The World Returns To Normal
In the non-Muslim world, things have been the same old, same old, but here in Grotsville, The Big Mango or The Big Durian as Jakarta is more familiarly known, things have been remarkably nice.
There have been a few drops of rain, enough to dampen the dust and to hamper the haze. And, it being that time of year, the Jakarta Post
has had a picture of a fairly empty Jalan Thamrin, the main downtown drag. (For we Brits, it is, of course, uptown.) Whatever, the week of Idul Fitri is marked by blissful quiet as some 30% of the population leave the metropolis.
On the opening feast day, hordes of Batak outlaws descend on Jakartass Towers. I smile regally and accept apologies for whatever may have been done to me since the last Idul Fitri and calmly accept that these actions may now be repeated because the time for fasting and refraining from naughty things is now past. The adults then gossip and eat loudly for a few hours and the kids do what kids do. And when they depart, the kids leave with a crisp banknote from my rapidly depleting bank account.
For everyone else in our street, the big deal seems to be mudik
, the annual return to the family in one's hometown. Every year, the mass media get terribly excited about this mass exodus, as do the ticket touts at bus and train terminals who try to make a killing from the supposed shortage of tickets.
This year, however, things have been different. To circumvent the relative high cost of public transport for the family, travellers have seemingly opted for another mode of travel, the family's 80cc motorbike.
It has often been noted that we westerners stand out here. This is true, not so much because of our skin colour but because we are substantially larger. I'm often asked why I'm so tall, to which I invariably reply that I'm not; Indonesians are short. Which all goes to explain why you can see four, or more, Indonesian folk on a motorcycle.
Note that only the driver has suitable headgear, unless it's made here in which case it's not one I'd want to wear, hard-headed though I am.
What is a more usual sight is Dad, with a crash helmet, driving with a toddler more or less on his lap, without a crash helmet. Behind him will be Mum, no doubt with a crash helmet over her jilbab
(headscarf). She may be riding side saddle, for decorum if not balance. And she will be sitting so close to hubby that child number two in front of her will be in no danger of falling off so s/he won't need a crash helmet.
This may well have been the first Idul Fitri mudik
in which reported traffic accident deaths included a two year old who died from asphyxiation on his Dad's motorbike.
A hug too far?