By Tania Gandamihardja
I have known the Wahjus since I was 8 years old in Soroako. Just like my sister, Tasha, has said in her tribute, Oom Ben is synonymous with Soroako.
For me, aside from Soroako, there is another chapter in my life, where Oom Ben and Tante Soffie, played a major role in. This was a year after my father had passed away in 1995 and I had decided to move back to Indonesia from London, fulfilling my father‚s wish of having one of his children to work in Indonesia. A wish which he had told to Tante Soffie, a few months before his passing. Given the fact that Tasha was still completing her med school and my younger brother was still in school, with Oom Ben‚s and Tante Soffie‚s encouragement, and my mother‚s blessing, I moved to Jakarta. Jakarta was a foreign city to me, having never lived there before. However, it soon became my home, as Oom Ben and Tante Soffie, opened their home to me, treating me just like a member of their family.
I would always look forward to dinner time, where we would all spend time together around the dining table. He would entertain us with interesting stories from his travels with Tante Soffie, discuss with us any of the hot topical news of the day, sometimes he would share with me a story about my father or give me advise when I seek one from him. Oom Ben and Tante Soffie made my transition from London to Jakarta a very easy one. What they did for me ˆ opening their home to me, showering me with love and affection and treating me like one of their own children, can never be repaid.
They were my surrogate parents. Oom Ben, consciously or unconsciously stepped into the role of a father figure to me. He was this loving gentle soul and sometimes I wondered if indeed he felt he was responsible over my well-being, having been a friend of my father’s. It was one of those things which was never said, but knowing Oom Ben, I am sure he felt that way.
I feel very grateful to have spent those months living with the lovely loving couple that is Oom Ben and Tante Soffie, 16 years ago.
So long, Oom Ben! Words are not enough to express my deepest gratitude to you and Tante Soffie. I will miss you.