The writing that helped Hayu re-find herself*


The move to Sweden became a major transition for Hayu Rahmitasari. In order not to feel idle, she took up writing. Now she has released her first novel – which may be adapted into series.

December 2016, Hayu Rahmitasari moved from Yogyakarta, Indonesia with her then six-year-old daughter. Her husband, Zaki, had received a doctoral position in Lund and they first thought of a long-distance marriage. But after eight months, the distance became too large so she resigned from her job as lecturer at the university in her hometown and moved afterward.

The couple are both media and communication scholars and in fact they were also “competitors” for a while.

“We applied for the same doctoral position, but at that time we did not understand that it was only one position available in Lund. He was the one who was eventually hired.”

She describes the first time in Skåne as fantastic, despite the cold and the greyish weather.

“People from tropical countries are often longing for real winter.”

But after a while the “honeymoon” ended and she began to feel restless. It was difficult to find a job and she, who started an academic career and had worked as a journalist, was not used to sitting idly.

“I wanted something more. Not that I was ungrateful and dissatisfied with life but I wanted to have something to do.”

People back home are often surprised by the fact that she did not work or do something better here.

“It was tough comments to deal with. On a good day they could motivate me but on a bad day I feel like I was not contributing anything to society.”

Then one day she opened a folder in her computer, there was a text that had long been untouched. It was a draft of what would later be the novel “Circle Route”. In April this year, it was published by a publisher in Indonesia.

In retrospect, she can see that books and writing have been a big part of her life since childhood. Hayu Rahmitasari grew up in a small town outside the city of Yogyakarta on the island of Java. Her father was a primary school teacher and she spent a lot of time with him at the library, where she could sit and read for hours.

“I read everything I came across. The books were my windows to the world. But I did not write anything particular at that time, except in my diary. When I hung there in the library I dreamed that one day I could see a book with my name on the shelf.”

Only at high school she started writing “for real” as she moved to the capital city of Yogyakarta province to study and wrote for the school newspaper.

After completing bachelor degree in media and communication science, she and her husband Zaki, moved to Australia to continue their studies at the master’s level. It was when she began writing the novel, a story of a young career woman, Bening’s pursuit of Mr. Right and on the right path in professional life.

She had already published two different anthologies, where she contributed short stories, but when it came to the first major literary work, it had long been unjustified.

Hayu Rahmitasari was not really satisfied with the books. She was occupied by her first daughter and her full time job as a lecturer at the university in the hometown, where the family returned after the years abroad. She also had a freelance job for a while but put it on the shelf to invest in an academic career.

“But life doesn’t always follow one’s plan,” laughed Hayu Rahmitasari.

The novel, which was finally developed in Sweden, helped her manage the transition to move to a new country.

“Writing has been like a therapy, it gives me room to formulate my thoughts and really reflect on how I feel.”

Her novel is aimed at a young readership but as much to herself, or perhaps to the person she once was.

“My message in this novel is that one must dare to decide in life and take responsibility for that choice. Finding the right one or finding the right career is both about trying out, through trial and error. In the end, you will know what is right. I myself wish I was more courageous when it comes to making decisions. Through the novel, I try to convince myself that I have also chosen what is best for me,” she said.

Today, three years after the move, she has become accustomed to her new life and even to the silence in Lund. In the beginning, it felt strange for her not to be greeted, that people did not talk to each other.

“I was shocked that people were so quiet. I come from a loud country where people laugh, smile and talk a lot. So it was also in Australia. But here in Sweden people are reserved. It’s my habit to smile when I meet people. Of course, they don’t smile back, because it’s not part of the culture here, now I know. But in the beginning, I thought I was doing something wrong, especially considering that I look a little ‘different’.”

Once in Sweden, Hayu Rahmitasari also started blogging more frequently. She came in contact with The Newbie Guide to Sweden, a site where new people from different countries share their experiences, give tips and practical advice. Now she regularly contributes texts about her experiences and has just completed another short story compilation, this time only with her own stories.

Her first novel has encouraged her to invest in writing and she has several ideas for the future. The publisher who published her novel has released 500 copies of it and in July she would know if it would be a larger edition, depending on how the sales figures look.

But did her dream come true, to see her own book in the library?

“I don’t really know. The only thing I know is that you can buy it in some bookstores. But I haven’t even kept a copy myself.”

Hayu Rahmitasari’s next goal is to publish a novel that will be set this time in Sweden.

But before that, Indonesian television viewers can get acquainted with her young protagonist Bening. A production house has bought the broadcasting rights to create a TV series based on Circle Route. She was asked to write scripts herself, but chose to decline, as she wants to invest in the literature.

“I was surprised and happy of course. But also a little scared, because as an author you can sometimes be uncertain of what people think of your stories. But now I have to let it go because I can’t satisfy everyone,” says the author, Hayu Rahmitasari.

img_6515Name: Diyah Hayu Rahmitasari.

Age: 32, turns 33 in July.

Profession: Media and communication scholar. “But I see myself as an author now”.

Living: Lund.

Family: The husband Zaki Habibi, two daughters, Hayya 9 years and Kajsa six months (“We wanted to give her a Swedish name even if we do not know if we will stay when my husband has the doctorate”.)

Interests: Reading, watching movies and football.


*Published in Skånska Dagbladet, 12 July 2019. Original article by Dajana Kovacevic. English Translation by Hayu Hamemayu.


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