Ade Mardiyati | January 23, 2012
Do you know why God created the sky and the ocean?
So we know that there is a line that makes both things beautiful to the eye.
Away from the tourist madness of Bali lies a village in Singaraja, in the northern part of the island. It is in this idyllic setting that you can find the Bali of children’s books.
Veteran journalist and media entrepreneur Erwin Arnada visited the village in 2008 and writes about it in his first novel, “Rumah di Seribu Ombak” (“A Home on a Thousand Waves”).
Set nearly a decade ago, “Rumah di Seribu Ombak” tells the story of an unconditional friendship between two boys, Samihi and Yanik, despite their different backgrounds and religions.
Born to Sumatran parents, Samihi grew up in a strongly Islamic environment in Singaraja, which has the largest Muslim population in Bali. Yanik, like most Balinese, is Hindu.
Despite these differences, both children, and the rest of the people in their village, live in harmony. Muslims go to the mosque and recite the Koran, as their Hindu neighbors place offerings of flowers at the small temples in their yards.
The natural beauty of Singaraja has helped attract tourists, helping the locals make a living. One of the area’s gems, Lovina Beach, is known for its fascinating waters and dolphins, as well as its snorkeling and boat tours. Among the holidaymakers, however, criminals lurk.
Yanik has been the victim of a pedophile, which happens more than people realize in Bali. Traumatized, the scars stay with him, but the 12-year-old eventually decides to confide in Samihi.
Together with Samihi, Yanik finds the courage to sneak into the pedophile’s house and steal the evidence of the crime, including recordings. Yanik discovers he is not the only victim, and the villager’s ultimately learn his secret.
In “Rumah di Seribu Ombak,” Erwin beautifully captures the picturesque scenery of the village, which hides the dark side of life in Bali. The child-molestation case presented in the novel is based on the writer’s visits and research in Singaraja.
As well as tapping into the expertise of nongovernmental organizations and journalists who have reported on pedophilia, Erwin dug deeper for his book. He also incorporates the 2002 Bali bombings in Kuta, which rocked the religious harmony of the island.
“Rumah di Seribu Ombak” is both an eye-opener and a page-turner. The descriptions of the traditions — such as mekidung, or praising the gods through singing, and ngulah semal, or squirrel hunting — place the reader in Singaraja.
Part way through writing his book, Erwin was imprisoned for what many people believe were politically motivated reasons. Erwin, who was the editor in chief of the Indonesian version of Playboy magazine, was sentenced to two years in prison for “offending public decency,” but released after nine months.
While serving his sentence last year, he completed the novel along with two other books and a screenplay.
“Rumah di Seribu Ombak” has since been made into a film and will soon be released in theaters. “It is currently going through the editing process,” Erwin told the Jakarta Globe.
Directed by Erwin himself, the film will hopefully portray Bali, and all its beauty and ugliness, as vividly as the book.
Rumah di Seribu Ombak (A Home on a Thousand Waves)
By Erwin Arnada
Published by GagasMedia
387 pages, in Indonesian
Available in major bookstores