Friday, December 12, 2003

The Indomitable Inggit

The Indomitable Inggit

Not many people know that the term "ringgit" was popularly used to refer to the two-and-a-half rupiah (formerly two-and-half gulden) coin here in Indonesia some time ago. I wrote about it in a previous blog entry.

Because of inflation in the 60s and 70s, small denominations in single digits did not have practical value anymore, and the term ringgit together with the two-and-half-rupiah coin went out of fashion. It is a good thing that it is no longer used or it'll be confused with the Malaysian ringgit--like how the "dollar" is sometimes (Singapore dollars, US dollars or Australian dollars?).

Most people in Indonesia know about Ibu Inggit as the wife of Sukarno before he married Fatmawati (mother of the present President Megawati). But not many know that Ibu Inggit, was nicknamed "Si Ringgit" as a child. She was given the nickname because she was very fond of going to the market as a kid and was often given a ringgit coin to buy things. The name stuck, and evolved from "Si Ringgit" to "Inggit". Sukarno, used to call her affectionately by the name "Engget".

The love story between Sukarno and Inggit is narrated by R.H. Ramadhan--in the voice of Inggit--in the book "Kuantar Ke Gerbang", and is generally considered to be Ibu Inggit's autobiography. When Sukarno first met Ibu Inggit in Bandung, she was 15 years older than him and was already married to Haji Sanusi, good friend of Sukarno's political mentor, Cokroaminoto. Sukarno himself, at 20 years of age, was already married to Cokroaminoto's daughter, Siti Oetari, out of a sense of obbligation.

But both these marriages were unhappy ones. The two couples were to divorce, paving the way for Sukarno and Inggit to be married in 1923. Inggit was instrumental in providing the emotional support for Sukarno during the early years of his struggle against the Dutch, even surviving on her own by making and selling jamu during his years of imprisonment in Banceuy and Sukamiskin. When he was exiled to Ende, Flores and later Bengkulu in Sumatera, Inggit followed him.

Sukarno divorced Inggit after he returned from his exile from Bengkulu because she couldn't bear him a child and he wanted to take the young Fatmawati as his second wife.

Sukarno was actually reluctant to divorce Inggit but she was adamant not to share husband with another woman. After their divorce, she returned to her life in Bandung where she continued producing her famous homemade jamu.

Sukarno was later to marry a couple more times; and his political life as President of Indonesia turned out to be a turbulent one. He died in 1970, a lonely man, stripped of all powers by Suharto's New Order regime.

Ibu Inggit managed to outlive Sukarno: she died in 1984. The house where she lived in Bandung still stands at No 8, Jalan Ciateul, now renamed Jalan Inggit Garnasih, in her honour--a fitting and much belated tribute to a strong and highly admirable woman.

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