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Dikit

Elang sat on his haunches and hugged his knees to himself. His dad had died and left him a legacy!

He couldn’t believe his ears or eyes for that fact!

Elang had a tiny shop selling groceries in Martapura, a small town near the diamond mines in Indonesia. His wife, Fitri, looked after it while he went about sourcing the commodities.

But Elang had grown up in Kalimantan, where his dad worked the diamond pits.

His old dad was dying and had summoned him urgently. Elang had ridden a rickety bus, with his family, for a couple of hours to reach the cramped little house.

The old man was lying on a dingy bed. He opened his rheumy eyes, recognized Elang, and asked to speak to him alone.

The old man delved under his pillow and retrieved a shabby little piece of cloth bundled into a crumpled wad. He whispered in a faint, faltering voice, “This is a rare diamond I have stolen from the mines. Do you remember when we found Trisakti, the most famous diamond from Kalimantan? We found another smaller one next to it. Immediately I  concealed it with the help of my friend Mangu. Because it was a smaller version of Trisakti, we called it Dikit. We had kept it a secret all these years. But Mangu died last month before we could sell it and share the money. So now it’s mine, and I am bequeathing it to you. But no one in Kalimantan can know about it. If they do, they will confiscate it and put you in prison. Take this and run away somewhere. Maybe you can sell it and make big money.”

His dad took his last breath soon.

Elang opened the dirty little cloth bundle for the millionth time and looked at the dikit with unbelieving eyes.

The yellow stone with pale white streaks lay on the crumpled silky fabric, shining dimly. Elang touched it with fear and reverence.

***

Elang opened the door to their new home. They had moved away from Kalimantan to a village called Lambak, near a deep forest on Sumatra Island.

It was an old house with a rickety staircase leading upstairs.

Fitri and their son, Yuda, followed, looking around the place uncertainly.

Ibu, I am hungry,” whined Yuda.

Elang climbed the stairs and decided it could fit a big cot for all three of them to sleep in. He found a ledge high up on one of the walls and placed his metal suitcase on top. He opened it and rifled through the clothes to ensure the ‘dikit’ was safe.

He locked up the room and secreted the keys on his person.

***

A few days later.

Elang was arranging his clothes in the upstairs bedroom cupboard.

He heard Fitri calling from downstairs.

Abhang… Will you come down?”

He peeked from above and saw a middle-aged lady with a small baby standing outside the door.

When he came down, Fitri explained, “Legi is willing to look after Yuda when both of us are at the shop. She’s also ready to help me with the housework.”

Legi was a tall, well-built woman with rough, unkempt hair tied up in disarray. She was dressed in a worn-out cotton Kebaya. The baby she was carrying wriggled down and took a few unsteady steps before sitting down with a thud. He looked angelic, with curly hair framing his sweet face. But Elang took an instant dislike to it.

Legi addressed Elang, “This is my son, Rimba. I don’t have a place to live. If you let me stay in the hut outside the house,  I can look after Yuda and help Nyonya with the housework.

Her terms sounded reasonable, and Elang agreed.

***

It was night but not late enough to go to bed.

Elang lolled on a papasan chair, placed in the verandah, outside the house. Yuda lay asleep on a blanket, and Fitri sat beside him.

The forest spread out on the front was pitch dark. There was total silence everywhere, except for the constant chirp of the crickets. The hooting of the night owl sounded sinister, and the trees made a  whooshing sound in the winds.

Fitri gave a long sigh and sounded morose, “I don’t like this house. Since we moved here, I have been feeling depressed. I don’t even know why you had to move the family into this god-forsaken place. Can we go back to Martapura?”

“I have some plans to make big money. We can buy a big Gedung and live there. We can send Yuda to a good school. You can buy jewelry and clothes and have a maid to do all the work.

“But why? Why run away from Martapura as if we are some criminals? Why sell our shop and start a new one here? Why live here where we don’t know anyone? You have been behaving strangely after your dad’s death.”

Elang did not reply.

Fitri sat up with a start. “I forgot to tell you. This afternoon, a lady from Kalimantan visited our shop. She was asking me about where we lived. She is the wife of Mangu, your dad’s old friend.”

Elang gave a start. The news rattled him.  Had Mangu told her about ‘dikit’ before dying? Could she have come searching for it?

Elang was tempted to tell Fitri about ‘dikit.’ Carrying the secret alone was a strain, and he felt disturbed and unsettled. But he remembered his dad’s words and kept silent.

Fitri had never been a ray of sunshine. She was a dour, sulky person. But her personality seemed to have worsened since they moved to Lambak. Elang wondered if the diamond was in some way influencing their moods! He had heard much about the grief some gemstones brought to their owners.

Fitri slowly leaned back on the wall, and her eyes glazed over.

Her voice took on a strange and otherworldly feel. “I feel there is someone else living in our house. An evil person who is intent on harming us in some way. I feel someone is watching Yuda and me all the time.”

Elang involuntarily shivered because he, too, had been feeling a disquieting, unsettling presence of a maleficent being watching them.

He moved over to Fitri’s side and put his hands around her.

For a while, there was only silence on the verandah.

Fitri’s voice took on an irate inflection.

“I don’t like Legi or her son, Rimba. Legi is a gossipmonger, too curious about our lives. And Rimba? He is a pest, always grabbing Yuda’s toys and chocolates. Yuda claims that when we are not around, Rimba climbs the stairs and goes to the bedroom.”

Elang sounded dismissive. “How can a one-year-old go up the stairs?  I am sure Yuda is lying. Legi is handy for managing the house and looking after Yuda. Without her help, we cannot look after the shop. After all, think about how neat the place is when we return.  The makanan is cooked, hot, and ready for us to eat.

There was only an ungracious grunt from Fitri.

***

Elang sat in front of a ‘bomoh’, the Indonesian sorcerer, and recounted his story.

The bomoh heard him out with closed eyes. After a long silence, he spoke.

“I don’t think the diamond has any bad vibes. But I  am sure Rimba is a baby ghost, ‘toyol’, and Legi is its master. She must have bought it from a bomoh to help her steal the diamond. Mangu’s wife must have contracted her to do the job. These toyols have many superpowers. Even though they look innocent, they are vicious and brutal. They kill people to achieve their tasks. But they have some childish tendencies too. A lock is not going to keep it away from the diamond. But if you keep some sharp needles around it, they will not be able to steal it because they are scared of being pricked.”

“What if I run away from the toyol with the diamond?”

The bomoh sighed. “No use. The toyol is very stubborn. It will either get the diamond or kill you.”

***

Fitri remembered that she had forgotten to take their lunch packed by Legi. She ran back from the main road to pick it up.

She heard Yuda’s cries even before she reached the house.

When she threw the door open, she saw a strange sight.

Four-year-old Yuda lay sprawled on the floor, and one-year-old Rimba was straddling him and trying to wrest a toy from his hands.

When Legi noticed Fitri, she rushed in and pried Rimba away, hurling him aside. She picked Yuda up, snatched the toy, and thrust it into his hands, trying to mollify him.

But Fitri’s eyes were fixed fearfully on Rimba.

Despite being flung onto the wall with force, he had nonchalantly gotten up and stood leaning on the wall with a look of defiance directed at Yuda. He slowly moved his penetrating gaze toward Fitri. Rimba’s eyes looked crafty and cunning. The wily eyes staring at her from the cherubic face were ghoulish.

Fitri turned on Legi with fury. “How dare you let your son hurt Yuda? We have given you a place to stay and are treating you well. This can’t go on. You have to leave immediately.”

Legi’s supplicating expression disappeared, and she stood unmoving, a creepy grimace marring her face.

She emphatically said “No” and sat firmly on the chair. Rimba hobbled towards her, hitched himself onto her lap, and sat there staring insolently at Fitri.

Fitri backed out fearfully, edging out from the scene, hauling the sobbing Yuda along.

***

Fitri was stammering in fright, her words incoherent. Elang shut the shop, guided her inside, and sat beside her. He gave her some water to drink. Once she calmed down, he told her about the dikit and the toyol.

 Fitri hugged Yuda and whimpered with fear.

She suddenly stopped and muttered, “What if we gave away the diamond to the toyol? We don’t need it, abhang. We don’t need money or diamonds for a happy, peaceful life. Do you remember how calm our life was in Martapura?”

Elang stammered, “But… but… We can give a better life to our son, and…

Fitri interrupted firmly, “Better life? Do you think the toyol and its master will let us live if they don’t get the diamond?”

Elang looked confused.

Fitri went on determinedly, “Abhang; this diamond has not brought us any happiness. It has only put our family in danger and threatens to bring more harm. I want the peace of mind we had before it came into our lives. Please, get rid of it. The toyol is welcome to have it. I’d rather have harmony at home than a big Gedung, where no happiness exists.”

***

Elang cautiously opened the door to their house.

He saw Legi standing at the foot of the stairs and feeding Rimba as he slid down to her on the rails. Rimba was stark naked.

With a deep shock, Elang realized that each time Rimba slid down to her, it was not food that Legi fed him. She pricked her fingers and let him suck the blood.

Terror-stricken, all he wanted was to turn and run back to his family.

But he knew there was no peace till the Toyol had the dikit.

He slowly edged into the house with trepidation and hurried towards the staircase.

Rimba saw him, rushed at him with an obnoxious cackle, and latched onto his legs. Legi stood with a watchful expression.

Repulsed, Elang tried to shake him off. But Rimba tittered excitedly, clambered onto his back, and clung stubbornly to his shoulders.

His body shaking with revulsion, Elang stumbled up the stairs and reached the door as Rimba bounced on his back and whooped with unholy glee. With clumsy hands, he opened the box, snatched at the crumpled bundle, and retrieved the needles he had planted all around the dikit.

He hurled the bundle as far away from himself as he could.

Elang felt Rimba disentangle himself and dart towards the wad.

He dashed out of the room, stumbled down the stairs, and was out of the house in a flash.

***

After a long time, Elang felt great peace as he hugged Fitri and Yuda to himself.

*****

Author Notes:

A toyol is an undead infant in Indonesian and Malay folklore. It appears in the mythology of Southeast Asia and is invoked as a helper by shamans (dukun or bomoh) by the means of black magic. The creature is used to rob people of their riches.

*****

Glossary: 

Trisakti:  A rare diamond found in the Cempaka mines of Indonesia.

Dikit-Trisakti. A smaller Trisakti.

Ibu: Mom

Abhang: An affectionate term to call a husband

Kebaya: An dress worn by Indonesian women.

Nyonya: Mistress/Employer

Papasan: An Indonesian chair to relax on.

Bomoh: A witch doctor

Gedung: A mansion

Makanan: Food

 

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Arpita Bhattacharya

    My heart guess out to Elang, who had followed his father wish but to no good. But he received freedom from a bad omen, the dikit. A really good read.

  2. Avatar
    Deepti Menon

    This story illustrates the fact that diamonds can sometimes bring dread and unhappiness especially when lusted after by sinister little beings. I do feel sorry for Elang, but he probably escaped a gory end. A wonderful narrative with many impressive Indonesian words… Kudos, Sudha!

  3. Avatar
    Lakshmi Ajoy

    This story had the elements of absolute eerieness surrounding it. Loved the way you have actually the story with so Much authenticity and research. Kudos to your efforts. Well Done there.

    A couple of minor things that I felt was
    1. The transition between timelines were a little disconnected and that kind of put a break to the otherwise fascinating read
    2. The element of eerieness came in only almost halfway into the narration.

    But when it came, it came with full force. Truly, applaud your commendable research and efforts to weave up this fantastic story.

  4. Avatar
    Preeti Athri

    I felt a pang of jealousy because this story had me thinking, “Why cant I write like this?” Right from the title, the beginning and the elements, the execution of this narrative was flawless. I loved the writing style, the characters and the plot. What I admire most is the ability of this tale to say so much in a limited number of words. Hats off to the writer! Looking forward to more from you.

  5. Avatar
    Amrita Sarkar

    This story had blended the fear associated with horror, and the rich folk culture of Malaysia. I loved the storytelling, the local references and the sheer horror towards the end of the story. Amazing!

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