Friday, October 2, 2009

Sitti Nurbaya's Padang: A Reflection Amid the Devastation

Updated 1049 6 Oct Got news from Kampung that everybody is ok. Alhamdulillah.

Updated 1542 hours 3 Oct - 618 from one kampong buried alive. 400 attending a weddingfeast dead. It is getting grim in Padang.

1626 hours 2 Oct - Good news from Padang. Alhamdulillah keluarga Kak Yus selamat. Epicentre was in Pariaman, North of Padang, meaning it is near Tasik Maninjau (Tok Adam's kampung), meaning it is not too far from Kampung Haraban (Nenek Bulan's). Perhaps equidistant to Padang and Padang is reeling in the aftermath of the earthquake. Keeping my fingers' crossed, and praying hard.

Updated 2238 hours 1 Oct - All lines leading to Padang have been cut off. No communication is possible. Awaiting updates from Krinchi. - Latiff.

And alas, Zul's contact given is his email and I am sure email communication is totally cut off at this stage.)

I was stunned tonight when I saw the devastation in Padang.

The children crying excessively in the news clip during Buletin Utama was just too much for me to bear sitting alone in my house while Akmal was away at the surau. They were in such distress.

I felt so lonely and alone.

And suddenly I found myself wiping out tears rolling down my cheek.

I didn't bat an eyelid the night before when news trickled in that Sumatra was hit by another earthquake. I mean we have had that kind of news for years. In fact it was the tsunami in Samoa that caught my attention more than the earthquake in Sumatra.

Then I didn't know it was Padang itself which was hit.

I first saw Padang from the air during a flight from Palembang to Medan 15 years ago during a business trip. From the air, Tasik Maninjau and Singkarak, and the mountains surrounding it, including Bukit Barisan looks so serene and beautiful. From there on, I knew I have to return to Padang one day.

But it took me another five years before I was able to go and enjoy Padang - it was Jejak Kasih trip for my bro and I in our quest to find the kampong of our Nenek Bulan in Bukit Tinggi. I extended the trip to include Padang as a Menjejak Sitti Nurbaya trip.

The news says that a hotel in Ambacang collapsed. Our trip took us to Ambacang (a suburb of Padang) to Sekolah Ambacang since it was suppossedly the school Sitti Nurbaya went to in the 1920s. There we were welcomed by the principal Cikgu Yus (Kak yus) who would later become a family friend to us. To be honest, I am not sure if it was this school that Nurbaya went to, but in the end it didn't matter. I have done what I wanted to do when I read that novel; at least I was there in spirit. I had traced back all her steps as described in the novel.

We also went to Gunung Padang where Sitti Nurbaya's grave reside. But there was only one grave, whereas in the novel it describes (at the end of the chapter) that there are three graves there including Syamsul's. This was also the place where Nurbaya, Syamsul and friends used to picnic when they were kids.

And Teluk Bayur. Aaah, we would never forget that song by Ernie Djohan, a song that was popular during our days in Lenggong. This is at that rumah kayu in front of JKR where Cikgu Aziz's house is now.

I am not sure how many friends and relatives that we have residing in Padang. I would think quite a few. I hope Kampung Haraban which is may over 100 kilometres North of Padang and BukitTinggi would not be affected.

And I do hope that Pagar Ruyung would be spared. Pagar Ruyung is such a treasure. If it is lost, half of the Minangkabau/Malay civilization would be lost!

Now that I have lost my phone and contact info, I would not be able to contact them to see if they are alright. I can't even contact my own siblings and would have to wait from them to hear any news. Aboy, if you are reading this, do call me and let me know if everybody is ok there in Padang please.

I do pray things will be ok for everybody in Padang - I mean everybody, and not just our friends and relatives. The children crying as shown on telly tonight was just too much to bear for me.

We have to do something to help. I know I should. The question is to find the right avenue to make sure whatever little things we could do would reach them.

Ya Allah, berikan lah kekuatan kepada mereka dalam menghadapi ujianMu.


Sitti Nurbaya is the central character - the heroine if you must, in a novel - Sitti Nurbaya - Kasih Tak Sampai - written by Marah Rusli. And if you were to engross yourself in this novel, she would be real to you. Serious. That novel and the character will have that effect on you. You will feel her warmth, her joy and her love and you will share her pain and agony.

It was a beautiful love story set in 1920s' Padang amidst the colonial Dutch and the very traditional Minang setting. You should be reading this novel if you have not. It is a must read for all Indonesian student ie part of their curricullum. I can almost guarantee it that you will have tears in your eyes.The novel is so beautifully written. You would be taken by the love affair between Nurbaya and Syamsu, and you would feel like killing Datuk Meringgih when Nurbaya decided to accept his marriage proposal. Or you would think that your world is coming to an end yourself, as if you were Syamsulf! Damn!

I read this perhaps when I was a kid, but I re-read that when I stumbled upon the book in a bookshop in Palembang (or was it Lhokseumawe?) and got mesmerized and enchanted by her all over again. My sis told me that she had read the book too when she was a kid and would cry herself silly - so to speak. Girls! ;-) Just joking my dear sis.

If I have a daughter, I would name her Nurbaya, but then again, I don't have one, so I would stick with Arif and Akmal! ;-) (Put off that smirk Aya, you are not winning this son-daughter battle with me!)

Teluk Bayur is to Padang what Port Klang is to Kuala Lumpur.

While I was writing this, my bro called and mentioned that he saw the area affected by the earthquake is in the area where Kak Yus lives. I have lost all numbers and avenue for me to call anyone in Padang, and I am feeling helpless at this moment. Hang on, I think Zul did contact me through this blog more than a year ago. All I need to do is search the comment section.

Padang (Sumatra Barat) to the uninitiated is the craddle of Malay literature. I mean beyond the tonnes of novels and literary masterpieces that originate from this area (Hamka, Marah Rusli, and many others), Pulau Pandan, which is an important island in the psyche of the Malays, is an island off the coast of Padang. So is Pulau Angsa Dua.

You should know the pantun well. It reads like this:

PUlau Pandan jauh ketengah
Dibalik Pulau Angsa Dua
Hancur badan dikandung tanah
Budi yang baik dikenang jua

I do know that the Minangs are resilient people. I know they will be alright. I hope they will be alright.

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