Nyepi in Tanah Abang

This time of the year, I would stay at home observing the silence day. In the neighbourhood where I had my chance to grow up, it was the world I will forever remember.

As a person who worships the value of diversity, Lombok will always be my heavenly home. Where I used to live, in the morning, I would smell the incense stick being burnt from my chinese neighbor. My Balinese neighbor would pray. Those flowers and that rice on my friends’ forehead before going to school. And the gentlemen and ibu-ibu coming home from dawn prayers at the mosque. My christian neighbor would invite their relatives to rehearse songs before Sunday (sometimes they sing until supper time – loud). Other days, you can hear an adzan from the mosque and Hindus prayers put on speaker simultaneously. I don’t think I can find that elsewhere – this rythm of bhinneka. And boy it was easy to take this for granted until I threw myself in to the real messy world. If you notice, the modern life we have today misses that – this harmony, whatever you call it. I guess that’s what being a global citizen really means. You see, governments and all types of organisations create remarkable programs to send people to understand diversity through conferences, exchange programs, initiate interfaith dialogues, advocating mutual understanding, create corporate and startup culture to respect differences, yada yada yada. Despite these amazing opportunities, you still see some heads who get stuck in their ‘majority is always right’ mental model and treat minorities like shit. I hate that. Yes, hate. 

I like to remind myself that it’s important to celebrate days like this. Not because I convert and question my own faith. But this is what my grandparents have left me – what an awful pretty world we live in. If I wanted to experience Vesak, I’d be in one of the wats in Chiang Mai or experience it in Candi Borobudur. Christmas morning in mount nebo or white christmas at the heart of America. Idul fitri in the southeast asia’s largest mosque or in a mosque built in the 1700s. Done all that. 

Today is Nyepi. Instead of being alone somewhere quiet (doesn’t have to be pura), I find myself staring at the stupid screen in the elevator of Plaza Indonesia. It reads “Selamat Hari Raya Nyepi.” This of course got me a little galau. I miss my Hindu friends, Pecalang, Ogoh-Ogoh parade, the whole town that does a better #switchoff than any Earth Hour celebration on earth. God I’m rotting in this city.

Tanah Abang. Brother Land.

I forgot how exactly I ended up loving my life in this megapolitan. I came to Jakarta with blank pages and let it write its own stories. I didn’t intentionally come here for education or work. They said it chose me. A bit true. This is where I get to meet the world’s hardest working people on the streets of the city, and sure, the ones busting their asses of behind those glass offices with their sleeping bag. They constantly inspire me. Love stories were made. Where my heart was broken and put back together again for a hundred times. Where everything I had was taken away by unexepected mini tragedies. Everything. Although I’m still struggling to understand how some of my native Jakartan friends still think Jakarta is somewhat a first-world city when it’s really a capital of a third world country (why do these people keep thinking it’s Los Angeles or Singapore?).  

For some, this place is not the best place to live for everyone. The way it stinks. How slow everything can be. But if you’re that dude who embraces the warmth of chaotic place, you’ll never forget Jakarta (there’s actually a song called ‘forget Jakarta’). You tell me how much I adore the bitterness of living in Jakarta when I’ve turned down every opportunity to pursue my dreams elsewhere in the world. I know that I can still do later. Jakarta’s charm is so hard to get rid of. It’s a place that taught me how to finish a deadline while on ojek in the middle of world’s worst traffic (not exaggerating). How we always take turn to give a way for others to get through in the alley streets, being hugged by a bunch of exhausted strangers at 6pm in Tanah Abang trains. How you always find your way somewhere. 

However.

For someone who has anxieties to settle in one place, I went to Puncak, Bogor on a motorbike. Called a friend at 10pm and headed to the tolerable green hills of West Java. I want to simply take my time for a book I have not yet finished. Put my phone on flight mode. Despite the severe backpain, flat tire in the middle of nowhere, me wearing shorts, we made it. 

That, my friend, is my somewhat default of nyepi. I have no idea how others found a way to give themselves enough space. At this point, I’m just as challenged as everyone else about steps I will be taking this year. Im starting a few ventures with some of the best people. Be it a business, nonprofit or just a fun thing to do. 

I’m writing this with head wrapped in confusion and thirst from all the things I want to learn. I’m learning to know better what I actually don’t know. I’m hungry for upgrades. 

Selamat Nyepi.

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