Life of a young juragang
By Chozin Muhammad
I was lucky to know Hassan, an upcoming young juragang (juragang or punggawa is reffered as patron in English -- Ed). He graciously permitted me to stay free of charge in his house during my research. While I was there, he gave me everything: shelter, food, friendship, and more importantly, abundant information about fishing. He patiently answered my questions even when he was busy with his daily activities; I often interviewed him when he was supposed to take a rest.
He trusted me fully. He invited me to join his boat while they were doing blast fishing offshore. And lastly, he generously allowed me to interview all of his sawis (crews) without exception.
Hassan was the most impressive person during my research. At the age of 19, he is very young to be a juragang, responsible for two fishing boats with total of 15 sawi, but seemed to be doing well. In 2004, his father, an important juragang, gave Hassan the boats after he got married. Like most boys in the village, after graduation from elementary school, Hassan preferred to join the fishing boats rather than continue on into high school.
His father wanted him to continue the family business. From an early age his father taught him everything about fishing. In his father's opinion, the best school for fishermen is on the sea, and there is no need for formal schooling. That was also what Hassan wanted. His dream was to make money and then get married.
Hassan is married to a beautiful 16-year-old girl from the same island. He married her as soon as she graduated from junior high school. She is the daughter of another juragang. This is Hassan's second marriage. His first marriage, in 2001, was arranged. It ended in divorce. Hassan said he never really loved his first wife. His current wife is his true love. He loves her dearly and they are blessed with a one-year-old daughter.
As a young juragang, Hassan is economically much better off than any other young man in his village. He has luxuries such as a furnished house, an audio set, golden jewelry for his wife, and a flat, wide-screen TV. While I was there, he was building a new house not far from his family home. While the house was under construction, he stayed at his sister's house, also close to the family home.
His brother-in-law is a successful fish trader in Makassar. He rented his house to Hassan since he has another one in Makassar. Hassan lives with his wife, his daughter, and a sister of his wife. The house seems to be open for everybody. There were always people from the neighborhood who come and go. They hang out and watch TV. Hassan puts another TV on the porch so people could watch it anytime. His sawi are there almost every night, often sleeping over, till Hassan rousts them out early in the morning to go fishing.
Hassan's fishing crew are solid sawis. They always communicate with each other freely and seem to have fun whenever they go fishing. Most of the crews have close family ties with Hassan's family. Two of them are his cousins and others are extended family members.
Each has a different job depending on their expertise. Almost all of them are expert at operating the boat. Three of them are bomb experts, while two members are expert at diving.
Even though most of them are older than Hassan, they follow his orders. At the same time, Hassan always tries work harder than they do. On the boat, Hassan is the captain, but he is a diver. He takes that job because it poses the highest risk. It is dangerous to dive deeper than 30 meters. Only few people want to do it. Many islanders die while diving, and many who survive in diving accidents are paralyzed for life. Hassan's brother is one of those. Regarding this hard work, Hassan said:
"I work harder than others because I am the one responsible for everything that happens on the boat. As a juragang, I feel ashamed if I know nothing. They will lose their courage if they see me as a weak person."14
Hassan's father is an important juragang. Other than having several boats, he connects other juragangs, including Hassan, to dynamite suppliers outside the island. Hassan always gets his bomb materials from his father. As a long-time big blast fisherman, Hassan's father has experienced some accidents. He also has been caught by a marine police and has been in jail. Lately, he has not been able to walk properly because his feet are weak.
During his time as a diver he had three accidents. When he was just a young sawi, diving was his specialty. As a diver, he managed to save money to buy a boat so later he becomes a juragang. He worked hard in his early years. Even after he became a juragang, he continued to be the diver. After an accident that almost killed him, he quitted diving. Now, he is a successful juragang with three fishing boats operated by his sawi.
During his career in blast fishing, he was caught twice by marine police and jailed for several days until he bribed the police and the court. Each time he got caught by the police, it cost him about 60 million rupiah (around $6000) in bribes. Therefore, every juragang has to save money for bribes in case their boat is confiscated by the police.
In addition, every month, a police officer from Makassar comes to take money from juragangs. Islanders said the money is given as a security fee. Juragangs provide the money to avoid penalties whenever they are caught by the police.
As a juragang, Hassan's father went on pilgrimage to Mecca three times. Therefore, people in the island call him Pak Haji (an attribute to somebody who has made hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca). He always wears his white cap, the symbol of a haji, when he goes outside. Nevertheless, I never saw him practice the most principal obligation for a Muslim. He does not pray five times a day. It seems that he feels he has already completed his duty as a Muslim by doing hajj. This belief is common among Muslims on the island. Somebody who has done hajj has already completed his religious obligation. This person does not need to pray.
© 2011 Chozin Muhammad
Also in this section :
Social Relationships on Balobaloang
Illegal but common: life of blast fishermen
History of blast fishing
After Indonesian independence
Patron-client relationship in blast fishing groups
Life of a young juragang
Life of a sawi
Religious and cultural values of blast fishermen
The role of women in blast fishing
The relationship between blast fishermen and other fishermen