20 October 2016
Arista Devi, who has a regular day job as a domestic worker in Hong Kong, has won acclaim as an author. Photo: i-cable
Arista Devi, who has a regular day job as a domestic worker in Hong Kong, has won acclaim as an author. Photo: i-cable

How an Indonesian maid became a writer

“I like writing… it is something as necessary for me as taking in food. I write every day even if it is only a line or two.”

These comments come from Arista Devi, an Indonesian woman who has been working as a domestic worker in Hong Kong for nine years.

Despite her long and tiring hours, Devi has penned several short stories and poems, earning huge recognition among her fellow citizens and the Indonesian community in Hong Kong.  

Her stories are based on the experiences that she and her friends have encountered while working in Hong Kong, offering a mirror to the lives of the foreign domestic helpers in the city.

Writing in her native language, Devi now has several titles to her credit and has also won some awards, i-cable reported.

Devi’s parents passed away in a car accident when she was small. Missing the parents, the girl felt the need to share her feelings and frustrations.

“I would note them down on my journal instead,” she recalled.

After she began working in Hong Kong, the Indonesian started jotting down her experiences — be it happy events or unpleasant happenings, as well as those of her fellow workers in the city.

Through her literary works, Devi aims to provide outsiders a glimpse into the often difficult lives of migrant workers in Hong Kong.

The Indonesian had to drop out of school due to poverty, yet it hasn’t stopped her from taking up literary pursuits.

Every Sunday she gathers with her friends for book reading sessions.

“We formed a reading group… We read novels, short stories and poems. By reading others’ works, we can learn writing techniques and ideas for writing,” she says.

Devi has won quite a few writing contests and has published over 60 books in Indonesia so far. She hopes her books can be translated into different languages so that more people can read her work.

Para Site (藝術空間), an art organization in Hong Kong, has picked one of her stories and got it translated into four languages, along with the works of some other authors.

Freya Chou, curator of Education and Public Programmes at Para Site, says Devi’s story is very inspiring.

Asked if she will continue writing in the future, Devi gave this answer: “While I might not work as a maid in the future, I will definitely continue to write. Because this is my passion.”

Translation by Chloe Chow

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