Thursday, June 19, 2008

To Jambi with Love

What is the meaning of tradition for me? I don’t know how to explain that. But let me tell this story. I spent my four days leave two weeks ago by visiting Jambi in Sumatra. Well, it was a perfect combination between family duty and vacation, actually. My brother Iin phoned me three months ago, happily announced that he is going to marry his girlfriend. Good for him.

And following our tradition, the wedding ceremony would take place in Jambi where the bride’s family lives. From Medan, North Sumatra my mom came along with my eldest sister, while Iwan, my youngest brother, joined us from Jakarta as well. We met each other in Cengkareng airport before then had a same flight to Jambi.


Just arriving at Sultan Thaha airport

Jambi is a small provincial city. It is more like city in many districts in Java Island. I have been visited the province for couple times. One of them, I remember, in 1997 when I covered the daily life of Anak Dalam tribe, an indigenous people who lives in Bukit Dua Belas natural reserve area.

‘Cultural apostasy’

Before arriving in Jambi, I had my own anxiety. The bride family had decided to undertake the wedding ceremony using Bataknese traditional procession. As an eldest one from three of my mom’s son, it seemed that I should represent my family during that process. I had been done the assignment previously when officially asked the bride’s family to discuss this wedding plan.

Unluckily, I’m not a Bataknese. From people who come from southern Tapanuli like us, we prefer call ourselves as Mandailing people. Mandailing culture – as far as I know – has much difference with Batak’s (from northern, Simalungun, or Tanah Karo). But even in my own Mandailing culture, I am not a good example to follow. I can’t speak Mandailing language (I understand when they talking but can’t communicate using the language); I don’t have any knowledge about the traditional procedure. I – and all my siblings-- don’t formally use our family name as Bataknese or Mandailing used to. “You are ’an apostate’ from your culture,” some of my friends teased me. Well, I can’t blame them on their accusation.

Saved by the uncle

Hurrah! Good news just coming. My mom said that they bring my uncle from Medan to accompany us in Jambi. He knows everything about traditional process. He’s an expert in both Batak and Mandailing language. And he was also happy to go with us. I felt suddenly half of burden on my shoulders had lifted.

Formal Islamic wedding process

Still, it’s really tiring four days. Just couple hours after arriving, we must met a group of Mandailing community leaders who will accompany us in the wedding process. Then met with the bride family and prepared everything needed before the D-day. I must thank to my uncle. He’s the saviour. He knows how to handle the situation.

Everything went well. The wedding day successfully held in the Saturday morning. And then, the heaviest part came: the traditional ceremony process.

Bullhead and dancing

More than 700 invitees seriously watched the process. The ceremony started with several steps of conversation between the representative of bride family and ours. Then there was symbolic gift from both sides as a mark that now two families united. From our side, we gave them a big bullhead. What a gift! I didn’t know about this before. None told me. All members from our side and theirs touched the plate where the bullhead placed on, followed by pray and hope to strengthen the new family binding. They give us back a gift: a full big plate of carp fish. In Batak tradition, carp fish (Cyprinus carpio) is kind of food which served to express our respect to someone.

Bullhead as symbol of respect and unity

Carp fish as gift from the bride's family for us

Next step was dancing and giving ulos (hand made ornamental cloth) to the new couple. Ulos is also a symbol of respect from someone to another. Each family came with their own ulos. I counted that my brother received not less than 300 ulos. They gave the cloth preceded by speech and pray, then dancing (manortor). As the blessed family, we guarded the couple and should accompany them to dance too. Surprisingly, they called my name to receive the honour. Together with my wife, we got a very beautiful ulos, and my wife really like it. She wore the ulos for the rest of wedding day. Besides me, they also gave ulos to my mom, my sister and her husband, and my uncle.

The new couple receives ulos from all families

Me and my wife also receive ulos

Detail of an ulos. Beautiful isn't it?

Totally we spent all day long to undertake the procession and ceremony. Really tired. But I’m happy, after all everything is well done. I must thank to my new sister in law’s family who has given me opportunity to feel and to do as the Bataknese through the ceremony.

1 comment:

melly boru bapak-nya said...

Mas, (atau bang ya tepatnya?) apa yg sampeyan /kau tulis soal orang TapSel itu sering kali gak mau dikategorikan sebagai orang Batak, bener bgt! Seringkali sibuk klarifikasi, bukan kami bukan Batak, kami Mandailing. Halah! Untuk bukti pendukung, "kan kami gak pakai marga dibelakang nama" Padahal cuma karena rada malu aja pasang marga, krn kalo ditanya ini itu yg sifatnya tradisi asli nyerah, gak paham. Anyway, cheers..! (Glad to know that I'm not alone in this situation)