Mr. President and I

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I remember the day a letter arrived, a big brown envelope with the logo of Republic of Indonesia on it and it addressed to ME! I was a Junior High student, just moved to Solo city and didn’t speak Javanese. I had no friend, so I drawn myself in magazines, popular teenage books, and… letters -lots of pen-pal! I forget the reason or what I wrote in the letter I sent to Mr. President Soeharto. But, he (or his official administration) answered my letter! The man actually answered my letter! I got his pic with The First Lady, Mrs. Tien Soeharto, and his autograph! Also his letter, but I forget what’s in it. But it was a printed letter, which, I think it’s the same letter sent to all the kids who wrote him. Now I wonder… where was I keep the letter?


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I remember the day I heard the news; The First Lady passed away. It was a holly Idul Adha day of Moslem. I was prepared to join the crowd in the mosque to slice the lamb and cow meat. But The First Lady passed away, so TV didn’t publish any other news but the death of The First Lady. Then the body was flight to Solo from Jakarta. Her last resting place is in Astana Giri Bangun in Central Java. The car line that brought the body passed the street in front of our house. Then, Astana Giri Bangun turns to be a tourism destination. Everyone goes there to give the last honor to The First Lady. But, since too many people come, Astana Giri Bangun then closed for public. Seven days after her funeral, our family (in Solo) had an invitation to Kalitan (the house of the family of Tien Soeharto) to pray for her spirit. I thought, “this is my chance to fo inside her fabulous house!” So I asked my mom to take me with her. She took me there with my grandma. My father also went there, but he got there with the group of his friends. I couldn’t really see the detail of the big house though, since too many people there. They’re all praying for her. After the praying finished, we got a box of rice on the way out. When I opened it, I was so happy cos there’s an envelope with some money on it. My mom and my grandma gave their money for me too. The news said The First Lady die for heart-attact, but rumor has it; she was accidentally shot the night before. We never know which one is true.

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I remember the day Slamet Riyadi Street turns so crowd. People demonstrated to down Mr. President Soeharto. I was about to go to the University, but they blocked the way. Then soon the atmosphere of the city turn to dark-pale. It was scary, so I went back home, we locked out door and stay inside while people start to burn tires, and motorcycles, and whatever they found on the street. They rob the stores, burnt down buildings, some drunk men raped women. Then… he’s down. Mr. President is down. Next day, daily paper Solopos were sold much more expensive than the regular day. It published photos of Solo community turned angry.

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I remember the day I called my mom at home in Solo (I’m in Jakarta). The former Mr. President Soeharto had been hospitalized for days. We’re all wondering, when will he die? He lived too long…, we thought. Usually a man will die soon after his wife passed away. They say it’s because a man will be lonely when his wife die. But in this case, it’s different. He lived for more than ten more years after his wife dies. Every Indonesian might think that he has some secret magic power like jinx or voodoo or something that keep him alive. He should be dead since a long time ago, he’s been in and out of the medication. I think it was the most ‘romantic’ conversation call I had with my mom. I called her regularly, but not that romantic. She’s being funny by asking, “do you go to visit Mr. President at the hospital?” and we laughed, of course I didn’t go to visit him. I mean, what am I?! And I dont have any willing to visit him. Then one more call, a short call of me to my mom, and it is today when I watch the news of former Mr. President finally passed away. “Mom, don’t you want to go to Mr. President’s funeral?” I asked, we both know his body will be flown to Solo to be buried. We laughed. It was a romantic call of mother and daughter….

3 thoughts on “Mr. President and I

  1. Ratih, that was a very sweet story.
    Just to let you know, I was in Kalitan too when the first lady passed away. I was on vacation in my in-law’s house (Kertasura), when my office called me to cover what was going in Kalitan. I was a journalist in Republika at that time. Well, maybe we were both in Kalitan at the same time. Now we know each other only by email. Hopefully I will see you in person.

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