“When I was eight, I was fooled by my papa to move to Singapore. It wasn’t an elaborate plan, but he used my fondness for planes to trick me. ‘Adisty, do you want to take the plane with me to Singapore?” At that moment, I didn’t know that I had to leave my friends in Bogor, Indonesia for good. 

Life in sunny Singapore during my early childhood wasn’t as carefree as it was in Bogor.  Bogor has vast open fields where I would run barefooted chasing tires. The rain didn’t stop me from staying outdoors to stomp on puddles.

A few hundred metres from my house, there was a river where me and my friends would jump and cannonball into. Life back there was good. But in my new home, I was introduced to ‘mugging’.

In Singapore, I learnt about national education through textbooks. In Bogor, I joined presidential rallies, standing on top of a car screaming, ‘Pilih Megawati!’ I was six and didn’t know what I was yelling for; but, I had a lot of fun. 

My parents moved back to Indonesia when I was 10, leaving me and my brother to care for ourselves. Most would think that any kid my age would revel in that moment. But all I ever wanted was to spend more time with my parents, particularly papa. 

Over the next two decades, I was raised by my papa who’s 581 miles away. He would call me twice a week. Our conversations were centred around errands but I loved these tasks. I felt like his right-hand man.

‘Adist, can you go to the travel agency and bulk purchase flight tickets for you and your brother? Adist, can you help send some documents to ICA? Adist, go and set up a new account with Singapore Powers.’

My papa was never one who would show affection to me or my siblings. But every time he told me, ‘Adist you are very capable’ after running an errand, whatever cloud I had above my head at that moment disappeared. I guess that’s why I am not a romantic. I am a realist. 

Sometimes, I do wish my relationship with my papa was beyond these errands and conversations on the importance of studies, studies, studies. I want to have more candid chit chats with him. The frivolous kind like the type of music I love – it’s indie pop by the way – or which contact lens colour will look good on me.

But more importantly, I want him to tell me what kind of men I should look for in a partner. I think whoever I choose to be with in the future should have his stamp of approval. 

Alas, I will never have these moments with him. Papa passed away on the third day of Chinese New Year in 2015. It was an unexpected death. He was healthy and he wasn’t suffering from any kind of critical illness. He passed peacefully in his sleep.

Two days before his passing, he was chomping down strips after strips of bakwa. It was a weird but endearing sight. He never had bakwa in the past 67 years as he was watching his weight. But to see him so carefree and enjoying a delicacy that was once forbidden to him, my heart was full. 

Looking back at how my life turned out – I’m now an independent woman living in Singapore on my own – it was all thanks to Papa’s remote and strict parenting through phone calls and Face Time. 

Most would think that I would move on fast as we were apart for 20 years. But that’s not the case. I miss you papa. You will always be the light that guides me through the darkest moments in my life.” – Adisty

Interview by: Hisham Zainal

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