The culture of respect ?

“Ibu, aku terlambat , pesawat belum datang.” I heard a part of what my colleague was saying on phone. We were in Lombok, on an assignment and stuck at the airport. The plane taking us back to Jakarta had gotten delayed by 4 hours.  I had already called up my husband to inform and was waiting for my colleague to finish his call, before we went back to work related discussion again. “Ibu, nanti aku telepon ketika pesawat mendarat”. …

I was sort of surprised + impressed that he still calls his Ibu (Mum) first, even in his mid thirties. Indonesians are very close to their family – mostly like Indians, I had heard, but this was little out of ordinary for me.  I wouldn’t call my parents immediately under such circumstances, they need not know that I’m getting delayed and then worry about me. Maybe, he lives in a joint family. ‘The analyst’ started making her assumptions. Anyhow, after he hung up, I asked him how came he called his mother because she might worry unnecessarily. Indonesians do tend to ask even more personal questions and even to casual acquaintances or even strangers. Though I knew he wouldn’t have minded – he’s a friend.  Anyway, he did a double take – “Mother??, no, I called my wife”.  Then it was my turn to do a double take – “you  address your wife with ‘Ibu’?”. Till then, to me, Ibu meant only following things:

  1. Ibu is your own mother
  2. In formal situations, it is a title of respect – similar to ‘Madam’ – for someone senior in age / designation – mostly aged 30s and above.

So I was even more impressed with this colleague, who was addressing his wife ‘Madam’. Not jokingly, I could tell from his expressions. He added, “Of course, that’s what I always call her”.Having returned home, I mentioned this to a local friend and he set me correct. “We always call our spouses with the relevant title”. This was a shock and relief to me. After hearing the Bahasa Indonesia word for the word ‘husband’ – Suami, which has been derived from Sanskrit ‘Swami’ (master), I had been flabbergasted. So this new information was a happy shock.

 This means, husbands will call their wives – ‘Ibu’ (Madam) or Mbak (Miss) while addressing and wives will call their husbands  – Bapak/Pak (Sir), Mas (young sir I guess?) while addressing them. This to me initially seemed too formal, until I recollected that in many parts of India there still is culture of addressing significant other ‘aap’ (respect) irrespective of gender. Even kids . India always has culture of addressing husband as ‘aap’ – being the patriarchal society that it is. But in some areas even the wives are addressed in kind. In Maharashtrian culture too probably till last century I guess, the culture of calling significant other “tumhi” (respect) existed. However, I don’t think adding a title for those considered ‘junior’ was ever a part of our culture. Fortunately, today we have again gravitated to an era where genders are on equal footing when it comes to addressing each other (genders to come on equal footing in India in real sense will take probably couple of centuries more… but that is besides the point).

So, coming to the point, so far in my interactions, I haven’t come across anybody in this country, irrespective of his/her age, situation,  social status, profession etc, being addressed without title. Titles – Pak/Bapak, Mas, Mbak, Ibu, Nona (for young miss) etc are used in formal as well as casual situations. I guess, in situations with extreme familiarity, sometimes, you could be addressed only with your first name, parents calling their children etc.  I call some of my friends on first name basis, but I think their acceptance of it could be more to do with the fact that they understand differences in cultures.

To me it is amusing how the use of titles does not really impact the level of intimacy in this culture. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Indonesians are very genial? – that they always have given respect to anyone irrespective of their status / situation by addressing them with titles?  I can only make guesses.

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It takes a lot of planning to get a manicure ….

I am writing here after several months , being provoked by finely manicured feet with nice nail paint.  Goes without saying that the feet in question don’t belong to me. Now that would have been unusual enough as well actually, to qualify for a blog post. Sadly, that unusual event is yet to occur.  Though, I hope that someday, living in such a grooming – obsessed country as Indonesia, I will begin to really try at least, the things such as hairdo/hairstyles other than bun, various styled earrings other than the studs and formal wear other than trousers and shirts.  Well, I don’t really want to write about my lack of fashion – sense in this post, though of course, that has been giving me inferiority complex in this country where all the women I come across seem to be the walking examples of runway models,  women that have been gifted with naturally lithe yet slim bodies and smaller frames (Especially, my female colleagues who are 20 years older to me, are much better groomed and stylish than I ever could be in my life and take a 15 minute loo-break daily in the afternoon to touch-up their make – up and curl their eyebrows. By the way, I saw eye-brow curler for the first time in my life here…again, I am digressing …   )

So, coming to my point – yesterday, I met a bunch of Indian women my age (though have kids in class 1/2  now! , makes me feel super old, I know,  though they got married super early and shifted here…again, I am digressing)  – we had all gathered to discuss what to showcase at the upcoming expat ‘Diwali Mela’. Last year, we had performed a group dance, complete with traditional costumes, stage property and so on.

At one point, they started discussing their schedules.  Some of them are housewives with kids and others are working women with kids. All of their lives outside of office / house work revolve around kids – their homework, school projects, their performances, activities, various hobby classes. The kind of burden that 6-7 year old kids have on themselves is unimaginable actually. My generation I guess was one of the last few generations that could play at the ‘age of playing’. Sounds funny to say –  but that’s true. These expat 6-7 year old kids seem to be just moving – out of school into some activity class, out of that class into a hobby class and so on. From what I’ve been reading about India, I guess similar things are happening back home too…

Anyhow, I noticed the shining red nail-paint on the feet of one of these 4.30 am waking – numerous lunches- packing, numerous home-made -things- making working Mum. And I took a deep breath. Slowly, I took in the feet of all the other women at the venue. Only colour changed. Light pink, maroon, magenta, brown… whatever the colour, but the feet were well manicured (or pedicured – not sure what to call it), looked smooth, soft with a shining coat of nail paint. And I sighed. For myself. I didn’t have to look down at my feet – I knew exactly how ugly, rough, hideous mine would look. Then I spent few moments wondering how on the earth they could manage all their work AND getting their manicure??? That 4.30 am club looked to me as if they were totally in control of their time… what have I been doing with MY time??

When was the last time I really applied anything to my feet? Cream even? Almost 2 years back. At my wedding.  When was the last time I did anything to my face?  – that was in January 2013, when I was in India. When was the last time I styled my hair – in India again. In January 2012!! It’s not like I HAVE to do or HAVE to confirm to this standard of expat Indian woman in Indonesia. It’s just that I WANT to improve my grooming and nobody’s really been stopping me. Just that I NEVER FOUND THE TIME to do it!  TILL NOW. More so, after I began working here. It is so weird. Actually it is not. I am tardy.  Never taking the trouble really and just wanting to change things about myself….

Planning meals, organizing house, keeping things in order etc have never been my forte, but I had never imagined before marrying, how much of the married life means only this – especially if you don’t live with in-laws and have to entertain guests from time to time. Though, even if you don’t have anyone over at your place, living with a second person, the significant other, means that several things have to be acceptable to the both – including food. I never had imagined that thinking about laundry, meals, cleaning etc will be an important part of my daily thought process and so having not been much interested in all the domestic management before marriage, I find my hands full just with the two of us, short of containers to stock groceries with, all the times, overstuffed fridge and short of place to put clothes.  I am guessing (Correctly) that life will get even more dramatic whenever we plan to start a family!!  I can imagine how our life would have been in Mumbai currently, had we not quit our jobs there and continued to work wherever we were working. We probably wouldn’t have had any time together – what’s with the super long working  hours, commuting and family obligations. Since both of us belong to extremely traditional and large families, the obligations would have taken precedence over everything. Here, while we are away from these aspects, we still are in short of time  –  we always have unfinished chores at hand. I guess, we need to learn a lot. It takes a lot of planning I suppose to have your feet manicured….

Crossword time

Creating a crossword puzzle was always on my list. In fact, I am not exactly new to it. During my MBA, I had created several such puzzles. But its been almost 7 years since MBA (WOW! That long already) and making such puzzles had always been something that I relished, especially theme based puzzles.

So I decided to pick up ‘places in Indonesia’ as my theme this time, to create this puzzle. For this, I wrote down all the places in Indonesia that I could remember and then looked up a bit on them. Some of these places, I have already been to so there was no need to check, but others, I came to know a lot about. I also thought this was a very interesting thing to do because I came to know many things, especially about the other major islands in this archipelago, such as Sumatra, Nussa Tenggara and Kalimantan of which I had almost no information, except for those place-names.

pradswordThe clues:

Across

3. Group of islands famous for their spices

5. Kalimantan’s major urbanized place

10. an important cultural center in central Java, going there alone would be too alone

11. here lies the eighth wonder of the world, the holy land of Buddha

12. home to universities and hindu temples in east Java

16. a politically dynamic part of northern Sumatra

17. Capital of Lombok

19. A group of three islands near Bali and Lombok famous for the underwater sports

20. A major cultural center located in south – central part of Java, still has a king and prefers horse drawn carts to taxis

21. A sonata was heard in a movie… host to reveral factory outlets of garment brands

Down

1. Indonesia’s third largest city and is based in Sumatra

2. Capital of Sulawesi

4. Capital of Indonesia

6. the house of dragons

7. Important place in south Kalimantan

8. an important international port on the eastern part of Java

9. the cultural go-to place in north Bali

13. Capital of Bali

14. famous for its Botanical gardens, a distant suburb to Jakarta

15. The huge part of island in eastern part, which is still inhabited by primitive tribes

18. Jungle where they still are discovering new species and forms of life

———–

I will be sharing this quiz with many of my expat friends here. Answers to be posted later.

Khas Bali – Day #2

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“Who’s that?” – I asked the driver.

We were in a car, Ubud – bound. It was the second day of our Bali trip and we would come across such installations now and then, instead of the usual triangles / circles or statues of leaders / other monuments, that mark the traffic management at any random place on earth.

“That IS Krishna”. Said the driver. When I made a face, he added – “Umm… I think…”.

Well, it could be Krishna for all I know, because ‘he’ was tackling some huge snake variety in the middle of waves and all of us in India have grown up listening to ‘Kalia mardan’ – the deadly dance of Krishna on the hood of Kalia – the huge serpent – and its eventual destruction. But Krishna in a typical Indian’s mind would always be handsome I guess. Maybe, this is Balinese Krishna, I thought, and they do not have such image hang – ups, I concluded.Though I was not at all convinced that this was Krishna. Anyways, en route, we came across so many such statues of various mythological characters, and even roads named after these characters. In Bali, people openly seemed to flaunt their culture – and more than that , their religion. So much that I am convinced they are more devout Hindus than myself or any other random common Indian Hindu person. I am digressing. As usual.

Well, we were Ubud – bound finally. We had landed at Denpasar, with no specific plan, but visiting Ubud was always on MY agenda, thanks to the book. Its lovely description about greenery, art, rice fields and peace and quiet totally seemed to by my thing. Based on his experience at Jogja (Yogyakarta) Swapnil had googled up terms such as ‘Bali driver’ etc previous evening and had landed on a website of a driver who offered to drive for some 10 hours for a sum of 400,000 IDRs. Considering the fact that 25 minute drive to Nusa Dua from Denpasar was being charged 120,000 IDR, this was totally a bargain. So we engaged a private car.

So far, our experience in Indonesia tells us to engage private cars – despite the fact that they might seem like a luxury. This is because of the super cheap fuel prices in Indonesia (half as much as in Mumbai at the moment). The only reason for astronomical taxi fares is the fact that there is complete privatisation and cartelisation of these taxi companies such as Blue Bird, Express and such other networks. So for one day trip, instead of taking taxis at various points, it is more economical to engage a private car. Anyhow, at Bali, public transport doesn’t seem very accessible and most of the high-end Hotels have some or other form of shuttle service to a pick – up and drop point. The only taxi network that we saw in Bali was Blue Bird, which billed us around IDR 65000 up to the airport while returning. So we had paid only 10000 IDR more (INR 50) and enjoyed a spacious car on day #1. Anyways.

We were supposed to visit several places in and around Ubud. However, due to the fact that we started off a bit late and then chose to spend more time at each individual place we saw, we could see only a few places.

Ubud and surrounding

As we went further from shores, the rainy weather soon lead to coolish airs around us and by the time we reached Kintamani, we were freezing and wet from the rains. We stepped out for lunch at Kintamani, which seems to be full of hotels on cliff allowing a magnificent view of the opposite hill. At the hotel, we got asked whether we were Hindus, for probably some fiftieth time and then ushered into a dining hall that seemed to be some surreal fusion of Indian and Chinese concepts. Anyhow, we chose to first go to the terrace and take a view of the opposite hill.DSCN0469-001

and this is what we saw. The opposite hill and the smallish valley in between was fully covered with mist. It was raining and breezy. The people who had chosen to eat on the counters facing this view were now sour faced. We went inside to check the menu. Having decided on the menu, we returned. It would have definitely been under 10 minutes. All we had to do was check for vegetarian dishes on the buffet menu, which as usual were just a couple or three. This is what we saw from the same vantage point. DSCN0471-001The weather had changed within minutes. Of course, in actual, this looked lovelier. We were at cloud level :). We spent quite some time taking in the view and had our post lunch (post – salad really) coffees at the terrace counters. This is another view of this hotel.

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We then proceeded to the next thing on our agenda – Coffee walk.Within this area, many small farmers have their orchards cum plantation and grow and package organic stuff. Mostly tea, coffee, coco, spices, honey, aroma oils, wax, soap – all home-made. And many drivers have tie – up with particular owner where they take you for a walk. We couldn’t complain, the walk felt good. Weather was awesome, it having drizzled just minutes before.DSCN0484

We started at this archway and proceeded to walk through this narrow pathway – the owner’s son was pointing out various plant / tree varieties to us. The coffee beans, coca tree. Various medicinal herbs and the likes. It was lovely small orchard and we were informed that it was just one acre of land. Where the whole extended family worked grew so many things. We were taken to a cage and an animal was sleeping. We were informed, its luwak, a rare animal that eats coffee beans and excretes them intact. Just as we were about to conclude that luwak is a menace for coffee, we were informed that it’s not. In fact its an asset. Apparently, while Luwak’s stomach is not capable of processing coffee, the enzymes from its stomach change the taste of beans altogether and when ground, it is considered one of the finest coffee varieties – the luwak coffee. I remember reading ‘Kopi Luwak’ in large neon signs outside many a coffee shops in Jakarta, but always concluded that it was the name of the outlet, possibly a chain or something. But no, it had to be the advertisement for THIS.

Luwak SHIT
Luwak SHIT

‘Luwak shit’ apparently sells at a substantial premium for its taste. Human beings! they will go at any length for great food / taste. (or depths in this case) – tasting the luwak shit!! No offence to anyone who loves Kopi Luwak. I am sure it must be tasting great. While we obviously werent served luwak coffee (its at premium remember? – not that i was particularly interested in tasting it), we were allowed free sampling of other organic products – Cinnamon coffee, grDSCN0500een tea, lemon grass tea, ginger tea, coca and so on…

 It was quite flavorful  (and not just because was free). Eventually we got ourselves a  honey lemon tea pack which was substantially overpriced, but then we thought it was okay considering the organic farming gyaan that the orchard’s owner gave us.

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Coffee walk

 Anyhow, after a leisurely walk through the orchard again,

we left for Tegalalang rice terraces. Now the weather was quite pleasant and it was absolute joy to pass through the greenery on both sides. This has been a feature throughout our travels so far within Indonesia. Also reminded us of Konkan, Maharashtra, India – where my family hails from. Konkan is lush green during monsoon days exactly like this.P1020187

We passed through these routes at leisurely pace, taking in the surroundings and living in the moment. It was one of the most pleasurable parts of our trip. Suddenly our driver stopped the car and informed us that we’d reached. We looked outside. Nothing indicative. Got off and began walking. There was a lot of foreign crowd. But all we could see were some art shops lined on both the sides. We were past the last shop on our left and suddenly came in view of rice terrace. There was a railing and many people were leaning on it with their heavy cameras to take in the greenery on the opposite side. Rice terraces. Green and pleasant. But I realised, not a big deal. Not a big enough deal at all.DSCN0506

I have seen rice terraces even at Yogyakarta and surroundings, I think even while going to Bandung and perhaps even at Bogor. Such structures ARE mainstay of Indonesian rice farming. Perhaps we could have taken a walk through these. Though we were close enough. We had tea at a hotel on the opposite side, with a small shack peeping into these terraces. We chose that very shack to sit, and just lounged around for a while. Nice weather, lush greenery, pleasant time of the day, the setting of this small pretty shack and peace and quiet – all of that was an amazing experience together. Though by now it was quite late. Bali is already an hour ahead of Jakarta and it was close to almost four thirty – five I think; we left for the Sacred Monkey Forest. Now, I have to admit, we should have done our homework. Especially since we had Lonely Planet with us. We should have simply read why is this so important a venue. We didn’t. Our driver for the day was probably 20 – 21 or even younger. His English was totally ‘functional’ and after several attempts we had given up on engaging him to know more of the area. So we just entered the place – without much idea of how and why, bought entry passes and started walking. This forest hosts macaques which seemed quite brave and were approaching tourists boldly. It began raining suddenly – so I don’t have many pictures of monkeys – though I managed to capture an impressive moment.P1020161

The forest is not really that. It probably was a forest at one point. Now all that remains is probably an acre or two of dense trees and shrubbery. There is a sacred temple and entry inside was not allowed. P1020166 A natural stream of some significance flows through the forest and the artists from past created a reservoir for the water in such a manner. I know my Mum would be smiling now, seeing Ganapati statue there…P1020164

The adjoining path led me to this giant sculpture of komodo dragon. Anyhow, it wouldn’t stop raining and that was our cue to leave the park/forest.P1020181

The car took us through Ubud market place – a melange of various art shops. Paintings, craft work, metal work, jewellery, fabrics. Souvenirs… all sorts. I wish we could have stayed one night at Ubud to explore all that – but we were short of time (on driver’s account) and short of patience (on Swapnil’s account) to visit these. We decided to window shop through car windows instead of actual window shopping. Nevertheless, it was quite entertaining. We would pass by shops, and then more shops – each with varying art work. Later we passed sculptors houses, which also had their studios in their own courtyard. So numerous rows of sculptures stood outside and we passed lanes after lanes of such houses. We spent time wondering who would be buying such huge statues nowadays and what was being done to survive by these artists. Anyhow, it gets dark quite early in Bali and by six fifteen, when we reached Kuta beach, the sun had already set. Though we were treated to a medley of colours, cool ocean breeze and tidal waves making it to the shore ‘wholeheartedly’ 🙂

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P1020211We spent some time walking on the beach and taking in surroundings and then headed for dinner. Kuta beach is quite popular due to the aggressive ocean waves here. For lack of better words, it could be called cleaner and upmarket cousin of Kalangut beach in Goa. Surrounded by eateries, pubs and hotels, it is a popular tourist spot where options are available for all wallet – sizes. We even found an Indian eatery of non – fine dining variety and post our dinner there, we went to check out a souvenir Shop – Rama-Krishna ‘Oleh oleh Khas Bali’ store that offers only local things for souvenirs. We didn’t buy anything significant. But here’s where I found a statue of Krishna, which supported my view that Krishna is always handsome, even in Bali. On that note, we ended our day…

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Mildly irritated rant

Its 8 in the am and I am sitting as usual in my balcony like I sit every morning around this time. Only I am not so happy about it. I mean its Sunday . I have nothing in particular to look forward to today, no plans of early morning picnicking, no guests coming by and definitely nothing exciting to catch on the TV . No skype calls scheduled with the family either…but I have been up since 6 am having slept well past 1 am. Its Sunday for God’s sake! I  am NOT a morning person and if I get up usually by 7 am on weekdays, its mainly because the husband has to leave for work on time.

Of course 7 am is not early  – yeah, don’t you point it out, I KNOW that. Though there were of course times when I woke up and didn’t regret watching the morning ‘unfold’ and everything. Chill in the air, the ‘morningy’ wettish smell of monsoons or dryish smell of the fall and winter (whatever little bit of winter that I experienced in Mumbai). Anyhow, I have little patience right now to ponder on that. As I look down, the early birds that most of these guys in Indonesia, are already out with their children on podium swimming / playing with them. A couple bonding over changing a baby’s diaper on one bench here, an Octogenarian on a wheelchair getting his knuckles massaged near the tennis court where already a group  is playing tennis since almost an hour now, random daddies forcefully throwing their toddlers / 3-4 year olds in the kiddie-pool and kids all screaming. Some women/nannies out with babies in prams and the food bowl and spoons in hand are chatting in a corner ignoring the babies that are trying to set themselves free and in process about to fall out of those prams. Some children going helter and skelter on the podium running without no particular reason and joggers and health freaks trying to make their way through these kids while trying not to lose their tempo…

All this world on podium seems quite oblivious to the loud noise across the street. The music  with conversation in between that has been playing for last almost 2.5 hours. Some  sort of exhibition / camp is going on there with neat tent-canopies and all erected. But the noise has been atrocious. I woke up to the tune of Gangnam style remix at like 5.45 in the morning. Of course it wasnt dark at all. This is JAKARTA. It gets bright very early. I mean whenever I woke up, its always been bright. Even at 5.45 am. So I am not really aware when the dawn breaks. Anyhow, I am digressing again. So as you know NOW that the cause of my being up so early is this blaring loudspeaker which is belting out various songs (actually the remixes which are more atrocious that the original songs). When they are not playing songs, they’re having these long conversations full of exclamations. So far I am at disadvantage, not being able to understand much of what they are saying. Mind you, I have nothing against Gangnam Style or its remix. In fact its rage here and I secretly am planning to be a part of flash mob if any that wants to perform it in Jakarta. It is a general method of sales promotion that I have seen in Jakarta and even Yogyakarta. Lot of dialogue based promotion peppered with Jokes and exclamations etc. I guess it would be quite interesting if I understood bahasa Indonesia that well. With all those oohs, aaaaahs, naaaaaaahs etc. Guess that will take a while. Nevertheless, I guess I wont be really able to enjoy such ‘thrust-upon’ communications unless I finally give up my love for sleep and join the early birds. They seem totally unperturbed. I mean, even babies arent really crying and all. Thats quite extraordinary. I have been cribbing for last couple hours…

Back home when they would play loud devotional songs during Ganpati, Navratri or Sai baba pujas etc, the thought of committing a sin by calling those organisers vile never held me back from cursing them, losing my temper and being sour throughout the day. I never imagined that something worse will ever befall me.

(ETA – The description of my podium was what I saw around like 6-6.30 am. By the time it was 8 am, actually people began leaving the podium except for the tennis group who’s still going at it…)

The seventh – month speech

The number of trips I made to the apartment – management office today to resolve a trivial issue makes me want to avoid anything related to typing / computers altogether, but then two things happened:

– I realised that today I complete exactly 7 months here at my apartment – and technically, 7 months in Jakarta. Actually, 7 months abroad.

– While I was running some errands, I happened to stop in the middle of a road and notice how neat the avenue/ crossing looked from a distance. That I actually had a camera with me to click it.

I know, the above two realisations are not related. I mean, to a casual reader, they are not. But to me, it indicates how fond I have grown of this place, my home away from home.

The roads are much familiar now and I experience pleasure while passing through specific parts of this city. I remember the day I landed here. I didn’t expect much from Jakarta. After all, it was just the capital of a third world country – another third world country. Coming from one such country with second largest population in the world, I felt I had seen enough already – with Mumbai being one of the filthiest cities in the world. What I however saw was better infrastructure, something similar to ‘discipline’ and cleanliness. Of course, many people have eventually told me, not all parts of Jakarta are like that and my impression would change soon. Its been 7 months now. Yes, there are parts where Jakarta is not clean or that there is poor infrastructure; still, having lived in Mumbai all my life, this seems nothing in comparison.

We love the fact that weather all round the year is almost constant. Wet and dry seasons do exist – but no dramatic changes here. Sun rises around 6 am throughout the year, sets exactly around 6 pm. Dry season is hot, and occasional drizzle makes it warmish, while wet season is warm and the regular rains make it less warm.

We have worked around 2 of our greatest obstacles too. Food and language. Food – we learned how to order, not to think if unknowingly there are non-vegetarian ingredients on our plates. We’ve learned basic language, courtesy our maid, with who, atleast I have made a point to converse regularly and learn Bahasa Indonesia. At this point, I can claim to be able to speak it better than Swapnil – though thats because he has so far not shown much interest in learning. Our Bahasa though is workable, functional.

We’ve learned to ignore the astounding amounts of Indonesian Rupiahs that we have to shell out. Swapnil’s daily commute costing about 40,000 IDR (around 200 INR) , half a kilo of tuur daal costing about 18000 IDR (Around 90 INR) and so on. The moment you convert currency, you fall in that infinite loop of guilt which I have been victim of. At one point, I used to be miserable whenever I would buy anything, even travelling I’d try to avoid – because shelling out INR 200 for a 15 minute taxi ride wasnt something I could digest. But then I  realised, if I had to continue living here, I’d need to ignore the currency conversion part. I am not entirely there yet, but way better definitely.We have also learned to control the urge to shop that one gets after visiting numerous malls here, grander than ever. I was never an avid shopper. For me it was not very difficult – though for Swapnil it was somewhat. 😉

We have some Indonesian friends now – which is great. I have found Indonesians to be extremely friendly, polite, always smiling and ready with loads of jokes and anecdotes. We have listened to and loved some of the Bahasa Indonesia songs. Music is universal. You don’t need a language to appreciate it really. We have been to some nice places – of which we have good and bad memories. We’ve tried local fare as much as our vegetarian palette could allow us – and liked some of what we tried.

The house where I stay is now a home to me. We renewed the lease for one more year – despite the fact that there were cheaper AND prettier AND more furnished flats within this complex. Some even came with the promise of a lot of breeze, which I have been pining for some time now. Still, we renewed this flat. This flat has grown on us now. It smells like home here.

All in all, we’ve made ourselves at home here. This seven – month hitch has been fun all along. Thus may I conclude my seventh-month speech.

The avenue, as I noticed today!

The avenue, as I noticed today!

Just Like That

Its 11.12 pm in my system tray and I am sitting in my balcony, waiting for Swapnil to come home. He had been travelling to Manila and is expected any time now.I missed him more this time than all his earlier trips and am wondering why this should be. Its his 6th trip at least and I should have gotten used to it by now. I had no trouble living alone for all those trips, but this time, I did. I didn’t sleep before 3 am on any of the nights that he wasn’t here and yesterday, I didn’t sleep the whole night..!. I am….not scared actually. Not scared at all in fact living alone, whenever he travels. This is one of the safest cities, and the area where I live is well protected. Probably safer than Mumbai. Not probably; certainly it is safer… so I am hard pressed to provide any answer why this ‘staying up late at night’ happened….anyways, now that he’ll be at home, I don’t need to explore this thought any more. At least for now. So I set it aside.

I look around. Very few houses in the towers surrounding me are lit at this hour. Indonesia is the country of early risers. They certainly are early to bed too. But then, its 11.20 pm already. Not really early. Most of the houses with light on, have shut their windows and pulled the curtains. Its time to sleep. Only a solitary balcony in the adjoining tower has light on and I see someone seated in a chair and reading a book. He has overgrown plants around him. I have seen this guy several times reading in his balcony at night. Maybe he has no company presently like me, and has to turn outside for his amusement. Though his mini-garden is not flattering. All those potted plants have overgrown. Those plants would better suit a park now, not a balcony… well, that reminds me of my own plants….

I got these plants in July I think, mid – July when Swapnil was in Hanoi for a week. Living in a house with a balcony and potting plants there had always been part of my ‘domestic-life’ dream 🙂 . Back home in India, my parents’ house had a balcony initially, though ill utilised. Eventually we broke down the wall separating the drawing-room and balcony, to make a bigger space to entertain guests. So the imagery that I had of sipping hot chai while reading newspapers in the morning, in my balcony, was never fulfilled there. Here however, I have the luxury of a balcony. Now, even the potted plants. We immediately had taken couple of our dining table chairs in the balcony after we set up this mini garden and now mostly DO have our morning chai here. Sometimes we chat, the other times we watch Indian serials on YouTube, or we observe kids playing in the swimming pool on podium. Like I said, this is the country of early risers and even the babies and kids are no exceptions. It is bright at 6 am in the morning and by 6.30, the podium and pool area is full of parents carrying their kids for a morning swim and nannies with babies on strollers. Those kids sure love water. It is probably the most entertaining thing to watch in the mornings… those smiling kids 🙂 . We have spotted our regular ones by now 🙂 and when some of the days those particular kids are not on the podium, we wonder if they are away or are sick ….

Coming back to my plants… a periwinkle, a rose, 2 chrysanthemums and a variety of jasmine. All flowering plants. Somehow, I don’t exactly appreciate the show plants. I bought the ‘sayali’ (which I discovered on the net, also belongs to Jasmine family) hoping that I would smell its scent on breezy nights such as today…but it has never flowered so far. The chrysanthemums are sick by now. Just yesterday, I sprayed a homemade pesticide on them hoping to cure the mildew that has now spread on them. Fingers crossed. I don’t know much of gardening and am discovering a lot. Its like tending babies only… quite lesser responsibility, but then you don’t know whats bothering them and you can just guess. I had taken a picture of my plants within a week of getting them, and I will insert that in this post – but now it pains me to see them and realise that they’ve lost their bloom. Excepting rose and periwinkle, everyone else is sick. Yes everyone. Arent plants too living beings? I used to talk to my plants when I was a child. Now I am not as poetic, but I definitely believe they have feelings… of course I know that the science has already proved this…

Its 11.38 pm. Swapnil’s still on the way. Must be stuck in airport traffic. Though whatever he requested for dinner is ready since a while and I might have to reheat it. Just plain simple moong khichadi. Ever since my friend Aarti threw down the gauntlet – of attempting to follow a healthier lifestyle, I have been trying to incorporate fruits and milk in my diet and for all these days, I have successfully done so. Add in today’s methi-paratha for a good measure ( it evens out the cheese pizza that I had for lunch today with friends). So far so good. I now look up.Its 11.50 pm and very few windows are lit. When will Swapnil arrive already??. Though I love sitting in my balcony. Its dry season and fortunately we have some breeze this week….if this balcony was any bigger, we’d have probably slept here…

The bell rang. Bye for now.

My plants – when they were happy and blooming,,,