Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The Beauty of Chaos

The Beauty of Chaos

When I was working in Singapore, I telecommuted most of the time. I had a good home ADSL connection--which in fact was faster than the Internet connection that I got in the office. I was renting a small HDB room; most of the days which I wasn't travelling were spent happily working and surfing in my tiny room.

I was quite happy in Singapore because it is convenient location to operate from, if you are a regional traveller and a hassle-free place to live in. Singapore is the epitome of law, order and efficiency. I had no complains when I was living there. Only problem was I couldn't identify with the people. For some reason I could never see myself as a PR or citizen of Singapore.

Good thing about living in Singapore is, if one misses the "real" life--the chaos and and the tang of humanity--one could easily hop across the causeway to Johor Bahru (JB) in Malaysia. There are many cheap buses that depart every half-hour from Queen Street. Occasionally I would take the bus to JB to catch the Senandung Malam train from there because it costs almost half the price of a Singapore-KL trip starting from Tanjung Pagar. But actually for me, it was more for the opportunity to loiter around JB town for a while before I hop on my train to KL.

Here in Jakarta, chaos is everywhere. But it is beautiful chaos. Sometimes walking along Jalan Sabang at night, I feel like I'm in the middle of a Ridley Scott set; I would stand there and marvel at the smoky, neonlit river of people, bajajs, buses and cars like it is some fanciful Matrix-like illusion.

Many years back when I was still working in Singapore, a colleague asked me if I would be willing to live in Jakarta; I answered yes without hesitation. My colleague, a Singaporeanized Malaysian, could not understand why. Why would a yuppie choose to live in a city filled with slums and beggars?

But I love Jakarta precisely because it is not a city of yuppies. And surprisingly the chaos here does not irritate me so much--not even the traffic jams. You only get irritated when you are in a hurry. Here, things happen, or come to fruition in their own time. Yuppies will never understand that, for these upwardly mobile creatures with their cellphones and PDAs are forever in a hurry.

Living in Jakarta among Indonesians taught me a lot about patience, courtesy and humility. These are virtues that one could never learn in a yuppie city like Singapore or even KL. And I am eternally grateful to Jakarta for that.

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