'Better not have too high
expectations in life'

Bruce Emond, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Wherever she goes, Vina Panduwinata is serenaded by her hit songs of the 1980s. Light to the point of verging on frothy, songs such as Burung Camar (The Seagull) and Didadaku Ada Kamu (In My Heart There's You) were distinguished by Vina's rich, one-of-a-kind voice, making her the Krisdayanti (without the flashy clothes and makeup) of her generation. The daughter of a diplomat, she spent her teenage years in Germany, coming to regard the European country as her second homeland (""when we came back to Indonesia, I'd tell my mom, 'I want to go home' and she'd say, 'THIS is your home,'"").

Now 42 and still popular on the concert circuit, Vina has graduated to ""diva"" status; she joined younger counterparts such as Krisdayanti and Titi DJ as part of the Southeast Asian Divas concert held in Jakarta in November. Off-stage, however, she has no diva trappings, being warm and funny and very down-to-earth.

If you had the choice, what would you be doing now?

Right now, during the fasting month, I have a lot of activities. I'm singing -- it seems that Indonesians have realized that they can have some events on during the fasting month -- but I'm a housewife, too. I'm trying to be a good mother and a good housewife. I'm still Vina, Boy's wife and Vito's mother. My son has just started his school holiday, but it's not so nice to go traveling abroad during the fasting month. We just go to the mall, come home, break the fast. Maybe after the month is over.

What is the meaning of life?

My father asked me, ""What is our destination in life?"" I said happiness. And he said, no it's death! So, we have to make our choices in what we want to do with our lives. For me, life is a gift from God and we have to be thankful for that. We have to accept what we get from God, even the hard times. Even with sadness, which is part of the language of humans, we don't know what His intention is. By solving a problem, we become more mature. Don't have too many expectations in life, because you're bound to be disappointed.

Which trait do you most like about yourself?

I can't really say what my traits are, but I always say to my friends that I'm happy that God chose me for this life. If God had made me an angry and jealous person, then I wouldn't be what I am today. So I'm just who I am.

And deplore?

It's hard for me to say, but I always try to push down emotions. I don't want to be an emotional person, even when I'm angry. It's good for the people around us if we are like that, but not for us, because eventually you suffer stress ... If we are wise about ourselves, then we have to find a way to express it ... When it gets too much -- we all have a limit -- I go to my doctor and I have a talk ...

Whom do you admire?

There are many people, because every person has something special. But I'm very proud of my late father. In my eyes, he was almost perfect. Nobody's perfect, but he was almost so. He was good as a father, as a husband, as a friend. He always strove to do good things ...

But do you agree that real love is about seeing both the attraction of the person and their shortcomings, like what they look like when they first wake up in the morning?

I agree, but I look at it from the other way round. Love is a very precious gift. We have to be thankful to God if we have it, because not all people have it in their lives. You know, at first there is the love that is like electricity, grrrrrrr. And it can change our lives, how we see things, how we hear things. And because of love, we can excuse those things later, the shortcomings.

There's a difference with the love we maintain, the love we get from getting to know somebody, and maybe not even liking them at first. But that grrrrrrr love is really something!

What kind of clothes do you like to wear?

Casual, but maybe my casual is different from other people's definitions. I like simplicity. For singing engagements, I like special designers. Now, if I had a good body, like Twiggy, then I could wear anything, but now I have to choose carefully. I like Eddy Betty and Paula.

Do you worry about your weight?

You know, I've lost weight already. I've lost 13 kgs!.

How did you do it?

For the first six months, all I did was eat dinner at 5 p.m., the very latest at 6 p.m., after that I would only have fruit and water. I lost seven kgs but then I hit a plateau, and I couldn't lose anymore. So, I went to Dr. Sinta for acupuncture to lose more.

What makes you angry?

This is a very difficult question ... Even if people are late for an appointment or they lie, I try to remain relaxed. We don't get anywhere when we're angry. When we get angry, we release toxins. It's not good for our appearance, or our aura to others.

What characteristics do you dislike in others?

Those who are egoists, and liars.

What makes you laugh?

Silly humor, I can laugh so hard.

What makes you sad?

I'm sad if I see someone I care for is having a hard time. But my greatest sadness was when my father died. Usually, when I'm sad, I forget about it when I go on stage. But when he died, I was singing through my tears.

Do you have a favorite song?

I have a lot. My favorite singer is Dionne Warwick. I like ""simple"" singers, those who sing in a simple style but can express the lyrics. I don't like it when singers add a lot more to it.

Like Mariah Carey?

Yes, in my eyes it's too much. Whitney Houston is still OK, but Mariah Carey goes overboard. All the songs sound the same.

Do you have any regrets?

I think it's better not to. It's OK if we're sad, but don't have regrets. Life is a gift from God. If we regret something, that means we're rejecting what was given to us by God.

If you could come back to the age of 21, what would you change?

If I was 21 again, I would want to have a child every year! (Vina suffered a miscarriage last year)

Is there anything that is unforgivable?

That's really hard for me. There is something, but it's much too personal. I cannot say it.

How do you want to be remembered?

I want most of all to have left something that is worthwhile for others.

What would you do if the world were going to end in 24 hours?

I would embrace my child, and be with him. That's it. For my child is my soul mate.

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