By the way ... Coming clean with a birthday wish list for my home
As Jakarta celebrated its anniversary two days ago, I think it’s not too late to present my belated birthday wish list for the place I call home.
My first wish is probably shared by many of us — the hope that I no longer have to blame traffic for being late for appointments, or carefully calculate the estimated time of arrival due to gridlock.
The worsening traffic has led a friend to decide to remain in her boardinghouse close to her office after she marries, even though it will mean living separately from her soon-to-be husband. For residing close to one’s workplace in the city is a luxury that many people cannot afford.
My second wish is to be able to walk unhindered on the sidewalk, without having to worry about being hit by marauding motorcycles which appropriate it as an alternative road to beat traffic (and maybe to avoid the nails spread on the street by crooks).
They are not the only pedestrian hazards. Many sidewalks have been turned into crowded marketplaces, forcing pedestrians to step carefully in avoiding everything from piles of durian to foodstalls, complete with tables and stools. Don’t walk the walk in these areas without being on the alert.
Safety is next on my wish list, especially on public transportation at any time of the day.
I take taxis or ojek motorcycle taxi if I need to but public buses or trains are still not my preferred option unless I really have too.
There are too many reports of people falling victim to pickpockets, having their bank accounts cleaned out after being hypnotized or those who were sexually harassed on public transportation and even murdered (regardless of what they were wearing).
A bad experience at an intersection near Permata Hijau in South Jakarta once prompted a terrified friend to give up driving at night.
“How can I not be scared? A bunch of drunk-looking men surrounded my car, banged on my car window, flagrantly peeked inside and yelled out for money,” she said.
Yes, God has a plan for everyone but it’s still better to do our best to stay safe.
I have a few more wishes. One of the big ones is for a cleaner Jakarta.
As the nation’s capital, it’s embarrassing to see that only “important” neighborhoods are sparkling clean, such as those around the main government offices.
Just take a look around to see trash piling up on the streets, floating in the river and causing foul odors all around us. And when the city is flooded during the rainy season, the effects of our reckless ways leave us high but not so dry.
I am sure the money to make necessary changes is out there, from the high taxes we pay when dining out at restaurants, extending our motorcycle and car licenses, land or building permits and much more.
I also wish to apply this cleanliness drive to other things too, such as in food intended for public consumption. It’s hard to stick to
a friend’s advice to buy only hot food -- like soup or fried rice -- to ensure it is safe.
We also need clean public toilets, especially in public places. It’s funny how people build high-rise buildings to house many great offices and restaurants but somehow cannot afford to put clean and functioning toilets in them.
Personally, when I have to go shopping, I prefer going to malls that have clean toilets, like Gandaria, Pondok Indah and Senayan City, where they also take into account the needs of the smallest customers and, most importantly, never run out of water or tissues.
Cleaning up the administration is another wish, with all licenses ready in time, no money politics, no bribery cases and with real efforts made to fight poverty, instead of just lip service for campaign season.
And it would be great if we could have more green spaces where we can take our children to play and breathe clean air instead of having no other choice but to drag them to malls on the weekends.
Happy birthday Jakarta, I wish you a great and prosperous future for the years to come. Most of all, I want you to become a place that we can proudly call a clean and comfortable home of our own.
— Stevie Emilia