Sun, 20 Feb 2000


Barefooted Laila smilingly strolled the streets of Jatinegara in East Jakarta She was not properly dressed and the people like to behold her shapely naked breasts

Children found it aberrant and closed their eyes with their hands While drivers are not that shy They had a wild fantasy: "Oh God, if only she were not loony."

Women venders, were not comfortable They murmured to each other: "If she were my daughter I would take care of her."

But, no. Laila is nobody's child She came from an unknown place or, perhaps, sprang out of the murky water of the Ciliwung river

Some said until the age of five Laila was a normal girl In the nearby market place she picked up rotten vegetables to feed an old person who said he was her parent

At the age of fourteen, a street singer was Laila begging in the trains between Bogor and Jakarta

One day another stranger taught her the joy of love and the beauty of a plastic flower Afterwards her condition improved very soon What a dream, he told her But, alas, it lasted only two full moons

Later on, a middle-aged woman, who claimed to be her mother, came to take care of her She furnished Laila with costly clothing and artificial earrings

But the woman treated the maiden just like a female goat and sold her to a person from the underworld

Since that fateful day became Laila an empty plastic bag blown away by the wind from a lightless area to another

Laila became a slave of another destiny At the beginning she wept her fate but later she was no longer herself Pointlessly she roamed the city

Smile she did frivolously to everybody along the way along the day

- By Lilis Marliani

- Translated by TIS