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.


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.


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.



Filed under Uncategorized

3 responses to “Puter, The Babysister Dove

  1. So much for the global melting-pot concept. 😦 Hopefully our current, mixed-ethnicity U.S. president can inspire some change abroad as well.

    Looks like you’re in Indonesia for a while more. I just subscribed to the backpacker’s Rough Guide bible for free via Facebook – maybe something you could use since you’re away so long. 🙂


    – Lawrence

  2. Cathryn

    Thanks again Kian, lovely story about the birdy-babysisters.

  3. Paul

    Hey! Whats with all the product placements? Are these your sponsors? Have you and gone Hollywood on us?
    Tsk Tsk.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s