Envying Heri Who Nurtures Humility through Literacy and Literary Joy

It was shocking when Microsoft launched the Digital Civility Index (DCI) report. The report is based on a survey of over 16,000 online respondents in 32 countries, including 503 from Indonesia. It was controversial as Indonesian netizens are said to rank the lowest in terms of the degree of urbanity across 2020. When communicating online, they are deemed the most impolite in Southeast Asia, something we may find it hard to accept.

Heri optimistically nurtures young minds. (Photo credit:

It is debatable whether it is a clear-cut fact or a false data. The truth is that literacy has to be implemented more intensively all over the archipelago. Books and literary activities are of paramount importance to have a civilized country. Not only does increased literacy lead to one’s improved skills but also opens up opportunities for innovation and creativity. That is what Heri takes into consideration. He doesn’t believe that Indonesian young minds lack interest in books. 

Providing access to reading

What actually happens is that access to books has been difficult for many reasons. In response to the need for children and young people alike to love more and enjoy books, Heri Chandra Santoso then took his best friend Sigit Susanto to found KLM which stands for Komunitas Lereng Medini. Established in 2008, the name of the community refers to Medini, a highland that surrounds Boja, Kendal, Central Java. 

It is hoped that the community will encourage young people in the area to enjoy reading and absorbing literary works. They are expected to forge themselves through creative activities, both in writing and analyzing, in all types of genres. More interaction with books means more values and humility to be instilled.

The embryo of KLM is a chit-chat among three people attending a literary event called “Parade Obrolan Sastra” held on 3-11 May 2008 in Pondok Maos Guyub where Sigit is the owner. Back then, Heri was in charge of Pondok Baca Ajar whereas Nurhadi was a teacher as well as an activist in Tetas community.

Heri recounted, “We were chatting about the urgency of a forum or public space that allows visitors of Guyub library and literary enthusiasts in Boja to share (about literacy).”

Heri decided to invite a number of friends to gather on 3 August 2008. They are those who are used to doing literary or literacy-based activities held by Pondok Maos Guyub and Pondok Baca Ajar. These attendants are the very members that make up the first generation of KLM. 

Since the collections in those libraries are mostly books on literature, both by Indonesian and foreign authors, Heri suggested that members love reading in the first place before enjoying literary works. To make this happen, members of KLM are engaged in a reading forum where they read and discuss a literary book collectively.

"Before studying literature, we introduce them to reading,” said Heri.

Born in Kendal, regency near Semarang, on 22 May 1982, Heri is a graduate of Diponegoro University majoring in Indonesian literature and now works at a radio station as a journalist. As for Sigit, he is an avid reader and a literary enthusiast from Boja who now resides in Switzerland.

Nurturing young generations

With KLM, Heri would like to assert that literature is not specially reserved for city people nor elitists on campus. This highlights that literary works should be accessible to people in rural areas instead of merely men of letters. Villagers shouldn't be deprived of literary joy simply because resources are meager.

Heri when reciting a poem in attendance of Remy Sylado (Doc.

That is why Komunitas Lereng Medini (KLM) continues to promote the awareness that it is an open community where everyone–especially young learners in the villages–can stand optimistic through any literary activities. They may look up to the rising Medini with a vast tea plantation which has been a genuine inspiration to people in even the remotest corner of the villages to grow affinity for literary learning.

The community is inclusive regardless of age or social status. Students, teachers, and everyone who wishes to study literature, through writing and appreciation, then KLM is the answer for them to strive to become creative individuals. So to say, the general public should feel free to join any KLM program without reluctance since reading books, knowledge, and literary joy are not exclusive.

In this particular way, a reading group every Saturday afternoon is always packed with KLM members in which they discuss and explore literary works without the rush to complete or compete. In addition to the general public, participants include elementary, junior, senior, and university students. In addition, the general public is also taking part in the weekly program.

Literary Camp with famous authors

One of the most distinguished programs in KLM is Literary Camp held annually as a cultural gathering in an attempt to build spiritual friendship between individuals and communities. This is where germination takes place that is when participants learn and understand literature with honesty and modesty. 

The camp provides ample opportunity for writers and authors to share experiences, where beginners learn from accomplished authors in a nurturing manner. With this in mind, those who are novices can gain knowledge and insight from experienced authors in a casual chat without barriers or detachment.  

Author Eka Kurniawan among presenters in KLM activities (Doc.

The third chapter of Literary Camp held from 12 to 14 May 2017 should be highlighted. With “Misteri Alam dalam Narasi Sastra” (Mystery of Nature in Literary Narration) as the theme, the camp invited Eka Kurniawan, an established author in the spotlight both nationally and internationally in virtue of his highly acclaimed novels Lelaki Harimau and Cantik Itu Luka which have been translated into several foreign languages.

Kendal Novel Award and local wisdom

One of Heri's long-term goals with KLM that finally came true is the fulfillment of the Kendal Novel Award 2022. Before the awarding of the best novelist, KLM held a theater workshop from 8 to 9 October 2022 in Rumah Kebun Sastra Guyub, Boja as well as a weekend residency from 29 to 30 October 2022 at the Teras Budaya Prof. Mudjahirin Thohir in Sabrang Lor, Kutoharjo, Kaliwungu subdistrict.

“We would like to care for aspiring authors and established writers here di Kendal that we consider having scarce opportunity to express, let alone get motivated,” said Heri who was assigned as the head of the Kendal Novel Award 2022.

Yozar F. Amrullah with his etawa goat prize (Doc.

What's primarily striking is that the prizes for the winners of the novel writing competition take the form of live animals instead of cash or fancy gadgets normally offered in similar contests. The first winner was Yozar F. Amrullah from Cepiring who brought home an Etawa crossbreed goat as the prize.   

Heri claimed that the goat is so far the icon of the Kendal Novel Award. He further suggested that winning prizes can also accommodate the local wisdom rooted in local potential. Kendal is a regency known for its Edupark Tourism of Etawa Crossbreed Goat, precisely located in Jungsemi Village Tourism.

Wakul Pustaka to contribute strategically (Doc. KLM)

Another form of local wisdom that KLM accommodates is Wakul Pustaka literally meaning library basket. Wakul is a Javanese word for rice basket made of bamboo. Wakul is selected as it contains local values. The basket serves as a multifunctional tool in the household. Whether to contain rice or to keep washed vegetables, wakul is no longer popular today with the rise of the magic jar or rice cooker.  

What makes us human

What happens now is wakule ngglimpang, that's how Heri and his team put it. Wakul has been overturned as if resembling traditional farmers who are marginalized due to the onslaught of modern development that encroaches on their agricultural lands. In this sense, wakul is a symbol of local wisdom that fights against the all-digital culture. It also symbolizes the need for nutritional intake of knowledge from reading books (literacy) rather than merely intake of physical satiety.  

“However, we are all aware and understand our position. Literature is not yet a vital issue for most people. The revolution is so far about feeding the belly. We have therefore never expected more.”

The exciting gathering in the Literary Camp (Doc.

In conclusion, with KLM Heri has never pretended to produce famous authors or artists. They don't develop a grandiose dream of taking local youngsters to become established writers on a national scale. When more people read books (including literary works), they couldn't be happier. They will be even happier when more kids in the villages know poetry and folk tales. When children rejoice in books, that is but a true blessing and fulfillment. 

Heri naturally wants to make it public that there is something equally important with food, clothes, and homes, i.e. literature. If those three are primarily to fulfill our physical needs, then literature fulfills our spiritual and inner needs. Quoting the versatile author Remy Sylado, what differentiates humans from animals is that the latter don't appreciate literature.


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