Sunday, November 06, 2005

Wisnu



The weeks went by and there was no news of anyone turning up at the Jeruk Clinic to claim Wisnu, the mentally-backward child I had found on a street on the edge of Bogor. Then one day, when I got home from work, my maid informed me that there had been a morning phone call from a man inquiring about the child.

"What did the caller say?" I asked young Ami, who was not looking very maid-like, dressed as she was in tight blouse and tight skirt. "Did the caller give a name or address?"

"He said he'd seen the newspaper photo and wanted to get in touch. His name's Kong. He gave an address in Kali Baru near the Tanjung Priok docks." She handed me a scrap of paper with an address written in a childlike hand.

"Did he give a phone number?" I asked.

"No."

"Did he say anything about Wisnu? His real name? How he'd got lost? How he might have got all the way to Bogor?"

"No," said Ami, with a smile which may have been meant to ward off aggression. Or it may have been amusement at my interest in a mentally backward child.

"The newspaper gave two phone numbers. Has he phoned Dr Joseph?"

"He didn't say."

"What else did he say?"

"Nothing else."

"Ami, didn't you ask him any questions?"

"No."

"Next time get as much information as you can." I was pleased we had an address, but annoyed there was not more detail. "I'm going straight away to Tanjung Priok," I explained.

"You know to be careful there. Some not nice people," said Ami.

"So I've heard."

Darkness was approaching as Mo and I eventually reached an area on the edge of the docks. We parked on a deserted looking street called Jalan Cilincing. I consulted my map and then set off over some waste ground towards the slums of Kali Baru. The graffiti, the broken down brick walls, the piles of junk, the smelly canal and the scraggy weeds suggested that parts of this area were less than well-off.

I reached a street of little homemade houses. "I'm looking for Mr Kong at this address," I said to an old man, as I handed him the note given to me by my maid.

"I'm sorry I don't know that street," he said. "This is Kali Baru Timur One. Maybe it's near Kali Baru Timur Ten."

I showed him Wisnu's photo but he did not recognise it.

I walked and walked, asking for directions from people in every quarter of the area and showing everyone Wisnu's photo. Nobody recognised the boy. Nobody had heard of Mr Kong. The nearest I got to finding anything was when I met an old woman carrying a baby.

"This is the house you want," she said. "It's my place. But nobody called Kong lives here. There are no missing children around here."

It was dark and I had come to the conclusion there was something fishy about the information I had been given. In addition, Tanjung Priok was not the best place to be when it got dark.

Leaving the dock area, I motored to the home of Dr Joseph and told him about the phone call from the mysterious Mr Kong.

"Mr Kent," said the doctor beaming, "you should consult me before you go to meet someone in Tanjung Priok! There are many bad people in Jakarta."

"You mean the phone call might have been from some criminal?"

"Perhaps. We'll see if he phones again. He can phone my clinic anytime."

I drove to the nearby Jeruk Clinic. Wisnu was fast asleep in his room and it was too late to waken him and take him for a walk. I related recent events to the nurse who was seated in front of a television.

"Wisnu must get some exercise every day," I said "Is there someone can take him for a walk when I'm not here?"

"I can't leave the clinic," she said, yawning.

"Is there anyone else?"

"Abi. He helps out here, as a guard." She called in Abi from the garden. He was a grinning young man with rascally eyes, a moustache and fine leather shoes.

"Can you take Wisnu for walks?" I asked.

Abi's grin widened. "You'll pay?"

"I'll pay you if you take him for a long walk every day," I said. "Or several long walks."

"Agreed."

"Don't forget," I said. The young man did not inspire me with confidence, but Wisnu absolutely had to get exercise.

~~