FAITH IN INDONESIA

FAITH IN INDONESIA
The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Saturday, May 02, 2015

MIRACLE CURE - OR JUST ANOTHER FAD?

I’ve got a lovely brunch of coconut oil                                 

Foreigners learning Indonesian get cautioned against muddling kelapa with kepala – and for good reason.
One is the fruit of cocos nucifera, the other the head of homo sapiens, and the chances of confusion and embarrassment are great.  
So no wonder Zainal Gani shied at the label ‘Doctor Coconut’.  However being a jovial fellow he happily suggested ‘Doctor Santan’ after the juice from the white endosperm lining the inside of the shell, and usually, though incorrectly, called coconut meat.

For the former Malang hospital doctor is convinced that a diet rich in coconut products, particularly santan and virgin coconut oil [VCO], is the answer to many ills.
Despite being slim and fit Dr Zainal, 69, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes more than 30 years ago, a condition probably inherited.
The metabolic disorder that creates high blood sugar can be controlled through exercise and a strict diet.  For Dr Zainal this meant abandoning coffee, sugar, rice and fizzy drinks – and ensuring his daily menu included a cup of santan and a spoonful of VCO.
This is the liquid pressed out of the santan, and if the process doesn’t involve fermentation or the use of enzymes and preservatives then it should be odorless, clear and have a two-year shelf life.
“I did a lot of research, including books from overseas, and concluded that coconuts have many health qualities,” he said.  “The food is nutritious, vitamin rich and high in fiber.  It can help reduce weight and blood sugar.
“I know there’s been some criticism of coconut diets in the West [see breakout] but I’m not concerned.
“When I was practising as a doctor maybe 20 per cent of my patients, apart from those who’d had an accident, could find their problems reduced if not resolved with a change of diet rather than a chemical pill
“Hippocrates [the ancient Greek physician] said: ‘Let food be thy medicine, and medicine thy food’. That’s my philosophy.”
When he retired Dr Zainal and his wife Arliek Rio Julia, who is also a doctor, decided to back their beliefs and produce their own products under the label Vico Bagoes.  Some bottles found their way to Denpasar in Bali where they were picked up by visiting Japanese searching for VCO.
The businesspeople bought samples from different manufacturers and subjected them to a sniff and taste test.   Dr Zainal’s product passed. More analysis, this time in laboratories. After a year of negotiations his company is now shipping 2,000 liters a month.
The Japanese want double that quantity, but Dr Zainal’s daughter Arni Rahmawati, who looks after product development, said the policy was to advance slowly.
“We believe we’re the only Indonesian company using centrifugal processing and exporting VCO to Japan,” she said. “Till now the Philippines has been the main supplier.  The Japanese don’t want fermented VCO, though this produces a greater yield than our mechanical system.”
Every seven-hour day 30 workers handle 1,800 coconuts.  The nuts are imported from Bali, because these have a higher oil content.  The ‘meat’ is scooped out of the shell by hand and  shredded by machine.


This mash is then forced through a screw press (right) that squeezes out the juice – a process that’s conducted nine times. The resulting VCO is then put through a centrifuge to spin out any surviving contaminants.
VCO is as clear as water and retailed locally for Rp 25,000 [US$2] for a 130 millilitre bottle, though some outlets charge double.
The Indonesian market was going well till 2008 when foul smelling VCO [not from Dr Zainal’s company] got a bad press.
“Getting into the export market, particularly Japan which is serious about standards is a major advance,” Arni (below, lefy) said. “We can do this only because we maintain high levels of hygiene. That means having our staff understand the importance of quality control.  We have regular meetings to explain what’s happening.
“We want to develop a use for by-products. The husks go to make charcoal and other waste becomes rabbit food, but we must be more efficient.” 
The so-called milk, spilled when the coconut is split, goes down the drain.  It could be trapped and sold, but preservation is a problem as it rapidly goes rancid.
Dr Zainal said his family has so much faith in the future that they are building a new warehouse and buying equipment. “I don’t know how much we’ve spent,” he said. “Whatever we earn goes back into the business. 
“Trying to understand the best processing system has been a trial and error affair and taken a long time.  I just wish the government would support research and development to help people get into exporting.”
Indonesia and the Philippines jostle for top spot in the ranks of coconut producers, but Indonesian exports are usually the whole fruit, with processing and value-adding done overseas

Science fact – or diet fad?
The coconut craze is one of the latest diets to be promoted in the West, with one book claiming the tropical fruits have a ‘secret ingredient’ that helps slimmers lose weight while indulging on other foods.
On line retailer Amazon has 16 titles, mainly published in the US, featuring coconut diets to help shed kilos effortlessly. 
However not all health authorities are convinced the big nut is superfood, the answer to obesity and heart disease.
The Dieticians Association of Australia website claims ‘foods rich in saturated fat [such as coconut oil] are linked with a higher risk of heart disease, and eating high fat foods, which are therefore higher in energy, makes weight control more difficult’.
 Last year the New Zealand Heart Foundation issued a ‘position statement’ which said: ‘The wide range of research often quoted to support use of coconut oil is largely based on animal studies.’
The ‘facts’ flung by both sides in the debate include references to trans fats, lauric acid, enzymes and other substances only the scientifically well educated can understand.
Confused?  Best seek the advice of a health professional you trust.
##
(First published in The Jakarta Post 29 April 2015)






Monday, April 27, 2015

GETTING TO KNOW JAVA

So many wonders, so little time                                           
What past has Japan and Indonesia shared? Most would think in terms of conflict and car sales, yet the links go back centuries.
Despite the World War II occupation and disputes over investment culminating in the 1974 anti-Japanese riots when Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka was in Jakarta, business has bloomed.  Japan is now Indonesia’s foremost trading partner – and friend.
A recent BBC World Service survey found 82 per cent of Indonesians polled really like the Japanese. Maybe they understand there’s a longer history. If so this is their book.
The two nations’ relationship pre-dates the arrival of the colonial Dutch in 1595, but Java Essay starts 45 years later when the Japanese government issued its Sakoko [National Isolation] Edict and began expelling Christians.
Among the deportees was Haru, or Jeronima Marino, a Catholic teen.  Her parents were Nicholas Marino, an Italian ship’s pilot and Maria, a Japanese.  After a two month 3,700 kilometer journey Haru, her mother and a sister arrived in Batavia [now Jakarta] at the start of 1640.
The colonialists were already employing Japanese as mercenaries and traders with the Dutch East India Company, VOC.  One was Simons Simonsen who married Haru five years after she arrived.
Like his bride he’d been born in Nagasaki Province to a European father.  The couple had three sons and four daughters.  Haru died aged 72, unusual longevity for the times.
There’s much more to know about this and other stories thanks to the scholarship of Masatoshi [Toshi] Iguchi, an unlikely person to develop a deep interest in Java.
The man is a polymath. Trained as a macromolecular scientist he received a PhD in textile engineering from the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1966.  He then spent most of his career in government research laboratories.
In 1994 he was seconded to a lab in Bandung for two years. After retirement and several prizes he got a fellowship for further research in Bogor. By then he’d been seduced by ‘the dramatic history and beautiful culture of Java.’  So it was farewell polymers and welcome ethnography.
 In 2004 he translated the 1921 and 1929 travelogues of Marquis Tokugawa into English as Journeys to Java.  In 2006 it was published in Indonesian as Perjalanan Menoejoe Djawa by the Institut Teknologi Bandung.
Dr Toshi describes the Marquis as ‘an enlightened liberal Japanese aristocrat who was educated as a biologist and historian.’ It’s possible he may also have been spying on Dutch military strengths as did other pre-war Japanese visitors, though Dr Toshi thinks this most unlikely.   
Dr Toshi’s Java Essay was released in Japanese in 2013.  Now aged 77 he’s produced an English version, updated, added more photos and for good measure typeset the copy.  In e-mail correspondence he explained that the task would have been too difficult for others as it includes words and characters in English, Dutch, Indonesian, Javanese, Japanese and Chinese. 
His style is occasionally a little old fashioned.  Companions include ‘Mr AB’ and a curator called ‘Mrs E’ [later revealed as Raden Ayhu Ekowati Sundari], giving the book the feel of a Sherlock Holmes novel or a list of Indonesian police suspects. 
Starting a sentence with:  ‘Let us depart from the world of fiction’ is quaint, but creates an intimacy that bonds the reader to this self-described ‘humble scientist’. 
In keeping with his modesty Dr Toshi doesn’t like his photo taken.  A pity; it should be circulated among Indonesian tour guides with the caption: Beware!  Double check facts if this guy’s in your group.
 He queries the naming of the Arjunawiwaha [Arjuna’s victory] statue at Jakarta’s Independence Square because: ‘Krishna does not appear in the poetic Kakawin Arjunawiwaha  composed as a branch tale of the Ramayana in 14th century Java.’ Arjuna is a character in the Hindu epic the Mahabharata. Kakawin is a narrative poem.
He finds a collection of fossils ‘really fantastic’ and when stopping for a meal between sites uses the time to develop a treatise on 17th century potato exports from Jagatara [Jakarta] to Japan. He eventually deduces that the first spud arrived in Nagasaki on a Portuguese ship in 1576.
On encountering a bust of the plump-lipped Gajah Mada, the Prime Minister hero of the Majapahit Era in East Java’s Trowulan Museum, Dr Toshi asks: ‘Does not his face look treacherous?’  Insult or insight?
The latter, for the Japanese scholar knows the little publicized tragedy of the Field of Bubat when a wedding party was betrayed and massacred.
In 1357 the Sundanese Royal Family brought Princess Citra Rashmi aka Pitaloka, to Trowulan to marry the Majapahit King Hayam Wuruk, hoping to cement ties between East and West Java.
But Gajah Mada had other ideas.  He said the Princess would not be a queen but a concubine. Despite being heavily outnumbered the outraged Sundanese refused. The guests were slaughtered, and the princess suicided to avoid dishonour.  Not a tale everyone wants told.
Quibbles are few. The bibliography is a jumble. The book jumps around instead of progressing through eras, which doesn’t make for smooth reading. Nor does the use of footnotes.
It’s as though Dr Toshi has so many more wonders to encounter that there’s too little time left for the leisure of structure. He’s been to Indonesia eight times in the past 11 years, the latest this February.  He hopes to return next year
This is the book serious visitors to Java should consult through the index when planning a tour.  The Internet is full of sites recommending tourist attractions, but only Java Essay has the richness and detail that encourages further inquiry and admiration.
For this we thank a Japanese scientist laden with curiosity who came by chance, stepped out of his discipline, and enlarged our appreciation of this extraordinary land.
Java Essay                                                                                                                                               by Masatoshi Iguchi                                                                                                                         Published by Matador UK, 2015                                                                                                        326 pages plus bibliography and index
(First published in The Jakarta Post 27 April 2015




Sunday, April 19, 2015

STRAIGHT SHOOTERS

Bowyers, quivers and cupid                               
      
When she’s disarmed Malang high school student Difah [Dwi] Anggraeni (left) looks like any other texting and tweeting teen, seemingly more concerned with friends than future.
But after warm-up exercises on a scorching morning, the 17-year old shoulders her high-tech weapon, garners more gear, straps on a chest protector and gets deadly serious. She’s soft spoken and unassertive, but you wouldn’t want to get between this lady and a yellow disc, whatever the distance.
Standing sideways to the mark she stares through the peep sight.  A moment to be pensive.  A glance at the trees and their waving leaves.  Mmm, a westerly – five knots?  A tweak of the sight – half a notch should be enough – no, make that a quarter.
Slowly she takes aim and gives undiluted, unqualified, no-compromise concentration plus what she calls “feeling” to the task in hand:  To speed a steel-tipped carbon-fiber projectile at more than 300 kilometers an hour and hit with such force it will puncture the outer skin and penetrate deep inside.
Using a trigger release she fires. A hiss as the strings relax.  She checks the result using a ten times magnification monocular. Bullseye [or what the pros call ‘gold’] and more; this shot is in a tight cluster in the four centimeter center. No surprise, for this adolescent archer is the national champion in her class and practising for the June regional competition in Banyuwangi.
“Some friends who hang out in malls think I’m a bit crazy,” Dwi said.  “Every day I must do better than yesterday. I’m trying to reach such a level that I’ll represent Indonesia internationally.”
Unlike other archers who need total quiet to focus their eyes and minds, and bristle at interruptions, Dwi claimed she performed better with an audience because noise made her work harder to shut out distractions.

Her shooting partner Nur Amalina [Lina], 17, uses a more traditional long bow.  This speaks the ‘twang’ that struck fear in medieval armies faced with squadrons of bowmen launching sheaves of arrows. 
It would also have frightened a family at the far end of the suburban wasteland range and across a road when Lina overshot and potted a pot on their veranda about 200 meters beyond her target.
The neighbors blamed Dwi because she was carrying a compound bow that appeared far more formidable with its pulleys and limb bolts, sprouting a stabilizer and making it look like an outdoor television antenna.  But even this modern invention (see breakout) is still hard pressed to beat the simple traditional bow in the hands of an expert.

Coach Yudhi Purwanto, (left) who used to practise silat [Indonesian martial arts] before adding another string to his bow, said archery was not a point-and-shoot game. “A good archer needs to be many things, scientist, meteorologist, technician and athlete,” he said. “But above all they must have the right mentality.
“Here we’re practising on targets 50 and 70 meters distant.  If Dwi fired straight gravity would drag her arrow down.  So she calculates the range, calibrates the bow and fires five centimeters above the center to allow for trajectory.
“Today there’s little air movement, but a cross wind or down draft can deflect an arrow. Horizontal allowances have to be made.  On top of all this a top archer must have strong nerves.  This is not a sport for those without willpower.”

Although many spend big, archery doesn’t have to be expensive. Sweet potato seller Machbud Junaidi equipped his son Abel Hisyam Azhara  (left) with a Rp 90,000 [US $7] length of PVC plumbing pipe to make a passable bow – and no-one in the egalitarian fraternity sneered.  Which is as it should be;  Robin Hood wasn’t an elitist.
Little Abel is able and ambitious.  The 12-year old wants to use his skills to take flight and travel the world; when he’s not lining up an arrow he’s practising English so he can articulate archery everywhere.
University student bowman Danang Kamal Musthofa’s parents helped fund his hobby – Rp 6 million [US$ 460] for a dozen arrows and four times that sum for the bow and accessories.  These include a quiver and so many gadgets there’s a separate purse.
There’s even a special grip to help pull arrows out of the target, but a strong wrist does the job equally well. Boots, however, are necessary. Tournaments are supposed to be set in swards of glory, but Indonesia’s Sherwood Forests are thick with mud as adhesive as sticky rice.
Danang claimed archery helped his psychology studies because it has taught him concentration.
“You need to be dedicated and fit, able to stay calm and control your breathing,” he said. “I enjoy challenging myself, trying to be the best I can. You also get to meet other people because archery isn’t dominated by men and it’s really a young person’s sport.”
Another advantage? “My girlfriend is also an archer.”


How Mr Archer got his break
Ten millennia ago some cave dweller with more smarts than pelts reckoned there had to be a better way to get a bison steak than chasing, stoning and spearing. Every week a fellow woodsman was trampled or gored when a wounded beast turned on its tormenters trying to push a pointed stick through its hide.
How could a hunter kill from a distance without getting hurt by his prey? The pioneer of occupational health and safety had probably noticed how tense forest vines could be plucked and used to flick leaves. Why not adapt this idea – and let’s call our family The Archers.
If you don’t like this theory develop another – it can’t be trumped.  Like the invention of the wheel and the mastery of fire, the bow has shaped the development of humankind, but its origins are unknown.
The bow appeared on all continents bar Australia, where Aborigines developed the spear launcher known as a woomera, the name now used for an outback rocket range.
Some bows were small, like those used by North American Indians shooting from horseback.  Others, like the English longbow, were infantry weapons.
The 13th century Mongolian leader Genghis Khan conquered much of Central Asia with troops equipped with recurve bows. The ends, or limbs of the weapon, are turned outwards, creating greater force.
The weapons still used in Papua are reported to be about two meters long and made of bamboo.
Although the development of strong but flexible materials last century such as fiberglass, carbon, laminated wood and lightweight metals pushed archery into a new level, composites using bamboo stuck to wood or animal horn were pioneered in Asia long ago.
The compound bow, invented in the US in 1966, uses a system of eccentric pulleys and cables, and is now widely seen in contests.
A skill this old has a special vocabulary: Arrows are made by fletchers, bows by bowyers.  The notch in the arrow that takes the string is a nock.
East Java has the reputation of being Indonesia’s premier archery province.  No-one seems to know exactly why, apart from claiming the people are famous for being straight shooters.
##
(First published in  J-Plus, The Jakarta Post, 19 April 2015)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

PDI-P CONGRESS: PARTY BEFORE PRESIDENT


Mega eyes our voting system       
Where's Wally?  The PDI-P promotes its congress, but not the nation's president, who's also a red jacket.   The image on the top left opposite Megawati is of her father, Soekarno (d 1970)
                                        
Megawati Soekarnoputri (the second name is a patronymic - daughter of Soekarno) doesn’t want direct elections. That’s what she told applauding delegates at the Bali conference this month (April) of her Partai Demokrasi Indonesia – Perjuangan (PDI-P – the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.
‘Her’ party because it’s not an organisation to develop and implement new ideas from the smart young to boost the Republic’s economy, lift millions out of poverty, repair the crumbling infrastructure and raise education levels.  It’s a vehicle to keep her family in power.
Mega has no formal authority.  The PDI-P has the largest number of seats in the Parliament (109 / 560) but a coalition of opposition parties holds total control. Despite this she jerks President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s strings, reminding all that the former furniture salesman is just a ‘party worker’ who wouldn’t have the top job  had it not been for her imprimatur.
She’s right.  Had she ignored the overwhelmingly negative surveys and stood herself in last July’s election as originally planned, Indonesia would now be led by President Prabowo Subianto.  He’s the scion of a family with a centuries old lineage, a hard-line former general with a bad human rights record, and once son-in-law of the nation’s second president, the dictator Soeharto.
If Mega wasn’t the self-imposed head of the party she founded last century she’d now be toast.  Although she was Indonesia’s fifth president between 2001 and 2004 she inherited the position when President Abdurrahman Wahid was impeached, and did little more than let the army and her mates run the show.
That was too much like the bad old days for an electorate hungry for reform; in two later presidential direct vote contests she was soundly rejected by the people.
Of course this wasn’t her fault, but the ‘treachery’ of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) who quit her Cabinet over claims of being sidelined.  For a while he became a media darling and in 2004 beat his former boss to become the nation’s sixth president.  She’s never forgiven him.
In the villages and crowded kampongs of Java, sun-wrinkled portraits of first president Soekarno can be found hanging in even the poorest of homes.  He died 45 years ago but remains an iconic figure, symbol of the glory of Indonesia’s hard-won independence from the stubborn colonial Dutch and held in awe by the nostalgic elderly.
Mega believes that she has inherited that aura, even if betrayal, incompetence, fickle voters and age frustrate her ambitions.  So she’ll nurture the flame until her children Mohammad Prananda Prabowo, Mohammad Rizki Pramata – and particularly, Puan Maharani, learn how to grasp their destiny.
Three generations - it's our party and we'll do what we like.   The Javanese slogan says: 'Don't cut the roots'.
(Mega has been married three times, her father nine.  Her younger sister Rachmawati Soekarnoputri is a leading member in the opposition Prabowo’s party, Gerindra.)
Addressing the conference, where the 68-year old matriarch was acclaimed supreme head for a further five years, Mega denounced direct voting as a Western import.
In the present anti-foreigner climate - aggravated by Tony Abbott linking 2004 tsunami aid with mercy for drug runners on death row - that’s the sort of claim that gets delegates on their feet and stamping. 
Everything currently wrong in the resource-rich archipelago is the fault of sinister others plundering the nation’s wealth, corrupting the young with evil ideas, and interfering in sovereign legal processes; purge the outsiders and all will be right.  That’s what her Dad did in the 1950s and so excavated an even bigger pit of economic mismanagement.
Mega doesn’t want the Indonesian system where the president is chosen by the people whatever party he or she represents; that’s populism.
What would suit her is the Australian process.  Under our law voters tick candidates from parties that have already proclaimed their leaders. Electors might not like the individual but you approve their party’s policies.
If our northern neighbour had used that arrangement Mega might now be President of Indonesia for the second time because her party topped the polls.
Instead the man sitting on the edge of the Palace sofas once comfortably occupied by Mega as a child, is the easy going not over-bright Jokowi, briefly Governor of Jakarta and before that a likeable small town mayor.  Now he’s floundering, way out of his depth in the fetid crocodile swamp that passes for Jakarta politics
Jokowi is not part of the feudal Javanese military, business and semi-regal dynasties that have run the world’s fourth largest nation since Soekarno proclaimed independence from the colonial Dutch in 1945. That was part of his appeal.  
Despite getting little campaign help from Megawati, but a lot from the hopeful young, he won by eight million votes over Prabowo in what was widely interpreted as the triumph of the little man.
Sadly Jokowi, 53, has proved to be exactly that. If there’s a statesman’s gene in Jokowi it has yet to become dominant. No one is saying he has greasy palms, but when given the people’s mandate he fumbled the pass, dropped it and then lost direction.
Elected on promises of no more transactional appointments, a cabinet of altruistic reformers and a massive crack down on corruption, he’s failed on every pledge.
He also told Cabinet ministers to abandon senior party roles to concentrate on their jobs. Mega’s daughter Puan, Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture, has ignored her leader.
Mum made Puan the party head of political and social affairs, and handpicked 25 others for top tasks saying she’d tested them all – but only she knew the test.
The PDI-P has another record:  It’s the party with the most members jailed by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). One serving politician was even arrested in his hotel at the congress for alleged bribery.  In a news story The Jakarta Post reported ‘the party’s central board is full of graft-tainted figures and politicians with dubious reputations.’
Again and again the terms ‘trustworthiness’ and ‘loyalty’ were used by Mega when discussing her choice of party officials.  Missing were words like ‘ability’, ‘education’, ‘diligence’ and ‘intelligence’. Jokowi’s demand for selection by merit went unheeded.  No doubt policies for the nation’s betterment and improved foreign relations were debated in depth, but these escaped detection by journalists.
None of this would matter much if there was a viable opposition with a fresh agenda waiting to take over the shambles.  Prabowo, 63, was widely expected to savage Jokowi till he became ineffectual, though the President is doing that without outside help.
However Prabowo has his own problems with two parties in his coalition ripped asunder by internal leadership challenges.
That’s not an issue in the PDI-P.  If there were any delegates who thought it’s time to remind that the party calls itself Democratic they are staying quiet.  When the leader of the world’s third largest democracy lacks the courage to confront his matron, who else would dare?
##
 First published in On Line opinion 14 April 2015.  For comments see:
http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=17259

Further reading:
Liam Gammon in the ANU's New Mandala:     
http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2015/04/15/what-weve-got-here-is-failure-to-communicate/





Monday, April 13, 2015

WANT TO BE RICH? CATCH A FALLING LEAF

The hill of good fortune    

                             
It’s a strange scene – one that would outrage the puritans. The fact that it operates openly in Indonesia should give cheer to pluralists.
Several Muslim women wearing long skirts and headscarves walk confidently into a building in the courtyard of a Chinese temple on the East Java mountain of Gunung Kawi.  They’ve come to have their fortunes revealed through an ancient ritual known as Ciam Si involving poems based on birth dates.
They’d travelled for five hours from Lumajang, 150 kilometers further east, just to see what 2015 might bring – a practice that some religious authorities claim is haram [forbidden].
After buying flowers and old coins as offerings the pilgrims progressed up the hill, through a mural-clad gateway before entering a darkened timber room with two gravestones.
Here they meditated alongside men and women who the guards identified as Buddhists and Christians.
The graves are supposed to encase the remains of Mbah [leader] Imam Sujono who died in 1876 and his colleague Mbah Djoego, also known as Kiai Zakaria 11 who passed away five years earlier.
The spelling of the names often differs, and so do the stories. The principal theory is that both men were supporters, relatives perhaps, of the high-born Diponegoro who led a rebellion against the Dutch.
The prince was arrested in 1830 at Magelang in Central Java and exiled to Makassar in South Sulawesi where he died 25 years later.  His colleagues fled to Kawi where they helped restore religiosity and improve cropping techniques.
After their deaths their graves gained a reputation for bringing good fortune to those who make the pilgrimage – like the ladies from Lumajang.
Does it work?  The best known case is that of Ong Hok Liong who established the Bentoel tobacco company after meditating on the mountain. 
For years he’d unsuccessfully sought the right name for his cigarettes.  Then the sight [or dream] of a hawker selling edible bamboo roots known as bentoel set the heavy smoker and drinker on the road to creating the nation’s second biggest tobacco company – and an early death from liver disease.
At least he didn’t have to sit for hours – or longer – under the sacred dewandaru [Eugenia uniflora ] tree waiting to catch a falling leaf, another alleged path to prosperity.  If the classification  is correct the tree is a recent import from South America where it’s known as the Surinam cherry.

This slice of science prunes the myth that the shrub was cursed to stay small by a holy man because it snagged his clothes.  The sage was trekking through the area to divide the territories of King Airlangga.  That was in the 11th century. On Gunung Kawi fiction trumps facts.
The tree has outgrown the original railings so a bigger fence has been built to stop the impatient giving the branches a shake to rain down wealth.
Kawi is an extinct volcano - at 2,551 meters but a pimple on the topography.  It’s not to be confused with the temple cluster of the same name near Ubud in Bali.
The village on Gunung Kawi’s slopes, just a fifth of the way to the summit, makes this mountain one of the most visited in Indonesia.  At weekends, holidays and certain dates like Jumat Legi [the evening preceding Friday in the 210-day Javanese calendar] the place is gutter-to-gutter  pilgrims, both Indonesian Chinese, Javanese and occasionally a few overseas visitors.
Pack a backpack of patience and get a massage to harden the hide before venturing into this cauldron of commerce. Prowling touts pounce the moment you turn off the asphalt.  Have trouble parking in an empty yard?  At least three men will ‘help’.
Need a ‘guide’ to take you up and down the one sloping narrow street? Take your pick.
Feel inclined to help the poor? You’ll run a gauntlet of beggars and kiosks offering everything from cassava [reputed to be the nation’s finest], flowers and all the knick knacks of numerology, soothsaying and clairvoyancy.
If you doubt the effectiveness of a donation, the bigger coins are recommended  for the traditional Javanese kerokan back rubbing session.  This is supposed to draw ‘wind’ or evil spirits out of the body as malevolence is known to be attracted to money.
Apart from cultural anthropologists and the odd bemused journalist, everyone else who comes to Gunung Kawi is also drawn by dollars; they’d certainly not consider their desires wrong – for who doesn’t want good fortune provided it’s not at the expense of others?
The shopkeepers selling tourist floss seem to be doing well enough, for many don’t bother opening when the river of humanity drops from a flood to a trickle during weekdays.


Unless you’re addicted to crowds, this is the time to enjoy Gunung Kawi without being squashed like an orange.  The leaves from the dewandaru waft down to the tiles of the empty courtyard to be swept up by caretakers.  If the story was true these guys should be millionaires – but at least they look fit. Not all pray for gold - good health is more precious. 
The downside of a visit outside the crushing times is that the hustlers are hungrier when pickings are few, so tend to be excessively eager.
There are signs warning visitors against wearing immodest clothes and taking photos, but the amicable guards are prepared to study the skyline if camera-clickers ask politely.  This is not an euphemism for bribing.
Gunung Kawi isn’t just for those with faith in the unknown.  Sceptics can  also puzzle over human nature while watching heavy business folk exit their big black limos, snap orders into smartphones, and then abandon logic to seek a glimpse into the future through rituals bereft of reason. That’s a matter for wonder.
As is the sight of people of different faiths meditating together.
How to get there: From Malang a by-pass on the road to Blitar cuts off the town of Kepanjen and at least 30 minutes of what used to be a two-hour drive.  The landscapes are lush, the roads reasonable.

(First published in The Jakarta Post 13 April 2015)


Sunday, April 12, 2015

NOBLE DEAL, NOBEL PRIZE

BTW
Anything’s better than bullets         
EXCLUSIVE:  Rio de Janeiro, today, 2017:  President Joko [Jokowi] Widodo is to be nominated for the Nobel Prize for international leadership in developing new ways to handle the drug scourge.
The recommendation, which has yet to be officially announced, has been unanimously endorsed by the 22 heads of the Brazil-based Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP)
The Jakarta Post has obtained the statement which will accompany the announcement. This says that two years ago when President Jokowi opened his campaign to kill the drug trade, few believed he could persuade other nations that capital punishment was not the answer to trafficking and pushers.
The fact that more than 50 countries have since followed Indonesia makes President Jokowi an appropriate recipient, the statement continues.
Palace insiders claim the President’s epiphany followed a meeting with Virgin Airlines founder Sir Richard Branson.
Earlier appeals by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to stay the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran had apparently hardened the President’s resolve.
“The pleas angered the President,” said a senior aide speaking on condition of anonymity as he was unauthorized to comment.
“He reckoned Mr Abbott cared only for his two citizens, and not all those on death row or our 4.5 million addicts – that’s about the population of Sydney.
“With scores dying every day the electorate demanded decisive action. Mr Abbott offered no solutions. When he linked mercy to the 2004 tsunami aid Mr Jokowi turned off his phone. He’s a man who reacts to reason, not pressure.
“Sir Richard is a tough businessman, not a parochial politician.  He thinks laterally and invited the President to lead the world by finding new ways to tackle drugs.”
Palace sources confirmed a secret meeting had been held where the mega millionaire, who is a board member of the GCDP, offered well-researched facts from Commission archives.
Contacts present at the two-hour closed-door forum revealed that Sir Richard said that shortly before the Bali Nine smugglers were caught Indonesia had already executed three foreign drug traffickers.  This was widely known yet the Australians still went ahead; this fact made nonsense of the deterrent theory.
GCDP analysts had shown that addicts and mules are damaged people in hopeless financial and personal situations, unable to make sane choices.  They take risks whatever the punishment because every option is dreadful.  All believe they’re too smart to get caught.
The GCDP offered to fund a review led by Indonesian criminologists into the effectiveness of capital punishment as a deterrent and the government agreed to a moratorium.
The 178 page document is expected to be presented at a glittering event in the Presidential Palace next month. The buzz says Oprah Winfrey may be a guest.
Last night in London Sir Richard praised the Indonesian President as a man of courage and foresight. “I remember way back in 2015 thinking he was a stubborn guy, a foreigner to facts,” Sir Richard said.
 “What some considered intransigence was, in fact, a mask for the admirable Javanese traits of compassion and deep thinking. I told him ‘let’s kill the trade, not the traders’.  Anything’s better than bullets.”
The entrepreneur stayed tight-lipped on the report’s 17 recommendations. These are expected to include substituting long jail time for the death penalty and shorter spells for reformers who’ve expressed real remorse.
It’s no secret that there’ll be an International Center for the Prevention of Drug Trading at the University of Gadjah Mada; modern clinics in every province will help rehabilitate users.
A No Demand – No Supply social media campaign targeting drugs using teenspeak and. featuring celebs rather than uniformed government bosses will be launched.
Cash for these initiatives will come from a ten per cent levy on every packet of smokes sold.
A Palace spokesman refused to confirm or deny the report. “Let’s just wait and see,” he said.
However former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that if the story was true a Nobel Prize nomination was a great privilege.  He added:
“However the real honor belongs to the Indonesian people who have backed the President’s noble journey to make Indonesia a world leader in stamping out the drug trade while protecting human rights.” Duncan Graham

(First published in The Jakarta Post 12 April 2015)
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Friday, April 10, 2015

BY THE NUMBERS - EAT

The Highway Code for an extreme feed                    



Where to stop for a feed?
Parked trucks are a good guide – the drivers know the best places for cheap and wholesome fare.  Busses in a restaurant forecourt indicate a broad menu; if the passengers aren’t satisfied they’ll travel with a different company next time.
Roadside kiosks selling specific meals, like bakso [meat balls] and nasi padang, an array of pre-cooked foods on separate plates, are usually well signed so motoring customers know what to expect.
But how about a warung [food stall] that only advertises numbers, and where de-coding the menu relies on cultural memory – or knowledge of fortune telling?
By her own admission Sri Sujayati, 40, is a vendor of “extreme foods” in the village of Talang Agung between Malang and Blitar in East Java.  She calls her business Ono Wae, Javanese for ‘always available’.
 “When you come here you must know what you want,” she said. “I don’t cheat.  The ingredients I use are the real thing. Every dish costs the same – Rp 10,000 [US 75 cents].”
Feel like a plate of turtle served with rice?  Ask for 27.
Prefer something snaky, like python potage?  Select number 29.  If not pre-ordered there’ll be a long wait.  Cooking a snake takes at least two hours.
Quicker is frog stew, guaranteed to get you jumping.  We recommend number 24.
A big guy needs something masculine and ferocious.  Wild boar at 93 should put bristles on any man’s chest.
Behind Bu Sri’s shop is a sack with body parts of a big monitor lizard, including a claw. Along with geckos this meal is recommended for those with body itch. She doesn’t sell dog meat [number 11], popular among the Minahasa from North Sulawesi, because there’s no demand locally – but many other creatures find their place in her pots.
While this writer was unsuccessfully seeking the courage to order a rat or bat pie, two famished construction workers arrived, both keen for an 02.

“I used to have a sore throat but that’s gone since I started eating snails,” testified Tofa, 23 (right, white T shirt). His mate Muntiono, 31 agreed. “It keeps me healthy.  My breathing’s a lot better.” Suggesting the men might give up smoking to achieve the same result was deemed inappropriate under the circumstances.
“Customers come from all around to eat certain animals believing there are physical benefits,” said the cook. 
“Everyone has their own beliefs about what works. Men like snake because it gives them stamina.”  This is a genteelism for sexual prowess.
There’s no suggestion that gambling or anything improper is underway at Ibu Sri’s wide-open warung on the main road– she uses the code as shorthand because “everyone in this area knows what the numbers mean.”  There’s no written menu.
This seems to imply that there’s a lot going on in Indonesian society that doesn’t always meet the outsider’s eye, let alone the strictures of the authorities, secular and religious.

By the numbers

The code can be cracked using the Tafsir Mimpi 100 Trilyun [100 trillion Dream Interpretations].
This cheaply printed and badly bound book is unlikely to be found on the shelves of your local library rubbing covers with biographies of the great and good. 
Like the promises 100 trillion is a gross exaggeration, though mixing and multiplying can expand permutations.
Buyers have to ask around.  The one featured on this page was under a newsagent’s counter.  It cost Rp 15,000 [US$1.20].  The seller insisted it be kept in a brown bag and not opened in public because, he said,  numerology is haram [forbidden] along with astrology and fortune telling.
There are no details of the publisher or printer in Tafsir Mimpi, but every page has crude pictographs linked to numbers – and not just for animals.  Number 60 relates to the police, 21 is a prostitute, while 43 is a young widow – and also a fish.
Number 11 can be a headscarf, fan, mushroom – and a greedy government minister.
The complex angka togel lucky number forecasting was widely used when the State lottery was operating.  Angka means number and togel is a combination of toto [lottery] and gelap [dark], implying a system that’s slightly shady.
The national lottery, also called NALO with a top prize of Rp 1 billion [about US$400,000 in the currency of the time] was known as Sumbangan Dana Sosial Berhadiah [SDSB Philanthropic Donation with Prizes].  However the religious weren’t softened by the euphemism and insisted it meant gambling, which is haram.
Until reluctantly banned by the Soeharto administration in late 1993 following prolonged pressure from Islamic authorities, the lottery was a splendid income stream for the government and, allegedly, other individuals linked to the President’s family.
In those pre-democracy days an independent probing of the accounts by a free press was impossible, so the public couldn’t trace the rupiah river.
The togel or toggle system persists in Hong Kong and Singapore where predictions on cards can be bought using allegedly lucky numbers associated with dreams, fortuitous events – and animals. 
Some Indonesian men’s tabloids, under a NALO heading include the numbers along with crime stories featuring sexual deviances and advertisements for paranormal services.
The togel cards are often illustrated with pictures of young ladies in various states of undress, suggesting  that a big win will lead to success in bed.
Indonesia’s Secret World

Referring to numbers instead of words probably dates back to the 6th century, according to cultural historian Ismail Lutfi.(right)
“Long ago an ancient form of Javanese was used,  mainly known to royalty,” he said. “It was based on Sanskrit and is no longer heard.
“Words had many meanings, including numbers. These were used to represent the object. Javanese people like to use symbols, and these became the language.
“Although it seemed to disappear in the 16th century with the arrival of Islam and the Dutch the knowledge  remains in some parts of East Java.  Gambling is illegal, but still continues. A person might, for example, dream of two dogs in his house. He can construct a number on the objects and use that to lay a bet.
“This is the secret world of Indonesia.  It’s a kind of numerology known as candra sangkala – a chronogram [arrangement of letters to indicate numbers and reveal a date]  based on the waxing and waning of the moon.”
Ismail, a senior lecturer in history at the Malang State University, said the system wasn’t taught. Although it was difficult to get information the code was understood in villages and kampong.
“It’s part of our cultural memory known as getok tular  meaning it’s handed down by word of mouth,” he said. “For many this is a more effective way of acquiring knowledge than reading books or listening to government announcements.”
(First published in The Jakarta Post 10 April 2015)