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Linda’s house, where I spent three days and two nights during my stay at the Ciliwung riverbanks on Feb.
I counted myself lucky to be placed at a comfortable house in Bukit Duri Tanjakan 1, a kampong in South Jakarta which is located along the banks of Ciliwung River, during The Jakarta Post’s Cub Reporters Live In program.
However, The Post’s Senior Managing Editor Kornelius Purba chided me saying that I should have felt unfortunate as I missed the hardship in my first confrontation with poverty while a couple of my fellow cubs had to sleep in open air under a flyover with a community of trash-pickers.
I stayed with a widow and her three daughters in a shabby three-by-three meter two-story house. Linda, the mother, has been living in the house for decades with her family. Her husband had passed away last year. The first-story of the house is utilized as living room, dining room, business premises (Linda sells potato and sweet potato chips, fried sausages and nuggets) by day, and a space to sleep with a bedcover spread out on the floor by night, although there is a bedroom upstairs with a thick spring-bed.
“You can sleep upstairs with Susan, my oldest daughter,” Linda told me, ticking one of my main concerns off every time I stay overnight in a new place. I wondered if there is a toilet in the house and what it will be looked like so that I asked if I can use their toilet.
What I found was a pleasing fact.
The bathroom is located adjacent to the house, no more than one meter from the river, and there is a hand pump like the one I had when I was living in East Nusa Tenggara. The interesting thing was that the lighted 1.5 square meters room with one squat toilet and two plastic buckets for water was clean in look and fresh in smell compared with wet floor and foul odor in most toilets of some Jakarta’s malls.
I could do some kind of contemplation near the bathroom in the morning by looking at the stream of Ciliwung River while waiting for my turn to use the toilet. I found this as a luxury as living in a hectic part of Jakarta gives me no place and time to contemplate.
Isn’t it a dirty river? You may be right but different with Ancol beach in North Jakarta where luxurious apartments and houses were built, the river was not smelly! All I could feel was just breezy and cool air.
Most of Jakarta’s kids should also envy kids in Bukit Duri Tanjakan 1 kampong for having space to play and socialize.
The kampong is divided by a 3 meters alley where kids and teenagers play and chat in the afternoon after the schools finished.
Imam, a toddler, rode his tricycle back and forth with smiles on his face. Novi, the youngest daughter of Linda, gathered with other girls from the area and talked about their schools, sometimes about soap operas on television while mothers drew arisan (a lottery arranged by some people for a certain period of time). A group of young men was seen playing soccer at a corner of the alley with their neighbors watched them while munching meatballs soup.
Kinship in the area is still strong. The neighborhood chief Mulyadi said that his people have been living together side by side for decades so they know each other very well.
“If someone passes away, the neighbors will help the deceased’s family preparing everything needed, such as building tents, cleaning the house, preparing food, and so on,” said the 42-year old man who has been serving the chief tenure for 11 years.
This is something you can hardly find in a neighborhood where wealthy people live independently and get busy with their own works and businesses, like maybe some of us. We seldom talk with our neighbors and even do not know them. Living in a poor situation where people have almost nothing in possession makes them rely on each other and grow the strong kinship among themselves.
So, back to the question; what is luck?
A mentor of mine said that luck is a matter of hard work. Linda, whose two of her daughters already have good jobs to support the family, has worked hard to be at her current modest economic condition where she is able to have clean house and bathroom.
To me, perhaps luck is also a matter of point of view. As Purba said, sleeping on a spring-bed with blanket and fan is an unfortunate in a living-in-poverty program while I see that as a fortunate compared with situation faced by my fellows who slept under the open sky with dozens of cats and rats.
Further, Purba told the cubs that those so-called unfortunate people are actually the lucky ones for they have fewer choices to be considered in their lives. To me, as long as you have a proper bathroom, you are lucky!
Ada beberapa orang mensyukuri kemacetan ini.
Kau menatapku sekilas,
Orang-orang sepertimu? Yang sedang kasmaran?
Aku balik menatap sedikit lebih lama dari yang kaulakukan.
Memangnya kau tidak?
tanyaku dalam hati, yang kuterjemahkan jadi kedik di bahu.
Sudah lama tak kudengar ‘kasmaran’.
Siapa gerangan yang membawanya pulang
dan membiarkannya meringkuk nyaman di sudut-sudut angan?
Ada beberapa orang mensyukuri kemacetan ini.
Wahyu-wahyu mungkin sedang turun dari langit.
Jasad-jasad perasaan barangkali sedang bangkit dari makam granit.