Text and pictures by Eki Qushay Akhwan
Today, August 17th, sixty three years ago, Indonesia proclaimed its independence. The history about our country's struggle for independence, our flag, and our coat of arms (the quintessential symbols of our existence as a nation state), may be found anywhere else on the internet. So, instead of picturing those symbols, allow me to share with you today the story of an individual; an eye-witness to our struggle for independence and for defending it against the colonial forces that was trying to recapture their former colony and subdue our independence.
He might be a nobody. He might look like anybody. He's old and fragile. But it was for him and people like him that we now enjoy our independence.
His name is Saleh. A simple name. No title. No glittering stars decorating his chest. Only two simple and worn-out medals recognizing the service he had given to his country. He's wearing them proudly today. He's a fragile 78 year old man now. He was barely 15 when Indonesia proclaimed its independence. Yet, when the duty called to defend the young Republic, he unhesitantly raised his arms: ready to give his life to defend his rights, his people's rights, and the rights of all human kinds - freedom!
I met him today at the Gasibu Square (the field in front of Gedung Sate, Bandung, West Java's governor's office mansion), just after the ceremony commemorating the 63rd anniversary of our proclamation of independence. He's still very much spirited when I asked him to share the story about the battles that took place in Bandung and its surrounding areas to defend the young Republic.
I hope we will never forget men and women like him who fought for our independence. Our independence did not come as a free gift. We should never take it for granted. It is our turn now to give our best, so that the country that he and many others like him had helped established may prosper and have a dignified place among nations.