The 9-year-old beggar

By: Michael Azeredo H

It has been quite a journey to find marginal people in Jakarta area to be interviewed. Though there are a lot of them, not all are easy to interview. Some did not even want to be asked anything, when I approached they left. It was tough and very challenging. It took me several times until I find my guts to meet these people and actually interact with them.

During my first trials, I had been trying to find garbage collector (pemulung) around house-estate, beggar at traffic lights conjunction, and I have gone to orphanage. My lack of guts to approach these people and ask them questions had led me to failure in my first trials.

I have always remembered what Prof. Raldi always said that we need guts to change. I came to realize that this interview could be my first step in achieving my guts to interact with other people. If I am not brave enough to approach these marginal people, how am I going to be able to interact with successful people? So I brave-up my mind.

It was in Pondok Indah where I met Ian and Rian. I was eating and I saw these 2 boys begging for money from desk to desk. When they came to my desk, they sang a song and I gave them money and asked them a few questions, but they seem scared and looked like they do not want to talk to me. But still I tried to talk to them in a nice way. Because I had something to do and needed to leave, I was not able to have a good conversation with them. When I was about to pay my parking fare, there was this girl that stayed there and asked for money. So I gave her money also and left right away.

I was not satisfied with myself and my conversation with them. So I decided to come back there and meet them after my work was done. About 40 minutes later, I came back to “Pertok” and was relieved to see those kids were still there. They were sitting and looked very tired under the intense sun light. So I approached them and tried to get to know them. They seemed to remember me. It turned out that the two boys and the girl were brothers and sister. The sister is Dian. They told me that they had not eaten anything for lunch, so I ordered food for the three of them and sat with them at one table.

While waiting for their food to come, I started to ask them questions about their life. The brothers and sister live together in Gang Subur, which is located near the traffic light in Pondok Pinang. Their parents also live there and apparently, they just had another baby. I was actually quite shocked when I heard about the baby. I was confused a little about how the parents were thinking. They were having a life situation, that might be said low quality life, and they still had another baby.

Ian, who is the eldest, told me that he has started going around as beggar since the age of 7. And now he is 9 which mean he has had about two years of experience as a beggar. While Rian, 7 year-old, and Dian, 6 year-old, had only come with their brothers for several months. Ian did this job with a sincere heart. He feels that he does what he do is not because he has to but because he needs to, so that he can fulfill his and Rian-Dian’s schools needs. All the money they earn in day will be used for buying books and school uniform. And the school’s fee is paid by the money earned by their parents, who worked as scavengers. I am glad to see that they actually still go to school and fight for it.

The food finally came and the brothers and sisters looked very happy. Their sorrows turned into smile in a second they saw good food. Dian said they almost never had a meal with meat. When the family has spare money, only then they can have rice and eggs. While usually at home, there is only rice and lalapan and sambal terasi. So I let them enjoy the nasi padang meal I ordered for them. Seeing them eating food that I normally eat makes me realize that I must be thankful for what God has given me. I could have good and nutritious food for three times a day, unlike the three kids that were in front of me, who eat good food only once a month and it is if only they have spare money. My heart is moved when I saw them smiling and laughing while they were eating. I am so lucky to be able to help them and make them happy even only for a day. It did not take a long time for them to finish the food and then, I continued talking with them about their life.

The eldest boy, Ian, felt really sorry for his brother and sisters because they also had to do what he does to fulfill their needs. Ian knows the tough world of doing this job and actually do not want any of his youngsters to be involved. But it is the will of Rian and Dian themselves to help their brothers. “It was very sad and hard to accept to see my brother do it alone. He has to be responsible for us that is why he chose to do this job. I was moved by what my brother has done and I am proud of him. He is my role model and I want to help him. So I decided to go with him and help him every day.” Said Rian. It was strong words for a kid who is only a second-grader. At a very young age, Ian, Rian and Dian already have to face the tough world of finding money. They have been mocked by people, hated by people, denied by people but they did not give up still trying to get money.

The first time Ian jumped into the job, he felt that he could not do this because he was denied by people many times. He got depressed. But when he came home and saw the two little kids could not have books and enough food, he was motivated and tried the job as a beggar again. His parents never really forced him to do it but they once asked Ian to find something that can help his brother and sister. The money earned by his parents are only enough to eat for a day. “To see my brother and sister have books and uniforms is my motivation.” Said Ian. During his first days, he was very ashame and scared of being mocked. But he brave up and kept doing it. What he thought at that moment was only to be able buy books and uniforms and nothing else. He wanted to finish school and so he wanted his brother-sister to finish school as well. And this pushed him over the limit of an ordinary young boy. At that age while other boys spend most of the time playing, Ian put that all aside and use the time to get money for his family. By the age of 7, Ian already knew how hard it is to find money while other boys could only ask money from their parents. Since then, Ian went directly from school, which finished at 1.00 noon, to the streets to get money by ngamen. He always came home with some money. Eventhough it was not much, but day after day he collected it until it was enough to buy books and other school needs. And some time when he had spare money, he bought food for his family. Eventhough he did not get to eat as well, he was fine with it. His parents once told him to stop and find something else because it was to hard for him. But Ian resists stopping and continued with the job. It was the only job that he could do at that moment because he was still young and did not have much knowledge yet.

Rian and Dian also felt the same way when they first joined their brother going to the streets. They walked from traffic lights to another traffic lights and sometimes to “Pertok” where usually get crowded at the lunch-hour. Almost 4 hours of intense sun light everyday and 2 kilometer walk do not break their spirit to get a better life. It was Ian who always motivate them everytime they are down.

Time went fast and it was 3 in the afternoon already, I asked them if it would be fine for me to come visit their parents and see where they live and they said yes. So I paid for the food and drinks, and straight away we walked together. From the eating place to the gate of the village took us about 15 minutes by walking. When I entered the gate, I sensed the aura of the surrounding different with the boulevard next to the wall. It was less-pollution but more people were going around. It was like everybody knew each other and they gathered with each other. Everyone was looking at me because maybe they knew I was a stranger in their village and I walked with three kids. I was a bit uncomfortable but I tried to act nice by greeting the people around to show that I did not bring harm to the village. After about another 15 minutes walk, I saw a small cube made out of triplex with a roof that was made of rice-straw (jerami). Rian and Dian ran to it where their mom was sitting in front with a baby on his hands, while Ian was still walking with me. I greeted Ms. Sinta and asked her permission of my presence. Thankfully, she accepeted me in her house. It was a very small place, maybe only 6 x 8 meter, with 2 small bed room and a kitchen.

Ms.Sinta is currently 38 year-old and works as a scavenger like her husband. She did not work that day because she still needed to take care of her newborn baby. Her husband was still away working to buy food for the family and for the baby. She and her husband had been a scavenger for more than 7 years. It was not the life they want but they could not do anything else. Ms. Sinta and her husband both came from Brebes, Middle Java. They came to Jakarta in 1998 to get a better life. But they came to Jakarta with bare hands of skills so it was hard for them to get a job. They felt hopeless until there was an offer to become a gardener in bekasi. Eventhough the pay was very low, it was better than getting nothing. But then, after 4 years they got fired because of the new management in that area. And again they were jobless. They tried and tried until finally they arrived here in Gang Subur village where the people were very nice and helpful. Since then, they chose a scavenger as a job to get money. The house that they lived in today was made out of some second-hand things they found in the streets, while some came from people in the village. She was very thankful that she could come to this village.

She is very grateful to have Ian, Rian and Dian as her children. She was once thinking that she would not be able to send them to school. But Ian has made it possible and he helped his parents send his little brother and sister to school. Ms. Sinta actually felt she had failed as parents because she could not give her children a proper life. Her children have had to work to help the family. It was not what she wanted but if it was for family and the children were fine and no heavy heart, then there was nothing I could do to stop them. They really wanted to help so I let them. Maybe it was tough for them but let it be a learning process for them. She believed that her children would all be successful one day.

“When my first child was born, my husband and I were frustated because we were already overwhelmed to feed ourself. And there was one more responsibility to feed. But we did not give up, we just did what we could and let Allah did His plans” said Ms. Sinta with tears starting to run down her cheeks. She was ashamed of herself when she saw other parents could buy things for their children, while for her to feed her children lots of works must be done. “I am so thankful of Ian because he takes care of me, my husband, and my other children especially his new-born brother” said Ms. Sinta with a smile. Her dream is to see her children graduated from high-school which she and her husband have not done in past. “I will try my best to support my beloved children” she continued. I then turned to Ian and asked him what he wanted to be and do when he grew up. He said “I want to be a cook so that I and my family can always eat good food”. As a young boy, he already has the heart and guts to help and fight for the people he loves eventhough sometimes there are obstacle he needs to face. He always manages to get back up again everytime he falls.

It was the most-memorable and heart-moving conversation in my life. It was almost 4 p.m and it was time for me to go. I thanked Ms.Sinta for sharing and giving me a new perspective in life. I also thanked Ian, Rian and Dian for allowing to get to know them. I believed that they can be successful one day. And with a simple goodbye and thank you I walked back to the place where I met the kids first.

As a 19 year-old coming from a family with a pretty good life, I felt that my life was nothing compared to Ian and his brother-sister. He had been through so many obstacles in life, at a young age he already has to work to find money. And his job was considered as an inapproprite job for kids. But he is doing it and not giving up. Ian has given me a new perspective in life and a new motivation. I must admit that Ian has more guts and more sincere heart than I do. I would make this as a motivation to brave-up my heart and mind. When I was a kid, I did not feel what Ian felt. I was getting toys and able to eat food I like, while Ian has to suffer and work hard to get food. This makes me see how lucky I am in this world. It moves my heart when I see how determined Ian to help his family. He has done real and meaningful doings to his family, while I have done almost nothing to help my family. If I do not have the guts to change for my family, how will I have the guts for other people in the society.

When Ms. Sinta said that she has failed as a parent, I totally disagree. She has everything it takes to be a good parent. She has the heart to work hard so that her children can go to a proper school. She made her children not to be hopeless with their situation. She gives Ian the motivation to change for the better.

I now have a new way to see my life. I shall not just sit and waiting something to happen, but I must change myself and make something happen because it is what bravery means. You will not be able to change others if you cannot change yourself. That is what Ian, the 9-year-old beggar, have taught me in life. He was able to change his mindset and want to work to help his family. And now because of it, he has been able to change me on how I see my own life.

It was too bad that I could only take picture with Ian, Rian and Dian, but not with their mom. It is because Ms. Shinta did not want her and her house picture taken. So I respected her by not taking pictures.



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