When nature is sorry...

Ambika Shaligram
Monday, 7 May 2018

A tour of the Merapi Lava in Jogjakarta, Indonesia, unearths many stories of sorrow and the residents’ close ties with nature.

Musiuk Sisa Hartaku — the words read. At first I thought it was the name of a family, who was hurt during the eruption of Merapi Lava. Upon enquiry, I learnt that ‘Musiuk’ stood for Museum and Sisa Hartaku meant ‘What’s Leftover’.

So the two houses before me, in Pentung village, on the outskirts of Jogjakarta, contained memories and objects of families that were affected during the volcanic eruption.
“Look down at your feet... that’s volcanic ash,” our Indonesian friend from tourism ministry, William Kalua Putra, pointed out. And, then everywhere else, we found objects covered in ash — from mopeds, TV sets, to clothes, farming implements and even cattlestock.

Inside on the bare walls, there were photographed images of people being rescued, covered in injuries, of the volcano erupting and a clock still showing the time — 12.05 midnight on November 5, 2010.

A goosebump-inducing sight, Pentung village is truly a showcase of ‘what’s leftover’. Weren’t the people warned? We asked the local guide. “They were, but many of the villagers refused to evacuate from the village. That’s because they live in harmony with nature,” he told us.

A little ahead, we saw a stone memorial, which had a poem written on it. We later found out it was in Javanese. The poem recorded the feelings of the lava and how sorry it was to take away people and their belongings in its fold. “But that’s nature,” it concluded.

After this visit, we were taken down a bumpy road to the volcano sight. Some clouds obscured our view of the two peaks. Now a tourist hotspot, many youngsters were seen taking selfie shots and doing what the Indonesians call ‘the freestyle motion’.

A folklore associated with Merapi says, “When the gods were travelling from India to Indonesia, some of their stuff fell down here — where the mountain peak is —and that’s how the volcano was formed!”

Our next stop was the bunker, formed after the recent volcanic eruption. Now villagers can take shelter inside the bunker in case of natural calamity. However, that too has its own tragic story to narrate. “Two men died because of suffocation when they took shelter here,” we learnt from Kalua.

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