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 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

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

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 But there are some other almost similar domains that are made to deceive internet users, such as or 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, 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

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 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 on

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. (*/)

Longing for Old Sundanese Authenticity in Parijs van Java

Parijs van Java (Photo credit: Panji Nugnugroho)

A local historian in Bandung was upset to find out some people call the capital of West Java “Paris van Java”. Nonsensical, he said. If you wrote it in Dutch, then it goes like this: Parijs van Java. But if you prefer English, Paris of Java sounds more sensible. I laugh at this. This historian sounds more like me, a writer who goes mad whenever an erroneous piece of text is spotted.

Just recently, too, I found the fact that historically the nickname was coined by a Jewish trader who resided in Bandung. This is new to me. Though I know that there is a very small number of Jews in Java but I’ve never heard of their existence there.

One of my most favorite parts of trip is definitely the train ride. As majestic as it gets, the breathtaking view really stuns me. While the Argo Parahyangan train passes through Padalarang, I cast my glance at the surrounding ravines and green hills. Simply lovely! Hilly areas with a lot of splendid natural attractive landscape of ‘Pasundan Earth’.

Because I am such an old building lover, going to the increasingly congested city feels like paying a visit to seventh heaven. But I do witness some newly built establishments around the city as well, making me forget that this place is the national heritage on its own. Its adjacency with Jakarta makes it truly special. It offers Europe-like weather and temperature, thanks to the latitude. Yet, Bandung is no longer that cool and green, so I heard. And I found it true somehow. Global climate change is no joke for sure.

Farmhouse, Lembang is NOT a place to visit in this rainy season. Your excursion might get disrupted by sudden downpour, just like what I experienced here. As we (my coworkers and I) got off the bus, we could feel the breeze that gradually became a gust of wind. I could never thank myself more for bringing along an umbrella with me all the way from home.

The raindrops were still falling down when I got to the house of hobbits. One huge disappointment to us was that we – everyone actually – was not allowed to get into the house. And we didn’t see any worth-doing things here other than taking photographs to upload on Instagram. Which is quite sad to me.

Sitting down at the cafe inside the compound is truly joy to be honest. That lazy afternoon, we couldn’t help ourselves from sipping a cup of coffee or flavored milk that we just had gotten from a counter right before we entered the compound.

Theme park with European-style buildings, Dutch costumes for rent, a mini zoo & a hip restaurant. Nothing special. I in fact wished something more Sundanese, something local, something authentic, something you can’t find anywhere else on earth. This is good but well, this is a replica of a chunk of Europe. No matter great it looks, it still comes second to Europe or New Zealand where you can find cattle grassing on meadows. Here, I can’t find any of these cattle.


Shifting to Chinese Town in Bandung, I can tell you it’s an overly hyped tourist attraction. When I was told we were going to the place, I thought it was a vast area where we can just wander around freely, where a whole-day sightseeing is possible and foods are made by authentic local food sellers with recipes that have endured and been tested for decades and treasured as family legacies.

It turned out to be a small, derivative, artificial version of China Town elsewhere.  Excuse me for being derisive but I thought it could be far better than this.

While I was trying to be positive, I found the China Town quite informative in some way to tell us a brief history of Chinese descendant people in Bandung and the surrounding areas.


Overall, it was a lovely place to visit if you want to snap a photo or two (or two hundreds even because this complex was – I assumed – built to accommodate such Instagram-worshiper crowd) to upload on your social media feeds. But if you want something more meaningful and historically profound and detailed, this is just not for you. It’s no museum in any way, so please don’t expect there’ll be a guide here to tell you some history of the China Town in Bandung.

My brief visit here was ended with the showcase of barongsai , performed by a band of little boys with agility level far from one of professional performers. Anyway, you can just appreciate their hard work to put on a show by giving them some change in your pockets because that’s the norm there according to my Chinese Bandung native colleague. (*/)


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.

After 9 Years of Blogging Tirelessly…

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Why do you keep blogging if you don’t make money of it at all? (Photo by

I am still going strong!

The 27th of October has been always a special day on my calendar since forever. Besides the fact that it’s my birthday (cough!), it’s also National Blogger Day in Indonesia. Today also marked my ninth year of blogging. I’ve never thought I would’ve gone this far. Especially these days, when social media enjoyment has taken over the joy of hitting ‘publish’ button on your blog dashboard and get some likes and comments from readers of your blog(s). But this is definitely not the end of my blogging pursuit.

It’s true that I’d never planned to develop this blog to be a really professionally-managed one so that I can make some money of it. As you can see, this blog has some spots of Google Ads but to be brutally honest, it doesn’t generate even a single cent of income for the blogkeeper. That said, I get into thinking that I must soon take down all these useless ads and quit being the disgruntled ad publisher. It doesn’t add value for my readership anyway.

So why do I keep blogging if I don’t make money AT ALL? You may ask.

In my first amateurish blog (, in the most confident and shameless way I picked a tagline, “Blogging, My Second Religion”. You can laugh at it now, but that’s somehow still the perfect description of my reason of writing this blog (and some others).

Very few of these write-ups on my blogs generated enough money to feed me, at the very least. Yet, I always long for the satisfaction that I can only feel when there are some readers who leave comments or silent readers who never leave comments but someday I ran into and told me they liked some of my articles a lot. Probably this is very self-centered. It’s a way to satiate my hungry ego, but once again why should I stop blogging when I can entertain and inform people around me or around the world with some bits of my thought and opinions?

I’ve got to admit that I almost completely abandoned this blog’s domain, which is like a hard-earned domain. I once had a domain of my full name but along the way I failed to renew it (blame it on the M@#$%^& credit card!) and it got bought by some opportunistic domain buyer who may have thought I would beg him or her to give me the domain at a much higher cost.

Just a month ago, before my domain expired, I came to a decision that I might just let this go. “It’s a hobby so why bother spending money for it?” I thought. I considered relying only on the free blog hosting service like and but then I reweighed it after a course of content marketing that I took. It said owning a domain that bears our name is a must if we aim to be a competent, competitive digital player. Well, I made up my mind and renewed it.

Each word in this blog (and some others) shows you my ups and downs; progress and regress; happiness and sorrow. It’s a long winding road of my life journey and self-development. I get almost completely intellectually naked in my blog write-ups, which I further think is quite scary and risky in the future. That’s why every time I write, I keep reminding myself of the risk of posting stuff on the web. No blogging allowed when I get angry and emotional!  Or else I’ll regret it. And even if I intended my write-ups to be less offensive and more helpful for some, I still find some others getting upset by what I write on this very blog.

Lesson to learn? We can never satisfy everyone.

Though I humbly admit that my blog is not an extremely popular one, I take pride of it. In this social media age, when Instagram caption or Facebook status or tweets is what you call ‘write-ups’, I can still find time and collect my intellectual energy for this seemingly pointless undertaking.

I guess this clearly defines what passion is really. Passion is something we still do even if we no longer (or never) can make money of it, or something we keep doing even if we have to make money from other jobs but we still stick to this one ‘useless’ thing.

So I can say after 9 years of tirelessly blogging, I hardly made money from this blog but the blog has made it POSSIBLE for me to land many jobs, ranging from a journalist, a copywriter, a translator, an editor, a book writer, a magazine writer and even a guest lecture, which never snapped on my mind. All these jobs are paying ones (forget about the image of a lonely, tortured, poverty-stricken writer). This would be different if I had spent my time for writing Facebook updates, producing tweets like crazy, or selecting the right diction for a caption on Instagram to impress followers.

Anyway, happy National Bloggers Day! Keep blogging no matter what! (*/)





On the Meaning of Life as a Corporate Employee

man wearing white dress shirt and black necktie
Photo by bruce mars on

Too often than not I am bombarded with the message that being entrepreneurs is what every young and old man and woman should pursue. It is a pinnacle of one’s career or even life. There is an implicit message hovering out there that dropping out of college and building your own startup or business is cool and worth your sweat, hardship and blood and tears. Suddenly everyone wants to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, or Elon Musk, or Kevin Systrom, or other household names of entrepreneurship. These self-made men and women are unbeatable geniuses because of their grit and luck.

In the meantime, I have been also inundated with the disillusional impression that the gig economy is what the world is now requiring badly to overcome high rate of unemployability. I have seen some of those desperate young men with bachelor’s degrees are turning to the informal sector. They are just unlucky with their job search. Or they may be too picky. Or they simply do not fit in any corporate environment. Or their skills are not needed by those companies or government agencies. You can find these unfortunate educated workforce among the online ojek or taxi fleets in Jakarta. Instead of getting too unrealistic with ideal job expectation, they get real with the world, trying to make money out of their spare time and unused energy of youth.

As the gig economy gives much room to the rise of freelancers, I have also seen and experienced myself how fragile life can be if you are freelancers. The freedom you adore and religiously defend against everything else can become a boomerang that hits and hurts you back.

Working as a freelancer usually is dubbed as a professional path that offers a high level of freedom and flexibility and mobility and prospect of increasing income. Bid farewell to office hours and work desks and office politics! But guess what? Digital gig economy is in fact bad for our well being, as one study of Oxford University suggested . The reasons are many but the most prominent are the poor quality working conditions; long, irregular and anti-social hours which can lead to sleep deprivation and exhaustion; and insane workloads and super tight deadlines that even Superman cannot meet. A Thai movie titled “Heart Attack” (2015) accurately depicts the misery of working as a freelancer. Yun, the protagonist, is told as a 30-year-young man who works on a freelance basis. He works so hard he almost completely sacrificed even his own well being. He almost died of a sudden heart attack, kudos to a poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and sleepless working pattern.

Can Life as a ‘Corporate Slave’ be Fulfilling?

That question arises as I watched k-drama “Misaeng”, which in Korean translates to “Incomplete Life”. But as I think over and over again, is a life as a corporate worker always incomplete, mundane and boring?

My hunch is it is considered to be so because there are many people see this type of life as ordinary experience. It is part of their everyday life and they cannot see something special, fresh or inspiring in it. Why should you watch an entertainment product that reminds you of those bad bosses, hateful coworkers, or unforgiving office politics that you have always despised throughout work days? Isn’t it better to watch something else other than ordinary materials as an alternative of entertainment theme?

But as much as many people hate the life of typical corporate slaves, there are still many life lessons — and meaningfulness — that you may find from it.

It Is All about Human Relationship

The “e-mail attitude” sends out an impression that you can work on your own anywhere anytime in your own work field and position. Write and things will get done.

Yet, the thing is that wouldn’t always be what happens.You can send emails and get feedback and problems still persist.

Even if you work in a team in a startup that works at home and you cannot see them in person every single day, the relationship factor still matters a lot.

To perform well, you need to build relationships. E-mails cannot replace them.

Working as entrepreneurs or freelancers is often glorified as prestige.

Entrepreneurs are usually highly paid and get the reputation of being the most daring, shrewd, and competitive of all. They shape the world and contribute to the advancement of human race.

Meanwhile, freelancers are ‘free birds’ who are [seemingly] dependent of big companies. They are free from the pressure of tycoons and shareholders who own these corporations. Freelancers are their own employers. They decide with whom to work, how much they get paid, how much workload they can handle.

But I apologize for bursting the bubble, as these may not be true at all.

I’ve seen some entrepreneurs are highly paid and extremely depressed and suicidal as well. Their work life balance is plumetting, taking sanity as its toll. And though it seems they have achieved things others cannot, they also have to sacrifice more than others.

Freelancing is always considered the best lifestyle and career path too but don’t we know that it is a crushing choice of profession as well? A freelancer has no certain time frame for work, meaning they can even work on weekends, robbing their well being as well. And if clients demand work to get done in a very short time, s/he cannot say no. Because money is what s/he needs badly!

Life of Corporate Workers can Be Meaningful

Life as corporate workers can be meaningful, too. I believe humans are entitled to giving meaning to everything they experience or have or not lack.

By saying this I am by no means saying that working as a corporate worker is the best career path one must choose. But trust me, it is not worse than entrepreneurs’ and freelancers’ life.

Corporate workers contribute to the economy, too. They work hard to help entrepreneurs realize their visions. Thus, they also contribute to the civilization.

Corporate workers can also gain freedom, too. They can resign whenever they want if they find their employers incongruous with their beliefs.

Corporate workers are also the bridge between their employers and freelancers. They articulate their superiors’ aspiration into explanation digestible to freelancers.

So, do you still think the life of corporate workers meaningless? Think again. (*/)

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. (*/)

Ahmad Ridwan: Dari Blora, Membela Indonesia

USIANYA baru 21 tahun. Namun, pengalaman dan kedewasaan Ahmad Ridwan dalam menjalani hidup mungkin melebihi orang-orang sebayanya. Atlet parashooting asal Blora, Jawa Tengah, ini beruntung dapat mengikuti Pelatnas tim Indonesia Asian Para Games 2018 yang baru-baru ini dihelat di Jakarta.

Berbincang dengan saya di tengah hingar-bingar panggung hiburan Wisma Atlet Kemayoran malam itu, ia menceritakan seluk beluk perjalanannya hingga bisa sampai ke Jakarta dan bertanding di Asian Para Games tahun ini.

“Saya terlahir dalam kondisi normal sebagai anak kedua dari dua bersaudara di sebuah keluarga sederhana di Purwosari, Blora,” jelasnya lugas di tengah terpaan angin malam sepoi-sepoi Jakarta. Di depan kami, banyak atlet lalu lalang.

Di cabang parashooting, ia masuk kategori amputasi kaki (SH1), kelas menembak duduk. Sementara itu, untuk kategori SH2 diperuntukkan bagi mereka yang tangannya diamputasi tetapi bisa berdiri karena kedua kakinya masih lengkap.

Selain menekuni dunia olahraga, Ridwan mengaku dirinya tertarik untuk menjadi pekerja seni di dunia musik. “Dalam tubuh saya mengalir aliran musik dangdut,” ujar pemuda yang kini dikenal sebagai atlet oleh masyarakat Blora ini. Tak cuma memainkan alat musik dari gendang hingga seruling dan piano dan angklung, ia juga bisa menyanyikan lagu-lagu dangdut dengan baik. Semua itu dipelajarinya secara otodidak.

Dalam menjalani kegiatan sehari-hari, ia tidak pernah merasa kesulitan sehingga sangat bergantung pada orang lain. Ia sangat mandiri. “Tidak ada yang sulit.” Bahkan dalam urusan transportasi, tidak hanya ia berjalan sendiri ke berbagai tempat yang ia inginkan, Ridwan juga terbiasa menunggangi moda transportasi pribadi seperti sepeda motor. Karena mudah bosan, ia yang semula sudah memiliki kendaraan roda dua otomatis beralih ke kendaraan bermotor dengan CC besar. Ia sangat puas karena bisa membeli sepeda motor itu secara mandiri. Tidak meminta dari orang tuanya.

Termotivasi Resident Evil

Ia pertama kali bisa berkenalan dengan cabang olahraga menembak secara tak sengaja. Persentuhannya yang perdana dengan dunia olahraga menembak ini berawal dari rasa penasaran saat ia mendengar berita dibukanya lowongan untuk menjadi para atlet di ajang Asian Para Games 2018 pada bulan Desember 2017. Saat itu ia masih sibuk bekerja di sebuah pabrik meubel di Blora. “Saat itu di tiap kecamatan diumumkan pencarian atlet disabilitas yang ingin mengikuti Asian Para Games 2018. Saya bisa memilih cabang olahraga yang ingin diikuti.”

Ahmad yang sama sekali tidak mengetahui seluk beluk olahraga menembak dan kehidupan atlet memutuskan mencoba dan berhasil lolos. “Rupanya ada juga atlet yang seperti saya. Sebenarnya saya suka bulutangkis dan renang tetapi saya pikir keduanya melelahkan. Haha. Jadi saya pilih menembak saja. Apalagi saya suka main PS. Miriplah dengan main Resident Evil. Haha!”

Begitu lolos di tingkat kabupaten, ia menuju ke Stadion Manahan, Solo. Ia ikut seleksi. Meski mengaku tidak begitu bagus dan mengesankan, ternyata ia meraih poin tertinggi dibandingkan rekan-rekannya. Tanggal 10 Januari 2018, ia pun dinyatakan lolos mewakili Indonesia. Ia beruntung bisa mengikuti seleksi itu tepat waktu sebelum tanggal 10 Januari karena ada sejumlah atlet lain yang terlambat ikut seleksi dan gagal melaju.

Ia berlatih selama 6 bulan sebagai persiapan. Pelatnas ini berlangsung saban hari karena bersifat intensif. Sehari ia mengaku bisa berlatih dari pukul 6 pagi sampai maghrib atau bahkan pukul 9 malam. “Pelatih saya kadang bertanya kondisi para atlet binaannya. Kalau lebih banyak dari kami yang mengeluh lelah, kami diizinkan istirahat lebih awal. Tapi jika masih banyak yang mengatakan belum capek, kami dipersilakan berlatih.

Menemukan Tujuan Hidup

Ia masih merasa belum percaya saat menjalani pelatnas bahwa dengan menembak ‘saja’ dirinya bisa disebut sebagai atlet. “Lalu saya jelajahi YouTube untuk menemukan atlet-atlet parashooting. Yang muncul atlet-atlet China yang juara dunia. Saya berkhayal kapan bisa bertemu mereka ini, yang kemampuan menembaknya keren-keren. Tidak saya sangka, saya bisa bertemu mereka di sini (ajang Asian Para Games 2018). Saya kegirangan bertemu mereka. Wah ini kan yang saya sering tonton di YouTube itu!!!”

Atlet-atlet parashooting China yang sudah malang melintang selama 20 tahun lebih di olahraga ini sempat mengobrol dengan Ahmad. Mereka memompa semangat Ahmad untuk terus berlatih selagi masih muda agar nantinya bisa berprestasi lebih baik lagi. “Sayangi senjatamu, seperti kamu menyayangi istrimu,” tutur atlet itu padanya. “Kalau kamu bisa menyatu dengannya, hasil akan mengikuti.”

Sepanjang karier parashootingnya yang baru 8 bulan, Ahmad memang tidak perlu patah semangat karena justru ia masih punya masa depan yang lebih panjang daripada mereka yang sudah memulai lebih dulu. China memang sudah melesat lebih dulu daripada Indonesia dalam hal prestasi di banyak cabang olahraga untuk para atlet ini karena mereka sudah sejak lama membina atlet-atlet disabilitas. Sungguh bukan tandingan bagi Indonesia yang baru saja mempersiapkan atlet-atlet mereka dalam 8 bulan sebelum ajang digelar.

Bertanding di Jakarta mewakili negara bukan satu-satunya misi Ahmad. Ia juga ingin memberikan motivasi yang sama bagi para rekan-rekannya para penyandang disabilitas di kota kelahirannya. “Saya berfoto dengan atlet-atlet idola parashooting dari China itu dan ingin saya tunjukkan ke teman-teman sesama atlet diabilitas di Blora agar mereka bersemangat untuk latihan. Orang dengan disabilitas bukan manusia lemah. Pasti ada jalannya jika mau berusaha,” terangnya.

Ahmad menganggap ajang Asian Para Games sebagai ajang bagi kaum disabilitas untuk unjuk gigi bahwa mereka juga bisa berprestasi. “Justru sekarang pemerintah memandang orang dengan disabilitas melebihi orang normal,” Ahmad menegaskan.

Kepercayaan diri Ahmad meningkat dengan keikutsertaannya di ajang ini. Ia sekarang masih belum percaya sepenuhnya ia seorang atlet yang membela negara di event setingkat Asia, mengingat ia ‘hanya’ seorang anak muda dari kota kecil di Jawa Tengah.

Semua ini tak terbersit sebelumnya setelah ia tertimpa kecelakaan yang membuatnya kehilangan satu kaki. “Di tahun 2009 saat kelas 6 SD, saya memanjat sebuah pohon mahoni untuk mengambil layang-layang. Tak disangka pohon itu bersentuhan dengan kabel listrik bertegangan tinggi dan ranting mahoni yang saya pijak tidak cukup kuat,” kenanganya dengan nada getir. Ia jatuh tak sadarkan diri dan kemudian mendapati satu kaki diamputasi.


Untuk bisa bangkit dan mendapatkan semangat hidupnya lagi bahkan mencetak prestasi seperti sekarang, Ahmad harus menapaki jalan yang cukup panjang. Ia mengaku sempat stres berat karena ia terlahir normal namun harus menerima kenyataan bahwa ia akan hidup dengan disabilitas selama sisa hidupnya. Selama beberapa bulan pertama sejak kecelakaan dan kehilangan kaki, ia terus termenung membayangkan masa hidupnya sebelum kecelakaan. “Saya sempat menangis melihat teman-teman saya main sepakbola. Sebelumnya saya masih bisa bermain bola, lari, renang, voli, bulutangkis. Pokoknya saya anak yang selalu ingin menang. Sekarang saya tidak bisa melakukannya dan cuma bisa menonton.”

Dengan jalan hidup yang tiba-tiba berubah, Ahmad kecil melancarkan protesnya pada Tuhan karena menganggap-Nya kurang adil. Dampaknya tidak cuma pada dirinya sendiri tetapi juga pada keluarganya. Ibunya turut tertekan melihatnya diam saja selama sebulan penuh. Ia sama sekali menolak berinteraksi, melamun dan hanya berdiam diri, mengunci diri di kamar. Sampai kamarnya didobrak karena ibunya cemas jika ada sesuatu yang terjadi pada diri anaknya. Seolah Ahmad hidup segan, mati pun tidak mau.

Ahmad awalnya memang kaku dan merasa segan dan rendah diri untuk bergaul dengan teman-temannya kembali pasca kecelakaan. “Apakah mereka mau bergaul dengan saya? Saya berpikir teman-teman saya pasti menjauhi saya yang sudah begini. Meski ibu saya berupaya membesarkan hati saya, saya terus menyangkal bahwa orang-orang di sekeliling saya pasti tak mau berteman. Dan kalaupun mereka mau, mereka hanya berteman sebatas perkataan. Dalam hati, mereka tetap saja mencibir saya,” tutur Ahmad.

Prihatin dengan keadaan adik semata wayangnya, kakak kandung Ahmad datang dan mengajaknya tinggal di Kalimantan untuk menyegarkan pikiran dan jiwanya. Apa daya, meski sudah di sana 3 tahun dan dimanjakan sedemikian rupa, rasa frustrasinya masih belum luntur juga. Kakaknya melancarkan berbagai cara, dari membelikan Play Station dan TV sampai menawarinya kuliah setinggi mungkin agar semangat hidupnya kembali seperti sediakala. Semua percuma karena adiknya itu keras kepala. “Biarlah saya berpikir untuk diri sendiri. Tidak perlu diceramahi, kata saya,” ia menimpali sang kakak.

Kakaknya terus mengingatkan Ahmad bahwa pasti akan ada hikmah di balik apa yang menimpanya. “Mungkin hikmah itulah yang saya rasakan sekarang tetapi saat itu saya belum terpikirkan,” ungkap pemuda yang kini berpikiran lebih dewasa ini.

Dengan banyaknya waktu senggang yang ia miliki, Ahmad beruntung bisa menjelajahi YouTube untuk menemukan konten-konten yang positif dan memotivasi. “Saya sering mengetikkan istilah pencarian ‘disabilitas ala Indonesia’ dan menemukan banyak video tentang orang dengan disabilitas yang terus berkarya. Saya berpikir, kalau mereka bisa, kenapa saya tidak?” Dari sana ia memutar otak untuk mengisi hidupnya dengan menekuni musik.

Begitu ia pulang kembali ke Blora, Ahmad terus mencari pekerjaan yang sesuai. Sebab menurutnya musik hanya sebatas hobi, ia pun menekuni pekerjaan di pabrik meubel dekat rumah orang tuanya. Begitu mulai bisa menghasilkan uang sendiri dan mandiri dengan penghasilannya sebagai buruh di pabrik meubel.

Meskipun memiliki kaki palsu, Ahmad mengaku tidak betah berlama-lama memakainya. “Terasa panas apalagi kalau sampai seharian memakai. Ah saya pikir ribet pakai ginian terus! Akhirnya saya cuma pakai di saat-saat tertentu.” Ia lebih memilih beraktivitas dengan tongkat penyangga.

Fokus dan Tekad

Baginya, kesempatan berkiprah melalui Asian Para Games 2018 ini adalah sebuah keajaiban yang membelokkan jalan hidupnya kembali ke arah yang lebih baik. Ia tahu ia tak bisa selama-lamanya bekerja sebagai buruh di pabrik meubel. Dengan menekuni olahraga menembak, Ahmad menemukan kembali tujuan dan semangat hidupnya dalam parashooting. Ia paham bahwa jika ia konsisten menekuni parashooting, ia akan memiliki masa depan di sini. Ahmad terus memutar otak bagaimana bisa menabung dan memanfaatkan pemasukannya dari parashooting sebagai modalnya menapaki masa depan. Ia ingin mendirikan bisnis makanan.

Ditanya soal orang yang paling berjasa membimbingnya sampai ke titik seperti sekarang, Ahmad menyebut nama pelatihnya, Saridi. “Beliau membimbing saya dengan sabar dari nol. Berjuangan bersama-sama, bahkan kami sudah seperti keluarga.”

“Pesan saya untuk mereka yang memiliki disabilitas, jangan berpikir disabilitas pasti membuat Anda lemah. Anda bisa bangkit meski memang tidak mudah. Lebih fokuskan diri pada masa depan, daripada masa lalu,” tukas anak muda dari kota asal sastrawan Pramoedya Ananta Toer ini.

Yang sekarang Ahmad bisa lakukan ialah terus berlatih untuk memantapkan kariernya sebagai atlet parashooting sembari memikirkan masa depannya. Satu yang mengganjal, di Blora nanti ia tak menemukan tempat latihan yang memenuhi standar layaknya di Jakarta. “Tapi itu tak masalah. Saya bisa saja latihan di mana saja termasuk di rumah. Yang penting fokus dan tekad.” (*/)