The humming parade of countless motorcycle wheels emits a cloud of strong fume in the air of Sunday morning Yogyakarta. I try to keep my breath as I swing on my motorbike through they hideous traffic trying to make my way to the house of the parents or my lost friend. She only died this morning. It’s my last day in Indonesia before heading back to Europe, which now seems as far as a blurry dream. I’ve grown so much into this world here, this life, this reality, and just after the last night good-bye party – the terrible news.
“Is this the house where the funeral is being held?” I ask modestly.
A young woman trying to find some shelter from the heat of the sun asks: “Are you a friend of Mr. Eddy?”
Right, she had mentioned me the name though.
“I knew her as miss, Miss Sisi Renata.” In Java it’s always a customary to use gender-and age-specific titles.
My eyes travels to the open room, in the middle of which stands the coffin. In front of it there’s a black and white photograph portraying a young man dressed in black suit. His looks is very serious, even sad. Next to the photograph there are some candles and sad flowers. And again I hesitate – am I still at the right funeral?
Sympathetic and modest Sisi Renata grew up in a poor family in Yogyakarta Old Town. Her mother raised her and her siblings alone, which in Indonesian patriarchal context is anything but simple. She wiped away the tears as she told me about her mother for the first time. She did not want to disappoint her mom at all, but already since little she had felt differently. She often found herself playing with girls and in early puberty accidentally fell in love with her male teacher. Later, she kept her love life under strict secrecy, and every night before going to bed, she held a spiritual wrestling with God, to try to deal with guilt of her “abnormalities” and ask for forgiveness for the “sins” she had committed in her fantasy world.
Sisi had worked as tour guide. Once she got an affair with one Dutch visitor. Their remote relationship with regular meetings lasted for many years, they travelled through half of Indonesia. The man noticed his Javanese friend’s inner brilliance and sharp wit, and decided to give him – back then as Eddy – a respectable amount of money for education. Through her education and life experience she slowly began to move towards deeper self-reflection and harmony. And she realized that she had a soul of a woman, has always had it!
One day her Dutch boyfriend found an elegant lady in front of him when taking her out for a date. Sisi was employed for support organization for warias, where she was an outrage worker for waria sex workers and support person for HIV-positive warias living in the shelter.
Sometimes at weekends, she came up as a singer in clubs, dressed in fluffy bright green, singing tears touching ballads. To her mother, however, she never revealed her new life – she just did not want to create such a burden. Although it was obvious that the heart of a mother surely knows. Also, many guests at the funeral didn’t seem to have much idea of Eddy’s journey towards her better self known as Sisi Renata. Until she was suddenly knocked down by tuberculosis.
This time we have a guest photographer here – funeral photos by Monica Dominguez. I love her and her touch in photography, see for yourself!