The Key to knowing Bahasa street style

Sample this – random texting between my husband and his friend:

Husband – Hey, long time , lets catch up!

(I am sure, the real message was even shorter. Something like – ‘Let’s meet’ or even ‘Meet me’ or ‘Meet!’ – all of this is probable considering my husband’s low patience for all sorts of texting, further tempered by the fact that it wasn’t his client)

Friend – Hey, sure! Let’s meet at Kunci? (Knowing his friend too, I know it was much shorter reply 😀 )

So, my baffled husband turns and asks me – “do you know a place called Kunci? “

Ever proud of my own better Bahasa Indonesia skills (only as compared to my husband), I set him correct. “Kunci? Come on! Kunci means a Key Swapnil, a K-E-Y! Key! That which helps to lock and open the door??”

He made a noncommittal noise and went back to messaging, then smiled looking at me. “You’re wrong. Apparently Kunci means mall Kuningan City”.

We spent a moment in amused laughter. In almost 6 years of my residence here in Indonesia, one thing never ceases to amuse and baffle me. Its the abbreviations created by people. The local slang language or ‘Bahasa Jalan’ (Street language) as they call it , has evovled a ‘tendency’ to create short cuts. I call it tendency because I notice this leaning towards shortforms in almost every sphere of local life. I have come across abbreviated forms of so many unexpected words, places, things and so on, that sometimes, when I learn a new word, I ask the native Bahasa speaker if it is a shortform or a real word.

So you have shorter names for malls like Mangdu for Mangga Dua, Kokas for Kota Kasablanka, Sensi for Senayan City and so on. Not just malls, even place names become shortforms and you tend to get confused. Once while reading a running race schedule, I noticed the location was Jakpus. I got quite confused before realising that in all probability it was Jakarta Pusat  (Central Jakarta). Similarly Jaksel, Jakut and Jaktim. Names too do get shortened here, say a Wijayanto becoming Yanto, Arianto becoming Ari and Christina sometimes being called Tina! Which I guess is the only abbreviation, commonly practised throughout the world. 😊

While these abbreviations are mainly a part of street language, they are formally used sometimes  – such as Jakpus / Jaksel on the website of that racing community. The national monument in Jakarta is called Monas, which is shortened ‘Monumen Nasional’ . There are many communities with shortened name. Certain ‘national communities for so and so’ being called Komnas __ ___. Even the ministries have faced same fate. Kemenkes for example means Kementerian Kesehetan (Health Ministry) . Minsitry for information and broadcasting is called Kemkominfo and formally so.

Once while travelling I came across a series of shops named Warkop. Example – Warkop Ibu Yeni , Warkop Pak Nurul and so on. I wondered aloud what warkop meant. Our driver informed us – it was Warung dan Kopi (Snack and coffee).

With so many shortforms floating around, you would think, that there wont be many long words in Bahasa Indonesia. That’s extremely far from truth. To get a taste of the long words, one glance at newspapers is enough. Sometimes the words seem so long to me, that I wonder when they will end , even while reading them 😊. All in all , maybe these long words are what prompted the locals to start with shortforms. Whatever it takes to make communication easy! Only, they should have this kunci (Word key) for us newcomers though and regularly update it. That will make our life easier. 😊



This blog is not dead….

This post comes after a gap of closer to 2 years. Wow! I never realised it had been that long since I updated. The real life had taken over. I was completely immersed in taking care of my baby, who now, as a toddler still commands most of my time. Therefore I cannot make commitment to myself to write regularly. But yes, I will be writing more often. Now that my toddler is getting more and more independent, I do find myself with some time to spare. Especially, the lack of regular adult conversation (with friends) these 2 years past, has made me realise the need to gather my thoughts and ponder on something that doesnt involve meals, sleep schedules, poops, toys and so on. Living in a foreign country, you do get used to a pattern of friendships that ebb and flow with several incoming and outgoing expats and if you are the one that stays at a place for long time, you do get used to welcoming new comers with enthusiasm, building friendships over the period only to bid them good byes with aplomb…. In short, in 2016/17, 4 of my friends relocated. That made the need for this kind of conversation with myself more apparent. However, whatever spare time I would have, would be spent in browsing through yet another parenting group or article or milestones update from the babycenter … LOL.

However, lately, I began missing this whole process more and more. Writing usually always allows me to come to a conclusion if I am stumbling. It always brings me at peace. It always makes me more and more in tune with myself and that is why I always think it is one of my greatest friends. So I do see myself writing more and often on this blog again….

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:


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


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


“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.


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.


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’ 🙂


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…



Back to my home away from home

Berharap anda selamat tahun baru. Not very timely huh… though better late than never I say. Been travelling this last month. Spent new year with parents and in – laws in India, and now ‘back to the future’ – rumah baru saya – Jakarta. The whole month was a whirlwind. For the lack of ability to be more articulate – I would like to conclude – I am ‘not sad’ to be back here.

Talking about living away from parents – both mine and his, has been a loaded conversation always, with anyone. Yes, all my blood ties are in India and my husband’s too. Yes, we love them, miss them. No, it doesn’t mean that Jakarta is not worth living in. It definitely is. Visiting home last month made me realise that. The ease of day to day life, cleanliness and the discipline in Jakarta seems substantial when compared to Mumbai and if I claim to like such a way of living, I should not be judged.

The attitude of people is probably the product of your surroundings and in immensely resource scant country such as India if people push around, jump the queue, interrupt conversations so that they would be given priority over others , litter on the streets because the dustbin is far away and they are in a hurry to catch a train/bus/flight – it could be attributed to lack of space, time, money and other such resources – if at all it could be justified. I am not saying that this might not happen anywhere else in the world. Its just that I don’t see this happening much in Jakarta, despite Indonesia too being a third world country like India. Personally, I haven’t changed much – I have always NOT littered, followed rules and queues, been polite and hence in general have not offended anyone ever on these accounts.

I am sure this kind of claim (the facts about crowd, discipline and cleanliness in India) could raise many voices. In general I would be giving offence to so many including my own family (My Mum for sure. Anything that I praise about Indonesia results into she concluding time and again that I wont be coming back to India). That said, I of course am proud of India and her culture  – in fact its influence on the Indonesian culture. There are so many words, customs and traditions that remind me of my homeland time and again. Being proud of my country doesn’t mean disowning any areas of improvement. It  would be like failing to own my faults as a person since I believe I am the best. Putting this here in as many words is necessary. I feel it is. How can praising Indonesia for its positives mean that I hate my country or that I am a condescending NRI now?

Despite the great infrastructure or the discipline and cleanliness in public places, no place on this earth would feel like home. I realised this immediately when I arrived in Mumbai.

Its the myriad smells and sounds that first pull your heart’s strings – chime of a temple bell,  a call of some street hawker, chirping sparrows (and even crows!! yes!! – I haven’t seen any birds in Jakarta) smell of jasmine gajras, a wafting smell of jalebis, and spicy vada pav from the stall in the corner. Then the colours usurp your attention – colourful flowers showing off through immense and fresh garlands, colourful bright dresses on women, wacky colourful boards just about everywhere…..then of course comes the taste buds – food – vegetarian food – available just about everywhere – and in varieties – makes you dance with joy. Lastly, the touch – of your loved ones. Hugs from parents when you surprised them by arriving at 1 in the morning – sensation of tears falling on your shoulders, when your mother hugged you having met after 10 months – sounds of laughter floating in the air and welcoming smiles when you met your family – all of that is too overpowering for you to feel more comfortable at any other place than this – your home. It imprisons all five of your senses. Please know this – mother!! Though I must maintain – I love Jakarta!


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…)


Rains, English Vinglish and Shah Rukh Khan

The weather’s changed here. October to March marks the wet season and with the exception of yesterday, we’ve had showers every evening since October began… exactly between 6.0 pm and 7.30 pm 🙂 . Now that’s the predictability for you. The weathermen here would never go wrong.. 🙂 . So here am I, at my ‘favouritest’ place in this house – the balcony, ready with a mug full of hot chocolate, and a Rahat Fateh Ali Khan song playing on my laptop. Its 5.45 pm already and the sky looks dark enough, cool breeze has started blowing…my plants are swaying now…and it feels really wonderful. 🙂

I hope though that the rains don’t last long. We shall be leaving soon, to watch ‘English Vinglish’ at Grand Indonesia and knowing the Jakarta traffic, to reach before show time (8.30 pm), we probably might have to leave within next hour. I know I am going to love this movie already. Not because Sri Devi starrs in it or anything…its a movie of an underdog. And I am a sucker for underdog stories… This must be the umpteenth time I’ll be watching a film after marriage. To think of it, the total movies I watched after my marriage (including TV/Laptop/Theatre) would exceed the number of films I have watched all these years before my marriage (TV/laptop/theatre), though that shouldnt surprise me in the least. This happens with most of the couples I guess.But as far as I knew myself, I wouldn’t describe myself a movie goer. While there are many entertainment options here, Bollywood offers a cost-effective way of entertainment. Moreover, in Jakarta, a surprising number of theatres show Hindi movies. Many locals too are interested in Bollywood and wherever I tell people, that I am an Indian (because they mostly seem to take me for a Moroccan for some strange reason. That is a topic for a very amusing post 😉 ) – they always talk about Bollywood and in particular Shah Rukh Khan who had visited Indonesia it seems. Many of the cabbies even have Bollywood songs with them to play and a cabbie actually owned video of Kuch Kuch Hota Hain songs – which he promptly played in my honour when I told him I was from India. ;). I didn’t have it in my heart to tell him that I in fact am not much of a Shah Rukh Khan fan  🙂 (for that matter, I don’t have any Bollywood idol. Nor that I have any Hollywood idol…thought it better to clarify)   In fact people loved Kuch Kuch Hota Hain so much that many Indonesians I know have some or other favourite moment from the movie.An Indonesian friend told me  – hers was when Kajol touches Amitabh Bachchan’s feet and he accepts her as his daughter – in – law…. I on the other hand, have not actually watched that movie…. though guess sooner or later, that too will change….at this rate….


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,,,