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The Jakarta Post
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Sarinah, a lesson in love re-echoed

  • Arif Gunawan S.

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Fri, January 15, 2016 | 10:13 pm
Sarinah, a lesson in love re-echoed

 People shop at Sarinah mall in Central Jakarta. The department store, which was Indonesia'€™s first shopping center and Jakarta'€™s tallest building in the 1960s, was named after the childhood nanny of founding and then president Sukarno. (JP/R. Berto Wedhatama)

The Sarinah building, witness to the explosions and gunfight that took place around Jl. MH Thamrin in Central Jakarta on Thursday, has an interesting history. The incident, which ended when all five attackers died, perhaps signified the value of the building that had been underlined by the first Indonesian President Sukarno as: love.

The name of the department store, which served as the first shopping mall in Indonesia, as well as the country'€™s highest skyscraper in the 1960s, was borrowed from a loving nanny that took care of Sukarno when he was a child.

During the colonial era, the economy was so bad that Sukarno'€™s family could not afford to pay the nanny's salary. However, Sarinah did not mind and continued to assist the family, especially feeding the little Sukarno his meals and schooling him with lessons about loving and caring for people.

Sukarno, as quoted in Bung Karno Penyambung Lidah Rakyat (Bung Karno, Spokesman of the People), a biography written by Cindy Adams, said that Sarinah taught him to love the people during his childhood, before she left the family when he was a teenager.

'€œWhile she cooked in a small hut next to our house, I sat beside her and she gave me advice, '€˜Karno, you must love your mother. Then, you must love the people. And you must love all mankind,'€ he said.

When Sukarno became the most influential figure during the revolution and then the leader of the young republic, then the most heavily populated country in Southeast Asia, he did not forget Sarinah'€™s lessons and her sincere service.

Thus, ignoring the unstable economy during his leadership in 1959, Sukarno announced his plan to build the department store, which aimed to strengthen the country's social economy by obliging the mall to sell Indonesian products of good quality, at affordable prices.

To deal with the funding problem, the project'€”as written on the mall's official website sarinah.co.id'€”used war reparations fund from the Japanese government.

Sukarno then gave the name of his beloved nanny Sarinah to the department store as a tribute to the woman who had schooled him so. It was his second tribute to her, after he put her name on a book about the participation of woman in the battle for freedom during 1947. Entitled "Sarinah: Women'€™s Duty in The Struggle of Indonesia", the book has seen many reprints and several editions.

Lesson re-echoed

Now, half century after the completion of a building with the name of a woman who gave lessons in the love of all mankind, a terror attack struck, wounding 24, taking the lives of two victims, and resulting in the deaths of the perpetrators of the incident.

Only a day after the attack, hundreds of people gathered around the scene, once again spreading the lesson Sarinah taught to Soekarno: love all mankind.

There were seveal peaceful rallies, held to reject terrorism. John Lennon fans spread pictures of the legendary artist under the traffic light in front of Sarinah, where the second terror attack occurred. They sang John'€™s famous song '€œImagine'€.

Johannes, the initiator of the rally echoed his effort to create peace in the country, and promised to keep spreading the love, despite the terror attack that aimed to rip it away.

"I'm here to spread love and affection. We shouldn't let Indonesian society fall and become a victim of terrorists'€™ vicious action," he said during his oration, as quoted by tribunnews.com on Friday.

Besides Johannes, there was another rally conducted by student'€™s dubbed #PelajarTIDAKTAKUT (students not afraid). And another big rally was coordinated by Jakarta residents under a working group named '€œJakartan solidarity against any kind of terror".

Several famous national figures took part in the action including Arswendo Atmowiloto, Goenawan Mohamad, Fadjroel Rahman and Franz Magnis-Suseno. Two daughters of pluralist figure Gus Dur, Alissa Wahid and Yenny Wahid, also joined the rally.

"Today, Jakarta citizens gather to follow their conscience. We are a nation full of tolerance and the spirit of mutual cooperation. Together, we will be strong," said Jakarta Deputy Mayor Djarot Saiful Hidayat during his oration in the rally.

As a building, Sarinah may have witnessed the cruelty of terror on Thursday, but the terror has been conquered. A day later, the people united to spread love to all mankind and show their solidarity against any action destructive to humanity.

The love that Sarinah'€”the sincere nanny'€”taught to Soekarno has, once again, come to light. (kes)


This story has been corrected to explain that, in light of funding issues, Sarinah department store was established using war reparations funds from the Japanese government.