Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Back in my Neighbour (and Thinking about KL)

Back in my Neighbourhood (and Thinking about KL)

It feels like I've never left this place. But then again I was only away for a week. I'm back pacing the sidewalks of Jalan Wahid Hasyim area, which has been my neighbourhood for the past two years.

The sight of the spanking new Starbucks cafe next to Theater DJakarta brought my thoughts back to KL briefly. ( I remember they were still renovating the place before Imlek but now it is already opened for business) But from here, KL seems like such a distant, and even alien world. Everytime I go back to KL I am amazed at how prosperous Malaysians are--a fact that many Malaysians take for granted.

The sight of ojeks, bajajs and asongans near Sarinah reminds me of the fact that there's a huge population out there who have to struggle daily for survival. I have learned to lead a rather moderate life over the last two years here (in comparison with the average Malaysian), and love the simplicity that I've achieved. All that will be threatened when I go back to KL. It takes a lot of discipline not to plunge into the kind of gluttonously bourgeois life that most of my Malaysian friends lead.

There's probably nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact I'm happy that Malaysia has managed to build a prosperous middleclass society. But the sight of so many people spilling out of Ikea clutching the latest designer furnitures and the throng of shopping carts that jam the hypermart aisles on weekends fill me with a kind of trepidation: as if prosperity means the luxury to consume endlessly.

A thriving middleclass is the bulwark of stability for a country. It is something that Indonesia has to build first. But for that to happen, stability has to be present. It is a bit of a Catch-22. With elections coming up this year, Indonesia is still very much a cauldron of uncertainty. Looks like I'm going to miss all the action here.

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