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!
I have not lived long in this world,
Yet I have learned to take account
Of what I got from life—not much,
But none the less, a fair amount.
It taught me to perceive the good,
Gave me a glimpse of learning’s wealth,
Put love for justice in my soul,
Gave me two Eands to work and health.
It gave me friendship, mutual love,
Although not always strong and deep.
It said: “Go sow thy seed, although
Thy hand may not the harvest reap.”
It also gave me enemies
Who cursed and persecuted me;
It gave me friends who yet were prone
First their own interests to see.
Yet over all I value most
The cup of unjust suffering
Life gave to me, that truth and light
I might perhaps to others bring.
~ What Life Gave, by Ivan Franko ~
Models: Katya, Inna Buryakovska, Julia and her friend, Francois Bellemare, Fransisco Garcia, Kyryl Kurinniy, Ieugenia Petrikina. The people I stumbled upon in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Through windless night the glinting moon
Illuminates in flowing waves
The village nestled in the vale
Where crests the overflowing stream
The thick-trunked, bare-branched tree
speaks in whispers to itself–
don’t you see the bustling earth
Turning its face green again?
~ Through Windless Night The Glinting Moon, by Abai Kunanbaev ~
Silent movies are just wonderful. It’s a bit like love in a way, because words can’t describe everything that we feel. Most of the times, it’s more about the butterflies in your stomach when the the palm of his hands meet yours, the flickers in his eyes when he spots you in a crowd, the way he caresses your cheek with his fingers, the way your lips shape a U when you see something that reminds you of him. It’s more about the color of his eyes, the shape of his glasses, the food that he likes, the things that make him laugh, the serious look upon his face when he’s working, the way he treats you…
Bokeh (originally /ˈboʊkɛ /ˈboʊkeɪ / boh-kay, and also sometimes heard as /ˈboʊkə/ boh-kə, Japanese: [boke]) is the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of an image.
I’ve been in love with those lovely bursts of lights for a long time—even way before I knew that they were called “bokeh”. The term itself comes from the Japanese word boke (暈け or ボケ), which means “blur” or “haze”, or boke-aji (ボケ味), the “blur quality”. The Japanese term boke is also used in the sense of a mental haze or senility. The term bokashi (暈かし) is related, meaning intentional blurring or gradation. The reason why I love “bokeh”? Maybe because it gives the impression of things; seen through a pair of teary eyes. There’s this certain sadness, certain beauty, certain silence… like not fully knowing someone you love. Like being drawn by a secret. Like the curiosity of wanting to see things clearer. But you just can’t. You can’t come closer. Because you’re afraid that reality might turn ugly on you. Because you’ve learned that some things are more beautiful to be seen from a distance. Or maybe you’re just afraid of getting hurt, again.
OK, you must have wanted to slap me since I kept tweeting and updating my status, uber-excitedly saying that I got a Lomo Super Sampler as a gift from (ak.’sa.ra) bookstore! (see, I just did it again) :D
But, the fact is, I am probably the kind of person the marketeers would love. I don’t redeem points, I lost the cards with all those purchase stamps that could actually offer me 20% discounts on all items, I forgot to use the gift vouchers handed to me at the cashier until I found it again somewhere—a year after it was expired. And I don’t usually fill in those lottery tickets or coupons you got after a certain purchase to win something. I always consider myself unlucky for such thing.
But—earlier this month I was visiting (ak’.sa.ra) bookstore in Pacific Place in search of a cute card and a naughty wedding gift for my bestfriend. I came up with this card, pretty cute, isn’t it? Neatly depicting how many girls/boys we met along the way (those heartbreaks!), until we finally found ‘the one’ :D
And a pack of naughty Kiss & Tell cards! You would want to play this game with your spouse on bed, trust me :D
I have always loved (ak.’sa.ra) bookstores (well, I used to fall for QB Books’ selections, but they’re out of business). I love their products, their cards, their display, and especially: their selection of books. I always drool over the sight of some classics with lovely illustrated covers, I have no idea how they actually spotted that beautiful edition at the first place! And where else in Indonesia could I find a complete selection of Yoshitomo Nara’s illustration books?
Well, back to the case of santaploding Lomo: when I got to the cashier with the card and the gift and Alain de Botton’s book, the girl behind the counter told me that (ak’.sa.ra) was having their Santa Wish List program for Christmas. So I needed to fill in a card, stating what I’d like to have for Christmas—but the gift I wish for should be something that is sold in (ak.’sa.ra). And there are no price-limit as to which products I’d like to put on my wish list.
Usually I would just shrugged it off, saying, “Naaah, no need to…”—but that day I was not in a hurry and well, I had been wanting that Lomo Super Sampler camera for 2 years, having a constant battle with myself whenever I saw that camera on display: don’t buy it. Don’t buy it. Don’t buy it. But I kept wanting it anyway, and had always spare some time to look at it on the shelf when I was at (ak.’sa.ra).
So, I simply wrote it down: I want a Lomo Super Sampler camera. Then I put my name and my phone number at the bottom of the card.
“We’ll draw the wish list on December 25! Good luck!” said the girl, waving as I left the store.
And so I waited, waited, and waited. On December 25 I kept on checking my handphone, expecting for a phone call, an SMS, a surprise: nothing. And I have kissed my Lomo goodbye, until I got a text message yesterday afternoon: Congratulations! You got a Lomo Super Sampler from our Santa Wish List! Please claim and pick up your gift.
At the time, I was in the middle of a chat with a friend at the front porch, and I was screaming at him: “I win a LOMO! I win a LOMO!!!” and I screamed, and screamed, and screamed. I was beaming with joy!!! :D
And there she is, I’d like to introduce you to the Blue Belle:
Thank you, (ak.’sa.ra)! :’) And happy holiday to all of you! :*
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkn’d ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.
~ A Thing of Beauty, by John Keats ~
Model: Afdita Sari.
The prince leans to the girl in scarlet heels, Her green eyes slant, hair flaring in a fan Of silver as the rondo slows; now reels Begin on tilted violins to span The whole revolving tall glass palace hall Where guests slide gliding into light like wine; Rose candles flicker on the lilac wall Reflecting in a million flagons’ shine, And glided couples all in whirling trance Follow holiday revel begun long since, Until near twelve the strange girl all at once Guilt-stricken halts, pales, clings to the prince As amid the hectic music and cocktail talk She hears the caustic ticking of the clock.
~ Cinderella, by Sylvia Plath ~
Model: Nadia Sabrina