“Aroma Karsa”: The Review

DEWI LESTARI and the literary prowess she is now having are quite astonishing, to be honest. Because I am not her huge fan, I am not quite familiar with her works. I once read “Rectoverso”, a compilation of short stories published back in 201. But that is all what I know. I have never read her works like Supernova and the family which are considered big in the contemporary literature in Indonesia.

And to be brutally honest, my skepticism of her work is partly – or maybe largely – because she had a celebrity status prior to her being a literary figure. Maybe people view her highly because she is just a singer-turns-writer commercial success. But I ask to myself again, is that a symptom of envy? I laugh out loud. Indeed, it is true. That IS envy. Literary envy. Apart from everything, she is just so lucky to have that fame which helped her in some way to soar. But I know that fame only won’t get her so far and Dee – her pen name – proves her literary journey does not end too soon. So okay, she has that X-factor that no other authors in Indonesia ever have but I am convinced she works hard, really hard for this and she totally deserves it all.

While I am writing this review, I am still reading her latest work “Aroma Karsa” which is one of the hottest recent published Indonesian novels this very year. I got this from a friend working at the publisher of the novel, hoping to get a cheaper price. I just believe that I made a good bargain even without comparing the selling price at bookstores around me. Why? First of all, no bookstores that sell Indonesian novels around where I live. Tragic I know. Yes, they just closed that Trimedia outlet which was the nearest I could get whenever I want to know some recent Indonesian novels. My place to go is then a local public library, but then I doubt they have that novel because the book is too recent to be displayed in the public library. I am not sure they have it already by now and even they do have some copies, people would just – I assumed – borrow them all. And I have no copy left to borrow.

My first impression upon reading the book is that the book was like fairytale set in the modern, capitalism age. We have got this corporate setting as the entire backdrop. Of course, the palace (keraton) and Bantar Gebang and Sentul are just real settings but I cannot find the proof that Dee is using these settings as more than just settings. She obviously focuses more on the plot.

That said, the novel is very much plot driven. And like her main character, Jati Wesi, Dee knows very much that curiosity is one thing she needs to sustain during the whole reading experience from beginning to end.

I can feel the pace is quite fast. Even a little bit too fast. Imagine you are in a journey and Dee as a tour guide is taking you to a series of destinations. But in every destination, you only have some minutes to sit and ponder and ruminate. On other occasions, she just lets you take a few minutes and take photos and leave. Isn’t it the Indonesian style of traveling? Maybe. But apart from that, I guess this is what a popular, best-selling novel has to have. It has to encourage readers to read on. Once they are bored and put the book down, that is considered failure. They must be glued to it all the time. It is even better if the book which sprawls 690-ish pages is so compelling that readers can devour it in one single sitting or night. Of course, it is possible provided that you are jobless so you have so much time to spend alone, and you are living alone in your apartment and no relatives can bother or disrupt you in the process of enjoying “Aroma Karsa”.

At the first time, I was stunned by Dee’s diction. So many Indonesian words that are infrequently seen in the contemporary works of literature can be found here. They emerge from Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia, I am sure. And it gives the impression that Dee is trying so hard to follow the rule. Or perhaps her editor made her do this? I have no idea. But I conclude that was quite impressive. I am glad that she takes her work seriously, now that N.H. Dini is gone. She may be her successor.

Another comment I have in mind is that Dee has a peculiar taste of naming her characters. Jati Wesi is not a common name for a Javanese man, as far as I am concerned. I am Javanese myself but never have I seen a man named this way by his parents. But then, hey this is a fiction work anyway! But if I were her, I would select another name which ensures audience that Jati Wesi is a real one. And Tanaya Suma? I have no idea. That is a very atypical name of a Javanese girl.

And the Javanese mythology involved here is unbeatable. Further research is needed to know if this is made up or not.

Speaking of the description of smell that Jati Wesi and Tanaya Suma have is just awesome. Yet, in a certain point I feel so bloated with all the names of essential oils, chemical substances that are hardly pronouncable for laymen like me. This to me slowly turns sickening because Dee does not bother to give even a short footnote as to what X means or is commonly used or discovered in what. Once, twice, thrice, okay I am impressed but the rest looks like a sheer show off of olfactory-related vocabulary. It stresses that the author does the hard work of researching but how can it be informative to us readers when we cannot even know a glimpse of it? That is it.

(More review to follow as I finish reading the book)

My Ultimate 2019 Digital Resolution: Going Un-mainstream

I have been giving it so much thought.

While Facebook and its giant business tentacles like WhatsApp and Instagram are robbing away our privacy, I decided to bid farewell to Facebook earlier this year. And I prove myself capable of living without it.

Now that WhatsApp shows lack of intention to curb child pornography (go read Techcrunch report on this issue), I guess this is the right time to slowly and gradually limit my use of the chat app before totally switching to the surrogate which I love more but less populer, Telegram.

At the same time, I also focus on my use of Google services. On my mobile phone, I have long time ago ditched Chrome. I turn to Mozilla Firefox and Focus which way more private.

When it comes to search engine staple service, I have another alternative that is more user friendly than Google:Duck Duck Go. It is a search engine that is not evil, plus it doesn’t sell its users’ data.

Speaking of Instagram, I resolve that this end of year is just the right time to detach myself slowly but certainly from the addiction of posting anything on it. No more will you find an impulsively produced piece of content whether it be stories or feed content. And to begin with this, I have uninstalled the Instagram app on my phone.

As for email service, I have made up my mind that MerahPutih.id is my main preference. It is made in Indonesia, which is my country of origin. Blind nationalism, you may assume? Probably true, but until I find a better service, why not? Using my nation’s products gradually builds our people’s confidence. And what is even better than that when we want to be a more developed nation in the future?

While it is impossible to be free from Google Maps (because of my being a faithful user of Gojek app), I can delete my Google account whenever I want to. And that starts from stopping to use and open Gmail.

You may think these all resolutions are pointless. But think again. While this might be unfeasible on so many levels, I hope this resolution gives me and you a heed of the importance of conscious and prudent way of making use of all these digital services that are free of charge but stealthily lead your life, like a sly shepherd gently dragging his gullible sheep to a slaughterhouse. (*/)

Combatting Fake News in 5 Simple Steps

administration articles bank black and white
Fake news is bloating the web. How can we do about it? Here’s some steps anyone can take to take part in the campaign against fake news. (Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

Within a few months, Indonesia is about to undergo a five-yearly political ‘ordeal’ called presidential election. In 2014, we saw how the loathesome politics before our naked eyes.

And it takes no time for us to see fake news circulating around the web in a glimpse of an eye. Last presidential election offered us a cruel description of how disgusting this band of political clowns with their intrigues could become play with people who knew almost nothing about their grand plans ‘behind the screen’.

And this fake news plague make all of us without exception prone to deceitful plots of their digital troops responsible for claiming the presidential throne.

In response to this alarming phenomenon of fake news, every one of us must be involved and feel obliged to combat it.

Here’s how you can combat fake news around us as cited from Quartz.com.

Ensure sources of information

You may be familiar with popular and large news outlets such as New Yorker, The New York Times, or Tempo (in Indonesia). But be aware of the fake domains that are manipulated in such a way to trick the careless eyes. For example, the official site of New Yorker Magazine is http://wwww.newyorker.com/. But there are some other almost similar domains that are made to deceive internet users, such as thenewyorker.net or newyorkermagazine.org. This may look the same with the official site, but to the untrained eyes, those look pretty much similar.

According to Quartz, don’t just trust a news outlet domain only after reading one article. Try reading other articles or even navigate through the entire site to get to know what the site is really about.  Does the site really qualify for the quality journalism standards? (Read more here to learn more about journalism standards and ethics).

Assess headlines’ tone

You’d better be cautious when a webiste you read shows headlines that are too provoking emotionally. The tone of headline is another criterion to assess in a news website if you are to avoid spreading fake news in the internet.

The tone of headline in a trustworthy news outlet must be neutral and unbiased.

But how do you can define neutrality?

Let’s say you read a headline, and suddenly you feel a jolt of anger or sadness or disappointment, chances are the news you’re reading is fake and the website you’re visiting is a fake news website.

Find out who the writers/ reporters/ editors are

Do you know what sets the trustworthy news websites apart from fake news ones? The availability of information of the identity of news makers/ people behind those articles or web content.

On trustworthy news outlets such as NewYorker.com, we can see information of writers/ reporters/ editors. This includes what they have written so far so we are not in the dark about what their motifs are. If they are true journalists, there is no way they would compromise and trade their integrity for financial or personal gain.

So if you read a website that only shows “an admin” produced the article and you can’t find any real person name there, you should be suspicious.

Find the primary sources’ reliability

One main sign that a news piece is fake is that it has been distributed and quoted by so many people that we can no longer find who made the statement in the first place. Too often than not, we see rumors are distributed this way. People keep repeating it until no one can tell who or what produced the news initially.

And by “primary sources”, we also refer to reliable experts as sources for journalists to clarify our hypotheses. If an article says “Scientists state walking can fight cancer”, we’d better know which scientists the article is talking about, what institution they work at, and other details that support our investigation.

Beware of repurposed old images

We sometimes are instantly agitated to see a heart-wrenching photograph of – let’s say- a person’s calamity owing to someone else’s neglect, evil intention or thirst of power circulating on the web. This was especially true when the Rohingya humanitarian crisis broke. Someone with ill intention took an old photo and repurposed that in such a way to convince internet users like you and me that that photo reflected what really happened in Myanmar.

To find out whether those viral photos are repurposed ones or real and updated, you can simply go to Google Image to search when they were first circulated on the web.

Be aware as well of the possibility of context misuse. What I am trying to say is that a certain photo can be used to illustrate another event or incident. For example, we might see photos of victims of Aceh tsunami victims in 2004 circulating again after a tsunami hit Palu and Donggala this year (2018). Though the type of natural disaster is quite similar but they are different cases and scale of severity. (*/)


Office Workers, Sedentary Lifestyle and Mental Illness

group of people sitting near table
Office workers are prone to mental disorders, if it goes unnoticed. (Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com)

The year of 2018 marks my eight year of living in Jakarta. And throughout these years, I have been living most of my life as a corporate worker. In some other time, I also work as a freelancer, trying to make money with myself as the one and only employer.

Indeed, life as a corporate worker is a mixture of every emotion a human being can have. Office politics can be stressful but once you can get over it, you’ll see the intrigues as entertainment instead of sources of annoyance or frustration. That’s how I view it, to be honest.

Laughing out loud I was this morning to find this news on mentall illness that office workers are prone to. It is estimated that one of three people suffer from mental ilness, stated detik.com. But it wasn’t mentioned as to the scope of the research and further details. Probably Jakarta and greater area.

Director of Health and Sports of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Indonesia stated that there’re a huge number of people seeing doctors or going to clinic only to find that they suffer from no illness whatsoever. “But when they’re asked further, they admit they are stressed out,” said Kartini Rustandi, the director.

I can tell that this can be true around me. Stress and mental breakdown may occur when someone – not only office workers in fact – gets too absorbed with his or her life ambition or targets or goals. That may be sales targets, or material pursuit or winning respect or admiration from others. Human beings can have multitude motifs when it comes to this departement.

And this is where exercise can do us some favor. Stretching – which in this case looks like yoga – is one of the possible methods to destress and stay balanced in life. Kartini mentioned that exercising boosts the release of endorphin, a type of hormone secreted by the body in a natural manner when we are moving and stretching our physique.

So whenever I see some people who don’t quite like exercise and stretching, I think there’s something wrong with them. They need help. Sometimes solutions are there but we can’t see clearly because we’re too consumed with stress. And this is why exercise is really a staple activity on daily basis.

I’m not going to be a part of the one third of these office workers who would just collapse or break down in the office. And you? (*/)

Here’s My Secret to Not Gaining Weight After A Huge Huge Meal

people holding sliced pizza
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

In my entire childhood and early adulthood and current adulthood, never did I lose the title of “thin boy”. Every time people see me, the first thought that occured to them is this:”You must eat more” or “You must eat more often.”

But they hardly know that it is all futile. Just a waste of resource. I liken myself to a small glass that everyone thinks could enlarge once they pour more liquid into. Which is of course unfeasible.

That said, they always get curious as to how I stay slim and thus never change my clothing size since the last day I left high school. That in fact irritates some of them to no end.

Whenever I am asked the question, I used to have no answer. I blabbered, saying,”It’s genetic…” And when they chased me more for accurate, believable answers, I told them to speak with my parents. That quietens them in some way.

Recently, a band of researchers managed to unravel the mystery for me. As I read on Jakarta Post, researchers of Flinders University, in the Land Down Under, just found out that there is this obesity gene called RCAN1. Not having this gene enables you to eat in a literally crazy amount without even gaining a slight weight. That sounds cool to some people having obesity issues. When removed, one would never ever gain weight no matter how much s/he eats. Without the gene in our body, we can stay slim without even exercising a single minute or restricting calorie intake or modifying diets. You can just eat liberally.

Of course, the news told us there are possibilities for future development of obesity treatment with genetic engineering. But if you’re someone whose health care is only covered by BPJS, that means nearly impossible to have such treatment owing to the costs. (*/)

5 Pelajaran Hidup dari Freddie Mercury di Bohemian Rhapsody

Sebelum menonton film biopic Freddie Mercury ini, saya cuma sepintas lalu mengenal band bernama Queen. Karena genrenya yang kurang familiar plus periode kepopuleran mereka yang jauh sebelum kesadaran musikal saya terbangun, saya terus terang kurang paham siapa saja personel band tersebut, lagu-lagu hitsnya, kehidupan mereka sebagai seniman, musisi dan pribadi.

Tentu saja karena ini jenis film biopic, kendalanya ialah ketimpangan antara film dan ‘kenyataan’ versi para pelakon peran di kehidupan nyata. Ada banyak selentingan bahwa film itu kurang pas menggambarkan Freddie. Ia bukan biang kerok bubarnya Queen karena sebelum ia merintis karier solo, sebelumnya ada juga anggota Queen lain yang sudah melakukan hal serupa. Lalu ada juga yang mengritik film ini karena dianggap melenceng dari sejarah. Untungnya semua itu bukan masalah bagi saya yang bukan penggemar berat Queen.
Tanpa ekspektasi macam-macam sejak awal, saya duduk di bioskop dan cuma mengharap adanya hiburan yang cukup layak untuk mengisi waktu senggang.

Kisah hidup Mercury ini berawal dari dirinya yang masih bekerja serabutan sambil mondar-mandir mencari posisi sebagai penyanyi profesional. Dan di dalam film, saya menemukan banyak pelajaran hidup dari jalan hidup Freddie yang tidak lazim. Berikut di antaranya.

PELAJARAN 1: “Uang tidak bisa membeli kebahagiaan tapi bisa memberikannya.”
Orang kaya yang tidak bahagia memang menyedihkan. Tetapi lebih menyedihkan lagi orang miskin yang tidak bahagia. Saya sepakat dalam hal ini. Uang memang bisa membebaskan manusia dari tuntutan pemenuhan kebutuhan ekonomi. Uang memberikan kita pilihan. Orang kaya dan miskin bisa saja sama-sama jalan kaki tetapi bisa saja karena si orang miskin terpaksa jalan kaki karena tak punya uang. Sementara itu, si orang kaya bisa saja naik mobil tetapi memilih berjalan karena ingin menikmati suasana, berolahraga, atau menikmati udara segar. Motifnya sudah lain sama sekali. Yang satu karena tidak ada pilihan, yang lain karena sengaja memilih. Yang satu merasa terpaksa dan berat hati, yang lain merasa rela dan senang.

PELAJARAN 2: “Saat saya mati, saya ingin diingat sebagai musisi yang punya nilai dan substansi.”
Freddie tidak berkarya hanya karena ia ingin keuntungan finansial atau ketenaran. Ia menggubah lagu agar lagu itu bisa diingat sepanjang masa. Melewati generasinya sendiri jika bisa. Dan itu terbukti.
Idealisme Freddie juga ditunjukkan dengan karakter keras kepalanya saat berhadapan dengan seorang produser musik kenamaan yang tak memahami keunikan Bohemian Rhapsody. Jadi, walaupun usianya tak bisa dikatakan panjang, hidup Freddie lumayan bermakna karena idealisme, nilai dan substansi tadi.

PELAJARAN 3: “Saya selalu tahu saya seorang bintang dan sekarang semua orang sepakat dengan itu.”
Meski sering dipanggil pemuda ‘Paki” (karena ia anak imigran Pakistan), Freddie mengetahui panggilan jiwanya dari muda, yakni menjadi penampil yang berkualitas. Ia menolak anjuran ayahnya untuk hidup selayaknya pemuda lain seumurannya yang kuliah, mengantongi gelar dan merintis karier yang bagus dan membanggakan hingga pensiun usia tua nanti. Freddie yakin ia tak dilahirkan untuk menjalani kehidupan semacam itu. Bukan berarti kehidupan berkarier semacam yang banyak dari kita jalani itu lebih buruk tetapi ia hanya yakin bahwa ia memiliki pilihan yang lebih sesuai dengan jiwanya. Dan ia tidak cuma meminta profesi idamanya itu datang kepadanya. Ia berusaha keras untuk itu.

PELAJARAN 4: “Saya hanya seorang pelacur musik.”
Di balik glamornya profesi seniman dan musisi yang ia lakoni, Freddie tahu dirinya tetap manusia biasa. Yang membuatnya luar biasa adalah optimisme dan semangatnya dalam berkarya secara maksimal dalam rentang waktu hidupnya yang relatif pendek tetapi bernas. Kehidupan sebagai rock star juga tidak membuatnya berubah kepribadian. Ia tetap tahu esensi pekerjaannya: pengamen. Ia menyanyi dan tampil untuk menyenangkan orang. Dan ia melakukan tiap pekerjaannya dengan tingkat keseriusan yang tinggi.

PELAJARAN 5: “Perbuatan yang baik, perkataan yang baik, pemikiran yang baik”
Filosofi ini didengungkan oleh ayah Freddie yang datang ke Inggris sebagai seorang kepala keluarga imigran. Sebagai seorang ayah, ia berharap Freddie bisa membanggakan dirinya dengan mengikuti jalur yang diterima oleh masyarakat kebanyakan. Tetapi Freddie bukanlah pribadi yang biasa sehingga ia tidak sanggup mengungkung dirinya dalam kehendak sang ayah dan tuntutan masyarakat. Untungnya Freddie memiliki seorang ibu yang mendukung apapun yang dilakukan anaknya. Adegan tentang Freddie yang menuju ke rumahnya untuk ‘sowan” ke orang tuanya sebelum tampil di panggung konser amal Live Aid cukup mengharukan karena di situ, Freddie akhirnya menyaksikan ayahnya luluh dan mengakui bahwa pencapaian anaknya di dunia musik memang membawa kebaikan bagi banyak orang. Freddie, seburuk apapun ia di mata diri ayahnya, memiliki dedikasi yang tidak terkira pada dunia musik dan ia menggunakan popularitasnya untuk membantu orang lain yang dekat dengannya dan bahkan yang jauh darinya seperti orang-orang di Afrika yang rentan terjangkit AIDS.

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 Magdalene.co 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. (*/)