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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Alone, alienated, detached, isolated, soliatary, withdrawn….

I cannot think of any more synonyms, but I just thought of writing this here. Wanted to purge these thoughts somewhere. These are the exact words that describe what I felt a lot during last few months.  Around the same time that I started working, my husband’s critical deals entered into advanced stages of discussions and he had to travel. A lot. Sometimes, in a month, he used to be home for less than 10 days, and not continuously (not consecutive days of being at home). That just left the situation being him back from one trip, just for doing the laundry and repacking and be gone. Thankfully, I had started working, otherwise, I would have gone crazy. But for all the non-working hours in the day, I was all those words I mentioned above.

Sure, I know some people here by now. Knowing is not same as being friends – I realised more than ever. They were available of course, mostly on whatsapp. Some who I consider friends have children and it was I who felt I would be imposing on them if I sought them out. Others… well, they let me know subtly and not so subtly  – that they don’t appreciate ‘clinginess’ and still others… well  I suppose they didn’t even care to understand my loneliness despite my own subtle and not so subtle hints…I don’t blame anyone of course, I should not and cannot be expecting support everywhere I go, cannot expect every person to like me enough to keep me company when I want… and I was alone for quite some time. So anyways, there would have been a limit on how many times I could impose on anyone like that….

I could have of course pursued my hobbies, etc during those days…but I didn’t. I didn’t handle this well. I have never stayed alone even as much as overnight before I moved here and somehow, I wasn’t able to handle it well. I could have explored the city.  I always wanted to. But I didn’t. Mainly because of my still fledgeling bahasa skills and the fact that my husband and I were both not sure about safety in exploring the deep interiors of Jakarta. He was out of the country and he requested that I postpone my explorings till he was in city for longer stretches. There are many ways in which I could have handled this better, but I couldn’t and I cannot – I think- even in the future.

I realised during these days, how much I had taken the social life granted back home. In India, while I was working, the work-life balance was disastrous with exceedingly long working hours. Still I will say, I was better off socially, simply because I had a great set of co-worker friends who had my back all the time. We each hardly had time for our other friends outside work, and we each had distinct tastes and personalities. Still these never were barriers in connecting, in talking about anything under the sun. We never judged each other, maintained our own opinions and still were one cohesive group. I think, most of the meaningful friendships in my life, were formed in my adult life and this group was a big part of it. While this happened because we each hardly had any time outside of work to engage more with our other friends, the most important reason was the great connection we shared with each other.  I cannot expect such connections to form everywhere I go, but then I know what great happiness it can bring. I could of course contact them and all of my other friends, though its not same as meeting in person. Though I hated to just be complaining all the times and consequently I avoided chatting with anyone.

Anyhow, now I expect my husband to be at home mostly. I won’t face this situation hopefully for some time now. Though I wonder sometimes, if expecting your friends to set aside some time for you is really an unreasonable thing… after 5 months of loneliness, I am inclined to believe, it isn’t mostly, because they too can count on you when they need you. Though here in NRI world, things are different. Or, they’re not different, this is just how the world works, its just that I had this moment of epiphany so late in life….

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Protected: My Reinhart and Rogoff moment….

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What (the h) have I have been doing all these days

Have been really busy folks...

Have been really busy folks…

 

 

I looove blogging. Writing actually.

Even better if you know that there’s a dedicated audience for that. That’s why I took up blogging in the first place. However, I have been quite remiss in updating. Some people make it a habit to update their blog daily, but sometimes the inspiration is not there. I admire all those who can describe most mundane things in their lives lucidly… Anyhow, Long story short, I haven’t updated this blog in a while and thought it was time to do so.

Catching up from where I left, I haven’t forgotten about 30 days of creativity challenge. Coincidentally, worldwide, that is what is going on. Well, I don’t have 30 days remaining now, seeing as today is 24th and probably don’t even have that much time daily. However, I plan to complete 30 creative things as promised. In fact an on-going event in Jakarta actually gives me an opportunity to do one creative project that I had been thinking of for some time.  Mostly I will be ready to post it by end of next Sunday. So yes, I haven’t given up on the 30days of creativity.

So what have I been doing….

Well, I have been working. I got a job finally. I mean, I had got it long time back, but the regulations here are just too tedious and they took a long time to release the approval. I got the job in my own field, so even that is great. Work’s been hectic. Especially the last couple of months. Though I am not exactly complaining….

Other than that… well… I got a new phone (yesterday), because my old smartphone crashed and I was cut off from the network for almost 3 weeks. It was kind of living in exile. Especially with Swapnil traveling all the time. The only interaction I had was with my colleagues and sometimes when I called my family. So this phone was much needed. I spent long enough researching on the right kind and all and eventually bought Samsung Galaxy SIII Mini.

Didn’t travel much (at all actually). Given the work-schedule. Most of my local friends also went out of Jakarta / country due to their kids’ holidays and I was sort of ‘marooned’ to put it in right words . .when I wasn’t at work….

I tried my hand at losing weight. Looks like its not my cup of tea….after spending a month of tracking food and attempting some exercise, I have lost just 1 kg. Though something better came out of it. My Fitness Pal has almost become like my Facebook now, because I needed to keep a track of my protein intake . I began recording food and got hooked to it. Lots of support and motivation from the community. In real life nobody took me or my need to lose weight seriously 🙂 so I turned towards virtual support I guess… 

Stopped watching TV altogether. Instead shifted to the whole new genre of entertainment. They call it a new age media and blah blah blah. I call it you-tube series. I landed on one such series by accident. The YouTube series work in unique format. They are hardly 5-6 minute episodes. Sometimes they get interactive. Work a lot on improvisation. Other times, they are shot in real environment. Lot many unique ideas and characters. You can of course watch at your own leisure and there’s probably a series out there on a subject of your liking. Meaning, lot of variety. What’s even great, these things seem to be run by nerds… totally my kind of people 🙂  It was like a whole new world was opened before me 🙂 and I totally am loving it.

What else, no I haven’t been cooking a lot. Actually with husband travelling, there’s noone to impress (and when he’s here he’s anyways far from being impressed). Also with work, I don’t have any motivation in me left to do cook something new. The other day I tried my hand at Mushroom masala since my husband remarked that his colleague’s wife makes it very well. However, it was disastrous and I concluded that I’d rather admire someone cooking for me than myself cooking it… I mean, cooking and I… is a love-hate sort of very moody relationship. Its complicated.

Yeah… those were the highlights of last four months… not much, I know….

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!