Remembering Ciamis: A Memoir

Ray Sistyana Sandi180410160014

My grandpa, from my mother’s side, came from a village located in Ciamis, Jawa Barat. The village is called Pasirnagara. Grandpa and all his five siblings were born in this village. Back then when I was a kid, our family often spent school and eid holidays there. We would stay there for a week or even more. I could never hold my excitement every time I got told that we’re going there for holiday because the atmosphere and the surroundings there are different from Bandung. There I could find and do things I wouldn’t normally do in a big city like Bandung.

The village was located in Pamarican district, far from the downtown area of Ciamis. If you take a ride there on the afternoon or before 6 p.m., the ride won’t feel as spooky as if you take a ride there after 6 p.m. The district was normally quiet during the day and at night it became even more quiet. Basically, you couldn’t really hear anything apart from the crickets or a dog’s bark. Not only it was so quiet at night, it was also dark. There were not many street lights after dark so if you go there, you have to really make sure your car’s headlamps are working properly or you won’t be able to see the road in front of you. Following the road to Pasirnagara, you would rarely see any houses. Just a lot of big trees and some old uninhibited buildings. Because of how dark and quiet it got at night, sometimes I got scared. What if a ghost or even a serial killer suddenly appears and attack me and my family while we’re on our way to Pasirnagara? But fortunately, it never happened.

In Pasirnagara, there were quite a lot of houses and they’re pretty close to each other. Usually, each house had their own fish pond, or what the sundanese called “balong”. Hanging just right above the pond, usually there was a small cubicle built out of ratan and bamboo. The cubicle functioned as a toilet used by the villagers for urinations or to wash their clothes. In Bandung, you won’t see such thing. This one time, I was walking around the village with my cousins. As I walked, I looked to my left. And there it was. I saw someone was pooping in one of those pond cubicles with the door opened! I panicked and told my cousins about it but they just laughed it off.

Our family also owned our own fish ponds. I don’t remember how many. My uncle owned one of the ponds and it was a big one compared to the other ponds. On the left side of the pond, there was a bathing area. The water was so clear and cold when it touched your skin. There was a bridge to get to the hut in the middle of the pond. At first, the bridge was made from bamboo and when you stepped on it you would feel it moving a little. The bridge was then fixed and cemented so it’s much stronger and safer to stepped on. I remember this one time our big family held a pinang climbing competition beside the pond to commemorate Indonesia’s independence day. I watched from the hut while eating nasi liwet together with my grandma, aunts, and my cousins.

Besides Pasirnagara, there was another village in another district called Margaharja village. It took us approximately around 20-25 minutes by car to get to Margaharja from Pasirnagara. The village was a lot more quiet and darker than Pasirnagara and the houses were far from each other. In other word it was just… spookier. Every time we went to Margaharja, we stayed in Nek Miah’s house. Nek Miah herself is my grandpa’s older sister and now lives in Jakarta with her child. The house was kept by Bi Eti and her husband, Mang Karta. This house was not like the one in Pasirnagara. It’s an old building. Probably built in around the 80s or the 90s. There were five bedrooms in this house. Four in the living room area, and one near the backyard. The room near the backyard was actually a really nice big room with a comfortable king-sized bed but it was known to be occupied by some kind of ghost who likes to tickle whoever is sleeping in that room. It happened to my uncle. When he was sleeping he felt someone was tickling his feet. The next night he would rather sleep on the couch in the living room than going back to that haunted room.

In Bandung I would usually in until noon during holiday but in Ciamis I would get up super early. In Pasirnagara, I’d usually get up early to jog to the village border with my cousins. In Margaharja, I’d get up early to take a walk in the yard or to the rice field near the house. The morning air was so clean and refreshing and a bit chilly. Sometimes you would even see fog covering the mountain behind the rice field. Sure, at night, the village gave you that creepy and haunted vibes but in the morning, it’s the most peaceful, most relaxing place to wander.

Nek Miah’s house I think had such a unique smell which I got really familiar of because I smelled it almost every time I went there. It’s the smell of fried fish and sambal terasi made by Bi Eti. Usually, at around 10 a.m. you would start to smell it. Every time we came to visit, Bi Eti would prepare for us fried fish, sambal terasi, and soup. It’s almost always like that. As a die-hard fan of fried fish, I couldn’t ask for a better dish.

Bi Eti’s husband, Mang Karta, or Kakek Karta as I usually called him, passed away last year. He was the one who taught me how to fish. At that time, I was around 6. Kakek Karta really loved to fish and he kept a lot of fishing equipments in his house. He let me use one of his fishing rods and off we go to the pond with my grandpa coming along. It was really fun. I was taught how to attach the bait to the hook and how to take control of the rod once a fish eat my bait. Because the water in the pond was dirty, I couldn’t really see if the bait had been eaten or not. I waited, and waited, and waited until the rod started to move and felt kind of heavy. It was hard for me to pull the fish up since it was heavy and I didn’t have the strength. But, after being cheered on by my grandpa and Kakek Karta I finally managed to pull it up. I didn’t catch as many fish as my grandpa or Kakek Karta did, but I was still really happy and proud because it was my first time catching fish with my own hands.

Every time I think of Ciamis, I remember the family bond. I remember the clean relaxing fresh air. I remember the ponds. I remember a lot of my childhood memories that happened there. I remember the people. I miss the people and their warm welcome.

Now, things have changed. The village is not as lively as it used to be. I mean, even during the day it’s really quiet and you don’t see a lot of people. People are gone. They have either passed away or migrated to the city. The fish ponds are drying up. The houses are neglected and the front yards are covered with dry brownish grass. Now, we don’t go there as often as before. Even when we do, we only stay for 2 or 3 days and most of our time there is spent in the city because there isn’t much that we can do either in Pasirnagara or in Margaharja. It’s actually really sad. But this holiday, our big family is planning to go there together and I hope it’s going to be fun. I want to bring back and relive the memories I made and the good time I had there when I was a kid.

Photo by: Ray Sistyana Sandi

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