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