I remembered one sunny afternoon in Delhi’s Khan Market. I was inside a small bookstore–looking for some Hindi poetry books for Ollie. The room was packed with books, starting from the floor all the way to the ceiling. Books were stacked here and there. I needed to walk very carefully to avoid collapsing those book piles. Once and a while, I climbed into a wooden bench to see the titles on the upper shelves. I was rummaging through some Hindi poetry books when I found a pink book that caught my attention instantly. OSHO was written in big letters on the cover. Ollie was the one who introduced me to Osho’s works a few months back–and I had tried to look for his works in English bookstores in Indonesia to no avail. That afternoon, the universe guided me to find Osho’s book and the title was: BEING IN LOVE. I spent my days in India reading this book–mostly during my 6-hour ride from Delhi to Agra. I wished I found this book sooner, but I guessed everything falls into place when the time is right. When I am ready.
Here’s a beautiful excerpt from the book that I’d like to share with you:
Love cannot be learned, it cannot be cultivated. The cultivated love will not be love at all. When you learn something, it means something comes from the outside; it is not an inner growth. And love has to be your inner growth if it is to be authentic and real.
Love is not a learning but a growth. What is needed on your part is not to learn the ways of love but to unlearn the ways of un-love. The hindrances have to be removed, the obstacles have to be destroyed—then love is your natural, spontaneous being. Once the obstacles are removed, the rocks thrown out of the way, the flow starts. It is already there—hidden behind many rocks, but the spring of love is already there. It is your very being.
Love is a breeze.
Don’t think that love has to be permanent, and it will make your love life more beautiful because you will know that today you are together, and tomorrow perhaps you will have to part.
Love comes like a fresh, fragrant breeze into your home, fills it with freshness and fragrance, remains as long as existence allows it, and then moves out. You should not try to close all your doors, or the same fresh breeze will become absolutely stale. In life, everything is changing and change is beautiful; it gives you more and more experience, more and more awareness, more and more maturity.
The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love. It may look paradoxical to you, but it is not. It is an existential truth: only those people who are capable of being alone are capable of love, of sharing, of going into the deepest core of the other person—without possessing the other, without becoming dependent on the other, without reducing the other into a thing, and without becoming addicted to the other. They allow the other absolute freedom, because they know that if the other leaves, they will be as happy as they are now. Their happiness cannot be taken by the other, because it is not given by the other.
My dear friends, Adam and Susan (an awesome traveling-couple from an awesome travel blog PergiDulu.com) were calling for pictures and stories about “roads and streets” from random people’s traveling journeys. Indeed, traveling is about ‘the road’ that you take.
Surprisingly, my mind instantly went to the street-side of Pakistan. After all the news reports I heard about bombings and killings and everything else, I was amazed when a bajaj driver flashed a friendly smile to my camera and made a peace sign with his fingers as I passed him on the street. I was mesmerized to see the bustling city; full of lights and laughter, when a friend of mine took me out to the street for some sweets after midnight. I was touched when a cloth seller in Zainab Market told me how much he loved batik when he found out that I came from Indonesia. I was humbled throughout the journey. It was definitely mind-blowing. And from all the countries I have ever visited, I make the most friends in Pakistan. The friends I am still frequently in touch with until today. I love the country and would love to go back.
The picture above was taken on a street-side in Karachi, Sindh. Adam and Susan, this is my picture for you :)
I fell in love with Indian literature when I first read Jhumpa Lahiri‘s collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies. It was then that I got obsessed with Indian–and South Asian–literature in general. Soon, I found myself immersed in the works of other Indian writers like Thrity Umrigar, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Chetan Bhagat, and Raj Kamal Jha, as well as Pakistani writers, including Roopa Farooki, Bina Shah, John Siddique, and Daniyal Mueenuddin. When I landed in India mid-February this year, hitting Mumbai and the golden triangle of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, I got swept away by this nostalgic feeling of being at home. Everything seemed distant and foreign, yet comforting and familiar. In one and other way, India reminded me a lot of Pakistan. The two countries captivated me in an instant to the extent that I would gladly think of them as my second home. And these are the 9 things I miss the most about India, not in any particular order:
1. The beautiful buildings and architectures. Especially in Mumbai. I love the feeling of going back in time every time I look at those beautiful structures: palaces, flats, train stations, government offices, forts, temples.
2. The food. In Indonesia, I am not a big fan of Indian food. I never really liked the taste somehow–there’s always something that isn’t right. But I found myself falling in love with Indian food in India. Wherever I went, from the street-stalls to a fancy restaurant to someone’s kitchen, the taste of the food was always perfect. I loved it so much that I had no cravings for junk food at all–despite the fact that I spent 13 days in the country and passed by McDonald’s or KFC numerous times.
3. The birds. I don’t know why there are so many birds in India. Birds are flying freely above the temples, the street, someone’s backyard, and nesting right outside your window. I miss their constant cooing. I miss going to sleep at night with the sound of their flapping wings against the windowsill.
4. The squirrels. And I don’t know why there are so many squirrels in India! Just like the birds, they are everywhere: temples, buildings, streets, backyards, random trees, you name it. They are the cutest thing ever. I love them!
5. The bookshops. For someone who spent most of her money on books, India is definitely a paradise for book lovers. Compared to Indonesia, the price of books in India is very cheap. You can get a classic English book for IDR 30,000 only (USD 3)–and bookshops can be found everywhere: from the posh Khan Market area to the bustling street-side of Colaba’s night market. I bought so many books in Delhi and ended up sending them back home from Jaipur to avoid excess baggage–because they weighed 10 kilograms.
6. The Qutb complex in Delhi. Qutb Minar is the tallest minaret in India, but the complex housed several other ancient structures from that era; including Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque–the first mosque to be built in India. It was so serene–the morning when I was there–I could breathe in the glory and the divinity of what it once had been. And the huge garden inside the complex was just breathtaking. I could see myself spending my mornings in this complex, walking around mindlessly or sitting on a bench under a tree, painting, reading a poetry book, or writing on a piece of paper.
7. The city’s outdoors. I love it when you’re in the middle of the city and you can just walk by to the nearest park or a riverbank or the seaside to sit and chill. And India has loads of spots like that. From Mumbai’s Marine Drive to Delhi’s public parks, I found it charming to see people from all ages having picnics at the outdoors: couples, friends, families, some blokes… *giggles*
8. The color-burst. Those colorful saris, bangles, buildings, trucks, rickshaws, desserts… India’s color palette is extremely rich. No matter where I looked, I was exposed to those amazing colors, like a constant feast for the eyes. Immediately, it brought me back to my childhood days–to the nostalgic feeling of wonder and amusement as I opened up my first box of 32 Crayola crayons.
9. Gee. It was amazing how we got to know each other through this blog. And that we decided to meet up in Delhi. Gee, or Geetanjali Kaul, is definitely the highlight of my India trip. She is also a living proof that arranged marriage can actually work; romantically speaking. Amazing to see how–after 15 years of marriage, she is still madly in love with his husband, Ashish. Maybe wonderful souls did find each other. Gee and I spent an amazing three days together, and she took care of me like we had known each other for years. I miss her. And her best friend, Neeraj. And her mother-in-law (Didi), and her mother-in-law’s mother (Nani), and her wonderful kids Anika and Vivan. And her dogs.
I miss India.
Taipei in the morning. The weather was nice. The sun was shining brightly—but the breeze was cool. Daud and I had to catch a flight back to Jakarta in the afternoon, so we got up very early in the morning to venture the city and be adventurous. Both of us had this urge of going to Chiufen—but as we consulted this option with the concierge, he said that it would make more sense if we went to Yangmingshan National Park and see the hot springs instead.
Our first destination was the Memorial Hall. The gate was very pretty. I felt like being thrown into an old movie all of a sudden.
Several elderly local women were there, dancing. It was probably a routine practice or something. It was fun to see them dancing around cheerily while another grandma was sweeping and mopping the floor, her head was bobbing up and down following the beat. I wish I could still be such fun when I reach their ages, dancing around in the morning, laughing, being thankful for the good weather, good health, and good life!
We spent an hour or so strolling around the complex of the memorial hall, helping a bunch of tourists taking pictures of themselves in front of the structures. One of the “tour leader” was this uncle from Penang, Malaysia—who handed us his name, address, and cellphone number, and asked us to call him up whenever we were in Penang, as he would gladly take us for a tour around town for free :)
From the memorial hall, we decided to go straight to Yangmingshan National Park, as we had only a few hours left. We took a cab and we had this gut feeling of how things would not be as smooth, when the taxi driver started to ask where in Yangmingshan we’d like to be dropped off. We had no idea. We kept saying “hot springs” and pointed to the image printed on our pathetic little map, but it seemed like none of this registered well to him. So, we decided to get off in front of what looked like a start of a hiking track, with a police station nearby. Maybe we could just ask for direction?
Not really. A bunch of police stationed there were very friendly and very chatty, but they didn’t speak English much. We pointed at the image of the hot springs again, and they moved their hands indicating that it was still very very very faraway, and told us to just get onto a bus or a cab. There were no bus or cab in sight after we stood there on the street for around 20 minutes, so we decided to walk (and maybe, hike) a bit.
That was until we spotted this sign, and thought that maybe we could skip the hiking part?
Our good luck started to kick in. A bus was coming. We hopped on, told the driver that we would like to go to the hot springs. Some exchange of words that none of us understood. And so the bus ride began.
The driver kept glancing our way from one stop to another, like asking, “Kids, were are you heading actually?” — and so, for some reason, we got off at a stop that might be the right stop…
The official we met told us that we needed to wait for another bus to reach the hot springs. Again, he said, “It’s still so far faraway.”
Daud and I found ourselves sitting on a wooden bench on another bus stop—it was actually a very comfortable one, and the view of our surrounding was actually breathtaking. But our worries started to kick in, because we had spent around 2 hours in this complex and still couldn’t reach the hot springs. We didn’t know that the park would be this huge, and we had a flight to catch in 4 hours! We waited for almost an hour for another bus, and we thought that we would just drop the hot springs search and went back to the city.
The bus finally came, we hopped in, and rode for 30 minutes or so, still we had not reached the city. The fog came down, enveloped us. Everything was white. We could not see our surroundings, we could only sense the bus turning left and right and left and right and after a few minutes of climbing up the hills, we felt that the bus descended to—hopefully, the city. The fog started to disappear, and as we glanced out of the window, we spotted the sign saying: hot springs!
We decided to check it out. After all, this was what we’d been searching for all day long! So we got off, walked a bit until we found a small inn, and asked for direction there—
only to find out that… the hot springs were not public hot springs. There were small huts around these areas that people could rent, and they could enjoy the hot springs inside this hut, in the bathtub. Argh! Luckily, we could just phone a cab to pick us up at this inn and drove us back to the city just in time to catch our flight.
While Daud was waiting for the cab inside the inn’s restaurant, I wandered around the area happily, as the surroundings were so darn beautiful. The huts were amazingly serene as well. I could imagine myself staying there for a month or so, just to read and write and have a cup of green tea in the morning while enjoying the melodious chirping of the birds.
And the area was full of butterflies…
And look at this pretty thing!
I guess, sometimes, it’s good to get lost.
As I stepped out from the hotel that evening, it was pouring outside. I fetched my umbrella and waited for a cab, hopped in, and sat with my nose glued to the backseat’s window—capturing the beauty of raindrops and city lights. It was gorgeous.
There were around ten of us that evening. Everybody had just met everybody else a few hours ago. Our Taiwanese friends brought us to this ‘hip’ mall in Xinyi District called ATT4FUN. They said there was a new Thai restaurant opening up, and we should try it because the food was so good. I know, I know, like we’re in Taipei and we’ll be eating Thai food? But, I was hungry. I needed rice. Thai food would do. The restaurant was called Bangkok Jam. And the food—yeah, it was so darn good, especially the spicy mango salad. Oh, and those chicken in pandan leaves! And the tom yam soup! And… well, apparently, I was really hungry (later on I realized that we have Bangkok Jam in Jakarta, too).
My Taiwanese friend: “Would you like to try some Taiwan beer?”
Me: Sure, what does it called?
My friend: Taiwan beer.
Me: Like, the brand?
My friend: Yeah, exactly that.
And it was (literally) called Taiwan beer, indeed. It tastes like… a beer. A beer that you drink in Taipei. Okay, I know. I suck :P
Taiwan in the evening. The occasional drizzle. The wide pavements. City lights. Such a good friend for those who would like to stroll around lazily, with nothing in mind. You could just sit on a clean and comfy bench when your feet got tired: sipping a cup of coffee from a carton cup, nibbling on some snacks, reading books, watching people. Suddenly, I felt Adele-ish.
Being me, of course, the highlight of my Taipei journey was Eslite. Imagine a bookstore that opens for 24 hours, with 7 floors full of books, stationeries, and art & craft supplies. Heaven! You could see people reading there, sitting cross-legged on the carpeted floor. Some teenagers were occupying rows of wooden desks—studying solemnly. Wait. Was this a bookstore or a library?
I found myself got overly excited and overwhelmed, surrounded by tall bookshelves lining up and books with wonderful covers from all around the world! I jumped excitedly from one section to another, flipping over some gorgeous-looking illustration books and gasped and sighed and gasped and sighed. It was just too much, that in the end I came out without buying any books. I know. I just… couldn’t make my choice in such a short period of time. I got only… 2 – 3 hours max? I mean, come on! *drenched in tears*
Coffee should ease the pain. There was this cute Starbucks counter on the street—with cartoony poster in pastel colors. Taipei was full of cute stuff and drawings like that. Just mentioned it: billboards, road signs, city maps, advertisements, posters, brochures… probably watercolor artists and illustrators stood better chances of making a living in this part of the world.
The other evening, we had seen a display of an uber-cute artistic work at Taipei 101, the landmark of Taipei that used to be the tallest building in the world.
Look at this Taipei 101 mascot, called “Damper Baby” (a 730-ton tuned mass damper that acts like a giant pendulum to counteract the building’s movement; reducing sway due to wind by 30 to 40 percent). Could you see that the mascot was actually designed out of the number 101? :D
Riding the elevator up to the observatory on the 89th floor, I sat in front of a glass wall overlooking the city, covered in fog. The city lights were disappearing. Everything was gray and white and dark blue. The open-deck on the 91st floor was closed that day due to the bad weather and the strong wind. I treated myself a cup of green tea and sat on a bench, resting my feet; then took more pictures of me with the ever-popular Damper Baby. We actually looked alike.
The night had fallen. The youths and the elders came out in couples, holding hands, landing light kisses on each others’ cheeks. Earlier that afternoon, a Taiwanese guy, D, mentioned about The Raid when he knew that we came from Indonesia. He said The Raid was one of the best action movie he had ever seen. The movie was definitely a big hit in Taipei, too.
There was this one particular evening when I got into my hotel, dead-tired, and just went straight to the bathroom for a quick shower. As I finished up, I realized how beautiful it was: bathing with the city lights twinkling around you. And then it registered to me, way too late. Wait, why did I see these city lights from the tall buildings? Oh. The bathroom had these glass walls, and apparently, I forgot to close the curtain.
Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” | Dr. Seuss
Suatu hari kawanmu bertanya: “What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you?”
Tanpa pikir panjang, kamu menjawab: “Being 17.”
Usia tujuh belas (juga dua atau tiga tahun sebelum dan sesudahnya), merupakan masa-masa paling sulit dalam hidupmu. Saat itulah kamu sungguh-sungguh berpikir untuk lari. Meninggalkan semua yang kamu miliki (atau semua yang tidak kamu miliki) di belakang. Memulai kehidupan baru di suatu tempat, di mana tak ada seorang pun yang mengenalmu.
Kamu mulai berpikir dan membuat daftar tentang barang-barang yang akan kau bawa di dalam ranselmu ketika kamu pergi: dompet, uang tabungan, akte kelahiran dan ijazah, buku-buku harian, novel-novel favoritmu, walkman dan kaset-kaset Eminem, juga kertas dan pensil. Ya, banyak kertas dan pensil. Kamu mulai memikirkan apa yang akan kamu makan nanti, di mana kamu akan tinggal, apa yang akan kamu kerjakan (warung makan, loteng atau gudang di rumah seseorang, menjadi pelayan di toko atau restoran).
Kamu juga sungguh-sungguh memikirkan tentang bunuh diri. Tentang siapa yang akan kehilanganmu, apa yang akan kau tuliskan di surat perpisahanmu, cara bunuh diri apa yang bersih, cepat dan tidak menyakitkan. Tentu ini berarti kamu tidak ingin menyayat nadi, menenggelamkan diri, atau terjun dari lantai atas sebuah gedung bertingkat. Mungkin kamu akan memilih arsenik jika kamu tahu di mana dan bagaimana kamu bisa mendapatkannya (lalu kamu tersadar bahwa kamu terlalu banyak membaca novel-novel detektif Hitchcock dan Agatha Christie).
Tetapi kamu tidak.
Tidak lari dan tidak bunuh diri.
Kamu memagari kamarmu dengan tumpukan buku-buku, tulisan-tulisanmu, kertas-kertas dari kehidupan yang lalu, cerita-cerita yang mengisi setiap ruang kosong dalam laci-lacimu, bunyi ketak-ketik di atas keyboard komputermu. Eminem marah dan menangis di dalam kepalamu. Kamu menemukan cara untuk merasa tidak sendirian. Akhirnya kamu bisa merasa bahwa kamu bukan satu-satunya. Kamu mencari lirik-lirik gelap dan sedih itu di Internet, menerjemahkannya menggunakan kamus Inggris-Indonesia, kemudian membacanya lagi berkali-kali hingga kertasnya lusuh dan nyaris sobek karena terlalu sering tertetesi air mata.
Kamu membawa walkman dan Eminem ke mana-mana; juga sebatang pensil untuk memutar kaset di dalamnya kalau kamu sedang ingin menghemat baterai.
Tadi pagi, kamu terbangun menjelang subuh. Ada suara burung kunti di kejauhan (kamu tak tahu nama burung itu, tetapi kamu menyebutnya burung kunti karena ia bersuara mengerikan), ditingkahi suara adzan dari masjid di dekat rumah.
Kamu bergelung kedinginan di tempat tidur, merapatkan selimut, dan mendengarkan. Kamu selalu suka suara-suara pagi. Suara-suara lewat tengah malam hingga sebelum matahari terbit. Suara-suara kesunyian. Tokek berbunyi dari suatu sudut di teras rumahmu. Dulu, kamu biasa menghitung dalam hati: he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not…
Tetapi kini kamu menikmatinya saja. Tak tahu harus mempertanyakan apa.
Perjalanan, sedianya membawa seseorang berpindah dari satu titik ke titik lain. Hanya saja, titik-titik ini tak selalu ditandai dengan tiket pesawat atau kereta api, bis malam menuju kota-kota yang tak bercahaya, atau sebuah rumah dengan teras lucu dan dapur kecil di dalamnya. Perjalanan tak menuntutmu bertemu orang-orang baru atau membawa kamera, atau membuat paspor dan membawa peta.
Terkadang yang kamu butuhkan hanya kesunyian. Mengheningkan tubuh, pikiran, dan hatimu. Kamu duduk di tempat yang sama, melihat jauh ke belakang, menarik napas dalam-dalam, lalu tersenyum: menyadari bahwa satu perjalanan besar telah kamu lewati tanpa beranjak pergi.
Ya, kamu sudah pulang.