Ahmad Abdul Haq

The Long Journey of Love

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Sumber: Kick Andy.com


Rabu, 31 Desember 2008 03:06 WIBThe Long Journey of Love

The Long Journey of Love My cousin is finally in love and is seriously planning to get married. It is indeed heart warming to see her so happy and excited about the thought of spending the rest of her life with a person that she considers her Mr Right and Soul Mate.

However, as is the normal case in Indonesia, a marriage is never about the union of two people, but the coming together of two families. In other words, it is the business of everybody, except the persons involved. And this business is steeped in tradition.

(A divorce on the other hand, is entirely a private matter, preferably with nobody knowing anything about it.)

The first stage in her long road to matrimony is the betrothal.

Fortunately the groom is also of Minangkabau tribe coming from West Sumatera, thus lessening the length and pain of both families' approval process. Moreover, being a Minang, a matrilineal society where inheritance is passed on through the women, the hopeful young man already knows that his role would have to take a back seat to his future wife's ambitions of becoming a globe trotting diplomat. A Javanese suitor on the other hand, might not find the idea of playing second fiddle to a dominant spouse as his idea of domestic bliss.

Having said that, as my cousin's beau is from Bukit Tinggi, tradition requires that it is her family that must ask for the young man's hand in marriage and not the other way round. So the onus is on her side to come up with suitable offerings and pay tribute to his parents' house.

This proved to be not so simple. These traditions were after all created in a village setting and not for urban life with labyrinthine streets and nightmare traffic. Moreover, being a matrilineal tribe, the role of the parents in these matters is taken over by my cousin's matrilineal uncles, which means that the actors in the drama grew by a significant number with a script that got more complicated.

Preparing the offerings was the easy part. There were a lot of very thick and sticky traditional sweets, most likely symbolising the hope for a very thick and sticky union; a bunch of bananas and a bowl of chicken goulash, probably representing prosperity, fertility and loyalty. No doubt also reflecting the Minang people's famed unhealthy diet.

Finding the boy's parental home in the backstreets of Jakarta's impossible roads was a whole chapter in the evening's drama. In the village it would have been a ceremonial process with much fanfare. As it was, after several missed turns and getting stuck in traffic we finally found ourselves standing dressed head to toe in traditional garbs in the middle of a busy residential street with our patience wearing thin, waiting for the cue to the next act. It did not come for a good hour however, as the top Uncle representing the family, came late.

When he did finally arrive, Uncle refused to enter the house. Apparently tradition did not allow him to seem too eager and thus lessen his avuncular value. He took this literally however, sulking at the end of the road until a member of the boy's family, whose tradition consisted in welcoming the guests and not fetching people, agreed to pick him up and escorted him to the house.

With relief we entered the parents' house - our colourful presence was creating a bit of a stir in the neighbourhood who probably thought we were shooting a TV 'sinetron'.

The evening largely consisted of exchanges of 'pantun' or traditional oral verses in Minang language where one party tries to convince the other of its intention using witty and clever rhymes. A good 'pantun' exchange can last for several hours until the proposing family proves itself worthy of acceptance and the union is agreed.

And where were the anxious lovers all this time? The young man was modestly locked up in his room until his family was ready to show him off. While my cousin, until they were desirous to examine her beauty and suitability, was hidden equally out of sight. Which in this case, was sitting on the side of the road next to a smelly gutter.

Nevertheless, she was happy.

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