Bathing, through generations

11 04 2008

‘Bangun tidur kuterus mandi…’ This is the first line of an Indonesian children’s song that I remember about the habit of washing ourselves in the morning. This habit is a ‘taboo’ on holidays or Sundays, because on these days we tend to be too lazy to take a bath as early as usual. However, the habit of bathing, especially in the morning, is good to make us fresh to start the day.

Ones of the things that I could not find in the Netherlands were bath tank and water dipper. Obviously they are not known in the Netherlands. They only have badkuip or bathtubs and shower there. Bath tanks, even if they exist, must be of a giant size, which are called (swimming) pools. Therefore, in the old Dutch, there were only baden (to bathe in the rivers or ponds) and douchen (to take a shower). After it was known to them how we, Indonesians, wash ourselves (mandi in Indonesian), then mandiën entered into Dutch vocabulary. Along with it were the words mandiebak (bath tank, or bak mandi in Indonesia), mandiekamer (bathroom, or kamar mandi in Indonesian), and gajoeng (water dipper, or gayung in Indonesian). The list does not stop here, a literary man Louis Couperus even said that the term sirammen (siram in Indonesian) is also used related to activity of washing ourselves.

For Dutchmen who have lived in the East Indies, cleansing is a very interesting matter, because in their homeland cleansing it is a constraint, especially during winter. They usually did not take a bath, but rather splash water into their bodies and wiped them. All they needed is to spray some perfume, and that’s all. So, when they arrived in this tropical country, they found that bathing was a must for them, especially when they did not want to smell bad.

According to historian Anthony Reid, the abundant supply of water is one of the characteristics of tropical countries, especially in South East Asian countries. Therefore, they did not seem to worry about running out of water. In fact, they even look ‘wasteful’ when it comes to washing their bodies. However, water supply in several regions currently starts to become a concern.

In the 17th century, Asian people had the habit of washing their body in free flowing water, as opposed to European people who showed antipathy to it. Since the Asian people chose rivers to wash themselves, they tend to live along them.

If they found no river, they would pour a pail of well water onto their head. In this way, they kept bacteria from the lower part of their body away from their heads. This practice is safer than washing ourselves by bathing in tubs shared with all family members – from the oldest to the youngest ones (babies) – as found with people living in cold winter climate (Europe).

During VOC era, Dutchwomen, like Portuguese women, were ‘braver’ than their men in terms of dealing with water. The Dutchmen were ‘scared’ of water, or too reluctant to take a bath. Actually, there were pros and contras among Batavian Dutchmen themselves. Those who were accustomed to taking a bath felt uncomfortable when they did not do it. In those days, they used the word wassen (wash), instead of baden (bathe).

The group that saw the importance of taking a bath issued a special regulation to all VOC soldiers, requiring them to take a bath every eight or ten days. However, many did not comply with this regulation as required. They did not want to take a bath. Consequently, another regulation was issued stipulating that VOC soldiers in Rijswijk should not have been forced to take a bath once a week.

In 1804, an anti-bathing group received a support from Keuchenius, a doctor. He said that bathing was not necessary and was even considered bad for health. By this, Keuchenius actually referred to their bathing places – rivers – which were then described by J. Rach in details.

The bathing place during the VOC era, was called paviljoentjes and was a part of a luxurious building owned by VOC high officials. Under their bathing place, which was like an audience hall, there was a kind of cage with wooden bars. One who wished to cleanse would get down into the cage. Of course, this was in an open air.

However, in the 18th century, there were closed and half-closed bathrooms. Such as the one that belonged to Reinier de Klerk on Gadjah Mada Str. (now the National Archive building). According to F. De Haan, in Oud Batavia (1922), there were also big houses with waschhuis (wash house) in the backyard. In the unroofed structure, there was a wooden barrel and a water dipper. This kind of place was usually called mandihok (washing cage).

In the subsequent era, through olden time photographs, we can see wells in the backyard of Dutchmen’s houses. They functioned as springs of which the water would used for the bathrooms. Those bathrooms were also huge. Such as the one in my grandmother’s house in Menteng (already ruined); it was 2 m x 1.5 m x 1 m in size. In order to be able to clean it, we have to get into it.

Justus van Maurik, a cigar businessman from Amsterdam, wrote about bathing. He said in some East Indies hotels there was a warning hung on the wall:
Het is verboden in den mandiebak te baden of het water met zeep te verontreinigen.” (Don’t get into the bath tank; do not dirty the water with soap).

Interestingly, on June 1, 1861, a businessman called Victor Thornerieux established a hotel in Molenvliet (around Harmoni) which was called Hotel de l’Univers. Perhaps it was aimed at competing with des Indes Hotel just across the street and to look different from it, in an advertisement released by him, it is said that the Hotel de l’Univers was equipped with a bathing pool using river water!

Meanwhile, Augusta de Wit, a Dutch tourist who visited Java at the end of the 19th century, talked about his impression of bathing. In his opinion, taking a bath several times a day was a must. Those who did not do it would not be deemed as decorous. Bathing in the East Indies was different from that in Europe. In Europe, he usually only soaked in the tub, but in the East Indies he had to splash his entire body with a lot of water using a water dipper. It was such a luxury for body and soul, he wrote.

Living in the Netherlands, I miss the days when I bathed with a lot of water using water dipper. It feels like there is something missing, either in terms of the splash of the water or its freshness.

So, if you are accustomed to washing your body like you usually do in Indonesia, just don’t expect to find bath tanks in the Netherlands. Even if you yearn to take a bath in the river, don’t jump into the grachten (canals) there, because you would violate the law. The water is dirty anyway.

While, if you are in Indonesia, please remember one thing when you take a bath: Don’t waste too much water inconsiderately. Save water because many people in other regions experience droughts and are in severe need of water. Related to the issue of saving water, I once saw in an Amsterdam store a t-shirt with a text that reads: Save the water, I drink beer! I think in Jakarta we can replace it with: Save the water, I drink bajigur (bajigur is a West Javanese drink, served while warm, with the warm sensation of ginger, coconut milk, and palm sugar)


Mandi dari Masa ke Masa

17 02 2008

‘Bangun tidur kuterus mandi…’ Inilah penggalan lagu anak-anak di Indonesia yang saya ingat mengenai kebiasaan di pagi hari. Kebiasaan yang ‘tabu’ dilakukan pada hari libur atau Minggu karena pada hari itu kita cenderung bermalas-malasan sebelum mandi. Namun, kebiasaan mandi khususnya di pagi hari, baik untuk kesegaran, memulai hari kita.

Ada satu hal yang tidak saya temui di Belanda yaitu bak mandi plus gayungnya. Tentu saja karena bak mandi tidak dikenal di Belanda. Di Belanda hanya ada badkuip atau bathtub dan pancuran (shower). Kalau pun ada bak, itu juga yang berukuran besar alias kolam (renang). Oleh karena itu dalam bahasa Belanda sebelumnya hanya dikenal baden (mandi di kolam atau sungai) dan douchen (mandi dengan pancuran). Barulah setelah mandi dikenal oleh mereka, kosakata mandiën akhirnya masuk dalam bahasa Belanda. Termasuk kata mandiebak (bak mandi), mandiekamer (kamar mandi), dan gajoeng (gayung). Tidak hanya itu, menurut sastrawan Louis Couperus, istilah sirammen juga dipakai yang mengacu pada urusan membersihkan tubuh ini.

Urusan membersihkan diri ini bagi orang Belanda yang pernah tinggal di Hindia Belanda tentu sangat menarik karena di negeri asal mereka, apalagi jika musim dingin, mandi adalah suatu keterpaksaan. Bagi mereka tak perlu mandi, cukup membasuh atau mengelap tubuhnya. Lalu disemprotkan parfum, selesailah sudah. Maka ketika mereka menginjakkan kaki di negeri tropis ini, kebiasaan mandi adalah suatu keharusan. Jika tidak mau tubuhnya berbau harum.

Menurut sejarawan Anthony Reid, melimpahnya air merupakan salah satu ciri negeri tropis, khususnya Asia Tenggara. Oleh karena itu kelihatannya mereka tak perlu khawatir kehabisan air dan seolah tampak ‘boros’ jika membersihkan tubuh. Namun, saat ini persediaan air di beberapa kawasan dapat dikatakan begitu mengkhawatirkan.

Pada abad ke-17 orang Asia lebih dahulu memiliki kebiasaan mandi dengan menggunakan air mengalir dibandingkan orang Eropa yang antipati dengan kebiasaan itu. Orang Asia telah memanfaatkan sungai sebagai tempat untuk membersihkan tubuh. Oleh karena itu mereka senang tinggal di tepi aliran sungai.

Jika tidak ada sungai, orang menuangkan seember air sumur di kepala mereka. Cara mandi seperti ini cenderung melarutkan bakteri tubuh bagian bawah menjauh dari kepala. Praktik ini lebih aman dibandingkan dengan mandi di dalam bak yang sama untuk semua anggota keluarga. Dimulai dari anggota keluarga tertua sampai termuda (bayi). Seperti yang dilakukan di negeri bercuaca dingin (Eropa).

Pada masa VOC, seperti halnya orang Portugis, orang Belanda yang ‘lebih berani’ pada air adalah kaum perempuan. Sementara itu kaum prianya ‘takut’ air alias enggan untuk mandi. Di kalangan orang Belanda di Batavia sendiri ada yang berpendapat pro dan kontra. Mereka yang terbiasa mandi, merasa tidak nyaman jika tidak mandi. Saat itu istilah yang dipakai adalah wassen (mencuci), bukan baden (mandi).

Pihak yang menganggap pentingnya mandi mengeluarkan peraturan khusus untuk para serdadu VOC yang mewajibkan mereka mandi setiap delapan atau sepuluh hari sekali. Namun, peraturan itu tak dipatuhi sebagaimana mestinya. Tetap saja mereka tak mau mandi. Maka dikeluarkan lagi peraturan susulan. Isinya para serdadu VOC di Rijswijk tidak boleh dipaksa mandi seminggu sekali.

Pada 1804, kelompok yang anti mandi mendapat angin dari Keuchenius, seorang dokter. Ia menyatakan mandi tidak perlu dan tidak baik untuk kesehatan. Keuchenius mengacu pada tempat mandi mereka di sungai yang secara detil digambarkan oleh J. Rach.

Tempat-tempat mandi pada masa VOC itu disebut paviljoentjes dan merupakan salah satu bagian dari gedung-gedung mewah milik para pembesar VOC. Di bawah tempat mandi berbentuk paseban itu dibuat semacam kerangkeng berterali kayu. Dalam kandang itulah, orang yang akan mandi turun ke bawah. Jelas, tempat mandi ini berada di udara terbuka.

Namun, pada abad ke-18 itu sudah ada pula kamar mandi tertutup dan setengah tertutup. Misalnya di halaman milik Reinier de Klerk di Jalan Gajah Mada (sekarang gedung Arsip Nasional). Menurut F. De Haan dalam Oud Batavia (1922) ada pula rumah-rumah besar pada masa itu yang memiliki waschhuis (rumah cuci) di halaman belakang rumah. Di tempat yang tak beratap itu disediakan tahang/tong kayu beserta gayung. Tempat semacam itu seringpula disebut mandihok (kandang mandi).

Pada masa berikutnya, melalui foto-foto tempo doeloe kita bisa menyaksikan sumur di halaman belakang rumah milik orang Belanda yang berfungsi sebagai sumber air kamar mandi. Kamar mandinya pun besar. Seperti kamar mandi rumah nenek saya di daerah Menteng (sekarang sudah rata dengan tanah) yang berukuran 2 x 1,5 x 1 meter. Jika harus membersihkannya kita pun harus masuk ke dalamnya.

Justus van Maurik, seorang pengusaha cerutu asal Amsterdam ini menceritakan masalah mandi ini. Menurutnya, di beberapa hotel di Hindia tergantung papan peringatan:
Het is verboden in den mandiebak te baden of het water met zeep te verontreinigen.” (Dilarang masuk ke dalam bak mandi atau mengotori air dengan sabun).

Menariknya pada 1 Juni 1861, seorang pengusaha bernama Victor Thornerieux membuka sebuah hotel di Molenvliet (di kawasan Harmoni) yang diberi nama Hotel de l’Univers, mungkin sebagai saingan dan membedakan dengan Hotel des Indes di seberangnya. Menurut iklan yang dipasangnya, Hotel de l’Univers dilengkapi dengan kolam mandi berisi air kali!

Sementara itu Augusta de Wit, salah seorang turis Belanda yang berkunjung ke Jawa pada akhir abad ke-19 menuturkan kesannya tentang mandi. Menurutnya mandi beberapa kali sehari adalah keharusan. Kalau tidak mandi berarti tidak sopan. Mandi di Hindia pun berbeda dengan di Eropa. Di Eropa ia biasanya hanya berendam tapi di Hindia ia harus mengguyur badan dengan bergayung-gayung air. Suatu kenikmatan untuk jiwa dan raga, tulisnya.

Ketika tinggal di Belanda, saya pun merindukan mandi gebyar-gebyur seperti di tanah air. Rasanya ada yang hilang, baik suaranya maupun kesegarannya. Maklum saja di sana, air begitu dihemat dan bila musim dingin, tak kuatlah badan kita mandi air dingin. Jadi bagi Anda yang terbiasa mandi gebyar-gebyur dengan gayung jangan harap bisa menemukan bak mandi di Belanda. Kalaupun rindu mandi di sungai, janganlah juga langsung ingin mandi di grachten (kanal-kanal) di sana karena bisa dianggap menganggu ketertiban dan disangka mabok. Lagipula airnya juga kotor.

Sebaliknya kita di Indonesia pun harus ingat jika mandi. Jangan terlalu memboroskan air yang tak perlu. Hemat-hematlah penggunaan air karena masih banyak orang di daerah lain yang kekeringan dan memerlukan air. Menyinggung masalah menghemat air, di sebuah toko di Amsterdam saya pernah melihat t-shirt bertuliskan unik: Save the water, I drink beer! Mungkin di Jakarta tulisan itu dapat kita ganti: Save the water, I drink bajigur!