Monday, October 17, 2011


I woke up today and lay in bed listening to the calls for prayer from surrounding mosques. It is the anniversary of the month that I returned to Indonesia.

I’ve spent a year trying to feel comfortable about coming home to Jakarta after spending a year away, with its impossible traffic, relentless gossiping, endearing chaos, and wonderful tireless people that hold you spellbound, forever torn between love and hate for the city. I’d escape to Bali’s beaches now and then, but it remains just that: an escape.

I’ve always viewed life as a lucrative sandbox with a spot of quicksand in the middle, which the curious mind will happily venture into, letting itself become sucked into new realms. Or to borrow that famous American’s famous line: the known unknowns. Who knows how many quicksands have led us to this particular spot in life? So often I have ventured into new things simply because other people knew and I did not. In the sandbox the only thought is of yourself, it’s your playground and yours to become the king of the pit.

I realized today I didn’t really want to crave comfort in Jakarta, or anywhere else in the world. I didn’t want to be thinking of myself all the time. I want to be thinking of other people. Just being useful without expecting comfort in return. Is there ever really such an achievement?

I’m judgmental about giving, brain-verdict said. I excuse myself on the basis that it might be too forward, or allocated incorrectly, or not the right contribution. A few months ago I made vague plans to teach children pro bono at the local mosque on weekends, and it never happened because I was sure the kids wouldn’t like me. I never give out money at traffic lights, because I’m vaguely sure the beggars are part of a syndicated gang and the money would go to some mafia. I’ve wasted countless opportunities.

I’d like to give as if it was a natural part of living. I could see that as a sandbox I haven’t conquered, but the thing is I shouldn’t be seeing it as a thing to conquer. It’s not about me, right?

*This is piece is originally posted on the3six5

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