Thursday, February 12, 2004

Looking & Moving Forward

Looking & Moving Forward

I managed to try the Busway service in Jakarta before I left the city. The service was still gratis (free) then. I took a short hop from the Sarinah stop to Setiabudi on a Saturday morning when the crowd was still small (usually the queue at Sarinah can be quite long).

It was a comfortable ride and but being used to the LRTs in KL, the MRT in Singapore and MTR in Hong Kong, the Busway ride felt slow, and there were many tedious stops in between. Well, it's actually not fair to compare it to a subway train but with an interior that looks and feels like one, one can't help but expect it to zoom from one stop to another. Despite that, It is still a lot better than taking one of the rickety Kopaja buses.

It has been more than two weeks that I've been living a "regular" life in KL. Not used to driving so frequently, my back aches and I feel depleted everyday from all those hours on the road under the hot glare of the equatorial sun. I dislike driving but I'm trying to learn to not despise it too much. With the confusing swirl of new highways that covers KL city now, I often miss an exit or take the wrong turn; but I'm getting back into the rhythm of KL life.

It's going to be Friday again tomorrow; I guess there'll be another drinking session with my friends at KLCC or Bangsar, and I will probably end up missing my daily blogging session. People always ask me why I chose to come back to KL since I like Jakarta so much. There's no simple answer, but I guess I did attempt to analyze my decision in some of my old blog entries like The Kaleidoscope of Life and Crossing the Thin Red Line.

Once a decision has been made, I never look back. I am determined to start a new chapter in my life and it will be a fresh set of adventures that I will be embarking upon. There'll be fresh subjects for me to blog too: if the projects I have in the pipeline materializes, I'll be visiting some of the countries that I have not visited for quite some time. I certainly look forward to that.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

A Fluid Mind

A Fluid Mind

Sometimes I think I do not possess any skill at all except the ability to learn, improvise and produce something out of nothing. That "ability" has pulled me through many difficult times in the past. Whenever it looks like there's a dead-end ahead, I know I could conjure up something and find a way forward if I put my mind to it.

I think a lot of people give up thinking when faced with a difficult problem. They recoil from tasks that they have no experience in doing. They will only do something if they have been trained and instructed what to do from step 1 to step 10.

I always believe that one must maintain a certain forward momentum in one's thinking. Thinking guru Edward De Bono advises us to think in terms of "designing a solution forward" rather than "solving a problem". The former attitude is positive and exploratory, the latter, passive and limited.

The mind needs to get into a mode where it behaves like flowing waters--fluid, flexible, probing and always finding its way around obstacles. "Water Logic", as de Bono calls it. There's a certain inevitability in the way water finds its way to the sea, as I expounded in one of my blog entries last year. If the mind has the nature of water, it will always find its way towards a solution.

Water is always "confident" of flowing to the sea because it is its nature to do so. Similarly we ought to think of our mind as always having an ability to find a way forward. As the old adage goes: "when there's a will, there's a way".

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The Freedom of Sukamiskin

The Freedom of Sukamiskin

Outside the Sukamiskin prison near Bandung, there's an interesting statue of a mother nursing a baby with another child tugging at her hand. The inscription below the statue reads:
"Anak & Isteri selalu menantimu"
(Your wife and children are always waiting for you).

I visited Sukamiskin during one of my trips to Bandung and took a couple pictures of the place before the guards saw me and asked whether I had permission to do so. I feigned ignorance and pretended to be an innocent tourist and even had the audacity to ask them if I could visit Sukarno's former cell. They told me that I needed written permission from the local authorities for that. I was tempted to do so but decided that I was probably pursuing my interest in Sukarno a bit too far.

For almost 3 years Sukarno was incarcerated in this prison. During that time, his wife Inggit Garnasih visited him every week, sometimes even walking all the way from Bandung because she couldn't afford the transportation.

Imprisonment affects a person greatly. Sukarno recalls in his autobiography how he got into the habit of always finishing his meals fast even in official banquets after he became the president of Indonesia because all prisoners were forced to do so in Sukamiskin--they were treated like parts in a production line.

The Sukamiskin prison was designed by the famous Dutch architect C.P. Wolfe Schoemaker and ironically, Sukarno might even had a hand in its design for he was assisting Professor Schoemaker in the design of many public buildings right after graduating from THS (the forerunner of ITB, Institute Teknologi Bandung).

The prison is a rather beautiful piece of architecture--sturdy-looking and fringed by shady trees. From the outside, it didn't look like a menacing place--it even reminded me of some of the old colonial school buildings in Malaysia. I lingered happily outside its compound for a while, admiring its architecture and the serenity of its surrounding.

Sukamiskin might had been a hellish place for Sukarno and many other prisoners who were imprisoned there. But now as I sit here in my home in Subang Jaya and think back of the time when I was snapping pictures outside the gates of this mighty penitentiary, I recall them with great affection: Sukamiskin, in my mind will always be associated with that unparalleled sense of freedom that I used to enjoyed in Indonesia.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Sense of Perspective

A Sense of Perspective

"Never write about a place until you're away from it, because it gives you perspective", wrote Hemingway.

I have worked outside Malaysia for the past six years (four in Singapore and two in Jakarta) and all that time away gave me a better perspective of the life that I used to lead in KL. Now that I'm back in KL and away from Jakarta, I hope to be able to look back on my time there with greater clarity and insight.

When we are living in a particular place, we are consumed by its environment. Environment affects our behaviour a lot. Our environment includes the people we meet and interact with daily. Everyone is a source and sink of karma and in each other's web of karma we entangle ourselves. Sometimes we are being swept along, at other times we drive the tides and currents of our affairs. When we are trashing in this sea of karma, it is difficult for us to see things in its proper perspective.

But once we out of the place, it is like we are standing on dry land, high on a cliff looking down at the turbulent sea. We realise where we are in relationship to everything else and we take note of our position before taking another plunge into the waters again.

It is dangerous to be swept away unknowingly by the waves of events that are constantly hitting us. We need to take stock, recheck our position, regain our composure and realise our errors. We need to step back and we need time away; in other words, we need distance in space and time. Only by doing so do we get that all important sense of perspective.