Oct 6, 2014

CETHU: My most reviewed writing to date

One of my Malay short stories was published in an anthology titled KOPI by FIXI a few years back (March 2012). There were only limited copies, and was sold out pretty quick.

As an  archive and a reminder to myself that I actually do have at least one good writing worthy of  comment both bad and good; here are the reviews I could find:


Phew, this is a short story I took some time to digest. But I like the language. I like the detailed and interesting scenes, which were infamiliar to me but I learned from them. I like the naughtiness imagined through a language that perhaps when used by other people, might not be very polite. Sometimes I think the characters should have been better in Bali rather than in Yogyakarta. A lot of "what-if's" in this story. Similar to Kau Kopikoku, the idea in this story is unique. Coffee dregs which no one would have thought to spun into a tale, made me imagine many things when turned into a short story. But if Nabila Najwa was to write a book, I think it would take me centuries to finish her writing. Her style of writing sort of strays from the concept of a typical Fixi book, which are more casual reads. But there's nothing wrong in learning new things. Right?

2) You can read the beautifully long, whole review dedicated to my short story by clicking the link here.

In a nutshell, this short story has an interesting emotional voice, channeled with shocks and an effort in poetic writing about same-sex love which sediments in the soul like "cethu". The protagonist is a girl from a rich family who studied medicine in Yogyakarta, meeting an Indonesian partner who opened her eyes to seeing the culture of Yogya and the beautiful things associated within.


Do I really need to translate this? :p


Cethu I feel is one of the "heavy" short stories in the Kopi anthology. This writing by Nabila Najwa needs time to sip and understand. However all that effort is needed a little to understand the love spell mantra which was tried to be conveyed.


Perhaps another short story that is quite hard to read (after Luwak dan Kretek by Ridhwan Saidi), the writer tries to bring readers through the city of Yogyakarta and accompany Cethu, a type of coffee mixed in with charcoal block.

Honestly, eventhough I have read the story three time I still could not truly grasp the story in Cethu. Is it the remains of love from far? Is it a soliloquy of unrequited feelings? Is is a dream fragment of someone on a high?


The writing style reminds me of Ophan Bunjos (Ghost Writer), the author of Kontrol Histeria and also BIN. In Indonesian language - as the first background was an area in that land over the seas. I could not review further about this, but I can say the flow and arrangement of the short story - about the life of a doctor makes us nod, become silent , read, nod and focus again.


A story of... A story of... okay I fail at this one.

Comment: language, plot only understandable by coffee people. And I am not a coffee person. And maybe I only read it once. But the setting in the story is beautiful, I could feel that.


The memory of a girl who studied medicine before, in Indonesia. Full of metaphors and flowery lingo which left me "blur" in understanding the short story.


What I can summarize, is that the story is filled with metaphors, flowery lingo of which a level 1 reader might find hard to understand the intent of the writer. But what I can say is that the story is of a girl who studied medicine in Indonesia, specializing in the research and treatment of venereal diseases. She has a rebellious mother and the girl is a smoker!

And cethu the writer mentioned I did not quite grasp as well. I have vainly tried to imagine it but failed. Maybe after this I need to travel to Indonesia to find out what is cethu. Overall, I think it is a brilliant short story! Congratulations to the writer.


In conclusion? Who cares for a conclusion, this is the kind of fiction I want to surf the imagination and the beauty of the word strings. I read it 3-4 times, to understand this short story.


Perhaps many are clueless to what exactly is this cethu thing. Some call it 'cethe coffee'. I also don't know how to pronounce it but it is one of the famous types of coffee in Indonesia. There is a special way of making this cofee. Especially when the coffee dregs are allowed to sediment in the cup's base. Even when you search on Google, the cethu dregs could be mixed with water and milk for 'nyethu' or also called 'nyethe': as explained in the short story. Nyethu is considered "a must have" for hanging out while drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. To nyethu, you only need to smear or rub the cigarette sticks with the coffee dregs, that's all. About the short story? It tells of the memory of someone during their studies. What the person does, everything. An addiction that could not be discarded.

THANK YOU so much to all the reviewers. This has been a good writing and translating exercise after so long; good motivation too. I guess I should start writing again for reals.

P/S: I like bad reviews too. Give them to me.

Sep 21, 2014

Pong Pang Bunyi Kompang!

Bahagia aku tak datang terhidang dalam dulang hantaran
berhiaskan bunga hutang

Ayah ibu kan bukan gembala?
dan aku bukan lembu
tak ada tindik tanda harga di telinga
dua belas ribu
serba satu

Sekolah tinggi-tinggi tapi jual ikut kati
ikut sedap hati
ikut sedap mulut
itulah nasib anak gadis
"Kita hantar belajar jauh,
belajar oversea
duit hantaran kenalah tinggi!"

Cincin risik macam resit
jadi bukti deposit
cukup bulan, cukup wang tinggal ambil

Direnjis-renjis dipilis
ditepungilah tawar
hai beras kunyit ditabur
disiram si air

Adat dibiar hidup
anak pilih mati
anak pilih lari
anak lebih rela jadi headline berita terkini.

tu kata media
anak derita tak ada yang tahu
dek adat jadi belenggu
dek tradisi jadi tak menentu
mak bapak sibuk jaga muka
anak haru biru

Jiran kata mesti begini
Mak Cik kata harus begitu
anak sendiri kata apa semua buat tak tahu

Siapa yang nak kahwin
orang lain yang dijemput dulu
anak sendiri dibuat musuh

Mungkin sebab aku bukan kera di hutan
jadilah aku tak dikasi susu
aak aak uuk uuk.

Paper Girl

paper girl was folded over
seven times is the limit they say
try it
it's scientific
you can never get the back doubled to eight
but still paper girl curls the corner of her pages
like wings of a white crane but filled with 

she curls at the corner of a hall holding back

there are no more blank spaces
red ink splatters
mark her back with angry letters
screaming alphabets that march towards her ears
crawl through grey hemispheres and reside there
her head bows with the weight
with the pressure
she loses her composure

paper girl unfolds
baring her soul, perforated
a cobweb of words tied with hatred

...and then it was over.


When he punched me in the face
I offered the other cheek
because love is sacrifice, right?

When she pulled my hair
down the stairs and into the toilet
I resigned my cries for another day
because patience is a virtue, it's true!

I signed away rights to my own self at seven months gestation
born premature, my lungs were not developed to carry enough air for me to scream out
the umbilical card forever wrapped tight around my windpipe

Obedience is a ritual we carry on long after we're born
Fueled by hopes for a higher heaven
Dreams carried on generation to generation by the medium of television
Shows where women burn at the altar of sin and admiration

We share laughter after every lashings
time forgives the faded marks on my back
as did the tears and ointment my mom rubs
admonishing me for being so stubborn, at age seven
"What will the family of your future husband say?"

Don't talk back
Close your legs
It's for your own good anyway

Like cattle are branded and trained to be given away.

Because when a woman and a man marries,
it binds two families
but mother, you look away from signs of my slow slaughter
am I no longer your daughter?

Candu sekarang mahal bhai

Kamu itu candu
bertamu di lidah
tak lama bersinggah
Hijau hati ini terlalu dini
untuk keterburuanmu.

Kau aku cumbu dalam mimpi
Ujud nyatamu adalah aksara ya, tidak dan tapi
aku takkan dapat sanggup 
berlabuh di bayangmu yang tak pasti.

Kau yang pergi
bersinggah di sana dan di sini
di sini juga tapi tak lama
dan tak sama
dan tak ada namaku
di tenunan alas ranjangmu.

Aku ingin
aku mahu
aku tahu lengkung senyummu
Bersinggahlah lagi
di tempat rambut dan bahu bertemu
seperti malam tadi.