Negotiating the river of a thousand motorbikes, Gunawan’s driver took us past a wide, muddy irrigation ditch lined with tin-roofed huts. Across makeshift bamboo bridges we could see hundreds of small shops – motorbike garages, carved wooden door workshops and durian huts full of ropes of the hanging spiny fruit. We turned past a security gate into a protected enclave of small, well-cared for houses.
From the street we could already hear the dove songs mixed gently with the call to prayer and street vendors hawking their goods. The tropics seem to blur the lines between inside and out . We entered an outdoor tiled courtyard with a row of men sitting and smoking. Propped on a couch in the corner sat their prince, Gunawan.
Looking something like a hybrid of Tiger Woods and Yoda, Gunawan greeted us with a big smile and apology for his attire of sarong and sweatshirt. He speaks some English which we learn he picked up in his business running oil tankers. His smile is huge and he and Kian immediately start talking about Perkutut. I bring out a camera and he says, “Wait, I need to change my dress.” As he goes off we puruse the long row of ornate cages hanging in the courtyard. A barefoot young man named Ardi moves constantly and quietly around the cages, taking one down and polishing it, removing a dove and examing it, and squirting water into small bowls.
Gunawan has pieced together a remarkable complex in this gated eclave, of which he is district leader. Now donning business slacks, a linen shirt and batik cap he directs us across the lane to his trophy room. Kian had told me that certificates and trophies are big in Indonesia and I believe him. Gunawan has only been in the business for 8 years and his room is packed with shiny statuettes.
We exit the room into a new courtyard filled with training and breeding cages. Ardi follows closely behind us waiting for cues from Gunawan.
Ah, dear readers, I must cut this short – it is 6:30 in the morning and another car is coming for us at 7. Today we are going to the Bekisar competition held at an international theme park, akin to the one documented in Tamar Gordon’s “Global Villages”. The bekisars, singing roosters, will compete in the park’s bird section. More soon!