Learning the Meaning of Father’s Day from the Prousts

There is no man of literature that can describe the most humbling father-son relationship than French great novelist Marcel Proust and his father, Adrien Proust.

Two days before 26 November 1903, Adrien experienced a massive stroke attack while teaching in the medical school and eventually passed away, leaving his son so devastated. Of his father’s passing, Marcel wrote in a letter with a heightened feeling of being a failing son:

“Papa was a very sweet and simple man. I tried not to live up to his expectations for I am aware that I am always the dark spot in his life. To show him my affection, […] Other people have some sort of ambition to console them. I have none.”

At the time, Marcel was still in deep disappointment with himself because the novel he was working on, “Jean Santeuil” (an unfinished novel divided in three volumes which was never published during his lifetime).

With his father so hardworking and celebrated as an epidemiologist succeeding to combat cholera plague in Paris, Marcel saw himself as a shadow that never ever surpassed his father’s achievement and strong personality. He had developed a type of Inferiority Complex.

And the disappointment of Adrien was magnified when he learned Marcel failed to have a certain career.  Marcel was ‘only’ able to take up pens and write every night, living like  bat. Marcel’s younger brother, Robert, luckily (or sadly?) went on to study medicine, just like their father, which was quite a source of frustration to Marcel.

Adriene saw Robert’s academic and career attainment soared at medical school. Though he knew Marcel was not interested in attending medical school, as a father he suggested him to join a law firm.

But Marcel knew what he wanted. He write in one of his letters to his father:

“My dearest Papa,

I have kept hoping that I would be finally able to go on with the literary and philosophical studies for which I believe myself fit. As for a law office, I assure you I wouldn’t stick it out for three days.

I still believe that anything I do outside philosophy and literature would be just so much lost time…”

Despite the sibling rivalry, Robert showed full support of Marcel’s literary pursuit and even helped edit the elder brother’s manuscripts after Marcel’s untimely death. (*/)

If Jakarta Sinks…

Asian Boss has asked several young Jakartans what they think of the recent discourse of moving the capital to a new city outside Java Island.

If I were one of them, I’d say:

“It should’ve done long time ago. It has always been a debate since the last administration but nothing occcured.

Moving the center of economic and administrative affairs from Jakarta (formerly called Batavia) to a new city in Borneo Island.actually not only involves shifts of physical positions but also shifts of paradigm in the mind of our policy makers.

For more than 70 years, Indonesia has been too Javacentric. Seriously. We have had almost all of our presidents from Javanese families. The first president is Soekarno or Kusno Sosordihardjo, which is a very Javanese name. Suharto is also a Javanese-born man. Our third is not a pure Javanese man but B. J. Habibie has a mother of Javanese nobility. Abdurrahman Wahid is totally from East Java. Megawati is Soekarno’s daughter, so she is Javanese to her core. And Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) is from Pacitan, East Java. Even the current president Jokowi was born in Surakarta, Java. So we can tell how much the Javacentricism is in the core of our country. All is about Java.

Though I am a Javanese and muslim man myself (just like being a Christian, white male in the States), I in fact look forward to something bigger than this restricting and suffocating Javacentricism as I believe in the notion that openness to reform is the key to unlocking the nation’s biggest potential.

Jakarta and Javacentricism are getting less and less relevant as Indonesia is becoming a more developed country. And Jakarta is way too old and fragile to support a disgustingly rapid economic boom in the country. The impact of this slow response to the Jakarta’s incapability of becoming a representative capital is too bitter for us. We have been so tired and drained by the traffic jams, floodings, environmental issues, etc.

And no one seems inside a happy bubble, not wanting to acknowledge the fact that Jakarta is doomed once the nation gained its independence. I am not saying our independence is the culprit of the huge mess in Jakarta but Jakarta/ Batavia was clearly built by the Dutch. And our ‘organic’ way of city plan growth and changes is very wild, dissimilar in many ways possibly found from the Dutch’s ways of thinking and city planning, design and so on.

Not to mention the urbanization rate which has been soaring and the ill-planned urban landscape, Jakarta looks like an old lady getting raped by super selfish men.

But the current regime should learn from the past mistakes so they won’t create another Jakarta in Borneo.

I really think Jakarta’s role as an administrative center can be gradually removed; while its role as an economic center can be transferred to other big cities throughout Indonesia, such as Medan, Makassar, Jayapura, and other port cities. (*/)

Foreign Language (Mis)Used as the Most Efficient Politeness Maker

My hometown is one of the least towns on earth you are likely to find scantily clad women on ads. We observe the Islamic laws and morals and ethics. Veiled women are everywhere to see.

The atmosphere of conservatism and orthodoxy is too prevalent to deny.

So of course it makes sense that I was horribly shocked to spot that disturbing sticker that says “FATHER FUCKER” (typed as is) on my way home.

Since when this kind of double profanity is allowed and considered legal in this ultra religious town in the time of Islamic lifestyle awakening?

I assume this is because hardly anyone understands well what this sticker really means.

When “MOTHER FUCKER” is already a horrendous sin because that means someone is a son who has sex with his own biological mother, then “FATHER FUCKER” refers to a son who has sex with his own biological father by becoming a powerful and authoritative top. While the first case would evidently of incest and adultery, the second is even way more complex. There is a nuance of incest, adultery, and same-sex intercourse.

Has the sticker shown us some emerging LBTQ campaign around the town? I jokingly think so.

But I seriously have given this a thought: these people in my pious hometown do assume that everything is good and permitted and thus polite and ethical as long as it is stated in other languages they do not speak and write. And since they can only speak Javanese and Indonesian, they then won’t mind and care if you screamed “FUCK YOU” in the middle of the crowd in the townsquare.

I have noticed this phenomenon since quite a long time. This is partly because they think foreign languages are cooler. So what is the problem of saying profanity when people around you have no idea what it is all about?

That might be the case. No worries because no one will really get the meaning.

But as shocking as I may feel the first time, I eventually come to terms with this ignorance.

Though people in this town may learn English in schools, but in reality only very very few of them really understand the meaning behind all wordings on ads they see every time.

Jakarta as a Tranquil Ghost City Is Right around the Corner

Three more days to go to Eid here in Jakarta. And the holiday vibe is in the air for not only a week but five weeks!!!

How come?

So the countdown has started since the beginning of Ramadan. Everyone is looking forward to the big festivity which is a blend of secular celebration, consumerism at its most disgusting, and of course ceremonial religious observance here and there. That is four weeks.

And the other one week is the w-week. I have heard Eid el fitr has never gotten any bigger attention than in South East Asian countries. In Arabic countries, Eid el Fitr is way less popular than Eid el Adha, the day when muslims commemorate the sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim and his dear son.

This w-week is just the ideal time when you tourists can roam Jakarta with much ease and less pollution to rip your lungs. This is the perfect week to explore any places in the capital after a riotous presidential election that has actually dampened because those politicians need to act as if they forgave each other. Which we will never find out the truth.

You may go climb the national monument in the nucleus of Jakarta if you wish to. Even if you will get caught in the act, I swear the response will not as swift as when you do it the other 51 week in a year.

But alas, you also have to deal with less convenience to find foods and drinks. Many establishments are going to be closed and stop operating for days.

And even if they are no muslims, still the distribution chains and most employees they hire are muslims. So chances are you have to be patiently awaiting until another week so the economy runs normally again. That means one week or two weeks after the Eid day.

For most of non muslims and muslims still staying and living in Jakarta during the massive temporary diaspora, it is quite a pain in the ass.

Life seems to be put in hold and concentrated mainly in public places such as airports and stations. Malls and restaurants are mostly closed and even if they open, they can only serve with limitations. You order foods you like but it turns out your favorite is not available just because the food distributor, the cook has not come to work just yet or some issues occur. All is caused by Eid holiday.

If you do not know what to do during the colossal recess, try taking photos of you lying down under the sun in the middle of Jakarta main roads which are nearly completely empty, free of maddening traffic we are always complaining about. That legendary, notorious traffic!!!