Friday, February 24, 2012

Tracking Down Juheria

Bent as a set square, cake baker Ibu Juheria walked the lanes of Benhil cawing, "Kue kue." But today the streets are without her crows and crumbs.
Trundling down the lane is a man in a trilby pushing a wooden vegetable cart.
"Do you know where Ibu Juheria is?"
"Grandma Juheria?"
"The one who sells cakes?"
"The one who is bent forward like this?"
"Haven't seen her for ages. She doesn't sell anymore."

A second mobile market man says the same, adding that Grandma lives on the far side of the Kali Krukuk river.
The streets are narrower here, the lanes chipped and the houses cracked. A man carries a cage crammed with young ducks and birds dyed pink and green. "Come this way," ushers a woman spoon-feeding a toddler. "Grandma is alive."

Regally seated on a raised platform is Ibu Juheria, formally dressed in an autumn-coloured batik skirt and a floral purple blouse. Her withered chest is exposed in a deep V. "Oh, it's you!" she greets, reciting my address. "I've stopped and chatted to you."

At eight-five, Juheria retired last year. "I'm tired," she says, rubbing her knees. "And I'm tried of walking through that traffic. I don't bake anymore." It's been a long career: Juheria followed her mother from Sukabumi to Jakarta in 1945, working as a housemaid in Menteng. She began baking in 1972, walking the streets with baskets of cakes for almost forty years.
Tired, but not faded. Juheria is radiant in age, with a crone's allure. She laughs easily, lips curling inwards to a mouth with few teeth, eyes eclipsed by the crow's feet of her smile. She talks merrily, at a good clip. "People have taken my picture before; I've been on TV," she reminisces. "I don't bake anymore, but if someone wants to make an order, I'll do it. But it must be a big order. No fewer than 200 pieces."
Still a vigorous tradeswoman.


  1. I LOVE your blog. I really really do. It's always exciting to find a new post on your blog. :)