Si Mirah dari Kampung Marunda,
Mirah of the Marunda Village
As a widower, Bang Bodong was very loving and protective of his only daughter, Mirah. He was a disciplinarian but still couldn’t help but to spoil her from time to time. One request that he granted for her was to become as strong and respectful as him.
“Mirah my daughter, I’m getting old,” Bang Bodong said.
Sighing, she replied, “and wiser. So how about teaching the adjacent village…”
“There’s no man to replace my position,” he paused as Mirah turned to him with a conflicted eyes and continued, “you know two is better than one.”
“Yes. Us, two.”
“And when I’m gone?”
“You will not.”
“Mirah, my age is adding up and ‘tis for our village, Mirah. If you are alone, I’m afraid our village will be soon wiped out by those uncivilized barbarian.”
“Well then teach me more of your art, Father. This is my village, my flesh and blood. Anyone who came with no good intention shall be extinguished with my own bare hands.”
Bang Bodong gave into her request wholeheartedly and Mirah ended up becoming his best disciple, especially in hand to hand combat just like her old man. As time went by, Bang Bodong grew worry with her reputation as the unbeatable warrior of Mandura. With a lot of repetitive encouragement and small sneaky talk, he finally convinced her into agreeing with his offer.
“Mirah, I’m getting old,” again he started the conversation.
“Father, we talked about this. Please.” Mirah refused to look at him in the eyes.
“Mirah, let’s talk about this…again. I’m serious.”
“Also I, Father.”
“Mirah, what would people say? I don’t want any rumors about you being an old virgin.”
“And I should care about what they said? Why? Is that what you think, Father?” Mirah bit her cheek.
“My Mirah, of course not. Let us meet in the middle then. What would make you agree to take a husband?”
Mirah’s eyes twinkled as if she’s been thinking on a good clause for her determined father.
”Fine, Father. What…about…Let me think. Umm, oh.” She turned around to face him, but before she could say anything, Bang Bodong bombarded her with anything he could think of.
“Jewelry? House? Land?”
“What? No, Father. Nothing of sort. It’s actually quite simple. He would have to beat me fair and square in a fight.”
Bang Bodong furrowed his brows for a moment but immediately accepted. He didn’t want for Mirah to change or worse, add her condition any further.
There were already men from all over who had send their proposals beforehand but after Bang Bodong announced Mirah’s decision, there were waves of fighter, good or worse who tried their chance in defeating the Warrior of Marunda. One such fighter named Tirta, a well known one from Karawang. He also had a reputation of high stakes burglaries and robberies, so his skill in battle was already proven. Unfortunately for him, Mirah was not just any high stakes trophy. She was a better and smarter fighter than he was. They ended the fight with him wounded and laid on the dusty ground, unable to recover for quite a while.
Not long after, in Kemayoran village, there were a big scene of riot unraveling. It started from incidents of multiple robberies. The colonial police were swamped by reports and complains. They were stretched thin from handling different places every day and nights. Even the colonial government were pulling their hairs thin because then not just the villagers who got attacked, the Dutch immigrants were also being targeted.
One particular evening, a robbery happened in a house that belonged to a Chinese ethnicity. At that time, most of the major business belonged to the Chinese immigrants. As the chief of police tried his hardest to wrangle the robbers, most of his men ended up empty handed as the robbers slipped away into the darkness. However, a particular face was recognized in between them. Most of the eye witness pointed fingers at a young man named Asni, also a villager from Kemayoran, but most if not all of the eye witness felt strange as Asni was well known to be a kind hearted fighter who never like to stir trouble.
The chief of police decided to track down and capture him, alas with no good amount of evidence, he was released. Angry from mis-accusation, Asni set his way across the coast to find the real criminal. He didn’t start his quest blindly either, from his investigation, he concluded the approximate origin of the robbers from their movement. The most probable headquarter was by the east side and one of his destination was the village of Marunda.
Once he arrived in Marunda, he began to infiltrate the underground community, including the black market and gambling central. He vaguely questioned the patrons to track the real perpetrator. Apparently, as careful as he was, Asni might not used to dealing with the world of criminal. Words began to spread that an outsider had claimed that Marunda was the home of these bandits. This of course offended many of Bang Bodong’s disciples and their mates but they didn’t want to stir trouble themselves instead they tried to find a way to initiate by leaving bread crumbs all the way to Marunda’s center.
Asni followed his clues and entered the village with ease. Two of the guards who also Bang Bodong’s disciples began to question him rather harshly. Clueless, Asni answered blatantly, “I came here in the middle of broad daylight with nothing but my clothes and waterskin. You think I hide something under this?” He lifted his sarung and it was it. The guards took that as an invitation for a fight and began to attack.
“Don’t try to fool us, you little prick!”
Two against one was hardly fair, but two against an experienced fighter like Asni was really unfair. Without hitting any of them, Asni evaded and let the two guards rammed into each other. Once they both landed on the ground, others jumped in the fit of rage. Even then, Asni was still ended up being the only one that still stood tall, brushing dust of his arms and feet. Humiliated, one of the disciples sprinted to Bang Bodong.
“Big Boss. There’s an intruder coming to our village.”
Bang Bodong didn’t even hesitate once he saw the bloodied face of his disciple. Thinking it’s one of the pirates again he took off with a growl. “Move over! Let me teach ‘em a lesson!”
Regretfully, Bang Bodong’s age had been catching up to him. He was not as swift as he used to be and a perfect encounter between his head and the ground knocked him out cold. Once that happened, every each one of the disciples scattered everywhere, trying to find second in command, Mirah.
“Big sis! Bang Bodong blacked out! There’s a trouble maker in the marketplace.”
Mirah didn’t need to hear anything else but the fact that her father was unconscious. “Uncivilized animal! Take me to them!”
Asni on the other hand was actually busy attending to Bang Bodong. However, Mirah was too furious to see. She hollered to him to get away from her father and began to attack. Surprised and amused, Asni dodged her fist.
“Look, miss. I’m not looking for…”
“You are already brought it! Fight me like a man!” Mirah followed his steps.
“I was just trying to…” Asni raised his hands gesturing good will.
“Stop trying, you just looked pathetic.”
Despite her burning insults darting at him, Asni couldn’t help but to admire her movement. Strong and quick, but a tad bit too hasty for his taste. Sensing that his explanation would go unheard, he stroke a conversation, “The Warrior of Marunda, I assume.”
“The con-man of nowhere, I assume,” she replied without missing a beat.
“Hey, I have a home. Kemayoran.” Asni jumped and landed next to her, making Mirah hit a barrel of water, which then drench half of her clothes.
“Ah, the land of robberies. No surprise.”
“Yeah, robbers who come from your place.”
“EXCUSE YOU. We do not house any robbers in this place!” Her anger boiled over.
“Excuse me, miss. But the trail ended here. Evidence is piling up.”
“Trying to break my concentration by insults? That’s highly unintelligent.”
“If there is nothing to be insulted for, why would you be offended?”
Asni were slowly pushed back into a trap that was set by the other disciples. Mirah, with her rage double fold for Asni and the unfair nature of her own mates, barked at them,”leave us alone! I can handle him!”
The sun was getting ready to take a long break under the horizon,yet the same could not be said for the sparring duo. As the swelter air was getting cooler, Mirah took more and more short pants between her already quickened breaths compared to Asni’s long and even one. Despite Mirah’s earlier warning, the other disciples made a jump on Asni and wrapped him tight with a rope. Even in his cornered situation, Asni still sent spells to awaken Bang Bodong.
Conscious, Bang Bodong quietly watched as Mirah glowered at her mates and cut Asni free just to resume their melee. Over and over again, Mirah missed her target but somehow Asni managed to keep it inconspicuous. Bang Bodong was fairly sure only the three of them understand the weight of this situation. In a matter of time, Mirah would have to give up, but knowing his daughter very well, she would fight until she couldn’t lift a finger. Then the opportunity for him to end the fight came. Mirah overshoot her attack and almost staggered to get back up, though she still had the strength to smack Asni’s helping hand away. Bang Bodong stood up and asked, “Mirah. Are you done?”
“No,” Mirah answered a bit too quickly.
“Remember when we talked about the ethos of a fair fight?”
Begrudgingly, Mirah took a deep breath and extended her arm to Asni. “Congratulation.”
“For what? I still haven’t find the real person that smeared my name.”
Everyone turned to him with a confused look. “You weren’t here to marry my daughter?” Asked Bang Bodong.
Asni’s mouth made a big O before smiling sheepishly. “No, I was just here to follow the clues. Somebody who apparently look like me led a big robbery in Kemayoran. I was arrested because of it and I need to clear my name before the police find false incriminating evidence against me.”
“Well then. Let us help you so you can be on your way.” Mirah smiled too widely.
“Mirah?” Bang Bodong zeroed into his only daughter. “Ethos?”
Mirah gulped and said with a low voice, “welcome to Marunda. Let me show you around.”
Asni bit his tongue to stop his smile. He stared at her a little too long before saying, “sure. Not to long though, I..a gotta go find that…person. Have a dateline to catch.” Then his stomach growled ever so slightly.
Mirah and the rest of the village laughed. “Come on, stay for a night. The least I, we can do after an unfair fight.” Mirah snapped her head at the others who ducked their head in embarrassment.
“Well, I did just walk into the village without saying greeting to these guys. Very alert.” He purposely praised the two guards who initiated the fight. The two guards turned red.
Not realizing Asni mocking words, she responded, “well, you know they’re my Father’s disciples too. Learn from the best.” The guards turned even brighter red.
“Yeah, he was well known.”
“Sorry? He IS well known.”
“Uh, yeah. Your father is well know, that’s what I meant. So about that meal? I will just take off after. No need to…stay.”
“Well if you must.” Mirah shrugged. “See that big roof over there? See you in a couple, you might want to clean up. Heck, I think we all need clean up.” Mirah turned to one of her mate and spoke, “Can you help him?”
“Yes big sis. Come on….”
“Asni. My name is Asni by the way, Mirah correct.”
Mirah turned and chuckled. “Yes, Mirah. See you later Asni.”
Bang Bodong observed the exchange with glee. Knowing exactly what’s going in Asni mind, he walked to Mirah and suggested a big dinner. Curious, Mirah looked at him and replied, “Father, he won’t stay long. That’s what he said.”
“Mirah. Think about it. He’s not a con-man.”
“How do we know?”
“Well, we will know by dinner time anyway. But say that he isn’t. Did you realize how good of a fighter he is?”
“Yes, Father. Must you bring that up?”
“You can learn from him too. You said you always want to protect this village, right?”
“Yes, Father.” Mirah sighed and grabbed Bang Bodong’s arm. “I want to protect you too, Father.”
“Oh, Mirah, I’m alright. Quite alright, darling. Asni’s great with spells too.”
Mirah stared into Bang Bodong’s eyes. “No, he didn’t.” Bang Bodong nodded. “When?”
“During the fight. Especially when he was tied at the very end.”
“Oh. Alright, I admit it. I finally admit it. Yes, if it must be, I would rather choose him.”
“The fight choose him for you per your request.” Bang Bodong laughed.
“Sure, Father. Sure.”
Once the dinner was ready, everyone in the village gathered into the communal square to share the meal. Once again Bang Bodong extended the invitation for Asni to stay permanently.
“Listen young man, you came here being shepherd by fate. Did you not?”
Stealing nervous glances at Mirah who just once again shrugged, Asni replied, “I assume so, Sir.”
“Bang Bodong, please. Or father is fine.”
Asni shifted his weight while sitting. “But still, Bang Bodong. The reason for me being here was not a pleasant one.”
“Ah yes! The robbers leader. We know who it is.”
Asni perked up and sat a little taller. “Yes?”
“We all know the moment you tel your tale,” added Mirah.
“Really? You…all? He’s that famous?”
“Infamous more likely.” Mirah pursed her lips and continued, “I knew I didn’t hit him enough to teach ‘em a lesson.”
“He was lost, I assume.” Asni watched her. A mix of admiration and amusement brewed within him.
“Must you always assume? Isn’t that obvious? I mean you are the first one that…I didn’t beat.”
“Win, you meant Mirah?” Bang Bodong couldn’t stop but to tease.
Mirah turned to Bang Bodong and swallowed a mouthful of rice before piling up her plates with more food and dumping a big amount of hot chili on it.
Asni immediately change the topic.“Yes, well, who is he? Where is he?”
“Tarpa,” Mirah answered with her mouth full. Bang Bodong rolled his eyes and stared at her while pointing at his mouth.
“No. Tirta.” Mirah swallowed and turned to Asni.
Asni saw her lips smeared with hot chili and pointed at his own to tell Mirah.
He saw her lips gradually swell from the spices. It was strangely attractive. “Err. Chili. All over you.”
“Here.” He offered her a piece of cloth.
“Thanks.” She gave him a faint smile and added, “Tirta. Fought him once. Only need once anyway.”
“Where is he?”
Feeling all the eyes on them, Mirah turned to her father. “Last hear was where, Father?”
“Still in Karawang, my dear. Never moved.” Bang Bodong almost copied the rest of his disciples who was snickering in the background.
Uncomfortable from the attention, Asni spoke, “I am going there then to have a word with him. Then if he refused, I will..”
“Oh just go and drag him out. End of discussion,” Mirah cut in.
“Or I could just do that.”
“Then I will retire to my quarter. We need to leave early tomorrow so words won’t spread that you are hunting him.” Mirah got up from the floor where everyone sat and planted a kiss on his father’s hand. She whispered, “Don’t plan anything at all without me knowing.”
“Why would I?” Bang Bodong whispered back.
“Sure, Father. Sure.”
That night Asni walked around outside the quarters, unable to sleep.
“Would you mind to be a little bit quieter?”
Asni looked at the dark shadow of the trees and searched for Mirah.
“For someone who’s really pretty silent at the battle, you sure are loud.” Mirah hopped down from one of the tallest branch.
Asni didn’t expect for her to be near the top. He retreated a couple steps back. “That’s your quarter?”
Mirah laughed. “Yes, and no. At least not yet. I’m still building a place up there. Good to watch over the village you know. That tree is going to grow even taller.”
“They sure do. I love climbing them when I was smaller to test my strength. Now is just too easy.” He looked up at the tree with longing.
Mirah watched him and saw a glint of homesick. “You should get some sleep. It’s not like this is your home. I bet you’re pretty exhausted from your trip.”
“I can’t. I’m impatient. I got to get this straightened up right a way.” Asni grabbed a pebble and tossed it at the pond.
Mirah looked as the water rippled away. “I can’t promised you will find him tomorrow since he might be going around looking for places to rob again. He was not a really bad man you know. He’s just…”
“Yes. Lost. We all lost, we all want to have our land back, instead of being robbed by those colonial people. They’re the robbers not us.”
“Doesn’t mean we have to take away what others acquired with hard work. The robbers wasn’t particularly picky when they set their target.” Asni dug his toe into the soil.
“No, desperate time right?”
“There should be other way.”
“There’s always other way. Maybe…we don’t have to chase him. Maybe we can lure him here.”
Asni turned to Mirah while she gazed at the moon. “How?”
“The robbers love free stuff especially free food. Let’s have a big cele…um gathering.”
Asni could feel a tickle inside his stomach that spread out. “Celebration? Is that what you were saying.”
Mirah shook her head too quickly. “Gathering, celebration, party, you know big free festival.”
“For what reason though? Won’t that be suspicious.”
“They’re robbers. Free stuff. Robbers. Free stuff? Come on, they wouldn’t care as long as there are..”
“Free stuff.” They both spoke at the same time.
“You’re brilliant,” Asni whispered with a twinkle in his eyes.
“Ehh, it comes with the gene.” Mirah shrugged with a laugh.
“Can we afford to feed everyone until he show up?” Asni asked after their laughter died down.
“We? Since when it’s a we?” Mirah lifted her brow.
“You don’t think I would just get on for a free ride would you? I know people too. I can help.”
“Aah. That we. I thought..”
Asni purposely didn’t say anything and observed as Mirah fumbled with her words. There was something about Mirah that fascinated him. After a while he replied, “you thought the worse of me again, correct oh Warrior of Marunda?”
“Nooo.” Mirah sighed and continued, “look I am sorry. I am so used to having my guard up. Marunda’s location is very strategic you can see it by now right?” Asni nodded. “I can’t have my father’s lifetime hard work just wiped out of this land like we were never here.”
“You childhood home.”
“For better or worse.”
“It’s all etched here, all over this village. You see?”
“No, thank you for willing to help me.”
“Well, I kind of have to after accusing you and throwing fist at you.”
“Don’t forget your feet too.”
“Yeah, yeah. Alright then, let me talk to Father once he’s up and I will let you know.”
Asni nodded and bid good night to the Warrior of Marunda. As she disappeared into the dark, he said to himself,”I have a feeling I already know what Bang Bodong will say.”
Once the sun peeked over the horizon, Asni saw a familiar sturdy silhouette of a man. Soon a booming sound of his arm rapped against the guest quarter’s door. “Asni, young lad! Wake up to a new dawn, Son.” Bang Bodong snickered as he said the last word.
Asni chuckled. He stood a couple of long steps behind him as he was already out about an hour before to do his morning ritual. He approached carefully and greeted, “good morning, Bang Bodong.”
Bang Bodong turned around and laughed. “Quite sneaky, aren’t you, Son.” Asni thought he almost saw a grown man giggled in front of him. “I have greeeaaat news for you.”
“Great news yes?”
“Yes! After careful consideration by my daughter. Mirah decided that it is wise to held a marriage celebration, with you, Son.”
“Really? That what she decided? But we barely know each other Bang Bodong. Do you think it is wise?”
“Look at you two, your thoughts already compliment each other! She was arguing the same thing.”
“How did you convince her then?” Asni tried not to be too conspicuous.
“Ah you know, I am her old man and she is a brilliant young woman.”
Asni almost blurted out how he said the same thing last night, but he managed to stop himself and nodded instead.
“She knew what is it that we needed to do and that is it then. So, let us talk more about the preparation.”
“After you, Bang Bodong.”
“Father, Son! Father. We are family now.”
“Erm..Father. After you.”
“I knew I like you the moment we met.”
Asni raised his brow and wondered about the way this family showed favor to the people they like. It might just be a little out of this world.
“How are you Mirah?”
“Oh, my! You scared me. Why would you always have to sneak you way around?” Mirah glared at him.
“I am not. You were just too preoccupied. You need rest you know.” Asni dragged her outside by the pond.
“Tirta’s and his gang might be fleeing away from here. We have to do this soon but do this right.”
Asni pulled her arms down and sat on the grass with her. “Mirah. You approach this like you are getting ready for a guerrilla battle.”
“Well you are right. In a way it is.”
“Do you really want to do this?”
“Catching Tirta? What kind of question is that?”
“I know you do, but that wasn’t my question. Us. Marriage.”
Mirah finally relaxed and looked past him, at the pond. “I’ll do anything to preserve my family.”
“I know you do. But my question is do you welcome me into the family already?”
“You are a good man, Asni. I wouldn’t want any other way.”
“You mean you wouldn’t want to be forced to choose any other man in case there’s none good out there.” Asni turned and looked at Mirah’s dirty hands. “You really need to clean this. Working hard is good, but taking care of your body is also important.”
“Look, here is my proposal. Since I didn’t actually propose to you.” Mirah chuckled and held his hand back. Asni continued, ”let’s make this a partnership. I can be here when needed. Kemayoran is not far. Or I can build another house around here so people won’t talk about…”
“Asni. Come on, in these couple of days we have known each other pretty well. We bonded like a lightning and thunder, mostly you are the lightning since I’m pretty loud.”
“You are trailing off again, Mirah.”
“Right. Yes. Are we best friend?”
Asni didn’t expect Mirah’s question. “Yes. Quite honestly, I wish we know each other earlier. Maybe from childhood.”
“Yes, we would’ve beat each other up since small.”
“Sure.” Asni furrowed his brows and nodded.
“Don’t mock me.”
“Pff. Fine. Then let’s be really best friend first. My Father already pretty much adopted you regardless what you think.”
“True. Then take it from there?”
“Yes. But how about your family?”
“You guys are my family.”
Mirah stared deep into his eyes and couldn’t help but turned glassy. “Knowing you, there should be a lot of people you left behind there in Kemayoran.”
“Yes and I don’t regret it. They turn me in the moment the police asked them. Even when they doubt that I did it, still though. They could’ve warned me. Some of them did and yes they are my friends but they have their own family and I found mine here.”
“Even when we judged you before knowing you?” Mirah teased him.
“At least you took it into your own hand to confront me. Not hiding behind others. That’s what I like about you.” Asni swallowed as his stomach churned.
“And you, never stop till justice and truth spilled everywhere.”
“You are not really good at that, you know that.” Asni shook his head.
Mirah squeezed his hands harder until he winced and added, “see, truth, spilled, e-ve-ry-where.”
“Ow, ow, fine. You’re right.”
“It’s alright. I like that about you too. I like us, Asni. I really like it.”
“Then, let’s take a break so we can enjoy us a little bit more before the battle.”
“Ha! You are correct. Have you think about how to apprehend Tirta?”
As they walked away from the pond, a servant who just passed a bush jumped away and squealed. “Master! Bang Bodong. You scared me.”
Bang Bodong was sitting behind the boulder with all his teeth exposed in a big smile. “Shh. Tehehehe.” He walked away leaving the servant confused.
“Did he just…giggled?”
The village was full of guests from all corners of Betawi. Even the chieftain of Kemayoran showed up with his entourage. Every entertainer who lived around Marunda came to give the performance of their lifetime. All the guests were delighted with no chance of boredom. Little that everyone knew, Tirta also showed up barely in disguise, overconfident of his ability to blend in.
He was fully immersed in the celebration until he came face to face with the chieftain. Unbeknownst to him, the chieftain mis-recognized him as Asni and he was approaching just to extend his congratulation. Nervous, Tirta made a mistake to pull out his dagger and attack to the chieftain. Bang Bodong, who was the only one who noticed Tirta’s change in expression, rammed himself against Tirta, who dodged him at the last moment. Unfortunately, his dagger didn’t manage to avoid Bang Bodong. The older man landed on the ground, wounded. Seeing the injured host, hysteria plagued the guests. Mirah, the first to hear the commotion, instantly flew from the bride’s seat, leaving her ceremonial gown behind. She gave a chase while Tirta raised his bloodied dagger. Seeing it, Mirah snapped and sprung onto him. Her leg zeroed on Tirta’s nape and didn't miss. Tirta fell headlong and landed on the ground.
He slowly turned to his back and muttered, “Mirah…”
Mirah saw Tirta’s own dagger carved into its owner, but sympathy passed her with no trace.
“Mir..ah. I came…only to…congrat…tulate, not…fight.” Mirah gave her a softer gaze as she kneeled next to him. ”I, akh. Here. A gold cr..ested belt. Carved on…leather. Accept…it.”
“Tirta…I…I don’t. Asni!” She called Asni, not knowing what to do.
The moment Asni’s face emerged next to Mirah, Tirta gasped. “Oh, Lord. As..ni? My brother? You’re…so big…now.”
Mirah turned to Asni with curious eyes. Asni squeezed her hand but his eyes never left Tirta’s face. “Big brother. Yes, it is I. Long time no see.” Mirah stared at her balled fist. Her knuckles grew white from anger, but all dissipates as a drop of Asni's tear made a long reflective trace on her fingers. She caressed Asni’s hand.
Gasping for air, Tirta lifted his arm to reach Asni. He grabbed and held Tirta gently. “Brother, why?”
“I’m…sorry, my brother. I’m sorry…I left. I’m sorry…I was lost. I, can’t. Not…after…Father passing. It’s too…much.”
“Brother, save your strength. We can still build our family. With Mirah too and everyone here.”
All the guests had gathered to watch the tearful reunion. Everyone then looked at Tirta with pity instead of hatred.
“I’m afraid…too la..te.” Tirta gasped and winced.
“Yes, Tirta. We’re here.” Mirah reached and held Tirta’s arm.
“Again…cong..ratu..late. Be hap…py. A..bett..er…family. Better than…my…choice…than…mm…” With that Tirta blew his last breath. His lifeless arm fell from Asni’s shoulder onto Asni and Mirah’s hands.
Asni buried his face on Mirah’s shoulder and sobbed.
Days after Tirta’s funeral, Asni finally opened up to Mirah. They had the same father but Asni’s mother were from Cakung while Tirta’s once moved from Banten. After their father passed away, Tirta’s mother return to her village with him. There were rumors that Asni heard about a runaway from Banten who had gotten infamous. Asni had his suspicion but he refused to believe that his older brother that he once looked up to had changed so drastically.
“That’s why you said you don’t have anyone there.” Mirah looked at Asni.
“No, I never said that.”
“I said my family is here.” Asni smiled and moved closer to her. “With you.”
So that friend, fellow reader is the legend with some embellishments that I added for dramatic sake. Next will be another story, which is inspired by this legend. A speculative fiction. Stay tuned and thank you for reading. You like it?