A Eulogy to Jakartan Roads

[Read at CreativeMornings Jakarta on October 31st, 2015.]

To me, Jalan Tendean had always been a friendly stranger. We nod to each other in passing almost every morning—and evening, although my head had been more often than not preoccupied with something else: unreplied emails, unfinished reports, unrequited loves, or the motorbike riders who were simply too ignorant for traffic manners.

There’s a plethora of ways to describe who Tendean was, but I would say that he is more of a silent listener than an active conversation partner—maybe because he got way too little of quiet, especially lately.

I remembered when he was still a jolly guy. People on cars and motorbikes passed him day and night, without any reason to complain but manageable crowdedness every now and then. Until one day, the city government decided that Tendean was not ‘spacious’ enough—when space was all he tried to provide.

So they asked him to be someone else: they cut the trees he called home, dug deep into his stomach, emptying out every stone, every bit of dust that made him who he was, built tall pillars—thinking he would love these new, concrete-made walking sticks that were supposed to help him walk faster.

But no.

I might have failed to sit long enough to strike a conversation with Tendean, but I knew him well enough to say that he didn’t cherish what the Big Brothers tried to turn him into. Those city government humans—the parents he never got to eat dinner and talk with—thought they knew him best, but really never quite did.

He liked simple things, this road.

The holiday season had probably been the loneliest time of the year for Tendean, but it doesn’t mean he wasn’t looking forward to it.

Tendean told me he actually loved having some time for himself—compared to the complicated lives of Sudirman and Thamrin, who had been on a love-hate relationship for more than 50 years, he thought being single was a bliss.

One of these days however it seems like Tendean will never have his precious time for himself anymore. Not only the construction points make people pass through him much—much longer lately, but the extra flying-over roads that will cover him in few more months will not let him see, let alone talk to, his beloved Sunshine anymore.

You know there are some roads who want—crave for construction.

A change, because life as is happens to be treating them so bad, they would rather go through a self-murdering act. But this is not Tendean. Though he wasn’t always able to bear all the cars that tried to get through his arms and legs, endurance kept him thankful.

As long as it means he gets to look at her best friend Sunshine, and say hi to the swirling Wind, deep inside, Tendean convinced himself that it was all worth it. He loved life, he loved Wind, and most especially he loved Sunshine. A road who has someone to love will never wish for a construction.

Tendean’s construction was forced. He didnt’t want it.

A humble road that he is, he told me this is probably for the best. He told me to send his regards to the people who used to know him for the modestly beautiful man that he was, and pity the younger generations who will never see what we saw. I told him I will miss him. I told him, in case we never meet anymore, remember that among one of those people who pass you every morning and evening, was me—a fan, and a friend, who will always treasure his thoughts and feelings. I wish him the best, and wish that he could make friends with the new neighbor who will soon live above his home.

Maybe life after construction turn out to not be that bad.

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