Friday, August 27, 2010

Nomad in Jakarta

Dadang my Sundanese 'Sopir' drives a mean ride over the new highway connecting Bandung to Jakarta. After just a few hours we are almost there and make pit stop to refuel our car and ourselves. I get 2 'teh botols', bottled sweet jasmine tea and he gets us 'pisang sale', dried banana krupuk, fried and layered with cheese. Reborn we undertake the second leg of the journey.

But the moment we actually arrive in Jakarta the trouble begins. 'Kantor' Jakartans finish working around 16:00 and we get stuck in some seriously tedious traffic. Too many people owning a motorised vehicle and too few roads to accommodate. Sounds like the situation back home. With no means to escape the urban madness we move slower and slower through this skyscrapers' jungle.

Jakarta is Indonesia's capital with a population that by far exceeds the total number of people living in the Netherlands, a country considered overpopulated. It's the country's governmental, financial, judicial, political, academic, media and whatever else you can think of center. Long ago it was established as Batavia, the business and colonial headquarters of both the VOC and Dutch East Indies.
This is the place my 'opa' used to work for both the Dutch home and later foreign office and the birthplace of my father. The place where they embarked the cruise ship Willem Ruys, later known as the Achillo Lauro, to repatriate to the Netherlands in the 50's and begin a new life far away from their land of origin.

Nowadays the city has continued to shoot into superlatives. Not all good, but not all bad either. Om Pieter however later tells me that in the last 10 years even the quietest of outskirts have become overpopulated and the peace and tranquility he enjoyed in his 'dessa' on the borders of Jakarta city have almost disappeared. The metropolis of Jakarta is not necessarily representative for the rest of Indonesia and Jakartans are a different people all together. Although located on the island of Java, they're not Javanese or Sundanese for that matter.
"For better or worse Jakarta is it's own universe", Om Pieter says. It attracts people from all over the archipelago and creates it's own hybrid society. Which has always been the case of course, as there are even 'historic' Jakarta city dwellers known as 'Orang Betawi', named after old Batavia. When this city first developed during the Dutch era it already housed many different peoples and nurtured it's own mix cultures. Another well known group still alive today is the 'Orang Tugu', Portuguese Indo-Eurasians that developed the famed Kroncong music.

Jakarta appears to attract nomads from everywhere. It is in any case the place where Om Pieter ended up making a home for himself and his extended family.

No comments:

Post a Comment