(Photo by Alpha Amirrachman/JP)
CHALIK HAMID: POETIC LOVE OF COUNTRY LIVES ON
Alpha Amirrachman, Contributor, Diemen, the Netherlands | Mon, 01/05/2009 11:06 AM | Lifestyle
When poet Chalik Hamid left Indonesia on Feb. 4, 1965, to study journalism in Albania, he had no idea he would not return for 30 years.
Just seven months after he had left the country -- and his pregnant wife -- Indonesia experienced some of the defining moments in its modern history: the killing of the generals, the fall of the giant Indonesian Communist Party and the alleged massacre of its followers.
Because of his own communist history, even though he was far away in Albania, Chalik's life was changed forever.
The Indonesian Communist Party -- then the world's third-largest political party with three million members -- was accused by some sections in the military of attempting to stage a coup d'etat and of having a role in killing the generals.
Indonesia found itself caught in a bitter feud between two competing ideologies: communism and capitalism.
Capitalism won, with the support of the United States, and Indonesia underwent years of bloodbath with the alleged massacre of around half a million followers of the Indonesian Communist Party.
Although Chalik was abroad, the fact he had been sent there by the country's first president Sukarno, who was accused of siding with the left, turned out to be a lifelong curse.
Like many others who were sent abroad to study, Chalik lost his Indonesian citizenship and was barred from returning home by the New Order regime, which was seeking to eradicate all communist influences in the country.
Chalik was not allowed to see his wife Sri Sutiati, whom he had married in May 1964. He also had to bury his dream of seeing his baby daughter Chasrita, who was born on March 19, 1965 -- barely a month after he left the country.
"I was distressed and disoriented," Chalik told The Jakarta Post at the 20th anniversary celebration of Vereniging Persaudaraan, an organization that gathers hundreds of former students who were barred from going home following the events of 1965.
At the gathering, Chalik read some of the poems from his recently released book Mawar Merah (Red Roses), published by Ultimus.
"I couldn't sleep for months, trying to grasp what was actually going on in my beloved homeland," he said.
He dealt with the stress by running long distances -- and continuing his lifelong love of writing poetry.
Born in the city of Kisaran, Asahan, North Sumatra, on May 16, 1938, Chalik graduated from Taman Siswa junior high school in Kisaran in 1958 before going onto SMA Pembaruan high school in Medan. He continued his studies at Art Academy in Medan and Aliarcham Social Science Academy in Jakarta.
In junior high school, Chalik industriously wrote poems, which were published in Taman Siswa's magazine and Lembaga daily.
Later his work was published in Jalan Baru, Harian Harapan, Waspada, Indonesia Baru, Gotong Royong, Harian Patriot and Cerdas in Medan. He also sent his work to publications in Jakarta such as Bintang Timur and Harian Rakyat.
He once received a literary award from Harian Rakyat for his distinguished work.
In his youth, Chalik often read his poems and short stories on the state-run radio RRI in Medan under the guidance of Prof. Bakri Siregar and Sy. Anjasmara.
He also liked to perform in dramas, taking a lead role in productions of dramatic adaptations, including Utuy Tatang Sontani's Si Kabayan, Dostoyevsky's Dosa dan Hukuman (Crime and Punishment) and Pramoedya Ananta Toer's Orang-orang Baru dari Banten (New People from Banten).
These plays were often directed by famous artists of the time, including Bakri Siregar, Hr. Bandaharo, Sy. Anjasmara, Aziz Akbar and Kamaludin Rangkuty.
As a student, Chalik was also active in Indonesia's student association. He was elected chairman of the Sumatra branch in 1961 during its sixth congress in Jakarta, and from 1961 to 1964 was chairman of the Medan branch of Lekra (People's Cultural League) and one of the presidium at North Sumatra's Lekra.
Lekra is the cultural and literary wing of the Indonesian Communist Party, which had a sizable membership from artists from various fields.
As a young student activist, Chalik was critical of any form of exploitation. He once led a movement spraying graffiti on the American General Council building in Medan to protest against the takeover of a plantation in Sumatra by a foreign joint-plantation corporation.
But the events of 1965 crushed his activism and his dream to develop Indonesia's literary world.
The one bright spot was that the Albanian government continued his scholarship until he graduated from the University of Tirana in 1969.
He had to resist calling his wife because he feared any form of direct communication could endanger her family.
"I sent my letters to my family through a third country like Peru, and this could take months," Chalik said.
Many family members of those associated with the banned Indonesian Communist Party had to undergo a harsh, often unimaginable life. They abruptly became social pariahs; they were unable to apply for government jobs or enroll in university.
Even children were "tagged" with the so-called Surat Bebas PKI, a certificate indicating that they were free from elements of the Indonesian Communist Party.
He later learned that his wife and daughter were forced to go into hiding in Kisaran, Java and Medan.
"Sri was finally captured and thrown in jail in 1967 without trial."
"She was only released in 1979. She went to see my mother to ask permission to marry my friend Astaman," Chalik said, adding he was relieved by her choice because her new husband was his friend and their marriage would be good for their daughter.
Chalik later married an Albanian woman, Katerina, with whom he had two children, Hervis and Rahardi, and worked as a radio broadcaster and translator at the Indonesian section of Tirana radio.
"People in South Sumatra could listen to Tirana radio," he said with a smile.
With friends he produced a magazine called Api Pemuda Indonesia (API, The Fire of Indonesian Youth), with an English edition Indonesian Tribune, to attack the New Order government.
However, he had to seek political asylum in the Netherlands in 1989 after communism crumbled in many parts of Eastern Europe.
Chalik finally visited Indonesia in 1995, when he stayed in the house of his ex-wife's family -- a rather awkward situation, he found.
He has since visited Indonesia six times. He divorced his Albanian wife and married an Indonesian woman, Nur Aisah, in 2003.
The bitterness he feels about his life is reflected in Mawar Merah, in which he writes: "...the house is deserted, the room has lost its inhabitants, children and wife are kept waiting ... I have lost my eternal friend..."
But despite the bitterness, his love of his home country remains intact, he writes:
"... forty years I was barred from stepping foot on my homeland, but I am still loyal, I am still in love (with her)..."
Photo: CHALIK HAMID (JP/Alpha Amirrachman)