“My market is full of stories,” says the little girl, “just like soap operas on television . . . some funny, some strange, some sad.” In this small market in Jakarta, most of the stories begin with loss. The girl is deaf; she lost her family when her home was destroyed. A friend at school lost her mother because of her father’s gambling and abuse. A boy and his older brother who lost their parents struggle to carry on the family business. But amidst the despair, the children maintain a sense of hope: the girl who lost her family sends a wish for a dome for the mosque by carrier pigeon; her friend protects a prayer rug, so it will be ready when her mother returns. The boy’s daydreams lead him to a young woman he calls Cantik – pretty – for whom he carries packages and cooks noodles with eggs; maybe someday he will call her “Mom”. Ramadan, the month of fasting and prayer, is at an end, and everyone in the market is preparing for Lebaran, the Holidays. Most Indonesians travel to visit family for Lebaran, leaving their jobs in the cities to return their home villages.
However, for the children of the marketplace, the holidays could be hardest: a carrier pigeon lands in a stationer’s stall, ruining the greeting cards set out for display; a prayer rug disappears while the little girl sleeps; and the relationship between the boy and his brother grows tense. But during Lebaran, nothing is truly lost: a father is reunited with his daughter, a man has a change of heart and prays for his wife’s return, and the older brother orders a new stamp to mark his eggs – in the shape of a heart.
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