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.
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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):