Westerners abroad have a habit of checking the weather before they go out. Their lives and dress codes change according to the weather predictions, whether right or wrong.
In Jakarta, we move according to conditions on the road and check for floods or demonstrations.
One fine day recently, we were supposed to meet for a friend’s birthday. I belong to this birthday arisan group where we treat the celebrants.
The venue was in one of the hotels around Hotel Indonesia (HI). This area is always a favorite because of its central nature and the location of most of the arisan restaurants.
I had almost reached my destination when I got a BlackBerry message from a group chat. There was a demo in the Senayan area heading to HI so the arisan was cancelled. I was disappointed by their decision.
First, I had dieted on the previous days so that I could have a good meal on my friend’s birthday.
Second, I wanted to meet my friends, whom I hadn’t met for almost a month.
It was an irritating, major let down to be prevented from meeting because of a demo. I had nowhere to go so I went to my friend’s office building nearby on the 30th floor.
I looked down from the window and indeed saw a group of people standing and causing havoc with the traffic.
Then I thought, have the demonstrators eaten their meals or are they on a continuous diet like me? Don’t they feel the pangs of hunger?
Why speak about one’s convictions right at the peak of the day at 12 noon? Why not at 8 a.m. in the morning, when the sun’s heat emits vitamin D, which is good for health?
Some people may feel it is a waste of time to stand in a group and be the cause of traffic congestion and disrupt work.
For the demonstrators, it is an important matter. I feel for their cause — I know everyone needs to exercise their rights as a citizen. I understand that they speak on behalf of the thousands who cannot do so.
However, while they do so, other people are suffering indirectly by cancelling their meetings because of the traffic. It would be a cliché to say that it spoils the image of the country.
The thing here is, I have my rights to be happy as well and so does my friend who had a birthday that day.
Soon after, long holidays followed, along with the rainy season. But it did not matter because the arisan had to go on. Everyone was excited to meet because of the long break.
Alas, when I got up from my sleep to get ready to go out, the first level of my house was covered with water.
I refused to walk in the flood — my salutations to Jokowi for doing so at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle.
It was impossible to go out, as my car was inundated too. Once again my arisan was cancelled.
Experiencing both floods and demos have changed my lifestyle.
Before leaving home, I make sure to check if there are demonstrations or floods along my route.
I check the Internet for demo reports and the radio for more accurate news on floods when it rains. I have learned to accept both as a part of life here in Jakarta.
Most of all, I believe both the demos and floods are man-made troubles. We need to go green in our thoughts and our actions. If only all of us can think green by attending to the needs of others first, then
the demos will not occur.
If we go green by leaving those trees in the mountains untouched, so they can absorb the rains, then the floods will never occur.
It all boils down to playing with the essence of nature, that of human beings and living things.
I believe all we need is respect and reverence for other people’s time and necessities.
We need to think of other people first before ourselves. If we could all do this, then living in Jakarta would be easy. Thus life would homogenize to allow one to go to an arisan or a meeting on time.
— Aruna Harjani