Media Gallery

An essay by Indonesian journalist Ayu Prawitasari translated from Bahasa Indonesia by Madina Chumaera, concludes the Slipper folio. With a reflection on the value of “sandal journalism”, the writer recalls a childhood experience of her father’s sandals stolen at the mosque during prayer and how it shaped her politics to fight against the disproportionately harsh treatment of the working class.

Click to read the English translation by Madina Malahayati Chumaera below.
 
 

Sandal-Sandal Jepit di Penjara
 

Tahunnya 1991. Suara azan menghentikan aktivitas di rumah kami seketika itu juga. Bapak mematikan radio yang menyiarkan lagu dan berita secara bergantian. Radio itu dihidupkan sedari tadi tanpa tujuan, sekadar peramai rumah. Sementara ibu yang sedang bercerita asyik kepadaku tentang kegiatannya hari itu juga langsung terdiam.

Dua adikku masuk tiba-tiba. Jelang sore, mereka biasa main di luar rumah, seperti teman-temannya yang lain. Mereka pulang karena suara azan. Suara itu bukan hanya panggilan salat, melainkan juga undangan mereka untuk pulang.

Ibu pergi menuju sumur di belakang rumah, siap mengambil air wudu sementara aku dan adik perempuanku mengikuti di belakangnya. Suara muazin memenuhi setiap ruangan di rumah kami. Tak ada usaha untuk bercakap-cakap karena toh tak akan ada yang saling dengar di tengah banjir suara. Kecuali kalau kami semua saling berteriak.

Bapak biasa pergi ke masjid di sebelah rumah kami. Luasnya tak sampai 100 meter persegi. Bapak mengenakan sarung dan baju koko, sementara aku tetap memakai pakaian rumahku, rok selutut dengan t shirt kusam yang hampir setiap hari kupakai karena sangat nyaman. Agar sopan, aku pakai bagian atas mukena dari rumah. Hanya rokku yang terlihat sementara rambutku sudah tertutup mukena seperti orang yang memakai kerudung.

Semua adikku juga ikut Bapak. Kami meninggalkan Ibu yang salat sendirian di rumah. Dalam agama Islam, perempuan memang tidak diwajibkan untuk salat berjamaah di masjid. Perempuan boleh salat di rumah.

Kami percaya bahwa salat bersama-sama memiliki janji pahala 27 kali lipat dan itu salah satu alasan untuk salat di masjid. Tapi, untukku yang baru berusia 11 tahun kala itu, tentu agama bukan pertimbangan utama. Aku ingin bertemu kawan-kawanku. Mereka akan ada di sana. Dan kalau diizinkan, kami bahkan bisa main bersama setelahnya.

Salat Magrib kali itu singkat seperti biasa, hanya 7-8 menit. Pada bagian berdoa bersama, aku bahkan sudah sibuk mengobrol sendiri dengan teman-teman, membuat janji bermain bersama setelah salat. Yang sampai hari ini kuingat dari hari itu adalah rencana bermain kami yang gagal terlaksana. Dan semua itu boleh dibilang karena Bapak.

Saat keluar masjid, aku melihat Bapak berjalan mondar-mandir dengan wajah kebingungan di halaman depan masjid. Bapak tak berkata-kata. Hanya memerhatikan sandal-sandal jepit yang jumlahnya berkurang banyak karena semua orang telah pulang ke rumah masing-masing.

“Sandal Bapak yang baru hilang ya?” tebakku. Mudah saja menebaknya karena kehilangan sandal jepit di masjid bukan hal yang aneh saat itu. Seperti sesuatu yang bergilir, sangat mungkin bisa terjadi pada diri kita sesudah orang lain mengalaminya.

Kami tahu konsekuensi memakai sandal jepit bagus di masjid adalah siap-siap juga kehilangannya. Kalau sandal itu utuh, tak ada yang mengambil, berarti kau beruntung. Sayangnya Bapak sedang tak beruntung pada saat itu.

Seperti juga orang lain yang pernah kehilangan sandal jepit, tak ada yang bisa kau lakukan saat sandalmu hilang di tempat umum. Kau harus menerimanya dengan ikhlas atau melaporkannya kepada pengelola masjid. Pilihan berikutnya adalah pulang ke rumah tanpa alas kaki atau memanfaatkan sandal jepit jelek yang biasanya ditinggalkan si pencuri untukmu.

“Hilang kan Pak?” tanyaku lagi meski aku sudah tahu jawabannya. Bapak tak segera menjawab melainkan terus mondar-mandir. “Mungkin. Coba kamu bantu cari,” jawab Bapak setelah beberapa saat. Hingga masjid sepi tetap tak ada sandal jepit Bapak di tempat tersebut. Yang tersisa hanyalah sandal jepit lawas kusam yang solnya sangat tipis. Meski kasihan, aku akhirnya tertawa terbahak-bahak melihat nasib Bapak pada hari itu.

“Saat Isya, lapor takmir saja,” usulku ketika pulang bersama Bapak yang terpaksa menggunakan sandal jepit kuning jelek. Bapak menggelengkan kepalanya.

“Biar saja. Bapak enggak akan lapor kok. Yang ambil sandal Bapak berarti sedang butuh. Kalau benar-benar jahat yang dicuri pasti perhiasan kan, bukan sandal jepit,” kata Bapak ringan.

***

Delapan tahun lalu, kutemukan berita soal pencurian sandal jepit polisi di Palu, Sulawesi Tengah. Pelakunya bahkan belum tujuh belas tahun, masih sekolah di SMK di dekat situ. Ia kemudian diadili dengan tuntutan lima tahun penjara.

Berita ini membuat ingar-bingar di sekitarku. Para aktivis perlindungan anak beramai-ramai membuat gerakan dukungan, salah satunya dengan mengumpulkan sandal dari seluruh Indonesia dan diberikan kepada si polisi.

Berita itu membuat aku mengingat momen ketika Bapak kehilangan sandal jepit barunya, puluhan tahun lalu. Bagaimana seandainya Bapak melaporkan masalah kehilangan sandal jepit itu kepada takmir?

Kata-kata Bapak terdengar lagi, “Yang ambil sandal Bapak berarti sedang butuh. Kalau benar-benar jahat yang dicuri pasti perhiasan kan, bukan sandal jepit.”

***

Setelah dewasa dan hidup mandiri, aku mengingat kalimat itu dengan cara yang berbeda. Sebagai alas kaki dengan harga yang sangat terjangkau, Rp10.000 hingga Rp30.000 untuk setiap pasang (tak sampai US$1), sandal jepit jelas bisa dibeli oleh semua orang. Bandingkan dengan harga sandal bermerek yang dijual di mal, yang harganya lebih dari Rp100.000 atau 10 kali lipat lebih mahal dibandingkan harga sandal jepit.

Bagi warga dengan latar ekonomi yang lebih miskin, sandal jepit menjadi bagian tak terpisahkan dalam kegiatan mereka sehari-hari. Sementara, barangkali, bagi warga kelas menengah, sandal jepit hanya digunakan pada waktu-waktu tertentu, seperti saat di kamar mandi, wudu, membersihkan rumah, dan berbagai jenis kegiatan domestik lain. Aku pun berpikir, siapa yang menggunakan sandal jepit untuk bekerja maupun kegiatan domestik ini?

Jawaban yang kupunya tentu saja adalah mereka yang bergelut di sektor informal seperti pedagang pasar tradisional, pedagang kaki lima, penjual makanan di warung pinggir jalan, penjaga hik (warung makanan tradisional khas Solo dan Jogja), penjaga toilet umum, dan sejenisnya. Tak sulit menemukan kehadiran mereka karena kostum mereka biasanya sama: sandal jepit dengan kaus dan celana pendek (untuk laki-laki) serta dress panjang plus kerudung instan (untuk wanita).

***

Demi kuliah saya pun meninggalkan kampung halaman di Jember, Jawa Timur, menuju Solo di Jawa Tengah. Kelak, tepatnya pada 2006, Di kota ini saya juga memulai karier sebagai seorang jurnalis di sebuah koran lokal.
Sebuah sandal jepit kembali menampakkan dirinya tak lama setelah saya mulai bekerja. Di sebuah lembaga pemasyarakatan tempat saya meliput, ada anak-anak di bawah umur yang terjerat masalah hukum. Seorang anak yang berusia sekitar 12 tahun begitu menarik perhatian saya.

Dia masuk penjara karena mencuri panci dan beberapa peralatan dapur lain. Uang tadahan dipakainya untuk membeli beberapa makanan yang dia santap bersama kawan-kawan sepermainan. Dan meski uang itu dia nikmati bersama, penjara hanya berlaku untuknya. Ia mengaku ibunya tak pernah memberikan uang saku.

Terlepas dari aksi kriminal yang dilakukan para penghuni tahanan, saya sering bertanya kepada diri sendiri. Satu pertanyaan melayang di kepala saya: Siapa sebenarnya penghuni penjara? Mengapa orang-orang yang selama ini mencurangi masyarakat -pejabat korup dan pengusaha licik – sulit sekali tersentuh hukum? Jauh lebih mudah menangkap pencuri sandal jepit dibandingkan koruptor di Indonesia. Bukankah situasi itu sungguh mudah menyulut kemarahan masyarakat dan memalukan?

Saat awal menjadi jurnalis, saya selalu menulis ulang semua siaran pers itu untuk direkonstruksi menjadi sebuah berita. Namun, saya lupa mulai kapan, kebiasaan tersebut akhirnya saya hentikan. Saya tak mau lagi menulis berita tentang pencurian burung, pencurian sepeda angin, pencurian panci, apalagi memasang foto tersangka sebagai pelengkap berita. Menurut saya hal itu sungguh tak manusiawi. Anda tahu, tahanan di Indonesia sungguh tidak manusiawi dan hal itu sering dikritik para jurnalis. Saya beri contoh kondisi penjara di Sragen, Jawa Tengah, yang akhir Juli 2019 ini mencapai 508 orang sementara kapasitas penjara sesungguhnya hanyalah untuk 300 orang.
Saya tahu ketidakadilan abadi, namun setidaknya saya pernah berjuang untuk meluruskannya.

***

Dari sudut pandang posisi saya sebagai warga, saya adalah bagian dari masyarakat sandal jepit yang setiap hari dijejali fakta permukaan sebagai konsekuensi dunia pemberitaan yang mengandalkan kecepatan. Lebih mudah memang melayani para penguasa, mendapatkan data-data yang tidak berimbang, menuliskannya menjadi berita, mendapatkan gaji yang semestinya, lalu hidup saya selalu baik-baik saja. Namun, apakah itu memuaskan nurani saya?

Saya mulai mempelajari anggaran pemerintah untuk membekali diri saya dengan informasi. Sebuah tulisan berjudul Main Mata di Balik Lelang Proyek pun diterbitkan, menceritakan tentang bagaimana jalan yang tak mulus akibat proses lelang yang penuh akal-akalan. Ada pula tulisan tentang memo wali kota agar pendukungnya mendapat bantuan kesehatan meski mereka juga tak miskin. Tulisan lainnya: mengantarkan seorang kepala dinas pertamanan di Solo dipenjara selama 1,5 tahun, kepala sekolah yang dipanggil kepolisian karena menyalahgunakan dana pembangunan sekolah, serta kepala dinas perhubungan diperiksa karena diduga menggunakan alat-alat bekas untuk proyek-proyek baru.

Meski pilihan saya menjadi jurnalis investigasi membawa konsekuensi pada keamanan diri sendiri, terlebih saat tulisan itu dipublikasikan, namun saya tak pernah menyesalinya. Komitmen dan pengalaman mengajarkan saya agar menjadi jurnalis yang adil.
Saya teringat lagi saat Bapak kehilangan sandal jepit di musala. Saat Bapak pulang dengan sandal jepit jelek yang ditingggalkan pemiliknya dan Bapak tetap tersenyum. Benar kata Bapak, kalau memang sandal jepit itu sangat dibutuhkan si pencuri, mengapa saya tak mengikhlaskannya? Sandal itu pastilah sangat berarti bagi si pencuri karena kondisi fisik sandalnya yang lama begitu memprihatinkan. Sepasang sandal yang tak siap untuk dibawa berjuang dalam kehidupan sementara kehidupan menuntutnya memiliki alas kaki yang kuat.
Bapak mengajarkan kepada saya menjadi manusia yang kritis. Sebuah warisan tentang nilai-nilai kemanusiaan yang membuat saya memutuskan untuk menjadi jurnalis sandal jepit – seorang jurnalis kritis yang mampu membedakan bahwa ketamakan sangat berbeda dengan kenekatan sebagai bagian perjuangan hidup. Tugas saya untuk menguraikannya sebab esensi berita dalam berbagai bentuknya sebenarnya sama saja. Semua itu tentang pergulatan yang tak pernah habis antara ketamakan dan ketidakberdayaan.
 
 


 

Sandal Jepit Swallows in Prison

The year was 1991. The sound of athaan abruptly halted all activities in our house. My father turned off the radio that had really only been turned on to bring more life into the house with a little music and news. And my mother too, who had been happily chatting about her day’s bustle, immediately went quiet.

My two younger siblings barged in. Late afternoons, they would usually play outside like their other friends. They came back in for the athaan, the sound that was not only a call for prayer, but also a call for them to come home.

My mother got up and headed towards the well behind our house to fetch water for wudu with my younger sister and I trailing behind. With the voice of the muazzin filling every room in our house, there was no attempt to converse because the only chance of hearing each other through this flood of sound was to start yelling.

My father usually went to the mosque beside our house, a space not even 100 square meters large. He wore a sarong and baju koko, while I still wore my house clothes: a skirt that reached my knees with the dirty t-shirt I wore almost everyday for its unparalleled comfort. To make it more modest, I wore the top half of my mukena from the house so that only my skirt was seen while the mukena covered my hair just as a hijab.

My younger siblings all went with my father too. We left mom to pray alone in the house as women indeed were not obligated to pray in congregation in the mosque and could pray at home instead.

We believed that doing salah together had the promise of multiplying one’s good deeds by 27 times. Yet, for my 11-year-old self at that time, the religious reasons for going to mosque of course weren’t my main consideration. I wanted to meet my friends. They were going to be there and if it was permitted, we could play after prayer.

That Maghrib prayer was quick as always, 7-8 minutes, and during the joint du’a, I was already busy talking and making promises for playdates with my friends. The rest of what I can remember from that day is that those plans never came through, which was directly related to my dad.

***

When we left the mosque, I saw dad pacing back-and-forth in the front courtyard with a puzzled look on his face. He did not utter a word, just kept his eyes on the sandals that were diminishing in number as the congregation started their walks home.

“Your new sandals went missing?” I guessed. It was easy to predict—losing one’s sandals wasn’t uncommon. Like clockwork, we’d watch others lose their sandals just as we had.

We all knew the consequences of wearing expensive sandals to the mosque. If they were still there after prayers with nobody walking off with them, it was a lucky day. Unfortunately, it was not my father’s lucky day.

Like anyone who has ever lost their sandals in a public place, there was nothing he could do when they disappeared. We had to accept the reality or report it to the mosque’s manager. The other options were to go back home without any footwear or use the unsightly pair usually left by the thief.

“They’re gone, aren’t they, dad?” I asked him again, already knowing the answer. He didn’t immediately reply as he kept roaming around the place.

“Perhaps. But maybe you can help me find them,” he answered after some moments. But even when the mosque was totally deserted, there was still no trace of my father’s sandals. All that was left was a pair of dingy sandals with worn-down soles.

“When it’s time for Isya, just report the incident to the mosque’s manager,” I suggested as I walked home beside my father forced to wear a pair of ugly yellow sandals. But he shook his head.

“Let it be. I won’t report it, let’s not worry about it more. They must’ve needed those shoes. If the thief was actually evil, they would’ve stolen jewelry, right? Not sandals,” he said softly.

***

Eight years ago, I heard in the news about the theft of police sandals in Palu, Central Sulawesi. The perpetrator was not yet 17-years-old, still in school in one of the nearby vocational high schools. He was sentenced to up to five years in prison.

This news stirred a public outcry. Youth activists corralled together to form a support unit to organize collective actions. One such action: collect sandals from all around Indonesia and give them to the police.

I recalled my father and his shiny new sandals that went missing decades ago. What would have happened if he reported it to the authorities?

His words rang in my head, “If the thief was actually evil, they would’ve stolen jewelry not sandals, right?”

***

The words carry a different meaning for me as an adult now. As very affordable footwear, costing Rp10.000 to Rp30.000 a pair (less than US$1), sandal-jepit, branded as Swallows, can be bought by everybody. For middle-class Indonesians, these sandals are used only during specific times, such as in the bathroom, for wudu, for cleaning the house, and other domestic activities. While for working-class Indonesians, these sandals are inseparable from all daily activity.

Traditional market vendors, kaki lima vendors, warung owners on the side-streets serving traditional Solo or Jogja cuisine, the hik guards, the public toilet guards—these are the Indonesians who wear sandals both at home and at work, whose uniforms are usually the same: sandals with a t-shirt and shorts (for the men) and sandals with long dresses and hijabs (for the women).

***

For university, I ended up leaving my hometown in Jember, East Java, for Solo in Central Java. It was here that I started my career as a journalist for a local newspaper.

The significance of sandals would appear again not long after I started working. In a correctional institution that I was covering for a story, underaged children were being held and one particular twelve-year-old boy caught my attention.

He was being detained because he stole a pan and a few other cooking utensils. The money he got from reselling them was used to buy food that he ate with friends. Even though the money and food was shared with others, he was the only one charged with a crime. He claimed that his mother never gave him pocket money.

Apart from the nature of the petty crimes of those being detained, I found myself constantly asking questions. Who really were these inmates behind bars? Why instead were the people who habitually cheat and steal from the people of this country–the corrupt officials and ruthless business people–not touched by the law? It was far easier to catch sandal thieves than corrupt white-collar criminals in Indonesia. How could this situation not spark the flames of public anger and embarrassment?

When I started out as a journalist, I was tasked with covering the press releases that detailed crimes successfully solved by police: bird thefts, bicycle thefts, television thefts, drug use. I would always try to reconstruct those press releases as news articles with greater context. However, I eventually had to stop this kind of reporting. I no longer wanted to write about the missing birds, bicycles, and pans; and least of all, to publish photos of the culprits and use their public shame as a supplement to the story. In my opinion, it was all very inhumane. It added insult to the already inhumane conditions of Indonesian prisons which, like the prison in Sragen of Central Java that packed over 500 people into a space with capacity for only 300, are habitually overcrowded.

Knowing that unfairness was eternal, I set my mind to fight it.

***

From my perspective as a citizen, I was of the sandal-jepit society: those whose daily life was stuffed with surface-level facts as a consequence of the news cycle that prioritized speed. A new cycle produced by journalists who fell into the path of least resistance, who served the authorities and took in unbalanced facts, writing them off as news to take in a salary and be content in life. Yet, did this kind of journalism satisfy my conscience?

I started to study government budgets, pouring over documents as a way to arm myself with information. I would go on to publish a piece Mata Main di Balik Lelang Proyek (The Shifting Eyes Behind Project Auctions), which exposed the deceit in a public bidding process that led to dangerously unpaved roads. I also wrote about how funds that were intended to provide healthcare for the poor were misdirected to supporters of the mayor, whether they had financial needs or not. My career continued with other investigative reports: the corruption in city parks that would lead to 1.5 years in jail for the Head of the Landscaping Department in Solo, the misuse of school development funds that would cause school principals to be visited by the police, and the exposure of faulty materials that implicated the Head of the Communications Department.

Although my safety and peace of mind were greatly compromised for the stories I published, even including threats to my life, I have never regretted my choice to pursue investigative journalism. My life experiences and commitment to the sandal-jepit society have taught me what it means to be a more fair and just journalist.

I think back to when my dad’s sandals were stolen at the mosque. As he went home that day with a pair of dingy sandals left by their owner, his smile did not fade. His was right, if his sandals were so needed by the thief, why shouldn’t he just let it be? The sandals must have meant a lot, given that the old pair he went home with were in such devastating shape, not fit to fight for their wearer’s life that demanded a much sturdier pair of footwear.

My father taught me to be a critical human. The values he passed on to me led me into the work of a sandal-jepit journalist–a discerning journalist with the ability to recognize that greed and the desperation to survive are two very different things. I feel an obligation to elaborate truthfully on the deeper causes at the root of news and current events in the never-ending struggle between greed and need.

Ayu Prawitasari and Madina Malahayati Chumaera

Ayu Prawitasari is a journalist for the Indonesian daily newspaper Solopos in Central Java. Her journalistic interest lies at the intersections between white collar corruption and poverty. As a member of the Alliance of Independent Journalists, Ayu has received various investigative reportage scholarships that offer professional support and opportunities for development. A mother of two children and currently enrolled in a postgraduate program for Cultural Studies at Universitas Sebelas Maret, Ayu also teaches Communication Studies at Universitas Sahid and provides journalism training at the Solopos Institute. Ayu, meaning 'beautiful' in Javanese language, lives in Solo, Central Java.

MADINA MALAHAYATI CHUMAERA is an 18-year-old student in Greater Jakarta, Indonesia. She is interested in the intersection between the humanities and the sciences. Her book CONTACT LIGHT: the void inside and out–a collection of prose and poetry revolving around the concept of the human brain, outer space, and the connection between them–was published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama in October 2017. She can be found on Twitter at @falsecatch and other places at malahayati.carrd.co/.

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