Arisan is an Indonesian tradition which started out as a form of credit union where members contribute an equal amount of money and each member takes turns receiving the group’s contribution. Unlike a credit union, no interest is charged and one of the benefits that the members could get is an opportunity to have a relatively abundant amount of money which they can use for a planned expenditure such as payment for children’s tuition fee or starting a small business at home and other needs. In effect, it is a form of forced savings.
Arisan is popularly used as a way of gathering families around the neighborhood, which is subdivided into RTs ( Rumah Tangga– literally translated as household, but referred to here as neighborhood association). RT is the smallest unit of society in Indonesia.
There would be an arisan for the women (wives and mothers) and another for the men (husbands and fathers). Eventually, the practice has given rise to arisan among extended families, friends, and even among commuters (those taking the train everyday).
Our arisan with my siblings-in-law started when our father-in-law suggested to his children that we should start an arisan so that we will still see each other even when he has gone. True enough–this year is my father-in-law’s 10th death anniversary, and his Jakarta-based children and we, their spouses, together with the grandchildren still meet once every three months.
Our most recent gathering was hosted by Sony and Eni, both ardent conservationists. Eni, a math teacher, is involved in her neighborhood’s Bank Sampah (Waste Bank) while Sony is the English-language-graduate-turned-“engineer” who set up their hydroponic greenhouse. Since a lot of electricity is needed for water to flow continuously, he embarked on solar energy. His family’s monthly electricity bill is down to a third of what they used to pay before.
We learned a lot from the visit and enjoyed the family gathering. We were nourished, both in mind and body.
The arisan is the only time most of us meet and it’s an opportunity to catch up with what the family members are up to. This quarter’s get-together was also an opportunity for me to share my blog posts and find an inspiration for a new one. My sisters-in-law gamely posed for pictures too.
But the best part was that we got to bring home freshly picked herbs and extra food contributed by each member of the family.