Putu Wijaya

Illustration by Dianna Xu


GURU lies stretched out on a chair, sore with his head bandaged. He’s wearing a sarong. He slowly and painfully rises to his feet but immediately falls back into the chair. He gets up again but falls again. He tries to get up again for the third time and succeeds. But then his right leg falls off. He yells in pain and sits again. He picks up his right leg and stuffs it into his sarong.

GURU:  But I’m not sorry I became a guru. I’m poor, dismembered, even though I’ve done nothing wrong. Luckily, I’ve only lost a leg. Such is a teacher’s fate in the third world. As long as I don’t lose my head or feelings, I can hold out until I lose my very last drop of blood. (Wild applause is heard.) No need for applause, I’m not campaigning. I just want to say: if you’re not ready to sacrifice, don’t become a guru. Who makes me do it? There’s only one thing I regret. Only one thing. Something small, but very important.

VOICE:  What?

GURU:  They aren’t all benefiting from my struggle.

VOICE:  “They” who?

GURU:  All of them! Neighbors, people I know, the people here, or there, anywhere, big or small. There’s not a single one who cares about making sacrifices. Everyone just thinks about themselves. Devils!

VOICE:  My, my. Your blood pressure’s rising!

GURU:  So what! I am also an average human with emotions. I’m not a robot! I’m exhausted and fed up. What next? Take it out on the students? Resort to profanity? (Screams at the top of his lungs until he’s out of breath.) Giant wiener! Monster dick!

VOICE:  Okay, feel better?

(GURU suddenly feels well. He takes off his sarong and gets up with a cane. He appears healthy.)

GURU:  Actually, I feel better when I talk dirty.

VOICE:  So, even though you’re a guru, you’re still an average human sinner.

GURU:  True. You know it! (Taken aback.) Hey, whom am I talking to?

(GURU looks around him.)

GURU:  Who’s that over there?

(His voice echoes loudly. GURU freaks out.)

GURU:  Who’s there?

(His voice echoes more loudly. Each echo pummels GURU harder and harder until he falls. GURU gets up quickly. Then he asks politely.)

GURU:  Who are you? Am I speaking to my innermost thoughts like Bima when he met Dewa Ruci?

(A bicycle bell is heard from offstage. A child enters on a worn out bicycle. He wears a school uniform with short pants. He carries a school bag.)

GURU:  Who are you?

SHAYTAN:  You’ve forgotten?

GURU:  The mailman?

SHAYTAN:  Wrong. I’m Shaytan.

(GURU stands up.)

GURU:  Stop kidding around!

SHAYTAN:  I’m Shaytan. I swear.

GURU:  But you’re small and cute.

SHAYTAN:  Big or small, I’m still Shaytan.

GURU:  Not possible!

SHAYTAN:  It appears you need some proof. (Throws a firecracker. It explodes. Smoke.)

GURU:  Stop! Stop! I believe you!

SHAYTAN:  Good. It turns out the smoke machine’s out of oil anyway. (Coughs as he fans the smoke out of his face so he stops coughing.)

(SHAYTAN takes a small plastic chair and table from his bicycle basket. He places them in front of GURU. He sits and opens a lunch box and pours its contents into his mouth. He then pours a drink into his mouth from a bottle. He quickly puts everything away. He takes out a notebook and sits facing GURU ready to take notes.)

SHAYTAN (in a small child’s voice):  I’m ready.

GURU:  Ready for what?

SHAYTAN:  To study. I want to become a hero.

GURU:  What?

SHAYTAN:  I Want To Become a Hero. He-ro. (Ready to write down whatever GURU says.)

(GURU is anxious.)

SHAYTAN:  Heeee-rrrrrro.

(GURU is stupefied.)

SHAYTAN:  The greatest hero there’s ever been. Not a fake hero. Not an amateur hero. Not a hick hero. But a true hero. And if you aren’t willing to teach me, I will pull out your hair strand by strand. I’ll start with the hair—(Looks to the left and to the right.) as long as there’s no one here from the Anti-Pornography amendment committee—the hair—

GURU:  You can’t!

SHAYTAN:  I was going to say the hair on your legs. Can’t even say leg hair. What is this country? What kind of teacher are you? If I had said pubic hair, then I could be arrested.

GURU:  Quiet!

SHAYTAN:  You’re acting so authoritarian. Colonialist!

GURU:  Satan cannot be a hero!

SHAYTAN:  Your sources are outdated. It used to be that only the nobility could become kings. Only the president’s children could become president. But now, even comedians and actors can become president. Riffraff can also become heroes, you know. What kind of guru are you? You don’t even know that. In other words, don’t just hang out in the bathroom all day “polishing” your knob until your body looks like a maggot. It’s sunny out and on a day like today we can talk about . . . what were we talking about? Satan can’t be a hero? Why not? Are people better than devils? Every second you people mention God’s name, but your behavior is bat shit. You people destroy thousands of acres of rainforest in Kalimantan, you embezzle millions of the working class’s hard-earned money, women and children are trampled upon at your pleasure, courts are convened to punish the innocent and protect the criminals. It’s all bullshit! Who are the real devils, these crazed humans or this little devil, so cute in his short pants? I ride a beat-up old bicycle to school while government brats are driven around in Jaguars and the Vice President complains that government salaries aren’t enough to buy food? You don’t need to say anything more, just teach me how to be a hero. All this discussion, but where’s the action? Before we’re done it’ll be time for the next election!

GURU:  De—

(SHAYTAN jumps up and strangles GURU’s neck with one hand while the other hand grabs his testicles.)

SHAYTAN:  I know what you were going to say: Devil! Gosh! What’s wrong with a devil being devilish? What’s wrong with a devil wanting to become a hero if humans aren’t competent anymore? Huh? Look at those humans who claim to be heroes, their deeds visionless, they shit all over everything as soon as they sit down, drunk on power and dizzy from chasing money. Don’t pretend! Our reality is the same. Do you want to die or should I just pop these?

GURU:  Don’t! Those belong to my wife!

SHAYTAN:  Okay then! Teach me how to be a hero!

GURU:  I can’t. It’s wrong.

(SHAYTAN stops strangling GURU’s neck and instead grabs his crotch with both hands.)

GURU:  Stopppppp!!!!!

SHAYTAN:  Ok then. Teach! Go on!

GURU:  How can I teach while you’re biting my stuff.

SHAYTAN:  Who’s biting anything? I’m only holding them. Your stuff’s worn out anyway. Stop putting on airs. Get with it!

(GURU breathes a sigh of relief as SHAYTAN lets go of his crotch.)

GURU:  Ow! I had to trick him or he would have never let them go.

SHAYTAN:  Come on, quickly! I’m losing my patience.

(The SHAYTAN sits nicely at his table again ready to take notes.)

GURU:  The rules and regulations of becoming a hero are serious.

SHAYTAN:  I know.

GURU:  Your spirit must be strong.

SHAYTAN:  I know, I know, I know. I know that! Quit carrying on and just teach.

GURU:  Your responsibilities are going to be even greater.

SHAYTAN:  I know.

GURU:  So if you know everything, why do you want to be taught?

SHAYTAN (taken aback):  Huh?

GURU:  Why are you asking if you know all the answers already?

SHAYTAN (adjusting himself):  Oh finally, a quality question. (Suddenly pounds the table.) Because I want to honor you!

GURU (laughs cynically):  Now I believe you’re really Satan. Satan likes to flip around the conversation like a politician. I’m not saying that politicians are flip-flop experts. I only mean that you flip-flop like a politician. That means you could be a talented politician, but not a hero. Devil! Or maybe you’d just like to become an artist?

SHAYTAN:  Thank you. My talent lies in becoming a hero.

GURU:  If that’s so, who was your former guru? His teachings must have been deviant.


(GURU’s heart beats hard.)

GURU:  Me?

SHAYTAN:  You’re the one who teaches that the basic prerequisite to becoming a hero is sacrifice. Total sacrifice without reward! Isn’t that so?

GURU:  Yes.

SHAYTAN:  You say that a hero must be prepared to die. Right?

GURU:  I say what?

SHAYTAN:  What do you mean? Right!

GURU:  Why?

SHAYTAN:  Because once you’re a hero, you belong to the people. You don’t belong to your wife, children, family, or your neighborhood. You don’t belong to your tribe, your community, or your religion. You belong to all the people. A hero is a person who has died!

GURU:  I have never said that.

SHAYTAN:  But do you agree?

GURU:  Absolutely.

SHAYTAN:  Do you also agree that a hero is the servant of the people?

GURU:  Yes.

SHAYTAN:  As a servant, the hero offers up himself to massage the feet of the people who want to cross over from the misfortunes of hell to the comforts of heaven!

GURU:  True.

SHAYTAN:  He will not complain when trampled upon by oozing, purulent, infectious feet or smeared with fetid filth as long as the people are happy.

GURU:  Never complain!

SHAYTAN:  And never ever get angry when criticized.

GURU:  Never!

SHAYTAN:  Doesn’t search for a scapegoat and doesn’t blame the circumstances–

GURU:  No!

SHAYTAN:  Quiet! I haven’t finished speaking. Will never look for an excuse to ignore a situation that needs changing because the conditions are too horrific. But instead will always push onwards.

GURU:  Onwards!

SHAYTAN:  Even if the result is failure, surrender, and replacement, a hero must be willing.

GURU:  Willing.

SHAYTAN:  For country and nation.

GURU:  That’s sacrifice.

SHAYTAN:  Without ever seeking honor.

GURU:  Never.

SHAYTAN:  Denounces nepotism.

GURU:  Clearly.

SHAYTAN:  Against cruelty, opposes the degradation of women.

GURU:  Without reservation.

SHAYTAN:  Protects children.

GURU:  Holds humanity, justice, truth, and equality in the highest esteem.

SHAYTAN:  Defends democracy.

GURU:  Freedom!

SHAYTAN  Huh, freedom?

GURU:  That’s hero basics.

SHAYTAN:  Well, in that case, teach me now!

(SHAYTAN goes back and sits at his table, ready to take notes. GURU is silent.)

SHAYTAN:  Come on!

GURU:  Come on, what?

SHAYTAN:  Teach me to be a hero.

GURU:  What else is there to teach? You’ve passed.

(SHAYTAN is shocked.)


GURU:  You’ve passed.

SHAYTAN:  I’ve passed?

GURU:  Yes!

SHAYTAN (stands, angry):  You crook! Do you think I’m stupid? I’m Shaytan, don’t forget. Don’t try to put one over on the devil. Just because I’ve admitted I needed some teaching, you insult my intelligence like they do on those television shows!!?? Damn it! I now know your true feelings. You’re not going to be swayed, are you? Better I should die than fail!

GURU:  Now that’s a hero’s talking!

SHAYTAN:  Ah, damn you! Don’t flatter me. I get all tingly when someone licks my ass. I’ll eat you alive, get it? You’re treating me like those elected representatives who only think about power for their own benefit! Truth is above everything for me. It’s the principle of the thing. It’s non-negotiable.

GURU:  It’s better to die being supported by the earth . . .

(SHAYTAN joins.)

GURU and SHAYTAN:  . . . than to die as carrion. “The tassels will be broken off, obstacles will be snapped.” Glory before death.

(Their voices reverberate together symbolizing their agreement.)

GURU:  That’s how a hero must be!

SHAYTAN:  Yes, and there can be no other way! If there were, what would be the difference between a hero and a moneylender? Or the difference between a pedicab driver and a gas station attendant or vegetable seller? A hero sacrifices everything for a higher ideal.

GURU:  Everything!

SHAYTAN:  Car, house, money, position, honor, awards, family. Nothing has any meaning outside country and nation!

GURU:  What about a bribe of one trillion U.S. dollars?

SHAYTAN (laughs cynically):  A trillion? Multiply that by a thousand! Add a thousand celestial concubines, and I still wouldn’t take it. Sorry, even with a wink I wouldn’t want it, and be a traitor to my country? That’s shameful!

GURU:  You graduate cum laude!

SHAYTAN:  A hero is like that. So, teach me quick how to be a hero.

(GURU is confused. Shakes his head.)

GURU:  You are such a devil. All you know is how to open your mouth.

SHAYTAN:  I’m ready, Guru.

GURU:  Hey! You’ve passed already.

SHAYTAN:  Passed what?

GURU:  You are already a hero. You don’t need to study any more.

SHAYTAN:  Who says? Don’t push me away, Guru. That’s more cruel than killing me!

(SHAYTAN bows in homage.)

GURU:  You don’t need to bow to me. You’ve passed!

SHAYTAN:  How can I have passed if I haven’t even begun to study?

GURU:  That’s it!

SHAYTAN:  What do you mean, it?

GURU:  You know without having to study. You’re not just talented, you’re a genius!

SHAYTAN:  This handsome devil is a genius? (Truly proud.) You’re an idiot! I’m going to hit you upside the head!

GURU:  Seriously. The way you spoke so eloquently about what it means to be a hero, means you are already a hero. A hero is . . . what did you say?

SHAYTAN:  A hero is someone who has completely and genuinely destroyed his egotistical desires because his entire self is sacrificed in the interests of country and nation.

GURU:  Say again?

SHAYTAN:  A hero is someone who has given body and soul to his country and nation because he no longer belongs to his family or his community, but instead belongs to the people.

GURU:  That’s more beautiful than Goenawan Mohamad’s poetry.

SHAYTAN:  Who’s Goenawan?

GURU:  You also have knowledge that you’ll never understand. The point is, you’ve graduated. (Holds out his hand.) Congratulations.

(SHAYTAN is dumbfounded.)

GURU:  Come, let’s shake hands.

SHAYTAN:  Graduated? I’ve graduated? Oh, I’m getting embarrassed.

GURU:  It’s true. It’s not just lip service.

(SHAYTAN stands up.)

SHAYTAN:  I feel stupid.

(GURU takes SHAYTAN’s hand and shakes it. SHAYTAN gives GURU a firm hug.)


GURU:  Ow! Not too hard. I’m not a devil!

SHAYTAN (letting go of the hug):  Sorry. You’re the best, Guru. So, I’ve already graduated even though I never got caned or hit over the knuckles with a ruler?

GURU:  You’ve graduated!

SHAYTAN:  Oh, Guru!

(SHAYTAN moves to hug GURU. GURU steps out of the way.)

SHAYTAN:  Where I come from, we have to kiss in order to thank someone. Guru!

(SHAYTAN tries to hug GURU. GURU screams.)


GURU:  Heeeeeellllllppppp!

(GURU runs offstage. SHAYTAN chases after him. Devil theme music.)

translated from the Indonesian by Cobina Gillitt