Bertarung dengan Banteng


Pukul duabelas malam lewat seperempat Umar Salim terbangun dari tidurnya. Tubuhnya berkeringat. Seingatnya, baru sekitar jam sepuluh tadi dia tertidur. Tapi tidur itu tak dapat berjalan dengan mulus. Tidur itu telah diganggu mimpi yang tidak bertanggungjawab. Dia lihat istrinya masih ada di sebelahnya. Dia tak hendak mengganggu tidur sang istri. Pelan-pelan selimut ditepiskannya dan pelan-pelan pula dia meninggalkan tempat tidur. Setelah mengenakan sandal, Umar Salim membuka pintu kamar lalu keluar. Rasa haus di kerongkongannya semakin kuat. Pelan-pelan Umar Salim menyeret sandalnya menuju ke dapur. Dia ambil gelas, membuka kulkas dan menuang air dingin yang langsung ditenggaknya sekali habis. Umar Salim lalu ke ruang tamu dan menyalakan lampu. Dia lalu duduk di sofa dan mengingat-ingat mimpinya barusan.

Syahdan, dalam mimpi itu Umar Salim tengah berada entah dimana. Suasananya mirip benar dengan sebuah kota yang sibuk. Tiba-tiba saja dari arah keramaian itu muncullah beberapa ekor banteng yang mengejarnya seperti mengejar matador. Banteng itu berkulit hitam, bertanduk hitam dan berperangai sangat buas. Umar Salim lalu lari. Dia berusaha lari sekuat tenaga. Dia mengerahkan segala daya upayanya untuk menyelamatkan diri dari amukan si banteng. Tapi sayang. Kakinya seperti lengket dengan tanah hingga agak sulit untuk diangkat. Umar Salim menengok ke belakang dan melihat banteng-banteng itu nampak semakin dekat. Umar Salim berusaha berteriak sekeras-kerasnya tapi tak ada seorang pun yang bersedia untuk menolongnya. Orang-orang itu hanya melihat. Orang banyak itu malah hanya tertawa-tawa seolah mau mengejeknya. Kurangajar, pikirnya dalam hati. Nanti kalau kalian ikut dikejar banteng-banteng itu, baru tahu rasa. Tapi dugaannya meleset. Banteng-banteng itu tetap mengejar dirinya. Orang-orang banyak itu hanya dilewatinya. Untunglah, pada saat-saat yang sangat menentukan Umar Salim terbangun dari tidurnya. Dan kini, Umar Salim merenung-renung di atas sofa. Dia ambil bungkus rokok yang tergeletak di meja, dia lolos satu batang dan dengan sebuah sentilan korek api gas, rokok yang terselip di bibirnya itu mengepul.

“Mimpi itu kan hanya bunga orang tidur,” katanya dalam hati menghibur diri. “Jadi buat apa dirisaukan?”

Tapi dirinya tetap saja masih risau. Soalnya mimpi yang baru saja dialaminya ini adalah mimpi yang ketiga. Sebelumnya Umar Salim pernah pula mendapatkan mimpi yang hampir sama. Dalam kedua mimpinya yang terdahulu, dia juga dikejar-kejar oleh banteng. Hanya lokasi serta jalannya peristiwa saja yang sedikit berlainan. Dalam mimpi-mimpi yang terdahulu banteng-banteng itu tak sampai mengejar-ngejar dirinya. Banteng-banteng itu hanya mendengus, menanduk serta menggasut-gasutkan salah satu kaki depannya ke tanah yang berdebu. Itupun sudah membuat Umar Salim kalang kabut. Apalagi mimpinya yang sekarang ini. Tatkala istrinya bangun dan menyusulnya duduk di sofa, Umar Salim segera menceriterakan mimpinya tadi dengan serius.

“Mimpi itu kan biasa saja pak. Kalau kita tidurnya kurang nyenyak, ya pasti diganggu mimpi-mimpi begitu,” kata sang istri dengan tenang.

“Tapi ini mimpi yang sama untuk yang ketiga kalinya. Ingat. Untuk yang ketiga kalinya. Jadi pasti ada artinya. Setidak-tidaknya pasti bukan mimpi sembarang mimpi.” Kata Umar Salim tetap mempertahankan dirinya. Istrinya lalu mengiyakan. Pelan-pelan istri yang baik itu lalu bangkit dan menarik tangan suaminya. Dengan penuh pengertian istri itu lalu menggandeng suaminya kembali ke tempat tidur. Di tempat tidur istri itu mengelus-elus sang suami yang barusan bermimpi dengan sabar sampai sang suami tertidur lagi.

***
Menurut rencana, sebenarnya malam itu Umar Salim harus menghadiri sebuah resepsi pengantin yang diselenggarakan oleh salah seorang karyawannya. Tapi karena merasa tak enak badan, sejak sore tadi dia hanya mengurung dirinya dalam kamar. Istri beserta salah seorang anaknya mewakilinya menghadiri resepsi itu dengan diantar sopir. Umar Salim sudah tertidur pada saat teve berwarna 24 inci di ruang tengah menyiarkan dunia dalam berita. Umar Salim tertidur cukup nyenyak. Waktu istri serta anaknya datang pun dia sama sekali tidak terusik, dan istri serta anak-anaknya juga tidak berani membangunkannya. Tapi menjelang jam dua dini hari Umar Salim terbangun dengan nafas terengah-engah. Sekujur badannya bersimbah keringat. Mukanya nampak kuyu tetapi tegang. Karena dia bangun dengan gerakan yang menyentak, istrinya pun ikut terbangun dan buru-buru duduk. Si istri nampak kaget dan ketakutan.
“Kenapa pak? Sakit ya?” tanyanya dengan gugup.
“Tidak. Sudahlah, tidak ada apa-apa. Ayo tidur lagi. Bagaimana tadi pestanya?” tanya Umar Salim mengalihkan pembicaraan. Si istri tetap duduk sambil memijat tangan sang suami.
“Ramai. Semua orang menanyakan bapak tadi.”
“Syukurlah. Sudah, ayo tidur lagi.”
“Tapi bapak tidak sakit kan? Kok kelihatannya seperti sakit begini. Digosok pakai minyak angin. Atau minum obat?”
“Tolong ambilkan air dingin sajalah. Tidak apa-apa kok.”
Si istri turun dari tempat tidutr. Umar Salim menyandarkan dirinya pada tumpukan bantal. Nafasnya sudah agak reda. Tatkala istrinya datang, segelas air dingin itu segera dihirupnya dengan nikmat. Si istri lalu kembali membaringkan dirinya di samping suminya. Umar Salim lalu bercerita.
“Saya bermimpi lagi bu.”
“Bermimpi?”
“Ya, bermimpi dikejar-kejar banteng. Banteng-banteng itu terus memburuku sampai ke kantor. Ini kan gila.”
“Lalu?”
“Orang-orang sekantor membiarkan diriku dikejar-kejar banteng keparat itu. Mereka semua menonton dan menertawaiku. Padahal aku ini siapa? Aku ini kan direktur mereka. Ini suatu penghinaan besar bu.”
“Yah, tapi kan hanya sekedar mimpi kan pak?”
“Tapi berarti ini adalah mimpi yang keempat kalinya. Aku harus konsultasi dengan dukun atau dokter atau apa itu namanya? Psikolog!”
“Ala pak, tidak usah. Bapak memang harus banyak olahraga agar tidurnya bisa enak dan tidak diganggu oleh mimpi-mimpi yang ngaco begitu itu.”
“Baiklah, mulai besok aku akan lebih giat main tenis. Tapi masalah ini akan segera saya ceriterakan pada orang-orang kantor. Saya ingin tahu bagaimana pendapat mereka.”

Siang itu setelah acara makan siang dalam sebuah rapat yang dihadiri oleh para staf lengkap, Umar Salim menceriterakan ihwal mimpinya pada para peserta rapat. Di luar dugaan karyawan serta staf yang menghadiri rapat itu tertawa terbaha-bahak.

“Ah, bapak ini. Bisa saja bikin kami-kami ini tertawa,” kata salah seorang stafnya sambil tetap tertawa-tawa. Sebagai seorang direktur, Umar Salim merasa agak tersinggung, tapi dia tetap bisa menahan diri.
“Saya tidak sedang melucu. Kenapa kalian tertawa?”
“Oh, maaf pak. Kami kira bapak hanya ingin menyegarkan suasana yang panas, dan bikin mata mengantuk ini,” jawab seorang stafnya yang lain agak ketakutan.
“Ini mimpi sungguh-sungguh, dan untuk yang keempat kalinya.”
“Keempat kalinya pak?”
“Betul.”
“Dan kesemuanya tentang banteng yang mengejar-ngejar pak?”

“Persis. Malah yang terakhir ini, malam tadi, saya sampai berlari ke kantor ini. Kalian semua ada waktu itu. Dan apa yang kalian lakukan? Bukannya menolongku mengusir banteng-banteng itu atau minimal ikut berlari, tapi malahan menonton dan menertawakan diriku. Ini sungguh keterlaluan.”
“Wah,” gumam para hadirin serentak.
“Dan kini, ketika hal ini aku ceriterakan pada kalian, kembali kalian menertawaiku. Ini namanya apa?”

Hadirin lalu terdiam. Tak ada seorang pun yang berani mengeluarkan pendapat karena takut salah. Tak ada seorang pun yang berani menatap pandangan mata Pak Direktur Umar Salim. Semua staf dan karyawan yang ikut rapat itu jatuh terpekur. Semua menyesali tindakan mereka yang telah terlanjur tertawa pada saat Pak Direktur Umar Salim menceritakan mimpinya tadi.

“Sudahlah, kalian tak usah ikut sedih atau takut,” kata Umar Salim kemudian memecah kesunyian.
“Sebaiknya bapak istirahat total pak. Mungkin bapak terlalu capek,” usul kepala bagian pemasaran, masih dengan suara takut-takut. Yang lain juga mulai berani ambil bagian.
“Sebaiknya bapak mulai bergiat olahraga. Sekalian menunjang program pemerintah kan pak? Mengolahragakan masyarakat dan memasyarakatkan olahraga.”
“Itu slogan gombal. Saya kan sudah main tenis dari dulu.”
“Betul pak. Tapi kan harus ditingkatkan lagi. Kalau dulu seminggu sekali, sekarang harus tiga hari sekali atau sukur bisa tiap hari. Begitu pak usul kami.”
“Ya, lebih bagus lagi kalau bapak bisa joging pak.”
“Saya alergi dengan udara pagi. Perut ini langsung mual kalau kena udara pagi. Tapi apa hubungannya mimpi dengan olahraga? Soalnya, istriku juga mengusulkan demikian.”
“Supaya peredaran darah normal pak. Syaraf yang tegang bisa agak kendor, lalu tidur ini enak hingga mimpinya pun bisa agak sedikit bertanggungjawab.”
“Okelah, hari ini juga aku akan main tenis tiap pagi dan sore. Soalnya, orang-orang yang paling dekat dengan diriku, baik itu istri maupun para pembantuku di kantor ini telah sama-sama mengusulkan hal yang serupa. Aku akan turuti nasehat itu.”

Umar Salim yakin seratus persen bahwa nasehat istri serta para stafnya di kantor sungguh bisa dipercaya kebenaran ilmiahnya. Dia lalu selalu bangun pagi-pagi sekali untuk main tenis sebelum mandi atau sarapan pagi. Sore hari sepulang dari kantor yang didatanginya juga lapangan tenis. Memang benar. Sejak itu Umar Salim bisa merasakan badannya jauh lebih enak dari yang sudah-sudah. Tidurnya otomatis juga terasa semakin enak. Kalau semula dia senantiasa terjaga di tengah larut malam dan beberapa kali diganggu mimpi yang kurang ajar, maka kini Umar Salim selalu bisa tertidur pulas dari sore sampai pagi. Tapi ternyata mimpi dengan banteng yang mengejar-ngejar itu masih saja terus berdatangan. Kalau semula banteng-banteng itu kelihatan masih agak kabur maka kini lukisan itu makin nampak sangat jelas dalam mimpinya. Banteng-banteng itu berwarna hitam dengan tengkuk yang menjulang ke arah punggung. Tanduknya juga hitam dan mengkilat dengan ujung yang runcing siap menyobek-nyobek pantat atau perutnya. Banteng-banteng itu selalu mendengus dan matanya yang liar selalu terarah pada dirinya yang tengah pontang-panting berlari ketakutan. Memang. Dalam mimpi-mimpi yang berdatangan silih berganti itu tak ada seekor banteng pun yang sempat menyobek kulitnya, setiap kali pula adegan mimpi itu berganti dan dia tertidur lagi. Sekarang Umar Salim memang tak pernah terjaga pada malam-malam sehabis menderita mimpi buruk begini. Tapi pagi-pagi dia selalu tersiksa.
“Pak, barangkali pada saat tidur, bapak mengenakan piyama atau kimono atau kain sarung berwarna merah,” kata lawan mainnya pada suatu pagi di lapangan tenis.
“Tidak pernah. Saya tidak pernah mengenakan pakaian yang warnanya merah,” jawab Umar Salim dengan mantap.
“Barangkali sprei atau sarung bantalnya pak yang berwarna merah? Banteng kan paling tidak suka dengan warna merah.”

“Mungkin juga? Kadang sprei atau sarung bantal yang kami tiduri memang berwarna merah.”
“Nah, barangkali di sinilah pak titik pangkalnya.”

Sepulang dari lapangan tenis pagi itu Umar Salim langsung memanggil istrinya. Si istri yang dipanggil mengira suaminya akan minta air atau sarapan pagi atau kain handuk. Ternyata tidak. Dengan mantap Umar Salim memerintahkan agar sang istri segera mengganti kain sprei, sarung bantal, gorden dan lain-lain yang ada di kamarnya yang berwarna merah. Pokoknya yang warnanya merah harus segera diganti dengan yang lain. Si istri terheran-heran tapi dia tak berani menolak permintaan suaminya. Hari itu juga segala warna merah tersigkir dari tempat tidur Umar Salim. Malamnya dengan penuh rasa kemenangan Umar Salim berangkat tidur. Istri serta anaknya masih berada di luar. Ada yang nonton video, ada yang mendengarkan musik, ada yang sedang menemui temannya dan entah apalagi. Umar Salim lalu tertidur. Tapi baru saja dia terlena, banteng-banteng itu segera muncul dari pelupuk matanya. Banteng-banteng itu langsung mendengus dan mengarahkan tanduknya yang melengkung mengkilat ke arah Umar Salim. Banteng-banteng itu kelihatan sekali sangat ganas. Umar Salim mencoba berlari tapi sulit sekali. Dia mencoba berteriak sekuat tenaga tapi juga tak dapat. Tahu-tahu istri serta anaknya membangunkannya dengan mengguncang-guncang tubuhnya.

“Kenapa pak? Bermimpi lagi ya?”
“Betul.”
“Dikejar banteng lagi ya?”
“Betul.”
“Padahal semua yang berwarna merah sudah tersingkir.”
“Entahlah.”

Malam berikutnya menjelang fajar Umar Salim juga bermimpi lagi. Kali ini banteng itu telah terluka lehernya dan darah segar menyembur dari sana. Banteng itu mendekatinya sambil terus menanduk-nanduk walau lehernya telah terluka seperti bekas ditebas. Sejak mimpinya yang ini, Umar Salim lalu punya keinginan yang aneh. Dia ingin sekali melihat banteng.

“Kan dulu pernah melihat di Kebun Binatang pak?” kata si istri.
“Kan di kebun binatang. Yang di hutan kan belum pernah.”
“Nanti diseruduk beneran.”
“Tidak mungkin.”
“Kan mereka liar?”
“Ya, tapi kan melihatnya dari kejauhan.”
Niat ini lalu dikemukakan Umar Salim kepada para stafnya, Staf-staf itu manggut-manggut. Mereka menyetujui sepenuhnya usul direktur mereka.
“Soalnya saya juga berusaha konsultasi dengan seorang teman yang kebetulan psikolog pak.”
“O, ya, bagaimana komentarnya?”
“Katanya kalau bapak telah melihat dengan mata kepala sendiri kawanan banteng itu di alam bebas, otomatis mimpi-mimpi yang tidak punya aturan itu akan hilang dengan sendirinya.”
“Saya juga iseng-iseng telah tanya pada seorang dukun yang bisa dijamin keampuhannya pak,” kata stafnya yang lain.
“O ya, apa pula kata dukun itu?”
“Beliau bilang mimpi bapak itu akan lenyap manakala bapak bisa merasakan daging banteng.”
“Jadi saya harus makan daging banteng dan melihatnya di alam bebas?”
“Begitulah pak?”
“Tapi lalu mana yang harus kuturut?”
“Kalau bisa dua-duanya pak. Maksudnya agar daya tangkalnya bisa cukup kuat.”

“Baiklah. Tapi apa tidak sulit? Bukankah banteng-banteng itu telah dilindungi undang-undang hingga tak mudah untuk ditangkap? Lagi pula datangnya ke sana pun agak sulit.”
“Semuanya bisa diatur pak. Serahkanlah urusan tetek-bengek itu pada kami. Yang penting ketenteraman hidup bapak tidak terganggu lagi hingga jalannya perusahaan bisa lebih lancar dan nasib kami juga tak terombang-ambing.”

Kendaraan itu melaju dengan tenang di pagi yang bagus di jalanan yang sepi penuh pohon-pohon. Umar Salim dan beberapa orang stafnya berangkat ke Ujung Kulon. Semula salah seorang stafnya mengusulkan ke Pangandaran atau Baluran. Tapi konon di kedua tempat itu jaminan untuk ketemu dengan banteng sudah agak tipis. Pernah pula seorang stafnya mengusulkan agar Umar Salim pergi saja beristirahat ke Bali dan melihat serta makan sapi Bali di sana. Sapi Bali kan sosoknya sama dengan banteng? Umar Salim tidak dapat menerima usul ini. Yang mengejar-ngejar dalam mimpinya bukannya sapi Bali tapi banteng. Jadi yang perlu dilihat serta dimakan ya banteng dan bukannya sapi Bali. Kendaraan itu melaju terus ke arah kota Labuhan. Di kota kecil di selat Sunda ini segala urusan dibereskan. Di kantor PPA staf Umar Salim berusaha menyogok petugas tapi tidak bisa. Petugas itu tetap teguh mengatakan bahwa banteng-banteng itu memang bisa dilihat tapi tidak dapat dipotong. Kecuali kalau sudah ada izin khusus dan itu pun pada saat-saat tertentu tatkala populasi sang banteng dilihat sudah kelewat besar. Baiklah, kata Umar Salim pada para stafnya. Pokoknya kita sampai ke sana dulu. Urusan lainnya gampang di sana.

Di kota kecil itu rombongan Umar Salim membeli beras dan lauk-pauk lainnya karena di hutan Ujung Kulon katanya tak ada toko. Dengan mencarter sebuah perahu motor Umar Salim dan Stafnya sampai di pulau Peucang. Di pulau ini Umar Salim dan Stafnya disambut oleh para penjaga hutan dengan ramah. Mereka ditidurkan di pesanggrahan dan diberi tenaga yang bisa membantu memasak. Umar Salim mengusulkan agar malam itu juga mereka langsung menuju tempat banteng tapi usul itu ditolak oleh aparat yang menjaga hutan.

“Tidak mungkin pak. Pertama kalau berangkat malam ini cukup berbahaya. Di sini masih banyak binatang buas. Kedua, banteng-banteng itu tidak akan kelihatan. Bukankah bapak ingin melihat bantengnya?”
“Kalau bisa sekalian menangkap dan menyembelihnya.”
“Ah, bapak ini ada-ada saja. Ya tidak bisa kan pak?”
“Bisa. Kamu mau minta uang berapa. Bilang sajalah. Yang penting saya bisa menangkap satu saja untuk dipotong. Ini penting.”
“Tidak bisa pak. Kecuali kalau sudah ada izin dari Bogor.”
“Sudahlah, jangan macam-macam.”
“Betul pak. Sama sekali tidak bisa. Kalau hanya sekedar menonton silahkan saja besok.”

Paginya Umar Salim menyeberang dari Pulau Peucang ke Ujung Kulon. Setelah melewati jalan setapak menembus hutan yang tak seberapa jauh, sampailah rombongan itu ke lapangan terbuka.
“Inilah tempat penggembalaan itu pak.” Kata petugas yang mengantar rombongan itu. Tempat penggembalaan? Tanya Umar Salim heran. “Jadi banteng-banteng itu digembalakan?” “Itu hanya istilahnya saja pak. Banteng-banteng itu ya liar,” jawab sang petugas. Di pinggiran lapangan penggembalaan itu ada menara pengawas. Dari bawah menara itu di kejauhan telah nampak gerombolan banteng. Berlainan dengan banteng-banteng yang ada di mimpinya, banteng-banteng itu tidak nampak ganas. “Kok seperti sapi biasa ya?” Tanya Umar Salim keheranan.
“Memang. Banteng itu kan sapi liar kan pak?”
“Boleh saya mendekat ke sana?”
“Nanti mereka pasti lari pak. Begitu tercium bau manusia mereka pasti lari. Atau sebelum mereka mencium bau kita, burung-burung merak yang ada di sekitar mereka itu pasti akan memberi kode. Merak penglihatannya jauh lebih tajam.”
“Oh ya? Ada meraknya juga? Beautiful. Saya akan berusaha mendekat. Mari.”

Umar Salim pelan-pelan mendekati kawanan banteng yang dikawal burung merak itu. Petugas pengantar keheranan. Tak seperti biasanya, baik merak-merak maupun kawanan banteng itu nampak sangat jinak. Padahal biasanya begitu mereka tahu ada orang datang pasti segera lari pontang-panting. Umar Salim makin mendekat. Dia menuju ke seekor pejantan yang berwarna hitam dengan belang putih di pantat serta keempat kakinya sebatas lutut. Banteng jantan itu sama sekali tak bereaksi. Kenapa lain ya dengan yang dalam mimpi itu? Tanya Umar Salim dalam hati. Banteng-banteng betina yang jumlahnya jauh lebih banyak dan berwarna cokelat kemerahan itu juga nampak sangat jinak. Petugas pengantar semakin heran. Apakah bapak ini punya ilmu menjinakkan banteng? tanyanya dari belakang. Umar Salim tak menjawab. Dia semakin mendekat ke arah banteng jantan. Setelah berhasil tiba di sampingnya, tangan Umar Salim mengelus-elus pantatnya, banteng itu hanya menengok sebentar lalu mencium-cium tangan Umar Salim. Tangan Umar Salim lalu pindah ke leher dan kembali banteng itu mencium-cium tangannya. Umar Salim lalu memegang-megang tanduknya yang melengkung dan runcing hitam mengkilat itu. Banteng itu tetap diam saja. Umar Salim lalu teringat nasihat stafnya agar makan daging banteng. Dia lalu memberi kode pada petugas agar mendekat. Setelah dekat Umar Salim lalu meraih golok yang berada di pinggang petugas itu. Sebelum petugas itu sadar mata golok telah menebas leher banteng. Petugas itu kaget. Darah segar mengucur dari leher si banteng. Para staf yang mengantar Umar Salim juga kaget. Banteng-banteng betina yang bergerombol itu juga kget. Burung-burung merak juga kaget. Banteng jantan itu mendengus. Darah makin banyak mengucur dari lehernya. Mata banteng itu beringas kini. Para staf Umar Salim mulai ketakutan. Mereka mundur pelan-pelan. Petugas pengantar juga mundur pelan-pelan. Gerombolan banteng itu mulai mendengus-dengus dan bergerak. Banteng jantan itu juga ikut bergerak. Rombongan staf serta petugas pengantar berebutan lari. Banteng-banteng itu menyerbu. Burung merak berlarian. Banteng jantan itu menerjang Umar Salim sambil tetap mengucurkan darahnya. Umar Salim terjengkang.

Dalam debu dan rumput kering. Dalam udara pagi yang masih segar, Umar Salim merasakan kuku-kuku banteng jantan itu menusuk pantat serta perut serta dadanya. Dalam kemilau sinar langit Umar Salim merasakan tanduk banteng itu menghantam kepalanya. Darah dari leher banteng itu mengucur ke perutnya. Darahnya sendiri juga mulai merembes. Umar Salim merasakan seluruh dirinya seperti dalam mimpi. Banteng yang berdarah lehernya itu menginjak-injak serta menanduknya habis-habisan. Seluruh tubuhnya jadi merah darah dan banteng itu semakin rajin menginjak-injak serta menanduk. Umar Salim telentang. Matanya makin gelap. Tiba-tiba saja banteng itu menghilang dari pandangan matanya. Banteng yang selama ini senantiasa mengejar-ngejar dalam mimpinya itu sekarang telah hilang. Dan kini, Umar Salim seperti terbangun dari sebuah mimpi buruk yang sangat panjang. Panjang sekali. ***

Asian Studies Institute
Victoria University of Wellington
610 von Zedlitz Building
Kelburn, Wellington
04 463 5098
asi@vuw.ac.nz
www.vuw.ac.nz/asianstudies

Wild Bull Fight

Asian Studies Institute Translation Paper 3
By F. Rahardi
Translated by Stephen Epstein
ISSN: 1174-7676
ISBN: 0-475-11068-4

At quarter past midnight Umar Salim awoke, his body perspiring. To the best of his
recollection he had dozed off at about ten o’clock. But he hadn’t slept soundly; bizarre
dreams had disturbed him. His wife, he saw, still lay beside him. Not wishing to wake
her, he carefully peeled back the blanket and, just as carefully, got out of bed. After
slipping on his sandals, he opened the bedroom door and went out. The sensation of
thirst in his throat had grown more insistent. Umar Salim dragged his feet towards the
kitchen. He grabbed a glass and poured himself some water from the refrigerator,
finishing it off in one go. Then he turned on a lamp in the living room and sat on the
sofa to ponder the dream he had just had.

In his dream he found himself in some indistinct location; it had the feel of a busy city.
Suddenly, several wild buffalo appeared. They came from the direction of the urban
bustle and chased him, as though chasing a bullfighter. The buffalo had black hides and
black horns; their behaviour was savage. He tried to run as fast as he could,
summoning all his strength to save himself from these beasts that were running amok,
but with no luck. His feet stuck to the ground. He could barely lift them. Looking back
over his shoulder, he saw the buffalo coming closer, closer. He tried to shout at the top
of his lungs, but no one was prepared to help. People only watched, or rather, only
laughed, as if to mock him.

“How rude”, he thought. “When they come after you too, you’ll all know how it feels.”
But his expectations were disappointed: the buffalo made him the sole target of their
pursuit and ignored the crowd. Fortunately, at the crucial moment, he had woken up
with a start. And now he sat brooding on the sofa. He freed a cigarette from the pack
lying on the table and slipped it between his lips. Smoke billowed forth at contact with
a lighter. “Dreams are just the fruit of sleep”, he consoled himself. “Why should I be
alarmed?”

Nevertheless, he felt very alarmed. The problem was that this was the third time he’d
had such a dream; he had already had virtually identical nightmares.
The two previous dreams had also found him pursued by wild buffalo, with only minor
differences in the setting and the way events unfolded. The buffalo had merely snorted
and tossed their heads as they pawed the dusty ground. All of this had thrown Umar
Salim into confusion. And now this dream. His wife woke up and joined him on the sofa.
He immediately recounted his dream in an earnest tone.
“It’s just a regular old dream. Of course dreams like that can bother you, if you’re not
sleeping soundly.” Her words were calm.
“But this is the third time I’ve had the same dream! Think about it! The third time. It
has to mean something. At the very least it’s not just any old dream”, said Umar Salim,
defending himself adamantly. His wife assented.
A kind-hearted woman, she walked him slowly back to bed. There she patiently
caressed her husband, fresh from his nightmare, until he fell back asleep.

The fact is that Umar Salim was supposed to attend a wedding reception for one of his
employees that night. But he’d been feeling a bit out of sorts, and had caged himself up
in his room since early evening. His wife, accompanied by one of their children and
chauffeured by their driver, represented him at the reception. Umar Salim dozed off
halfway through ‘World News Tonight’, with their 24-inch colour TV still on. He slept
soundly enough. He didn’t stir at all when his wife and child returned, and neither she
nor any of his children had the heart to wake him. But towards two in the morning he
awoke, gasping for breath, his entire body drenched in sweat, his expression
melancholy but tense. Because he woke up with a start, his wife woke up as well and
hastily sat down, worry clearly written on her face.
“What is it? Are you ill?” she asked, agitated.
“No, no. It’s nothing.”
“Well, it certainly seems like you’re sick. You are, aren’t you?”
“No, enough of that, it’s nothing. Come on, back to sleep. How was the party?”, Umar
Salim asked, changing the subject. His wife sat close, massaging her husband’s hands.
“Very lively. Everyone was asking for you.”
“That’s nice. Okay, enough, back to sleep.
“You’re not sick, then? You really don’t look well. Let me give you a rubdown with
balsam. Or would you like some medicine?”
“Just bring me some cold water, please. It’s nothing, nothing at all.”
His wife got out of bed. Umar Salim leaned against a heap of pillows. He was breathing
much more evenly now. When his wife came back, he eagerly gulped down the glass of
cold water. She climbed back into bed and lay down beside her husband, who then
began to speak.
“I was dreaming again.”
“Dreaming?”
“Yes, about being chased by wild buffalo. They kept chasing me all the way to the
office. This is crazy.”
“And?”
“Everyone in the office just let those damned buffalo chase me. They all were watching
and laughing at me. And who am I? The director, right? How humiliating!”
“Still, it was only a dream, you know.”
“But this was the fourth time. I have to consult a dukun1 or a doctor or a
whatchamacallit – a psychologist.”
“Oh you, there’s no need. You just have to get more exercise so you can sleep
peacefully and not be bothered by absurd dreams like that.”
“All right, starting tomorrow I’ll play a lot more tennis. But I’m going to talk this over
with the people in the office right away. I want to hear their opinion.”
That afternoon, following a lunch meeting with the entire staff, Umar Salim narrated his
dream. Contrary to his expectations, everyone roared with laughter.
“Ah, sir, you really know how to make us laugh”, said one of the staff members, his
sides heaving.
Although Umar Salim, being company director, felt quite put out by this, he managed
to restrain himself. “I’m not joking. Why are you all laughing?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, sir. We thought you just wanted to liven things up since it’s stuffy in
here and people were getting drowsy”, another staff member answered nervously.
“That was my dream, all right, and not only that, it’s the fourth time I’ve had it!”
“The fourth time?”
“That’s right.”
“And all of them were about being chased by wild buffalo?”
“Exactly. And what’s more, this time, last night, I ran all the way to our office. You
were all here. And what did you do? You didn’t help drive the buffalo away, or even run
away along with me. No, you just watched and laughed at me. This was really too
much!”
“Wah”. Everyone grumbled in unison.
“And now here I am, telling you about it, and you’re laughing at me again. What do you
call this?”
They all grew silent. No one dared venture an opinion out of fear of saying the wrong
thing. No one dared look Umar Salim, the director, in the eye. The entire staff fell deep
into thought. They regretted their premature laughter during the director’s account of
his dream.
“Enough. There’s no point in you all getting sad or worried as well”, Umar Salim said
quickly, breaking the silence. “I only wanted to ask your opinion: what’s the best way
to handle crazy dreams like this? If any of you can help, please just speak out.”
“I think it would be best for you to have complete rest. Maybe you’re too tired”, advised
the head of the marketing department, his voice timid. The others began to summon
the courage to chip in as well.
“You need a lot of exercise. Besides, that would be in keeping with the government’s
programmes too, wouldn’t it? ‘Let’s make society sporty and make sports social’.”
“That’s a ridiculous slogan! Anyway, I’ve been exercising for a while now – I’ve been
playing tennis.”
“Yes, sir. But you have to take it up another notch, right? If you were playing once a
week before, now you should play once every three days. Or even better, every day.
That’s my suggestion…”
“Yes, sir. Even better if you go jogging.”
“I’m allergic to the morning air – it upsets my stomach. But what does exercise have to
do with dreams? Actually, my wife recommends the same thing.”
“It makes your blood circulate properly, sir. When nerves are tense, the circulation can
slow down a bit. Then you sleep too deeply and your dreams can get a bit strange.”
“Okay then, starting today, I’ll play tennis every morning and evening. The point is that
those closest to me – my wife as well as my staff in this office – have come up with the
same advice. I’ll follow it.”

Umar Salim was fully convinced that the wisdom of the advice of his wife and his staff
could be trusted. So each morning he got up very early to play tennis before bathing
and eating breakfast. In the evening, upon returning from the office, he went to the
tennis courts again. And, indeed, from then on Umar Salim felt much better physically.
As it turned out, he also found himself sleeping much more peacefully. In the beginning
he had always woken in the middle of the night and was often bothered by indecent
dreams, but now he was always able to sleep soundly from evening until morning.

Even so, his dreams about being chased by wild buffalo kept recurring. Although the
buffalo had at first appeared hazy, their image was now becoming more and more
distinct. They were jet black, with long, backwards-curving necks. Their horns were
black as well, their sharp tips gleaming, ready to gore his belly or his buttocks. The
buffalo always snorted, their eyes fixing upon him as he fled in panic. In fact not a
single buffalo in these recurring dreams had managed to gore him yet; every time it
got to that point the scene of the dream changed and he fell back asleep. Indeed Umar
Salim now never woke in the night after these nightmares. But the morning always
found him in torment.
“You’re probably wearing something red – pyjamas, a kimono, or a sarong”, said his
tennis partner on the court one morning.
“No, never. I’ve never worn red clothes”, Umar Salim protested firmly.
“Maybe your sheets or pillow cases are red? Buffalo hate the colour red, you know.”
“Could be, yes. It’s true we sleep on red sheets and pillows sometimes.”
“Well, that’s probably the root of the problem then.”

Umar Salim summoned his wife as soon as he returned from his tennis. She assumed
he was going to ask for water or breakfast or a towel. Evidently not. In no uncertain
terms he bade her change the sheets, pillow cases, curtains and anything else in the
bedroom that was red. Everything red had to be got rid of right away. That was critical.
Although his wife was startled, she didn’t dare refuse her husband’s request. Everything
red was removed from the bedroom that very day, and Umar Salim went off to bed that
evening, flushed with a sense of victory. His wife and children were still out, engaged in
this and that – watching a video, listening to music, visiting friends, who knows what.
Umar Salim then fell asleep. But he had barely dropped off when those buffalo
appeared. Snorting, they directed their glistening, curved horns towards him. And their
savageness was immediately apparent. Umar Salim tried to run, but it was very
difficult. He tried as hard as he could to shout, but he could not. Suddenly his wife and
children were shaking him awake.
“What is it, Dad? Were you dreaming again?”
“Yes.”
“Buffalo chasing you again?”
“Yes.”
“Even though we got rid of everything red.”
“I don’t know.”

The following night, towards dawn, Umar Salim was dreaming once more. This time one of the buffalo had a neck wound; fresh blood was gushing out. The buffalo approached
him, continuing to butt at the air, although the wound on its neck seemed to be an old
one. After this dream, however, a strange desire came over Umar Salim: he wanted
very much to see a buffalo.
“But you saw one in the zoo a long time ago”, said his wife.
“True, but that was the zoo. I’ve never seen one in the wild, you know.”
“Well, then they’ll come after you for real.”
“Impossible.”
“Aren’t they wild, though?”
“Yes, but I just want to look at them from a distance.”
Umar Salim divulged his desire to his staff. They nodded vigorously, agreeing fully with
their director’s proposal.
“In fact I also consulted with a friend who happens to be a psychologist, sir”, said one.
“Yes? What did he have to say?”
“He said if you see a herd of buffalo in the wild with your own eyes, then your
nightmares will disappear.”
“For the heck of it I also asked a dukun, sir, one whose authority can be fully vouched
for”, said another staff member.
“Yes? And what did your dukun say?”
“He said your dreams will go away if you taste buffalo meat.”
“So I have to eat buffalo meat and see them in the wild?”
“Maybe, sir, that’s right.”
“But whose advice should I follow?”
“If you can, follow both. That way the cure will work.”
“All right then. But isn’t this going to be difficult? Haven’t wild buffalo been legally
protected, so that they aren’t easy to catch? Besides, it’s hard enough to get to where
they live.”
“Everything can be taken care of, sir. Leave the details to us. The main thing is not to
upset your daily routine anymore. That way the company’s path is clearer and things
are less uncertain for us as well.”

The vehicle sped quietly one fine morning along a peaceful, tree-lined road. Umar Salim and several members of his staff were on their way to Ujung Kulon. One of them had
originally suggested Pangandaran in Tasikmalaya or Baluran in East Java, but they
heard there was little guarantee of encountering wild buffalo in either place. One of his
staff members even recommended that he simply go to Bali for rest and relaxation and
see and eat Balinese oxen there. After all, Balinese oxen looked just like wild buffalo.
Umar Salim rejected this suggestion: it was wild buffalo, not Balinese oxen, that were
chasing him in his dreams. What he needed to see and to eat were buffalo, not Balinese
oxen.

The vehicle hastened onward to Labuhan, a town on the Sunda Strait, where they
arranged everything. In the PPA office2 Umar Salim’s staff made an unsuccessful
attempt at bribing the official in charge. The official very firmly stated that although it
was indeed possible to view buffalo, they could not be slaughtered unless special
permission had already been sought. Moreover, such permission was granted only
when the population of wild buffalo had grown too large.
“It’s all right”, said Umar Salim to his staff. “The main thing is that we go over there
first. It’ll be easy to work everything out once we’re there.”

Umar Salim’s entourage bought rice and other provisions in the town, having heard
that there were no stores in the jungle of Ujung Kulon. Then they chartered a motor
boat to Peucang Island, where they were warmly greeted by the ranger. They were
given lodging in the guest house and some kerosene to cook with. Umar Salim
suggested they go that very night to find the buffalo, but the ranger rejected the idea
out of hand.
“Impossible! First of all, it’s quite dangerous to go out at night. There are still a lot of
wild animals here. Secondly, you won’t even be able to see the buffalo. Didn’t you say
you wanted to see the buffalo?”
“If I could, I’d capture and slaughter them all.”
“Ah, you’re too much, sir. No, it’s impossible, you know!”
“It is possible! How much do you want? Just name your price. The important thing is
that I catch one so that I can slaughter it. It’s important.”
“You can’t do it. Not unless you already have a permit from Bogor.”
“Okay, enough, don’t be like that.”
“Really, it’s absolutely impossible. If you want to watch, and only watch them, then
fine, please go right ahead – tomorrow.”
In the morning Umar Salim crossed from Peucang Island to Ujung Kalon. After passing
a little way on the path that cut through the jungle, the group arrived at a clearing.
“This is the buffalos’ pasture ground”, said the ranger guiding the group.
“Pasture ground?” Umar Salim was taken aback. “You mean someone tends them?”
“It’s just an expression. These buffalo are wild”, answered the ranger.
On the side of the pasture was an observation tower. From below the tower a herd of
buffalo could be seen in the distance. These buffalo, in contrast to the ones in Umar
Salim’s dreams, did not appear savage.
“Huh! They’re just like ordinary oxen, aren’t they?” Umar Salim was astonished.
“Exactly. A buffalo is just a wild ox, you know.”
“May I go over there?”
“They’d run away for sure. As soon as they catch the human scent, they’ll run off
without fail. Or the peacocks around them will definitely give a warning before they
smell us. A peacock has much sharper eyes.”
“Oh? There are peacocks too? Beautiful!3 I’ll try to get closer. Let’s go.”

Umar Salim slowly approached the herd of buffalo and their sentinel peacocks. The
ranger was amazed: both the peacocks and the herd of buffalo seemed extremely
placid, although they usually scattered as soon as they sensed someone approach.
Umar Salim drew ever closer. He made for a black bull with white mottling that covered
its hindquarters and extended down its legs as far down as the knees. The bull gave no
reaction whatsoever.
“Why is it so different from my dreams?” Umar Salim wondered silently. The female
buffalo, much more numerous and of a reddish-brown colour, also seemed extremely
tame.

The ranger guiding them grew increasingly dumbfounded. “Do you have some sort of
power to tame buffalo?” he asked from behind.
Umar Salim did not reply. He drew closer and closer to the bull. Once by its side he
stroked its belly; the bull merely glanced at him and licked his hand. Umar Salim’s hand
moved up to the bull’s neck and again the bull licked it. He grasped the bull’s curved,
sharp, glistening, black horns. The buffalo stayed calm, remaining submissive as Umar
Salim caressed its neck. Then he remembered the advice about buffalo meat. He
signalled the ranger to approach. Once he was near, Umar Salim grabbed the knife that
hung at the ranger’s waist. Before the ranger realised what was going on, the blade
had pierced the buffalo’s neck. The ranger was stunned. Flesh blood gushed forth. The
staff members escorting Umar Salim were stunned. The herd of female buffalo were
stunned. The peacocks were stunned as well. The bull snorted, more and more blood
spurting from its neck. Its eyes now blazed wildly.

Frightened, Umar Salim’s staff backed away slowly. The ranger also backed away
slowly. The herd began to snort and stir. The bull also began to stir. The staff and the
ranger scrambled away. The buffalo attacked. The peacocks fled. The bull, spouting
blood, toppled Umar Salim with a kick.

Amidst the dust and dry grass, in the morning air, still fresh, Umar Salim felt the bull’s
hooves jabbing his buttocks, his stomach, his chest. Amidst the sparkling of the sky he
felt the bull’s horns pounding his head. Blood from the bull’s neck spurted over his
body. His own blood began to ooze. He felt as though he were in a dream. The bull, its
neck bloodied, trampled and butted him again and again and again. His entire body
became red with gore as the bull trampled and butted him ever more vigorously.
Umar Salim lay supine, his vision dimming. Suddenly the bull vanished from his sight.
The wild buffalo that had all this time been pursuing him relentlessly in his dreams had
now disappeared. And now, it was as though Umar Salim had woken from a long
nightmare. A very long nightmare.4

Endnotes
1 A traditional medical practitioner in the societies of insular Southeast Asia, a ‘witch
doctor’.
2 Perlindungan dan Pengawetan Alam (‘Protection and Preservation of the
Environment’), the Indonesian equivalent of New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.
3 The Indonesian text uses the English word here.
4 This story first appeared in Horison, No. 7, Th. XX, July 1985 (Bertarung dengan Banteng).

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