Written by Ahmad Thohari
Translated by Agus B. Harianto
The bus I took entered Cirebon bus station when the sun almost reached summit of the sky. The stinging sun increased the heat of old diesel engine to roast that bus along with its contents. Fortunately, the bus was not so full that each passenger doesn’t have to stand close one another to have body contact. But on my left side someone used newspaper fan just to blow the smell of sweat trough the air. Behind, the cigarette smoke came out of a man’s mouth that in his half sleepy condition.
The bus stopped. More than ten and more vendors assaulted into the bus. Even some of them had already jumped into the bus before it arrived at the mouth of the terminal. The bus turned into very noisy market. Unfortunately, the bus engine was not turning off and the driver was jumping down just like that. And those vendors were offering their merchandise with the strident voice in order to be able handling the whir of engine. They were thrusting the merchandise forward, if necessary until very close to the eyes of the passengers. Then they would complain when they got no one wanted to buy. One of them even cursed by said that the passengers were stingy or the human that had no money.
The condition was so stiflingly hot, very noisy, and the passengers were powerless to fight back that really tortured condition. In those situation, the passengers’ hoping were only one; which were the driver should be fast to come in and the bus was quickly moving again to continue the trip to Jakarta. But the man meant about whom become the pillar of hoping seen like busy with his own pleasure. That driver was joking pleasantly with a girl as the fruit seller. While the other passenger looked alike so nervous and annoyed, I tried another attitude. I had the experience for the kind of trip like these even that was more than ten times. From those experiences I understood that the uncomforted in the trip should be complained because it would not fix the situation any at all. In order to the soul and body were not in suffer, I always try to intimates the situation. Therefore, I was reading all of it quietly: The driver that was not obey to the passengers’ would be, very noisy people of the vendors, and the man in half sleepy that blew the smoke behind.
There still a lot of thing that I was not having chance yet to read, when a man got into the bus. His trouser, his clothing, and his headdress worn by Moslem were black. He was got in from the front door. When he got in, the first thing he did was saying the greeting fluently. Then, from his mouth flew the Sholawat Badar in clearly sound. And his palm of hand was obtaining. The man was begging. I read about this beggar with deeply feeling. I listened to his sholawat reciting carefully. Yes, precisely. I often recited the kind of these sholawat too, especially in the public recitations of Qur’an or in the meetings. I saw and heard it my self that day that there was a man reciting the sholawat badar to beg.
I thought that beggar often came to the recitations of Qur’an. I thought he was often listening to speeches about the kindness of life in the world and also in the beyond. Then, from the recitations of Qur’an like those, he only got something to help his life in the world. The thing was the sholawat badar whom that day he was reciting while obtained his palm of hand.
At the beginning, there was unapproved feeling, why such holy thing like the reciting of sholawat was using to beg. But such feeling like this disappeared when that beggar was already standing in front of me. It might be because of the sholawat, and then, my hand moved to grope in pocket and gave one hundred. Or, because there were a lot of things could read at the face of the beggar.
At there, I saw the stupidity, submission that made the looking of poorness stronger. I really remembered to the faces like those because always attends to coloring the recitations of Qur’an whom often began with the sholawat badar. Yes. The traces of recitations of Qu’ran and speeches about the kindness of life still left at the face of the beggar. And then, why from the recitation of Qu’ran that he often came for is only be able to summarize the Sholawat Badar and that day he used it to beg? Ah, I thought there was something wrong. Unfortunately, I was not really had the heart to blame the beggar whom was keep reciting the sholawat.
My attention to the beggar cut off by voice of slamming door. I saw the driver already sat down behind the drive. The conductor on public transportation jumped in and yelled to the driver. His shriek was swallowed by the sound of roaring diesel engine. I heard both of the bus’s crew was fighting. The conductor seen so lazy serve the unfulfilled bus, while the driver was boring enough to wait the adding of passengers which in the fact never come. They were keeping fight trough the words that it was not nicely to hear. And the bus was keep moving front left the Cirebon bus station.
The angry driver moved his bus madly. The conductor was silent. But his rough words suddenly were coming out again. This time not to the conductor, but to the beggar who squatted near the back door.
“Hey, sira (you)! Why are you not getting down? Want to be the man who lives off the grade in Jakarta? Don’t you know the men like those over there are thrown away to the sea made as fish bait?”
The beggar stayed still and said nothing.
“Sira beli mikir? (Have you thought?) The bus in fast moving like this I have to go down?”
“Who asked you to get in?”
“I got in my self. But I don’t want to come along. I just want to beg, that’s only. Would you try to, tell to the driver to stop the bus. I will go down later. Before the bus is far.”
The conductor extinguished the words. He looked at the beggar alike wanted to swallow him unanimously. The one who looked at was in submission. He seen like be sincere to be done anything to him but not pushed him out from the bus that move faster. The conductor passed away in grumble way. The beggar felt a little relieved, moved to fix his position in front of the back door. His mouth was back to mumble: “…sholatullah, salamullah, ‘ala thoha rasulillah….”
The sholawat kept rhythmic reciting from his mouth and heard more clearly because there was not sound of the conductor anymore. The passengers were being dumb and they were hypnotized in their own minds. I was too; I was beginning to sleepy until in the longer time I could not make differences between the sound of sholawat and the whir of diesel engine. I might be already had in the world of dreaming and over there I saw thousands of men were reciting the sholawat. The strange was, all of them which in great quantities had the same face. All of them looked familiar with the beggar whom got into the bus I took at Cirebon bus station. And even in the dream I had opinion that they could recite that sholawat text perfectly because they were often coming to the speeches about the kindness about life in the world and also in the beyond. And, from the speeches like those they only got the summarizing that fortunately was it could be used as the working capital to obtain their palm of hand.
I thought I was still in the dream when I felt the great incident. Firstly, I heard the thunder bursting with horrifying sound. Then I saw the death bodies were flying and fell around me. Those death bodies were injured and some of them seen very awful. I was running because I felt fear. But a stone was stumbled and I fell to the ground. The mouth tasted salty and I spitted. In fact, my saliva was red. I felt there were liquid flew from the hole of my nose. When I felt it with my hand, the liquid was also red. Oh my God, suddenly I realized that I was in bad injured. I awaked up and there were disaster in front of me. The bus I took has already lied down on middle of rice field and its form had unknown. At near of it had tank truck slept with a bolster which had same condition. In the situation of panics I tried to get up to move to the street. But the pain forced me to sit back. I saw many vehicles were stopped. I heard many man were groaning. And then, indistinctly I saw a rumpled man came out from the fuselage of the crashed bus. His body didn’t scratch even that was a bit. The man calmly walked again to the direction of Cirebon city.
My ear heard clearly the man’s sound that keep walked calmly to the east direction: “sholatullah, salamullah, ‘ala thaha rasulillah…”