Sunday, March 01, 2009


Throughout my morning in Bogor I had been thinking about Min. Now I was in a hurry to see him and after a quick lunch of pizza, and a journey of an hour and a half, I had reached Wisma Utara, back in Jakarta. During the journey I had noted, from viewing the front mirror, that Mo’s eyes would occasionally close for a few seconds.

Min was looking well, and sidled up to me to take my hand. We went for one of our walks, heading on this occasion through an area of interesting, twisting little lanes. Outside a two storey kampung house with a smart green door, I got chatting to a girl, called Ijah. She was in her late teens, pretty like a nun from the Sound of Music, and dressed in green and white Islamic gear including headscarf. I told her a bit about Min. She listened politely and seemed interested.

"We have someone like Min in our house," she said quietly. "Would you like to meet him?"

"We’d love to," I said.

We stepped inside and climbed some narrow wooden stairs to an attic. Lying on a bed was someone who looked like a malnourished Extra Terrestrial with withered legs. He was maybe in his thirties or maybe forties. Min put on a worried face.

"This is my brother Tejo," said Ijah.

"Hello Tejo," I said, but got no reply. He avoided eye contact and looked nervous.

"What’s wrong with him?" I inquired of Ijah.

"He got ill when he was a child," said Ijah. "He can’t use his legs."

"Perhaps polio," I said. "Does he stay in this attic all the time?"


"Have you got a wheelchair?"

"No," said Ijah.

"Would you like me to buy one for Tejo?" I asked.

"If you like."

"Tejo, would you like a wheelchair?" I asked.

He nodded.

"Can he speak?"

"Oh yes," said Ijah, "but he’s not used to people."

"It’s nice to meet you Tejo," I said. "This is my friend Min. We’d like to come and visit you again." I rambled on for a bit, but got no reply from Tejo, although he did smile when I shook his hand and said my goodbyes.

Min and I walked back to Wisma Utara, but on reaching the entrance, Min decided he was not going to go back in. He decided instead to do a kind of dance in the middle of the street. I took his arm and tried to haul him in, but he broke free and continued his gyrations. I fetched Dan, the member of Wisma Utara’s staff who had been allotted to caring for Min. Dan gently took Min by the hand and Min obediently went in to supper.


No comments: