💃🏻 Set in the year 1950s-60s, Dukuh Paruk's pride is in their Ronggeng. Here's my previous post where I talked about Ronggeng and its little similarity with Geisha. They believe that when a Ronggeng spirit inhabits a little girl, she is destined to grow up as a Ronggeng. Srintil is this little girl. She loves to sing Ronggeng songs while playing with a boy called Rasus, her best friend. Like her, he is also an orphan, due to a tragic poisoning case which took their parents' lives. Becoming a Ronggeng, thus, is Srintil's obsession, though without fully understanding of what it truly is.
💃🏻 Rasus, on the other hand, longs for a mother's affection. He's often wondering how his mother looks like, and innocently he took Srintil as the perfect image of a mother he never knew. When Srintil is 11 years old, it's time to initiate her to be a Ronggeng. The initiation includes a rite called 'Bukak Klambu' (freely translated as opening the mosquito net, which is usually hung around the bed). In other words, it's when her virginity is sold to the highest bidder.
💃🏻 This rite enraged Rasus - not so much because he cares about Srintil, but more because it shatters the image of his unknown mother, which he hitherto portrays in her head like Srintil. He left Dukuh Paruk - but not before having sex with Srintil, as she has rather offered her virginity to him than to the highest bidder of Bukak Klambu. Not a proper gentleman this Rasus man, I know.
|The Ronggeng dance in the adaptation of Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk, 2011|
💃🏻 1960s marked a dark turmoil in Indonesian politics, as I have slightly alluded in previous post. Rasus becomes a soldier, while Srintil becomes a famous Ronggeng of Dukuh Paruk. When she doesn't perform on stage, she receives men who wishes to have sex with her, all arranged by an old couple who serve as Srintil's agent slash pimp.
💃🏻 Due to Dukuh Paruk people's ignorance, Srintil is unwittingly involved in the revolutionary's event. Srintil and her group were caught and imprisoned, accused of being supporters of communist party, while their village was burnt down. The imprisonment itself is already bad, but not as bad as the label then applied to ex-political prisoners after they were released. They were banished from society, and viewed as the main cause of the tragedy, though many of them, including Srintil, didn't even understand what it was all about.
💃🏻 The imprisonment changed Srintil's view of life considerably. She refused to perform as Ronggeng, as well as serving men. Instead, she's inspired to be an ordinary but respectable house wife. Rasus' return to Dukuh Paruk (now a respectable soldier) provides a new hope in Srintil. Not only her, all Dukuh Paruk people fervently hope they will eventually marry, and thus help reviving their village. But no, marriage isn't Rasus' inclination, though there's no doubt that he loves her still.
💃🏻 After Rasus, came Bajus, a polite handsome young man from Jakarta. He pays attention to Srintil, and gentlemanly paying court to her. Now he is Srintil's last hope. He will prove to be, either her great salvation, or the crushing blow to her already battered soul.
💃🏻 Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk quite surprised me. I didn't expect to love it, though had been rather intrigued by the Ronggeng theme (I have thought it's about dancer, never expected to be disgusted by prostitution!) Political tragedy is not appealing to me, nor the grossness of most of Dukuh Paruk people. The only thing that made me keep reading, though, is Tohari's poetic prose and his beautiful portrayal of the rustic village landscape. I was transported to the peaceful and calm life in the village, to the sounds of birds, the shady trees, or the melodious music of traditional instruments. It's a perfect portrayal of a humble small village, before the touch of modernization enters it.
💃🏻 I officially crowned Ahmad Tohari as one of the best Indonesian writers I've read so far. Many people worship Pramoedya Ananta Toer perhaps, but I have read two books of him, and don't quite agree. He was a good story-teller, but rather melodramatic and sometimes exaggerating. While Tohari's prose is perfectly proportional; brutally realistic, not overwritten, but beautiful at the same time. Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk has been translated to English by Rene T.A. Lysloff, titled “The Dancer”, and published by Lontar Foundation in January 2013.
Rating: 4,5 / 5