NH Dini: Only Looking For Justice

Nurhayati Srihardini Siti Nukatin was born in Semarang, Central Java on February 29, 1936. She is better known as NH. Dini, a much respected female writer since the 1970s. She is also known as a feminist. Budi Darma, leading writer and critic in Indonesia, called NH. Dini as a voice of women’s anger towards men.

NH. Dini did not see herself as a feminist. “I only look for justice,” she said in this interview. She explained why she prefers to call herself a woman who seeks justice. Her experience is a vast land for her authorship. NH. Dini started her career as a flight attendant in the 1960s, a rare profession in Indonesia at the time. Then she married a French diplomat official. The mixed marriage made her lifestyle became very modern and cosmopolitan. This is also a relatively rare case to happen in that era.

NH. Dini started to write in the 1970s and her cosmopolitan perceptions and values immediately appear in her short stories and novels. She did not hesitate to speak about sex and the infidelity of the main characters. And the protagonist is always women. Her productivity was at peak in the 1980s. At the time, she wrote a lot of journalistic articles. Particularly about Sulawesi where she stayed briefly. But it is her work of fictions that planted NH. Dini’s power in Indonesian authorship.

The women in novels such as La Barka (1975), Pada Sebuah Kapal – On A Ship (1985), andNamaku Hiroko – My Name Is Hiroko (1986), for instance, who are confident and very liberal on their sexuality was set in countries other than Indonesia. Unlike most Indonesian novels in the period that are exploiting women’s sexuality, in her novels, NH. Dini wrote sexuality from the women’s perspective. An honest perspective that does not exploit the gender.

The characters are global women citizens as they are, far from the idyllic traditional Indonesian women at the time. But in the novel that many considered as the pinnacle of her work, Tirai Menurun – Descending Curtain, NH. Dini scour deeply into the life of Javanese women as well. NH. Dini is also known for her memoir series called Seri Cerita Kenangan – A Series of Memorable Stories including Sebuah Lorong di Kotaku – An Alley in My City(1978), Langit dan Bumi Sahabat Kami – Our Friend The Sky and The Earth (1979), Padang Ilalang di Belakang Rumah – The Grassland In The Backyard (1979), Sekayu (1988), and much more. She consistently writes her childhood memories femininely: persevering and soft.

Though she had feminine narrative style, in real life, she is a determined woman. She is still active in writing and doing seminars everywhere since she believes that she has to fund herself for a nursing home. It is her own decision, “so I don’t become a burden for others”. This interview illustrates her independent mind that did not get hampered by age.