Javanese urchin saved by rich uncle

BEST OF 2000 Tales of optimism and cheer from our overseas correspondents.


Even when there was gloom, there was optimism. Even when there was doom, there was hope. The Straits Times’ network of correspondents in Asia and around the world look back at the year 2000 and recall that one defining moment which brought them cheer or had warmed their hearts.

For the past two years, a 10-year-old Javanese boy would knock on my car door almost every day, demanding 1,000 rupiah (20 cents).

The scrawny-looking, poker-faced Susanto felt it was more than deserved after he had belted out a series of songs with a makeshift guitar for me and other drivers at a housing-estate traffic junction.

Increasing numbers of street urchins dot Jakarta’s street. Susanto had to beg to fend for his mother and six-year-old brother.

Last month, he knocked on my car for the last time.

He grinned broadly and said: “Mister, I am going to school next year. No more begging.”

Susanto said that a rich uncle from his village in Semarang in Central Java had asked him and his family to return.

“He wants me to take care of his cows and also to get an education. I am so lucky.”

Well, Jakarta is short of one street urchin today.

That can only be good news.

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