This is still about Parungkuda, Sukabumi, the place where I was born. A new story when I came home to Sukabumi was really endless.Last Saturday I came home to my hometown, Parungkuda. On that day, my youngest sister was having a 12th birthday. My siblings attended the party, even though it was only a simple party: only a birthday cake, yellow rice, fried chickens, condiment and salad. With cooking talent she got from generation to generation, my mother cooked all the food herself.
Of the three sisters, my mother was the youngest. In the past, the second sister had been the one to take a cooking course, she specialized in baking. Then she had passed the knowledge to her sisters. Up till now, each one of those three sisters had her own bakery business. Meanwhile, the first sister had taken the sewing course. Like the second sister, she then had passed that knowledge to her sisters. But until now, my mother was only the one who was really into sewing. My aunt who had taken the sewing course often asked for help from my mother instead, even just for patching the torn clothes, because only my mother who had a sewing machine. When I’d been in Elementary, my mother took a beauty course. But my mother had been different. She had not passed her beauty knowledge to her sisters. It had not been because she had not wanted to, but they preferred to go to her for free than to go to a beauty parlour when they needed to.
Back to the living room where my sister’s birthday party was in progress. While we were enjoying the plain food, we talked to each other passionately. There were many discussion topics, from the serious to the casual one. However, there was one thing interesting for me. I almost always heard the word ‘pledge’ from the mouth of some people in that room. Initially, I didn’t understand what they were talking about. But after following and absorbing that conversation, I finally understood. They were talking about money loan system. There were so many small money loan systems in my hometown these days, from the one that was familiar in our ear, like a regular social gathering, to money loan from a bank with collateral.
One day, one of my aunts came to my house. There was nothing strange about her visit. In my family, visiting each other was a common thing, even though it was often just for gossiping about ‘This One’ or ‘That One’. The houses of my families were quite close to each other. We could visit one another every time. My aunt’s visit became strange when her daughter (my cousin) came asking her to come home because someone was waiting for her.
“Mah, uih atuh! Itu aya ‘tukang Bank’.” (Mom, please come home! There is ‘the Bank man’).
“Bejakeun we eweuh kitu, keur ka kampung.” (Tell him I’m not home, I’m going to the village). My aunt was a housekeeper distributor. Usually, she recruited housekeepers from rural villages.
Yes, I understood the meaning of the bank men. They were people who collect the loan, usually riding a motorbike. I didn’t understand why they were called ‘bank man’. As far as I knew, they didn’t work at a bank, and my aunt didn’t need to give any collateral to borrow money from the ‘bank man’. She only had to give a copy of her ID and family card and filled out a few forms. That was the money loan system that I knew all this time.
This money loan system that was being discussed on my sister’s birthday party was different. They kept saying the word ‘pledge’. Well, before my curiosity killed me, finally I asked my cousin who apparently also ‘pledged’.
“Naon sih ‘berjanji-berjanji’?” (What is this ‘pledge’ thing?)
My cousin then explained about that money loan…
This money loan was more well-organized and stricter. Before we accept the loan, the lender team had to survey our house first. According to my cousin, if a house had ceramics floor and refrigerator or electronic appliances that looked expensive, they shouldn’t expect to get a loan. This money loan was only for middle to low class. However, there were certain considerations, such as my mother was a widow, so she could get a loan although our house’s floor was made from ceramic and we happened to own television, refrigerator, and other stuff.
The borrowers were called ‘members’. Those members were divided into several groups. Each group had a leader. All groups also had a leader. Different from a leader of the member group, this leader led all groups, just like their commander of the ceremony. There was also a leader like a scoutmaster, but this was from the lender side. It turned out this leader was my senior in High School. Every Wednesday the borrower members had to gather together at one of the member’s house to pay their loan instalment. And before they started the payment, they had to say the ‘pledge’ together.
This was the content of the pledge which was said together:
“The Member Pledge, to be present on time, to pay each week, the business is approved by friends, business income is for the family, to be responsible together, and want to advance friends money when they have a payment difficulty!”
Miraculously, they all knew the words of that ‘pledge’ by heart. Maybe because every Wednesday they gathered together and had to say that pledge, they became accustomed to say it. And they had to repeat the pledge again when the meeting was over.
If there was one of the members who had not been able to pay the instalment, then the other members had to chip in together to pay for it first, on condition that the person could ensure when she could pay. If there was someone who wanted to borrow, the money would be released a week later. When the money was released, if there was one of the members who didn’t show up, then the money release would be postponed until the next week. Like when my cousin, her husband and their two children were going home to Madura. She was forced to skip the ‘pledge’. However, on the fifth week, she was forced to return, because there would be a money release and all members had to gather together, even though she wasn’t the one who would accept the money. There was no day off for that meeting. Even when on the calendar the Wednesday was red (indicating the national holiday), they still had to gather together.
This was a unique phenomenon of my hometown. Borrowing was a routine procedure in Parungkuda Village, particularly for my family. Like a Rhoma Irama’s song, Gali Lobang Tutup Lobang, borrowing money from one place to pay a debt at other places.
Actually, what happened in my hometown reflected structural poverty. And in the context of the case in Parungkuda Village, that structural poverty resulted in cultural poverty. Structural poverty was a kind of property that happened unnaturally because of the intentional factors made by certain parties. For example, the government policy which allowed the foreign industrialist to invest in Indonesia, so the domestic or foreign entrepreneurs could exploit the resources here by employing the labour with the low payment. However, there was no initiative from the government to improve education in Indonesia, especially in my hometown. Another example was DKI government policy which stated that people were prohibited to give a donation to the beggars, street musicians, and people who asked for a donation on the street. Why could this government policy result in structural poverty? I thought, maybe because the government didn’t make the policy for the homeless, beggar, et cetera. The absence of various allowances, health insurances, job opportunities and so on for the homeless made their life couldn’t be free from what we knew as poverty.
Meanwhile, cultural poverty was a kind of poverty that happened because of the low work ethic or attitudes of people, such as laziness or the lack of creativity to improve life. It was like what I was expressing on this writing: because of the paradigm and laziness mentality to improve life, they were easily influenced to depend on money loan system. There was no attitude to improve their life, and they just went around the circle of debt.
I believe, certainly, the people’s paradigm in my hometown wouldn’t be that bad without any cause. Now I came to think about it, here was the connection. It was because some government policies and the presence of the businessmen who exploited people brought out the structural poverty. Because they had become accustomed to that paradigm, like in my hometown, that was the people who had become accustomed to depending on the job as factory worker (as long as it made money for living), without any effort to improve the paradigm quality (education), eventually the people paradigm that was hard to rise from the circle of poverty was formed, and it finally brought out the cultural poverty.
Because the payment as a factory worker wasn’t sufficient, they add the income with borrowing money. I got a headache imagining this situation that seemed like a vicious circle. Finally, there was only a rhetorical question from my cousin to end our discussion:
She said, “Geunah nyaho minjem duit di dieu, mah, kekeluargaan terus bungana leutik.” (It’s pleasant to borrow money from this place, you know, it’s a kinship, and the interest is small).
I answered, “Mendingan teu minjem urang, mah.” (For me, it’s better to not borrowing).
She instead responded by asking, “Ari teu boga duit, kumaha?” (What if you don’t have money?)
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