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  • Eliza's Tshirt extract for Ubud Day 2


    November, during the Extraordinary Meeting of the People’s Representatives, students stormed the streets once again to demand the trial of Soeharto, the removal of the military from politics, and the investigation of the former first family’s wealth. At the start thousands, then tens of thousands filled the central areas of Semanggi, Sudirman, and Kuningan. Rizky volunteered in the hospital every day tending to fellow students who were wounded, beaten, or shot. He picked up stories about army snipers and radical infiltrators, he saw the military police forcing their way into the hospital and people throwing lit cigarettes at them, he carried flyers distributed by the families of the students who had disappeared and tried to find faces that matched the photographs. At night he wandered around the wards and corridors, hoping to see Julita among the photographers immortalizing the heroes and victims of the struggle, but it was in vain.

    Weeks turned into months, and in June Rizky saw the nation hold its first free election since the New Order. Forty-eight parties with various ideologies screamed out their existence—Pancasila, Islamic, Nationalist, Christian, Socialist—after having been for so long melted into three government-approved faces. Even Rizky’s parents were moved to vote. They never bothered before, it was a waste of time— the winning party and the president were already decided before the campaigns even began. This time, the first time since thirty years ago, a party other than the status quo’s won the election.

    In July Rizky found a poster, plastered on a bulletin board on campus, for Julita’s exhibition From Now On Everything Will Be Different at the renowned Antara Gallery for Photojournalism. He stared at it for a long time, proud and ashamed at once. He wrote down the date and time of the opening, but that day came and went and Rizky didn’t show up.

    Meanwhile, the nation elected a new president and amended the constitution, Indonesian filmmakers started making films again after a decade of inactivity, and in September once more students overwhelmed the roads around the House of Representatives complex to protest a bill that would give more power to the military. Many laid their lives to safeguard the Reformasi, so why couldn’t Rizky just stand up to Mother?

    As before she begged him to stay home and he obeyed. Watching tanks spraying the students with water canons on TV, Rizky felt upset with himself. Why wasn’t he there getting soaked like the others? Why didn’t he break down the door the day Mother had locked him in his room as if he were a child? He had marched on the streets, hurled curses at the dictator, yet he didn’t dare do that. Maybe if he had broken down the door, Mother would start treating him like an adult. Most days he was thankful that he could contribute to the struggle by treating the wounded at the hospital, other days he felt he was letting everyone down. The revolution was giving him the opportunity to be the master of his own fate, so why was he still stuck in a life chosen for him by someone else? After his shifts he went out drinking to drown his shame, but the pool of clear drinks reflected it back to him.

     ---

    Extract from Eliza Vitri Handayani's 'From Now On Everything Will Be Different', pp.45-6.

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