Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bangbang and Wisnu

I made one of my regular visits to Dr Joseph's Taman Clinic, to visit Wisnu.

"How is Bangbang?" asked the pretty little nurse who was sitting at a desk near the entrance. She looked about sixteen years old.

"Bangbang?" I said. It slowly dawned on me that the nurse was referring to the mentally backward and epileptic little boy I had found lying on the central reservation near Jakarta's World Trade Centre. It was Bangbang who had vanished from the Dipo Hospital, who had playfully punched people in the stomach and who had kept on running away from home.

"I used to work at the Dipo some mornings," said the nurse. "I remember Bangbang."

"It's ages since I've seen him," I confessed. "I must visit him sometime." I couldn't remember having seen this nurse at the Dipo, in spite of her having a strikingly cute and friendly little face.

Wisnu was wandering about heavily drugged. We went for a walk and came upon a huge church, some market gardens and rows of neat little middle class houses. This was an area with plenty of open space and light, an area where smiling children peddled about on bikes, and where cabbages and carrots didn't have to put up with too much in the way of traffic fumes.

Next evening I took a trip to Bangbang's house.

"How is he?" I asked his pregnant mum, after exchanging greetings at her front door. The house looked out onto an exceptionally busy main road.

"Gone again," she said, smiling in a dazed sort of way.

I was upset, but to a lesser degree than I would have been if Min had gone missing. I had helped Bangbang partly out of a sense of duty and had never seen him as a soul mate. "How long has he been missing?" I asked.

"Many months."

"Have you been out looking for him?"

"Come in and speak to my husband."

The narrow front room was full of skinny but happy-looking little children; and the settee on which I sat was still broken. Bangbang's grinning little father got up from his sewing machine and came and sat beside me.

"I've been to the place near Taman Mini where the police take mad adults," he said. "Bangbang wasn't there. I've looked everywhere. This is the longest time he's ever been absent."

As I was being driven home, my eyes scanned the poorly lit streets for any little figure who might be sitting huddled in a doorway or lying asleep under a wooden cart. I never did see Bangbang again.