A memoir-type story about my own experience as a freelance journalist covering the abortive communist coup attempt in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept 30, 1965.
I really didn’t know. Neither did I know what I had to do in order not to disappoint the president if ever he’d find out later that Grace and I never really got married. Was there enough love between us that would justify an almost on-the-spur-of-the-moment kind of marriage? Again I didn’t know. I didn’t and still don’t know if love at first sight is really possible. But I did know for sure I was very fond of Grace. I also believed she was fond of me too. Our ages were right for marriage – I was 27 and she was 25. So I wasted no time in telling Grace everything that happened in the Merdeka (Freedom) Palace that day. She was as confused as I was about deciding the right thing to do.
Meanwhile, it was business as usual for both me and Grace. I continued to do my stringing job and she continued to do her work at the TVRI station. But apparently God’s divine intervention was taking place in order to carry out His plan in our lives. Suluh Marhaen (The Peasant’s Torch), the official newspaper of the Partai Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian Nationalist Party), popularly known by its acronym PNI, ran a banner headline the following day that shouted, “President Soekarno Will Not Go Abroad.” The subheading said, “Next Month President Will Hold Lontong Party at Merdeka Palace to Celebrate Wedding of Foreign Journalist.”
The PNI was founded by none other than Soekarno himself when he was still a young politician waging a political struggle against the Dutch colonialists in the 1920s. It was a major political party, particularly after the dissolution of the PKI following the abortive attempt to grab power allegedly masterminded by it. Consisting of staunch Soekarno supporters, the party wanted to tell the world through their official newspaper the president was going to stay put where he was. In other words, no exile or anything of that sort.
But the effects of that confidence-building publicity took its toll on me and Grace. Every time I ran into my colleagues from the foreign media they would say, perhaps half-jokingly, “C’mon Tommy, hurry up and get married, if you want that lontong party.” In her work place, Grace got the same kind of cynical remarks from her colleagues especially the news crew who were in the Bogor Palace the night I played president and Grace played first lady.
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