tahun-tahun pengasingan yang keras di pulau Buru, ingatanku kepada nenek membuatku tetap bertahan.

What They Did With Their Lives

Apa yang mereka lakukan dengan hidup mereka

nenek satimah

Grandmother SATIMA and mother SAIDAH, according to Pramoedya Ananta Toer, made him who he is

Nenek SATIMA dan ibu SAIDAH lah, menurut Pramoedya Ananta Toer, telah mendidiknya menjadi sebagaimana kita mengenalnya

Two women gave me life. Two women of one flesh and blood, but sundered by fate. Two women who then defied that fate. Two women who taught me that the individual matters, above anyone or anything else. Two women who are my heroes.

Dua orang perempuan telah memberiku kehidupan. Dua perempuan anak beranak, yang dipisahkan oleh takdir. Dua perempuan yang kemudian menolak takdir itu. Dua perempuan yang mengajariku bahwa tiap orang berarti, di atas orang lain atau hal lain. Dua perempuan pahlawanku.

I don’t know when my grandmother Satima was born—back then, during the 1890s, they didn’t keep records—but it was in a fishing village in central Java, near the town of Rembang. By all accounts she was a pretty girl. Pretty enough to catch the eye of the powerful head of local religious affairs, a Javanese man working for the colonial Dutch administration. She was taken by this man in marriage and became what was known as a “practice wife,” a woman who fulfilled a man’s personal and sexual needs until he decided to marry a woman of his own class. She slept with him and helped take care of his Rembang residence, a sprawling complex of houses, pavilions, stables and even a mosque. The “marriage” bestowed prestige on my grandmother back at her fishing village because she was seen to have ascended to a higher class. But it did not take long for her to fall to earth. The Javanese man owned her, and he could discard her—which he did after she had given birth to a baby girl, my mother Saidah. My grandmother was just 14.

Aku tak tahu kapan nenek Satima lahir – kira-kira tahun 1890-an, tidak ada catatan – tetapi beliau lahir di sebuah desa nelayan di Jawa Tengah, dekat kota Rembang. Semua riwayat menyebutkan dia gadis cantik. Cukup cantik untuk memikat Kepala KUA wilayah, pria Jawa yang bekerja untuk pemerintah kolonial Belanda. Dia dinikahi oleh pria ini dan menjadi “selir”, seorang perempuan yang memenuhi kebutuhan pribadi dan seksual seorang pria hingga pria itu memutuskan untuk menikahi wanita lain yang sederajat dengannya. Dia tidur dengannya dan membantu merawat kediamannya di Rembang, kompleks bangunan yang megah terdiri dari banyak rumah, paviliun, kandang, bahkan sebuah masjid. “Perkawinan” ini menaikkan pamor nenek di desa nelayannya karena dia dipandang turunan golongan ningrat. Tapi itu tidak lama. Pamornya segera jatuh kembali. Pria Jawa memilikinya, dan bisa membuangnya – yang dia lakukan setelah nenek melahirkan bayi perempuan, ibuku Saidah. Nenek masih 14 tahun.

So young, yet my grandmother was already a nobody. No husband, no home, no child (my mother was taken away from her to remain at Rembang), no job. Too ashamed to return to her village, she instead made her way south to the town of Blora. There, she met and married an itinerant worker. But everything this new husband tried—farming, selling soup, hawking spare parts—he failed at; he was a loser and when he drifted away, she decided she was better off without him. The accumulated heartbreak over the years would have been enough to shatter anyone, but not my grandmother. She resolved to no longer depend on others, on men, just on herself.

Dengan usia begitu muda, nenek sudah bukan siapa-siapa lagi. Tanpa suami, rumah dan anak [ibuku diambil dari nenek untuk tetap tinggal di Rembang], dan menganggur. Sangat malu untuk kembali ke desanya, dia memutuskan pergi ke Blora selatan. Di sana dia bertemu dan menikah dengan pengusaha keliling. Namun apapun yang suami barunya usahakan – bertani, berjualan sayur, berjualan onderdil – selalu gagal; dia seorang pecundang dan saat dia hanyut dalam kegagalan, nenek memutuskan dia lebih baik tanpa suaminya. Kekecewaan yang terkumpul bertahun-tahun sudah cukup menghancurkan hidup seseorang, tapi tidak bagi nenek. Nenek bertekad untuk tidak bergantung pada orang lain, pada laki-laki, hanya bergantung pada dirinya sendiri.

It was my grandmother I wrote about in my novel Girl from the Coast: “Her skin was golden, her body small and slender. Each day she carried a large basket tied to her back by a length of cloth. She went to the houses of the nobles. She bought old clothing, empty bottles, even broken things, then sold them in the marketplace. She lived in a hut on the edge of town. The walls were of woven bamboo, the holes plastered over with cow dung. Anything she couldn’t sell, she stored under the wooden platform on which she slept.” My grandmother was poor, but she had regained her dignity. No matter how hard life was, she walked with her head high. Her example taught me that no one is ever too down to never come up again. During my harsh years of incarceration on Buru Island, my memory of her enabled me to keep going.

Dialah nenekku yang kutulis di novelku Gadis dari Pantai: “Kulitnya keemasan, tubuhnya kecil dan ramping. Tiap hari dia menggendong keranjang besar yang terikat di punggungnya memakai selendang. Pergi ke rumah orang-orang kaya. Membeli baju bekas, botol kosong bahkan barang-barang yang rusak, lalu menjualnya ke pasar. Tinggal di pondok pinggiran kota. Dindingnya anyaman bambu, lubang-lubangnya ditutupi kotoran sapi. Benda-benda yang belum terjual, dia simpan di bawah bayang* bambu tempatnya tidur.” Nenek miskin namun dia dapatkan lagi martabatnya. Betapapun berat hidupnya, nenek berjalan dengan kepala tegak. Teladannya mengajariku bahwa tak seorangpun terlalu jatuh tanpa pernah bangkit lagi. Selama tahun-tahun pengasingan yang keras di pulau Buru, ingatanku kepada nenek membuatku tetap bertahan.

My mother Saidah, meanwhile, was living a very different life—at least for a while. Though she was a girl—and merely the daughter of a concubine —she was privileged, even if she did not quite possess the status granted children of her father’s “main” wife from his own social class. She didn’t have to lift her finger for anything; she was even forbidden from entering the kitchen. The plentiful servants took care of all that. My mother also received a good education. The Dutch encouraged schooling for women, and Javanese aristocrats followed suit, if only so their women could converse intelligently with their Dutch counterparts.

Sementara ibuku Saidah kehidupannya sangat berbeda – setidaknya untuk sementara. Meskipun dia seorang perempuan – dan hanya putri seorang selir – dia beruntung, meski jika dia tidak menyandang status anak angkat dari istri “utama” ayahnya dari kelas ningrat sang ayah. Ibu tidak perlu mengangkat apapun, bahkan dilarang memasuki dapur. Banyak pelayan mengurusi hal-hal itu. Ibu juga mendapat pendidikan yang baik. Belanda mendukung pendidikan untuk perempuan, dan bangsawan Jawa mengikutinya, sebab hanya demikian yang membuat para perempuan Jawa bisa bergaul dengan baik dengan rekan-rekan Belanda-nya.

My mother met my father Toer at home. The Dutch rented rooms in the huge Rembang house for their staff, and Toer lived there because he was a government teacher. The stepmother encouraged their relationship—she had children of her own to raise and wanted my mother out of the house. After they married, my parents left for Blora, where my father got a job at a school promoting nationalist teachings. Saidah helped run the school, raised funds to pay the salaries of teachers (they never got any money from the central administration), printed a school newsletter, opened a kindergarten for poor children, planted crops on our small parcel of land and brought up eight children, of whom I was the eldest. She read all the time—in English, Dutch, Javanese, Arabic—and she read to me.

Ibu bertemu ayahku Toer di rumah. Belanda menyewa kamar-kamar di rumah Rembang yang megah untuk para staf, dan Toer tinggal di sana karena dia guru pemerintah. Ibu tiri Ibu mendorong hubungan mereka – dia punya anak sendiri dan dia ingin ibu keluar. Setelah keduanya menikah, orangtuaku pindah ke Blora, di mana ayah mendapat pekerjaan di sekolah yang mengajarkan ajaran-ajaran nasionalis. Saidah membantu menjalankan sekolah itu, mencari dana untuk membayar para guru [mereka tak pernah mendapat bantuan dari pemerintah pusat], mencetak brosur sekolah, membuka taman kanak-kanak untuk anak-anak miskin, menanam padi di tanah kami yang sempit dan membesarkan delapan anak, aku yang sulung. Ibu selalu membaca setiap saat – dalam bahasa Inggris, Belanda, Jawa dan Arab – dan dia mendongeng untukku.

Saidah grew to believe fervently in the nationalist cause. Independence—for herself and her nation—became her rallying cry. She insisted that just as a people have to be in charge of their own destiny, so must an individual be in control of her life. She pushed me to excel at school (urging me to persist when I wanted to quit after failing sixth grade), to complete my studies and to enroll in a vocational institute in Surabaya where I learned to be a radio operator. She taught me to love to work, that it didn’t matter what I did, so long as I did not do it for the colonial government—because that would be tantamount to participating in the colonization of our own people. Never beg, my mother stressed, never ask for something you don’t deserve. Even if it’s just a school notebook, obtain it yourself rather than have it given to you. I bought into the idea of self-sufficiency. With the money we made selling produce at the market, I bought some hens. With the money selling eggs, I bought some goats, and so on. I have been independent ever since.

Saidah menjadi amat meyakini pergerakan nasionalis. Dia menyerukan kemerdekaan untuknya dan untuk bangsanya. Dia yakin bahwa jika seseorang harus bertanggungjawab terhadap takdirnya sendiri, maka seseorang itu harus mengendalikan kehidupannya. Dia mendorongku untuk berprestasi di sekolah [mendesakku untuk bertahan saat aku hendak keluar karena tidak naik kelas enam], menyelesaikan studiku dan mendaftar ke institut kejuruan di Surabaya di mana aku belajar menjadi operator radio. Dia mengajariku mencintai pekerjaan, bahwa tidak penting apa yang aku lakukan, selama aku tidak melakukannya untuk pemerintah kolonial. Jangan mengemis, ibuku tekankan, jangan meminta sesuatu yang bukan hakmu. Meskipun itu hanya sebuah buku tulis, carilah sendiri daripada diberi. Aku belajar mandiri dari ibu. Dengan uang yang kami dapat dari berjualan di pasar, aku membeli beberapa ayam betina. Dengan uang hasil jualan telur, aku membeli domba, dan seterusnya. Aku menjadi mandiri sejak itu.

Now the story takes what would be a fictional turn—if it weren’t astonishingly true. One day, a woman showed up at our home seeking our old and unused household items to resell. My mother asked her to come in and sit down. They started talking. The first question we Indonesians habitually ask strangers is where they are from. The visitor replied Rembang. Me too, my mother said. In a big house on the square. And so, mother and daughter rediscovered each other—after nearly 20 years. They displayed little emotion. They had hardly ever known each other, and they were too different: one illiterate, the other educated, one poor, the other relatively well-off. My mother invited her mother to stay with us; she refused. She never said why, but I figured it was because she did not want to be beholden to anyone, not even her daughter, her only child. What the two women had in common—stubborn individualism—is what prevented them from growing closer.

Sekarang cerita berubah bagaikan fiksi – jika bukan kisah nyata yang menakjubkan. Suatu hari, seorang perempuan muncul di rumah kami mencari barang-barang bekas untuk dijual lagi. Ibu mempersilakannya masuk dan duduk. Mereka mulai ngobrol. Kebiasaan kami orang Indonesia pada orang asing adalah pertama bertanya darimana dia berasal. Tamu itu menjawab dari Rembang. Saya juga, kata ibu. Di sebuah rumah besar di taman. Demikianlah, seorang ibu dan putrinya kembali bertemu – setelah hampir 20 tahun. Mereka terharu. Mereka hampir tidak mengenal satu sama lain, dan mereka amat berbeda: satu buta huruf, lainnya terdidik, satu miskin, lainnya relatif mampu. Ibu mengajak ibunya untuk tinggal bersama kami; dia menolak. Dia tak pernah memberitahu mengapa, menurutku dia tidak ingin menjadi beban siapapun, meskipun dia adalah puterinya, anak satu-satunya. Keduanya punya kesamaan – individu yang keras kepala – yang mencegah mereka tumbuh lebih dekat satu sama lain.

I visited my grandmother often in her shack. But the time she really needed me, I was not there. My mother had died from tuberculosis and post-labor complications. To support the family, I worked in Jakarta as a typist for a Japanese news agency. I am not sure what exactly happened, but this is what my siblings later told me. Grandmother Satima was at our place in Blora when she complained of stomach pain and said she wanted to return to her shack. My family tried to persuade her to stay, but she refused—she did not want to trouble anyone. She left to walk home, and died by the roadside, quietly, alone.

Aku sering mengunjungi nenek di gubuknya. Namun saat dia benar-benar membutuhkanku, aku tidak di sana. Ibu meninggal karena TBC dan komplikasi. Untuk menafkahi keluarga aku bekerja sebagai juru ketik untuk kantor berita Jepang di Jakarta. Aku tidak tahu pasti apa yang terjadi, tapi inilah yang diceritakan saudara-saudara kandungku. Nenek Satima sedang di rumah kami di Blora saat dia mengeluh sakit perut dan ingin kembali ke gubuknya. Keluargaku berusaha membujuknya untuk tinggal, tapi ditolaknya – dia tak ingin membebani siapapun. Dia berjalan pulang, dan meninggal di pinggir jalan, dengan tenang, sendiri.

Neither my grandmother nor my mother are forgotten. The literal meaning of the Indonesian word for hero, pahlawan, is a person—not someone necessarily great, just a regular person—whose life benefits others. My grandmother and mother benefited me. They are my role models. They live in all the many strong women characters who people my writings. And they live in all the people who have ever had to fight to be themselves. Neither my grandmother nor my mother are forgotten. The literal meaning of the Indonesian word for hero, pahlawan, is a person—not someone necessarily great, just a regular person—whose life benefits others. My grandmother and mother benefited me. They are my role models. They live in all the many strong women characters who people my writings. And they live in all the people who have ever had to fight to be themselves.

Ibu dan nenek takkan terlupakan. Makna harfiah dari hero, pahlawan, adalah seseorang – bukan harus orang besar, sekedar orang biasa – yang hidupnya bermanfaat bagi orang lain. Nenek dan ibu bermanfaat bagiku. Mereka adalah teladanku. Mereka hidup di semua karakter perempuan kuat yang menempati tulisan-tulisanku. Dan mereka hidup pada semua orang yang pernah berjuang menjadi diri sendiri.

Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesia’s most celebrated writer, is the author of The Buru Quartet, among other books.

sumber: http://www.time.com/time/asia/features/heroes/women.html
*bayang adalah tempat tidur sederhana, terbuat dari bambu.

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