- The Kitchen
Translator’s Note: In this dramatic monologue adapted from the short story of the same title by Lily Yulianti Farid, one actress plays all the roles. The story originally appeared in the January 2009 issue, Tropical Currents: Writing by Indonesian Women, of the Chicago-based journal Words without Borders.
Cast of Characters
The stage is dark. A static light shines on the actress who plays the roles of Older Kalyla, Young Kalyla, Ruth, and Kalyla’s Mother.
Take this blank receipt with you! I can wait for your payment, but I’m not going to sign a blank receipt. I will not be part of your scam. Never!
What? You’d better watch what you say! This isn’t a question of me getting a share or not!
Excuse me? You really don’t get it, do you? This is a catering business. What I sell here is food, not my self-respect!
And don’t you ever, ever again send someone to my home like you did last night to arrange a meeting!
Maybe you think I am my mother. Well, you’re wrong! You’re wrong to think you can trap me because of my background—because of who I am.
But let me be clear: I am a different person from my mother. [End Page 161]
What? Do you think because of who I am I should have no self-respect? Is that what you think?
Well, my name is Kalyla. And I am not my mother!
The lights fade.
Onstage is a flour-spattered kitchen table on which are heaped baking pans, a rolling pin, and other cooking implements. Also on the table are a mound of rising dough; a pan of flour; different kinds of pastry fillings; and jars of spices, chocolate, and red and green cherries. Parenthetical text in the dialogue is a translation of the Maluku dialect spoken by Ruth.
I was raised in this kitchen. I grew up amid the hustle and bustle around this kitchen table.
I learned to walk while holding on to the hem of Mother’s dress as she diced onions, boiled potatoes, and minced meat.
At first I watched and then I began to help Ruth—Mother’s helper and my nanny—sift flour and stir different kinds of dough.
I rested on Mother’s lap, napped on the slickly ironed expanse of her long skirt.
On Ruth’s lap, on her oil-stained sarong that always smelled of spices, I was coddled.
I used to wet my pants—often and almost anywhere: in my bed, on the sofa, on Mother’s lap, on Ruth’s sarong.
Little Miss Wet-Her-Pants! That’s what Ruth called me when I was a girl.
Dolo-dolo nona pung bakas kancing di bolsak persis map pulau Jawa …
(When you were a girl, those puddles of piddle you made looked just like a map of Java!)
Ruth did love flour, but she was obsessed with the island of Java. Anything beyond her imagination was always connected with Java.
Look at this, Ruth… The flour is just like snow.
Barang apa lae tu salju kah? Beta seng tau, nona …
(What is snow? I don’t know what that is, Little Miss.) [End Page 162]
You know, Ruth—that soft and fluffy white stuff in foreign countries that looks like shaved ice … Like the stuff you see in comic books and on television.
On television? Sio di Jawa sana ada salju lae ka?
(So, is there snow in Java?)
[Laughing.] Snow in Java? You’re stupid! There’s no snow in Java. Mama! Ruth thinks there’s snow in Java!
Kalyla! You must not be that way. It’s not nice. You must never call an older person stupid.
Don’t laugh at Ruth because she doesn’t know there is no snow in Java.
You have to be more sensitive of other people’s feelings.
What if you hurt Ruth’s feelings...