It was back in the year 1999 when I was just a chubby little kid who’s excited to eat his steak on the train. It wasn’t the same kind of Indonesia as it is now. The air was slightly better, the price was slightly cheaper, and there are no such things as choosing train over plane for cheap transport at that time. Everything was much simpler, the poor can mingle with the poor, and the rich doesn’t have to be such a bitch sharing their precious airport with a bunch of village people.
I never really come to Jakarta often, as a person who grew up in Yogyakarta; I rarely see the point of going there. Even then, the place was hotter, more crowded and even the traffic jam was already annoying back then. Jogja was more laid back, cooler and cheaper to live at.
It is 16 years after that day, today, that I have to finally consider Jakarta as an option. Being a recent university graduate, Jakarta is the only city in Indonesia that can promise decent pay-checks, stable income and career progressions.
There I was, innocent like a baby standing in the big city of Jakarta for the first time in years. The only thing that crosses my mind was that the city has their own societal order: an organised chaos. It is as if the law doesn’t really apply on the traffic and that everything that could go wrong does go wrong there, so much for not believing in Murphy’s Law. It was as if everything can simultaneously turn into chaos and that the law there overturns anything that the traffic law was trying to organise. Traffic lights were useless, one-way streets was somehow turned into a three-way, and a honk is more powerful than police sirens.
Oddly enough, with the really chaotic and crowded streets, some people decided to buy a Lamborghini Aventador. It’s like buying a bloody sports tank to move around London. Why? Because they effing can.
You can get a lot of public transport option there, with a range of price from Rp. 5000,- to Rp.75000,- depending on the distance and, oddly enough, weather. And if it’s flooding somewhere, you can’t even get one.
When you’re too sick of the streets chaos and decided to get a cold tea in some malls there, you get even more confused because of the many species of the mall. There are roughly about three kinds of it, the one for the poor community, the one for the “okay I’m not that rich but I’m getting there”, and the one for the rich. For most of the malls, oddly enough, you can see more than one similar shop. There are at least 2 Starbucks in every mall and some malls even have up to 3 or 5 of them. Another mall can have at least 2 or 3 A&W restaurants or KFC. How lazy are these people?
Some malls even have a bloody lake on its top floor, creating a sort of cosy/ outdoorsy environment. Sure, because it is a lot of effort to, you know, step outside. Some has an unnecessary mazy structure that you can somehow always get lost every time you walk inside it. Trust me, some of this malls are even bigger than Australia.
What’s even more puzzling are their luxury stores. They have a McLaren dealership and at least a Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Burberry store in every one of the malls. Some even have Hermes. These stores sell a mother effing handbag at the price of at least $1500. In a city with the mean income of Rp. 15.716.185,-, this becomes quite mind bending. Who the hell can afford such things? I mean a month worth of pay check for a handbag.
The social, economics and education gap in the city is so big, you can find a rich moron waving their money around in front of somebody who is million ways richer than him, but can’t even get an inch of his wealth. The people there are also confusing, some are really nice and are more willing to get heads over heels to help you. Most are arrogant bastards that don’t even want to look at you in the face when talking to you.
Nevertheless, the city is magic. I don’t know what, but there’s something about the city that will get you sucked in into its own vortex. You get drawn into all of these organised chaos, corruption and disgusting manners and actually fall in love with it. This city is like drugs, you know its bad for you, you know its expensive and you know you’ll live shorter if you’re using it, but you’ll still consume it anyway. I bloody hate this city and every single part of its social order, and yet, I can’t wait to be able to live there.
It presents to you a complicated showcase of Indonesian culture, it shows you human nature, it shows you the mean rule of the wild, it shows you love and most importantly, it doesn’t lie. If you want to know anything about Indonesia, its problem and how the country is in a big trouble, you can actually see it in Jakarta. It is perhaps the ultimate mirror of Indonesia.
Hate it or love it, Jakarta is an important piece of Indonesian culture. Its existence is Indonesia’s existence. It holds the most important government function, the backbone of Indonesian economy and promises a development for this ever-developing country. Granted that there are literally millions of problems to be fixed in Jakarta. Granted that we need to expand from the city. But Jakarta, will always be the hub of Indonesian culture.