The Jakarta Post
An Istiqlal Mosque caretaker was awarded a house by the Religious Affairs Ministry on Friday for his 66 years of service to the iconic Jakarta monument.
Suparno, 90, affectionately known as Mbah Parno, has been working for the mosque since it was built in 1952.
But despite having a new home in Parung, Bogor, West Java, Suparno says he still prefers to live in a rented house in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, with his wife and five children as it is located only 2 kilometers from Istiqlal and allows him to walk to work every day.
“I didn’t work for decades to seek a reward. [My service to the mosque] stems from my devotion to God,” he told kompas.com over the weekend.
“I’ll let my children live in the [new] house. I still want to be here, which is close to Istiqlal.”
Born in 1928 in Boyolali, Central Java, Suparno moved to Jakarta in 1951 in search of a better life. A year later, he was hired as a construction worker at the mosque and earned Rp 15 (less than 1 US cent) per day.
It was during that time that he met Friedrich Silaban, a Christian of Batak descent, who was appointed as Istiqlal’s primary architect by Indonesia’s founding father Sukarno.
Silaban later hired Suparno as his private assistant because of his diligence and work ethics.
After construction of the mosque was completed, Suparno was assigned to be its caretaker. His main job was to deliver letters. In 2005, he was tasked to look after the shoes and sandals of visitors.
Since 2016, his role has been to ensure that worshippers maintain a straight shaf (prayer row), which is mandatory for Muslims conducting mass prayers. (fac)