Without a break, we continued our trip to catch up with the group that carried 22 boys who would be circumcised. Since I was in the back, it was hard for me to look for Alvin. As a commander, he had to be in the front row. We were forced to push our bicycles by hand in the midst of the exhaust fumes from the motorbikes of people who took their son or nephew to be circumcised or maybe they just livened up the event. Once in a while the onlookers laughed at one of the contestants on that approximately 1 ½ m wide road. The road was getting fuller when the onlookers joined the procession. It increased the length of the line. We moved like a snake between bamboo groves. After jostling a little, we saw the group of contestants who were dressed like the warriors of jihad, complete with the veil. There was also a group of Dayak people wearing clothes made of the burlap sack and holding a wooden spear in their right hands. Occasionally, there was a deafening sound of bamboo cannon. In front of me, there was a fried rice cart with “sumanto petir tukang jagal gorengan bocah” (lightning sumanto boy fritter butcher) written on it. I wondered what was inside that frying pan. The seller who brought a big wooden cleaver was shouting out loud, “Boy fritteeer…” Inside the frying pan, there was a lying toddler who was smiling without knowing the meaning of “lightning sumanto” and “boy fritter”. I thought this was what made people laugh in every village parade (we made it go around the village). The faces of the contestants were always full of streaks and scratches of soot, charcoal or paint. Besides that, they decorated the vehicles (mostly pedicab and cart) with leaves, second-hand bags of cement, old banners, colorful crepe paper, plastic ropes and any kind of thing so that it looked like a group of walking garbage. For the village artists, this was an event to channel their creativity.
What appealed to me was how the television had a major influence in poisoning the village people. Some of them thought that the warriors of jihad were terrorists and some others believed that they were heroes. This attraction was enlivened by the bamboo cannon that exploded like the rocket launcher of Taliban insurgents. They also decorated the carts and pedicabs like the Rose Parade in Pasadena. The yells of “Allahu Akbar”, which were shouted by Iraqi people when they carried the body of the fallen fighter or by the protesters when they forcibly wrecked the brothels, were shouted by the elementary children and the people in the procession. They even imitated Sumanto the butcher with his boy fritter. In the villages, the television had changed the perspective of people who only saw and heard without having complicated thought, when actually, the content of a television program could be translated and interpreted differently by different mind.
I had once cursed vehemently in my heart when I had been gone to work and got stuck in the middle of a procession of a party group of Trusmi, a place famous for its batik, which was located in Plered region. There had been a ganti sirap or atap rumbia and ngunjung buyut (visiting the elders) custom which had caused an extraordinary traffic jam at that time, while I had to be in my office at 8 AM. It had only been a group of people with streaks and scratches on their faces, sitting on cars which were decorated with the garbage I had mentioned earlier. Nevertheless, the onlookers had poured into every street I had passed so that it had been difficult to distinguish between the parade and the onlookers.
When I was a participant in a procession of a village circumcision party I was annoyed and laughed to myself at once when I glanced at the people who could not pass because of the traffic jam. Maybe they swore too because of the traffic jam and the heat, while what they saw were only faces with streaks and scratches, leaf ornaments and the same garbage as I had ever seen. Maybe it was one of the effects of the television shows. Not all television shows were bad, there was an educational side of a program. For instance, the people had been able to know about Mbah Marijan, a village person on a top of a mountain, whose name had skyrocketed after Mount Merapi had erupted. His pictures were plastered on the city buses with a slogan “roso-roso”.
And then there was Ponari the son of lightning who earned millions of rupiah because he had found a magic stone after he had been struck by lightning. He was named the child healer because it was believed that the stone could heal the sick people. I even found a website which sold a product called Ponari Sweat, just like a Pocari Sweat sports drink. In Ponari’s case, the television had played an important role because thousands of people crowded the village, which had used to be quiet, making it looked like a fairground. Because of watching TV, the people were curious so that they were willing to come and queue for days just to get the water in which the stone was dipped by the hand of the child healer, while Ponari himself, who was carried by his relative, did not seem to care. His left hand worked while his right one was playing with a new cell phone that he had just bought. Ponari had tried to heal the world.
It was sad that when the technology arrived in the villages, we still had not been ready yet to accept and understand the information. Maybe it was like the Maasai people in Maasai Mara, Africa who wore the Rolex watch without knowing the function of it. And then the village people who bought the refrigerator only to be used as a clothes closet because there was no electricity yet. Inevitably, the progress of technology once again played a big part in determining people’s perspective especially people in the villages. Not to mention the use of cell phone by the elementary students to the Baduy people in the village. Had we been ready with what we had watched and listened from a box named television, when the technology presented the information from other parts of the world while we did not understand what was the negative side from something we had seen? Without patronizing, let us not grin because we were technologically illiterate like a toddler in Sumanto’s frying pan.
Footnote [ + ]
|1.||⇑||Since the publication of Cirebon District Regulation No. 17, 2006, on the Establishment and Structuring Subdistrict, South Cirebon Subistrict changed its name to the Talun Subdistrict. Four villages in the western part of the Talun Subdistrict administratively transformed its status into ‘urban communities’ and became part of Sumber Subdistrict. One of the village is Sendang Village, which is now Sendang Urban Communities.|