Saturday, April 30, 2011

In memory of my grandfather

My grandpa, Ir. Hadis Soemantri (1922-2000) was a Sundanese who married my grandma, R.A. Soekartini Soemoadiparto (1925-2005), a devoted Javanese woman. At that time, it was not a custom, even considered taboo for a Sundanese to marry a Javanese, or vice versa. This was due to a cultural reason: Since the Bubat War (circa 1360) happened between the Kingdom of Majapahit (Java) and Padjajaran (Sunda), the two ethnics were hostile to each other.

In spite of the malignity, grandpa was a very educated one and had thoughts beyond his own time (though he still respected the principles of the Sundanese Karuhun). Trying to match between norms and his personal decision, grandpa finally decided to get married with my grandma, although his big family openly stated their dislike of "That lousy Javanese woman". On the other side, grandma came from a dignified Javanese family which held tightly their family heritage, including a Javanese custom that a wife must be obedient and devoted to her husband. Thus despite many obstacles occurred in their marriage, in fact, my grandma was always supportive to grandpa in everything he did.

Two from right: At Dunwoody Institute, Minneapolis, USA (1957)

Grandpa was a stubborn and full of ambition. Had a strong willingness from his early childhood, he formed a rampart personality with authoritative nature. Nevertheless, he was also an art lover. He played violin, enjoyed reading literature and philosophy, and put a very high interest to paintings and antiques. He was also a very keen painter!
He was one of those educated inlaander (an epithet that had been given to the Native Indonesian by the Dutch Colonial) who could finish his HBS education (Colonial education system, equivalent to high school), which was extremely rare at that time for an inlaander, and he got a scholarship to continue his study in Civil Engineering at Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) – its name was still “Technische Hoogeschool te Bandoeng”.

After several years of study, he was assigned to continue his accomplishment at Delft University of Technology (Technische Universiteit Delft). After Indonesia gained independence from the Dutch occupation, in 1952 the Indonesian government sent him to study in some countries in Western Europe, Scandinavian, and the United States. Ironically, during the trainings in those countries, he couldn’t see the birth of my father. After he came back to Indonesia (two years later), he was surprised to see a little baby being carried by my grandma. Didn’t realize that it was his own son, he commented of that baby (in Dutch language), “Wie is dat kind?” (Who is that child?). And my grandma got angry.

Gathering with Friends, Bandung (1963)

Experiencing so many cultures and diversities abroad, my grandpa’s perspectives became rich culturally. Beside Bahasa Indonesia (and Sundanese native language), he also mastered four foreign languages fluently, including Dutch, English, German, and French. Because of his vast knowledge (not only in engineering subjects, but also in philosophy, arts, and a great passion on promoting education), the government sent him abroad as a representative of Indonesia in UNESCO (Paris and Tokyo), and as the proposition committee for Colombo Plan in Sri Lanka. He was also involved in some projects held by World Bank and Ford Foundation in the United States.

Dinner with grandma & friends, Jakarta (1961)

His pursuit of achievement could be seen as an accomplishment. Some education institutions that once had been built by him, have shown their best output of providing this country with so many potential graduates and scholars. Those institutions include Universitas Padjadjaran, Yayasan Pendidikan Taruna Bakti, and Fakultas Teknik IKIP. His legacy in the field of material development, including Telkom Building in Bandung, Pertamina Oil Drilling Refinery in Cilacap, the first microwave tower of Telkom in Puncak, Belawan Habour in Medan, and hundreds of masterplans that built the infrastructure of this country.

As my aunty asked me to make a further research on “Life and Times" of my grandpa, let me dedicate this article on behalf of him. I hope the Black & White pictures could bring back the memories which have been laid decades ago.

With the 3 children. My dad is on the right. Bandung (1961)

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