Thursday, January 16, 2014

Taman Api – Yonathan Rahardjo

Rahardjo, Yonathan. 2011. Taman Api. Jakarta: Pustaka Alvabet.

Thank you, Pustaka Alvabet, for giving me this book in exchange for honest review.

Taman Api

We live in a world where being normal is to be attracted toward opposite sex. So, generally any human being who is attracted toward the same sex, known as gay, is considered as abnormal. ‘Normal’ is a situation that is usual compared to most others. In that case, those who are attracted to the same sex are unusual and considered as abnormal. But, what if the normal situation is the contrary from what happened now. What if being normal is when people attracted to the same sex, and those who are attracted to the opposite sex are forced to ‘repent’ and must to be attracted to the same sex. Well? Kind of nauseating, isn’t it? Perhaps that’s what gay people feel all this long. Moreover, how does it feel for those who choose the ‘rougher’ path by becoming gender benders or transsexuals? What are their stories?

Taman Api tells a rare issue in Indonesian fiction literature. It talks about the transsexual life style. Transsexual in Indonesia is far different from Thailand’s. Indonesian transsexual doesn’t have place in community and they are not national’s revenue sources like in Thailand. What happened? You might get some slight insight of Indonesian transsexual by reading this novel. Though, Taman Api’s set of place is not in Indonesia but in a state called Tanah Air (‘mother country’).

It’s not very easy to enjoy this novel because 1) the loose characterization, 2) vague story plot, 3) many lines are too long and complicated, 4) plus, the using of too many hyperbole and personification really doesn’t help. BUT, if you can ignore all of those downsides, this novel will take you drown in its world of bitterness. Yonathan Rahardjo seems had done great with his research before he writes down this novel. As a veterinarian, Rahardjo succeed to brings out the world he doesn’t associate with in real life (or, he does associate with transsexual life style, because who knows, right?). By reading Taman Api, reader will know information about HIV/AIDS, sillicon injection, sex surgical operation procedure, and many more. Rahardjo also, like out of the blue, shows his imagination about a chip that is planted in selected transsexuals to locate them, like a transmitter maybe, and to somehow calculate the HIV/AIDS contagious rate. But whatever, the most essential part of this novel is the elaboration on internal conflicts of the characters, especially Tari’s and Priyatna’s.

Tari is a celebrity transsexual with intelligence and boldness. She (actually ‘he’) is wholeheartedly eager to become entirely woman and in order to do so, she braves herself up to do a surgery to exchange her sex. She is willing to cut off her penis and replace it with a ‘handmade’ vagina. Meanwhile, Priyatna is an average medical representative. His job is to offer medical stuff to doctors and patients. Uniqely, Priyatna feels turn on sexually if he sees or even wears woman clothing. Then, he gives a try to become a gender bender in the night as Yanti. Conlicts! The conflicts not only risen from internal, but also from external like from the citizen, mass media, police, and religious communities, and most of them are careless, reckless, and violent.

However, Taman Api is a work of fiction and what reader gets from reading this novel should be wisely thought. Although I personally rate it as a 2,5 stars book, I do wish more people to read Taman Api, so more people perhaps could change their perception, like I did. My high school is acrossed from Taman Lalu Lintas (‘Traffic Park’ or also named Ade Irma Suyani Nasution Park). In night time, this park used to be an area where transsexuals offer whatever they are offering. They scattered surround the park, stood tall and pride with their thick make up. I used to go home late several times, from school or from friend’s place near school. To get home, I must walk passing them. And you can say, I was scared to death. I better walked far around than to pass them, if no one was able to accompany me.

Why did I scared? Because I (very wrongly) thought they are abnormal people and they would harm any normal people who get near them. As I got older, I realized that they are just as normal as me! And of course, they have feelings too. I am not scared of them anymore. But, after reading Taman Api, I really want to have a transsexual as a friend. I really wish you guys (transsexuals) blessed with happiness and freedom in this life. Stay strong, Girls! Cheers. Let's cyber-hug.

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