October 7, 2014
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October 7, 2014

Sweeping the garden

Every morning the woman taking care of thehouse sweeps the front garden. Indeed leaves are falling during the day and night. These are small green-yellowish leaves from the Flamboyant tree (Delonix regia), and some bigger ones from a mango tree, and a clump from bamboo trees. They are scattered on the nice, brown-blackish colored soil. The scenery of fallen leaves is pleasant to look at as it reminds me of some paintings of the Impressionists.

It was a pity that the servant swept this scenery away. I wonder whether sweeping the garden every day is necessary. Instructing not to sweep everyday had no effect. She continues doing her early morning work without complaint or visible  annoyance, as she considers this as part of her duty. A clean front garden is not only fine for the family but it is also nice for neighbors and passers-by, eventual visitors and friends, but above all for herself, her respect and position as an excellent helper in the household. 

“Don’t try to change this routine. It is their custom” a friend told us. At the same time I realized the socio-cultural gap between tradition and modernization, between the past way of life and the present modern hectic lifestyle. In this and other “dusun” (hamlet) in Central Java (Indonesia), people still respect their “tradition”. When you take a stroll early in the morning (at sunrise, just after 05.00) you see mostly elderly and some younger women, and sometime a young man in front of his shop, sweeping their garden and a part of the street in front of it.

I remember this activity during my childhood in my aunt’s garden and in villages just behind her house. It is as if the time stands still. This habit has, however, a side effect namely adjacent streets are also clean and so are the dusun. Moreover this practice is taken by people moving to bigger cities. Their houses are mostly located in small alleys,  and these alleys are clean and are not smelly. A colleague who lived on the island New Caledonia (Pacific) said that he noticed neat- and cleanliness as he approached a Javanese village. Maybe I should appreciate my adaptation to a custom of past time.


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