Chapter 12. As Japanese Prisoners of War in Goonoongsitoli, Nias Island

The next day all the Japanese soldiers and the Germans left for Sumatra, leaving Dr. Hyke in charge of the administration. He was assisted by the Indonesians, the Chief among whom was known as the Demang, with Assistant Demangs at the head of each district. An Indonesian police officer was in the administrative team, too.

The prisoners were kept in the empty military barracks inside the police station compound. It was beautifully situated facing the open sea, and Police Lines were next to it beyond the barbed wire fencing The khalasis (seamen) and the firemen occupied one block and the saloon crew, topasses (sweepers) and bazaar men the other. Rashid, Rahman, Karim and I lived with the saloon crew. The four of us were in the room right at the end of the barracks overlooking the open sea. There was a spacious lawn between the barracks and the wire fencing, where we sat out after dinner under the moonlight.

There was just one road which, at one end, went up to the hospital past the camp, and down to the restaurant, the only one in Goonoongsitoli, owned by an Indonesian called. Marah Sultan, a most kind and generous person who wemt out of his way to help us. There was a beautifully built Mosque where we were allowed to go to join the congregation on Fridays.

Our day began quite early in the morning as almost all of us said our prayers. At 7 a.m. we were given two bananas fried in coconut oil, with half a mug of tea without milk or sugar. The men were then taken out to work. Their work was not very difficult. The Indonesian policemen were very kind and the shop keepers in the bazaar often gave them tobacco or fruit and sometimes, money. Anything, I felt, must be better than sitting in the barracks all day long doing nothing. I was exempted from work as my wounds had not healed and I spent the day going to hospital every morning to get my wounds dressed.

The German doctor saw to it that the Indonesian nurses and compounders were good to us. I also took along with me, a couple or more who needed medical attention. But, in spite of being given preference over the villagers, we had to spend the best part of three or four hours sitting among the out patients. At noon we returned to the camp for a lunch of rice, a piece of dried fish and a few boiled vegetables. A short nap followed, after which I would try to learn some Malay/Indonesian. We were not allowed any English books and there were no Urdu books available. Abdul Karim, enterprising as ever, managed to get a book of Malayan/Indonesian language with English meanings.

As the days went by, the Indonesian police relaxed some of their restrictions and we were allowed to go to the bazaar on our own. In the evening, after working hours, we could meet our Indonesian friends and chat with them until sunset. After sunset we had to remain inside the camp. We performed the Maghrib (evening) prayer in congregation with Abdul Karim leading. This was followed by recitation of Durood Taj (one of the many versions of blessing and sending salutations in the name of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) seven times. We gathered together to sing songs or tell stories. Abdul Rashid, who had a melodius voice, used to take the lead in singing as well as story telling..

Among our Indonesian friends was Marah Sultan. He had a restaurant and frequently gave us free meals. Marah Sultan was only one of the many kind and hospitable folks who tried their best to make us feel at home. The people were most generous in giving us clothes to wear. I must admit that God had been exceptionally kind and gracious in sending us to Nias Island, as, in those early days we were much better off than other prisoners having a difficult time in camps in Sumatra and other parts of the Far East and undergoing extreme hardship.


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