May 29, 2017

About A Friend

Tears were shed, prayers were said. Black clothes dominated the gathered crowd, colorful flowers were spread on her last bed. Hugs were exchanged, pats on the back were given to give strength to one another.

Old friends met, small reunions happened without appointment. They all gathered for one purpose only; to see her for the last time. Except, nobody could actually see her per se, because she was wrapped in a shroud, put in a coffin, before then buried for eternity. I was among the crowd, not being able to shed any more tears.

Vindhya Birahmatika Sabnani, or Ipink as many friends and I used to call you, your eternal rest has left my heart broken. I hadn’t been productive in the last few days because my mind would wander and wonder about how your last minutes were, and how you are now. But I guess that’s something I will never find out for sure. What I know for sure is, what I’m feeling is nothing compared to how your beloved family is going through. Still, this whole thing feels so surreal to me, even though it’s a reminder of reality, that one day we’re all going to leave this world forever.

* * *

It was in May 2008, exactly 9 years ago, that we got to know each other as participants of an open trip to Karimunjawa. Much later I found out, we both decided to sign up because we were going to stay in the floating house (Wisma Apung). It was those little quirky details and love of travel that united us as friends. But of course, I was just one of so many of your friends, as you were very popular and everybody loved you. I remember Cici even described you as the “alpha female”, but I don’t remember when exactly she said that.

Over the years, jobs changed, priorities shifted, we stayed being good friends, although the hangout frequency lessened. Mumun and I, among others, have always supported your trip organizer business, Ibu Penyu, that you co-built out of love for the ocean and traveling in general. And when it was my turn founding a business, you were there to support me, too – from business advices to collaboration that we named #IbuPenyuByViraTanka. You even helped with bookkeeping, something I am very weak at. We then met up more often than we used to, in the last couple of months. “Business meetings”, as we liked to call them, were efficient, that we still had time for gossips and obviously lots of laughing.

Last week, you were off to one of your explorations in Flores again. “Vira, I’ll be having bad phone reception for a few days,” you texted me. But in that few days, sometimes you would still reply my messages, all having to do with production, purchase orders, and restocking plan.

May 22nd,  5.50 AM, was the last time you replied my message. On May 23rd, I sent messages from morning until afternoon, all delivered but none of them was replied. They were all about production, but nothing was urgent, so I just waited while continuing other works. You could be in a place with bad signal again, or you could simply be just on a hammock, I had no idea. Then my friend Shasya called me on the phone, asking did I know where you were and when was the last time I spoke with you. Her voice sounded different than usual, all serious and I started to worry.

Long story short, the news about your death, along with Sobar, the friend who was traveling with you, has spread far and wide. I was one of the last ones to hear about it, actually. I got so many text messages and phone calls from friends, looking for a confirmation about your condition, even when I wasn’t even sure about what was happening. I ignored other messages that didn’t concern you, I tried to continue typing for work but my fingers could only hover over the keyboard, and I couldn’t stop my tears from falling.

Everybody was worried, we couldn’t believe that it was real, we were hoping that the news was false.

Sadly, it was true. You and Sobar were gone. Mumun, who heard it from Windy, who was in contact directly with your family, confirmed it to me.

I was devastated.

That night, I had trouble sleeping. Condolences were everywhere, on social media and through text messages, from people that I knew were close to you and those who you barely knew. I spent the wee hours reading through those posts, trying to make sense of what was really happening, or maybe I just didn’t know what else to do. I certainly didn’t feel like sleeping from 12.30 until 4 AM, and it was so unlike me.

* * *

May 26th, you were brought home along with Sobar. Windy and Alex, who went along with your brother and brother in law to pick you up from Ende, updated some of the process on Twitter. I was so sad to see a picture of you both about to go on an airplane in coffins. That’s not how traveling should be. You used to be happy taking flights in your favorite apparels: t-shirt, shorts, and sandals or shoes; just like my favorite.

Then almost midnight we – Diyan and I, with the rest of your fun weekend getaway gang that calls themselves ‘Pengajian Arrahman’ – went to your house, hoping to see you again. However, your family decided that you remained in the coffin, due to the condition of your physique. It was caused by the electrocution accident you had when showering with hot water (which then Sobar tried to help but ended in getting electrocuted too), and the strong assumption that you both had actually passed away since the night before you were found by the hotel staff in the afternoon.

There is a comforting saying that goes like, ‘We’ll remember not how you died, but how you lived.’ I wish it was that easy.

However, the way you lived was so full of positive energy, it is impossible not to be remembered. It’s also the reason that I decided to keep going with our collaboration with the help from your family and staff/friends. Moreover, we promised that some of our profit would go to movements in environmental preservations. I’d like to keep that love for nature and generosity of yours alive.

See, Ipink. Even though you’re not here physically, your positive spirit remains.

Thank you for all of your kindness, happiness, and sincerity.


  1. Kapiya *weeping tears*.... Baca ini jadi mewek lagi. Tahu betapa kalian begitu dekat layaknya kaka adik, pasti akan sangat berat bagimu untuk merelakan Kak Ipink. But our loveliest Mother Turtle ever, now rest peacefully, happily swimming in heaven. <3

  2. Beautifully written from the heart. Thank you Vira for writing this.
    Al Fatihah for Vindhya.