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Village Childhood (The Autobiography of A Minangkabau Child)

1. Oldest man in a clan or lineage, in some Malay-area societies; "nobleman" in another usage. Radjab uses the Minangkabau term, apparently, to mean ceremonial leader in his lineage, a sometimes elected post. Radjab uses the word here without further elaboration, although its meaning may well not be self-evident to Indonesians of other ethnic backgrounds. In this translation I shall forthwith use datuk without always giving an English kinship term afterward. [BACK]

2. As readers discover later in the translation, the boy's family is intimately connected to esoteric silat lore and self-defense practice. Minangkabau men are famous throughout Sumatra for their skills at the martial arts. [BACK]

3. A fruit with a smooth, yellowish-tan skin. The color is much admired in many Indonesian societies, especially for women. [BACK]

4. Minangkabau great houses once served as the residences for compound matrilineal households, consisting of an old woman, some of her sisters, and their daughters. These women's husbands would sleep in the house too, although their "own houses" were with their mothers and sisters. [BACK]

5. The rantau is the geographical and social realm outside a Minangkabau person's close-to-home domain. In this translation the word will be retained in its original form. [BACK]

6. The author uses the term aesthetika here. [BACK]

7. That is, Ridjal's father was set to make the pilgrimage to Mecca—a public demonstration of his great devoutness to Islam, and to his family's considerable wealth and prestige. [BACK]

8. The notion that returning haji pilgrims come home to Minangkabau laden down with dates is a common assumption in many Muslim parts of Sumatra. [BACK]

9. In everyday family conversation in many places in Sumatra children will often use kin terms of address in place of a simple "you" when talking to their parents. For instance, a child might say to the father, "Will Father take me along to the market?" [BACK]

10. Engku Sutan, with an extra honorific. [BACK]

11. The author has switched from "stepmother" to "mother" here. Later in the narrative he often uses "Ibu" (Mother) as his term for referring to his step-mothers. [BACK]

12. Banyan trees are reputed to be the abode of large populations of spirit beings. [BACK]

1. From the small Muslim recitation-school, dormitory, and prayer mosque. [BACK]

2. Radjab does not specify if this school fee is for a month or a week or what. [BACK]

3. In Arabic, in the text. [BACK]

1. That is, to sleep with their wives (the group of sisters living there in the great house with their mother and aunts). [BACK]

2. Nenek-nenek . This word is not marked for gender and could also mean grandfathers and grandmothers. [BACK]

3. This phrase resembles oratory passages used throughout Sumatra, to laud the unitary nature of important social groups. [BACK]

4. By our sifat and our suara hati sendiri : our qualities, features, looks, characteristics, and the voice of our hearts. [BACK]

5. Another evocation of oratory, similar to that in note 4. [BACK]

6. Tapanuli here could mean Toba, Angkola, or Mandailing. [BACK]

7. Dialek Minangkabau . [BACK]

8. A dukun . [BACK]

9. Another section of the Arabic prayers. [BACK]

1. Hilalang grass. [BACK]

1. Jambak is a sort of fruit ( Eugenia jambus ). Jambak-jambak refers to fruits like jambus , or roseapples. [BACK]

2. Sunat means circumcision, and sunat prayers are special ones for that ritual occasion. [BACK]

3. Sembayang and zikir in the original. [BACK]

1. The author uses no question mark here. [BACK]

1. King bananas ( pisang raja ) are great delicacies in Sumatra. Their skin is deep yellow, and their meat is sweet, fragrant, firm, slick, and juicy. [BACK]

1. In Minangkabau, young men living off in the rantau (the precincts outside their home villages) who are already established as promising merchants are considered much more attractive as husbands than are young men "left behind at home." Young merchants typically receive handsome money gifts from their new in-laws; they add luster to their bride's family line. [BACK]

1. The word for sibling here, adik , is not marked for gender so it is uncertain whether this half-sibling was a girl or a boy. The author does not mention a halfbrother anywhere else in the text, however. [BACK]

1. Uda is a Minangkabau kinship term of address, which the author then translates into an Indonesian near-equivalent. [BACK]

2. Durian is a pungent-smelling, soft-fleshed, creamy colored fruit covered with a spiky green or tan rind. It is hugely pupular in Sumatra. [BACK]

3. "Aggressif" in the text. [BACK]

4. A style of mannered high-stepping used in Minangkabau martial arts. [BACK]

5. A selamatan is a communal meal designed to give thanks for important events, and to secure continued spiritual blessings for the assembled participants. [BACK]

1. Lungguk : a "haystack" of cut rice stalks. [BACK]

2. Mustahil , a word borrowed from Arabic, in common Indonesian usage. [BACK]

3. A respectful term of address for older female lineage relatives in Minangkabau. [BACK]

4. Komprang pants are a sort of bell-bottom trousers. A destar is a Batik cloth head covering, suitable for ceremonial occasions. [BACK]

1. Islamic theological writing in Arabic is phrased in different texts at different levels of difficulty and abstruseness. At this point in their studies, the boys did not control much of the more esoteric writing. [BACK]

2. Haji means that the uncle has made the pilgrimage to Mecca. [BACK]

3. The usage here is "fanatik." [BACK]

4. Literally, in a form of Arabic of such a high level that it cannot even be written about. [BACK]

5. Pelekat is an ornate, heavy cloth, sometimes shot through with fancy metallic threads. [BACK]

6. The Kaum muda , the Younger Generation. [BACK]

7. The Kaum tua , the Old Generation. [BACK]

1. Bismillahi : "in the name of God" in Arabic. Often said as part of grace before beginning a meal. "My beloved little sister": adindaku yang tercinta in the text. The sibling terms adik and kakak are often used between boyfriends and girlfriends in the formal prose of Sumatran letter writing. [BACK]

1. I am uncertain of the translation of this difficult idiom ("termakan tjirit berendang"). [BACK]

2. Ondeh-ondeh : rice flour cakes filled with sweetened, mashed mung beans and sesame seeds. It was fried and sold on market day or made at home on holidays. [BACK]

3. Minangkabau townspeople and villagers typically boil water for drinking, as unboiled water is considered likely to cause diseases. [BACK]

1. "Older Sister" here could refer to any of a number of older female relatives. [BACK]

1. The story of Malim Kundang is a familiar one throughout Sumatra. It concerns a young man, Malim Kundang, who curses his mother and is immediately turned to stone as a supernatural punishment. [BACK]

1. A dukun is a folk healer, diagnostician, spellcaster, and spell remover. [BACK]

1. Apparently Haji Rasul had divorced two of his four wives, giving him the opportunity to marry a young, new one. [BACK]

2. Marah Rusli's novel Sitti Nurbaya (Radjab uses the spelling Siti Nurbaya ) concerns a young Minangkabau girl who falls in love with a boy her own age but is forced by her family to marry a rich merchant, Datuk Meringgih. The novelist argues that such ''hidebound" family practices laid waste to young people's lives. [BACK]

3. Astaga is a common Sumatran exclamation of surprise, one with an Arabic, Muslim tone to it. [BACK]

4. That is, under the croton plants. Note Radjab's mention of these plants in relation to memories of his mother, in chapter 1. [BACK]

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