A couple of weeks ago I saw a post on one the the blogs I admire, Novroz' Favorite Things indicating that Novroz was going to do a series of special posts on her blog honoring Indonesia's day of independence from colonial domination, celebrated on August 17. I then somehow decided to Google "independence day world wide" and found a whole list of days and countries. I noticed also that the independence day of Malaysia will be observed at the end of August. I wanted to honor these two South East Asia countries-both just a few hours from my home in Manila by posting on some short stories by Indonesia writers and then Malaysian. I think I will do a total of five posts on Indonesian short stories. I have decided to do separate posts on each writer so as to give a bit more change to spotlight the writers and also to allow a Google search on some of these not yet well know writers to find at least my post.
This is my second post on an Indonesian writer. Yesterday I posted on "Her" by Titus Basino. "Her" is a deeply moving story about a woman who adjusts in a near saintly fashion to her husband's decision to take a second wife after she had been a very good wife for a long time, giving birth to ten children. The story will stretch a bit the cultural zones of most of those in countries where a man may have only one wife. It is a story about an adultery that is not really an adultery but something way more sinister and hurtful to the woman. It also depicts that this option is open only to men. A wife in the society cannot decide to take a second husband.
"Road to Heaven" by Abidah El Khaliegy is also a story of marital cruelty and abuse but most of all it is about the purity of a mother's love. Abidah El Khaliegy is from Yogyakarta in the Central Java region of Indonesia. She is very successful professional writer having so far to her credit five novels (one made into a movie that did well in Asian markets), one collection of short stories and is also a widely anthologized poet.
"Road to Heaven" opens at the funeral of the mother of a large family. Everyone is shocked by how much younger the mother looks now than she did while alive. As people view the body her daughter watches the faces of the mourners to see their feelings. There is real love in all of the faces but one that shows an angry near jealous disdain, shamefully it is the woman's husband. We begin to learn why as the daughter has a moment of final clarity and begins either to in fact converse with her deceased mother or to imagine she does. Here is her mother's account of why the husband was upset to see she looked twenty years younger dead than when living. It is relief to be away from the husband, pure and simple.
This is a story about women as property. It is not a story of the poor but of the rich. It a story of a male belief that men have more a right to access to God than women.
There is much more in this wonderful story. It is not that long and it can be read online Here. I really urge all who have time or an interest in women's issues to read it.
I hope to post on three more Indonesian short stories in honor of Indonesian Independence Day.