Pandemic Diary: Large Scale Social Restriction in Indonesia Is Just a Joke

This is what happens when your country ignores science from the very beginning. Ignorance after ignorance and pig-headedness that accumulate in the head of uninformed heads filled with swirling hoaxes on WhatsApp ends up in a semi public health apocalypse.

“Just let them be. Let them do what they want until one of them die,” epidemiologist of University of Indonesia Tri Yunis said blatantly. 

It isn’t because he doesn’t care. It’s because he’s too tired and helpless to handle the stubborn Indonesians who believe this is all a plandemic (a pandemic that is planned) and Bill Gates will plant a chip to control us and change humans’s DNA through vaccination. If he wanted to do such a thing, he could easily do it by means of his Windows Operating System.

Further, he mentioned that the work from home scheme is also a joke. People are still seen on streets, malls, markets, and no fines are charged. “And the sum of fine is too low people don’t even care,” he quipped. The fine is only around 250,000 rupiahs. 

Isolation and quarantine at a large scale, more swab tests throughout the archipelago (which I’m not sure the government is committed to it after all), and a SERIOUS large scale social restriction which will still take place in a longer cycle are all the strategies and actions that the government should immediately take now but we all know they’re too sluggish to make fast actions.

Yunis again sees a ridiculous uncoordinated efforts among the government levels from the regional to central level. It is as if they acted separately to the different directions and goals. This is why the country is in a huge mess. And when the regional level administration are given freedom to make their own policy, they don’t base the policy on evidence. Most probably because they lack resources to gather data and manage and interpret the data. Or maybe they just don’t care.

Yunis said almost all of the policies made are not evidence based so the people in the grassroots do not obey the policy and the policy is not seriously observed. 

The epidemiologist said that the Covid-19 vaccination is what we need to combat the pandemic. So Indonesians must be willing to be vaccinated. Those anti vaccine folks have no ground. Despite all the facts that the vaccine efficacy is lower than the other vaccines, taking vaccine is just better than not taking at all. But if it can help us tame the Covid-19, then just do it anyway. Don’t be stubbornly reject it.

Indonesia has always been fussing about 3M (washing hands, wearing a mask, and keep a physical distance) but Yunis said it should be 7M. The other 3M are staying away from any crowds, taking a rest, taking care of immunity, and maintaining health. “And write them down anywhere!” he screamed. (*/)

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Pandemic Diary: People Wear Masks But Forget to Wash Hands. WTF!

Why is it so important to wash your hands even if you already have worn a mask?

Because the surfactan in the soap/ detergent destroys the coronavirus at a certain extent. This is easy but lots of people are ignorant enough and forgetful enough to do this everytime they have to.

Also, can dogs get infected by Covid-19?

Yes, they can. In Hongkong, dogs get tested positive for Covid-19. But these dogs showed no symptoms. 

Pets like dogs are so far not proven to be the source of Covid-19 infection.

But what do you need to do in case you are tested positive for Covid-19 and thus cannot take care of your pets?

First, as the owner, you must wash the pets’ bodies completely while avoiding any bodily liquid as their body surface may be contaminated.

Once they are washed clean, these pets can be taken care of by friends or family members.

Besides that, people are wondering if Covid-19 can spread in sewage or ditches?

The new coronavirus can live in the respiratory tracts and lungs as well as intestines.

A condominium in Hongkong became an epicentrum of an local outbreak after saliva was alegedly let into the sewage.

This is why people need to close th etoilet lid just before they press that flush button. And after getting done with the toilet, they must wash both hands thoroughly, something that we don’t do rigorously. (*/)

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Pandemic Diary: Indonesia Is in a Mess

Just a thoughtless young man with a sickening attitude and miserable discipline. Yuck!

The best thing about living in Indonesia is the amount of freedom you can have. Do whatever you want, as long as you don’t get noticed by the law enforcement, you’ll be fine.

You are so free because the government has too many affairs to handle, too. They work inefficiently and slowly and pathetically.

But this freedom is also the factor that allows coronavirus to spread massively and uncontrollably here.

It is certainly more about education and mindset.

You can see the above photo where a young man sits with his foot on the seat. Disgusting and impolite.

On top of that, he drops the mask down in a couch where other people are around.

This kind of shitty people are just so easy to find. Some are just afraid of security officers so they put on masks and act politely. But some others don’t even bother.

Sometimes I want to speak up and make them obey. But I feel too tired to take care of other people. (*/)

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Pandemic Diary: Using YouTube as a Source of Serious Learning

We all know YouTube. It’s a platform for video makers who want to monetize their skills, capture audience’s attention, and be famous, etcetera.

I do sometimes visit and enjoy YouTube. Not sometimes but most of the times. Almost every day. I see it as a source of inspiration. 

Of course I’m upset with the algorithm that always serves me with viral content on the homepage. It’s about the current information news, viral content that I don’t really like and I don’t really need. It doesn’t serve my purpose of going there.

Lately I just knew how we can actually learn from YouTube. You should actively and consciously seek.

So here’s the thing: we tend to be distracted and carried away as we are shown provocative headlines or titles of videos. So, the most important tip for learner’s on YouTube is that you should come with one purpose of learning and stick with it throughout the time. Well, of course that sounds boring. But it’s possible if you want to.

A friend  told a story how he learned a lot of stuff on YouTube. He boasted about learning architecture, fengshui, language, sports, and the list goes on, on this platform only.

He doesn’t really like reading books. He is not a text person. So enjoying videos is a lot easier for him.

But the problem is, how can we find a reliable source of learning on YouTube known for its crazy, misleading viral content?

Of course you can. Of course we can!

Make a deliberate search. Have an intention of what you are going to learn. You can’t just open YouTube and let your mind wonder and dragged and be served with algorithm and its stupid viral content.

You should make conscious efforts of staying on your learning path. Having a focus so you will be more directed. The algorithm will help you find more quality content afterwards. It’s all about mind game. Just show the algorithm who the real master is.

I do try to use this tip when on YouTube. But I want to learn I stay with my purpose and search only the content that I need most. I never let myself wonder. Oh, well maybe sometimes. Most of the time I tried to learn and seek inspiration from the content makers there.

I also try to learn philosophy on YouTube. I love visiting MJS Channel. It’s a channel featuring a group of academicians, philosophers, thinkers, clerics, and teachers. Here I also found an interesting teacher.

Unlike any other simplistic, or over simplistic, approaches of thinking any or every issue in our life nowadays, teaches me how to think clearly and objectively. Well, not entirely because I’m still learning as well.

This is an ocean of knowledge and I’m just dipping my toes in it. So the journey is still long and winding. (*/)

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Pandemic Diary: Vaccine, Please Save Me!

So the government of Indonesia has proudly declared that they have imported vaccines from  China.  The Chinese vaccin is considered not so effective because the efficacy rate is only about  60 percent. Pretty low for the  efficacy rate of vaccines, we must admit.

People are raving about this and the government doesn’t seem to give in.  The government presses forward by  making this vaccine compulsory for every citizen alive.

And the World Health Organization says that such a policy would be very counterproductive  because they learn  that the more people  are  made to get a vaccination, the more they are against it. 

But the government has another plan to convince people to get vaccines without reservation. the president himself broadcast he got the vaccines directly just simply to prove that the vaccine is safe  and will not kill  anyone. Despite that, there are some “morons” who  think that this is all a pandemic.  Yes,  they think it is a pandemic which was planned by the elite, for example Bill Gates and his foundation. 

But I  was wondering why Mr. Gates is demonized so much  while Zuckerberg or  Elon Musk doesn’t get the same condemnation. Because Zuckerberg is also enjoying this pandemic. More people are on his social media sites and apps more than ever before. And Elon Musk, thanks to the pandemic his electric car is gaining popularity, and his Company’s stock Tesla is soaring high. In the meantime, we are still suffering.  we are stuck at home. Maybe we’re not lacking food for dying of hunger, we are dying of loneliness and mental health problems and domestic violence and unreasonable fear  of losing what we may have  or not  have at all.

The government even plans to put those who are against vaccinations into jail. while some agree with this policy, the rest keep silent about it and some are vocal about rejecting vaccinations because not all of us are  healthy enough to get the vaccine.

This controversy, debate,  and angst  are endless and  useless and sickening. So instead I resort to something else : reading. (*/)

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Pandemic Diary: Vaccine Approved, What’s Next?

Pandemic creates an endless supply of stories for us.

Indonesia is trying not to lose the momentum.

Its Clerics Council has recently issued approval of Sinovac Vaccine.

It’s HALAL and thus no muslims have no reason to reject Covid-19 vaccination.

One more step is taken.

But that is not the end.

We know there’re some people who are brainless enough to resist vaccination in this country.

More drama is expected to arise some months ahead. (*/)

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Pandemic Diary: Headlines that Killed It

As a writer, I need to read a lot. Even that means reading something less classy. No offense.

This is the typical headline in the local newspaper distributed around Jakarta and the greater areas.

The newspaper has its online presence already but oddly enough its print version still thrives until 2021.

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Galeri Semarang Berkomitmen Lejitkan Seniman-seniman Anyar

Berlokasi di Kota Lama yang kini menjadi areal pariwisata, berdirilah sebuah galeri seni. Galeri Semarang – demikian namanya – menempati salah satu bangunan tua di sana dan kemudian direnovasi untuk dapat digunakan sebagai galeri seni kontemporer. Lokasinya dekat Gereja Blenduk yang menjadi landmark Kota Tua Semarang.

Beroperasi sejak 16 tahun lalu (2001), Galeri Semarang didirikan oleh Chris Dharmawan dan dua orang mitranya yang bernama Hendra dan Handoko. Mereka bertiga bersama menjalankan galeri itu sampai tahun 2005. Di tahun itu, dua rekan lainnya mundur dan membuat Chris menjadi satu-satunya yang bertahan mengelola galeri itu hingga detik ini. Dan meski latar belakang Chris bukanlah seni rupa atau lukis, ia tidak gentar menjalankan galeri itu. Ia mengaku sebagai seorang arsitek yang kebetulan memiliki passion besar di bidang seni.

Chris dengan tekun mengumpulkan dan menyeleksi karya dari komunitas seni lokal. Ia banyak berinteraksi dengan seniman-seniman muda dan berpotensi di wilayah semarang dan sekitarnya. “Jika saya lihat ada yang berpotensi, saya ajak ikut pameran,” ujarnya.

Ditanya soal kriteria seniman potensial yang layak diikutsertakan dalam pameran di galerinya, Chris menjelaskan bahwa seorang seniman harus memiliki teknik dan konsep. “Aspek lain ialah kepribadian seniman tersebut memenuhi syarat,” imbuh pria itu. Karena seniman juga sebuah profesi, ia juga memperhitungkan bakat artistik orang yang bersangkutan. Ia mengklaim dari seniman-seniman muda berpotensi yang ia angkat di galerinya, ada beberapa yang sudah mendulang kesuksesan.

Chris beruntung karena meskipun Semarang belum seaktif Jakarta atau Yogyakarta, di kota pesisir itu sudah ada sebuah institusi pendidikan yang menjadi pusat lahirnya seniman-seniman baru. “Di Semarang, ada jurusan Seni Rupa Unnes (Universitas Negeri Semarang -pen) yang menghasilkan banyak seniman.” 

Ditanya soal jumlah seniman muda yang ia orbitkan ke dunia seni, Chris tidak yakin jumlah pastinya. Dengan frekuensi mengadakan pameran di galerinya dari enam sampai sepuluh kali dalam setahun, bisa ditaksir jumlah seniman muda yang karya-karyanya ia sudah tampilkan di galeri tersebut. “Dalam satu kali pameran, ada sekitar 5-7 seniman yang berpartisipasi. Jadi, bisa dikira-kira sendiri.”

Dalam urusan kurasi karya, Chris sengaja menyewa jasa kurator andal dan ia anggap cocok dan sukai. Ia tidak mengerjakan sendiri, apalagi ia berlatar belakang arsitektur. 

Dengan kiprahnya selama belasan tahun ini, Galeri Semarang sudah diperhitungkan dalam arena seni Jawa Tengah dan sekitarnya. Buktinya ialah baru-baru ini galeri tersebut dipilih sebagai salah satu tempat perhelatan ajang bergengsi “Biennale Jawa Tengah”. “Ada empat bangunan peninggalan masa kolonial Belanda di Kota Lama Semarang yang menjadi venue acara tersebut, dan salah satunya Galeri Semarang ini,” terangnya mengenai event yang diramaikan seratus lebih seniman Jateng.

Chris membidik para seniman ‘muda’ yang lulus dari institusi-institusi seni lokal. “Istilah ‘muda’ memang subjektif, tetapi intinya mereka seniman yang masih berkarya aktif dan masih masuk kategori ’emerging’. Usia bukan masalah. Empat puluhan pun masih bisa saya anggap muda,” tuturnya sambil diiringi tawa. Tema-tema karya seniman itu juga harus mengikuti perkembangan zaman sehingga lebih segar saat disuguhkan kepada audiens.

Di Semarang, Chris mengamati bahwa ada dua kelompok besar. Pertama yakni kelompok yang memiliki ketertarikan sebagai penikmat tetapi belum sampai tergerak untuk memboyong pulang karya seni yang dipamerkan. Sementara itu, yang kedua ialah kelompok yang memiliki ketertarikan sekaligus daya beli yang nyata. Mereka ini biasanya kolektor muda. “Kelompok pertama jauh lebih banyak daripada yang kedua,” tegasnya.

Untuk menjangkau kolektor baik di skala nasional dan internasional, ia memang masih mengandalkan jaringan kolektor di kota-kota besar di Indonesia dan mancanegara. Ia menyebut Jakarta dan Singapura sebagai kota yang memiliki jaringan kolektor yang bisa ia andalkan.

Biasanya seniman-seniman tersebut adalah anak-anak muda yang kuliah atau baru saja lulus kuliah di program studi seni rupa di institusi pendidikan formal. Biasanya mereka baru pulang kampung dari studi di kota besar di Jawa. “Tapi biasanya jika asalnya dari kota kecil dan kuliah di Yogyakarta misalnya, mereka akan cenderung berkarya di Yogyakarta. Jadi sebenarnya asal seniman-seniman di Yogyakarta itu bervariasi,” ucap pria berkacamata itu.

Galeri Semarang telah mengikuti beragam pameran seni bertaraf internasional. Chris mengaku ini kali keduanya ikut dalam Art Stage di Jakarta setelah yang pertama ia ikuti di Singapura. Kemudian ia juga pernah ke pameran seni di Hongkong dan Brussel. Dengan mengikuti pameran, ia terus bisa memperluas jaringan dan menjangkau lebih banyak kolektor seni di berbagai pelosok dunia.

Chris sendiri tidak dibesarkan di keluarga yang kental dengan pendidikan seni. “Keluarga saya keluarga pedagang,” tegasnya.

Tertarik pada seni sejak kuliah arsitektur, Chris mengakui ia mengenal seni rupa secara lebih dekat sejak awal dekade 1990-an. Ia mulai mengoleksi karya seni yang sekarang jumlahnya ratusan buah. Chris tidak memiliki sebuah tema khusus dalam koleksi seninya tetapi ia sangat meminati karya-karya ‘old masters’ yang telah berpulang. “Inilah yang dinamai orang Indonesian modern art,’ ia menjelaskan. Sementara itu, publik menamai karya-karya seniman yang lebih muda pasca era old masters sebagai contemporary Indonesian art.

Kekuatan Indonesia terletak pada keragamannya yang menonjol. Di kawasan Asia Tenggara saja, ujar Chris, Indonesia dapat dikatakan memiliki kemajuan seni yang relatif membanggakan. “Paling beragam dan menarik. Orang-orangnya memiliki keragaman latar belakang budaya dan meski studi di lembaga yang sama, karena latar belakang budaya berbeda, seniman-seniman itu menghasilkan karya yang berbeda,” tegasnya. (*/)

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Dolorosa Sinaga dan Filosofi Gelas Penuh

“Jangan hidup seperti gelas yang sudah penuh,” tandasnya berapi-api. “Tak bisa lagi diisi.” Wanita itu tampak amat menjiwai perkataannya tadi. Ia hidup dengan pikiran yang terbuka, siap menyambut berbagai dialog, interaksi, dan pertukaran gagasan.


Dolo, demikian panggilan akrabnya, tak pernah merasa puas sehingga ia menolak untuk menjadi gelas yang penuh. Ia menyandarkan diri ke kursi lalu mengatakan sesuatu yang coba ia ingat dari masa lalu. Pandangannya menerawang sejenak dan sedetik kemudian berucap,”Setiap saya bertemu wartawan, saya teringat dengan tulisan seorang budayawan yang mengatakan ada empat aspek yang membuat kekuasaan tak bisa berdiri lagi. Yang pertama, kaum intelektualnya. Kedua, budayawannya. Ketiga, teknologi informasi. Dan terakhir, jurnalis.”

Ia mengimbuhi pernyataannya tadi dengan penjelasan: kaum cendekiawan akan selalu mempertanyakan kebijakan-kebijakan yang diambil pemegang kekuasaan; kaum budayawan akan terus-menerus berupaya mempertahankan nilai-nilai masyarakat yang bisa tergerus karena ambisi kekuasaan; teknologi informasi juga bisa meruntuhkan benteng kokoh penguasa di era digital seperti sekarang; dan kelompok pewarta berperan menjembatani penguasa dan rakyat banyak.  “Jadi, you are the agent of change, actually,” tegas perempuan itu lagi.

Sebagai agen perubahan, para jurnalis memiliki kekuatan dalam membentuk dan mengarahkan opini publik. “Saya juga bisa membangun opini publik tetapi tidak sehebat dan semasif kalian karena kalian mencetak berjuta-juta dan berulang kali dikonsumsi para pembaca sementara saya hanya satu.” 

Dolorosa bukan penganut aliran realis dalam berkarya sebagai perupa. Ia justru lebih tertarik pada bentuk-bentuk yang tidak secara jelas menggambarkan sosok manusia. Yang ia suguhkan pada para penikmat karyanya ialah bentuk-bentuk tiga dimensi yang sarat dengan gestur-gestur yang bermakna. Setiap kekaburan bentuk itu malah sanggup memberikan ruang yang lebih bebas bagi penikmat seni rupanya dalam menginterpretasikan. Ada ruang yang tersisa yang justru dapat diisi dengan fantasi dalam benak masing-masing orang yang melihatnya. 

Ia mencontohkan dalam sebuah pameran, ia menyaksikan bahwa karyanya yang bertajuk “Tak Terjudulkan” menjadi perhatian pengunjung karena pesan di dalamnya tidak mudah ditebak. Namun, karena Dolorosa piawai menyematkan pesan ke dalam karyanya, tanpa judul ia bisa mengajak audiens untuk berpikir lebih kritis memaknainya. Ia sempat menyaksikan diskusi seorang ibu dan anaknya mengenai “Tak Terjudulkan”. Sang ibu rupanya tengah menasihati anaknya untuk tidak takut dalam menyampaikan aspirasi dan pendapatnya, sebagaimana makna besar yang ia tangkap dari karya tersebut. Mengetahui diskusi yang terbangun dari karyanya itu, Dolorosa merasa berhasil sebagai seorang perupa.

Dolorosa memiki keahlian yang tidak diragukan lagi dalam hal analisis anatomi manusia. Pendidikannya di mancanegara memungkinkannya belajar aspek penting raga manusia sebagai subjek seni, yang turut berperan memberikannya ciri khas dalam setiap karya. Sebab ia merasa sudah ‘kenyang’ dengan gaya realisme itulah, Dolorosa kemudian memutuskan untuk menjajal gaya yang lebih unik, yakni dengan mengambil pemahaman atas gerak sebuah subjek. Jadi, ia tidak semata-mata menyuguhkan subjek secara ‘mentah’. Ia kemas lagi dengan gayanya sendiri yang tiada duanya.

Untuk menemukan seniman realis di Indonesia, kita lebih mudah. Di Yogyakarta, kita bisa jumpai banyak seniman realis, terang perempuan yang memiliki sapaan akrab Dolo ini. “Tetapi membuat figur itu mempunyai nyawa, dan bagaimana ia bisa dibuat gesturnya sehingga membuat orang berhenti.”

Dinamis dan ekspresif menjadi dua kata kunci utama yang ia utamakan dalam karya-karyanya. Dolo mengatakan figur-figur realis terlalu mementingkan akurasi dan menekankan aspek-aspek yang sebetulnya sudah diingat dan diketahui dengan baik oleh audiens. Inilah alasan Dolo tidak membuat figur-figur realistis. “Tetapi saya reenact (memeragakan kembali) gestur-gestur mereka sehingga membuat audiens harus berpikir lebih keras. Dengan begitu, mereka menjadi lebih produktif dan cerdas.”

Dolo memiliki suatu slogan dalam beraktivitas di ranah seni. “Seni itu mencerdaskan,” tegasnya. Ia meyakini bahwa semua produk manusia yang di dalamnya ada unsur kreativitas, membuat kita melihat adanyah kecerdasan dan kerja keras di dalamnya. Pencerdasan ialah suatu aspek terpenting dalam seni, menurutnya. Seni sepatutnya mendorong pikiran kita lebih bersemangat dan kritis dalam berpikir.

Di samping alat untuk mencerdaskan manusia, seni juga kata Dolo bisa berperan sebagai alat yang ampuh dalam menangkal kekerasan. Karena seni mendorong kita menuju keindahan dalam berbagai variasi bentuknya.

Meskipun bergerak dalam seni rupa, Dolo juga penikmat musik. Dalam berkarya di studionya, ia mengaku selalu mendengarkan musik untuk memacu semangat menghasilkan karya-karya anyar. 

Ada alasan kenapa menurutnya musik bisa menggiring pendengarnya ke suasana hati tertentu, kenangan masa lalu yang mengharu biru, dan semacamnya. “Karena telinga lebih dekat ke otak daripada indra lainnya,” terangnya.

Ditanya soal jenis musik yang ia dengarkan, Dolo berkata ia mendengar semua jenis musik. Bahkan dangdut sekalipun. “Dalam dangdut, Anda bisa menelusuri jejak sejarah,” terang perempuan berambut bergelombang itu. Ia menggarisbawahi keterbukaan dangdut sebagai bentuk seni yang dengan luwes mengakomodasi elemen-elemen yang datang dari luar dirinya. “Dangdut bisa memakai melodi-melodi melengking dari Zeppelin. Para pemusik dangdut itu mengadaptasikannya dan melebur menjadi dangdut juga,” tegasnya.

Seni itu menurut Dolo suatu entitas yang terbuka dan mampu memberikan pemahaman pada kita yang masih berpandangan sempit ini bahwa perbedaan itu ada dalam diri setiap manusia. Itulah mengapa setiap manusia dinamai berbeda, ia mencontohkan. Karena itu, ia sangat prihatin dengan adanya tren yang berkembang di tanah air untuk mengarah pada keseragaman dan memadamkan semangat pluralisme.

Selain sebagai perupa yang sudah berkarya ke tataran dunia, Dolo juga mendarmabaktikan waktunya sebagai seorang pengajar di Instutut Kesenian Jakarta (IKJ). Dan soal pendidikan, ia banyak memiliki kritik. “Negara kita memiliki pendidikan yang sangat terbelakang,” tandasnya dengan nada sedih. 

Bentuk pendidikan seni kita juga mengalami kemunduran. Dahulu, anak-anak selain mendapatkan pendidikan formal di sekolah, mereka juga mendapatkan waktu untuk menekuni seni di lingkungan sekitar mereka. “Dengan begitu, generasi muda masih memiliki jiwa tetapi sekarang sudah luntur,” tuturnya.

Dolo menyoroti bahwa jejak-jejak rezim militer Orde Baru yang represif itu masih ada. Reformasi juga ia anggap belum berjalan sebagaimana mestinya karena baru sanggup menggulingkan Suharto tetapi tidak memiliki fondasi yang kuat untuk menentukan masa depan Indonesia. “Jika saat itu, kita memiliki basis kuat itu dalam menentukan masa depan, ada banyak hal yang bisa kita kerjakan. (*/ Akhlis)

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In Search of Deb Ng

Today feels like just another day in a monsoon season in Jakarta. Wet and windy and somber.

So I decided to just enjoy the morning by sitting and starting to work on my laptop. I’m handling a couple of writing projects and I can’t tell you how grateful I feel to work as a writer in the time of not-so-agreeable weather like today. It really is a privilege to stay indoors and still can make some money. Seriously, considering the pseudo lockdown we are now experiencing in Java and Bali (the United Kingdom, sorry you’re not alone!).

I remember on days like today, years ago I was religiously scouring that brown-dominated website called freelancewritinggigs.com and always admired the simplicity of the blog keeper’s style of writing. She hardly uses flowery sentences. Yes, her style seemed wordy but it was very natural and conversational. It was like reading an informal letter from a friend. But this one is a decent friend. Without swearing, the F word, complaints, or negativity. It was all about positivity and mood-lifting topics for emerging freelance writers around the globe.

She was Deb Ng. I still remember her iconic profile photo. Smiling with her double chin. She looked like a stocky and amiable personality to talk with. But I had never had a chance to interact with her, unfortunately. Mrs. Ng years later sold her blog. And it was the onset of brand deterioration. Tragic.

She started another blog called Kommein.com and seemed to emerge as a new celebrity of Twitter but she then vanished. Kommein never took off like her previous blog. And now I can’t seem to find her anywhere.

I’ve always dreamed of her lifestyle as a freelance writer and blogger who makes money at home, which seems to be the best and safest — if not the most lucrative — profession in the time of pandemic.

I kind of miss her and her writing.

In case you know her whereabouts on the web, let her know that it was she who kept my writing fire aflame on days when nobody even myself could trust my own potential and capability.

I’m glad I keep moving forward and making progress with my writing career despite my being amateurish 10 years ago when I got to know Mrs Ng through her encouraging writeups.

This is her back in 2008 (a year before I ran into her blog) in an interview. Observe how down-to-earth she really was. It was the year when having a social media presence was still a big deal, unlike now.

Wherever you are now, I thank you a zillion, Deb!

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[SHORT STORY] A SECRET KEPT FOR GOOD

Written by Aris Kurniawan

Translated by Akhlis Purnomo

It is the time when Bardi tells the secret between him and his late wife to them. Bardi knows the secret is not that vital for them to know. But he feels he needs to disclose it anyway. That afternoon after cleaning up the cemetery of his late wife, Bardi plans to drop by at the step child and son-in-law across the village cemetery land. Bardi is standing at the intersection, about to cross the street when suddenly a motorcycle ridden by three teenagers speeding towards him.
**
Back then before he left this house on the 40th days after his wife’s passing ten years ago, Badri apologized to his step child and son-in-law and begged to be allowed to visit the house once in a while in remembrance of his deceased wife. They never forgive Badri wholeheartedly but do not have a heart to drive him away every time he comes around.


In the first year, every Kliwon Friday Bardi visits where his late wife’s body is rested and drops by at his step child’s house. Bardi  would be standing there a long time, staring closely at every inch of the verandah and yard before he knocks the door. His step child would show up and flatly welcome him. The step child would let him take a seat at the verandah and bring him a glass of sweetened tea. There is not any warm conversation between them but ‘how are you?”. 


The next years, Bardi has come less frequently than the first year as he sees the response of the step child and the son-in-law every time he is around. They seem to start to feel annoyed about his visits. They serve him no more tea. These recent five years, Bardi only pays a visit once a year — that is on Lebaran day — to his late wife cemetery. 


Bardi is unemployed. He is a slouch. He always has much time for hanging out and wandering around on his motorcycle he is proud of. 


Bardi has been married to this woman for more than 20 years and during those years he has been a parasite to her. The step child and son-in-law despise him. Every single day he is polishing his motorbike which is already shining and then sitting at the veranda, smoking and sipping his coffee after driving his wife to the market in the wee morning hour to keep the store her previous husband inherited to her. In the afternoon, Bardi would be wandering around. He never shows care when his son-in-law is busily fixing the broken fences, cleaning up the yard from falling dry mango leaves, fixing clogged sewage behind the kitchen or leakage at the roof.
In such a relaxed manner, Bardi ignores it and sits down, sipping his coffee and glancing at the mango tree at the yard. Out of his mouth, he whistles to attract the birds perching on the mango tree branches. He would tell his wife if in any case the step daughter or son-in-law dares to get him to lend a hand while they are fixing up the clogged sewage or leakage at the roof.  That happens once and a quarrel between the mother and daughter breaks. The two has a psywar after that. They keep quiet when encountering each other for some time.  


Such fights often break anytime with the same trigger cause. That makes the step child and her husband stay distant and hostile to Bardi from time to time. But Bardi does not even care about it and gets cocky, knowing his wife stands for him. 


Bardi sees her the first time at the cinema around the downtown subdistrict area, that is what her child hears from rumors. It is the owner of coffee shop (that also serves as an illegal prostitution meeting point). The woman was widowed by a hardworking man. She always thinks living a life without a spouse is a total misery. Once the iddah period expires, she looks for a new man. At the time her pubescent child shows her annoyance every time her mother acts like a whore.


After a number of encounters, the woman gets married to Bardi, spending on the previous husband’s inheritance assets. With it also, the woman lets Bardi live the life of leisure. His step child and son-in-law wonder why Bardi is loved so much by him. He is not particularly charing by any standards — he even looks awful-looking as a man. He is far from genius. He is reserved, thus he does not know much how to flirt. But the woman always stands by him and treats him as if he were a spoiled last-born son in the family. This case seems to be the embodiment of the ridiculous idea that love is blind. Bardi’s step child and son-in-law have the suspicion that the mother is spellbound by Bardi.


They often see their tired mother hastens to go home from the shop only to serve drink and peel some mangoes for Bardi who spends his time all day long watching television and leaving through magazines at home. The woman even apologizes when Bardi comments on how she peels the mangoes. Then Bardi with his sulky face teaches her how to peel mangoes without leaving any skin on the flesh. His step child and son-in-law get aggravated by what they see. They really want to punch him in the face but they can do nothing. All they can do is bury the anger deep down inside, letting it accumulate. 


When the daughter want to talk about the matter, without hesitating the woman scolds her back,”No need to teach me. You know nothing!”


Every time they pray for his doom to come soon. They want him to get hit by a truck on the street while riding his motorbike. But to no avail, the prayers do not seem to be fruitful. Bardi gets more and more spoiled. He changes his motorbike. This time he buys Honda Scoopy. Of course, it is from the money the woman has earned by keeping the grocery store at the market. 


“I’m going downtown, Mam, watching drama. Get bored at home. Mami don’t have to go with me. Just spare me some money later,” pleads Bardi, one afternoon.
“Okay, Pi. Maybe you need some break. Bring me something later,” she replies while her hand is slipping some money into his shirt pocket. She asks him no more. The daughter and the husband want to go to get their vomit buckets. They stop eating. They are losing appetite after feeling so stuffed with only little food. Immediately after Bardi’s motorbike noise is gone, the daughter argues with the mother. A huge fight between them breaks once again.


The day after that, when Bardi is sitting down and sipping his coffee as usual, the daughter and son-in-law can no longer hold the resentment. After Bardi’s motorbike runs over a soursop tree just planted days before. Together they reprimand Bardi. The man shows no remorse and looks at them with complete disgust, hatred and slight threat. They no longer care about Bardi’s telling it all to the woman.


That really happens. After she is home from the market, the woman without any warning gets extremely furious like a hurt serpent. She kicks all the flower pots nicely put at the porch. The pots are now broken. She is pulling out all the soursop trees from the ground,  throwing away the entire book collection of his step daughter and son in-law on the yard, while at the same time throwing a verbal tantrum. At the highest point of her anger, the woman tells both of them to leave the house. 


“Leave this house now, you ungrateful child!!! You know no manners!”


Taking the threat seriously, they are soon leaving the house. They move and rent a house next door. For weeks, both mother and daughter ignore each other. 


But after that, according to some neighbors, the woman often weeps for she really regrets what she did. These neighbors keep telling the woman wants her daughter back. But the daughter and son in-law are reluctant to do so. They say they will never go back to the house before Bardi gets kicked out.


Despite that, both of them keep an eye on the woman. Day by day, the woman looks even more thinner. She has more debts than ever before. They now start to take pity on her but they still hold grudge. Besides, it is too much hassle to move along with all their belongings. 


Until one day, the neighbors shout out loud to call the daughter. She is told high blood pressure is hitting her mother. The woman falls down off the rickshaw.


Without delay they take her and rush to the nearest hospital. Three days later, the woman passes away in the Intensive Care Unit. Her blood vessel breaks out. Right before she slips into comma which leads her to death, she leaves a message to both her daughter and son in-law that they need to take care of Bardi no matter what and live with him. 


Bardi shows up just when his wife’s body is about to be taken to the graveyard. Like a meek teenage girl, he is crying beside the corpse.
**
Bardi gropes the tombstone thickly covered with moss, on which his wife’s name is engraved. He patiently gets rid of the moss off the tombstone surface. It is as if he were rubbing and polishing and retrieving all the fond memories of their first encounter.


Bardi met her for the first time long before they met at the cinema. And that coffee shop owner had never match them together. Bardi had planned it all. After he was back from the last adventure, he wrote Ramini a letter in which he told her when and where to meet each other. And he decided it was at a coffee shop across the cinema.
“Bardi, you’re really back,” Ramini said with her nervous yet happy tone of voice. It was a long time ago since Bardi left the village. It was exactly the time when Bardi left his parents to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. Ramini’s love could never hold Bardi back.


Since her teenagehood, Ramini lived with Bardi as a domestic helper. The girl was only one of many helpers employed at the most respected onion whole seller in the village. After Bardi’s leaving, his parents gradually sank into bankruptcy. But Ramini stayed with Bardi’s parents without getting paid a single dime, with the only hope in mind that Bardi would be back and marry her someday.


After a long time, Bardi never showed up. Finally Ramini forgot her first love and was married to a son of another onion seller in a neighboring village. Their marriage ran smoothly, especially after a daughter was born only to make the marrital ties even tighter. 


However, as Ramini’s daughter grew up as a teenage girl, she heard Bardi was back. He was back for something or someone other than Ramini but she persisted on seeing him in person. 


In a clandestine fashion, she managed to see Bardi. She stopped him while he was walking down the outskirt of the village when he was about to depart to somewhere. Bardi and Ramini talked for hours at a small food stall at an old quay, nearby a flock of mangroves.


“Ramini, go home soon. Off I go now. I’ll write you a letter.” 


The letter Bardi promised came after years later to set up their meeting ata ciffee shop across the cinema. Whether it was a sheer coincidence or not, Ramini just lost her husband. That was the secret Bardi had never been able to share with his step daughter and son in-law. 


Bardi has no time to elude his fated doom, too. A motorbike with three teenagers is rushing rapidly towards him. The motorbike knocks over him and Bardi falls down with his head hitting the cemetery walls.  (*)

Cirebon, August 2016


Aris Kurniawan was born in Cirebon, 24 Agustus 1976. He is writing short stories, reports, essays for a number of publications. His books are “Lagu Cinta untuk Tuhan” (Love Songs for God) (A short story collection, Logung Pustaka, 2005), “Lari dari Persembunyian” (Run away from the Hideaway) (A collection of poems, Kampung Djiwa Community, 2007). The father of three children works as a freelance journalist in a number Jakarta media outlets.
 
 
 

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Getting to Know UX Writing

THE PANDEMIC has successfully ushered us to a digital epoch where no one has no option but participate in it. The no-touch economy is enabled by technology and this gives room of development for a lot of writers like I am.

So I have tried to learn UX Writing skills which are now in demand. And this is quite challenging at first. The aim is to serve tech product users so they can smoothly use and interact with the products. The skills are undoubtedly what can make or break a product after it’s launched in a market. Because if consumers are confused as to how to use the products, they won’t bother making a purchase in the first place.

It is UX writers’ task to simplify the communications with consumers so they can complete all tasks needed smoothly.

Syafiq Badhar of Tokopedia generously shared his knowledge and expertise at Warung Copy’s webinar. And I enthusiastically participated in the event and also asked a question or two.

You can find his slides above.

My questions would be if the occupation pays a lot. And he said it kind of does because the talent pool is quite small currently but the speed of market expansion is crazily fast. (*/)

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