Holiday in Jakarta

Your a star-belly sneech you suck like a leech
You want everyone to act like you
Kiss ass while you bitch so you can get rich
But your boss gets richer on you
Well you'll work harder with a gun in your back
For a bowl of rice a day
Slave for soldiers til you starve
Then your head skewered on a stake
Now you can go where people are one
Now you can go where they get things done
What you need my son:

Is a holiday in Cambodia
Where people dress in black
A holiday in Cambodia
Where you'll kiss ass or crack

>Dead Kennedys - Holiday In Cambodia

Things aren’t this bad in Jakarta of course.

At least it seems that way when you drive from your air-conditioned home to your air-conditioned office in a nice sleek Japanese air-conditioned car, working out in the evenings in an air-conditioned gym full of the latest American fitness equipment in an upmarket air-conditioned shopping mall.

But for a lot of people in Jakarta things aren’t so sweet.

Just follow the narrow twisting alleys that branch off the bigger roads, and you will enter into a claustrophobic world of human poverty where people are packed into tiny shacks like sardines in a tin can. Welcome to Jakarta’s hidden slums.

I was reminded of this at the weekend in a story I read about one of Jakarta’s so-called wong cilik (little people), a woman called Iyut.

She is thirty-two years old. Her real name is Darmasiah. She has five children and is a widow – or to be more accurate she used to be a widow. A year ago she married a builder’s laborer called Asmawi. They lived in a shack and their only possessions were a bedsheet and a rack for storing crockery. Four of the five children had been sent to live with relatives, but they tried to care for the youngest child themselves.

But the household could not support three people. Often they did not eat for a whole day. They could not afford rice, let alone anything to go with it. Iyut wanted to work, but her laborer husband would not permit her. Finally she gave up hope and went to sell the bedsheet.

Iyut managed to get 20,000 rupiah for the sheet. She went from the place where she sold the sheet to another place where she bought a tin of baygon household poison, and then went home and drank it. She wanted to leave this world – or at least she wanted to leave the world that she had known.

But she failed. Unconscious and near death, she was found, taken to the local hospital, and revived. She stayed on a few days in hospital even though she was allowed to go home. The reason: she didn’t have enough money to pay the treatment.

Her husband, Asmawi, came to visit her a few times in hospital. He needed money to do this. And so he was forced to sell their only other possession, the dish rack…

> Goenawan Mohamad (translation by Jennifer Lindsay)

There are a few narrow alleys not so far away from where I live – not that I’ve ever been down them of course. After all, why would I go to a place where they don’t have air conditioning?


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