Commuting in Jakarta

The roads in Indonesia are a never-ending battle. Civilization ceases before the zebra crossings and traffic lights. The big inter-city buses, like juggernaughts fleeing from phantoms, push all the other traffic out of their way. The sedan cars, feeling safe and cozy with their darkened glass windows, feel they don’t have to give anyone else on the asphalt a chance. The microlets, helicaks, jeeps, articulates trucks, goods trucks – all of these are in a state of constant state of alert. Everyone knows how many people are killed, how many people fight, how often people are frustrated because cases remain unsettled, and how fed up they are with having to play the legal game…

> Goenawan Mohamad (translation by Jennifer Lindsay)

And what a battle it’s turning into in the capital Jakarta.

The scars are everywhere - from the huge holes in the roads (are they the result of mortar shells?) to the rusty carcasses of ancient buses that have been abandoned on the city’s main thoroughfares, taken out by enemy fire. And other vehicles seem destined to join them as they send out plumes of filthy black smoke like a doomed fighter plane falling from the sky…

Human casualties are mounting too.

Only a few weeks ago I saw my first KIA: an unfortunate police officer who was lying spread-eagled in front of Sate
Pancoran on Jalan Raya Pasar Minggu in a pool of blood after a fierce firefight with enemy troops. Needless to say he wasn’t wearing a helmet: and that isn’t a wise move in wartime, is it?

WIAs are too numerous to mention of course, and most are quickly evacuated by the Red Cross to hospitals away from the battlefield.

Worst of all though, there seems to be no end to this terrible war of attrition. Only last week, reports were coming in that the relatively short journey by tollroad from the airport to Cawang was taking six hours to complete as sniper fire slowed the trip down to a crawl.

But it isn’t only Jakarta which is at war: soldiers are reportedly on the streets of Bangkok as well. In fact, the traffic has become so bad over there, that Bangkok commuters actually have to eat their breakfasts in the car, and even take plastic bags to pee in because the morning commute takes so long!

Jakarta commuters won’t want to do that though as some groups have already threatened a “moral crusade” if they hear reports of young women taking off their knickers in public.

Oh well. But Jakarta commuters could always follow in the footsteps of the imaginative Chinese and take to wearing nappies. It’s true. Honest. Click here to read


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