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Urban Chat: Snakes and Ingrates for Ramadan and Idul Fitri

Lynda Ibrahim

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, June 14, 2019  /  07:46 pm
Urban Chat: Snakes and Ingrates for Ramadan and Idul Fitri

- (Shutterstock/vinap)

This year's Ramadan was probably one of the least peaceful ones for Jakartans in particular, and Indonesians in general. It certainly was an upsetting one for yours truly. The presidential election had taken place prior to Ramadan, yet ensuing protests led to even more venom online and seemingly endless street rallies during Ramadan – the latter which ended in riots in Jakarta's downtown on May 21 and 22.

Those who still remember the bloody riots of May 1998 must've seethingly found it ironic that, exactly 21 years after Soeharto got overthrown, his former son-in-law was marshaling "people power" to demand a win of an election he'd lost by a clear margin.

That irony I first managed to bear, but I lost my cool when Soeharto's middle daughter dared to publicly state that her father wouldn’t as easily accuse street protesters of treason as the current administration. Hell, sure, because during her father's 32-year authoritarian rule, walls had ears where as much as mumbling criticism could swiftly and silently seal one's fate long before one could march down any street. I wanted to call her snake but then I remembered even snakes had a right not to be confused with a dictator's daughter who's ungrateful that her father was allowed to die in peace instead of in a maximum security prison.

My friends in the retail business bemoaned the loss of sales so close to Idul Fitri, as downtown shopping centers shut down during the riots and app-based ojeks (motorcycle taxis) – key to many small online shops – wouldn't take delivery orders across town. The retail business has taken quite a hit in recent years, so to lose sales during the year's supposed peak, while still having to pay the mandatory holiday bonus (THR), wasn't a comforting story to hear repeatedly as one was struggling to attain peace on the last leg of Ramadan.

Then Idul Fitri came. First I was glad to read how the new highways across Java significantly reduced traffic jams for travelers visiting their hometowns, until scores of people started complaining loudly on any social media platform they could find that the smooth road trips erased the old-fashioned joy of being stuck in traffic for hours. Eh? Hours of traffic jams across Java actually spark joy in you people?

Ingrates. Shameless ingrates who fail at basic math and priority scaling to realize that those jammed hours mean loss of depleting fossil-based oil, time, money, physical energy and chances of further exploring the destination. Hypocritical ingrates who complained daily about Jakarta's horrible traffic, then suddenly waxed poetically about the maddening traffic of the annual exodus. If their laments were based on the political inability to praise the current government even when it's due, then I have to figure out names to call them, because snakes just wouldn't do.

The biggest challenge for me this Ramadan wasn't hunger, thirst or even my old ulcers that would typically act up during the first few days of Ramadan, but it's snakes and ingrates. I have long realized that Indonesian formal education often fails to form strong logic, but now I realize it has also generally failed to instill the ability to put things into perspective. Suddenly I could understand why Thanos desperately wanted to snap his gauntlet-adorned fingers.

The presidential election dispute hearing at the Constitutional Court started on Friday, with proceedings expected to run until the end of the month. I wholeheartedly pray that no more pointless shenanigans were to unfold anywhere in Jakarta, or Indonesia for that matter, when the Constitutional Court makes its ruling. Yes, the National Police have announced the perpetrators behind the recent riots, but excuse me for thinking there are more begrudging parties with means to wreak havoc out there than what the police has decided to disclose to the public.

I hope your Ramadan and Idul Fitri were more serene and less snake-infested than mine. While we're bracing for a fresh round of post-election dispute, I'm going to call Thanos and see if I could borrow that gauntlet for the next couple of weeks. 

Eid Mubarak, everyone.

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