A few weeks ago I was invited to a “pesta sunatan,” or a post-circumcision party, so of course I climbed aboard the motor scooter with “Sayang Belakang,” the Beloved Behind, and off we went.
It was a lovely Sunday afternoon as we made our way to the wilds of outer Depok from the cushioned comforts of Pusat: the traffic was amusingly daredevil and the air alive with promise.
Our friends, whose child had had the cut, were both artists; specifically, a former actress turned domestic maintenance specialist aka wife and mother, and a former “pengamen” or street singer turned pianist in a local cafe.
From the main road through Depok we turned off sharply up a lane past a couple of houses that looked like the aftermath of an aerial bombing raid and then entered a kind of rural idyll of remnant forest and field, albeit sprinkled with more shells of destroyed homes, which, according to Sayang Belakang, were the result of zoning for a future highway. The roadway was a narrow dirt track suitable only for a motorbike until after a few hundred meters we hit some bitumen about 2 m wide that was potholed and generally unfit for service but we made our winding way along it nonetheless until it turned once again into a dirt lane.
After about a kilometer of further bumpy travel through this eerie, pre-highway landscape we edged into a small clump of homes yet to be destroyed, indeed, there was even some construction going on, which, it was explained later to me, was being done on the understanding that the planned highway would indeed come, one day, but given that that day had been many years in the waiting already, the builders felt confident of getting a satisfactory return on their investment while they continued to wait for their forced removal.
We turned a corner and there ahead of us was a piece of orange plastic tarpaulin stretched across the lane, a few parked motorbikes and some chairs, upon which sat various ladies and other dignitaries, facing, across the narrow lane, another small house upon the porch of which was positioned an electric keyboard and player bashing out a “dangdut” favorite as we arrived.
For those readers who live sheltered lives or have almost no knowledge of modern Indonesian music, dangdut is “the music of my country,” as one lyric puts it, and if you want to know more than that you can go to a dangdut club, or visit my friends’ place because the whole family of six siblings are dangdut singers.
Consequently, once I’d dismounted and been given a refreshing beverage, one of the family, who sings in a club in Jakarta, began on my favorite song, “Mandi Madu” (Honey Bath”), and I was called upon to “goyang,” or shake it, which I did with another sibling, a lady who certainly knew the moves, requiring me to grind down low and generally shake my booty in ways that it had not been shaken for some time.
After a considerable amount of this and more general pleasantries, Sayang Belakang and I returned to Pusat, the land of the shining towers, and as I climbed off the motor I noticed that I couldn’t walk, well, not without a lot of pain in my foot and back and everywhere else. Had dangdut done me in? Was I no longer fit for service?
The next day was worse, making it impossible to leave the bed, indeed, I could barely move and was totally exhausted. The following day was the same and, in my addled state, I lamented dangdut’s power to lay me low when once it lifted me high. The next day I was enjoying a raging fever and so finally went to the doctor and related my the tale above of what dangdut did.
He took some blood, made some tests and said, “Dangdut didn’t do it; dengue did.”
Done in by dengue? Oh, dear. Will dangdut ever forgive me?