“Beggar’s Village”

pernah punya tulisan tentang “Desa Pengemis” di Bandung…sempet seru juga waktu proses gettingnya. waktu itu lagi ambil kurus singkat narrative journalisme sama addam ellick. pesertanya 12 orang, semua jurnal00.

pas bulan puasa 2004 (kalo gak salah). baru kemaren ngoprek2 file di komputer, dan baca tulisan ini…nikmati dulu aja ceritanya…tentang cerita di balik layar, abis postingan yang ini…selamat menikmati…

“Beggar’s Village” 

by : Dimas Aditya Nugraha* 

Indonesian wise word : My Home is my palace. Home sweet home. Home is the sweetest place in the world. The peace place for everyone. There’s love came from. But, nobody wants a bad place to stay. Even only a called.    

“Don’t say that, I won’t take it,” says Otih in high pitch when her home area is called beggar’s village. That name is too painful to hear for this 54 year old woman who has been living in this area since 1974. Her village is just like any other village in the suburban area of
Bandung, but about two decades ago something happened that changed the way the people looked at her village.

People were coming into her village in large numbers to live and to make a living out of a profession that the society’s considered as a low profession. They are living as beggars. 

No one knows for sure the number of beggars and street children living in the city with a population of over two million people. One thing for sure, we can find five to ten beggars and street children in every street corner. It is estimated that their number reaches up to ten thousand people. It is ironic when Bandung is reknown all over as a flower city, a symbol of beauty, modernity, and is at the frontline of the Indonesian fashion world where the latest of fashions can be found in all its shopping centers.  Living in the street as a beggar and street children is not a choice of living that these suburban people choose. They come from high and far, mostly from
Central Java from the cities Brebes, Losari and Cilacap to name a few. 

“To be honest, this job is embarrassing. It feels like I have lost my self dignity. But what can I do? I had no choice. I have to feed my children,” sigh Kasem with somber face. Kasem is one example of the beggars who lived in the “beggar’s village.”

Like most of the occupants, her beginning of profession as a beggar was not a choice, it was a must in order to survive. Her story started five years ago when her husband decided to take another wife without her knowledge and consent. When her husband rarely come home and decided to spend more time with his new wife, things more become difficult for her and her children. “He never gives any financial support for me and our three children,” said Kasem angrily while her hand scrunching up her skirt tensely.  

When things become unbearable, she accepted the offer of a friend who already becomes a beggar in Bandung in hope of getting easy money. But it turns out it wasn’t as easy as they say. She had to live out of pity and charity of other people while being looked degradingly by on-looking passerby. Now she and around 180 other people had to share a three-storey house together in “beggar’s village.” It is the same area where Otih lives, in RT 9 RW 4 Kelurahan Sukabungah Kecamatan Sukajadi Bandung.  

The house was far away from what the society would consider as a standard house. It was patched up all over the place with boxes, metal and wooden sheets. The area which equals to the size of one and a half volley field had to be divided into 60 tiny shacks; each sized approximately 2 x 2 m.

These shacks are occupied by families each, so in total there are 60 families living in that small building. Apart from that, they all had to share 3 public toilets and a manual water pump to be shared by 180 people. “Luckily, my oldest daughter is already married. She rented her own place and live with her husband who works as a scavenger,” said Kasem smiling.  Looking around, no furniture can be found in Kasem’s shack apart from 3 thin plastic mats and a few cutleries. She lives with two of her other children in the same shack, an area just enough to fit 3 grown people to sleep with backs on to one another.  The rental price for the supposed room or shack is 500 thousand rupiah a year. 

“Sometimes they paid overdue,” said Cariyat smiling, suggesting that he doesn’t mind the lateness of payment. Cariyat came from Bulukamba Brebes and he admitted that he does not mind leasing his house for the beggars.

In the past, he too felt the hardship of being a beggar when his rice-house, the only income generating business in his family, gone broke. To make ends meet, his brother and him had no other choice but to become a beggar. 

“I would never be able to forget those times. My brother had to pretend to be blind and I would lead his way to beg from other people,” said the 46 year old man. He shook his head reminiscing to the times most difficult to him. Feeling of shame made Cariyat ended his new profession in the third day. “I cannot take it. It was really shameful. I had to use wide hat to cover my face when I was begging,” he added. Ending his short career as a beggar, he began to start working as a labor. The family’s economy improved and apart from owning the house which is rented to the beggars, he now owns a small shop in his house. Some part of the community does not seem to approve of Kasem’s and her beggar friends living in that suburb.

For people like Otih, the presence of beggars in their village stained the image of that area. “I have told Mr. Cariyat often that it doesn’t matter who rented his house. The problem lies in their profession. Begging is a dirty profession,” said Otih loathfully. 

Cariyat had another opinion. For him, a profession is like living together as a family, there must be an element of suitability in order for it to work. If it suits a person then they might as well stay in that job. Apart from that, Cariyat thinks that Kasem and her fellow friends in the same profession are victims of the situation. “I myself finding it hard to survive, so I symphatize them. It is their source of living,” said Cariyat.  Even if they are not welcomed well by the community, the beggars feel that they already belong there. The sense of belonging is felt by Radwig who has lived there for 19 years. “I was born and raised here. It is my homeland,” said Radwig with his heavy Brebes accent. 

Although, Radwig will never be welcomed in the Sukajadi’s community. Radwig only get the temporary citizen status. The law makes him and all beggars who live in Sukajadi area can’t get the citizen card. “I made my citizen card in Brebes,” Radwig says sadly. This brown skin man and all the beggars who lived in that area only want a status.

To be appreciate what they should get as human being. However they don’t want to be a beggar forever. “I have been collecting money. If there’s enough, I’ll open my small shop, “says Kasem showing her three fingers.  

“Maybe three more months,” Kasem smiling. * Student in Faculty of Communication Science   

Majoring Journalism   

University of Padjadjaran 

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