Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The Happiness of Cipanas

The Happiness of Cipanas

I'm happy to be back in KL for the elections this time. I have to go back to my hometown in Pahang to vote and I kind of relish the opportunity to see my childhood home again. Even though it is located very near to KL, somehow for the last couple of years, I rarely found the time nor the inclination to make a trip there.

Whenever friends in Indonesia ask me what my hometown is like, I tell them it is a bit like Cipanas--a small spa town located about two hours drive away from Jakarta. Anyone taking a road journey to Bandung will definitely pass through Cipanas. The name "Cipanas" stems from the Sundanese word "Ci" or "Cai" meaning water. The name Cipanas probably came about because of the presence of hotsprings there.

Like Cipanas, there are also some hotsprings near my hometown. It is also nestled in the middle of lush tropical mountains. The road that goes to Bandung always reminds me of the old winding road connecting KL to my hometown before the KL-Karak highway was built. As a child, a trip to KL was a journey I dreaded, for the tortorously winding road made me very sick everytime.

Everytime I pass through the town of Cipanas, I would recall my hometown and the simple small-town life that I used to lead as a child. Growing up in a small town or kampung makes you feel a deep affinity with the land; you develop a certain kinship with the trees, the rivers and the mountains that surround you; and later in your life, no matter where you go, you continue to carry that rustic spirit in a special place deep inside you. It becomes a wellspring of inspiration and strength, a place where you constantly tap for spiritual nourishment.

That is why whenever I take a trip to Bandung, I would feel a certain peace of mind. It is like homegoing to me--leaving behind the ugliness and cruelty of the city to enter a place of unspoilt innocence. And when I see Cipanas along the way, I imagine a small child living there who cycles everyday to school and plays ducks and drakes by the riverbanks.

This weekend, when I go back to my hometown, I'll probably think of Cipanas and Bandung, and I'll think of all the good friends and good people I met along the way and all that sweet happiness I left behind in Indonesia.

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