Young Red

Our Indonesian maid asked me if I noticed that the lily on our porch had bloomed. She said it was Merah Muda, which is the Malay description for pink or literally translated, young red. Misinterpreting my quizzical look for misapprehension, she quickly added that in Indonesia they would say Merah Jambu alluding to the pink flesh of the Guava fruit (Jambu). Again it was qualifying the color red (merah) or guava red. The color pink it seems doesn't exist here or on the neighboring islands of Indonesia as a singular and separate concept, it's a sub category of red. I didn't misunderstand her, I was just parsing this and a bunch of random but connected thoughts swarming in my head.

My thoughts: First- pink (as I noted previously) doesn't really exist. How interesting that this is linguistically reflected here. Cantonese (fun hong) and Mandarin (fen hong), two other languages/dialects commonly spoken here also use red derivatives ( light red ) to describe pink. Second- the lily wasn't truly pink, unlike the begonia that is also blooming. It's really fine deep magenta lines drawn onto a white ground. But that's just me processing how I might draw or recreate this. Lastly, I'm finding that language is an interesting, additional botanic variable that I have to navigate here. What is this? What do you call this? I find myself asking a lot. It's not just the many languages, there are also ethnobotanical connotations to the flowers plants and herbs that shift not just what they are called but what they 'mean'. The question, what do you use this for? invariably follows.

Yes, I did, I said after all this made it's way through the circuitry. She elaborated that she had got the bulb from one of her friends. All the homes in this neighborhood have Indonesian maids and through the backyard fences they trade things like herbs, cuttings, phone cards to name a few. It's beautiful, I added and she beamed a broad smile. If you've grown something from a seed or a bulb and it turned into something that bloomed you would would have fully understood that smile, no translation required.

All Posts: