Revolt in paradise

Sunday, September 23, 2018


Was about to write my ninth birthday post here on this blog when my mum notified me of an incoming package from gojek. Wasn't really expecting anything, but a literal box of flowers came, along with a scented candle and a jar of cookies. Friendly reminder that flowers are always always wonderful.

Birthdays always had a horrible effect on me, somehow. To put it simply, I had a certain idea of how birthdays should be like, and even after knowing certain things and adulting and the nature of people as we grow up and becoming adults and time and the banality of trivial ceremonies also known as birthdays or special dates or such, it's still quite hard for me to let go of those expectations. Even though they no longer apply to the person I am now.

For example, for the past two months I haven't been able to have a proper rest: weekdays are arriving home at approximately 8 p.m after a pretty draining busway ride, and weekends are spent fully outside with friends. I have a habit of having this social profile where I put on an exterior that seemed to numb my subconscious into enjoying things and making things seemed not so bad. Only when I came home, alone in my room, did the profile vaporizes, and I was able to breathe again, this time gasping out of breath. The metaphor is really that dramatic. It went as bad as even my physical body couldn't take it.

I guess part of me was scared of losing friends because I feel like the lesser I talk to people the harder it is to remain friends. Lately it's been really really hard to talk to people and I'm getting really really comfortable of being alone. The last time I remembered being truly happy, was at The Libertines' concert. My friend was super excited and kept gushing forward even though the crowd was mad violent, and I decided I'd just wait in the back. So I went away, bought a cup of chatime and sat on the grass under the stars, alone, starring at the stage from far away. That was a single moment of pure, perfect happiness. Moments later I realized Swim Deep was already playing in the other stage, and I arrived to this very chill and dancy crowd. Was so so fun. My friend joined not long after and it was nice too (because WTHAW was our soundtrack/survival pack back in highschool) but it was just a different type of nice. Anyway.

Regarding birthdays, I'm not a huge fan of ceremonies either (especially the being under the spotlight part), but I grow up brainwashed to always cherish these ceremonies, these milestones one has to go through in order to properly 'live'.

I do realize that the older you get the lesser these dates means. Anniversaries, birthdays, deaths, perhaps. They're just numbers. Humans are the only species to live by the idea of time and able to construe and give meaning to them, but in return are the only ones bound by it.

It's still quite a hard thing to do (even when you're twenty freaking three), shaking off one's supposedly 'core belief', but is something one ought to go through to. Mindfulness is such a great help to overcoming things, even if what I have know might not actually classify as such.

That being said, my only wish is to live lesser and lesser and lesser in the minds of others.

See you on the 10th post next year.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

050. The question of red

Pun yang telah mati
Akan tetap sekarat;
Seperti kita,
Aku, berbeda
Kamu, tiada.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

049. An account of books, vintage book shops and late night outings, in four acts

Act I

I've been feeling kinda empty these past weeks for reasons I do not know, and one of the most alarming manifesto of those agitation is the increasing number of uneasy/bad dreams and how it's getting more and more difficult to differentiate between dreams and memories. A while ago a friend of mine told me one time that there might be a biological reason as to why certain people are always so prone to depressive thoughts so that's probably me, or maybe this is just one of those episodes.

Albeit the rather deteriorating foreword, this post is supposedly a good one. Despite feeling a little off, yesterday I was particularly overjoyed so I guess today its kind of a mixture of both, and I'm hoping that writing this would give me the much needed push to fall to the better side.

Yesterday this local, capitalist bookstore spread throughout the country had a book sale, 61% off books from their own publishing companies, which was probably really, everything. Not too far away from my house is an old branch of said bookstore that sits in its own plot of land on the side of a rather big and crowded road, famous for its late night array of (mainly Chinese) delish street food stalls. Most of these bookstores are located in approximately hundred malls around Jakarta, and this one was one out of probably, three, that has its own building.

Not that it was really special (in terms of architectural design or whatever), but this one was tied to a distinct, early memory of my acute and inexplainable fascination with books.

Act II

One of my earliest memories is that I grew up reading. First, comic books, to an almost infinite extend when each was only half the price of it now (around IDR 17000 I think? Crazy). It was also backed up by my two siblings, though I much prefer Shoujo ones while my brother's a Shonen fan and my lil sister a combination of both. I started shifting to novels right around the end of elementary schoolnow I have two memories that doesn't really complement each other but I have reasons to believe that they both do occur so, wellthe first one, being out of my mother's frustration of her three children buying useless comic books (of which I argued because that one time on a PLKJ test there was this question about what a public park to a city is and the day before I read a Donal Bebek comic explaining that parks are "paru-paru kota" so boo yah I aced that test), and so where was I, hm, being a book reader herself it's no surprise that she recommended me to switch to novels instead. 

I remember her incessantly commenting of how good of a book the diary of Anne Frank is (haven't read/bought it hitherto) and buying me novels by Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and Jaqualine Wilson. As much as I adore them all, novellas with cute illustrations now and then, the first thick book with no pictures in it that I truly finish, I think, is Totto-chan. And I guess I sort of fell in lovealthough not yet quite in a totally awestruck kind of way, eyes gaping wide stay up all night to finish a book kind of love. From the usual going to the bookstore to buy several comic books at once or reading an unwrapped one (I remember me and my younger sister used to go to the one in Pasar Baru: so much of them are already open from the plastic wrapping and you can easily finish them in less than 15 mins), to saving money for one novel that I would really read and spending time studying their synopsis (I find novels that removes the synopsis and instead write praises for the writer's past works or snippets of vague sentences one can't truly fathom or simply for the sake of aesthetic rather quite annoying sometimes, though I can easily find them synopsis online) (but then again that's probably the marketing strategy to make one curious ugh damn) and visiting several different bookstore to compare prices (less expensive means more books, after all), and well, before I knew it, books became such an inherent (vice? virtue?) part of my existence.

The alternate version and a less grandiose version of it, is this: a best friend of mine was reading this 'teenlit' book, about less than 1 cm thick, and I was like "how could you stand reading words without pictures that much and not find it boring?" And well, she lent it to me (already well forgotten what it was) and my sappy melancholic melodrama heart digs it. I started to switch from my mother's recommended books (I figured these two stories complement each other but just in a different time slot?) and started buying teenlit novels. I still recognize the authors nowadays: my favorites being Sitta Karina, Esti Kinasih, Orizuka, Luna Torashyngu.


I realize my foreword of my 'early memory of my acute and inexplainable fascination with books' is really me spilling out random memories of my childhood associated with books and definitely not a concise and thoroughly written piece but it's probably quite close to depicting the way my mind works so, it's a win win for me. They are also sort of a prelude for the following paragraphs.

Afterwards, I started buying books like a maniac, I suppose. I can't remember exactly the number of books I bought per a period of time but it went so far as spending my weekend Transjakarta-ing my way alone to the bookstore's main branch that's not quite far away from my house (the term being rather vague since almost every length that can be reached within a single seating in a public transportation is considered 'near' for me). I was definitely an underage back then, and my mother would from time to time take a peek at the synopsis of the books that I read/would like to buy. I didn't much appreciate this behavior, somehow (there was this chapter in The Unbearable Lightness of Being that wrote about Tereza's mother repeatedly violating her individuality and her way of seeing possessions of books in public sphere as a sign of a secret brotherhood, and I can definitely relate, although the prior on a much smaller scale) (and I do believe it's probably for my own good and she was being a normal paranoid pre-internet parent, so, can't really complain). 

And so, I would much prefer going to my book outings on my own. Sometimes I get quite agitated, even, if I don't have books left to read (which explains the abundance of books I have left to read, around 15 right now and counting), like a person itching for a smoke.

One Saturday evening, I went to church which was (I thought) near to the bookstore I first mentioned at the beginning of this writing. It was around 7 p.m, I think, and I wanted to go there to fulfill my timely dose of literature. Back then the Transjakarta has not yet operated, and I presumably went there by Mikrolet. Now, if you're a person living in Jakarta for quite sometime you'd know that Mikrolets in Jakarta are simply obnoxious from the sufficient amount of pickpockets, thief, and at worst even rapists and murderers. I was no ordinary underaged kid: I was also a girl, of Chinese descent (and it can be clearly seen through my eyes so there's no hiding it), and (although not so obvious) I do not have the same religion as the majority of the people living in the largest Islamic country in the world. That's triple minority plus in addition being underage and travelling alone. A Chinese mother's worst nightmare.

But well, I am definitely lacking in self control (and I guess too much faith?) and I have always fancied travelling alone with public transportation so, there I went. To buy this presumably shitty teenlit novel (can't remember what it's about but I still remember the title and the cover and it's way too embarrassing I am going to bring it to my grave/myself as a tree/my ashes scattered on the ocean bye). And I went back to church safely, by foot I think, for around 3 kms, since the way back required me to cross two large roads with four lanes each and a river passing in between; and another fun fact is that no one in this world knows this story. It is something I do with myself and for myself, simply for the love of books. Something actually quite rare nowadays, because, apparently, "I live too much inside other people's heads."

Act IV

What made me happy, recently, is because during the discount day the dilapidated (well not really, just vintage) bookstore was really crowded (which was unusual). There's a certain joy found in queuing for books (instead of, maybe, clothing or supermarket goods) because you get to analyze and re-imagine people based on the books they brought. One couple had this very thick hard cover copy of Agatha Christie's collection, an old woman buying cooking books, a young family buying almost a dozen of picture books for their daughter. The latter was apparently queuing right before me, and while I was paying, (I went there with my mom by the way) (and her, being the somewhat nosy but friendly neighborhood mom person she is,) took a peek at what the little girl was buying (some picture books about becoming a doctor and cooks and whatever) and said to her and her dad: "well, you must've been overjoyed to buy so many books! I bet you'll grow up like this one right here (that's me) still very much addicted to books as you are now."

(Well not exactly like that but there are certain words in Indonesian that just lose its meaning if translated to English so, I'll keep this one a secret as well.)

And I guess, at that moment plenty of my memories of my acquaintance with books just sprung out: how in elementary school we have this very comfy green carpeted library with red and yellow circle cushions and that we have one subject where we only have to read for 45 minutes and afterwards borrow two books: a nonfiction and a fiction, and at one time I would be addicted to books about real life 'heroes': scientists and magicians and politicians and nurses; or how I had to read a book and smell it at once I opened the book otherwise I would somehow lose the will to finish them; of how the first time I've ever introduced to Sherlock Holmes I ended up buying around 5 books of the series (some of it still all wrapped up and unfinished 'till now) and was unable to sleep for a week because the suspense of the stories left me quite uneasy; of how bringing books in my bag wherever I went bring me such comfort even though I might not have a chance to read them later that day; of my first time ever finishing thick books written in English and constantly switching from the paper to Google Translate; of this really huge bookstore called QB World Books which occupied a whole floor of this mid-sized building in Thamrin and was like a world in itself (but is sadly closed permanently a long time ago); of downloading illegal epubs (my shamelessly proudest one being the entire corpus of Charles Bukowski, sorry) to my ipad and easily bookmarking and highlighting passages from the books (because I couldn't bear to mark real pages); of writing my name and the date of reading on the first pages of freshly bought books; of being obsessed (as was also, the whole internet) with John Green and cursing the local bookstore for not yet selling his books; my first ever Murakami and how puzzling it was for a mid school kid (still is, but) (especially the absurd sex scenes tho); cursing the movie adaptation of the Twilight saga because I actually read all four books and find them quite amusing; my mother's remark of how every time she went abroad/somewhere I would ask for books instead of souvenirs; of how much, much and much less time was spent to read during my university years because time was stripped away and up until dawn was barely enough to survive; of how very recently I haven't been able to read for a whole year through although I was ill and had so much time alone to rest and dwell in pain; of how prior to that period I would hold on to my books for comfort during and in between doctor appointments and check ups and waiting rooms.

What also complemented the happiness (although superficial) is that I intended to only buy two books (since I have enough already) because the discount was only a maximum of IDR 100K and for a minimum purchase of IDR 150K  the sum of them being already IDR 210K, but turns out when I was queuing I saw that most people had more than 5 books at once and I overheard the cashier offering the customer to split the receipt so that for each IDR 150K you can get a IDR 100K discount. I ended up buying five books. In addition, even though the split bill caused some delay for the payment, the queue was of civilized manner and each person seemed unaffected and pretty chill. It was a nice in group feeling, and by the time I finished my payment the front doors were already half shut.

That's it, really. An account of me buying five books that supposedly cost me half a million but instead was less than IDR 220K, late at night after dinner with my family. Very mundane, indeed.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

047. Last day of 2017 lament

I think about this passage quite a lot, even more so recently. It is a question one can found rooting deep within one's soul, imposed to us willingly, deliberately by our society, a question that gains its weight in the midst of circling storms of 'viral' bad news and psychotic behavior found recently in Indonesia: in the wake of these horrendous things simultaneously happening in the world, what have you done? What and how is your impact? Are you making this world a little better, or are you all the same, in a sense, to those you curse of being inhumane?

On a side note, I realize the passage could be interpreted as being 'oh so feminist/sjw' or whatsoever and so I would like to make these point(s) clear, that: 1.) I am very much in favor of feminism, yes, although I do not have yet the audacity to call myself one and 2.) A female philosopher (as the interviewer insists, although Arendt wasn't especially pleased of this term) was rare at the time and the interviewer was particularly keen on comparing her to famous/influential philosophers in the male dominated world of (well, if not anything) philosophy, in which she responded as the above. I feel like she didn't intend the words for the binary of male female but rather, to the values that society attribute as masculine/feminine therefore applying to all genders. Should you wish to know more, refer to the full interview here or read the replies on this tweet here

Am still in the process of truly (if ever) understanding in order to not misinterpret the passage as means of blind justification, but in the coming, impending dusk of 2017, I find it quite comforting to know that maybe, how good your year is, isn't only measured by how many lives you've influenced—in a good way, or how much you've suffered or helped or done anything for other people. Its also what you've done or thought for yourself, things people wouldn't have the ability to fathom, but you do. To just be and attempting to understand yourself (and then, others), is enough.

So I guess here's to striving to understand more in the coming year: the things we will have the privilege of understanding, things we do not yet understand, things we will never understand, and the beauty of it all. Godspeed.

(I was given several paragraphs as a gift for my birthday last year and some of them struck out every now and then ['we live too much in the minds of others...'] and I've just found out recently that the paragraph belonged to this school of life video which is also a wonderful remedy against angst. Also here's a picture of a cat.)

Monday, November 6, 2017

046. Unbearable vertigo into weightlessness

Haven't finished a book in one sitting (or in this case, almost half a day) for a while and I guess its a bit overwhelming (to the point of numbness over feeling too much and yet haven't really been able to do anything about it and having to force to write these passage that may or may not make any sense whatsoever in order to get some of them out) bc there was too much going on and the novel was quite extraordinary to say the least, so

I started reading Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being in e book form from before 2013, I think. I did remember some parts pretty well, especially the eerie dream of rows of naked cheering woman marching around a pool being shot to death, and his rather relatable depiction of 'vertigo': the insuperable urge to fall. I remember during a visit to a cliff on a beach somewhere I felt just that; the raging sea was too beautiful. Anyhow, beside those two I didn't quite remember where I left off so might as well read it again from the beginning. Definitely not a regrettable decision because the first few chapters was the best: more philosophy and being and less typical bizarre sex scenes by typical male authors (at this point I would probably despise men (authors, I hope) if I ever were to read another unrealistic fantasy treating female bodies
or, female as a whole, as mere 'glorified' objects: newsflash its still an object no matter how much you romanticize it so pls stop).

As I was saying, the beginning of the novel contains many reflections that I find particularly interesting (if not true): the ones regarding positive negative dichotomy and how weight and lightness don't exactly fit, how both are paradoxical and yet both ends of both spectrum. On weakness, on strength. On the importance of privacy and 'concentration camps' and somehow serves as reason as to why I have felt violated for quite several times throughout life. On how he talked about fortuitous and metaphors, one being related to Anna Karenina, and how one of the most memorable and terrifying thing I remember about it was how she became unbearable and I remember telling myself that being unbearable was the most dreadful, the lowest low, anyone can ever be (or in modern times, refer to Lorde's Liability). On "I"s, on how each lives are so intricate that whenever you get to see their reasons and motives they became, true, and true is one of the most important requirements for something to be valuable; beautiful, in my opinion, so, although I don't necessarily agree with justification of clearly faulty wrongdoings, I agree with us being very limited beings worth nothing but what is done in truth: truth in our thinking, our behavior and our intention. I hope I am making any sense beyond my very limited lexicon as to not create another dictionary of misunderstandings (although I find that particular passages written really superbly). 

(Regarding the title, I also found a name or a term for my insatiable longing of freedom, and of being easy like sunday morning: unbearable urge to fall into weightlessness, to soar free out of touch with reality.)

One of the most memorable passages of the novel (or what I concluded as a collection of essays connected by/starring four protagonists/antagonists) is this: 

“Indeed, the only truly serious questions are ones that even a child can formulate. Only the most naive of questions are truly serious. They are the questions with no answers. A question with no answer is a barrier that cannot be breached. In other words, it is questions with no answers that set the limit of human possibilities, describe the boundaries of human existence.” 

Indeed, the whole book is filled with quotable passages and superbly written monologues, but subjectively, this particular quote reserves as a reminder (and newfound reason) for the following story:

One of the earliest childhood memory (assuming that I have forgotten most of my early elementary school memories before fourth grade) of mine was having this recurring thought about existence. I was always a religious child and as long as I remembered I was always on Sunday school every single week. My family had dinner together most of the night and our rice cooker was placed faraway from our dining table/room, so I had to walk a few steps, no more than twenty, to the rice cooker placed on a low toddler chair, painted bright red and dark evergreen. It has become so much of a habitwalking, stooping down to the rice cooker, pressing the button for it to open, scooping some rice, closing the lid, putting away the ladle, walking backthat I can almost still recall the sound of the lid opening and closing. 

In between those series of activities, as if serving as a reminder, I would think of what if the world as it is now doesn't exist. Not even in the 'what if I die what will the earth be like' kind of non existent, but as in what if we, the world, earth, heaven, hell, have never even existed in the first place? How empty, how eternally helpless, hopeless would it feel? How relieving, how free it would feel, of constantly existing, but then again would we be able to feel the emptiness should we cease to exist? And at the end of those series of thinking would be limitless pitch black everything. I somehow had two versions of this thinking, the other one during my evening bath embraced by my parents' frigid sunken bathtub painted dark indigo, inside their large blue ceramic tiled bathroom.

I don't quite remember how old I was back then or how long ago was then, but hitherto I still feel the limitless blackness every now and then: like a lost sputnik, detached, heading nowhere in particular, floating, endlessly in an empty and cold black, very much alive but very, very fatigued. Overwrought.

It's already ten minutes to Monday.