I had a good day with the children today despite my mood was kinda ruined in the morning because of a guy in the bus. So this guy got on the bus and started to sing (in a very soft almost unheard voice), i gave him coins out of pity (despite his nonsens intention to really sing), which confusingly resulted in him sitting next to me and asking me a lot of questions. Where I was going, what I was to do there, etc etc. In every turn or bump, he moved his shoulder and thigh/leg to touch mine, until I was cornered to the window, and he talked with his face was close to mine, which was very terrifying and disgusting. It was still morning and only few people were there in the bus. Anytime I moved my leg away from his leg, he would stare bluntly at me, I could see it from the side of my eye. I wanted to get off the bus but I was afraid he would too. What if I shoved him and he brought a knife? When he started to ask me questions about my religion, my relationship status, and said that he wanted to follow me, I felt really bugged. I remember I read somewhere that sexual harassment has become culture because women think it is futile to fight back. So when he accused me of lying about my marital status (which I did, I told him that I am married), I yelled at him. Then he laughed at me, as if it was something rather cute or funny, like a puppy barking to a thief. I was really angry, and I thought to myself, that men’s demeaning attitude towards women transcends anything. Whether you’re poor, rich, ugly, politically powerful or whatever, for these culprits, you’re prey. And it pisses me off so much the fact that I am scared of him. I wonder why I’m scared. Is it instinctually (he’s physically bigger than me), or is it his social status? Whatever it is, we still are in the culture where he believes he has the ‘substance’ to overpower me. Did I believe it too? I want to say no, but hell I was afraid of him tells that I believe he is ‘stronger’ than me. Was it culturally or physically? I hope the latter. I try to analyze this to get rid of irrational fears, if there’s any. The exasperating thing is, sometimes, whether you look scared or ignore them, whether you tell them to go to hell or yell at them, it still fucking entertains them. But anyhoo, I’m okay, I was off the bus, I trembled, I texted my boyfriend just to let my feelings out, and I proceeded my way to the slum.
(I should’ve known that he is not a real busker. He has no intention singing to be heard. He is just.. well i dont know what he is, but he speaks really slow like a stoned guy, and he had a ‘handmade’ tattoo on his hand, the one that you could see is made by puncturing self with needles)
I finally reach the slum. There is not so many children today because it is already school holiday for most. Some are playing, some help mothers in the market, some go to relatives, etc. Sali, the enthusiast boy I spoke about, is already there when I come. The others are not there yet so I start to chat with him to get to know him. I ask him when is his birthday, he says he doesn’t know. I ask him what month, he says he doesn’t know. I tell him, why don’t you ask your mother. He says he barely sees his mother because she goes to work very early in the morning.What does your mother do?Peanut…Frying peanut?No, sorting peanuts..
I learn more about these kids and lives here from the tutor. Some kids have full support by the parents, and some not. Some still goes busking, and those who are supported usually only work during the holiday, like helping the father scavenging, and sells the items collected by the kilos. It is unbelievable how much sacrifice they have to do to go to school. At the other side of the slum, there’s another slum that also has children centre (under the same organization) in it. I could see it from up the overpass bridge.
The slum where I work (if i can say) a nice slum. It’s clean, the children are rather innocent, and the people are nice. The other slum, based on the tutor’s account who also works there, is worse. There’s more prostitution and sometimes husbands sell their own wives for money. It is full of garbage, it stinks and is damp, people pee on walls, there’s loud music, and more kids go on the street to beg or busk. An interesting thing is… albeit dominated by muslim/religious people, people (adults) shower in a shared public shower that has no walls around it. Nudity is natural, showering is natural. Whats the fuss. The tutor thinks that they have no concept of shame but I think it’s a curious phenomenon, considering this is a modern city (and also religious society). I guess they do bring their village to the city.
Anyway class went well, we made art&craft and learned numbers in English. I will not see them in the next two weeks for Lebaran Holiday. I wish to start making materials for this module. I go back after accompanying the tutor to shop for onions and ketchup in the market (she’s amazing, really). I go back to Kampung Melayu. Get on the bus, look around, and for safety I choose to sit next to a woman. Although after I think about it, I wouldn’t do it again next time, I don’t want to generalize men, and more importantly I don’t want to be scared of men. I stop at Cikini to shop for grocery and to have lunch and sit and rest a little bit. I think of the children. The man that I see scavenging on filthy garbage everyday could easily be their father. There’s a corner near my old house, where every night, a man waits outside with his cart to rummaging the garbage. There’s a rat hole in there, I see rats around him when he forage the trash. He collects mineral water bottles.
I take another bus to my house. Two buskers get in. They dressed neatly, one with guitar and one with percussion. I though to myself, now this is real musician buskers! The guy with the mini guitar smiled enthusiastically and greeted everybody:“Assalamualaikum wr. wb untuk saudara/saudari, dan Salam Sejahtera untuk saudara2 yang bukan beragama Islam. Kami akan bernyanyi untuk mencari nafkah, apabila saat kami mencari nafkah, Anda merasa terganggu, kami mohon maaf” -Assalamualaikum for brothers and sisters, and greetings for everybody who is not Muslim. We are going to sing to earn for our living. If you feel discomforted of our way of earning for living, we apologize to you…
They start to play the instruments and one starts to sing..I don’t remember the lyrics.. but I remember him singing “I can only turn to you„, I will always try to be my best..”They sing really beautifully it makes me see the beauty of the strength that springs from weakness, an extraordinary resilience that derives from fragility. And suddenly in the heat of the sun in an old ugly bus, tear came out from my eyes. Emotions that I have repressed since morning bursted out. Fear, anger, sadness, amazement, and love… I just want to be a good person..