Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Photo: Sianok Canyon, Sumatra -

Next evening I returned to the Jeruk Clinic to visit Wisnu. The nurse was alone in the lounge, feet up, watching TV.

"Hello," I said. "Can I take Wisnu for a walk?"

She gave me what seemed like a cynical smile and, after a bit of a pause, got up and led me to a small side room. The Chinese girl was asleep on a bed. Wisnu was seated in a wooden chair, imprisoned in a straight jacket. He looked doped. I felt sick.

"Why is he tied up?" I asked, trying not to sound angry.

"To stop him being a nuisance," she said.

"He doesn't need to be tied up."

She didn't answer, but released him from the chair.

I took Wisnu for a walk and he was well behaved and even smiled. We passed the art deco mansions of the rich, who were mainly Chinese. The biggest house took up almost the entire length of one street.

I stopped a scavenger, who was collecting litter for his sack, and asked, "Who owns that palace?"

"A Batak, from Sumatra," he said.

"How does the Batak earn his money?"

"He rents out houses in the slums. Very, very rich."

I was worrying about the Jeruk clinic and its straight jacket and its drugs. I wondered if I should return Wisnu to the clinic or release him back onto the street in Bogor. His photo had now been in the newspaper, so I supposed I had better have him kept in a safe place, in the Jeruk clinic, in case his family turned up. Life is not a long quiet river.