Keroncong is traditional music from back home. Unlike its ‘livelier’ counterpart, dangdut (our version of country music.. only much, much livelier and is considered a little .. err.. boorish by some people, for lack of better word), keroncong maintains a calmer, steadier flow. It’s really, really lovely to listen to.
Keroncong brings back memories of my late grandfather. My Eyang Kakung (or Mbah Kakung), as we Javanese call our grandfathers, is an avid keroncong lover. He listened to his fair share of Beatles as well, but keroncong remained his love.We used to listen to keroncong together when I was little, in his spacious bedroom. Him in his rocking chair, my sister and I in the bed.
He run a private practice clinic adjacent to his house (he was a surgeon), where he had morning practice time, an afternoon break, and evening practice time. Very common private practice time for doctors in Indonesia.
During his afternoon break, Bapak, my sister and I’s special nickname for our grandfather (Bapak literally means ‘father’.. my sister and I call our paternal grandparents Bapak and Ibu (mother), because when we were little we’d imitate our parents and our uncle and aunt who’d call them that. Bapak and Ibu love being called that, they always say they consider my sister and I their ‘anak buntut’.. youngest children.) would come to the house for lunch, nap and afternoon tea time with Ibu and us, when we were there for vacations (we spent pretty much every single vacation we had growing up at Bapak and Ibu’s). Bapak would always bring back ‘oleh-oleh’ from the clinics. Oleh-oleh means souvenirs. As a doctor, he always had pharmaceuticals sales reps brought him various things, from pens and notebooks to cassettes and body lotions. I remember vividly the way he used to say oleh-oleh, “oyeh oyeh..! oyeh oyeh untuk Mbak (my nickname) dan Neng (my sister’s nickname)” Oyeh oyeh is baby talk for oleh oleh :) He’s so adorable.
We’d wait impatiently for him to come back in his white coat (everytime I see a doc with white coat to this day I always choke up), bearing our oleh-oleh. He’d eat a proper lunch with us, he always said the prayer.
Bapak told us stories from his youth. His struggles in the time of colonialism in our country. Bapak is quiet, but utterly strong, wise beyond anything and anybody I ever know all my life, faithful. Bapak is a true, real patriarch. (I am a feminist, mind you.) He respects the women in his life with everything he has, he treats people with kindness and compassion, he believes in humanity, in people, in life, in the best of everything.
He always urges us to ask questions, to inquire, to learn, to be curious. Be curious but remain faithful, keep your feet firmly planted to the ground. Be humble, treat people with sincerity and honesty.
Bapak was only 65 when he passed away. I can’t tell you how many people mourned for his passing. Too many to count.
Tonight, as I’m listening to these lovely keroncong songs, I’m thinking of Bapak. He’s my hero, and he is a hero to a lot of people I know.
I miss you, Pak. I don’t ever wish to turn back time anymore, but sometimes I still find myself wishing you’re still here with us… I know you’re always looking for us from up there, caring and taking care of us in your own way. For that I’ll be forever grateful… for your presence, for simply having the honor of calling you my grandfather… I’ll always be grateful.
I’ll always be overwhelmed.