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Maria-Syamsi

From My Heart

Jakarta – A Little Note on Public Transport and Food

It was such a pleasant surprise to find that the Transjakarta Bus separates male and female passengers. We got onto the bus, the conductor told my brother to move to the rear of the bus.
The bus stops (halte) were clean and spacious. The bus lane is separated from the rest of the road users with concrete dividers. The bus is air-conditioned.
I am thankful that the friendly and informative taxi driver advised us to take the bus to Kota Tua from our hotel that day. “It will take you almost an hour if you take a cab, but only about 20 minutes if you take the bus there,” he said, and of course he was right.
The views from the bus was rather nice. From Sarinah to Kota Tua we got to see central Jakarta, through Jalan MH Thamrin, passing by Monumen Nasional, looking over some statues built along the road, area near Istana Merdeka, shop lots around Mangga Besar and Glodok, and terminate at Stasiun Jakartakota.
One needs to use a card to get onto the bus. The special thing about this card is you can share it with as many people as you want, as long as you have enough credit in it. For example, one of us needed to tap four times on the electronic gate for the four of us to get onto the halte, and tap four times again when we leave at the end of our journey. It is more sustainable that way.
From Kota Tua to Sunda Kelapa we took the bajaj. It is a three-wheeled motorcycle with seat enough for five people (two front, including the rider, and three rear seats) – well, it actually depends on the size of the passengers and whether or not you’re comfortable to huddle cosily next to the driver!
All four of us could fit into one bajaj. We did not know it was so much fun! The bajaj was fast, airy (the areas we passed were covered with trees) and could go through literally any roads. The first bajaj driver was friendly. The charge? Well, there is no metered system like the taxis, so I suppose they did overcharge us a little. They would quote the charge after we tell them where we needed to go; we only take a ride after agreeing on the cost. In the evenings the charge they quoted were even higher, we had to haggle for a better price. 
We took the bajaj several times during our stay there. The travel time from one place to another was around 15 minutes. I calculated the cost – it was similar to the air-conditioned taxis back in KL! 
The taxis, we took a non-blue/silverbird taxi from the airport to the city. They quoted IR250,000 prior to the trip, but we told them to use the meter instead, of which the driver obliged. The taxi ride ended up costing us IR175,000, which is 30% cheaper than the quoted price.
It is a repeated advice to any visitors to Jakarta to take only Bluebird or Silverbird taxis, but I guess any taxis that can agree with using meter is good enough.
We did not ride the Kopaja though. 
I would definitely plan to take Transjakarta bus as much as I can during my next trip there.

. . .
My sister was excited about all the food she was going to try in Jakarta.
Indeed, that was the first thing we did after putting our bags in the hotel!
We ate at Garuda Restaurant in Jalan H Agus Salim. It serves delicious Padang food. The restaurant was clean, and it has a super clean toilet too, complete with handwashing liquid (yay!). As with other Padang restaurants, they would put (almost) all of the dishes in front of you, but you should only take the ones you really want. You should leave the rest of the dishes untouched if you don’t want them, or else you’ll be charged for them.
Later that afternoon we had soto ayam at the same street. It was served in small bowls, containing rice and pieces of chicken in clear soup. It was complemented with a plate of deep fried chicken innards and boiled quail eggs which have been covered with some herbs and garnishes prior to boiling. 
That night for supper we had another meal consisting of rice, grilled squid, Palembang chicken, and some vegetables. 
The next day we did not eat out; breakfast was at the hotel (because we woke up a little late 😓), and then lunch at the airport. We did get to taste their nasi goreng at the hotel, and gado-gado at the airport.
I found that the portion was small, but it is good. That may be the reason Indonesians on average have better weight compared to their Malaysian or even Singaporean counterparts.

View from inside the bajaj
Food carts in front of the mosque and cathedral.
Soto ayam shop
Nasi padang with its various dishes
Sunday morning between Masjid Istiqlal and Jakarta Cathedral
Jalan H Agus Salim. There is abundance of food, even more at night.
Halte Sarinah

The Fishermen, The Parents and The Orphans

It is heart-breaking to imagine the fallen faces of those fishermen, when they realized that their boat was holed by the very people they helped. It is even more heart-breaking to imagine the pious parents, hugging the body of their son, who died on the shore of the river.

Or try to imagine the desperation of a widow, who have kids to raise. Her good husband left them some property, but she had no idea where they are. For now they could still survive, but the future is uncertain.
Only to find that…

The fishermen’s boat was the only one in the village that was not confiscated by the king; he was building an armada. Hence they became the only fishermen in the area, and earned so much from that.
The dead boy was going to grow up as a person who would misguide the parents, and the couple was pious. So after that, they had another child, who was to be good and pure.
The orphans will only find the treasures their father left when they need them the most, later on in life, as young men. If the villagers knew about the treasures while the orphans were young, they would have stolen them, and the orphans would not have anything left for themselves.
These stories are about how bad things happen for good reason.
They show that Allah gives us something much better in replacement of what He has taken away.
That if we are generous, we get so much more in return.
That if we are pious, Allah will want to keep us pious until the end. He will want us to be close to Him all the time.
That if we want pious children, we need to be pious first.
That Allah gives us what we need exactly at the time we need them.
That if we are good people, Allah will protect our family, and our treasures too; in His own way.
Let’s read surah Al Kahf every Friday, and reflect on the stories.
* * *
I would recommend watching/listening to the series of tafseer of Surah Al Kahf by Sheikh Yasir Qadhi. I learnt so much from this series of lectures, it has given me more depth when I read the surah on Fridays.
This is the link to part 16 of the series:

Yasir Qadhi: Khidir Explains Events to Musa

Doa Penyuluh Kegelapan

I Left My Heart In Jakarta





Because of a Cat

Struggles of the Courageous

Since end of last year, I have been listening to this series of lectures, titled Seerah of the Prophet by Sheikh Yasir Qadhi. I would strongly recommend all Muslims to listen to this series. It is very long, 104 lectures altogether, and each lecture is about 1 hour, or sometimes more. It might take us more than a year to complete them, but it is worth doing.

There’s so much benefit we could derive from this series of lectures, I could write a long article just about the benefits that I have obtained so far. However for now I’m just going to state one from the endless list. 
Looking back, I realize that all of the sahabi are real, imperfect humans. They experienced anger, sadness, restlessness, frustration, moments nearing or commiting sins; you name it. Despite all that, many of them were promised paradise by Allah SWT.

Even Prophet Muhammad SAW experienced a range of emotions, which I could not even begin to imagine, because of the deep love he had for humanity; the love that enabled him to fight for the truth and justice no matter what he went through, physically or emotionally, at that time.

What made them successful is how they overcome those feelings. How they channel their emotions for the sake of Allah, for themselves and the people around them. The strength they showed in facing adversities in their lives. The courage they mustered was something perhaps we could never achieve….but we could all try.
Because they are humans and we are humans.

We are made the same since the beginning of time. If they could struggle with their imperfections, so could we.

If they could turn from extremely bad to extremely good, we could all do too.
May Allah bless Sheikh Yasir Qadhi and his family, in this life and the hereafter.

May everything be easy for him.

* * *

This is the link to part 26 of this series:

Seerah of Prophet Muhammad SAW by Sheikh Yasir Qadhi

One Day

InsyaaAllah.

The Roadside Booksellers of Jakarta

I did not go to Jakarta to shop, but I thought, if I were to buy anything, I would buy a few books by Hamka, Soe Hok Gie or Chairil Anwar. I absolutely love Hamka, I fell in love with Mr Soe after watching the movie Gie, and I wanted to know why Chairil Anwar is a celebrated poet in Indonesia.
The movie Ada Apa Dengan Cinta showed a scene where Rangga brought Cinta to his favourite book shop. It is a small bookshop with loads of books, spilling onto the pavement. Thing is, I do not know where to find them. I heard that they don’t print Mr Soe’s Catatan Seorang Demonstran anymore.
Knowing the literary history of Indonesia, I was pretty sure that they have those kinds of shops in many places in Jakarta, and my mom said there are many bookshops in that city.
I browsed through my Jakarta guide book but found that the old bookshops are not within the areas that I planned to go, and I did not think I will have that much time to get there. 
While we were riding on Transjakarta and the bajajs, I did look around for signs of any bookshop, but I could not see any. Though that afternoon I saw a man carrying a tall stack of books walking on the road side.
And then night fell, we came back from Monas and stopped by for supper at Jalan Haji Agus Salim near our hotel.
A middle-aged man came with a stack of books and asked us if we wanted to buy any books. Immediately I scanned his books and I saw what I wanted. My heart leaped but I tried not to show it.
“Lihat yang ini boleh?” I pointed at Catatan Seorang Demonstran. (Journal of a Demonstrant). May I see this book?
He took that book out, and a few more. 

“Ini satu set dengan yang ini, ada empat dalam satu set,” he said.

This is within this set of four. He’d give a special price if I bought all of them.
I looked at the rest of the books, it would have been nice to buy all of them, but as much as I love the character portrayed in the movie, since this is the first time I’m reading his book, it is better if I try one of them first.
Then I pointed to Hamka’s Falsafah Hidup (Philosophy of Life). He took out not one, but three from his load. He said the other two books are also part of a series, and the one I picked was the second of them. He kept on telling me that he has special price if I took all of the books. This time, I really wished I could buy all of them, but I really did not have enough cash to last until the next afternoon.
He also showed us a few other books, one of them was Kisah Nabi-Nabi by Ibnu Kathir (Indonesian translation of Ibnu Kathir’s Stories of the Prophets). Again, it would be really nice to get my hands on it but I did not have enough money, and I have seen it sold in Malaysia. Luggage wouldn’t have been a problem as we were flying back on Malaysia Airlines.
I said sorry and I paid for the two books (without any special discount. Oh well..). While putting back the books in a neat stack, he told us about how he’s been selling books like this since 1968, carrying books for sale on the roadside. I did not ask, though, where he put the rest of his stock, because I worried that he might think that I wanted to see more of it.
Maybe next time I can ask more questions.
I made a mental note to bring more cash to Jakarta during my next trip.
Before leaving us, he took out one last book: Aku by Sjuman Djaya.
I felt rather embarassed at that point, I will tell you why. Almost immediately, in a chorus, my brother, his wife and myself said, “Sudah adaaaaaaa.” I have it already, thank you.
You see, many of my recent connections to Indonesian literature was through characters played by Nicholas Saputra in the movies Ada Apa Dengan Cinta (AADC) and Gie. Personally I have been interested in the Indonesian (particularly Javanese) culture, for so many reasons, and these two movies, especially Gie, has exposed me to a different view of the country.
Nicholas spoke highly of Rangga during an interview, saying that Rangga is a brave young man who loves helping out people no matter who they are, even if that person have beaten him up before. He also said that Rangga was inspired by Soe Hok Gie, a man born right after Indonesia’s independence. I read from the predace of Catatan Seorang Demonstran that the character Rangga was indeed born out of an awe towards Mr Soe.
I watched Gie recently just because I heard that Nicholas won an award for his role as Soe Hok Gie. He said he did a lot of research about this impressive young man prior to filming the movie. He read the books written about him (which may have included compilations of Mr Soe’s articles), and spoke to people who knew him while he was alive.
I loved Gie much more than I do Rangga. The movie Gie moved me a lot more than AADC could ever do. Hence I was interested to know more about this inspiring man. He lived a short life (like Chairil Anwar), but he was so influential, even back then without all the social media. Therefore I searched for a book related to him.
Why was I embarassed?
You see, when I saw the book I was excited but I tried to hide it. I even bought another book that is not connected to Nicholas Saputra at all. But at the end, the man still took out the book that made Rangga and Cinta possible (in AADC). The book that says, “This lady must be a huge fan of Nicholas and she’d get her hands on anything related to him.”
Well, yes, and no.

Yes, I am a fan.

But that doesn’t mean I must read everything that he reads. Although I must say, it is one of the ways you open your eyes to a whole new world. Like we have Emma Watson’s reading list, and a list of hundreds of books mentioned in Gilmore Girls, JK Rowling’s suggestions etc. I read Murakami because it was mentioned by Redza Minhat many years ago, but I ended up not liking it so I will read other authors instead.
Even my latest reading obsession is inspired by Dian Sastrowardoyo, who said that she used to read one book per week (of Indonesian literature) when she was in school, and discussed the books with her mother. It was such a great blessing to have come across her statement; it opened me up to a whole new world of knowledge and discoveries. I already have a soft spot and interest towards Indonesia since I was a child (this is a story in itself), now is the time I open up that new chapter in my creativity and literature life.
* * *
After that man, another man came by to show us his stack of books. Obviously we had to turn him down because I already bought some books from the above-mentioned man.
I took his photo, though (the second man):

My Reading List – Part 3


1. Jakarta: 25 Excursions by Andrew Whitmarsh and Melanie Wood

I found this book while planning for my weekend trip to Jakarta. I wanted to travel with my little sister, so we only have weekends free. I searched the net for 24-hour excursions in Jakarta, and found a few. But none of them could match the kind of details this book provides.

To be honest I have yet to finish reading this book, I have only covered north and central Jakarta, but at least I can compare the contents to my own experience since I have just came back from my 24-hour trip last weekend.

The lovely thing about this book is it contains suggestions for walking trips within different regions in Jakarta. They are divided into parts of Jakarta, and further divided into areas that might interest different people; for example historical places, museums, food and coffee, and shopping. It makes it easy for us to decide which places we want to go first.

One of the authors lived in Jakarta and have explored the city by foot and bicycle, which explained the amount of details available in this book. I found that the accounts on the locals and history are at times rather quirky and entertaining; I was caught laughing a few times reading a travel book! Of course, looking at Jakarta as a Westerner versus as a part-Javanese Malaysian would result in different views. There are part of their culture that is quite familiar to me (not necessarily practiced, though), but reading it from another person’s perspective was simply amusing. 

There are detailed maps for each excursion, on top of area maps, map of the whole Jakarta and a folded map of Jakarta provided in this book.

Obviously there are things that you should experience yourself, and will only find out when you’re in Jakarta. Yes, the people are indeed friendly, towards Westerners, as well as their next door neighbours like us who have shared a fair amount of love-hate relationship throughout history. Do follow their advice to talk to the locals. I came up with the conclusion that the best way to enjoy Jakarta is to have a local (like a friend or and expat) who could show us the way there, so we could make the most out of it. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who plans to go to Jakarta. I would read this again when I plan for my next trip.


2. The World Atlas of Coffee by James Hoffman

I bought this atlas because I realized I have almost zero knowledge about coffee.

This book is divided into three segments: Introduction, from Bean to Cup and Coffee Origins. Basically it covers almost everything you need to know about coffee; from the history, the plant, the process of producing coffee beans, the different ways of brewing coffee, types of espresso drinks, to the details about different coffee from different coffee-growing countries. Here we could learn a little bit about how local politics influence the production of coffee in each country.

It is a complete book if you are a coffee lover who wants to enjoy different types of coffee from all over the world. It is an interesting journey of discovery, to see how much this world love its coffee, and how differently we all enjoy coffee.

I’m not a heavy coffee drinker, drinking only 1-3 cups per week. But having read this book definitely took my coffee intake to a new level of meanings.


3. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrmage by Haruki Murakami

This is my first (and perhaps the last?) Haruki Murakami. I have heard of his reputation for a few years already, but I only managed to get my hands on this book just recently.

Where do I begin…

Well, I guess I should begin with the good ones first. When I started reading the book, I was impressed by the unique storyline, and the characters in the book. Perhaps part of the factors is that I do not know much about Japanese culture. The flow of the narrative is rather relaxed; Murakami took his time to describe the movements and the appearance of the characters. There are times when he gets philosophical about life.

The pace became even more slow as the book progresses. Although some questions were answered, many issues are left hanging with huge question marks.

As a rather conservative Asian and a Muslim, I am not entirely comfortable with the graphic imagery of sex in this book. Sex is never ‘just’ sex. It is a very private act of intimacy and love between two persons, and should be kept at that. Just reading about some fictional characters being described to be doing this and thinking of that is rather disturbing. 

Therefore I feel that anything that sells or attracts merely by sexual appeal lacks sophistication.

I guess the world around us is too used of seeing the act and thiking about it to be able to understand how peaceful it is without this kind of disturbance. It would be very difficult to comprehend how discomforting those imaginations would feel, without knowing how peaceful it can be when there is absence of dirty thoughts. Therefore its presence became a norm, something that is thought to be natural human instinct.

But it should not be. Intimacy should be kept between the couple, in the bedroom or in the house, not to be aired in the open, and certainly not to be used as a selling point for a book or a movie.

I will think many many times before buying another Murakami. 

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