Jakarta Post: Isabella Apriyana| April 09, 2012
The long history of Indonesia is replete with kingdoms that at different times ruled over swaths of the archipelago. Raden Radite Ajie Pamungkas, the youngest and only son of four siblings, is genetically an inseparable part of one of those kingdoms.
The chatty and outgoing final-year accounting student at Bina Nusantara University in Jakarta, who also works as an auditor, has a sealed fate of blue blood in his veins.
Trying initially to escape his conservative family, the 21-year-old Je — his nickname — now finds that Jakarta is nothing but a momentary and refreshing escape from his proud heritage.
What does your name mean?
Radite means son of the sun, Ajie means power, Pamungkas means the ultimate or greatest. Altogether, it means the son of the sun with ultimate power. Raden is my royal title.
Tell us about your parents.
They both have their own share of royal bloodlines. My father’s is connected to the Yogyakarta Kraton, while my maternal grandmother lost her acknowledgement because she married a commoner. Since Javanese culture embraces paternalism, my mother remained a commoner until she married my father.
From all the complicated stories I’ve been told [laughs], my father’s family can be traced back to the Mataram Kingdom. In ancient times, a king could have many mistresses, bearing many children. Over time, many royal members were sent out of the main palace and given their own territory to rule. My great-grandfather had his territory in an area called Buton, near Purwokerto in Central Java.
How differently do Jakartans and people back in your hometown treat you?
In Purwokerto, especially when visiting my great-grandfather’s ‘territory,’ my family is very much respected by residents. Sometimes, it would bother me when the elderly offered their most polite salutations or wouldn’t dare make eye contact with me in a conversation. But at the same time, I should respect the elderly. That’s confusing. I even had teachers who would go so far as giving me good grades simply because of who I was [smiles].
But now in Jakarta I’m nobody [laughs]. I take public transportation to work and friends who know about my bloodline enjoy making fun of me. They’ll say, ‘Let’s get him to smoke, let’s get him drunk’ and so on. Sometimes, it is annoying.
Why move to Jakarta?
I got a college scholarship to study in Jakarta. Also, at the time, I felt uncomfortable living in such a fanatic and conservative environment. My father and his family are very strict Javanese and I had trouble logically accepting some of their rules and traditions. For example, the importance of having a son is very discriminatory in my opinion. Or when an elderly person speaks, you may not question them, whether out of curiosity or if you disagree with them. Then there are the fasting and meditation rituals. But now I badly want to go back and live in Purwokerto.
Why the change of heart?
I didn’t have trouble adapting to college, but now that I’m working, I’ve found several simple things that bother me. For example, it’s common here to casually chitchat with your boss or take a document from in front of your boss in a meeting without asking permission first. It is not something I was taught to do. Respecting your elders or superiors is very important, but it would be awkward if I kept asking permission for things when people think it’s unnecessary.
On the other hand, I was introduced to debating here in Jakarta. I like it because I can speak my mind and put a reasonable perspective on things. But when debating things like alcohol, drugs or public displays of affection, I feel uncomfortable being on the affirmative side. I think that deep down I don’t fit into the Jakarta lifestyle.
So were you royally pampered since the day you were born?
No, I was actually born in Aceh and lived there for 10 years because of my father’s work. We then moved back to my father’s hometown of Purwokerto and stayed in a ‘commoner’s’ house.
Since my grandfather’s time, the rule has been that we may leave our ‘territory’ but whenever a royal event or ritual is held, we must come back.
Are your parents encouraging you to marry another royal?
Luckily, no. They will let me decide on this one. But people in my hometown have urged me to marry a local girl. They told me to get married first, before I went to study in Jakarta [laughs]. Fortunately, my parents disagreed because they wanted me to focus on my education.
Will you pass all these traditions on to your children?
I think the traditions involving the heavy rituals and cosmic spirituality will be lost in my generation. I think my father’s generation failed to introduce them properly, because he only dictated. But I will proudly pass on the more sensible traditions, such as the language, ethics and table manners, to the next generation. I want my children to acknowledge and be proud of their culture and traditions. For example, I would prefer that my children learn Javanese dances.
Raden Radite Ajie Pamungkas was talking to Isabella Apriyana.