Jakarta, oh, Jekardah

Jakarta as the country’s capital is just another big city like any other big cities, harsh in its beauty, or beautiful in its harshness. Many Indonesians moved to Jakarta hoping to reach their Jakartan dreams; the high desires for lifestyle, convenience and fame. For me, I cant stand Jakarta at all. I don’t understand how people can enjoy life in Jakarta, because you have to have the ability to ignore your surrounding and turn off your empathy.

Jakarta is the ugliest face of this country for me. It’s not only about the traffic and politics, but also the face of social gap that it serves right in front of your eyes.

You work extra just to be enough to pay the bills and spend extra hours stuck in the traffic, wake up at 4 am and reach home at 8 pm. Can’t even imagine doing that for two weeks, don’t even ask me for years. It’ll age and drain me emotionally and physically. And will that job be able to pay your health issue later?

Having stayed in Bali where sexy is make-up free, cheerful and relaxed, I was feeling strange when I came to Grand Indonesia Mall in Jakarta. I didn’t know what it was, then I realized that I felt strange because I hadn’t been seeing that much hair extension, thick makeup, and 8 cm heels for a long time. People looked uptight, I don’t know whether its the botox/ facelift or that they dont wanna crack their make-ups. I passed a pillar mirror and saw how barefaced I was from head to toe compared to my surroundings.

The big malls I visited in Jakarta are always busy in the cafes, food courts and restaurants. I checked the price and it’s more expensive than the bule cafes in Bali, but still I always saw many Indonesians lining up for those expensive cafes in those fancy malls. I couldn’t believe what I saw and asked, “Are we that rich? Really?”

As soon as I walked outside the big mall, I saw similar view outside the building at the street food seller next to a smelly dirty water drain. I don’t want to dare my self with Jakarta street food, coz I always got bellyache and diarrhea right after it. Most of them were store employees in the mall. Ironically some of the people were wearing the uniforms of restaurants from the malls. That’s Jakarta, that’s Indonesia.

In Bali, beauty is for everybody to enjoy, whether you’re rich or poor or middle class, it doesn’t really show. In Jakarta, beauty is luxury and people want to show off how rich they are compared to the other people around them. You may see them taking GoJek, but at the same time holding their Zara, HnM shopping bags, these brands are not cheap for Indonesians.

For Indonesians–which are very different from the developed western countries–, living in a small room in a tall-apartment building means that you’re rich, rather than having a house with a garden. These apartments are mostly equipped with swimming pool, gym, convenience store, cafe, daycare, playground, tennis court, etc. The fancier ones even have sauna, jacuzzi, library, coworking, etc which are included in the fee they pay every month. But these life-indulging facilities are often lonely. People don’t have the time to enjoy it, they’re either busy working overtime or stuck in the traffic.

You can’t be impulsive in Jakarta, you need to know what you wanna do and go every day because it’s not easy to move around. Sometimes one km can take up to 30 mins or an hour.

But what for me is really frustrating is that the fact that even after you pay a lot for convenience in Jakarta, it’s still not worth it. You live in your expensive apartment but every time, every morning, you are served with the view of Indonesian poverty, the slum areas which are located right next to your apartment. If you look straight to the horizon, you see the optimistic tall buildings that are far away from you. But when you look down, just 10 meters from your place are houses made of paper boxes. Why do you pay so much if this is what you are going to see everyday?

What really slapped me in the face was when I was taking my baby cousin to the play room in a fancy apartment that my uncle owns. One side of the room is a glass wall so you can see everything outside. In that play room for the rich kids, the toys were complete, I’d never had that many toys in my childhood. What sit right next to the big glass wall was a 1.5 meter wide doll-house, complete with the tiny furnitures, I never played with a doll house when I was a kid, nobody in my neighborhood had a doll house. How ironic the contrast of the doll house and the view of human houses outside the glass wall is. Even dolls, non-living things, have a more decent house than human houses. What should I tell my baby cousin later about it when she starts to speak and ask questions? Other kids in the room were so loud and naughty, they just didn’t care about it, maybe they’ve been used to it that they didn’t even bother to ask what are the paper boxes with roofs outside the window.

This is Jakarta, this is Indonesia.