Excerpt from “Pulang”

Bimo Nugroho

dioramaMy childhood home. A house filled with tension and disappointment. I never wanted to go back there again. But that is where my mother was, still silently serving the man she calls her husband. A home in the Tebet area of Jakarta where the man took her with the risk that she would chose to take me there as well.

When Mother married Bapak Prakosa—whom I will never call “father”—I knew that my life would change. Even though my father, my real bapak, Nugroho Dewantoro, had disappeared from our lives long before, this didn’t mean that I had to accept this man in my life. In our lives.

Bapak Prakosa was not an evil man, though his career in the military was not a profession that one would automatically find pleasing. But he also wasn’t a person who gladly accepted the burden that the woman he married brought with her. Bapak Prakosa viewed raising me as a unwanted duty but something he had to do for the beautiful woman he had taken from my father. It was a risk he had to take.

I never tried to be the son he wanted. For him, a boy who liked to draw and make pictures was fairly useless and not a male child at all. That my classmates at school often heckled me because my real father was considered a traitor to the nation was not a subject I ever brought up at our meals together. The bruises on my body, my puffed up lips, were always caused by ‘having fallen on the stairs at school” or “getting roughed up when playing soccer”. (Since when did I ever play soccer?) All those incidents, I’ve turn into comic-strip panels. Maybe someday I’ll publish them.


Translated by: John H.McGlynn