It is a true blessing that Mujihah is still alive. That she was willing to tell the story of her sister, my mother Marwiyah, to Teguh. Without aunt Mujihah I would never had known the truth.
Partly it was true what Teguh had learned during his previous visit to Magelang. I was, indeed, born from an affair with a man who played no part in my mother’s life after she got pregnant. But the rest of the story didn’t add up. The version as had been told to Teguh by the neighbors. Aunt Mujihah was one of the few people who knew the truth. ‘Cause she’d been there.
My mother had worked as a maid. She was hired by a man named Khutuk. Khutuk was a handsome, charismatic man. And a true womanizer, so Mujihah told. Everyone knew that he hooked up with lots of women. Despite his reputation my mother had fallen for his charms. Understandable. She was young. Just over twenty. But when she turned out to be pregnant with his child, she knew she had to keep this a secret. It was a big taboo at that time, in that culture, to bring a bastard child into the world. On top of that, mother already had a daughter of three years old. My (half-)sister.
My sister was almost four years old, when our mother suddenly had to go to the hospital. “On a day there was a lot of blood on the floor,” was the one thing my sister remembered. “I had no idea what was going on,” she told to Teguh. My sister never knew her mother was pregnant. Logical. Mother had done everything to hide her pregnancy. Mother was rushed to the local hospital brought by her younger sister, aunt Mujihah. There the baby was delivered with a caesarean section. A girl. Me.
To both my mother and me the hospital was our rescue. And at the same time our curse. Mother was not insured and couldn’t pay the hospital costs. Hospital policy wrote to keep mother as well as her baby in the hospital, until the account was met. Mother was in great distress. “A few days later a Chinese couple appeared at her hospital bed,” Mujihah continued. “These people offered to pay for all medical expenses.” This of course would solve my mother’s problems. The Chinese would help Marwiyah out… in return for the baby. They said they would adopt me into their family as if I were their own.
These were the last moments when mother has held me in her arms. Our last moments as a mother and daughter.
My mother has never known I wasn’t raised by these Chinese people at all. She has never known that I eventually I went to the Netherlands. She knew nothing.
This changes everything for me. Knowing that my mother never had the intention of giving me up for adoption. Knowing she just had tough luck ending up at the hospital. That she was forced by financial circumstances to make an awful decision. That she was lied to by a stupid Chinese couple.
From here the story remains murky and creates a hole in my history … How did I get from Magelang in Jakarta? It throws a different light on Martha Chen. What role has she played?