Journal Province: Central Java Regency/City: Blora Subdistrict: Randublatung

Barokah Restaurant, A Bunch of Love Story, and The Perfect Strangers

Written by Otty Widasari
It was a mango season. At every house I visited I was served mangoes. It was a pleasure, even though they caused a little problem to my digesting system. Randublatung District, Blora Regency. I estimated the heat reached 35 degrees Celsius. The sun blazed everyday, and the heat and humid air remained until night.

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We stopped for dinner in one small goat satay restaurant named Barokah. Mr. Jawawi, the owner, liked to tell stories. One was about his experience living in Jakarta, long time ago. He had been selling satay in the neighborhood of Persija (Jakarta Football Club) Square, in Central Jakarta. He nodded his head when I told him that the square did no longer exist. Then he told me further that he had been living in Depok after then. He said that the area had been very crowded at the time. But he never knew that Depok was overgrowing then with so many huge malls.

“Well, it’s so hard living in Jakarta, Miss,” He said while fanning the satay over the coals for me and my friend’s dinner that night.

“Why, Sir?” I asked.

“A lot of temptations…”

“What is that?” I asked curiously.

“I like to play around with women… hahaha!”

His wife threw a sneering smile while making a glass of iced tea for me. I was smiling too, and stealing a glance with my friend.

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Mr. Jawawi’s story continued to his family life there. He already had grandchildren and lived happily in the village. Then he offered us to visit his house in Doplang Village, a few kilometers from outside the Randublatung. In Doplang, there was an oil resource which supported people living there. That source produced black liquid which was called latung (which was the crude oil as far as I knew) which just came out of the ground. Mr. Jawawi said that the soil in Doplang was very hard to be tilled, either for farming or crude oil (latung) processing. That was why no oil company operated there, even though many foreign oil companies operated in the villages around it. So, for years, the oil had been used only for the needs of people living there, with very traditional and simple way of processing. And I thought it was quite good.

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We continued on warm conversation while enjoying the goat satay with soya sauce seasoned with shallots, cayenne peppers and tomatoes, just like Maduran satay in Jakarta, but the specialty of Bloran satay was the addition of honey.

In the middle of our chat, a man—with little strange expression, in my opinion—came. He approached Mr. Jawawi. They talked a little in Javanese. Then I saw Mr. Jawawi gave him a cigarette.

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“He’s a little depressed, Miss. His wife has left him,” said Mr. Jawawi after the man had gone. I nodded and kept watching the man until he disappeared. “But he doesn’t harm anybody,” said Mr. Jawawi instantly. He seemed understand that I was a little concerned. I only nodded.

“There are many depressed people here, Miss,” said Mr. Jawawi continuing his work, fanning the satay for other visitor who was listening to our conversation. “There is one other man who often comes here to ask a cigarette from me. He has long hair and scary face. He is also depressed,” said Mr. Jawawi.

And I instantly replied, “Oh…, I know him! I met him at the intersection a few times when I was riding my bike back to the house I stay in. But he has never harmed me either.”

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Before we left the restaurant, Mr. Jawawi offered us to see the latung resource in Doplang. There was also a sacred place there which people came to make the pilgrimage. ‘Mbah’, an old wise man who lived there as the caretaker, would be happy to tell story about the legend of the past, the origin of the place and why it had become sacred. I promised I would come to his village someday.

Mr. Bambang’s Love Story

This time, my friend and I came to the restaurant in the afternoon, because we had forgotten to eat since the morning, because we had been too busy working.

In this little town, even when we appeared as normal as it could be, everybody still knew that we were outsiders. They observed us and asked where we came from, where we lived, what was our purpose, and a million questions about the perfect stranger. So did a big man, with body like a soldier. He wore a pet on his bald head, wore short pants, and sat right next to our table at the Barokah Restaurant.

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“Let me introduce myself, my name is Bambang,” he said pleasantly. “I’d been in Marine complex, Cilandak, South Jakarta, for nine years.”

“Oh … so, are you a marine, Sir?” I asked.

“I was, but I was expelled because of something that I can’t explain here,” he said, smiling.

“Why not, Sir?”

“HAHAHA … because I was a crazy soldier … HAHAHA …” he laughed out loud, making his face became scary.

“So, what do you do here?”

“I play with the wood, Miss,”

“What? Play with the wood? I goggled, because as far as I knew that term usually was used for playing dirty. He nodded.

“He’s a teak entrepreneur, Miss,” Mr. Jawawi explained, and I just replied, “Ooo…” nodding.

“Teak entrepreneur? So, it means that you have so much money, don’t you?” I fished.

Bambang paused in few seconds, and then answered, “Yes, right! So much! I’m so much like you! HAHAHA…!” he laughed very loud. I followed his laugh, trying to make it as loud as his.

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Randublatung weather was uncompromisable. I was drenched in sweat. I didn’t intend to eat goat meat, only tasted a little of my friend’s lunch. I ordered iced tea over and over again from Mrs. Jawawi.

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Bambang started to tell a story. It had been a year and 2 weeks since his wife left him and their 14 years old daughter. I was quite surprised, he remembered the time particularly, especially the 2 weeks addition

I was pretty amazed, she remembered in detail the amount of time to the point of the additional matters of two weeks.

“I’ve been counting the days since she left, every single day, let alone 2 weeks,” he responded to my amazement.

The smile had never vanished from that face, while a sense of melancholy perched in my heart.

I was momentarily silent. My friend ate reluctantly. We looked at each other for a moment. Then I looked back toward Bambang, slowly asking, “Did she pass away?”

He answered, “Yes! She passed me by! HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAAAA …” I instantly kicked my friend’s foot, and we laughed out loud too. Mr. Jawawi chuckled from his throne  behind the satay grate, kept fanning without looking at us. Mrs. Jawawi, who was cleaning a table, giggled uncontrollably until she slumped down on its chair.

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After the laugh had subsided, Bambang continued his story.

“If only she died, Miss, that means, there’s no hope for me anymore. But she left me, it means that there is a little hope for me and my daughter, right?”

“Are you still hoping for your wife to come back, Sir?” I goggled again.

“Of course, Miss, I feel sorry for my daughter.” Again, my friend and I exchanged a glance.

“But fortunately I’m an humorous person, Miss. All the problems I have, I leave it to God'” said Bambang.”

“He’s a jolly person, Miss. A joker, ” Mr. Jawawi added.

Bambang went on, “I spill all my feelings into the song, Miss, because I love to sing. For example, like this one… ” suddenly Bambang stretched his arms and started to sing a popular love tune from a famous indonesian pop band.

Bambang suddenly stretched out his hands and began to sing a piece of pop love song lyrics by a famous band which being hits throughout Indonesia. About love and loyalty will be waiting for her lover to prove that love can unite them. it was about the devotion of love and the person would wait for his lover to come back, to prove that love would unite them together.

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For the third time I kicked my friend’s foot who didn’t seem mind as he was also amazed by the event before us.

Before we left the restaurant, Bambang said, “No offence, Miss, Sir, I like to joke. Please come to my house, I will serve you a lot of mangoes…”

Mr. DarThe Almighty’s Love Story

In the end, I always wanted to return to Mr. Jawawi’s restaurant. Not for the goat satay, which I didn’t quite like (and I thought eating that kind of meat in those blazing sunny days was a little too much), but to see something ‘interesting’ at that nice place. So I always tried to find reasons to go back to Barokah Restaurant, or I somewhat forced my friend to eat goat satay  just so I could go back  there.

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Fortunately, my friend, a dedicated goat meat eater, didn’t mind. Then we would walk for another intriguing lunch at Barokah Restaurant of Mr. Jawawi.

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My friend and I took our favorite table at the corner. Being there was felt like sitting on the topmost tier in a theater. It was favorable, and all the events before us seemed to turn into a drama.

His name was Dar. From his appearance, he looked like someone wealthy enough. He wasn’t too tall and wore glasses. From my subjective point of view, his gestures just looked like an owner of a hardware store, a wood businessman, or something like that. He claimed himself as Mr. Purwantoro’s brother in law, Mr Purwantoro was our landlord in Randublatung. So he had further reasons to ask questions to these two strangers. Where do you come from? What sort of relationship do you have with Mr. Purwantoro? What are you doing in Randublatung? How long will you stay here?

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He asked me bluntly whether I was single or not, and was quite surprised when I told him that I already had one child. When he asked whether the two of us were husband and wife, I instantly said no and explained that we were partners at work.

In the end, like I expected, he talked about himself. That he was almost 50 years old. He seemed quite proud mentioning it. Maybe because he felt that he appeared and looked younger than his own age. And I talked to myself that it was true.

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Finally, we arrived at the climax of the story, “I have three wives, Miss, Sir,  and ten children,” he said with a very proud expression. My friend gave his leg to be kicked by me.

Mr. Dar went on, “Four children from the first wife, three from the second, and another three from the third.”

I chuckled unconsciously, nodding my head, “Tsk…tsk…”

“Polygamy, Miss, it was polygamy…” Mr. Jawawi chuckled while wrapping the satay for Mr. Dar.

“Yes, it’s a must, Mr. Jawawi. One wife would not have been able to serve my needs,” he said, puffing out his chest. Mr. Jawawi laughed. Then Mr. Dar said goodbye to us, and dashed with his moped to the east.

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Snap! We even had no time to ask him back, he had already disappeared, leaving us gaping.

When we left the restaurant, my friend thought that he had seen many sick people there, at Mr. Jawawi’s restaurant, in Randublatung. But I had seen it differently. In my opinion, there were many love stories there instead. And we agreed, to see whose opinion would be right, on the next goat satay show.

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Randublatung was washed by heavy rain that night. I was delighted, because I didn’t have to suffer from heat anymore. After the rain had subsided, we went back to Barokah Restaurant, more to prove our different opinions than to enjoy the goat satay. But there was no ‘crazy’ scene that we could watch, nor the love stories that we could hear at Mr. Jawawi’s restaurant that night. Instead, the only thing we could witness was the scene of Mr. Jawawi and his wife, whispering to each other when the place was deserted.

About the author


Otty Widasari

OTTY WIDASARI is an artist, writer, director and curator. Currently, she is the Director of the Media Education and Empowerment Program (AKUMASSA) at the Forum Lenteng.

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