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The Meilairean Reviews

A bookish branch of The Meilairean Wednesdays by Febriani Savitri.

Kemayoran by Nh. Dini

Kemayoran - Nh. Dini

I have been familiar with Nh. Dini's fame since I was in junior high school (approx. 14-15 years ago). Some excerpts of her works were featured in the linguistic and literature lessons in my school. I have intended to read her books since ever, though somehow this book is actually the first of her books I ever read.


Kemayoran is Dini's memoir as a stewardess. She chose to work after graduated high school instead of becoming a full time university student because she did not want to keep giving financial burden to her family. Despite being welcomed to stay at her uncle's place, she also worked hard to find a room for rent so that she would not be a burden, and so that she could get ready to work along with her colleagues. Besides working as a stewardess, she took French and B-1 History course to become a teacher. I personally admire Dini's hard working attitude and work ethics. The spoiled me is obviously nothing compared to her.


Gaining her superior's favor with her work ethics and passion in reading, she and her team (The Big Five) were promoted to serve the president and his honorary guests from The Soviet Union. Her sociability and intellectual features got her acquainted with many prominent figures she encountered during her work, including Soekarno and his favorite foreign journalist, Bernard Kalb. She also got acquainted with some foreigners, including her future husband. Many reviewers expressed their notice on Dini's sociability and openness to talk about things that were (and still are) taboo with men, such as pre-marital sex and domestic partnership. The way she interacted with her male friend reminded me of what Ayu Utami told in her memoir, Pengakuan Si Parasit Lajang. I did not feel surprised that she decided to stay together with her male friend in a hotel room during a gathering of literary authors and artists, though it must still be considered taboo among Indonesian traditional and religious society, especially during that age.


As a writer, Dini enjoyed people-watching a lot during her work and her break time, besides reading books. This book tells a lot about the people she observed and the life during The Liberal Democracy Period in Indonesia. She described the daily life of the only national airlines' employees in the 50s. She observed the distinct characteristics of different generations of air crew, as well as different ethnic group's habits from her colleagues' behavior. I like how I can learn about the life in the past through historical fictions and autobiographies like this. Dini also wrote her commentaries on some historical events that were occurred during her career as a stewardess, from Soekarno's agreement with Worosilov of the Soviet Union, the rise of some rebel movement such as PRRI; Permesta and Darul Islam, to the rise of Indonesian Communist PartyLekra (a literary and social movements associated with the Communist Party) and its counterparts from non-communist factions. Her commentaries are usually not explicit to the political aspect, instead they are more to their implications to the people.


This memoir is linked with Dini's four other memoirs from different phases of her life: Sekayu, Sebuah Lorong di Kotaku, Padang Ilalang di Belakang Rumah, and Kuncup Berseri. I have some of her other works in my TBR pile. Some of them are memoirs that took place in the periods after Kemayoran's time-frame, some others are fictions. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. I am looking forward to read a lot more of her works, especially her autobiographical books.