Friday, January 02, 2004

The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye

There was a couple hours of bright sunshine in the middle of this rainy season here in Jakarta; it was the bluest of skies and and the most brilliant of light I have seen for a long time. The rain had cleansed the air and it was a perfect day for photography.

I had walked from my hotel to the Gambir train station to purchase a ticket for my trip next week. As usual I had my camera with me and I didn't waste a second to make full use of that beautiful light. I walked towards Monas and took pictures of the monument from every angle. The grass there was also at its greenest, thanks to the rain that has not stop pouring over the past month or so. I couldn't ask for a more photogenic Monas.

Being there in Monas, I had to make my pilgrimage to the bust of Chairil Anwar, located on the northern end of the park, in front of Diponegoro's statue. I read the poem that was etched there at the base of the bust: Krawang-Bekasi. I admired his imagery of "tulang-tulang berserakan" (scattered bones) and "jam dinding yang berdetak" (ticking wall clock). That line: "Jika ada rasa hampa dan jam dinding yang berdetak" brought back memories of scenes from Wong Kar Wai's movies (especially Days of Being Wild) where wall clocks are a recurrent motif.

I stood there for a while, perhaps saying a final goodbye to Monas, which has watched over my two very happy years in Jakarta. I looked towards the trees where Fromberg Park used to be and the place where the prostitute Aminah from Pramoedya's Tjerita Dari Djakarta had called home. And I thought Chairil Anwar's bust was appropriately placed, facing this former haunt of prostitutes.

For a moment I felt sad, having finally to say goodbye to Jakarta. But I have one month to do so. And there's no better place for me to begin my long goodbye, right there in front of the bust of Chairil Anwar, beneath the most prominent landmark of Jakarta: that mammoth gold-tipped lingam that is Sukarno's Monas.

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