People said; “don’t judge the books by its cover” however that what I’ve done when I need to decide on what will be the 2nd books from the same writer. You might ask why? Because of the graphic on its cover; a grandfather black bicycle with a rattan basket; for me it is like a symbols of simplicity. And that is what I really wanted that day; something easy, light and not too complicated. Therefore, my choice is “Travelling to Deli”.
Yes it started with something easy, a night market scenario at Deli, where it mentioned about the farm labourers (kuli) and the sellers behaviours during their ‘pay day’. Amongst the seller, there is a young man travelling from Minang; Leman. Meanwhile amongst the farm labourers, there is young widow name Poniem who is also a mistress to the chief foreman at the estate where all the ‘kuli’ works. Poneim is from Ponorogo, Sumatera.
She is still young; she had married twice; and now she is a mistress. Bad experience had forced her to avoid any serious relation. To her, marriage is like a curse! So when Leman asked her hand for marriage she refused but deep down her heart she cannot deny the request for the legal marriage from Leman as it also means avoiding her wrong doing, avoiding her sins and bring back her dignity and for all to the right path of a real Muslim. Be a wife is a noble. On the other hand, by agreed to Leman’s proposal, she has to leave her wealthy life with the foreman. Is she ready, will she regret?
One day, they got married and run away to the new life in the Medan. The best parts are, she runs with foreman’s gold in hand!
The marriage of 2 different culture isn’t as easy as Leman thought. As a man who growth in Minang’s culture, he believed that man hold the burden in the marriage live. As for Poniem, marriage is about give and take, sharing and compromising each other. The burden shall be shared. Therefore, when she knows that Leman’s business is in deep trouble (due to the lack of capital) she knew it is a time for scarify. Therefore she allowed Leman to sell all her jewels (foreman’s gives) as an investment for Leman to start a new business. Luck is at their side, their business growth especially when they hiring a young Javanese young man (Suyono) as their assistance. Suyono is hardworking, smart and intelligence. At Deli, the business growth!
Frankly, I only have a very limited knowledge about Minang’s culture and I start to learn more about it when I read this books. A part of this story is about the meaning of true love and loyalty from the perspective of woman. Yet another part of the stories (I personally feel) is a criticism towards Minang’s culture. Although the whole families accepted Poniem as a Leman’s wife, although they admits that Poniem is kind, honest, elegant; a symbols of the perfect wife that not easy to be challenged amongst themselves; still to them, Poneim is still an outsiders. And so, they strongly insists Leman to marry ‘orang kita’; someone from Minagkabau!
My 1st thought was wronged; this is neither an easy nor a light book. It is full of emotion, full of feels. It touches a wider scope of the real life, culture, marriage, family, pride of a man, status in the society, polygamy and much more. Honestly for me all of this feels blends so well by the writers. After all I have to admit, the front cover of the book misleads my first judgement.
I still remember the feeling of anger rose in my heart towards Poneam and Suyono even when I only have about 3-4 pages left. Seriously it is not because they did something wrong to Leman but because for me they’re too kind as they still treat Leman kindly after what he had done to them but then I remember the proverb that always mentioned by my Dutch friend Henk:- “revenge is the dish best served cold”. I believed that this is the best to describe the last chapter of this book. Leman is expecting the punishment; yet he received the endless forgiveness.
Forgiveness without punishment from the man/woman that we’ve betrayed is just like a dagger stabbed on our owned heart. For me this book is ‘awesome’.
If I could describe this books as a main dishes that it will be like a ‘masak lemak cili apa’, (jalapeno in rich coconut gravy), it creamy, it looks nicer than a red chilli paste, but come to the taste, wwwoooooo.
28 Aug 2015
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