Monthly Archives: September 2010

Puter, The Babysister Dove

Post by Kian

She was about 16, always in white uniform and holding a baby. She lived a few doors away from us in Jakarta.  In late afternoon when our side of street was in shade, she would come out with the baby, hanging out in her front yard. My friend Awie went over to chat and soon they’re dating. She was a babysister, a live-in nanny. In Indonesia, nannies are called babysisters, a bastardization of the word babysitter. It made perfect sense to me then: they cared for babies and they’re women, sisters.

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Awie’s family heard the news and threatened to disown him. He was ethnic Chinese; she Javanese. Awie was heartbroken for weeks. One evening, he showed me her letter. I don’t remember all the words but I remember how she ended it, “You don’t have feelings, just like this photo.” She had attached a close-up picture of a chimp, cut out from a newspaper. I looked up. At that moment I could only see that Awie, eyes drooping from sadness and lower lips slacked, emoted the same way as the chimp. I let out waves of laughter. After saying something nasty about my mother, he too giggled reluctantly with me.

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Twelve years later I found myself back in Jakarta. Jim and I were visiting Gunawan’s perkutut (zebra dove, Geopelia striata) breeding farm in Bekasi, on the outskirt of Jakarta. “These are babysisters for perkutut,” Pak Gun was pointing to the slightly larger grey doves, puter, also known as brown-spotted dove (Streptopelia bitorquata). They were raised to become nannies for perkutut. Pak Gun told us puters had overwhelming maternal instinct. Puters’ own eggs were replaced with two decoy eggs made from stone. They would sit on the stone eggs and after 12 days, perkutut chicks were brought in to replace the decoy eggs. Puter would not hesitate to feed regurgitated food to these chicks. “You have to let puter dove sit on the eggs for 12 days for the milk to develop, “ Pak Gun was referring to the regurgitated food. Puter birds produce pigeon-like cooing and contagious laughter “Ha ha ha ha ha.” As a result, our footage has a strange laugh track.

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Getting to Know Perkututmen

post by Kian

Watching competitions is a great way to meet Indonesian perkututmen. The opening ceremony is formal and bureaucratic but if you stick along, you’re in for a treat. You meet all kind of characters hanging out all morning, albeit under tropical sun.

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The presence of a white man, Jim, attracted so much interests that all we needed to do was waiting. We met Yoseph who apparently was assigned to assist us with hotel and transportation. But Yoseph took things too seriously, interrupting our interviews whenever he spotted another perkutut high official. Sometimes, I signaled him to wait but to no avail. “Come here, you should interview Mr. Yan Sutta, the head of Central Java chapter of the perkutut organization,” Yoseph told me in the middle of another interview.

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Then there is Rofid, perkutut journalist from an avian tabloid who tried very hard to impress Jim with his perkutut knowledge. Rofid kept a very busy schedule following every big perkutut competition all through Java. Rofid had a rival Chris, who reported perkutut news on his website. The perkutut organization made sure that both men had accommodations wherever they travelled to.

Cagemakers, dealers, and feed suppliers also travelled along. In Surakarta, we saw a perkutut store in a van, selling all kinds of perkutut needs and paraphernalia. I bought hats, perkutut nest from bamboo and pine needles, squid bones for calcium and CDs of former perkutut champions.

A Chinese boy, Arief, approached and spoke to Jim in English. He came with his father from the city of Kudus, famous for its huge kretek (clove) cigarette factories, to compete in the juvenile perkutut section. Jim was happy, I could tell, speaking on his own without my translation.

Henry saw one Eurasian and immediately thought that we’d be interested. He said, “This is quite rare. Usually only Chinese and Javanese are into this.” But the Eurasian was indifferent and didn’t seem to return any eye contact.

Yuma was caught in bad traffic jam and took 18 hours to drive from Jakarta to Surakarta. His bird, Bimo Sakti (Milky Way) didn’t get the one-day rest but still took the fourth place. Haji Imam, one of the best cagemakers, came from Surabaya with a novice bird Putra Indonesia who created the biggest upset -shooting to the first place in the last round. Henry quietly offered U$5,500 but Haji Imam decided to sell to Haji Muhammad, the scrap metal businessman from Surabaya for $6,000.

Haji Muhammad was a legend himself. In past years his bird Susi Susanti won the grand championship three years in a row. People still talked about him.

At about eleven in the morning, lunch boxes were handed out to all competitors. Henry went to the organizers and came back with two more lunch boxes for us. We took a break, savoring the fried chicken and rice in the shade.

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