Wednesday, March 02, 2005
PAWANG, the 'No-Rainmaker'! by Byron Black
During the early years of the author's residence in Indonesia, he was accustomed to taking his trusty Yamaha twin 250cc. motorcycle and risking life and limb at the old Ancol Race Course, near the beach to the East of the amusement park. It wasn't long before the local racers outgrew the narrow, rather dangerous curves of Ancol and found the money to build a brand spanking new road circuit (you'll see no trace of the old Ancol course today, alas - it's all been replaced by luxury housing).
Money wasn't really an issue when the effort was spearheaded by Hutomo Mandala Putra, aka Tommy Soeharto, and fellow car racer Chandra Alim. They pressured Bank BNI '46, Gudang Garam and other sponsors to pony up, and proceeded to build a fancy road circuit at Sentul, just off the Jagorawi Toll Road - the nice one that zooms from Taman Mini up to Bogor.
Alas, Sentul Circuit happens to fall within Bogor Regency, and this is one of the rainiest areas on Earth! Bogor (I nickname the city bocor, meaning "leaky") It is described by Statistics Canada (of all places!!) as boasting the "highest average annual number of thunderstorm days per year: 322!!
Now the most peculiar thing is that it never rains at Sentul Circuit! Time and again I've completed a day of high-speed competition on my 1993 Kawasaki ZXR-750RR, loaded it up on the truck, and headed out to the Jagorawi, only to find it was pouring down the wet stuff with terrific force and volume. (Back in rainy Vancouver, my home town, we used to call it "liquid sunshine").
What is the meaning of this?
Well, the story is that, from the outset, those who planned Sentul Circuit, fully realizing it was in the Bogor Rain Zone, called in the pawang hujan. This sorcerer is described classically as follows (Indonesian-English dictionary online at http://www.asiamaya.com/kamus/p/pawang.htm)
pawang expert; guide, steersman, hunter, medicine man, wild-beast tamer one endowed with magic powers
(kata umum - a common word)
bestari expert, skilled; bright, clever; well-bred, accomplished
piawai skilled, expert, sophisticated
tenaga ahli expert
pawang hujan one who controls rainfall one with a special skill
(kata umum - a common word)
pawang gajah elephant tamer
(kata umum - a common word)
A certain helpful Bapak Zulkarman has the following to say about naughty pawang at http://members.tripod.com/~zulkarman/bmagic.html:
Black Magic in Aceh
Simeulue is rich tradition, folk tales superstition, and black magic. This Island has a bad reputation in the rest of Aceh for its black magic. One often meets people who tell strange stories, but one seldom (or never) finds any proof or witnesses of black magic by oneself in Simeulue. Whether true or not, the subject is always interesting. Locals in Simeulue do not like to talk about it, especially about the negative aspects. They feel embarrassed and afraid that people would refrain from visiting their Island. The magic is performed by a so called "dukun" which translates into "witch doctor", or shaman (traditional healer). There is both good and bad magic. A "dukun patah" can heal a broken leg. Another dukun can kill with only a simple touch. People have got sick with cancer ("Tinggam") planted by a dukun. This kind of negative magic is often called "guna-guna". The only way to get well in such a case is through treatment by another dukun who can counter the evils of the evil dukun. When a fully-loaded ship ran aground on a shoal, and there were no logical ways of getting it loose, a famous dukun was asked to help. With his supernatural powers he managed to decrease the ship's weight, resulting in the ship floating higher - and in this way it moved off the reef. Before someone to starts to study and learn magic, an oath, never to use the magic for personal profit, has to be taken. If this oath is broken, mantras lose their function and special powers are lost. There is one kind of black magic that destroys the dukun himself unless he uses it against other people. According to local beauty standards, a dukun is often ugly-looking. Dabois is a form of magic that often performed on stage. Dabois can be seen in most areas of Aceh. Dabois is sometimes also labeled "traditional dancing". The performers stab and cut themselves with sharp objects, without getting hurt. In Simeulue they even use chainsaws.
A related phenomenon is the "pawang" who can communicate with animals. Simeulue is famous for its many "pawang buaya"; (buaya is crocodile). A pawang buaya has long experience with crocodiles and have often full control over all the crocodiles in a certain river. His control is based on supernatural powers and crocodiles follow his orders. The late pawang Pak Kalitua often used a crocodile for transportation over the river by standing on the back of one. "That's just showing off", one becak driver in Sinabang exclaimed. When a pawang calls a crocodile to come, he gives the beast eggs and betel leaves and reads mantras. Not only men are pawang buaya. In village of Latiun near Labuhan Bajau is very old female pawang buaya.
WOW! Anyway there isn't much to fear from crocs in Jakarta or Bali - only the two-legged kind (that's translated "wolf" in English!)
The rainmaker can naturally use his powers of gentle persuasion to delay, stop or postpone the rain as well, and that is where the frisky Tommy Soeharto hired the fellow to come to Sentul Circuit.
It's 13.30 and we're getting ready for the Superbike Event: 15 laps at speeds of up to 280 km/h. Yamaha R-1s, a Suzuki Hayabusa, plenty of R-6s raring to go.
But ugh! Look at those swollen black clouds from the South, threatening to unload tons of lubricating liquid on the racers!
Strangely enough, the clouds just hang there. And nothing else happens. Except that we get to charge around the race course on our merry way, as the air is thick with moisture and lightning is crackling over Bukit Sentul way. It simply refuses to rain!
Is this true, or just nonsense and superstition, the hard-headed Westerner will ask critically. Sure, fine, ask on! How about the very business-oriented (read: greedy) five-star hotels in Bali, who are approached by prominent families with an inquiry about holding a garden wedding at the Hotel.
The Hotel Event$ $upervi$or i$ delirious$ly happy at the thought of a seventy million Rupiah wedding on the premises. But alas, this is Bali, Island of the fogs. And rainstorms! What to do.
The Hotel has no doubt as to what to do. Organizersvery discreetly contact their favorite dukun or pawang (the two terms appear to be somewhat interchangeable) and ask that he talk sweetly to the rain clouds, soothe them, coax them to hold their water awhile longer, to be nice to the newlyweds.
So the pawang goes to work, with his gentle force, moving clouds this way and that. The rain holds off, the fat cats all gather in the Hotel garden, the wedding promises to be a glorious (and DRY) success.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a rival pawang is smoldering.
"Who does that bum think he is? How does the Hotel get away with paying big money to a faker like him! Big shot, is he? Ha! I'll show them all!' he screeches, flapping his arms and fluttering his eyebrows.
So right in the middle of the happy event, KA-BOOM, the skies tear open, the thunder goes wham, the lightning crackles, and the wedding party is thoroughly doused with fierce rain, as they scramble to head back into the shelter of the hotel.
Oh dear. The poor hotel (and the wedding guests) was just caught in the pawang crossfire!
In short, the strong one defeated the weaker one. He walks tall. Jago.
But if rain is all you have to worry about, or making it hold off awhile, you can consider yourself lucky. Consider the other kind of dukun, the one practicing the fearsome guna-guna, and watch out!
Time and again Indonesian wives, humiliated, fed up, and frustrated with their frolicsome foreign boyfriends or husbands, have found there is no recourse but to head to the medicine man.
The usual story starts off sweet: darling I will love you forever, yessss me too, I love you too, kissy kissy poo, hearts thump thump thumping.
But after a few years the glamour wears off. The husband is older and he is clearly tired of an older-looking wife. They have had quarrels, usually about money (the innocent foreign husband not realizing that when you marry here, you don't just marry a nice-looking woman, you marry into the entire family! And no matter how poor you may plead, they see you as a gold mine).
Then the fatal move: the husband, miserable about his spouse, finds a sweet young "second wife", aka hot patootie, and lavishes love and money on her.
The first wife goes to the dukun, pays him five million, and what do you know?
- the husband begins to have raging headaches
- the husband's business runs into big unexpected difficulties
- the husband gets robbed, more than once, on the way to and from work
- the husband's accountant dips his hand into the till and absconds with millions
And the poor expat resident, so crafty in his engineering or designing or financial wizardry, but so innocent of the ways of the world, can't figure out why he has become beset by so many worries.
The most interesting curse I ever heard of was placed upon the head of a rich, smart, famous Australian resident in Bali. He was gloriously successful in business, famed across the seas, but a rather nasty individual. He insulted and belittled more than a few of his erstwhile friends, and so, unhappy at this behavior, they consulted a Balinese dukun, who came up with a very novel punishment: the Australian businessman was suddenly unable to control his tongue, and he was spitting out vile curses at everyone he spoke to: customers, bank executives, policemen, business partners. He knew something was wrong but by this time it was out of control.
What happened to him? Shall I point out his cool, charming place in the graveyard? Or wouldn't you rather hike down to the beach with us? We're going to have a wonderful time in the sun: if it doesn't rain, that is!
Expatriate of convenience, ruthless
fruit Aryan born of the Strategic Air Command and Lysergic Acid,
this is one mean and fun-loving 64-year-old. He's for sale at the
right price, but the price is rarely right.
Formerly a hardened 1950s Liberal
Democrat by inclination, he writes bunga-bunga (hack ad copy) for a
living in Jakarta, while pursuing easy boys and riding one of his
collection of 2smoke Nipponese sports motorcycles very hard and
competitively. Cross him not, but humour him and he'll laugh you out
loud. Read on and comment at your peril, for here, dear Internet
friend, is 'a screw loose in Denmark'.