The Crazy Rich Asian that I Really Know of in Reality

I find it hard to relate to the life of these filthy wealthy Asian Chinese but one man offered me a glimpse of his life as a part of this world unknown for me. (Photo: WIkipedia)

It is odd to say that Facebook is the most hateful virtual place where I can get to know the most interesting and authentic people on the earth. I’ve seen jerks, cons, and liars, psychopaths here. But real deals are rarities, indeed.

After the movie craze “Crazy Rich Asian” that has swept the world, I recall my encounter with someone who really reflects the familial background and wealth of an Asian clan that are also well versed with Western values and worldviews but at the same time also still retain their Asian DNA. By ‘Asian’ here, I mean Chinese.

Call him Brad. We knew each other on Facebook. But what led us to each other is nothing but yoga. We’re both so into yoga, so when I posted a lot of my yoga photos, he found out somehow and we became friends. We have a mutual friend on Facebook as well, and he is a seasoned tour guide from Bali who is so kind and nice and terrific. If anyone wants to roam Bali, I can never recommend no one but him. Brad coincidentally had taken a cruise with the tour guide guy to one of the eastern islands in the archipelago

What sets Brad from other yogis that I know of is that Brad is not only into yoga but also traditionally-made fabrics, batik. I am Javanese yet I was never willing to learn more about the history and culture of batik, but Brad made me in awe and total shame as he has spent a great deal of time and money and all of his resources to research and collect all. While I can only admire batik as beautiful piece of cloth, he explains in great length about batik and traditionally made, ethnic fabrics made in various islands and areas in my own homeland. I am kind of humiliated in a way but humbled as well to witness his cultural prowess.

But Brad’s breadth and depth of interest have never ceased to amaze me. He is also very adept at culinary world. He preached in an inconceivable level of meticulousness about his gastronomical observations in many restaurants in Bali and other big cities in the world. And I was stunned to learn he has his own book of culinary recipes. It seemed he used to work at a five-star hotel as a sous chef and in the course of time, the management downgraded the quality of ingredients and prices owing to the decline of diner’s number, resulting in his rebellion. He cut off the contract and had no remorse ever since. He went from a chef to an art activist, founding his own gallery because if you have a bottomless bank account, why bother working sulkily with a business partner that betrays your idealism?

At his 60s, Brad is not a particularly a man with a body of his age. His yoga practice and ovo vegan diet have made this achievable. And he also can never get enough with durian.

And before I forget, he is no ordinary yogi. He sets up his own school of yoga in Cambodia, where he trains local youths to be a band of competent yoga teachers. From Taiwan where Brad resides, he goes back and forth to Cambodia only to make sure this yoga teacher training works well.

Brad is doing all this because he has a lot of time. He seems to be single and free as a bird, and he takes his liberty to whatever he wants to. A couple of years ago when we met, Brad told me he was still living with his mother but where it is exactly, I never quite understand.

While taking care of his 90-year-old mother, Brad came to realize that life goes downhill from the middle age, an age bracket where he is now. He sometimes told me that he has this vision telling him his time is not long so he had to make haste with his life. As I was cringing on hearing his words, he seemed so carefree and nonchalant. He seemed so stable and has achieved this point in life where nothing else matters.

His odd view – or I’d rather say, fascination – about death has reached a level of comfort I fail to fathom. He casually recounted how he found peace while he went to bed naked and then wrapped himself in a man-length ethnic fabric some vague tribe in Indonesia makes to wrap a dead body. “I can feel in some way how it feels to be dead and wrapped in this beautiful work of art,” Brad joked. “But before that, I wish I could accomplish my work.”

His work?

He has a lot of work to do. He owns and manages a gallery in Taipei. His property is there and as he is approaching death, he has a growing concern about his assets and wealth he has amassed thus far. ”You know. I have to find someone as my heir or the Taiwanese government confiscates my assets and changes the ownership into theirs, which is against my will,” he told me in one fine afternoon dining at a fancy restaurant in the southern part of Jakarta.

I suggested he make his nephew and niece heirs. “That wouldn’t be possible, Akhlis. They’re Singaporeans, and I won’t make my sister go into a lot of trouble for this.”

Brad’s sister is married happily to an Indian man. An intercultural marriage that is endowed with one son and one daughter with a mixed beauty of Indian and Chinese physique. I can tell you Brad’s niece and nephew are rare hybrid breeds. They have the wide, beautiful eyes of Indians and at the same time has a smooth-featured facial shape and yellowish fair skin only Chinese have.

Another work Brad feels urgent to accomplish soon before his death is a book. Like any other typical stories of Crazy Rich Asians, Brad in his teenage years went to the United States to get a proper education that every young man in his family should have. I made a smart guess that his family is definitely no ordinary, proletarian, working class family.

And I am right.

Brad gave me – and everyone in his friend list on Facebook – an extremely generous access to his private past life as a university student somewhere in the US. I saw younger Brad wearing a pair of thick-framed glasses. He was quite a nerd and bookworm it seemed. And another photo showed him holding a diploma in his hand and smiling from ear to ear. A smile of ignorance, not knowing what awaited him in the future. All this explained a lot as to why Brad’s Chinese does not sound very much like Singlish. It’s a confusing combination of various accents and his own idiosyncrasy. An accent only he has developed over the decades, I suppose.

The book he wanted to publish anytime soon is one related to his great great grandfather. “He used to be a great trader during the era of [insert some past ruler’s name in the southern tip of Malayan Peninsula] and I want to follow his traces as traders of beautiful cloth around South East Asia,” he said. That explained a lot why he was so fervent about any research on Malayan traditional cloths. He knew so much about batik, tenun, and ikat from Java, Sumba, Sumatera, Cambodia, etc. And it utterly makes sense that he was invited by a renowned museum in Singapore to present his findings about the relations of all these traditions. He is just the right keynote speaker on the issue. I can tell he drew many people’s attention with his deep understanding.

He travels extensively across borders in South East Asian countries, from Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, and then goes back to Taiwan. But he also mentioned sometime that he paid a visit to a member of his family in the US.

Though Brad has his property in Taiwan, he is still a registered American citizen. I still recalled the day before the US presidential election arrived. He was glad he had the chance to cast a vote virtually though he was away from the US territory at the time. That got me into thinking of the future possibility that Indonesians can also cast a vote via internet someday. He was even more pissed at the fact that a man like Trump won the election. He lamented so much over the loss of sanity of the American people when he discovered the heart-wrenching news. Poor (filthy rich) man.

Now that I quit Facebook and deleted my account and left everything inside it, I have lost contact with Brad. Facebook is the one and only communication channel we are on.  This might be the right reason to revive my digital presence on Facebook. (*/)

Perjuangan yang Padam

Cita-citaku bukan menjadi sopir sebenarnya. Aku mau menjadi sutradara panggung seperti ketoprak, wayang orang, ludruk dan sejenisnya. Sayangnya kuliahku di Institut Kesenian Jakarta (IKJ) putus di tengah jalan setelah aku menghamili anak gadis orang.

Masa kecilku bahagia. Aku menikmati banyak hiburan dari televisi. Saat aku kecil sudah ada sebagian orang yang memiliki pesawat televisi hitam putih. Setelah aki habis, kami mesti sabar menunggu tiga hari lagi. Kami mesti mengisi daya lagi peswat televisi itu di tempat khusus yang jarang dimiliki orang. Paling satu atau dua tempat pengisi daya ini bisa ditemukan di sebuah kecamatan. Cuma mandor atau orang-orang berada yang memiliki pesawat televisi mahal itu.

Acara-acara TVRI menjadi kesukaan kami. Misalnya Ria Jenaka. Selain itu, kami juga banyak menyaksikan acara-acara serial televisi Barat yang berkualitas. Sebelum aki habis, biasanya gambar televisi menjadi bergoyang tanpa peringatan sebelumnya. Hal ini membuatku jengkel karena kadang membuat kami ketinggalan jalam cerita.

Begini -begini saya bangga menjadi salah satu saksi sejarah reformasi tahun 1998. Saat tanggal 12-13 Mei saya turut turun ke sumber kerusuhan. Kami para aktivis mahasiswa dibidik menjadi sasaran empuk para penembak jitu (snipers) yang sudah bersiap siaga di jembatan Semanggi. Aku ikut berkonvoi bersama ribuan orang mahasiswa lainnya.

Kami pikir penembak jitu itu hanya memakai peluru karet yang tidak akan membuat kami sekarat atau terluka. Nyatanya, kami ditembaki dengan peluru tajam seperti hewan buruan di hutan-hutan pedalaman Kalimantan. Beberapa teman kami terluka dan bahkan tewas. Kalian tentu tahu nama Elang yang legendaris itu. Ia salah satu korbannya.

Mulanya kampus kami itu damai. Kampus yang bernuansa seni kental tidak perlu memusingkan pergolakan politik dan pergantian tampuk pemerintahan di luar sana. Begitu keyakinan kami para calon seniman andal negeri ini. Sebagai calon pemimpin negeri ini, kami memang buta politik. Kami tidak pernah diberikan pendidikan politik yang memadai. Murni seni. Hanya seni yang kami yakini dengan sepenuh hati.

Tanpa diduga, kami dikirimi oleh Himpunan Mahasiswa Jakatrta dan Himpunan Mahasiswa Indonesia bra dan celana dalam wanita. Kami mendapatinya dalam paket yang dikirim dalam sebuah paket yang tertuju pada sebuah kantor BEM dan kami buka ramai-ramai. Kami dikatai banci, itu pesan yang kami tangkap dari paket itu. Kami pun terpaksa turun ke jalan dan menganggapnya sebagai perjuangan.

Setelah pak Harto lengser justru muncul pro kontra di kalangan mahasiswa sendiri. Mereka menanyakan pada diri sendiri:”Mengapa yang kita perjuangkan ini malah menceraiberaikan Indonesia?”. Di sini, para mahasiswa mulai pecah dan ditunggangi.

Aku sendiri ikut berunjuk rasa turun ke jalan karena aku anak kos yang semata-mata tergiur oleh suplai makanan gratis. Pasokan makanan seolah tanpa henti dan menjadi bagian dari sponsor. Merek-merek makanan berbau Barat mendominasi pasokan makanan kami yang turun ke jalan-jalan di Jakarta dan membanjiri gedung MPR/ DPR di Senayan. Mereka seperti diperintahkan untuk memberikan kami ‘bahan bakar’ agar terus bisa berunjuk rasa mengkudeta status quo. Siang datang ambil makanan lalu ikut demontrasi ala kadarnya dan malamnya berpesta pora. Sayangnya pesta pora ini tak sampai berlangsung tujuh hari tujuh malam. Kami hanya bisa mengecap makanan enak saat tanggal 12-13 Mei 1998 saja. Setelah tuntutan kami dipenuhi agar Soeharto lengser, kami pun tidak lagi mendapati makanan gratis yang menerbitkan air liur itu.

Amien Rais bukan orang yang ditakdirkan menjadi presiden. Terbukti seberapa kerasnya ia berjuang menjadi orang nomor satu di negeri ini, kursi presiden itu tidak kunjung bisa ia duduki. Berkali-kali mencalonkan diri dalam pemilihan presiden di Indonesia membuatnya sadar bahwa ia tidak memiliki takdir sebagai pemimpin nomor wahid Indonesia. Bahkan ia mendirikan Partai Amanat Nasional (PAN) sebagai partai yang dipenuhi orang-orang cerdik cendekia sepertinya. Tetap saja ia tidak terpilih kan? Akhirnya ia menyerah dan memilih untuk duduk di belakang saja.

Gus Dur membuktikan kehebatannya dengan bisa merangsek ke jajaran elit dan bisa menunjukkan bahwa dirinya tetap bisa memerintah walaupun secara fisik ia tidak bisa dikatakan bugar atau sehat.

When Asian Women Say ‘Me Too’

In 2006 #MeToo was launched by American activist Tarana Burke as a form of solidarity for victims of sexual assaults. It went viral overnight in the wake of Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein’s misconduct last October which  prompted women around the globe to break all the silence ‘wall’ around the issue of sexual assault and harassment. The movement reached its peak when Oprah Winfrey presented a speech at the Golden Globes stage on January 7. Another notable figure who ‘helped’ launch the movement is gymnast McKayla Maroney who spoke openly about what Larry Nassar (a former USA gymnastics team doctor) had done to her when she was 13. Nassar was arrested last November after being accused of sexually harassing not only Maroney but also many other female. Ever since, the movement has been snowballing.

Asia is not immune to the movement, impacting at various levels on Asian women. In some Asian countries, we have seen some achievement in women empowerment. In China, for example, the battle against gender-based violence has reached some new heights as thousands women showed support for the initiative. Despite government censors, the movement has been fruitful especially on academic circles. Beihang University alumnae Luo Qianqian bravely accused her professor on the campus, Chen Xiaowu, of sexual assault in 2005 when the man served as her academic advisor. Luo was not alone as half of the female students at 15 Chinese universities stated they had been subjected to sexual misconduct on campus, according to a study released in 2014 by the All-China Women’s Federation. The pursuit of justice ended happily. Chen was removed from his position and sanctioned by the Ministry of Education.

In India, according to Ranjana Kumari (Chairperson of Women Power Connect) the movement has been responded widely and positively. Though most of these Indian women do not detail who their perpretators were and what really happened to them but they confessed that the same thing had happened to them at work and on campus. “They find the space on social media and could say ‘this is what happened to me, too!’” she elaborated. She also noted that the majority of women who work in the informal sector and are very marginalized in the society have no such privilege to speak up even on social media and need assistance in some way.

In the Arab world, the movement was responded to differently. As stated by Egypt-born feminist author Mona Eltahawy, the importance of the hashtag is not about women speaking out or does the community blame the woman or not. “It has allowed women to see each other as all being victims of patriarchy. This is an institutionalized form of discrimination that regardless of where you’re from,” the author of Headscarves and Hymen remarked.

For the Asian women context, according to Indonesian journalist behind feminist news portal Devi Asmarani, cultural factors prove to remain strong in preventing them from speaking up about sexual harassment. The main cultural factor playing here is the strong patriarchy culture prevalent in most part of Asia. “Patriarchy plays a strong role in intergender relations, which consequently belittles sexual violence and harassment. This ends up undermining the urgency of issue among society members and stakeholders. Public knowledge on sexual violence also needs improvement. They assume only rapes or assaults can fit the definition of sexual violence; while harassment, catcalling and many other forms of such misconducts do not qualify. Most offenses like these are left unpunished, forgiven or considered trivial,” Devi commented via email. This fact, she added, brings so much burden on the shoulders of victims, both ones of rape and harassment as they are required to be able to provide convincing evidence.

She also pointed out that when the legal system and law enforcement do not sympathize with victims, there is more reluctance to file reports or speak openly about violence they had to endure. As the stigma lingers among sexually-harassed women, they grow more reluctant to report or open talk about what they had gone though publicly. Often women are seen as ones who desire such treatment.

So what can be done about it? “Keep talking,” Devi asserted herself. The more stay silent, the longer the problem keeps amounting. Both survivors and non-survivors must unite and cooperate to speak up and show their support of the me-too movement as well as educate the public in general on how prevalent and massive this issue has become in Asia, too.

These days, Asian women encounter a tremendous amount of challenges amidst the increasingly conservative society and  more prevalent religious fundamentalism that aim to reposition women back to domestic realm. “But I’m convinced that eventually gender equality is something inevitable. So it’s either you’re with us or against us,” she concluded.

The #MeToo movement certainly puts women in Asia in an uncomfortable moment and discomfort but it is the inconvenience that empowers them to enable a  major social change especially in Asian communities. This is the best momentum to give more emphasis on the issue urgency, waking up us all to start a very honest conversation about gender relations, sex and all the taboos that we badly need to address. (*/)


Menelisik Fitartistik (8): Handstand Itu Mahal

HANDSTAND itu mahal. Demikian kata coach Jonathan Sianturi.

Ya betul juga sebab handstand asal-asalan, dengan cara yang sembarangan, mungkin lebih mudah dilakukan. Asal kedua kaki naik ke atas dan jadilah.

Tapi jika mau melakukannya dengan teknik yang benar dan aman serta memberi lebih banyak faedah daripada risiko cedera bagi tubuh, teknik yang benar tak pelak diperlukan.

Di pertemuan ini saya masih berjuang agar teknik handstand saya bisa lebih mapan dan aman. Tapi memang lagi lagi kembali pada komitmen masing-masing. Berapa banyak waktu yang bisa diluangkan untuk belajar dan berlatih? Nah, itu yang jadi pertanyaan.

Saya sendiri masih agak labil. Bisa naik tetapi untuk mempertahankan handstand susahnya bukan main. Resepnya dari coach: handstand dengan muka menghadap dinding. Agak mengerikan tapi bagus untuk melatih respons tangan tatkala tubuh agak limbung ke depan. Mekanisme rem itu mesti dibangun perlahan tiap hari. (*/)

My Portfolio [as of February 2018]

Here is a collection of my published works in various media, both print and online. Some are written in Indonesian and some others English. They’re chronologically ordered, from most recent to oldest. Click on the titles of article to read further.

February 2018

“Indonesia’s Top Foreign CEOs 2018” Book

With Pieter Daniel Van Zyl of Allianz Utama

With Marc Louette of Sampoerna Agro

December 2017 

Perjalanan 3 Dekade Nurhayati Rahman Lunasi ‘Utang’ La Galigo []

November 2017

One of Writers of “Indonesia’s Top CEOs 2017” (Warta Ekonomi)

August 2017

Writer of Art Republik Magazine (3rd edition)

August 2017

Co-facilitator at Social Media Workshop (August 8th, 2017) for Itjen Kemenkes’ public relations division


July 2017

A keynote presenter  and facilitator at Social Media Workshop (July 27th, 2017) for Itjen Kemdikbud’s public relations division


A keynote presenter  and facilitator at Social Media Workshop (July 27th, 2017) for BPKP public relations division


June 2017

Translator of “Ensiklopedi Suku Bangsa Indonesia” by Zulyani Hidayah (funded by LitRI and to be published by Springer, Singapore)

October 2016

Runtuhnya Wibawa Pusat Bahasa


September 2016

Penulis, Pajak dan Kesejahteraan []

Mengapa Entrepreneur Perlu Lebih Skeptis Saat Membaca Biografi Orang ‘Sukses’


Kenapa Seks Sehat bagi Wanita Tapi Bisa Memperpendek Umur Pria?

August 2016

Jebakan Kuantitas dalam Inkubasi “Start-up”

April 2016

Kintamani Bali Dog (as editor)


January 2015

One of authors in “Menemukan Makna, Merayakan Cinta” (Yoga-themed collection of writeups)

October 2014

Writing for (click to read the article)

January 2013

Featured on Tabloid Nova as social media officer of @ciputraway (which I initiated in August 2010)



Parpol di Pemilu 2019: Memang Masih Bisa Dipercaya?


Cuma itu satu kata dari saya setelah selama ini mengikuti bagaimana perkembangan politik Indonesia beserta tingkah polah petinggi-petinggi parpol, DPR, dan segerombol politisi yang sudah menjabat sebagai kepala daerah dan tertangkap tangan KPK.

Jarang saya mau berbicara soal politik apalagi mengomentari polah ‘badut-badut’ di dalamnya. Karena tidak akan ada habisnya dan saya memiliki pekerjaan yang lebih penting daripada duduk membaca berita politik lalu berkomentar sinis soal perilaku politisi X atau munafiknya pejabat Y.

Di satu sisi saya juga sadar bahwa saya harus ikut berpartisipasi dalam pemilihan umum nanti. Bahwa saya memiliki kekuatan – meski demikian kecilnya – untuk membantu bangsa ini mencapai perubahan.

Hanya saja di sisi lain saya tahu benar bahwa saya tidak boleh membuat kesalahan yang sama. Apakah itu? Memilih parpol yang sama di masa lalu dan sudah terbukti tidak mampu menunjukkan kinerja tetapi malah haus kekuasaan, korup, busuk, dan mengkhianati rakyat yang sudah memilih.

INTINYA: Saya tidak bisa dan jangan sampai menjadi golput!

“Baiklah, kalau kesadaran itu sudah ada lalu bagaimana selanjutnya?” Tanya sebuah suara dalam tempurung kepala.


Saya sangat amat percaya bahwa kita tidak bisa menyelesaikan masalah dengan menggunakan pola pemikiran dan orang-orang yang sama dalam membuat masalah.

Dengan kata lain, parpol-parpol dari rezim-rezim sebelumnya itu sudah memfosil dan tidak layak pilih. Sukar mengharapkan mereka membantu bangsa dan negara ini keluar dari masalah karena: MEREKA JUGA BAGIAN DARI MASALAH!

Selanjutnya, setelah menyingkirkan parpol-parpol yang sudah memiliki rekam jejak kotor di masa lalu, kita beralih pada tahap seleksi selanjutnya yakni: apakah parpol-parpol baru yang tersisa ini digawangi atau diperkuat oleh sekelompok barisan pecundang politik yang sakit hati karena kekalahan masa lampau dan mencoba peruntungan sekali lagi untuk berebut tampuk kekuasaan?

Karena itu, marilah duduk sejenak menyeleksi parpol-parpol yang akan bertanding tahun 2019 nanti.

Berikut sedikit data untuk menentukan pilihan yang saya temukan di sampul Koran Tempo tanggal 19 Februari 2018.

  1. Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa

Berdiri: 23 Juli 1998

Ketum: Muhaimin Iskandar

2. Partai Gerakan Indonesia Raya

Berdiri: 6 Februari 2008

Ketum: Prabowo Subianto

3. Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan

Berdiri: 1 Februari 1999

Ketum: Megawati Soekarnoputri

4. Partai Golongan Karya

Berdiri: 20 Oktober 1964

Ketum: Airlangga Hartato

5. Partai Nasional Demokrat

Berdiri: 26 Juli 2011

Ketum: Surya Paloh

6. Partai Gerakan Perubahan Indonesia

Berdiri: 16 April 2015

Pendiri dan ketum: Ahmad Ridha Sabana

7. Partai Berkarya

Berdiri: 15 Juli 2016

Ketum: Neneng Tutty

Pendiri: Tommy Soeharto

8. Partai Keadilan Sejahtera

Berdiri: 20 April 2002

Presiden: Mohamad Sohibul Iman

9. Partai Persatuan Indonesia

Berdiri: 7 Februari 2015

Pendiri dan ketum: Hary Tanoesoedibjo

10. Partai Persatuan Pembangunan

Berdiri: 5 Januari 1973

Ketum: Muhammad Romahurmuziy

11. Partai Solidaritas Indonesia

Berdiri: 16 November 2014

Pendiri dan ketum: Grace Natalie

12. Partai Amanat Nasional

Berdiri: 23 Agustus 1998

Ketum: Zulkifli Hasan

13. Partai Hati Nurani Rakyat

Berdiri: 14 November 2006

Ketum: Oesman Sapta Odang

14. Partai Demokrat

Berdiri: 9 September 2001

Pendiri dan ketum: Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

Yang mana pilihan Anda? Kalau saya sih RAHASIA. (*/)

“Bisik-bisik”: Storytelling ‘Telanjang Bulat’

Buku ini diberikan oleh penulisnya pada saya di suatu pagi sehabis yoga di Taman Suropati tahun 2013 (mungkin). Reda Gaudiamo, penulis yang juga penyanyi itu, mengamati mata saya dulu setelah saya setengah merengek,”Mbak, minta bukunya…”

Duh, setelah beberapa waktu saya sadar betapa norak permintaan itu. Seharusnya saya membelinya saja untuk mendukung proses kreatifnya. Pemikiran ini baru tercetus setelah saya lebih serius menjadi penulis. Okelah jika saya mau memberikan tulisan atau hasil karya intelektual secara gratis. Namun, bila ada orang yang secara sukarela berkata ia akan membarter karya saya dengan sejumlah uang, itu memupuk kepercayaan diri saya dalam berkarya. Sungguh. Di antara pembajakan yang tidak ada habisnya di Indonesia ( secara global juga tetapi di sini tergolong parah sekali), apresiasi semacam itu sungguh tiada ternilai. Jadi, kalau saya harus bicara pada diri saya di masa lalu yang merengek minta buku gratis itu, saya akan sergah,”Penulis juga butuh makan woy!!! Lagian lo pikir royalti dari buku itu senilai saham bluechip apa? Banyak dan ngalir terus?” Ya, kalau Indonesia sebagus itu sistem penerbitan dan regulasinya, bakal ada banyak penulis kaya raya dan tidak akan ada Tere Liye yang tempo hari menyemburkan ‘api’ kesumatnya ke seantero negeri terutama para aparat pajak yang memajakinya tanpa ampun.

Baiklah, kembali ke buku Reda.

Buku ini saya katakan kocak dan ringan tapi juga bermakna. Gaya ceritanya unik sebab pembaca tidak akan disuguhi narasi yang bertele-tele. Cerpen-cerpen di dalamnya disajikan secara minimalis. Cuma dialog yang akan pembaca temui dan nikmati.

Tanpa narasi, kerja pengarang juga lebih cepat sebetulnya. Ia tidak perlu menyusun kata-kata indah dan sastrawi untuk merekatkan dialog-dialog. Alasannya mungkin karena pengarang hendak merangsang daya imajinasi pembaca. Ia biarkan pembaca menebak-nebak siapa di balik setiap baris kalimat itu. Dan ini sangat amat mengasyikkan bagi saya.

Karena cuma ada dialog, jalan cerita juga mengalir begitu saja. Alami pokoknya. Tidak ada yang direkayasa terlalu pelik. Isi obrolan ialah isu-isu keseharian yang membumi. Bukan masalah semacam hidup mati atau apakah tujuan hidup dan bagaimana kehidupan pasca kematian. Kumcer ini, maka dari itu, bersifat amat ringan dan menghibur.

Tantangannya muncul begitu karakter ada lebih dari tiga. Selain pengarang kesulitan untuk menuangkannya, pembaca juga harus lebih jeli menerka-nerka.

Setelah menelusuri buku berukuran saku setebal 155 halaman yang bisa dihabiskan sekali duduk di kafe atau perpustakaan ini, saya selalu membayangkan Reda ke mana-mana dengan membawa perekam suara di kantong bajunya. Atau kalau tidak, ia memiliki kemampuan mengingat lontaran-lontaran menggelitik dari orang-orang yang ia jumpai yang kemudian ia bisa pakai di kumpulan cerpen alias kumcer ini.

Bagi Anda yang ingin menikmati kumcer bergaya unik ini, cobalah buka aplikasi email di ponsel Anda dan ketik beberapa patah kata lalu kirimkan ke Siapa tahu masih banyak buku di gudang penerbitnya. Dan tentu jangan merengek di surel untuk mendapatkannya secara cuma-cuma. Dukunglah para penulis kita untuk berkembang. (*/)

Culinary Diplomacy

After living under the same roof for more than eight years (with other lodgers of course), mr Ahn and I have gradually forged a sort of cultural exchanges. At multiple times, we not only exchange stories but also foods.

I was introduced to kimchi, quite traumatizingly, in one afternoon. For Indonesians like me who hardly ever enjoyed fermented (almost rotten) foods except terasi and tempeh throughout our life span, eating kimchi is pretty much like munching some long-kept vegetables in the home refrigerator is foreign and inconceivable.

But as an amateurish occasional culinary adventurer, I took a risk this time. Kimchi, which is like vegemite to Australians, is an almost staple food. It is omnipresent in Korean dishes and recipes. Mr Ahn mentions there are around 120 food recipes he knows that includes kimchi as one of the ingredients. “You can add kimchi to rice, to miso soup, to thick soup, literally anything. And you can make sure the food is more palatable,” he voluntarily explains to me.

I am in awe.

So tonight he pulls up his sleeves and goes downstairs with me. “Let me cook for you. Get the kimchi now!” He rushes enthusiastically to the kitchenette and turns the stove on. “Oh and your olive oil!” He knows I save a bottle of it in my room.

I am standing next to him while he is in action.

A Korean man living alone like him for years abroad knows what it takes to survive in Indonesia: a little knack for cooking your own food. Because if you can hardly swallow local foods down your throat, you have to feed yourself still. This is why Korean folks here form a tightly-knit community. The stress is much higher if you are living alone as an expatriate and if you work to earn a living for your family, defiitely you are not allowed to commit suicide abroad. To avoid such suicidal tendency, Mr Ahn, for example, regularly goes to church. The church located in South Jakarta was built and is currently attended by Koreans mostly. It is here at the church he frequently gets his real Korean food supply. The kimchi he gives me is not one everyone can buy at a commercial Korean restaurant. “It is made by an ajuma (a married middle-aged lady) at the church and she gave free kimchi for members of church.”

How nice that ajuma is.

Though I never actively encourage him to try Indonesian foods, mr Ahn finds his favorite naturally. He is known to be a greedy eater of rambutan, a tropical food he can never find in Korea unless it is imported.

His freestyle Korean fried rice is finally done. In a plate, the rice is mixed evenly with kimchi and poached egg.

“It’s all natural. No flavoring. Healthy.”

He really understands my tendency towards eating health foods.

“You know me so well. Gamsahamnida,” I quickly remark, thanking him in Korean. A simple expression I long ago acquired from Song Hye-kyo in “Full House” drama series.

I scoop the reddened yet plain-flavored rice. And with a smile from ear to ear, I give a diplomatic brief review,”Massisseoyo!” (delicious).

He smiles back at me and that pretty much concludes our culinary exchange session tonight. (*/)

Awfully Persecuted

I know this man very well. He’s well-manered, soft-spoken, with a pair of dopey eyes like ones of a deer. That day when we met the first time, he gently addressed me. We just met on that day but felt like we already forged a friendship for a very very long time.

It’s true though. We met online. We read each other’s work published on our blogs. But what makes me stunned is he had gone through a lot of hardship till today. He told me some of his pivotal life events. Such as when he was involved in a guerilla political movement and got detained for his involvement, his experience as a university dropout though he was actually a bright student in class.

Such a rough and tough life to live.

Once again, he proves to be a ‘huge fan’ of a rough and tough life. I remember reading an article stating that a man loses some amount of his testosterone after marriage. It turns out to be true.

I saw him being persecuted online by the mass on social media. Mercilessly. An eerie sensation to feel, I must say. And moments later after some exchanges of word in unstoppable fury with enraged unseen folks of different political and religious stances, he began to grapple what seemed at stake. His beloved career and family! If he kept moving forward, they all had to be sacrificed. And when he realized, damn, it was too late! There was no undo button.

He has lost his job, and pretty much everything he has fought for years fully filled with toil.

After a while, I pondered and asked myself whether such a thing is worthwhile. Having my say was always encouraged back then in my school days but nowadays I’d rather be silent and swallow everything I have in mind especially when it comes to politics.

Lately political situations and news make me puke like nothing else can do. Fanaticism, bigotry, religious bias, intolerance, LGBT debates, etc. The list goes on and on and on.

What is it all about?!! All this noise?!!

All of a sudden the world has gone wild and uncontrollable. And then I realized it has been always wild but now that internet and social media are existent to help us stay connected with one another, it has dawned on me that it also sets us apart from each other.

Disheartening, indeed.

For my forlorn, persecuted buddy out there, thank you for standing up to show them your opinion. It’s a hard, gruesome path to take for sure and definitely one I am never capable of taking or willing to take.

And for anyone on earth who have screwed up us all with hoax and hate speech and anger for the sake of their own self or group or familial or political gains, only God knows what awaits them all in the afterlife.

“Oostindisch doof zijn”

IDIOM satu ini memiliki riwayat yang panjang dalam sejarah Belanda yang berkaitan dengan Indonesia. Secara harafiah, maknanya ialah “pura-pura tidak mendengar ala Hindia Timur”.

Idiom ini berasal dari masa lampau saat Indonesia masih menjadi jajahan Belanda yang bernama resmi Hindia Timur (Ooost Indie). Mereka menganggap Indonesia sebagai bagian dari kerajaan Belanda hingga 1949, kata tutor yang mengajarkan saya dari Belanda itu.

Kenapa 1949? Bukankan kita bangsa Indonesia sudah menyatakan proklamasi kemerdekaan di tahun 1945. Ternyata mereka menghitung masa kemerdekaan kita dari sejak kekalahan agresi militer, bukannya dari proklamasi kemerdekaan pasca kekalahan Jepang di Perang Dunia II.

Idiom ini muncul dari kejengkelan para pemimpin bangsa Indonesia yang kala itu harus menghadapi dan berdebat dengan para pejabat Hindia Belanda. Mereka kerap menemui jalan buntu saat harus berkomunikasi dengan perwakilan Belanda yang berpura-pura tidak memahami mereka tetapi sebetulnya mereka paham dan tahu benar duduk permasalahan keluhan bangsa Indonesia. (*)