It was around 1950 and I Wayan Geden was already working at the Mental Hospital in the city of Bangli, Bali when he heard the opening of the Police academy. Geden, was the third kid among his siblings, all boys. There were five of them, but one had passed away. His elder brother was Ketut Date, his younger brothers were Nengah Ngunjuk and Made Merte.
I Wayan Geden was already married with five kids. His first son passed away, leaving him and his wife with three sons and one daughter, the youngest. Geden graduated from Kokumin Gakkō, the Japanese term for the National People’s School, or in Bahasa Indonesia, it was known as, Sekolah Rakyat (SR)
With the SR certificate, Geden was able to pass the test and attended the police academy in Denpasar. There were four of them from Bangli. He packed his bags, bid farewell to his clerk job at the mental hospital and left for Denpasar, where he attended the school for about a year. He was then assigned to Kupang, West Timor in 1951. Little that he knew that he would spend most of his life there.
Kupang was not like his Bangli, or let alone, Bali where the climate was mild and sufficient rainfall to support the agriculture for the whole year. Kupang was then a small port town with a long dry season, windy, and rough sea during the rainy season.
Geden was then trusted by his commanding officer as his personal chauffeur in the 5486 Mobile Brigade company driving the military vehicle, Jeep Willys. One day he was driving from Bonipoi, passing Al-Ikhlas mosque down to Cendrawasih road in Kupang China town. Suddenly, he felt nothing as he put his foot down on the brake. He lost the brake. He cruised down the hill and managed to swerve to the left, but his car crashed into a store. He was injured. He eventually recovered, physically but psychologically broken. His commanding officer was worried about his condition and then took him to someone in Namosain or Mantasi village to help him recover. This faith healer then told Geden that he could recover but on one condition that he should convert to become a Muslim. Geden went home to Bali and met his wife and family, whom he shared about his accident and what he heard from this orang pintar*. For their love of him and wanting to see him recover, his family gave the blessing for him to convert.
Geden used to do errands for his commanding officer and for that he used to visit the Bonipoi area where he met Sarni, a widow, with one daughter. Sarni was the daughter of a successful trader in Bonipoi, named Mohammad Abdul Djamin. Geden fell in love and later married her. This he didn’t inform his wife in Bali and the family. With his second wife, they were blessed with the first daughter, Rose, in 1954, and then a year later they moved to Denpasar Bali. On one occasion, he visited his first wife and the family in his home town in Bangli. As his wife was unpacking his luggage, she found a woman’s dress in the suitcase. Geden didn’t realise that he had Sarni’s dress tucked among the clothes in the bag. His first wife then finally knew about him having a second wife and family.
Geden tried to keep the two families together, but it only lasted for three years before his first wife decided to go back to Bangli. They were then separated. Meanwhile, Sarni had a second child, a boy that they named Dede. In 1960, they then decided to leave Denpasar back for Kupang. This time, the two sons from the first wife, Made and Nyoman, followed him to Kupang.
Life was tough back then. Trying to raise his growing family with a meagre salary of a low-rank officer was not enough. He decided to take a course in sewing to become a tailor so he could earn some additional incomes for the family. Upon completing the course, he started off by offering services for clothes adjustments, and as he grew confident, he started sewing military and police uniforms for his peers at the company. They apparently liked his work. The clothes he made looked really good and were relatively cheaper than the other tailors. His business got better, and he was able to send all his children, the two boys from the first wife, five children from his second wife, and his wife’s daughter from the first husband, to finish school. He was able to provide his family with a relatively decent life. Even after he retired from the police, he continued making clothes for the people until his body gave up, and his family asked him not to make clothes anymore.
I Wayan Geden is my beloved grandfather. I remember his ritual getting up very early and taking a long walk in the morning. I always remember him as a responsible, hard-working and loving grandfather. He was generous, patient and a peace-loving figure. His approach to our family conflicts was avoidance. I have learned by now that this is a useful strategy in conflict resolution to prevent it from escalation and let the fire settle by itself.
When my grandmother died at Bhayangkara hospital. He was at home at that time when we told him that grandmother had gone. He came rushing into the hospital room. His face was tense, in disbelief. He then hugged her in her deathbed, crying.
“Mamak, why did you go and leave me alone?”
That was the first time I saw my grandfather crying. That memory lives on until now. My grandfather was a quiet man. I wouldn’t expect those words came out from him, but I guess, he did love my grandmother truly even though she seemed to be complaining and getting upset with him all the time. He never talked back to my talkative grandmother, but when he got really upset my grandmother knew her limit. I realise it was how they communicated and cared for each other. My grandfather’s health slowly deteriorated after my grandmother passed away. Losing his partner in life and being alone was hard for him. He decided to follow my grandmother a few years later. Rest in peace, Au**, Al-Fatihah for you.
Events in the past as shared by my uncle I Made Rastha
*Orang Pintar – A local term for Faith Healer
** Au, the name I called both my grandparents.
I think another version of this story (unverified) about my grandpa converting to become a Muslim would be, he probably had met with my grandmother and maybe, my grandmother’s family told him that he had to be converted to Muslim in order to marry my grandmother. As a Balinese my grandfather was a believer of Balinese Hindhu.