IDEP Foundation

Bright Without Light All Through His Life

Gusde, sitting on the back porch of the room, after the COVID-19 vaccination

Gusde opened an online motorcycle taxi application. He set the destination before departing from Sibang Gede, Badung. The distance is about 11 km. It takes 30 minutes to reach Dalung. He came suddenly and went straight to the vaccination center. After the screening, he received a 4th dose (second booster) vaccine injection.

This vaccination activity is part of the Bali Province Inclusive COVID-19 Vaccination Acceleration Program (VACCINE) carried out by the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Health Resilience (AIHSP) through Save the Children Indonesia (SCI) and the IDEP Selaras Alam Foundation (IDEP) and involving several communities and the Bali Bersama Bisa Mental Healthcare Foundation (BBBMH) organization as the host.

Bli Cok, one of the day’s vaccination activity organizers, escorted Gusde, who was in a wheelchair, to a back room, a terrace with a small garden. On that day, the terrace was used to wait for the participants after receiving the vaccine injection. He had never been previously diagnosed with COVID-19, but he had experienced the symptoms. Vaccination is not just about complying with government regulations. He is aware that this is important for his immunity and health.

“Gus, you want to be interviewed, please ask for time,” said Bli Cok to Gusde.

“Not being interviewed either. Let’s just chat casually,” I replied.

“A long question. He’s also a movie player, you know,” joked Bli Cok.

Gusde laughed heartily. His real name is Ida Bagus Surya Manuaba (30). Some people will feel lucky with the existence of an online motorcycle taxi, and so will he. This technology facilitates mobility access to go and go home. When he was still in elementary school, he had to wait until the afternoon when the bell rang for the time to go home from school. He also has no bicycle to go home like the other friends.

Little Gusde can still see the world without obstacles. But slowly, his eyes began to become myopic, somewhat distracted. He discovered that he was blind. His friends started to bully him.

The past events seemed to be happening repeatedly in his mind, making them always current. Five years after graduating from elementary school in 2005, he decided not to continue his education. He was afraid there would be more ridicule that would hurt more. “I’m afraid to go to the cafeteria, I don’t know, I’m afraid of crowds,” he said.

In 2010 the bitter memories began to be removed from the roots of his mind. Gusde finally decided to continue school with careful consideration, choosing SLB Negeri 1 Denpasar. After six years of studying there, he continued studying at the Hindu Dharma Negeri Institute, now called I Gusti Bagus Sugriwa State Hindu University, Denpasar. This is the first time for him to be released from public school.

It took four years for Gusde to complete his undergraduate study majoring in Law. He took a Master’s in Gender Studies, majoring in disability studies. The COVID-19 pandemic came when he graduated, but his school continued at a higher level at Brawijaya University.

“I want to learn English too because, in Australia, there are many scholarships for people with disabilities. The reason is that being aware of disabilities is also good, such as transportation and social. If I’m currently in a master’s degree, I’m writing a proposal for a thesis, so it’s difficult to find literature reading material because not all books have soft copies. Well, in Australia, friends said, we were assisted there. So what do you need, for example, they will help open access later, “said Gusde.

Academic studies aren’t the only area it’s devoted to. Gusde works in another field that is rarely disabled to appear there: as an actor in short films. The story is straight from Gusde’s love story.

The film is titled As Far as the Eyes See (Sejauh Mata Memandang), initiated and directed directly by Dhani Prasetyo, a final-year student at the Indonesian Art Institute. The production was handled by Niskala Studio and co-produced by Wayan Martino and Yusuf Jacka as co-producers. This work has two versions, one for the general public and another equipped with Audio Description (AD) and Close caption (CC) so that people with visual and deaf disabilities can enjoy it. The film first aired on January 10, 2023, at Green Room Park 23 Kuta.

Never before have I imagined being able to play a movie. Gusde agreed to the invitation to do a film not because he wanted to be famous. More than that, he wants the love story of a blind person to be fully understood by the general public. Submission via film would be interesting, he thought.

“People think that people with disabilities date with disabilities too. That’s right. So, I want to tell you that when you are in love, you already love it, so it doesn’t matter what it is. So there are two stories—the story of courtship and the story of married friends. So my friend is a blind girl, and her husband is normal. So it was created into one film.”

Views about disability need to change. Gusde has high hopes for this, especially in the world of work. The general public’s understanding of inclusivity regarding disability is still not adequately realized, Gusde thought. The participation of persons with disabilities in employment is still tiny.

“Even though many studies say that disability has extra costs of disability. For me, from home to here, it costs around 35-40 thousand. If you buy gasoline, how often can you use it to go back and forth? Rather than (the government) just providing necessities, people with disabilities should be given jobs with a proper place to work,” he emphasized.

COVID-19 vaccination conditions at the Bali Bersama Bisa Mental Healthcare (BBBMH) Foundation

Acting is nothing new for Gusde. As a child, he tried to develop this ability. At first, it was a music festival, until finally, it was comfortable playing theater. He knew speaking and performing in public was essential because he felt he did not have these skills before. Even so, at the same time, there is still trauma from bullying. So he thought, rather than music, performing in the theater was more challenging because there were no compromises. Suppose wrong can not be repeated. The fear of standing out must be fought, and the fear of acting wrong must be eliminated.

“Besides that, to show people, it’s rare for blind people to play in a theatre. How can I? Because there is access. Someone wants to teach. Sometimes people think, ah, there are people with disabilities. There is no Braille access here. Oh, no need. Soft copy is enough for me,” he explained.

Gusde’s teacher is an artist who does not discriminate against people, regardless of background and regardless of disability or not. He continued to guide little Gusde until he dared to appear in public, deepening acting without shame and doubt. It was then that he saw hope in the world he stood on.

As he got older, Gusde followed in his teacher’s footsteps. He then decided to join a community to develop his skills while building relationships with other disabled friends in a group called the Teratai Foundation. It started at the end of 2016.

Besides being severe in academics and the arts, Gusde honed other skills as a barista, from fear of being scalded by hot water to tools that must be understood how to use them. It’s easy to say.

“Then we spin the coffee kettle with the gooseneck for the water. So the fall of the water is more orderly. We rotate, and we use the size of the round. For example, four rounds are sufficient for blooming, four times for pouring, but two times.”

At the end of the conversation, Gusde gives sage advice to blind people who are still not confident about appearing in society. He said any activity needs to be tried as long as it can develop skills.

“There are blind people who work as baristas and play in a theatre. What’s that like? Many scoffed. But I am determined to educate and can learn from it. And at a certain point, from what I reached, then they understood. So maybe if it’s ridicule, ignore it.”

Gusde and his friends from Teratai Foundation were still talking in the room. They waited for one by one to go home near the back door, escorting each other to the front door. Accepted or not by the general public is a thought that often appears in their minds. Worries sometimes come faster than online motorcycle taxi pick-ups. “Come on, I will go first,” said one of his friends who had been picked up earlier to go home.

Article & Photo: Nicolaus Sulistyo © IDEP Foundation