National Geographic : 1971 Jan
National Geographic, January 1971 perhaps 3 percent, are Christians. Sukarno, to his credit, believed in equality of religions. But now, I fear, the orthodox right-wing Mos lems are trying to make Indonesia the Moslem state it has never been. "And of course the old systems of corrup tion continue, despite the best intentions of the present administration. One good thing: We have a new governor, a young man with new ideas. Perhaps he will sweep away some of the old decay." Bandung Thrives as a Place of Learning The governor, Major General Solichin, shared the cleric's views about the state of his capital city. "I feel sorry that things are so bad after so long. I will not stand by and let ills go uncorrected. In any case you will find the true Java in the interior, away from the cities. Go where you please, do as you please, think and write what you please." Apart from a devoted cleric and a dedi cated governor, Bandung boasts a large aca demic community. There is a regional liberal arts college, a teachers' college, and the famous Bandung Institute of Technology, a national university. It was here, some 45 years ago, that a young engineering student known as the "Fighting Cock" or, more officially, as Sukarno, first made himself heard. The government owns the institute and pays the small salaries ($30 to $40 a month) of its professors. One of these, Dr. Oei Ban Liang, showed me around. "We are chronically short of funds," he said, "but we have the necessities for teach ing a five-year course leading to a degree similar to your master's. We have 6,000 stu dents here and a faculty of 370, of whom 200 have had training in the United States." One such was Dr. Bambang Hidajat, the youthful chief of the excellent Bosscha Ob servatory on the hills north of Bandung. At his invitation I joined him there later in the day. He showed me his treasured telescopes. "My own project at the moment is to seek undiscovered young stars," he said. The valley below the observatory in which Dr. Hidajat conducts his specialized search contains one of the loveliest landscapes in Java, hence in the world. Here several kam pongs lie fitted into the gentle curves of the valley floor, tree shaded and still. Their fields spread across the lower lands; their terraces, fashioned with such perfection that they seem sculptured rather than constructed, rise, nar rowing, to the very tops of the mountains. So idyllic, so impossibly pastoral is this scene that it lacks reality. It seems, in the fast falling equatorial dusk, to be the setting for some serene dream. Down below, peasants awaiting supper sing songs of philosophies a thousand years old; here on the hill the young astronomer, blood of their ancestral blood, probes the universe with wonderful instru ments in his search for new stars. Power for Factories, Water for Rice Though Bandung and its environs are short on industry, as are all Javanese cities at the moment, the region has maintained some of its European-created production centers in admirable condition. One is a 73-year-old quinine factory, once the world's biggest. An other is the tea estate and processing plant called Malabar (opposite), Dutch built and now government owned, where 2,500 people work 4,200 well-tended acres. Farther away, but still a source of pride, is the Djatiluhur dam and hydroelectric plant on the Tji Tarum, which will not only produce badly needed electricity (there is a contingency candle in every hotel room in Java) but will irrigate 725,000 acres of rice land as well. An old industry, weaving, has been revived near Bandung. In a fairly modern plant, owned by a rich Chinese, I watched some 200 men operating Japanese-built power looms for about $7.00 U. S. a week and lunch. In another establishment owned by a not-so -rich Chinese, forty or fifty women and girls sat clustered on the earth floor, cranking little wooden-wheeled devices that wound thread onto bobbins (pages 18-19). I asked the age of one of the smaller girls. "She does not know," I was told. "But probably she is 10." How much did she make? "See, she is too small to turn her wheel very fast. She could Essential stimulant to Java's economy, a river of tea leaves flows from the government-owned Malabar plantation near Bandung. The batik-clad worker uses a vibrating sieve to remove fine particles of the green Assam tea from leaves and buds, which she then grades by hand. Introduced as an estate crop in 1827, tea now ranks as a major agricultural export. Others include rubber, tobacco, sugar, coffee, palm oil, copra, and cinchona-source of natural quinine. EKTACHROME © N.G.S.