Bandung to Bali XXX – Batman, Rukman and the Hantu – 5 June 1973

After the drain incident we have to stay out the back and play if we wake up in the afternoon.

A wide corrugated roof shades the length of the yard we share with our neighbours.

In the centre sits a little house, one room deep and one room wide.

A half painted window looks onto our side of the yard. A wooden door would open – if it could – onto the other side.

We create stories about the little house.

It is just big enough for Red Riding Hood’s wolf to lie in wait in a bed or for Bilbo’s dragon to curl up inside on his gold.

‘I’ve seen someone in there,’ Matt says.

‘Haven’t,’ says Tony as he hits a ball up and back against the wall.

‘There’s a light comes on at night,’ Matt insists on the ball’s return.

‘Isn’t,’ Tony knocks the ball back harder.

**

One day I wake up hot and puffy and fumble out to the mundi.

It is Thursday and Atang and Kiah have left early to see their families. They go to the market before going to prayers at the mosque at sunset.

Nothing stirs in the dead middle of the afternoon heat. I wander into the yard to dry off and pull my dress on over wet hair and sticky skin.

The little house frowns at me – a dark square block in the deep shade.

I want to look into the window but wonder if I can stretch up tall enough to see through the clear upper pane.

Matt’s myth of the little house holds me back. Most likely there is nothing in there.

Probably, it’s just like the shed at home. Full of hay and horse feed and maybe a rat that suddenly runs across the boards and makes you jump.

A small part of the lower window is bare of paint so I can peer inside.

Light bleeds from a small hole in the roof and makes a column of dust dance in the dark.

The faint beam spreads over a mound of clothes and blankets which form an untidy pile against the wall.

All at once the covers stir and slide slowly toward the floor to reveal a broad back of honey coloured skin which twists and slowly rises toward the door.

I skittle from the yard and back into my bed as fast as a rabbit ducks away from headlights on a dusty track.

**

The evening arrives as usual and no-one suspects I have been peeking through windows in the afternoon.

Richard and Jane and Richie Rich arrive for our new Thursday ritual of television and satay supper.

The Dads and Tony and I troop off in the half light to the satay sellers. Matt and Richie are made to stay behind under protest.

Jane and Mum fall into lounge chairs with cold glasses of Bintang.

‘Just a sip for me,’ Mum says with a smile across the thin foam of the beer.

‘Matt,’ she calls, ‘take Richie out the back and have a hit of the ball for a bit.’

The satay sellers line the street beside the market with their fiery charcoal burners. They flick and spin the smouldering sticks of sticks as they fan the coals with woven mats.

The smell of smoke and roasting meat is irresistible. Dad has a great time naming the different types of satay and making a large order of each.

‘Apakah ada daging kambing?’ Dad calls, ‘Dua puluh sate kambing.’

‘Tiga puluh sate sapi.’

Empat puluh sate ayam!’

**

We unbundle the satays and soak them with the hot peanut sauce as the television broadcast starts at 6 o’clock.

The News comes on.

Dad and Richard translate the main points of the bulletin in between advertisements for Nestles Milk and Everyready Batteries

Everyready baterai nomor satu di dunia,’ the announcer tells us.

At last the familiar music brings Batman and Robin running toward us at full tilt.

For the next half an hour Richie Rich and Matt dart about the edge of the lounge room with a ‘Kapow’ and ‘Kaboom.’

They repeat every kick and salami chop, ‘ Back to the Bat Cave’ and ‘Waugh, waugh, waugh!’

With a break after the show the boys go outside to cool off and the parents chat away.

‘What’s that little house out the back Richie is going on about?’ Jane leans forward eagerly.

Why does she want to know?

“Matt will be telling Richie all sorts of stories,’ Mum shakes her head, ‘He’s convinced there’s something living out there.’

‘The neighbour’s nephew sleeps out there,’ Dad adds offhandedly. ‘I met him today.’

I feel cold.

‘Rukman – he seems like a nice lad – he’s moved down to study engineering at the Institute.’

A piercing cry cuts across Dad’s calm explanation.

Jane is on her feet at once in alarm. Has Richie fallen down a hole? Cut his leg off?

His father takes another draught of beer, ‘What now?’

‘Mommy, mommy it’s a hantu,’ Richie is in the centre of the room squealing in terror, ‘Rukman’s a Hantu!  Rukman’s a Hantu!’

Matt follows in spasms of laughter, ‘He’s like the Joker mum but a lot scarier.’

Behind Matt a young man bursts into his audience bare chested and a sarong wrapped at his hips. He has a strip of white teeth and a pile of dark wet hair.

‘Pak,’ he addresses Dad in a breathless laugh, ‘These boys very cheeky. I chase them out of the mundi like Hanuman!’

Rukman half squats and spreads arms high above his head, his finger tips stretch and arch, his eyes bulge and mouth spreads into a wide grimace.

Richie shrieks again and buries his head into Jane’s lap.

‘Well that’ll teach you not to go peeping at people,’ Richard reprimands his little boy.

I stand in the doorway and hope no-one looks at me.

***************

A few words

Apakah ada daging kambing – Is there any goat meat?

Tiga puluh sate sapi – 30 Beef Satay

Empat puluh sate ayam – 40 Chicken Satay

**

Up to this point we had only really been having a sort of western holiday.

Almost everyone we had met in Indonesia had been an interaction based on meeting our basic needs – the endless juvenile demands of a foreign traveller in another people’s land..

Somewhere to stay, finding our way, eating, drinking, cleaning up after us.

When Rukman jumped through the door and playfully taunted the boys with his Hanuman dance something changed.

He wasn’t about to defer to his new neighbours or put up with two cheeky little kids interrupting his evening bath.

Just as we were starting to turn into a suburban family living in Bandung with our TV and takeaway meals with English speaking friends, we were confronted by someone who embodied both the new and the old Indonesia.

While we watched the familiar characters on television, Rukman showed us that his white masked hanuman was an adopted by our culture from his – an ancient story of good overcoming evil.

In my girlish mind I imagined (fantasised / dreamed?) I had stirred Rukman into life from a pile of clothes – so I was changed too.

I had woken up a real live boy and how many stories are there about that?

**

Bit of a water mark in the Bandung to Bali story telling so far and maybe a good time for a break before the story starts to venture beyond Bandung and to the east.

**

WordPressers with similar leanings from which the photos shown have been are:

H for Hanut is a stage play about all things ghostly and spooky

http://hforhantu.wordpress.com/

Spooky photos of hantus if you don’t get too frightened like me.

http://fotofoliofabian.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/burung-hantu/

Witney Seibold’s Blog – Three Cheers for Darkened Years gives a superb account of the wonder that was the Batman TV series of 1966 which found its way to Indonesia by 1973

http://witneyman.wordpress.com/2010/06/05/batman-1966/

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5 thoughts on “Bandung to Bali XXX – Batman, Rukman and the Hantu – 5 June 1973

  1. very cool. sadly, i was born well after the batman tv series went off the air in america.
    curiously, during my recent time in japan i was reading an article regarding correlations between the joker and some of the more evil or mischievous characters from Japanese myths and legends. maybe every culture has a joker in their past.

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    • Hi Stephen – yes the Japanese have Kabuki theatre don’t they where you have similar masks as well as very white painted faces. The team that produced the TV series were obviously very creative and art savvy so I’m sure there would have been a lot of knowledge of graphic novels and similar – especially from Japan. It’s interesting stuff.

      Like

  2. My favorite Sunday morning read – every culture has its Hanuman! Nothing more wonderful than a child imagination – too bad that maybe from watching too much TV, video games and so on, it seems that many children won’t have this sort of lovely memories.

    Like

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