The story Sumasri tells to strangers differs from what is recorded in her case file. It’s as if she wants to change her history to one that makes more sense. In her revised script, she worked in a restaurant in Malaysia. And the young nephew of her very kind employer, in a fit of anger, threw boiling hot water that landed on her. It was an accident.
But her case file, constructed from several conversations over a period of time, tells a painfully different version, although many details are missing. Sumasri only ever worked in Malaysia as a housemaid. The last time she worked there, she never went home to Indonesia in six years, presumably because she was never paid. No money was ever sent home and when her employer ‘delivered’ her to a hospital, she had only the clothes she was wearing and an envelope containing two years’ salary, two pairs of golden earrings and two golden necklaces. Half of the salary was taken by the Indonesian authorities to cover the cost of sending her home in May 2009, to Blitar Province in eastern Indonesia. When she arrived, her back and thighs were severely scarred from boiling water. Her neighbors say she is not the same woman they knew years ago. Her family says she is no longer mentally stable.