Wednesday, December 24, 2003

The Indonesian Bohemian

The Indonesian Bohemian

I've always tried to spend Christmas back in KL. Usually I'll be having drinks with my friends in downtown KL or Bangsar on Christmas eve. But looks like this year, I'll be stuck in Jakarta, trying to finish my work.

It's not too bad though, being "stuck" here. I think the town will be rather quiet and I have four days of public holidays ahead. Four days of complete, uninterrupted concentration on my work. After that I am a free man. Free to pursue some of my favourite subjects...

My colleague Aris asked me what will be my next interest after Sukarno. Aris is a Sundanese from Bandung and I had consulted him extensively about all the Sukarno-related places in the town before I went on my crazy Sukarno pilgrimage there a couple of weeks back. He was surprised that I even managed to visit the grave of Marhaen! But my Sukarno adventure is not done yet: I haven't visited his grave at Blitar, East Java; and I have not explored his former dwellings in Bengkulu, Yogjakarta and even Ende, Flores. Maybe I won't get a chance to do all that, but I'll definitely try.

I told Aris that the next subject that I might pursue is the poet Chairil Anwar (1922-1945). I had discovered his poems during my university years when by chance I bought an old 1960s edition of his anthology of poems, Kerikil Tadjam (Sharp Rocks) from a book sale. I didn't know who he was then but I thoroughly enjoyed all his poems. I have been a fan ever since and My Kerikil Tadjam book remains one of most treasured possessions. Too bad Chairil Anwar died young and did not leave a great body of work.

But his mark in Indonesian literature has been indelible: he is the icon of youthful rebellion, almost in the James Dean mould. His famous poem "Aku" is the anthem of the idealistic individual. A pioneer of the Angkatan 45 movement, he perhaps is the first bohemian writer of Indonesian literary scene. I still keep an a newspaper clipping of an article about Chairil Anwar, written by Salleh Ben Joned in his New Straits Times column, As I Please, published in the late 1980s.

All these years, the poems from Kerikil Tadjam kept lingering in my mind. Now, who do you think own the domain? Right now it points to this blog but I'm saving it for some future project...

You see, I have enough crazy obsessions to last me a lifetime! But for the next four days, I'll have to clear my mind of all such crazy thoughts and focus on my boring IT work. Poor me. To the rest of the world, Merry Christmas!

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