With my imminent departure, lately I find myself thinking whether I’ve survived Jakarta since I moved here a little over 2 years ago.
I’d restrained myself from writing yet another complaint about life in the Big Durian, as I’m sure everybody is already bored with my flippant rambling about this hot mess millions of people call home. And yet, at the risk of having people unfollow me after reading this, here I am writing one last piece of my hate-and-hate relationship with this dismal city.
I’d tried my best to love Jakarta, I really did. When I knew love would be too far, I told myself, “Okay, ‘like’ would do.” Then, when like was also too much, I told myself that I didn’t have to like it, I only had to tolerate it.
And I think I do tolerate it, in my own way. I tolerate Jakarta by staying at home as much as I can, minimizing contact and interaction with the city. I tried to focus on all the good things and convenience a life in Jakarta could offer: crazy good and cheap food, ready to be delivered to your doorstep at astonishingly good prices. Massage parlors, or if you’re too lazy to go out, a masseuse whom you could call to your home, all with very affordable prices. And not to forget my friends, family, and dog are all here.
But at the end of the day, the bad outweighs the good.
I’m always crippled with anxiety the minute I step out of my house, paranoid of the lurking dangers that are waiting for the moment I slip. I never feel safe anywhere I go. Not on the bus, not on the train, not in the taxi, and certainly not on the street. It really is exhausting to be on guard everywhere I go.
And then there’s the traffic and pollution. I’ve tried every mode of transportation and none can give me the peace of mind. From driving to using the various public transport (bus, train, taxi, ojek, Über, you name it), everything has its cons that far outweighs the pros, that staying home (= skipping things out there) has become my most preferred option. My friends often wondered whether I’m not stressed holing up at home almost all the time, and I can honestly say that I’m not. What stressing me out is going through the traffic for heaven knows how long and arriving in a crowded, uncomfortable place, while feeling anxious all the time for the possible dangers that are present on the streets and in public places in Jakarta.
I’ve experienced getting my sling bag snatched from me while I was on a motorbike. I’ve heard my mom told me how her bag was slit open at the market and her phone wasn’t there anymore when she realized it. I heard the security guards on a crowded platform repeatedly shouted, “Keep your bag in front of you, beware of thieves who will slit it open!” as the passengers were getting off the train. How dire was the situation that every security guards needed to shout that to the passengers, over and over again until the platform was nearly empty?
Granted, there’s a considerably higher chance of bad things happening in any big cities in the world, but I feel that Jakarta is way worse than that. I take precautions by leaving most of my bank cards and ID card at home when going to/through questionable places, so if, God forbid, I lost my wallet, at least I’d still have the important things with me. I stay vigilant at all times, and to be honest, this is exhausting. There’s no moment when I could relax and be at ease when I’m out of the house.
Ah, Jakarta. It’s a rough place to live in, and I do admire the strong people who go to work every day, going through the traffic, and take it all in their stride. It’s on the streets of Jakarta that I usually get the much-needed reality slap, that I actually have more than some of the people I see, and yet I complain more. Amongst all the bad things that I find and experience here, Jakarta also teaches me to be grateful for what I have.
So have I survived Jakarta?
Maybe I have. Trodden and bruised, I’m coming out okay in the end. But then again, I know I could afford to survive because I kept telling myself, it’s all gonna be over soon.
I’ve lost a lot trying to survive, myself included. I’m not the same person who came to this place 2 years ago, filled with so much hope, energy, and positivity. Jakarta, for me, is like Azkaban with dementors at every corner, sucking every bit of happiness out of me — and I’m left feeling hollow, empty, and depressed. It has deprived me of inspirations, creativity, and peace.
I’m relieved that I’m leaving this city, and maybe a little bit ashamed that I couldn’t do better. But now, I’m ready to find myself again.