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Ketiban Sampur: A Javanese Idiom

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I WAS BUT shocked when a fellow member of NBC (Nasi Bungkus Community) told me one Friday morning, "Masbro, sampean ketiban sampur ya. Dadi ketua panitia kurban." This is how her sentence would sound in English, "Ya bro, you're ketiban sampur. You've been appointed to be the head committee of kurban."
Our short conversation reminds me of a long forgotten idiom in Javanese. Ketiban sampur is a Javanese idiomatic expression that denotes a condition when someone is assigned to carry particular responsibility which he does not desire or expect. 

The origin of ketiban sampur Ketiban sampur is derived from a dance party known as tayub. The phrase is composed of two main words: ketiban and sampur. Ketiban indicates an unexpected windfall whereas sampur refers to the shawl worn by female dancers in the tayub. The narrow and long shawl is normally placed over their shoulders or tied to their hips when dancing. Accompanied by traditional instrument called gamelan, the d…

Ojo Cedak Kebo Gupak

MY WIFE AND I were a bit alarmed when Pak Rajin (not real name—literally means Mr. Diligent) hadn’t shown up for two weeks now. It is his habit to come over as other people in the neighborhood have relied on him too to clean up their garden. As for us, we sometimes asked him to buy flowers to replace the old ones. Now we’re wondering why the diligent man who speaks a little has seemed to disappear. We would like to assume he has returned home to his village since rice crop is progressing. It’s likely he is harvesting paddy in his own fields or his neighbors’.
When he finally showed up two weeks later, I immediately invited him to clean up our yard. Dried leaves and long lawn are everywhere.
“I haven’t seen you for a while now. Have you been home?” I asked.
He smiled and replied, “I was but jailed, sir.”
My wife and I were shocked. “Don’t be kidding! Why on earth were you jailed?”
He told us he was watching his neighbors gambling when policemen came to arrest him. He was alleged to join the…