Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dining with Dian

I informed Dian Siadauruk in writing in advance that we were coming, that a visit with him was a high priority for us and that he could choose where and how we would show our film to him, in private or publicly. He had been such a dedicated friend, although we had never met. I wanted to acknowledge his kindness.

His response, also in writing, was infinitely gracious.
“Thank you very much for your dedication to Batak textiles. Thank you hugely, you and Mas Mja, for wanting to visit me/my family. Also for your willingness to show your ulos film to me/us.
I am moved by this attention. My family and I will be very happy when we can meet and talk together for awhile…”
(Terimakasih banyak atas perhatian namboru yang begitu gigih tentang ulos Batak. Terimakasih sebesar-besarnya atas keinginan namboru dan Mas Mja untuk bertemu dengan saya/keluarga saya, juga atas relanya namboru memutarkan film ulos itu untuk saya/kami.
Namboru, saya terharu atas perhatian ini. Saya dan keluarga saya pasti sangat senang bila kita bisa bertemu dan bercakap-cakap barang sebentar…)
These were just the opening sentences of a long and moving response.

But I had not yet foreseen the bountiful depths of this man’s heart and mind. In fact, I knew essentially nothing about this man except that his written language was always gracious. He mentioned being able to work from the home and that he used internet. I wondered what kind of cosmopolitan he might be.

As the Boat Budaya pulled into the small Simanindo harbour, I witnessed a line-up of earnest people all wearing an ulos over the shoulder. I had a moment of feeling unprepared; such an overwhelming reception was no doubt intended for us. Pak Dian waited until we had all disembarked and been introduced. He was not the oldest, but he was clearly in charge. Full of energy, full of self-confidence, very clear about what he wanted. 
Dian Sidauruk. Read this man's face. MJA Nashir's photograph of him speaks a thousand words. Nashir himself wrote, "Amang Dian Sidauruk, a person who is full of enthusiasm for realizing a lifestyle that is better, more beautiful and full of the creative spirit."
He wanted to know who was who in our party. He was choreographing an unusual moment. His lined up his family members to correspond to our team and then the ulos were handed over. Each person in his line-up gave each in my line-up a textile. All this on the dock beside the Boat Budaya. He pointed out that this was not a hula-hula – boru exchange, that is to say, not a ritual exchange. This was simply a handing over of a textile. I was the recipient of his ulos, a very beautiful old bintang maratur. Not an ordinary gift.
Pak Dian Sidauruk gives me his bintang maratur ulos.

First we toured the Simanindo museum, all of my team now wearing all of the ulos. 
Entering the Simanindo Museum

(I ran into the son of Demar Sidauruk to whom I had given a copy of Legacy in 2010. 
Here I am talking to the son of Demar Sidauruk who had been a recipient of Legacy in cloth in 2010 during the first Back to the Villages journey

Apparently, the father had just passed away earlier in the year, but his son was able to produce the book stored at the entrance to the museum and claimed that much use was made of it when visitors came to the museum. Interesting to know the fate of another of the seeds that I had planted 4 years earlier.)  Dian Sidauruk was clearly relieved that we had no expectation of making a grand showing of our film in the museum. He was delighted that we were willing to show it privately in his home, and so we walked a few hundred yards further, along the main road, under the burning tropical sun, turned left and headed down a long drive to the shore of the lake.

So, Mr. Sidauruk lived in a traditional Batak house! 
Dian Sidauruk's traditional Batak home

There was a bounce in his step and we weren’t invited to climb up the wooden staircase to get to the living quarters of the structure. First there was an obligatory tour of the yard. Not an ordinary Batak yard. It was immaculate! In a culture that is infamous for its indifference to the eyesores of garbage and sloppiness, Dian Sidauruk's yard proved that he marched to a different drummer. Nothing was out of place. Not one piece of gravel. He rakes it every morning. Everything was considered and cared for. The yard was laid out with a bench here and a tree there, electricity connected like this, plants over there –it was becoming clear that Mr. Sidauruk was creating a showcase. His lifestyle was a demonstration of how, with little money but plenty of determination, insight and inventiveness, the simple comforts could be achieved: a seat in the shade making use of a cooling breeze
I enjoyed the shade and the breeze after the hot walk under the noonday sun

an hygienic toilet, 
The hygienic toilet on a smooth, concrete foundation.

a kitchen garden with a huge variety of plants carefully selected and nurtured. Mr. Sidauruk’s yard showed that he was inventive, self-disciplined, unafraid to be different, a positive thinker oriented to the future, convinced that he had something to contribute. He was an artist and his lifestyle was his art.

Later in his house, his immaculate, modern home encased in the traditional Batak framework, he told us his story of how he left his job and returned to Simanindo after his father died. He was not one of those Bataks who would transform his traditional home into a bungalow. He felt that he was a wealthy man to have inherited a Batak house. No ordinary Batak today has the means to acquire the wood and stage the rituals that it takes to build a traditional Batak house. Mr. Sidauruk had a heritage structure. So he tended the wood. He cared for it so it would last. His words tumbled over each other. He was proud of his ideals and his accomplishments. He was turning into a guru. He was regaling us of his learning. My team was tuned in to his words and they were turning to each other and saying, “Wow!”

"He was turning into a guru. He was regaling us of his learning."
Mr. Sidauruk had a beautiful Javanese wife whose cooking skills betrayed her origins. We ate a brilliant meal seated traditionally on a mat in the centre of the house. Mr. Sidauruk talked. He shared his philosophy of life, his likes and dislikes. He was transported by the energy of his ideals.

And then we showed our film. 

Showing Rangsa ni Tonun in Dian Sidauruk's home. He is seated beside his wife. 

Inside the house it was very dark and we used our solar ‘luminaids’. Afterwards, we gave one to Mr. Sidauruk. He was excited by this useful piece of technology; it fit in with his lifestyle and his thinking. He would show it to his NGO friends who often stay at his house. He was a good candidate to share the word that the energy of the sun can do good things for the region.

The house was very dark so the luminaids came in handy.
And then Mr. Dian Sidauruk continued with his story but we had to get to Tuktuk by dinnertime and the sky was overcast. He drove us back to the Boat Budaya and we waved goodbye with promises to meet again in the future. Mr. Sidauruk has much to give to his culture and people. He burns to share it, to advise and to help. He has vision. He is ahead of his time. He is needed. I dream of involving him in restorations of Batak homes, campaigns to tidy up Batak villages.

It is no surprise that of our thousands of Facebook friends, Mr. Dian Sidauruk had stood out. No ordinary mortal.

(All photographs by MJA Nashir)

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