A little girl sits in the Bale Dangin with her mother, drawing mountains and rice fields on an A4-sized paper. As she moves the pencil, she chats with her mother about her activities with friends at school. The little girl is Ni Kadek Aprillia Candra Dewi, currently in the third grade at SD Negeri 1 Saba. Her family fondly calls her Caca, while her older sister has just started as a new student at SMP Negeri 1 Blahbatuh.
“What is your dream?”
“To be a flight attendant!” Caca answers decisively.
She is currently eight years old. If she becomes a flight attendant in the future, she hopes to meet Jimin and Jungkook, two members of Bangtan Boys (BTS). In case that doesn’t happen, she wishes to meet Jenny and Jisoo, two members of Blackpink. Both music groups were born in South Korea.
At eight years old, achieving her dream will take at least another 10 years. During this journey, her idols may change, musical preferences may shift, and her enthusiasm for learning may fluctuate. However, her mother never raises any concerns.
“The important thing is that my child has a long life, achieves her dreams, and has a better life,” explains her mother, Ni Komang Setriani (35).
Distribution of family buckets for single mothers in Saba Village, Gianyar
Ni Komang Setriani is a single mother of two children. We provide her with a small assistance package to meet her daily needs. This support includes vegetables, kitchen spices, cleaning tools, and school supplies for the children. Additionally, there are gardening necessities such as baskets, seeds, and dolomite, including some vegetable seeds to be planted around the house for daily kitchen needs.
Setriani is not a flight attendant nor working for an airline. She is a versatile worker at one of the paving factories in Mas Village, Gianyar. While other workers spend their time in the field, she works alone inside the warehouse, managing various tasks from cashier duties, record-keeping of incoming and outgoing goods to overseeing the factory.
She has been doing this job for over six years, since late 2017. Before that, she worked for several years in a hotel in Ubud, Gianyar. After Caca was born, she decided to quit two years before starting work at the factory.
The COVID-19 pandemic spread in Indonesia in 2020, leading to isolation measures in various areas. Eventually, the government implemented Large-Scale Social Restrictions (PSBB). During this time, the pandemic not only altered the lives of the people but also shattered dreams and life expectations.
Newspapers, narratives on social media, and even the COVID-19 Task Force (Satgas) speeches broadcasted on television every evening seemed similar. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals kept rising, followed by an increase in death cases. All the statistics were recited in speeches, reported through texts, and the total number of deaths and recoveries kept updating. It was terrifying to recall those days, especially when focusing on the death toll rather than recoveries.
Setriani’s family was not spared from the consequences. Besides having to maintain distance from the surrounding environment, Setriani’s husband stopped working for a considerable period. However, Setriani continued working, even though she didn’t always arrive at 7 a.m. as usual.
In November 2021, amid the ongoing pandemic with its constant stream of bad news, Setriani received a breath of fresh air. COVID-19 trends were slightly decreasing, although alarming figures were still circulating through news and neighborhood stories. Moreover, her husband resumed work, securing a position as a driver at a cargo agency in Tegalalang, Gianyar. The workplace was about 12-15 kilometers or a 35-minute drive from Setriani’s workplace.
Friday, November 5, 2021. Five days before Galungan Day, and the rain showed no signs of stopping. It coincided with Sugihan Bali, believed by Hindus to be an auspicious day for purifying oneself physically and spiritually. It also marked the first day of Setriani’s husband’s new job, and circumstances forced Setriani to mourn the worst day of her life. Her husband suddenly passed away in a roadside eatery without returning home. To this day, she doesn’t know the cause of his death, and there has been no clarity—whether it was COVID-19, heart-related, or another illness.
“Caca cried non-stop. She couldn’t call her father. When he left, Caca was still asleep,” Setriani recalls the incident.
Setriani’s thoughts go back to a decade ago when she and her husband were unmarried and childless. Besides attending school, they were both diligently working, sharing a commitment to improve their fate. Their dream was simple—to have their own place and not be a burden to their families after marriage.
“That’s my father,” Caca points to a photo of her father displayed at the top of the Bale Dangin.
As of now, Caca still longs to spend more time with her father. Setriani mentions that Caca’s personality has changed a lot and she easily gets upset due to this. Any refusal of her wishes to go out with her sister and mother is not tolerated.
Setriani is the youngest of three siblings. Her older brother lives in Bajang, while her older sister is married and resides in Batuan, Gianyar. She got married in 2010 and chose to separate from her extended family, settling in the house she currently lives in. However, her communication with her parents remains the same as before. They are close and supportive. Her father is unemployed, and her mother is often unwell.
“I live here, in Balinese terms it is ngarangin (meaning: moving to another house, which could be a new house or her husband’s ancestral home). I dated my husband for 9 years. We got married in the 10th year. So, during our courtship, I started, built this, built that. It was slowly constructed since our courtship. At first, we only had this one (pointing to the Balai Dauh building),” Setriani explains.
Ni Komang Setriani along with her two children
Except for Sundays, Setriani usually takes her two children to school and picks them up around 5 p.m. If she’s busy, her husband takes on this role. Their homes are close, reachable within about 5 minutes by motorbike.
Setriani misses those times when her husband also accompanied their children, when he provided a place for exchanging thoughts, or when he transformed into the most comforting home. Fortunately, her two children understand the family’s situation. Setriani hopes that someday her children will get to know their father in different ways—through shared experiences that can no longer be repeated or through the prayers of parents that are never deemed worthy of recording.
“There are things we cannot avoid. Being left behind is one of them. But no matter what, we must be ready to accept it. Luckily, I have these two motivators,” Setriani concludes.
Roles cannot be replaced. Memories cannot be restored. However, by caring for and nurturing the children, perhaps the sun that has set will rise from another side.
Article & Photo: Nicolaus Sulistyo © IDEP Foundation