Sunday, March 01, 2009

Andi and Dian


"To Andi’s house, beyond Internusa," I said to Mo.

While we made our thirty minute journey to the other side of Bogor, I gave my hands a clean with some medicinal alcohol.

Little Andi, playing in the mud outside his falling-down hut, still looked malnourished but at least his mother had taken him to the hospital for a check-up.

"The doctor says he hasn’t got TB," said mum, holding up an x-ray.

"Has the doctor given him any medicine?" I asked.

"Worm medicine, vitamins and milk powder," said mum.

I gave her some more cash and then went to see Asep, in his nearby hovel beneath tall trees.

"Are you still taking the TB medicine?" I asked.

"Yes," said Asep, who looked cheerful but pale and thin.

"How’s the little girl with the burns?"

"She’s right behind you," said Asep.

There she was, grinning happily, wearing a grubby little dress, and holding out a hospital receipt. Her leg looked a fraction better.

"Thanks for getting a receipt," I said to the little creature.

Having returned to the Mitsubishi, I requested Mo to take us back to the centre of Bogor. We bumped along, squeezing past buffalo and hordes of pretty school girls, and then past minibuses and crowded open-air markets. Eventually we reached the canal that was ten minutes walk from the humble home of the fruit bat, Melati, Tikus and Dian. Leaving the vehicle, I strode along narrow lanes and down steep steps. I was anxious to find out if Dian had got some TB medicine.

"Hi mister," said Melati, as I entered her small front room with its dreamy view of the river Cisadane and Mount Salak.

Dian came forward to present me with her x-ray, little packets of pills for TB and various receipts.

"Well done," I said.

I sat down near the door, in order to get as much fresh air as possible. Fortunately, Dian had been taking her pills for at least a fortnight and so she was not so likely to infect others.

"Mister, what’s your name?" asked Melati as she lay back on the sofa, showing lots of slim leg.

"Mr Been," I said.

"Mr Been," repeated Melati, impassively.

Tikus arrived, fresh from school, and sat between Melati and Dian. A shifty-looking young man, whom I guessed might be Dian’s husband, hovered at the door. He was no doubt ensuring that the foreigner caused no mischief.

"Have you been x-rayed, Melati?" I asked.

"Yes, all of us," said Melati. "My grandfather also has TB."

"Is he getting medicine?"

"Yes."

Granny arrived with the fruit bat and squeezed onto the sofa.

"Take a photo, Mr Been," pleaded Melati.

As I began to get my camera ready, Dian decided to get up and leave; the fruit bat tried unsuccessfully to stretch its wings; granny posed nicely; Tikus decided to tickle Melati.

"Keep still," I said.

Melati gave Tikus a pretend punch below the belt.

"Keep still," I complained. Click. "Now I’m off to have lunch," I explained, and made my exit.

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