Monday, October 03, 2005

Oya and Wisnu


I made one of my infrequent trips to see Oya, who was lying on her back in her one room shack in Kapuk. Her head seemed as big as ever and she had a cough.

"Oya should go back to the hospital for a check-up," I said to her mum. "She seems to have a fever."

"She’s got a cold," said her mum. "Lots of people have flu."

"We’d better go to the hospital. OK?"


We argued and argued until at last she agreed that Oya could go to the clinic at the end of the road. We waited ages for a girl, who had agreed to come with us, to strip off and change into her best clothes. I averted my eyes and stood in the rain outside.

At the clinic, the doctor told us we had to go to the hospital. The mother refused. We got back into my vehicle.

"To the St Francis Hospital," I said to the driver, in English. Oya’s mum said nothing as we battled through the traffic.

"It’s pneumonia," said the hospital doctor. "Oya will have to be admitted to the hospital."

"No," said Oya’s mum. Oya was weeping.

"What will happen if the child goes home?" I asked the doctor.

"She’ll probably die."

I had a long argument with Oya’s mum. I said Oya could not go back home in my vehicle. Mum got some medicine from the hospital pharmacy and took Oya home by bus.

Red and white flags decorated every street. Indonesia was fifty years old, at least if you count 1945 as the beginning of independence. The sky was blue and I felt in a reasonably cheerful mood as I called in at Panti Bambu to visit Wisnu. The big toy car had disappeared, mysteriously.

"How’s Wisnu?" I asked the director.

"Gone to Malang. The place run by the Dutch professor. It’s a good place."

"I’m pleased," I said.

There was a phonecall from Wardi to tell me that Oya, the little girl with the big head, had died. Maybe her spirit had decided that life in her body had become just too difficult. I felt more than sad when I thought about her suffering. And I felt some guilt about having got involved so unsuccessfully. Then I tried simply not to think about it.