Hi, busy-bees! I know I haven’t been writing here as frequently as I intended to. To be honest, there are still some posts lining up at the back of my mind, including some from my recent trips to India, Flores, and Yogyakarta. However, there’s an exciting news that I’d like to share with you. Last month, together with my lovely girl Nadia, I launched Sunday & Sunflowers.
Capturing moments has always been a dream of Nadia and me: either through pictures, movies, poetic scripts, writings, or music. Sunday & Sunflowers does exactly that. We were happy and excited to work together with some amazing clients; both individual and corporate clients, even before our official launch took place!
The stories on how we ended up doing this can be read here, but today, I am going to share “The Ballerina”–the latest photo shoot that we’ve done for Fany Nasution, a talented dancer. I think the shots and the script from “The Ballerina” perfectly describes how Nadia and I had decided to follow our dreams and be where we are right now.
Listen to the tunes of your heart–no matter how faint they are, and follow the path that lights up your each and every step with joy and gratitude. Move with the flow of life instead of going against it. Be at a certain moment of silence and feel the world shines through you. Absorb that feeling of having the brightest star inside, as for one to be a star, one must have the courage to shine. [Photo + make-up by Sunday/Nadia and script by Sunflowers/Hanny]
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 always find it comforting, to be surrounded by greeneries, enveloped by silence, only to catch the faint sounds of birds, cicadas, and waterfalls. I ran away here one afternoon a few weeks ago with a friend, Martijn. A few slices of yellow watermelons, a pack of grapes, a carton of fruit juice, and Susan Wooldrigde’s Poemcrazy book were resting nicely inside my flowery canvas bag. My head was still spinning with the beautiful words from the book. I remembered one line where Wooldridge quoted Gary Snyde: poetry has an interesting function; it helps people be where they are. And suddenly, my world was bursting with pinecones, the smell of the leaves and the wet soil, the shape of the rocks, the changing colors of the sky…
I was sitting on a rock; dipping my toes into the flowing river, while Martijn went underneath the waterfalls. I was thinking about everything that had happened in my life lately: about hellos and farewells, and how curious was it that I kept stumbling upon random people who brought ‘messages’ for me and answered some questions I have pondered upon for a while through simple conversations.
I once wrote inside my black travel notebook: what if we think of everyone we meet on our journey as a messenger? What if we don’t bump into them coincidentally? What if they were sent to tell us something, to deliver a message, a lesson… what difference would it make if we stop, say hello, glance a smile, and make that connection? Don’t you think it would make you feel like you are never alone in this world? That every step you make is another chance to learn new life lessons? That everyone of us is, in one and another way, carry ‘The Prophet‘ inside, like that of Gibran’s?
Last evening, a girl on Twitter sent me a direct message, and asked, out of the blue, “What should I do when the person I care about decided to disappear?” and I found myself typing away: just pray for them to be alright, and to be happy. Maybe I was talking to myself or hearing myself asking the same question to my other self; this could be more complicated than understanding the flower petals and Fibonacci numbers–but such ‘creepy’ or amazingly coincidental things happened more often in my life lately (oh well, I never believed in coincidences anyway). When I came to think about it, I guess even our prayers (or wishes) define who we are and how we see the world. If you do believe that prayers have such a vast amount of energy that will resonate to the universe and being echoed back to you, you would want to recite beautiful prayers, wouldn’t 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.
Ours is a bumpy road. Wait. No. Rewind. To be brutally honest, let me put it this way: mine is a bumpy road. Yes. Mine, and mine alone.
Because one day, “we” disappeared in front of a small alley in a small island, the two characters, W and E, being washed out by the drizzle. Suddenly, everything became discolored. Reasons were no longer exist. Things were losing meanings. Words were breaking into pieces. I lost my sense of being. And it was just like that; as simple as something that disappeared in silence one afternoon under the cloudy sky; just like all things temporary. But that’s the rule of life as we know it: everything will come to its end. It’s just a matter of how, and how long. And maybe, subconsciously, that’s what we’re doing: we’re all just waiting for something to end.
One day, when “we” disappeared, I found myself—and my heart (that had been broken many times but always refused to give up) embracing that familiar pang of sadness: of having to let go. No matter how often you experience such thing, surprisingly, one is never immune to such pain. Of course you know that you’ll be fine again—because your experiences have taught you so (been there, done that)—but still, you find it very tiring to begin again. I will definitely find it very tiring to begin again. And maybe, I won’t. Not now. Not so soon.
I know we love to begin something new (maybe this is the reason why we celebrate New Year with parties and drinks and fireworks and all things cheerful), but most of the times, we forget the art of loving an ending: to appreciate what we have got and what we have lost, to celebrate the memories and the traces of “us” that once were, to romance the things that stayed with us—that sooner or later will become us.
One day, when “we” disappeared, you told me that in the end, all that we’re going to remember is the beautiful things we’ve experienced, the beautiful places we’ve seen, the beautiful memories we’ve shared, the beautiful moments we’ve seized. I told you that it’s true, because one can always find simple happiness in everything—no matter how small; even in an ending.
And so, that one day, when “we” disappeared, I knew that we’d find each other again. When we’re ready. When the time is right. And when the time comes, it’s going to be just me and you—no such thing as “we”—because in the end, I have left something in you and you have left something in me. And even when “we” disappeared, those things we’ve left behind with each other would remain to be a part of us. And isn’t that such a relief? To know that there is something eternal even in the most temporary things, that there is something precious even in the saddest of endings. And such knowledge, to me, is more than enough.
Happy New Year 2013 and Happy Old 2012!
*) inspired by the title of Astrid Reza’s posting, “If Tomorrow We Disappear”.
There are only a few places I like in Jakarta: my office (seriously), the giant bookstores, coffee shops with bookshelves, the stretch of street stalls selling everything vintage in Jalan Surabaya, Seaworld and Planetarium (again, seriously), and… the Old Town area.
I love the Old Town not only because this 1.3 square kilometers area is very picturesque; but also because it reminded me of the pictures I saw in my history books. It gave me those “colonial romanticism” feeling (you know how I love to imagine myself living in a different era; the 1920s fascinates me the most).
A lazy stroll along this area is always a pleasant one. All those old buildings with beautiful architectures, street artists drawing your sketch or silhouette, tattoo stand, fortune-teller… It was unfortunate that several historical sites had been destroyed by the provincial government during the development of Jakarta, including Fortress Batavia, Gate of Amsterdam, and tram lane of Batavia (we had tram lane, once!).
I went to the Old Town again last weekend with my friend, Chris—me with my DSLR camera, running around taking pictures, and Chris with… nothing. “Who is the tourist, actually?” Chris laughed. “Yes, I am playing tourist!” I answered to that and mindlessly snapping some pictures again. Anyway, if you’re around this area, pay a visit to Warung Kota Tua. They have the best chicken noodles.
unsent letters. heart-shaped memories, bursting in words. lonely sentences, never leave those torn pages. crumpled secrets, inside a stack of envelopes. silent phrases and faraway wishes at the back of your plane tickets. the farthest distance is one that is not crossed.
And this is the exact reason why you got those letters.
Dear ___ ,
Have I told you that this journey is different? I have decided to skip all the touristy spots in Kyiv, and left my camera at the hostel. The idea was just to enjoy Kyiv from a perspective of a local—and to spend more time connecting with people: just hanging around, laughing, talking, eating out. It was fun. It was a great fun.
From Couchsurfing, I met Kyryl and his lovely girlfriend Ieugenia.
They were such a cute couple! I had so much fun taking pictures of them both, because they were so kind and fun and affectionate and down-to-earth. They made jokes out of each other, yet you could clearly see the sparks of love in their eyes as they looked at each other (I was thinking of us when I saw them).
Together with my wonderful interpreter at TechCamp, Inna (right) and her friend Anna (left),
the five of us went for a stroll around Kyiv one lovely afternoon, practicing some Russian phrases along the way; and ended up in a small Sovyet-style diner with loads of magazines and books from the Sovyet era,
attacking a plate of Vereniki (a kind of dumpling that can be filled with mushroom, beef, chicken, etc., served with sour cream)
and drinking Kyiv’s local liqeur Hrenovuha—that was made of horseradish (smelled and tasted like one, too, with the after-effect resembling eating too much wasabi).
It was raining that evening, as we got out from the diner. Inna and Anna went back home, and I went with Kyryl and Ieugenia to Ieugenia’s apartment. “It’s a typical Sovyet apartment,” said Ieugenia. “All the apartments look the same, with the same furnitures, cupboards, stoves…”
We talked all night long on Ieugenia’s kitchen table, sipping cognac and eating melon; while listening to the government’s radio playing on the background. The cold wind was blowing from the open window and it was drizzling outside. It was such a wonderful time.
Earlier that week, at the hostel, I also met Francois—a Canadian who lives in London at the moment,
and Fransisco, a Brazilian who gets fascinated by my name and kept on teasing me when we bumped into each other (Hey, Hanny *wink* Can I call you Hanny? *wink* Hello, Hanny *wink*) and we laughed out loud every time. “Sorry, I can’t help myself. I know, lame jokes, but I just love it!” he said.
With the boys and some other Ukrainian friends, we went for a bar-hopping experience in Kyiv one night, and ended up eating chicken soup at a restaurant and spent the rest of the night conversing as we walked back home.
On my last day in Kyiv, I met Natalya Kovalienko as I walked around the artsy stretch of Andriyivzkyy in the morning. Natalya sells arts & crafts in a street stall. She is an artist; a painter—and she painted all of the souvenirs she offers: matryoshka dolls, fridge magnets, hair combs, mirrors, jewelry boxes…
In one of my letters, I told you how I was scared and nervous and anxious when I first traveling alone, because I was such an introverted shy girl, and I doubted myself a lot. I told you that often times, I wasn’t sure that I could, that I would make it. “But soon, I started to enjoy the feeling of being on my own: of making connections, of trusting people I have just met, of initiating a conversation with a total stranger,” I said.
And this was exactly how I met you. This was how you ended up in my letters and I ended up in yours. I am glad for now I can say that when it comes to us, I have no regret. No matter what awaits us in the future, we know that together, we’re awesome, and we’re great! See you in a couple of weeks!