ALMOST EVERY day, there are always guests who visit the ndalem. Some just want to meet Mbah Nyai Siti Maryam or Nyi Seppo, which means Nyai Sepuh (after Mbah Kiai Ahmad Jazuli, her husband, Mbah Nyai was the only elder in the boarding house). Some asked for prayer, some asked for advice, some sent students to boarding houses. There are also those graduated students. Mbah Nyai always received all the guests happy, no matter how many people visited or how tired she was. All of them were met with smiling faces and incomparable hospitality. “Kaule sanausa gerre manabi bede tamoy pas sehat rassana. Kaule cek sennenga manggiin tamuy.” said Mbah Nyai in Madurese, which more or less means: “Even when I’m sick when I have guests, I feel like I’ll get better immediately. I love to accompany guests.”
Mbah Nyai never refused anyone who came to visit. All guests are always met and respected, no matter how tired or how busy. She also never discriminated against who the guests were. Distant guests, near guests, rich, poor, male, female, old, young all received the same hospitality.
In Madurese custom, generally, guests who are sowan to the Kiai are usually separated. Male guests are met by men, and female guests are met by women. However, if you go to Mbah Nyai, both male and female, all are accepted by Mbah Nyai, regardless of gender. When asked why she also met male guests and even shook hands with male guests, Mbah Nyai replied that all of them were considered her children, so it was not a barrier for her to meet her own children.
Refusing Early Marriage
I remember well that evening. The weather was so hot, and we had just arrived at our husband’s house in Sumenep (eastern tip of Madura Island) when a group of guests appeared to enter the ndalem. After shaking hands, I went inside, not accompanying the guests. At first, there was faint small talk, asking each other how things were and so on, until then, one of the guests spoke in a low voice to Mbah. Because I didn’t really understand the Madurese language, I asked my husband what the guest said. The husband replied, “It wants to say goodbye to the santri.” I frowned, “Why? Don’t you just want a new school year?” I ask. “Want to get married,” replied the husband briefly.