Carla Bianpoen, Contributor, Jakarta
As the sun rises this morning and casts shadows behind us, Toeti Heraty N. Roosseno may be looking from the window of her Bali residence, musing on her experiences over 70 years while enjoying the peaceful scene of the undulating green paddy fields outside.
Perhaps she will be pondering the question of why she was born.
Perhaps her father, the late Prof. Dr. Roosseno Soerjohadikoesoemo, and mother, RA Oentari, found their first daughter an adorable baby girl, and had high hopes she would grow up as an obedient daughter, a respectable woman and a good housewife.
It is difficult to imagine that they could have foreseen the winding path that would lead their daughter to her ultimate fulfillment.
Toeti did go to medical school as her mother wished, but only until she earned her bachelor's degree.
Then she moved on to do what she really wanted to do: She went to Holland on a freak of luckand a bit of money she had saved from the jobs she held during her studies. She enrolled in the Amsterdam Gemeente Universiteit majoring in Psychology, met Noerhadi -- a fellow Indonesian studying in Utrecht -- married him, and gave birth to twins -- Cita and Inda -- as well as obtaining her bachelor's degree in 1962.
As a result of the political situation, and lack of money, the young family -- she, her husband and their twin daughters -- returned to Indonesia, and built their home in Bandung.
But Toeti wanted more. She enrolled in the University of Indonesia to pursue an MA degree, shocking her professors by her being a married woman, pregnant at that, and traveling back and forth daily from Bandung to Jakarta on public transportation.
Well, here she was, a mother of twins and, by this stage, another daughter, Migni, and now pregnant with her fourth child, going to university for another degree.
""What do you want?!"" asked Prof. Yap Kie Hien in utter frustration.
Mind you, no other married woman, let alone one that was pregnant, had the guts to attend a university at that time.
But Toeti couldn't have cared less. She remained calm, did not answer the respected professor and just did what she thought she had to do.
She eventually graduated, and landed a job as a lecturer at the Bandung Pajajaran University in 1962.
After spending four years as a lecturer, Toeti felt she had to go forward, leaving Bandung for Jakarta, taking only her youngest child, Cyril, then four years old, with her. Here she became an assistant to the same professor who had been so incredulous before. She regularly practiced in the Grogol psychiatric hospital in West Jakarta.
Apart from lecturing at her alma mater, she also became the chairperson of the Foundation for Mental Health, establishing 14 creativity groups to encourage free expression by children.
Nevertheless, Toeti still felt there was something missing in her life, even after having studied medicine and psychology. Philosophy was now the key word.
In 1971 she received a scholarship to study philosophy in Leiden. This time, she took Cita and Inda with her, and all her savings. But her financial resources were exhausted before she could finalize her studies.
She returned to Jakarta, and having almost finished writing her dissertation, she was determined to find a way for her Dutch tutor to come to Jakarta.
And she did. Prof. van Peursen did come, and in 1979 Toeti graduated with honors with her dissertation Aku dalam Budaya (I am in the Culture).
In hindsight, studying medical science, psychology and philosophy fitted well together, providing her with a holistic knowledge and view of life. Whether this has also satisfied her zealous search beyond the mind is something that only she can say.
In any case, it has facilitated her to probe into various fields, and, as a professor herself, assist students from equally various fields to obtain a Ph.D. degrees in philosophy.
What is more, she said recently, is the continuity between the past and the present, a kind of rebirth of her academic achievements in the new doctors of philosophy.
Toeti's involvement in the academic field has not prevented her from actively participating in other fields of life.
Socially, Toeti often remains in the background, as was the case with the Suara Ibu Peduli (The Voice of Concerned Mothers) group in 1998, of which she was one of the major influences.
During the turbulence that surrounded the political succession in 1998 and after, activists found a welcome home in the Cemara Galeri/Caf, which she owns. She has reached out to diverse segments of society.
Culturally, she is a woman who has crossed the borders of her country, not as a convert but as bridge between cultural differences, particularly with the Netherlands.
She was and is an active poet, the first female voice to echo in Indonesian literature, the first also to describe the female experience as well as witchery from a woman's perspective, as she did in Sajak-sajak 33 (Poetry 33, 1971) and Calon Arang (Kisah Perempuan Korban Patriarki) (Calon Arang, the Story of a Woman and a Victim of Patriarchy, 2000).
As whimsical as her ideas may have seemed, and as odd as her path may have appeared at the beginning, Toeti seems to have had a clear view of her own destiny, and while influenced by the thoughts of feminist Simone de Beauvoir, she also kept in mind the visions of Virginia Woolf who said that money and space were the two basic conditions needed to liberate a woman from any dependencies that hampered her in making choices.
What do women actually want, she once remarked, equality or protection, to be feminist or feminine? Evidently, Toeti wants it all and has indeed worked it out very well.
As she struggled for the freedom to be herself, she saw to it to be financially independent, which is a form of protection, an insurance against sickness, or anything else that could interfere with her being.
Now, at seventy, she relishes the feeling of wholesomeness, with family, relatives and friends, but also within the realms of music, books and the natural environment.
During her golden age, Toeti continues to have a busy schedule, traveling within the country and between the continents, as if she was still searching for something that she has not yet found.
Yet, as she journeys the globe and meets with friends and the like-minded, she may have found the basic meaning of life, to feel ""at home"" and be wholesome in any place, anytime.