A Letter to My Nieces

Dear Aira (4), Nada (2), and Azalea (3 months) on the island of Java,
and Meutia (3) and Khania (6 months) in the eastern part of the county, in our hometown,

I am writing this letter just a moment after I made a video call to three of you Aira, Nada, and crying Azalea in her Mom's arms. Nothing more joyful for me than when I see you are still smiling, laughing, dancing and singing confidently in front of the phone camera, no pressure at all. To some extent, I also address my letter to my other two beautiful nieces Meutia and Khania who happen to be born and growing up on the same island where I was spending my childhood. Perhaps our childhood story would have some similarities although not the most part.

You might not be able to understand what the story I am going to share through this letter at the present time. Moreover, it might take another few years for you to grab the notions your faraway uncle is writing about. However, allow me first to write, a letter that you can read some day in your future, whether you are in the good mood or just accidentally drop by on this blog after conflicting with your crush.

First, please take a look at the video below.

She is Kartini. Just a gentle reminder. You might have heard or read her on Bahasa, English or even Dutch. You might have known her very well, better than I do, through the book you read at school or by reading her biography and her moving letters circulated in the virtual world. Particularly for Aira, Nada, and Azalea, she might have some special space in your heart for four of you were born on the same island, Java. And for the other reason, that three of you are inheriting the half Javanese blood. For my other two Meutia and Khania, regardless two of you (just like me) have no strong connection with Kartini's home island by blood nor race, still, she is a relevant inspiration. You might still see some issues in our hometown is no much different than the era of Kartini. But I hope my guess is far from correct in your time.

She is a female, just like you. That is why this letter is written and addressed to all of you.

As I assumed you have had a knowledge about her in advance already, I will tell you the story of people around me that is relevant to hers.

As you might have known, I was working for few months helping my professor during the last year of my undergraduate program. My work was mainly to collect and verify the data of new students accepted to the university where I earned my degree. From this working experience, I gathered a lot of information that I think, I need to disseminate them to aspiring high school students in regard to how they could pass the selection to enter a public university, including the mechanism of financial aids to those who are in need.

When my term almost finished, I decided to travel home to see my parents, an old man and woman whom you call "grandparents". An old couple who used to sleep next to you when you visit them. The two who are always worried when one of you is getting ill. They never change. The same way how they take care of me. Perhaps, one or even two of them are now taking a rest in peace forever under the blue sky. But their love to all of you never fade.

Back then at home, I met a few high school students in the neighbourhood who were very much eager to go to university, all of them were females. Each of them had a big dream although they were too shy to express themselves. I tried my best to help them applying for their dream campus, from preparing all the required documents, writing a motivation letter, contacting their school so that the letter of reference was issued. Giving the fact that some of them were in need of educational aids, I suggested them to apply for the full scholarship provided by the government. They did everything.

But not until I received a call from my Mom, your grandma. She informed me that none of them accepted. I was a bit disappointed. However, in spite of the rejection, some of them still made their own way, continuing to a private university and vocational diploma. The plan B still works anyway. But not for one girl. It is an exception. I should not mention her name but her story. She was forced by her father to marry someone whom she was not even falling in love with, an older male with some wealth. Her determination for her own future and her education were knocked down to the feet of her father's will, a forced marriage at the age of 18. Her mother is working overseas as a domestic worker. Through her marriage, by her family, she is expected to help the family financially, at the expense of her dream and education. Frankly, I was sad and sorry.

Dear Aira, Nada, Azalea, Meutia, and Khania,

Perhaps your parents forget to tell you about my grandparents, those who you don't see and remember their face anymore but through photographs. Allow me to share a bit about them.

In my whole life, I am only able to talk to three of the four. Your great-grandpa from your grandma (now it is getting complicated, sorry) passed way when your grandma was only 6 years old. His wife, your great-grandma, passed away just one year before I moved to Europe. Aira and Nada, just a kind reminder, your great-grandma said goodbye for the very last time when I and your Mom (whom I call older sister) and together with two of you when you were still toddler were sitting next to her. From her, I learned that age and unfortunate condition should not stop you to get an education. Until her very last age, she never wore any glasses to help her reading.

She was born during an unfortunate situation, World War II. She was spending her childhood both during the Dutch and Japanese occupation. But she only attended school during the Japanese occupation and did not continue afterwards because the situation was not possible, the continuing war and a force to work. Not long after that, she married to someone who I identified as "mysterious" man. I am inheriting his blood by 25% yet still no idea how he looks like. No even one photograph is left. The only theory I know about him, the story from your late great-grandma who identified her husband as a loving, calm, and productive writer whose books never published in any publication. But he had to leave his family forever at the very short time of being a father. He passed away because of ill.

Your great grandma said: "He did not continue attending a formal school. Only a few years. His parents did not allow him. The situation was also not possible at that time. And it is his big disappointment. He made a revenge by writing some books". And his books, written by his own hand do still exist. When I was a child, I used to opened them (even though I do not understand what he wrote for they were written in Jawi script). But I hope someday I could show to all of you his pieces of work.

Dear my lovely nieces. Now you are living in a great freedom and a multitude of choices, something that you may take them for granted. For some other girls, and for my grandparents, it was such a privilege, indeed. Make your voice and help them. You do not necessarily see them by their race, faith, and skin colour. It is even none of your business. Those girls are just like you, human being with a big dream.

Your uncle,

Kingdom of The Netherlands
February 2017

With love