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A Writer’s Journal by Ashikin M

Special Features
Writer
Ashikin M
Ashikin M

Our guest writer, Ashikin M, a passionate writer and explorer, beautifully shares with us about her vocation and her love for South Jakarta.

A reader of law, a television commercial talent, a strategist for an aviation company, a project director of youth programs; I have been many things in life. Now, I am an explorer for an education technology company where I traverse new territories to see how technology can be applied in schools, thus allowing educators to do what they do best: teach. Meanwhile, as a writer and poet, I enjoy performing with my onstage partner of four years, fellow poet Jamal Raslan, combining the beauty of poems, music and rhythms at many event spaces including The Grid Space, SS15 and Loka Cipta, PJ Lama - must-go spots if you would like to explore artistic performances in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.

Ashikin and Jamal performing at The Grid Space in SS15, Subang Jaya in Selangor (L). Recording a book reading of her book SUNSET1989 at Loka Cipta, PJLama in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. (R)
Ashikin and Jamal performing at The Grid Space in SS15, Subang Jaya in Selangor (L). Recording a book reading of her book SUNSET1989 at Loka Cipta, PJLama in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. (R)
Pabila Pesawat Bertemu Bulan is one book that Ashikin had enjoyed writing a lot.
Pabila Pesawat Bertemu Bulan is one book that Ashikin had enjoyed writing a lot.

My true vocation, the closest thing that binds me to life - is writing stories. I have been writing books for five years. Burning Constellation, Si Romantik Yang Sudah Mati, Mimpi-Mimpi Nomad, Pabila Pesawat Bertemu Bulan and SUNSET1989 are part of the titles that I love from the bottom of my heart.

I find pleasure in experimenting, researching and writing about moments between time, space and people in different cities. The scenes have never been the same, though sometimes I try to use different methods to revisit the same stories. Getting to know people who live different lives taught me to come alive in my stories. My fulfilment comes from learning about children in different ASEAN countries by understanding their education system and visiting villages in remote areas, before immortalising moments with them in my stories.

With local children at Juanda, Jawa Timur in Indonesia.
With local children at Juanda, Jawa Timur in Indonesia.
Ashikin’s travels in Tonle Sap, Cambodia brought her to rural areas to explore how technology can help schools.
Ashikin’s travels in Tonle Sap, Cambodia brought her to rural areas to explore how technology can help schools.

Assigned as an explorer in Indonesia since 2019 meant dividing my life between two countries and learning a new language. One of the most bittersweet trips for me was when I had to leave my newly wedded husband, Danial, for three weeks because of work. However, he did come to Jakarta to explore Kepulauan Seribu (or the Thousand Islands) with me, where we were mesmerized by its beauty, exploring the underwater world through the eyes of a fisherman

Exploring the depths of the ocean, amazed by the beauty of Kepulauan Seribu (the Thousand Islands).
Exploring the depths of the ocean, amazed by the beauty of Kepulauan Seribu (the Thousand Islands).

with a boat for rent for as low as RM50. Beneath the ocean’s surface, sunlight streamed through the corals and colourful fish swam around. My heart wandered, and I felt like the luckiest person in the world. I wondered if the same feeling had struck someone else, somewhere along the island. Will she reminisce the same moments when the sky and the earth blended with each other and remember which colour she will miss when she goes back to town?

Daily Life in South Jakarta

South Jakarta is my City of Sunrise. The morning sky, the sun and the crowded landscape - these are not things that you can simply leave behind. The beauty of the city has been nurtured a long time ago; through its music, its coffee houses and bookstores.

Ashikin loves spending time at these beautiful cafes with a calm ambience.
Ashikin loves spending time at these beautiful cafes with a calm ambience.

My picks in South Jakarta are Filosofi Kopi Melawai cafe for its red velvet drink and the book shop Toko Buku Aksara Kemang for its ambience. I have spent hours doing work here, reading books and exploring the old film shops, mini- cinema, music shop and dessert food truck that are attached to Toko Buku Aksara Kemang.

Outside of Filosofi Kopi Melawai cafe (L), and the interior of the book shop, Toko Buku Aksara Kemang (R).
Outside of Filosofi Kopi Melawai cafe (L), and the interior of the book shop, Toko Buku Aksara Kemang (R).
The City of West Jakarta as seen from the Aston Marina
The City of West Jakarta as seen from the Aston Marina

If South Jakarta was a woman, she would be a beautiful dame that wants to love and be loved. The panorama is beautiful, the buildings almost like they are duplicating and expanding, so crowded yet with such grandeur that gives you different perspectives on life. It’s those hidden things, the subconsciousness that lies in the city that lets you know; embracing life is what you are supposed to feel so why suppress them? Enlarge them. Extend them.

Over the years, the city has learned to keep the memories that are real, the ones that come secondary; to shut things that can further hurt them, so they are able to keep that little child in them. South Jakarta may seem imperfect and backward at times, but the people live joyously with everything they have. The streets have evolved to be more human than us. It doesn’t believe in the assumption that money, fame and luxury can win over being human to one another. This city will never give you the worst because it has been at its best due to the energy of its people.

It lives for its own purpose, to find more reasons for empathy for others. From the nerves of new hangout M Bloc Space to the highest peak in South Jakarta, each building is preserved in rawness and authenticity. I derive a strange thrill out of romanticising the details of my surroundings and putting them into lines while looking at the city lights from a plethora of quiet moments. I had just enough words to give me more questions and answers.

The authentic M Bloc Space will leave visitors in awe of its uniqueness.
The authentic M Bloc Space will leave visitors in awe of its uniqueness.

In its music shop near M Bloc, you make meanings on what they sing and make a song out of what you believe. You find women and men in all sizes and colours. In a world that appears to indulge in commercialised features or standards of beauty - seemingly dedicated to tear people down and pick them apart until there’s nothing left, South Jakarta is a place where biases don’t live and appreciation towards diversity remains in abundance.

M Bloc Space is dedicated to music and art lovers.
M Bloc Space is dedicated to music and art lovers.

And, of course, you’ll find records here, including albums of local artists such as White Shoes & The Couples Company, Payung Teduh, Tulus, Isyana Sarasvati and others - whose stunning music in the pitter patter of the rainy season is unbeatable as you find yourself in deep sleep after a long day outside.

A graceful city at the age of 500 years and having all of its beauty forever ingrained in our hearts; Jakarta, a city of many things, is a city of life on its own.

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