Loss of husbands brings 2 widows together

Ten years after the Bali bombings, survivors and family members look back on how their lives have changed

DENPASAR - After the Bali blasts, housewife Hayati Eka Laksmi, 32, had to wait a week to find out for sure whether her husband Imawan Sardjono, a fireman, was really dead.

The car he was driving was the third behind the van blown up by a suicide bomber, and he was so badly burnt that he was identified only by part of his work pass.

For housewife Ni Luh Erniati, 31, it would be four months before she could finally cremate the remains of her husband Gede Badrawan. He was head waiter at the Sari Club, and his remains were identified in a DNA test.

Ms Eka is a Muslim; Ms Erniati, a Hindu. Even though tensions simmered between pockets of Hindus and Muslims long after the blasts, both women found that what they had in common far outweighed what set them apart. Each had to raise two young children on her own, without a breadwinner in the family.

Ms Eka recalled: "Some were asking at the time whether Hindus and Muslims could really live together. Many of the victims were Muslims too. What the bombers did was not jihad, but jahat (evil)."

Ms Eka, whose sons were then two and three, said she felt helpless with neither husband nor job. She saw a psychiatrist for several months, and is now a teacher.

Ms Erniati, too, frequently found herself running to the bathroom to cry. Her sons were aged two and nine. "I had to remind myself to stay strong for my children," she said. She eventually joined a sewing cooperative with four other widows.

Around the first anniversary of the Bali bombings, the two helped form a support network called Isana Dewata - an acronym formed from the Indonesian words for "wives, husbands and children of Bali bomb victims". The group now has some 30 members.

They speak at community events about religious harmony and understanding. "No religion teaches you to kill," said Ms Erniati. "Now, this tragedy has brought us together, we ought to remind the young that Bali has always been a tolerant place, and we must keep it this way."