It’s 16.55 pm. I’m staring outside and witnessing the raindrops falling on mother earth. At such this hour I should be working for my last left energy to stroke the keyboards in the cooled office down there but today I’m not. I’m taking my day-off. It always feels great and refreshing to take time off , spending time on your own, undisturbed, unperturbed.
As I woke up, I suddenly had an urge to email all coworkers and boss that I’d be leaving office today. And yes, I think they’ll understand, they must. So, unlike the other days, I wanted to enjoy the time for myself, entirely. I without doubt switched the cell phone into offline mode since this morning (after someone called I afterwards thought it’d be much better to get away from the hectic outside world for a while). I leave the online world, social media, which recently has been driving me crazy, and lose focus quite easily. And for your information, I’m typing this blog post offline on the word processor in the fear that an email notification or chat invitation may pop out on the screen!
After the final grading of the papers, I proceeded to weigh on several plans for today around 10 am. The weather has turned worrisome since last week. You can experience different weather phenomena in a single day; starting from a warm, sunny morning, a cloudy noon, a smoldering hot afternoon, to a rainy after-work hour.
But what matters most today isn’t all those things. Today I spent my whole day, curling up with a great book in my room. This is a book I started read weeks ago but wasn’t read from cover to cover. But today, all alone in my room, I finished reading Iwan Setyawan’s “9 Summers 10 Autumns” on a yoga mat (and feel asleep on it around 3 pm! An invigorating afternoon nap).
Not until months ago I never thought there is someone named Iwan Setyawan. Really, who’s he? He might be invited to the nationwide talkshow “Kick Andy” but as I’m no fan of TV, it’s pretty much useless for someone to convince me he’s well known. I have no TV and am reluctant to have one in my small room. I think I would never trade my floor space for a cumbersome TV. Most of the space’s either for my bed or my blue yoga mat or my carrot supply.
The longer I drench myself into this vicarious exploration , the more I can relate myself to the author’s emotions, feelings. And let me start this casual and personal book review of Iwan Setyawan’s.
“Untuk Ibuk, untuk Bapak”
“Ibuk” , that’s how I – a Javanese boy – too usually spell or type the address form of the woman who gave labor to me. “Ibu” sounds too Indonesian. “We Javanese can’t omit the ‘k’. So it’s quite surprising to me to find this spelling in this very book.
Being the one and only son
Iwan tells in the 12th chapter titled “Kelahiran Seorang Lelaki” (The Birth of a Man) , which basically narrates how he was born and how the surrounding responded to his appearance on earth, how inseparable he was with his mother in the early childhood.
I don’t know exactly how my childhood was but I guess I’m not that attached to my mother. Not that I don’t love her but she had to take care of and breastfed my younger sister, who was at the time born untimely. I might be the first male offspring to my parents and the first grandson to my grandparents but I felt a bit abandoned after she was here. Jealousy? Probably, but I get used to. Well, how could a less-than-one-year-old kid manage his feelings to his new-born sister? I might’ve screamed, “I don’t want to share my mom’s breast with you!” But that doesn’t necessarily I hate her. I love my sisters but we just sense an atmosphere of ‘rivalry’, not literally, without being triggered to do so.
While Iwan is the one and only son, I am the first born and the only son in the family. To put it bluntly, my position is even more burdening than Iwan’s. He tells us how the challenge of being the only son:
“Memasuki SMP, aku merasa semakin dekat dengan “tantangan” bahwa seorang laki-laki, apalagi anak laki-laki satu-satunya, harus bisa mandiri dan kelak bisa membantu nafkah keluarga.” (9 Summers 10 Autumns, p 68)
But one thing that sets us apart is the awareness of contributing to the family earning, being the second bread winner, an assistant to our father. I never gave it a thought.
I’m not bragging but both of my parents are government civil servants, a profession which is highly valued in Iwan’s family and in most of Javanese families (mine as well). We may not be the richest around the neighborhood but very rarely did my family and I experience hardships, particularly in terms of finance or education. This explains perfectly why the urge to provide another source of income to the family is very little in my case.
If there’s someone in the family can best relate his life to Iwan’s, that must be my father. My father’s story could even be tougher though. Being the first born son and having 5 younger brothers, my father already lost his dad as early as teenagehood. My grandmom was left a widow and raising her 6 sons while she herself never got married ever since. It was horrid a phase of life but they somehow managed to do that. To my 5 uncles, my father has been their second father. They respect him almost like they do their deceased father.
Longing for a male sibling and holding on to the past
At first I don’t know why this imaginary boy wearing white and red outfit makes a very frequent appearance along the story. As I read on, he turned out to be the alter ego (correct me if I’m wrong). It’s an imaginary buddy the author creates in his own mind. This may be the biggest reason why the novel is named “The Best Fiction Book” by IKAPI DKI Jakarta at Jakarta Book Award 2011. Although the ‘material’ of the story is real, it’s told in a typically fiction style of narrating.
If you’re the only son in the family, you’ll know how you really want to have a male sidekick, someone who isn’t as old as your father or your uncle. You can be looking out there for a male peer you can share your boyish passion with but that still feels different. No matter how close you’re with him, he isn’t your brother, biologically speaking. That’s why being the only son makes us alienated to a certain extent especially during childhood:
“Aku penakut. Aku takut dunia luar. Ketika anak-anak lain berlarian dan bermain, aku menyendiri. Entah kenapa. Aku mulai membaca dunia dan aku tak ingin di dalamnya. Aku merasa, aku berbeda.” (9 Summers 10 Autumns, p 63)
The status of a sole son makes you different. You’re simply unlike your female siblings, and you accordingly want to be treated differently. This might be the case when Iwan states he wants a room of his own (not in the living room), in which only he himself could sleep without having to worry about the frigid temp at night.
Why did Iwan choose a younger version of him to be his companion throughout the story? If I really have to guess, it’s because of his insecurity. Being homesick, being part of the minority in the Big Apple, being unprotected and feeling lonely amidst the super glamorous and worldly New York.
Yoga, Iwan, and I
A couple of months ago, I changed my Twitter avatar. It was not an ordinary avatar that showed my face. I uploaded an image showing me practicing Vrischika Asana (scorpion pose) near the wall in my room. A moment afterwards Rhein Mahatma – a friend actively involved in Startup Lokal community- tweeted a sentence filled with envy.
He mentioned both of us and said what a coincidence that we had avatars showing quite similar yoga poses. Iwan’s pose was Pincha Mayurasana (peacock pose). Both are inversion poses which according to some are responsible for restoring youthful looks (Now you know why we look like teens!).
We then somehow bumped into each other at Devi Asmarani’s book launch. At the moment we met, I only knew him as an author but what I hadn’t realized was the magnitude of his fame. Really, I had no ide at all! Iwan enthusiastically shook my hand as the book launch was wrapped. “You should try Jivamukti yoga!” he half-yelled at me with zeal. And before I blurted my silly questions as a beginner, “But what the heck is Jivamukti? What makes it different with Ashtanga, Hatha? I don’t even know it exists, I’m almost completely clueless about yoga schools, sir,” Iwan had to haste, greeting many other yogis and yoginis or…a yoga enthusiast like me. I don’t know but it still sounds wakward to call myself a yogi. I’m learning still.
Now we’re still making the time for a sharing session and yoga class in Taman Suropati. And that will be hopefully in November, I suppose. Considering how often he gets invited as a public speaker at various universities, public events, etc, it’s almost inconceivable to picture him as an inconfident, bashful young college student or an executive working on Sudirman Street and New York.
And hey, how can I write this long???
Satrio, South Jakarta