Sunday, May 27, 2007


First published in The Jakarta Post, May 27, 2007


By Alpha Amirrachman

"You are now a grown-up. You need to learn several more facts about your family, I cannot keep this secret for the rest of my life," said Bagas' mother one morning.

Bagas asked, reluctantly, "Is it about father again? His career as a journalist?"

Bagas was now in the last semester at the school of journalism. If his father had still been alive, he could, indeed, have learned more about journalism from him.

But it was about something else. His mother said, "I'm sorry but I'm not your biological mother."

Bagas was speechless. This woman whom he had known for years was not his mother.

"Your father was murdered and your mother was thought to have committed suicide."

Bagas was stunned.

"He was a journalist at a local newspaper, as I've always told you. But there is more that I haven't revealed to you. It is about his extensive writing on a huge scandal allegedly involving the city mayor and big corporations. It was a billion-dollar scandal at a time when poverty struck the city."

"Your father was shot dead when walking out of his house. His colleagues believed that he was murdered because of what he had written. But no one had a clue about who actually pulled the trigger, fatally shooting him five times at close range in cold blood," she explained with a trembling voice.

"Your mother was on the terrace of the house and was an inch away from being killed, too, when the assassin ran out of bullets. Fortunately, you were holidaying at your aunt's house. Your mother was the only witness; she was unconscious for days. She said later that she knew the assassin."

She held her breath, "Just a week after the murder, your mother was found dead, her body hanging in the hospital room. Some believed she had committed suicide, but relatives said that she had a tough personality, so suicide was out of question."

"I was a nurse at the hospital, grabbing you when you and other family members were about to visit your mother at the hospital at the time she was found dead. I was actually the very first person who found your mother's body hanging in the room."

Bagas was shaking.

She paused a second. "To be honest, I kidnapped you, the only child they had. I was a divorced woman with no kids. I stayed at work for a month to disguise my action before I fled the city with you, my sweetheart."

Your sweetheart?

Bagas stood up, immediately went to his room and banged and locked the door. He felt as if thousands of knives were stabbing and slashing his brain into pieces.

I heard five gunshots. They sounded like a thunderbolt, breaking a peace-loving neighborhood, scaring even the fiery dogs ... Slowly blood was spilling to the ground, making it red all over. I could still smell the blood and the smoke. my father might have never heard the gunshot that killed him, but surely he must have felt the pain ... this pain.


(Many years later)

His mother was lying on the bed; four strokes and blood hypertension had effectively crippled her.

Bagas, now celebrated as the most successful media magnate in the country, sat solemnly beside her bed. His sweet-mannered wife, Anita, appeared, bringing a bowl of chicken soup, a cup of porridge and a glass of warm water.

"She looks healthier now," whispered Anita, softly. "She has been eating very well lately."

"That's good, very good. Remind me of when her medical checkup is," said Bagas.

"That would be tomorrow," Anita replied, adding that she had already bought two tickets for her and her mother-in-law to go to Singapore.

"And also tickets to go the U.S. to visit our sons next week," Anita added, referring to their two grown-up sons who were now studying at Harvard and Boston universities.

"That's good, I can't wait."

Bagas kissed the woman's cheek, and whispered lovingly, "You are always my mother."

The aging woman nodded, slowly.

However, without everyone's realizing it, she looked awfully troubled every time she stared at Bagas. There was something mentally disturbing in this sharp, unwavering man that always made her uneasy; it was like a wicked spirit disquieting her inner feeling, coursing strongly and painfully through her veins.

Forgive me ... She bit her lips, they bled.


Bagas drove his gleaming black Jaguar out of his lavish apartment block, vainly struggling to speed through the hectic traffic. He parked the car in a special space at the huge complex of his own media corporation.

He inhaled deeply. Many accused him of being too ferocious in expanding his business, and being cruel to smaller players. Being armed with the power of money and political connection raised suspicion that he never gave it a second thought to twist anything to suit his goal.

He decided not to get out of the car immediately. Stretching out his drained body and soul, Bagas couldn't wait to visit his sons in the U.S. next week, where at least he could relax a bit after having worked so hard lately.

Well, he and Anita might also continue traveling to Europe, he thought. Strolling down the road in Paris or capturing the struggling East-West mood of the Turkish hinterland.

He had been so preoccupied recently, welcoming several political and business figures at his office with election time coming soon. Those boring b*****ds trying to buy me! he laughed cynically.

He managed shrewdly to maintain his subtle political connections. Striking a balance between professionalism and political pressure and temptation is indeed mentally exhausting, but it thrilled him.

Bagas claimed that he never interfered in the editorial content of the media he led, though his staff often had to painfully exercise self-censorship when they had to report on issues relating to their own media corporation.

But that is out of my control, he chuckled, a bit haughtily.

Now he was entertaining a possibly lucrative chance to expand his business empire into neighboring countries.

Staff had recently reported to him that some media groups in the Philippines and Thailand were at the edge of collapse; his inimitable mix of entrepreneurial and journalistic instinct told him that something could be done to help the ailing media.

But that was not going to be easy. In the Philippines the political killing of journalists had always been a ritual, and in Thailand the frantic junta had always made the industry unpredictable.

But he could smell a golden opportunity -- a risky but calculated challenge, the tense negotiation, the increased political influence, the rewriting of history and the unremitting flow of money.

I could still smell the smoking gun. I could still smell the blood ... I saw a body of a slim man crumbling after five deadly gunshots. My father might never have heard the last gunshot that put an end to his life and my mother might never have seen the jerking rope that broke her neck, but surely they must have felt the pain ... this pain ...

He saw himself rewriting history.

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