I've lived in Jakartass Towers for nigh on 22 years and seen many changes. Empty plots which once were play areas or parking spaces have been built on, and our back streets have turned into daytime speedway tracks for our local hell's cherubs on their souped up mopeds or nighttime parking lots for local residents. There are no communal meeting places other than our front parlours.
Security has been a constant, with streets barred after 10 or 11 pm and manned by locally paid security guards known as hansip
, who patrol the surrounding streets at regular intervals much like London's night watchmen who were replaced in 1829 by a police force established by Sir Robert Peel
(His name accounts for 'bobbies', the word used by most Londoners in preference to 'pigs'.).I've written elsewhere
about the Indonesian system of community control - although monitoring might be a better word - operating literally from the ground up to the highest echelons of the nation's bureaucracies. We've known our area heads for as long as we've been here and generally maintained good relationships with them, not so much because we've had to but because we're willing participants in community affairs and want a quiet life..
A year ago, the second-echelon community leader, who lives opposite us had a new security post built outside his house. We wondered then about the need and figured that as he was newly elected - and, yes, we've had an electoral system for such positions since long before reformasi
took hold in 1998 - he was somewhat arrogantly displaying his 'power'. There was certainly no need for a new post, not with through traffic barred from the street at night. (What robberies there have been have always taken place in daylight.)
The two hansips he installed quickly incurred our wrath by watching, with the volume turned up to 11, broadcasts of dangdut
music, a fusion of Arabic, Indian, Malay, rock and other stuff accompanied by what certain religious leaders term 'pornographic' singers. It's a genre that is incredibly popular within the urban kampungs, the cramped areas of cheap housing occupied by the poorer, generally underemployed, citizens.
In the past few months, our nights been plagued by noisy street parties of as many as twenty presumably unemployed youths playing carrom
, a table top game with similarities to billiards, but played with small discs rather than balls and cues. It's a fine skillful game for two or four players - but not at one in the morning. The raucous cheers have disturbed us many times. Given that we have to get up before 5 so that Our Kid is ready for the school bus and I am awake enough to set off on my daily rounds, we have been royally pissed off many times and lodged complaints.
Last night, I awoke to hear 'Er Indoors outdoors berating the gathered gang. She's been quite sick for a week or two so we're all a bit more stressed out than usual and her language was unsurprisingly angry and direct. I got up and went to the front gate and spotted her surrounded by the tribe who were laughing, jeering almost.
Without thinking, I went up to them and angrily declared that we pay for security guards and not a bunch of premen
(hoodlums). I then - big mistake this - upturned the carrom board. Next thing I knew, I'd been sent flying forwards, smashing my head on the corner of their TV and losing my glasses in the process. The latter seemed to be my biggest problem, but I hadn't taken into account the propensity for Asians to run amok.
The horde had turned very violent and along with their punches and kicks were wielding broken bricks, bottles and bamboo sticks. I have a cut beneath my good eye, grazes down my arms and what might be a cracked elbow. It could be worse - my glasses, thankfully, are still intact.
But I have to lose a rare day's income as I've spent the rest of the night typing, one-handed, this post and also tomorrow's: Peace Is Restored.