Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Firdaus in the children's ward

The Merdeka Ward of the mental hospital at Babakan in Bogor lies in one corner of extensive grounds. When I reached the ward I could not find Firdaus. He was not in the sunny central courtyard, nor in the unlocked room on one side of the courtyard, nor in any of the cage-like cells on the opposite side of the courtyard. There seemed to be about half a dozen patients, and most of them were wandering around enjoying the morning air.

"Where’s Firdaus?" I asked the under-sized male nurse who was standing in the middle of the open courtyard. "The little boy with the scars on his chest and the bumps on his head." I was ready to punch someone’s face or rearrange someone’s limbs.

"He’s been moved to the children’s ward," said the nurse, much to the benefit of my blood pressure. "He’s no longer sick."

I glanced around the courtyard and spotted a figure in one of the cells fronted with bars. "Who’s the pretty young lady in the cage?" I asked.

"She’s got TB. Don’t go too close."

"Is she getting medicine?"


I had my doubts about the hospital providing the expensive cocktail of drugs usually necessary for a cure. "Are you sure?"


I set off through the gardens, following the directions given to me by the nurse. The children’s ward, now housed in a different building from the one I had visited in the past, was a low rise affair with clean white walls, a relatively new red roof and its own enclosed garden. I entered the office and spoke to the middle-aged lady on duty. She wore a Moslem headscarf and she had a kindly expression.

"Firdaus is watching TV," she said smiling.

As I entered the lounge area, Firdaus leapt to his feet and rushed over to me to take my hand. I felt wanted and appreciated. This was a good little kid.

"Things have improved," I said to the nurse. "No one tied up."

She explained that her Christian colleague had departed permanently to another part of the hospital.

Firdaus and I went for a pleasant walk in the hospital grounds and I bought snacks for Firdaus and the nurse.

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