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’m not a good eater, so I can’t really say anything here about Ibu Tien’s sop ikan. All I can say is that it really tasted very nice. But Ray, being a food connoisseur which was why Time-Life Books awarded him the writing assignment, repeatedly told the first lady the soup “tasted very delicious like no other dish I’d ever tried before.” I hope he meant what he said as Ibu Tien was obviously very delighted to hear such a comment from a world-class gourmet. Needless to say, Ray gave our lunch on Pulau Monyet a sizable coverage in the book with a great emphasis on the sop ikan. The recipe was included, as was the picture I took of the first lady making the sambal.

When lunch was done, we moved over to the chairs by the coffee table. Coffee and tea were served, and the president smoked his favorite cigar. August came over and joined us. That was a great and rare photo opportunity. So Ray, August and myself took our turns to pose with the president and the first lady. Each of them sat on separate chairs so we placed another chair in the middle where Ray, August and I was seated posing, one at a time, with the first lady on our right and the president on our left. I took the pictures of Ray and August with the first couple and August took my photo with them.

A week or so after the Pulau Monyet lunch, August wrote a story on page one in Kompas daily illustrated by his photo with Suharto. I’m not sure whether it was in its Sunday edition. In fact I’m not even sure if Kompas already had a Sunday edition at the time. I’m talking about June 1969. I can’t remember the tone of August’s coverage of that rare event where the president of the world’s then fifth most populous nation posed with a senior reporter from Indonesia’s major newspaper, wearing only an undershirt above his trousers. My photo with the first couple drew admiration from a lot of friends in Jakarta, Manila, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles.

In later years of his presidency Suharto had an interpreter, Widodo Sutiyo, who became a close friend of mine until now. When I showed him the photo some time in mid 1970s he made this comment, “I’ve been the president’s close assistant for so many years, Tommy, but I don’t have that kind of picture with him.” I had wanted very much to have the photo autographed by the president but never had the opportunity to get this done.

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