A Lost Piece

28 Mar

The year 2105.  Somewhere in Indonesia.

A yellowed lost sheet of paper rode on the wind.  When it finally dropped on the ground, the following words were written on it:

Senja,

Harusnya aku bisa tertawa,

Tapi kini aku mengeram durja;

Dulu kau menebar jingga,

Sekarang? Kau menguar lara, pekat jelaga;

 

Senja,

Harusnya aku bisa tertawa,

Tapi kini namamu Nestapa,

– ataukah Karbon Dioksida?

Aku lupa….

 

The writer was never known.  Nor was she ever found.

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On Bravado, Bravery, and Braggadocio: My Repartee with a Minister

3 Oct

One evening on December 2008, I went to sleep without knowing if I would ever wake up again.  I was hospitalized because of several opportunistic infections, -including pneumonia, that could easily kill a person with HIV/AIDS.  In a lot of pain, I knew that I was having my close encounter with the grim reaper.  And friend, let me tell you, that wasn’t a nice feeling.  Think about it.  Lying awake with your eyes open, you’re forced to confront a certain conundrum: what is it on the other side?  Not to mention the awful knowledge that you’re going to leave your loved ones behind.  On that moment, I was petrified to learn that what I wrote in my letter to my son might actually come true.  I might have been knocking on heaven’s door, but those forlorn hours at that night were a fiery hell that made me cringe in tears.

Now as you continue to read this, please keep that picture in your mind.  A terminally-challenged HIV patient contracting himself in agony, drenched in a shiny film of sweat, tortured physically and mentally in his last night to live.  For any one that could pass it and actually gets better like me, there are hundreds that did not make it to the morning.  In fact, of all the 6 persons in the room where I was hospitalized, I am the only survivor.  I watched them die one by one.

Fast forward to now.  Within the last several days, a certain minister of our country issued some statements over Twitter about HIV/AIDS that I found insulting.  Without trying to gloss over what I’ve already said in my answers to him, let me just say that his statements are typical to what stigmatization is all about.  Also, it seemed to me that there could be no possible excuses that could explain how such statements are allowed.  Personal opinion?  Sir, you forfeit your personal opinion when you take that job.  That’s just the cost of politics.  Was merely quoting another person?  Hey, how stupid do you think I am?  Unless it was specifically stated otherwise, you just don’t get around quoting people without agreeing with their points.

I am not a mind reader.  But to me, it was clear that the minister was displaying a cocksure braggadocio.  Whoever he was trying to impress, to a common sense it will always be a lame attempt of bravado.  Which is why I’m offering him a chance to turn it into a true bravery of a man.

Mr. Sembiring, let me repeat the invitation that I extended before.  I would like to have a chance to meet you over a cup of coffee.  And that’s the keyword: a cup.  For if you dare to share my cup, our country would witness a man who dares to own up that he made a mistake, and is freed from any distorted thinking of bigoted stigmatization against people with HIV/AIDS.  And don’t you worry, Sir.  I’m a man too.  While I have my differences with you, I will be the first to shake your hand and tell my friends that you’re a good man once we’re done with that coffee.

The question you have to answer is:  Do you have to do it and accept my invitation?  Of course not.  But let it be clear that our country will take note of your response to this.  If you do it, it won’t be about me winning or you losing something.  No, the winner would be Life itself, with a capital “L”.  Plus, you get the bonus of turning a previous bravado into a true act of bravery.

As I close this piece, understand that I’m not doing this for popularity or grudge.  No, I am just trying to finish what I have started.  Being a HIV patient myself, I know that there are too many punishments we have to bear.  We don’t need another insult to our dignity.  And if I get to be the one who do this, I’ll do it over and over again:  I am fighting back.  I rest my case.

Immi’s paper aeroplane

12 Sep

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Immi asked me to make a paper aeroplane for her. Here’s how it goes.

Between BP and Bakrie, and Luna

9 Jun

The other night, me and my friends were talking about the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Our concern was in the fact that there’s so much media hype about it, which tends to dilute the facts without actually empowering related parties to find the solution to the problem.  We did not quite understand why that needed to happen as this was not a bigger problem than Exxon Valdez in 1989.  In hindsight, we were wrong.  The BP oil spill is by far the largest disaster of its kind ever happened in U.S. history.  By the end of May, it had poured at least 20 million gallons ( or 75 million liters ) of crude oil into the Gulf, – almost double the output of Exxon Valdez.

Of course, that translates to a problem of an unprecedented scale.  Which means that so far efforts to curb the spill have been largely unsuccessful.  While a lot of people criticize President Obama for not taking a hard enough stance towards BP, I beg to differ.  Like it or not, the government simply lacks the technical know-how or skills to mitigate the problem.  Thus, getting politically angry would not get the job done.  The first priority must lie in stemming the leakage, and by resisting to take control of the whole operation, Obama leave it to the industry (without necessarily acknowledging their innocence) that is best positioned to do the job.

One interesting parallelism is between BP and Bakrie.  We all know that Bakrie is the mothership of Lapindo Brantas, a company whose operation preceded the sad mud disaster in Sidoarjo.  Granted, Lapindo had started to pay penalties for the damage it caused to the vicinity’s inhabitants.  But the company only started that after much bullying from the public and the government.  It’s still fresh in our mind that the company’s leaders were much more interested in shifting the blame to natural causes, – engaging in a blame game with God.  The underlying fact is: Lapindo never took initiative to be responsible of what happened.

With BP, the responses were worlds apart.  BP’s CEO Tony Hayward never exactly admitted the blame, but that’s not the point.  My point is, even before they were proven guilty by the pending federal enquiries and maybe even prosecutions, BP has started to take actions to contain, -if not repair, the damage it caused to the environment.  Just see how it hired International Bird Rescue Research Center to clean affected fowls.  Today, they are already treating as many as four pelicans a day.

That is but a small example, but the morale remains, – if you could take real, responsible actions about a problem, why engage in petty bickerings and other childish concerns?     That goes to a lot of other problems in Indonesia with stupid aftermaths like Luna Maya’s alleged video.  I mean, what’s with prosecuting her and the “actors” of the video?  That’s just outrageous and plain irresponsible, if you ask me.  Unfortunately, Dylan sums it best when he says that, “The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind….”

PICTURE CREDIT: The Examiner

The Biggest Prize on Earth

14 May

Mostly due to very busy days at the office, I’ve been forsaking blogging for much too long.  I certainly miss it, although for now I’m forced to consider it as a luxury that I can only afford every once in a while.

But not for one moment I will miss penning down my thoughts on the biggest competitive prize ever graced the world of sports:  The Football World Cup come this June.  No, not if I profess to be a football fan.

It is certainly exciting, if only because it is the first world cup to be held in the land of Africa.  Beside the concerns of logistics and security (the incident of the shooting at Togo team’s bus during the African Nations Cup quickly came to mind), the very distinctive ambience and climate alone could prove trying to the traditional giants of football.  Remember the USA World Cup where the temperature gets so high until it broke all the record of how many times the players take a break for drinks?  Then, the high temperature could be argued as having a negative effect of the quality of the games.  Of course, one could always argue that it’s just one of the excitement of the game: only the fittest survives.  But to push such argument is beside the point.  After all, I would still like to watch beautiful football where not only winning matters.

That being said, this World Cup is really an example of how peaceful the world could be if we can just accept our differences and focus on things we have in common.  I mean, where else do we see the United States and North Korea playing on a same field, with a same set of rules?  Come next month, we’re going to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, celebrating the most beautiful show not only on technical skills, but also of human spirit.

As to the strongest candidate I can think, my choice would still go to Spain.  Oh, yes.  In the past, people laughed at me for my silly candidates to win a major football tournament.  But after the French victory at ’98 and Spain’s at Euro ’08; I stopped to worry about it.  Here’s why I think they would win.  Of all the 32 teams battling for the title, Spain has the best qualifying campaign.  They secured a perfect 10 wins out of 10 matches.  Conceding only five goals, and scoring 28; – any nation would tremble to face the deadly pair of Villa and Torres upfront, the vision and flair of Xavi and Fabregas, or the strong physical prowess of Puyol and Ramos.  If there’s a weakness at all in their play, they should pay particular attention when defending in dead-ball situations.

Next on my line is England.  Again, laugh all you want.  But the English have been hungry for far too long that in fact it’s rather easy to imagine them performing a feat as amazing as Spain did in Euro 2008.  And please, never underestimate the man called Fabio Capello.  With the likes of Gerrard, Lampard, and Rooney; the English can do big things this time.  I would also mention their defense which could be the strongest in the world if Terry and Ferdinand play at their best.  What they need to work at is their determination, as it’s rather too often we watch them become needlessly complacent when things go their way.

My third choice for the top spot is equally divided between Argentina, France and the Netherlands.  Messi would prove a nightmare for his defender, but Maradona still needs to prove that he’s as good manager as he was a player.  France remains a strong contender albeit weak qualifying performance.  The finals might be a place where they can redeem themselves after Henry’s notorious handball that led to a goal that brought them here.  Nobody doubts Sneijder and van Persie for the Netherlands, although they have to remember that skills alone do not win the game.

The dark horse of the tournament will be of course Brazil.  I might be stoned for saying this, but they’re facing quite a struggle with their tough group matches against Portugal and Ivory Coast.  I think they will go through, but then run into a lot of trouble from injuries and suspensions which will led to a slump of form.  Oh, and make no mistake.  Pay close attention to Ivory Coast and Ghana.  Africa is their turf, and they will fight to defend it.

There you go, my two cents about the oncoming World Cup.  I might write more about some interesting matches, but until then, let’s pray that the opening day will come sooner than later…

An Ode to a Hero

29 Apr

“I tried to say goodbye and I choked,

tried to walk away and I stumble..”

-Macy Gray – “I Try”

As I tried to close my eyes and rest, I found that I couldn’t rest before I share a story.  So here it goes, a story about a wonderful heart, a courageous spirit that forever will linger on my mind.

Today, I said goodbye to my childhood nanny.  A simple, humble woman from Krian, a rural area just a little bit outside Surabaya, my hometown.  What I will share is how mischievously deceptive her looks were.  For inside that humble appearance, there lied a hero.  And I kid you not.  My babysitter was a hero in the truest sense of the word.

More than half of my years in Surabaya were marked by hardships.  My father was hit by severe financial difficulties, and he fought high and low just to bring food to the table.  Of course, over time my parents were not able to pay a babysitter to help us when, -in a somewhat cruel, irony twist of fate-, they had to work harder and leave us alone without anyone watching us at home.

This woman, however, is not your usual nanny.  She steadfastly refused to leave us.  She worked without any payment, and sometimes even bought us some meals from her own money.  That is just the beginning, make no mistake.  When we got so broke to the point that we had no roof to stay under, she offered her humble home for us to stay; while constantly treating us like a royalties during our stay.  Can you imagine that?  We stayed at her home, ate from her table, yet still she never allowed us to wash our dishes because in her words, “I remain your servant”.

At another point, when we stayed at a very simple home without any forms of entertainment like TV, she actually asked her husband to stay with us to play Chinese Checkers, -which brings a lot of amusement to our disheartened spirits.  And as if that’s not enough, she made it a point that her husband will take us for a ride in his motorcycle, just to get us to laugh more.

And boy, it didn’t end there.  When some die-hard debt collector started to play hardball with our family, she stood bravely between him and us, -practically daring him to do anything and saying “over my dead body” with her defiant stance.  That lady was not just dedicated, she simply was ready to die for us.  And remember, she did all those things (and millions others) without any pay.

When we had to move to Jakarta, she cried hard like she’s losing her own children.  Faithful spirit as she was, she accompanied us during the journey, and stayed for a couple-of-weeks in Jakarta before finally returning to her hometown.

Without failure, anytime there’s one of our family had some business in Surabaya, she cooked our favorite meals and send it to us here.  And I tell you, never had I thought that a mere dish of “sambal goreng tempe” could taste so divine!!  This dedication, -no strike that, this love continued until her last day on earth.  Even when we weren’t there, she defended us anytime there’s anyone in our hometown said something bad about us.  And did I tell you that her laughter was so full of hilarity, -ever contagious?

—–

So to a true Kartini, I shed a tear.  To someone who taught me what it means to be courageous, I raised my glass.  Mrs. Asih, allow me to give your soul one final embrace.  You won me over long before anyone else did.

If I don’t know anything about afterlife, I would chance a warning here.  A warning to St. Peter himself, no less.  “You better unlock the gate, Sir.  For heaven is gonna be a lot more exciting!!”

Your Eye

27 Feb

So there you go.  My first piece of drawing after all those lost, turbulent years.  Don’t expect too much though, my hands have already become shaky, and I don’t shade as well as I used to do.  Still, I am hoping to achieve a good form with steady, regular practices… Enjoy…

Tools :

– Derwent Dark Charcoal Pencil

– Faber Castell Graphite Pencils : HB, F, 2B