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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Children Of The World

The beauty of reading is the new things that we discovered by the time we finish it. The previous article, Feel the Point, was written by Brick. I always like his writing style as I find it witty and sharp with a tinge of deadpan humour. However, what I loves most is how different it is as compared with, let's say, mine. His writing is very American. I mean, if you read his story, which was about the cancer awareness event, it was a great experience that only Americans go through.

I'll tell you why I find it inspiring and refreshing. I often joke with my friends that we never get to see a Chinese being featured on a documentary channel for catching crocodiles in the name of science or whatsoever. Another great example is, if we leave it to the Chinese, I'm pretty sure that bungee jumping wouldn't be invented. Those activities are just so out of characters for us.

This, I believe, is the result of the our culture, upbringing and surrounding. It may be changing now, but back then, being a Chinese Indonesian meant I just listened to our parents. No questions asked or there'd be a severe punishment. In my case, I was being told that I should study well so that I could get a good job later on in life. I should also scrimp and save, so that I would have enough saving for a rainy day.

There is nothing wrong with that, of course. Parents, with their own limitations (and they didn't even have Google back then), only ever want the best for their children. Such upbringing, however, may or may not contribute to the fact that Indonesian Chinese, or Chinese in general, tends to be more reserved and less adventurous as compared with others. This also explains why Chinese normally excels in study and does well financially. With what little chances we have, we make do and work hard towards our goals. The result, more often than not, is fruitful.

It's worth emphasizing that it doesn't make us more superior than others. On the contrary, being good in the few things mentioned above is not without any downsides, if you asked me. Such exclusivity can lead to a very cautious mindset and in extreme cases, people end up being petty. When I have casual talks with friends, I can see that stereotyping does happen. From their point of views, some complained about how lazy the non-Chinese are and so forth, the comments that were made based on few unlucky encounters. I disagree with all this because it's never about the whole race, but rather about certain individuals. Who's to say that there isn't any bad Chinese or good non-Chinese, anyway?

That's why staying in melting pot countries like Singapore is enlightening. We learn how to coexist here. Getting to know other cultures is a humbling experience, really.

I once had an Italian lunch with a French and he told me about how he grew up in a small village of a few hundreds people where they almost knew each other. His activities back then included horseback riding. That was fascinating, because in the place where I came from, riding a horse was unheard of. Another French brought me to a Middle Eastern restaurant, which was my introduction to this rather exotic cuisines such as hummus and kebab. I grew to like it since then. My family and I were also invited by a very down-to-earth French to his son's birthday party. It was quite the same as any other Asian boy's birthday party, apparently.

Another time, I met this soft spoken British guy for coffee. We talked about work, we talked about life. It was amusing that worlds apart though we were, literally, we could talk about stuff like Oasis, the famous band from Manchester. On a different occasion, I had lunch with an American who was old enough to have a memory about the day John Lennon died.

Then there are the Indians, people with a culture as old as civilization itself (let's not forget that Indonesia was heavily influenced by the Buddhism and Hinduism). They are charming and those that I normally drink with (be it beer or masalah tea), they are really smart. Usually I would bring up a subject and let them share their opinions. We discuss about anything, from Hindu Gods, Gandhi to corruption that happens in both countries (only Indians can relate with this topic!). I discovered that Indians can't really differentiate Chinese, Japanese and Korean, just like how I can't really differentiate Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Indian and Nepalese. Oh, much to my surprise, they also don't know Doraemon.

Talk about Sri Lankan, I was invited to a traditional wedding last December. It was held in a temple where people would touch fire as a cleansing act (if you are Catholics, imagine the holy water you dip your hand into when you enter the church). The attendees were in traditional attires. The procession had the blessing and chanting, with the music from some sort of trumpet blaring loudly while percussionist was tapping his drum frantically. A mind-blowing experience, I must say.

Even the Chinese from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Mainland China can be so different. I'm always impressed by how well the Singaporeans are in expressing themselves in a meeting and making a speech. It comes naturally for them whereas it's a struggle for me (as students back in Pontianak, we were not groomed to do so). That only means I have to try harder. My ex-boss always told me to speak slowly and clearly, an advice that I always remember and practice.

Now, back to Brick's story, I love reading it because his stories broaden my horizon, that there are other people doing things differently out there and some are surely good things that I can learn from others. Some people will have characters that are the exact opposite of ours, but once you get past that, most of the time it'll be alright. In life, you either get to know others or misunderstand them (them as in normal people, not the extremists, fanatics, radicals and nutcases). The differences we have, they are good differences that are going to stay for the fact that we are all the children of the world...

Children of the World: Indian, Singaporean, Malaysian, Indonesian and Chinese
Image credit: Ong Hock Siong

Anak-Anak Dunia

Hal yang paling menarik dari kebiasaan membaca adalah pengetahuan yang kita dapatkan setelah kita selesai membaca. Artikel sebelumnya, Feel the Point, adalah sebuah tulisan orang Amerika bernama Brick. Saya selalu menyukai tulisannya yang tajam dan bergaya humor cerdas, namun yang paling menarik dari karyanya adalah betapa berbedanya tulisan Brick dan saya. Jika anda baca artikelnya, anda akan menemukan bahwa tulisannya sangat khas Amerika. Ceritanya yang mengisahkan kegiatan amal tentang kanker adalah sesuatu pengalaman unik yang tidak lumrah di Asia, namun biasa bagi mereka di Amerika.

Saya akan jelaskan lebih lanjut kenapa tulisannya sangat menginspirasi. Saya sering bercanda bahwa kita tidak pernah melihat orang Tionghoa menangkap buaya di film dokumenter. Saya juga berpikir bahwa hal-hal seperti bungee jumping tidak akan pernah dicetuskan oleh orang Tionghoa. Aktivitas seperti itu bukanlah sesuatu yang akan kita coba lakukan, jadi kita tidak akan pernah mengikat kaki dan melompat ke jurang, lalu menciptakan bungee jumping.

Karakter kita terbentuk dari budaya, cara kita diasuh dan lingkungan kita. Saya rasa kondisinya mungkin telah berubah sekarang, tapi orang Tionghoa di Indonesia dulunya sangat menuruti perkataan orang tua. Kita tidak banyak bertanya pada ayah, sebab kebanyakan bertanya bisa menyebabkan kita dihukum. Bila saya menggunakan diri saya sebagai contoh, saya seringkali dinasehati untuk sekolah baik-baik supaya nantinya memperoleh pekerjaan yang baik pula. Saya juga harus berhemat sehingga mempunyai tabungan di saat tak terduga.

Tentunya tidak ada yang salah dengan bimbingan seperti itu. Orang tua kita, dengan segala kekurangannya (zaman dulu tidak ada Google), membesarkan kita tanpa pamrih dan hanya menginginkan yang terbaik buat kita. Didikan seperti itu mungkin secara tidak langsung membuat kita lebih menutup diri dan tidak terbiasa dalam mengekspresikan diri bila dibandingkan etnis lain. Hal yang sama juga mungkin menjadi alasan kenapa orang Tionghoa biasanya lebih berhasil dalam sekolah dan finansial. Karena tidak banyaknya pilihan yang tersedia, kita berupaya sebisanya dalam mencapai tujuan dan hasilnya cenderung sukses.

Perlu ditekankan pula bahwa ini tidak berarti orang Tionghoa adalah etnis yang paling unggul. Justru sebaliknya. Bila tidak hati-hati, kita justru bisa terjebak dalam pola pikir yang tidak sehat. Sebagai contoh, saat sedang berbincang, terkadang saya merasa bahwa ada lawan bicara yang cenderung mengelompokkan etnis lain dalam pandangan negatif, misalnya yang non-Chinese itu malas adanya. Saya tidak setuju dengan sudut pandang demikian karena kemalasan itu bukanlah sifat satu etnis, melainkan individu tertentu. Siapa yang berani menjamin bahwa semua Tionghoa pasti baik dan etnis lain pastilah buruk?

Inilah alasannya kenapa tinggal di Singapura adalah suatu pengalaman yang membuka wawasan. Di negeri yang memiliki berbagai etnis ini, kita belajar untuk saling toleransi dan menghargai. Kesempatan untuk mengenal kebudayaan asing adalah suatu pengalaman yang membuat kita bersahaja.

Sebagai ilustrasi, suatu ketika, saya pernah menikmati masakan Italia bersama orang Perancis. Dia bercerita tentang masa kecilnya di desa berpopulasi ratusan orang yang saling kenal satu sama lain. Salah satu kegiatan yang digemarinya ketika itu adalah menunggang kuda. Betapa mencengangkan, sebab tak seorang pun yang tumbuh besar di Pontianak seperti saya berpeluang untuk berkuda di kampung halaman. Seorang Perancis lainnya membawa saya ke restoran Timur Tengah dan memperkenalkan saya pada masakan yang eksotis seperti hummus dan kebab. Di lain kesempatan, saya dan keluarga juga sempat diundang oleh Perancis lainnya ke ulang tahun anaknya. Hampir sama dengan ultah anak Asia, ternyata.

Saya juga pernah berbincang sambil minum kopi bersama orang Inggris. Kita berbicara tentang pekerjaan hidup di Singapura, sampai hal-hal seperti Oasis, grup musik terkenal dari Manchester. Di waktu yang berbeda, saya sempat makan siang dengan orang Amerika yang bercerita tentang kenangannya di hari John Lennon ditembak mati.

Dan ada lagi orang Indian yang memiliki budaya setua peradaban itu sendiri (jangan lupa bahwa Indonesia sangat dipengaruhi oleh Budhisme dan Hinduisme). Mereka ini orang-orang yang menarik dan seringkali kita berdiskusi tentang beraneka topik, mulai dari dewa-dewi Hindu, Gandhi sampai korupsi yang merajalela di India dan Indonesia. Saya juga menyadari bahwa Indian tidak bisa membedakan orang Cina, Jepang dan Korea, sama halnya seperti kita tidak bisa membedakan orang Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka dan Nepal. Oh, satu hal yang agak mengejutkan saya, mereka juga tidak tahu apa itu Doraemon.

Berbicara tentang orang Sri Lanka, saya juga sempat diundang ke pernikahan yang diadakan di pura. Seperti halnya tradisi Katolik yang mencelupkan jari ke air untuk tanda salib saat masuk gereja, mereka mendekatkan dua tangan ke api sebagai tanda pembersihan diri. Para undangan datang dengan pakaian tradisional. Pernikahan mereka diiringi dengan musik trompet yang membahana dan penabuh genderang yang luar biasa sibuk. Sungguh suatu pengalaman yang mengesankan.

Bahkan orang Tionghoa di Singapura, Malaysia, Indonesia dan Cina pun berbeda karakter dan budayanya. Saya selalu kagum dengan kemampuan orang Singapura dalam mempresentasikan idenya pada saat rapat. Mereka melakukannya dengan alami sementara saya tidak pernah terbiasa dengan hal ini (sebagai murid sekolah di Pontianak dulu, kita tidak pernah dibiasakan berbicara di depan orang banyak). Ini berarti saya harus berupaya lebih keras. Mantan bos saya selalu mengingatkan saya untuk berbicara lebih pelan dan jelas, suatu hal yang senantiasa saya ingat dan terapkan saat memimpin rapat.

Kembali lagi ke cerita yang ditulis Brick, saya suka membacanya karena dari ceritanya, saya tahu bahwa ternyata orang lain di belahan bumi ini melakukan sesuatu dengan cara yang berbeda dan tentu saja saya bisa ambil sisi baiknya. Tidak setiap orang memiliki karakter yang sama dengan kita. Tidak sedikit yang justru bertolak belakang karakternya, tetapi jika kita bisa menerima perbedaan ini, biasanya hubungan yang harmonis akan terjalin. Di dalam hidup ini, penting bagi kita untuk saling memahami atau salah paham akan terjadi karena perbedaan yang ada. Namun perlu diingat bahwa perbedaan harusnya indah karena kita semua hendaknya saling melengkapi...

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Feel The Point

Growing up in a loveless, broken home as I did, moving from town to town - I've naturally become a pretty distant person. I never wanted to get too involved in anything because there's always a cost I wasn't willing to pay. I love being able to say, "I did my part. I got the job done; so what if I didn't smile or make friends?" Once again my beautiful girlfriend taught me there can be more to life. She hit me up the other day...

Hi baby, I have a favor to ask. Can you please donate to the American Cancer Society in honor of me losing my Nena to cancer?

Sure thing, babe. Just let me know how.

Thank you baby! I'll send you the link. Also I'm putting together a team for the twelve hour relay they are having at Baldwin Park High School. It's this Saturday. Put on your walking shoes!

Whoa, whoa, whoa, what? Twelve hour relay?

Yeah, basically we need to have at least one member of our team walking around the track from 9:00 AM till 9:00 PM.

What? Babe I have better things to do on a Saturday than walk around a track for twelve freaking hours!

Baby, don't be like that! It's for charity. And you won't be walking the whole time; that's why we have a team.

Sorry, I'm just not down to walk around a track all day. I'm already donating. That's the important part. That's how they find a cure. Me walking around in a circle all day doesn't help anyone. So what's the point?

Please Brick! You know it's important to me.

*Sigh* alright fine. Sign me up. 

So I woke up on Saturday, put on my "walking shoes" as instructed, and headed to BP High. Though I wasn't in the best mood on my drive over, I lightened up once I met up with our team. I had already met most of the people on our team through other functions my girl had had before. We joked around, ate some snacks, and put in miles taking our turns walking around the track. My fitbit loved me that day. This wasn't so bad. I thought to myself as the day wore on.

Then about 5:00 PM the event organizers put out lunch bags all along the track. The bags had personal messages written in honor of those who passed away by the loved ones who survived them. This time around the track there was no joking. I observed the tears roll down my girl's cheeks as she saw the lunch bag she made in honor of her Nena. I rubbed her back in silent support.

Next, they put out pictures of all the loved ones that had passed away. There were so many faces from all walks of life. "Cancer doesn't discriminate," one of my girl's friends observed. The pictures of children broke my heart the most. They would never get the chance to live out their full potential. Once the sun went down, they lit the candles they had placed on the bleachers. They spelled out the simple yet profound message, "HOPE."

At the event's end, all the participants did one more lap around the track with glow sticks in hand. It was sad yet beautiful to see all these people brought together by tragedy. They wrapped up the event with a speech from the head organizer. She could not hold back the tears as she recounted how her little cousin ended up in the emergency room. She died of cancer a mere two weeks later. "Get yourselves tested. Tell your family; tell your loved ones. It's important."

On my drive home I got to thinking about how valuable that message was. How it never would have hit home had I just donated without participating like I originally intended. What I had said was the "most important part" was perhaps the least. It was similar to when I used to ask my mom why we had to go to church if God is everywhere. We are human; we are tactile in nature. To get involved is to be alive.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Alda "Chrissie" and Gilbert "Tats" Loera

Also dedicated to my beautiful babygirl who gives me life and helps me grow to be a better person. I love you baby, thank you for being you.

Check out my book: Moby Brick's Unshuffled Deck, and my blog: They're All Against Me! 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Our Favorite Author

If you ever read the story of our Paris trip, I did mention that the original destination was supposed to be Dublin. When I planned it, I thought of going to Ireland (the basic idea was either to depart from or arrive at John Lennon airport because I'd like to get the passport stamp) and, while we were there, I was hoping that with a little luck and effort, we could meet our favourite author.

Her name, if you still remember, is Sinéad Moriarty. How did we get to know her again? Well, years ago, we were at the National Library in Singapore, browsing around, when my then-girlfriend picked up a novel titled In My Sister's Shoes. To think that it could be any other book but no, she took that one instead. Pure luck? May be, but we fell in love with Moriarty since then.

After reading that book, I did a little bit of research and realized that this was actually her fourth book. The first three were a trilogy about a married woman who tried very hard to get pregnant, then decided to go for adoption and eventually had another baby of her own. Very funny. In fact, these were ones of the few with a lighter mood and, with the exception of In My Sister's Shoes, I have been collecting every single book written by her from that moment on.

The thing with Sinéad Moriarty is, she is very good in making people care about the characters she wrote and she's pretty generous in her effort. Those supporting characters were well developed and there were also times when she actually had several main characters in one novel. This made a rich story but yet didn't feel like overcrowded. Brilliant, indeed. When I read her books, it was as if I couldn't stop before I finished it. The only other time I had the similar feeling was when I read Harry Potter.

Moriarty also did a good job in depicting illnesses like cancers, autism or anorexia, real things in life that we may hear before, but never really understand. Such topics, wrapped in a family drama that came with all sorts of other problems in life, ie. money, sex and so forth, resulted in very engaging stories that one surely could relate with. Personally, I love reading it once in a while (or rather once a year, whenever there's a new release from Sinéad Moriarty) because it's a good reminder that I've been blessed with a good wife and two lovely kids. Yeah, sometimes we are so busy that we forget to appreciate what we actually have.

Her latest novel, The Good Mother, was rather heavy and sad. It had its good moments, but as I went along with it, I knew something awful was inevitable. I'm not exactly the toughest man ever, so this book, admittedly, got me teary quite a fair bit. If you also have problems holding back your tears, you've been warned! The ending was beautiful, though. I would say this is one of her best ones, but then again, most of them are pretty enjoyable. 

Except Pieces of My Heart, perhaps. The story was alright but the ending, if I remember correctly, was rather a cliffhanger. Quite a disappointment, really. 

A personal favourite? That must be the novel from last year, the one called The Way We Were. It was very unique, unlike any other subjects she touched before. It was actually about a husband who was presumed dead and came back three years later only to find that his family had moved on. A very delicate situation! Definitely worth reading it!

Anyway, if you are keen on reading, you may want to add her books into your catalogue, too. And, if this is ever read by Moriarty one day, I'd just like to say, "keep writing because we'll be waiting! You got at least two fans from Indonesia, a place far, far away from Ireland!"

Our collection...

Penulis Favorit Kami

Jika anda pernah membaca cerita saya tentang perjalanan ke Paris, tempat yang ingin saya kunjungi sebenarnya Dublin, bukan Paris. Ketika saya membuat rencana perjalanan, saya berpikir bahwa kita bisa ke Irlandia (untuk mendapatkan cap paspor di bandara John Lennon, intinya kita harus terbang dari luar ke Liverpool atau sebaliknya) dan kalau beruntung, mungkin kita bisa bertemu dengan penulis favorit kami.   

Namanya adalah Sinéad Moriarty. Bagaimana kita bisa sampai membaca karyanya? Bertahun-tahun silam, kita berada di Perpustakaan Nasional Singapura dan pacar saya mengambil sebuah buku berjudul In My Sister's Shoes dari rak buku. Kebetulan? Mungkin saja. Tapi sejak saat itu kita jadi menyukai karangan Moriarty. 

Setelah membaca buku tersebut, saya melakukan sedikit riset dan menyadari bahwa buku yang kami baca adalah judul ke-4 yang ditulisnya. Tiga buku pertama adalah sebuah trilogi tentang seorang istri yang berusaha untuk hamil, kemudian mencoba untuk adopsi dan akhirnya memiliki bayi sendiri. Lucu ceritanya, boleh dikatakan yang paling bernuansa komedi bila dibandingkan dengan judul-judul lainnya. Saya mulai membeli bukunya sejak saat itu dan selain In My Sister's Shoes, saya punya semuanya.

Hebatnya Moriarty dalam menulis adalah kemampuannya dalam membuat pembaca peduli dengan karakter-karakter yang ditulisnya. Dia bahkan memberikan peran dan latar belakang untuk para pemeran pembantu. Di beberapa bukunya, dia memiliki lebih dari satu pemeran utama sehingga unik ceritanya. Hal ini membuat ceritanya padat, tapi tidak berkesan ramai. Ketika saya membaca bukunya, seringkali saya tidak bisa berhenti sampai saya selesai membaca. Ini perasaan serupa yang saya alami saat membaca Harry Potter.

Moriarty juga luar biasa dalam mendeskripsikan penyakit seperti kanker, autisme atau anorexia, hal-hal nyata yang mungkin pernah kita dengar, tapi tidak begitu kita mengerti. Topik-topik seperti ini dikemas dalam drama keluarga yang disertai berbagai masalah seperti uang, sex dan lain-lain sehingga ceritanya terasa seperti sesuatu yang bisa kita terima dengan mudah. Secara pribadi, saya suka membaca cerita seperti ini karena secara tidak langsung saya diingatkan kembali bahwa saya memiliki seorang istri dan dua putri yang baik. Ya, kadang kita mungkin terlalu sibuk sehingga lupa menghargai apa yang kita miliki.  

Karangan terbarunya, The Good Mother, agak berat dan sedih. Walau awalnya terasa riang, namun saat saya terus membaca, saya tahu bahwa sesuatu yang buruk tidak akan terelakkan. Saya bukan tipe pria tangguh, jadi buku ini membuat saya terbawa cerita dan turut bersedih dengan apa yang terjadi. Jika anda tidak sanggup menahan air mata yang berlinang karena perasaan sedih, anda harus siapkan tisu! Akhir dari ceritanya sangat menyentuh. Saya rasa ini adalah salah satu tulisan terbaiknya, namun rata-rata tulisannya memang enak dibaca. Satu-satunya pengecualian adalah Pieces of My Heart. Ceritanya lumayan, tapi akhir ceritanya agak menggantung dan mengecewakan.  

Favorit saya adalah buku yang diterbitkan tahun lalu, The Way We Were. Ide ceritanya sungguh berbeda dengan buku-buku sebelumnya. Novel yang satu ini bercerita tentang suami yang dikabarkan meninggal di Afrika. Ketika ia kembali tiga tahun kemudian, ia menyadari bahwa keluarganya telah menerima fakta bahwa dia meninggal dan menyesuaikan diri tanpa kehadirannya. Situasi yang luar biasa dan menarik untuk dibaca!

Singkat kata, jika anda suka membaca, anda mungkin ingin menambahkan buku karangannya dalam koleksi anda. Dan jika tulisan ini dibaca oleh Moriarty, saya hanya ingin berkata, "tetaplah menulis karena kami akan menunggu! Anda memiliki dua penggemar dari Indonesia, sebuah negeri yang jauh dari Irlandia! 

Thursday, May 25, 2017


A friend of mine suddenly wrote about how Indonesia seemed to have a hope, but it is now fading away due to the bombing. Social unrest and racism that are rampant these days clearly don't help, so he is pondering where the country is led to. He seldom posts anything on Facebook, so it must have been boiling inside for quite some time before he decided to vent his frustration out.

And his thought lingers in my mind. It brings me to Imagine, both the song and the album. I remember some people telling me that the lyrics were radical as it begins with, "imagine there's no heaven." I beg to differ. If you read the whole lyrics, you'll understand why my friend's Facebook status reminds me of Imagine. It's provocative, but never radical. Imagine is as literal as it gets, which is to encourage you to imagine.

Imagine there's no religion, nothing to kill or die for. What good does the religion bring if we always end up fighting for what we believe? Will it be more peaceful without it? Imagine all the people, living life in peace.

Religion is alright, that's without doubt. However, if you are not thinking straight due to it, then something must have gone wrong along the way. If humility isn't part of it, then the interpretation is questionable. Faith is good, but not to the extent that you're are blinded into believing that you are allowed to harm or kill others in the name of God. That's rather sick, I would say.

I'm not against any religion. I believe one myself. It's something to hold onto when your whole world is shaking. It's something for you to refer to, so that you know if you are on the wrong. Most importantly, it gives you peace, because it's a personal relationship between oneself and the One above.

Personal, not something that you shout about on the street. If you are still doing otherwise, if you only care about how you dress but not the way you behave, let's not forget that one thing you can't hide is when you're crippled inside. How do you sleep at night?

Playing Imagine.


Seorang teman tiba-tiba menulis tentang bagaimana ia merasa bangga dan berharap Indonesia bisa maju seperti Singapura ketika S&P (the Standard & Poor's 500) menaikkan peringkat investasi Indonesia, namun harapan itu sirna karena bom di Kampung Melayu. Demo dan rasisme merajalela, mau jadi apa negeri ini? Mengingat betapa dia jarang menulis status, mungkin saja perasaan ini sudah lama dipendam sebelum ia akhirnya memutuskan untuk mengungkapkan rasa frustrasinya.

Buah pikirannya itu menggelitik dan mengingatkan saya kembali tentang Imagine, baik lagu maupun albumnya. Pernah ada beberapa orang berkomentar bahwa ini lagu yang radikal karena liriknya mulai dengan, "bayangkan seandainya tidak ada surga." Saya cenderung memiliki sudut pandang yang berbeda. Imagine itu provokatif, tapi tidak radikal. Imagine secara harafiah mengajak kita untuk berimajinasi, melihat dari sudut pandang yang berbeda dari apa yang selama ini didoktrinkan kepada kita.

Bayangkan jika tidak ada agama, tidak ada yang membunuh atau mati demi agama. Apa yang bagus dari agama jika pada akhirnya kita selalu bertikai? Apakah akan lebih damai bila tidak ada agama? Bayangkan semua orang hidup dalam damai.

Semua agama tentu baik adanya. Akan tetapi, jika anda tidak bisa berpikir dengan jernih karenanya, mungkin ada yang sesuatu yang salah di sini. Apabila kebersahajaan bukan dari bagian yang diajarkan, sepertinya ada yang keliru dengan penafsirannya. Iman itu baik, tapi tidak berarti anda harus membunuh atas nama Tuhan. Itu pola pikir yang sakit, saya kira.

Saya tidak menentang ajaran mana pun. Sebaliknya, saya percaya dengan agama sebagai pegangan hidup yang teruji, terutama di kala segalanya tampak labil. Saya percaya agama sebagai referensi, supaya saya tahu di kala saya salah. Lebih dari itu, ada rasa damai di hati, sebab pada hakikatnya beragama itu berarti memiliki hubungan pribadi dengan Yang Maha Kuasa.

Sifat dari beragama itu pribadi, bukan sesuatu yang digembar-gemborkan dengan teriakan di jalan. Jika apa yang anda lakukan adalah sebaliknya, bila anda hanya percaya pada penampilan luar, apa yang anda pakai, tapi bukan perbuatan anda, jangan lupa bahwa kebusukan di hati itu tidak akan tertutupi. Bagaimana caranya anda bisa tidur nyenyak kalau begitu?

Image credit:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Legend Of Zelda

It's amazing that people can just pull out their phones and play games these days. They are playing games that are either native to the phone such as Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga or those that are retrofitted as mobile games like Sonic and Super Mario. That wasn't always the case, though. And there was a good reason behind it. Perhaps I'm just being old school or biased here, but the real gaming experience is never as simple as tapping the touch screen repeatedly to play a never ending game without a proper storyline.

There were times when playing games was a mind blowing adventure, not just some activities to pass time. I'm not sure if it's still the same today, but those who went through the ancient era from Atari, Sega to Nintendo would understand this. If you ever played the boring Centipede from Atari then progressed to the likes of Double Dragon, Super Mario or Mega Man, you'll know what I mean. But while they were good games with memorable soundtracks, they paled in comparison to the Legend of Zelda.

Let's not forget that we're talking about the 80s here. Gaming was still in its infancy and Nintendo Entertainment System was the state-of-the-art home video game console. Every game was preloaded into a cartridge which, in turn, would have to be inserted into a NES console. These cartridges generally came in a dull grey color, until one day, I spotted a gold colored one. Very striking and stood out from the rest, it looked like no other. It also introduced a feature that was never seen before: the ability to do save.

And it was a game like no other, too. Before Zelda, what we had was a game play in a restricted environment and there was only so much you could do. Take Super Mario Bros for example. You could grow into Super Mario, jump or go into the pipes, but the game play was pretty standard, ie. for the player to run till the end and raise his flag. With Zelda, you had to solve the puzzles, find your way, uncover secrets, interact with other characters and so forth. In order to do that, you had a seemingly endless world to explore, from mountain, forest, seaside, graveyard, etc. Along the way, you'd obtain items and weapons. You'd fight monsters and dragons. You had a mission, to gather the Triforce and save Princess Zelda. It was a grand adventure worthy of its name and it had a signature soundtrack that couldn't go wrong.

I fell in love with the Legend of Zelda the moment I played it for the first time. It was very engaging but, alas, it was also poorly understood as the clues were all in English (and it could much worse if they were all in Japanese), so playing it was as good as going around with little or no idea at all on what to do next. That would last for few hours until I was told by my parents to stop playing or else there'd be consequences. The fact that the cartridge was rented also didn't help (there was this rental called Asia Video, owned by a Chinese man named Ah Sia, and he charged us IDR 1,500 for two days and one night per cartridge).

I only managed to complete the game much later on. Looking back, it was quite a feat. Imagine a small backwater town where the kids barely knew English. There was no internet or access to any Zelda's walk through then. Yet by exchanging information with one another during the hangout sessions with friends, I finally beat Ganon (remember the Silver Arrow, anybody?). One of the best days in my life, I reckon.

The legend didn’t end there, though. Soon after the original, Nintendo released the Adventure of Link. It was so different than its predecessor and much more difficult, one that would have driven away the fans. Luckily, the next one, A Link to the Past, brought back the game play we were familiar with and it did more by expanding the universe. I was in awe with the game and would bug my friend Leo to play the game (for all I know, he could be the only one in Pontianak who owned it). That was the last Zelda game I played until more than a decade later.

By the time we reached 2010-ish, gaming was already pretty advanced, portable and affordable. I must be feeling a bit nostalgic, therefore I got myself a Nintendo 3DS and picked up the Zelda series again. I started with Spirit Tracks, then took a step back to play its prequel, Phantom Hourglass. Both were brilliant and they made full use of the handheld device. For example, it was brilliant that one had to literally close the 3DS to make the imprint on the map or blow into the microphone to play the Spirit Flute. Quite amusing, really.

After that, there was the re-release of two classics, Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. I never played the original versions, but I remember being totally impressed by these two. I could only imagine that when it was first released, Ocarina of Time must be light years ahead of its time. Then along came A Link Between Worlds, a full circle to me. It was A Link to the Past remade into an entirely new game altogether.

The thing with the Zelda series is, if we exclude the horrible Triforce Heroes that doesn't feel like a Zelda game at all, it keeps spawning one legend after another. Final Fantasy is fine, but in the gaming world, there's only one legend, and it's about Zelda and our hero, Link...

The Legend of Zelda.

The Legend of Zelda 

Kita sering melihat orang mengeluarkan telepon genggam dan bermain game sekarang, mulai dari game yang dibuat khusus untuk telepon genggam seperti Angry Birds dan Candy Crush Saga sampai game tempo dulu yang dirancang ulang untuk telepon genggam seperti Sonic dan Super Mario. Walau kebiasaan ini terlihat lumrah sekarang, saya tidak begitu menyukainya. Mungkin saya agak kuno dan bahkan bias, tapi menggesek dan menekan layar telepon berulang kali untuk sebuah game yang tidak jelas ceritanya bukanlah pengalaman bermain game yang sesungguhnya. 

Ada suatu kala dimana bermain game adalah sebuah petualangan, bukan sekedar menghabiskan waktu. Saya tidak tahu apakah masih seperti itu sekarang, tetapi mereka yang memulai dari Atari, Sega sampai Nintendo akan mengerti apa yang saya bicarakan. Jika anda pernah bermain Centipede dari Atari dan kemudian berpindah ke game seperti Double DragonSuper Mario atau Mega Man, anda pasti tahu maksud saya. Tidak diragukan lagi bahwa yang baru saja disebut tadi adalah game yang bagus pada zamannya, namun hanya ada satu yang benar-benar berbeda dan layak dikenang: the Legend of Zelda.

Jangan lupa bahwa periode yang kita bicarakan di sini adalah era tahun 80an. Game pada saat itu masih sederhana dan Nintendo Entertainment System adalah mesin game yang paling canggih pada saat itu. Di Pontianak, semua game berbentuk seperti kaset berwarna abu-abu dan tiba-tiba ada satu yang berwarna emas! Game ini juga memperkenalkan sebuah fitur yang belum pernah dilihat sebelumnya: kemampuan untuk menyimpan data sehingga kita tidak perlu lagi untuk mulai dari awal. 

Dan game ini juga berbeda permainannya. Sebelum Zelda, semua game yang ada terbatas ruang lingkupnya dan kita hanya perlu bergerak maju. Sebagai referensi, mari kita lihat Super Mario Bros. Sebagai Mario, anda bisa berubah menjadi Super Mario, melompat atau masuk ke dalam pipa, namun permainannya sangat standar: anda cukup berlari sampai akhir dan menaikkan bendera. Zelda jauh lebih kompleks. Anda harus memecahkan teka-teki, mencari jalan yang tepat, menemukan rahasia serta berinteraksi dengan berbagai karakter lainnya. Petualangan ini membawa kita mendaki gunung, menerobos hutan, melewati laut dan sebagainya. Selagi berkelana, kita akan mendapatkan berbagai perlengkapan dan senjata. Kita juga akan bertarung melawan monster dan naga. Misinya pun jelas: kita harus mengumpulkan Triforce dan menolong Putri Zelda. Singkat kata, ini adalah sebuah petualangan kolosal dengan aransemen lagu yang sepadan dengan judulnya. 

Saya menyukai the Legend of Zelda sejak saya memainkan game tersebut untuk pertama kalinya. Permainannya menarik, namun karena semua petunjuknya berbahasa Inggris (akan lebih sulit lagi kalau dalam bahasa Jepang, haha), saya tidak mengerti apa yang harus dilakukan. Permainan tanpa tujuan jelas ini akan berlangsung selama beberapa jam sampai orang tua saya menyuruh saya berhenti. Fakta bahwa kasetnya disewa di Asia Video seharga Rp. 1500 per malam kian memberikan tantangan bahwa game ini harus ditamatkan dalam dua hari. 

Saya baru berhasil melakukannya bertahun-tahun kemudian. Kalau dilihat kembali, ini adalah sebuah prestasi yang cukup mengagumkan untuk anak dari kota kecil yang tidak mengerti bahasa Inggris. Saat itu belum ada internet dan akses lain untuk mencari tahu tentang jalan yang harus ditempuh untuk mencapai istana musuh yang tersembunyi. Kendati begitu, di dalam komunitas kecil sesama teman dan pemain game, kita saling bertukar informasi dan akhirnya saya berhasil mengalahkan Ganon dengan Panah Perak. 

Legenda game ini tidak berakhir begitu saja. Tidak lama setelah the Legend of Zelda, Nintendo merilis the Adventure of Link. Game kedua ini sangat berbeda dengan pendahulunya dan jauh lebih susah. Untunglah episode berikutnya, A Link to the Past, mempersembahkan kembali pola permainan yang dikenal baik oleh penggemarnya. Saya terkagum-kagum dengan game ini sehingga saya sering meminta teman saya Leo untuk bermain Zelda (sejauh yang saya tahu, dia adalah satu-satunya orang di Pontianak yang memiliki kaset ini). A Link to the Past pun menjadi game Zelda terakhir yang saya mainkan hingga satu dekade kemudian.

Menjelang tahun 2010, game sudah berkembang pesat, lebih praktis untuk dibawa ke mana-mana dan juga terjangkau harganya. Saya mungkin terbawa oleh perasaan nostalgia sehingga saya membeli Nintendo 3DS dan kembali bermain Zelda lagi. Saya mulai dengan Spirit Tracks, kemudian mundur selangkah dan memainkan episode sebelumnya, Phantom Hourglass. Dua-duanya adalah game yang luar biasa dan sepenuhnya memanfaatkan kapasitas Nintendo 3DS, seperti menutup 3DS sehingga peta bisa tercetak dengan sempurna atau meniup ke arah mikropon untuk memainkan Spirit Flute. Sungguh mengesankan. 

Setelah itu, Nintendo merilis ulang dua game klasik dari serial Zelda, Ocarina of Time dan Majora's Mask. Saya tidak bermain game ini sewaktu dirilis di Nintendo 64, tapi saya terpukau oleh dua game zaman dulu ini. Di saat pertama dirilis, Ocarina of Time pastilah sebuah game yang melampaui zamannya. Kemudian, ketika A Link Between Worlds, dirilis, saya pun terkenang lagi dengan masa lalu. Game ini adalah A Link to the Past yang dibuat menjadi sebuah game baru dengan alur cerita yang baru pula.  

Terkecuali Triforce Heroes yang sama sekali tidak terasa seperti sebuah game Zelda, serial ini senantiasa menelurkan game terbaik sepanjang masa. Final Fantasy memang mantap, tapi di dunia game, hanya ada satu legenda. Kisahnya adalah tentang Putri Zelda dan pahlawan berbaju hijau, Link...

Koleksi pribadi.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Haunted Island

School days trips with friends were always the first of many unforgettable ones. I mean, we are talking about a bunch of teenagers, who actually just grew up and had a taste of the newfound freedom (of being able to travel on our own) but suddenly thought we were able to conquer the world. Our bravery and confidence were unparalleled, matched only by our own arrogance and foolishness. With little or not much money at all, we made things happened. The joy and the laughter, when we looked back, were very innocent and silly at the same time. Some, probably, weren't smartest decisions we ever made, but there was certainly no regret. We lived to tell the stories. 

I was lucky enough to have a couple of trips that fit the description above. None, however, came close to this particular one. It was so adventurous, perhaps enough for a lifetime and, personally, it was the closest I ever came into contact with the other realm. It wasn't a very blessed trip to begin with (some friends actually couldn't get the permit from their parents to join). It went awry in the midst of it and was redeemed only by the fact that, after what we went through, no one actually died. Too bad that I don't have any photos of it, but it'd be always on my mind. Anyway, Parno went to the same island 19 years after my visit, so I'd use his pictures as the illustration here.

Our journey began when someone, likely to be Jimmy, told us about this island called Temajo. It was a little-known paradise that was still so pristine you could actually see the fish swimming between your legs. That sounded like a promised land to go to, so a plan was made and friends were invited. I wasn't very keen because I was more of a city boy, but was talked into joining the trip. Judging from team members, which was definitely not my kind of team as I wasn't close to many of them, I'm pretty convinced that it was Eday who persuaded me. He was my best friend and we were really close back then. I remember Muliady AW and Endrico weren't allowed by their parents. Even Susanto Phang (nicknamed Babi), who was notorious for his blustering antics, didn't get the permission. Yet there I was, tagging along. Very out of character, indeed.

The sea and the beach.
All photos by Parno Bong.

Eday and I stayed overnight at Jimmy's house and met the rest of the crews in the next morning to depart together. We went to Sungai Kunyit, a place roughly 100km from Pontianak, and took a wooden boat to cross the sea. I remember being puzzled by the fact that the boat was floating only slightly higher than the sea level. In hindsight, perhaps the boat was actually overloaded and at the risk of sinking. To think that there wasn't any life jacket at all! Anyway, we weren't drowned but landed safely on the island instead.

Temajo looked exactly like what Jimmy had described to us. The sea water was really clear. We rented a villa (the floor was always sandy throughout our stay there) with a swimming pool in front it. Not very far from the villa, there was a giant skeleton, presumably from a stranded whale (though there wasn't supposed to be a whale there, so it could be a man-made). Some friends actually preferred to build a tent outside the villa and slept there (only to give up later that night as it was very cold). There was this schoolmate named Ali who brought an air rifle (and I don't recall he ever shot anything at all). The most useful item was the one brought by Jimmy, a parang or a machete. You'd hear more of it later.

The first part of the holiday was peaceful. We just lazed around and had our fair share of coconuts that happened to be abundant there (some of the boys, not me, were really good at climbing the coconut trees). For meals, apart from what we brought, I seem to recall that we had the freshly caught squids. Somebody brought up the subject about how squids were attracted to light at night and we were supposed to catch them using this method. Despite all the big talks, Ivan ended up buying them instead. Jimmy was the one who cooked it, I think, because he laughed when Ivan requested for the biggest squid. Jimmy simply told him off that by the time it was cooked, the squid would have been sliced properly, so no point asking for the biggest one.

The wooden boats to Temajo.

Then suddenly someone thought about island exploration. That, perhaps, sounded sexy that almost all of us agreed to it. Ivan and Teddy opted out, but most of us were game, so off we went around noon time, with air rifle and machete, but I don't recall seeing any compass. We marched one by one into the jungle, the uncharted territory, to discover the unknown. It was fun and I made it my job to ensure that none was left behind, so I shouted every once in a while and expected some answer. It worked well, until I heard Teddy replying me.

Nothing could have prepared me for that. There we were, deep in the jungle and Teddy was never with us, how on earth could he possibly reply me? I walked faster towards Jimmy, the de facto leader of the group, and asked if he heard what I heard. He said yes and, before I could ask how that was even possible, he asked me to keep quiet and trust him that I didn't want to pursue this matter any further.

For the benefit of the readers who may not know Jimmy, he is a rather slim and small chap, but he has this charisma like no other that even a bigger and towering man will submit and listen to him. I knew him since we were on primary school and he had always been a person of integrity that was true to his words since then. In short, he's a very interesting character that we all looked up to.

The beach and the coconut trees.

And that moment was no exception. The leader had barked his command, so I shut up and moved on. We continued our adventure, but the more we carried on, the more it didn’t look right. The forest was denser and becoming less accessible. The machete was our only hope, so those who were in front of us took turn to chop whatever that was in our way. When we reached an open space, the path we took already led us to the top of the hill. We took a break and once again the machete showed its magic, breaking coconuts for us to quench our thirst as we observed the surroundings.

We should have turned back, but only God knows what we were thinking then. We headed down to the exact opposite direction instead. We went through the grass taller than us and a pool of mud that was ankle-deep. While we were there, something passed us by, but too fast for my eyes to tell what it was. Once we passed through it, we reached the sandy beach in the late afternoon. I thought our ordeal was over and the villa was somewhere near. Yet I couldn't be more wrong. As we walked on the seaside, the terrain quickly changed into a rocky beach. We had to climb up and jumped from one huge rock to another. The four of us, Jimmy, Syah, Eday and I were the fastest, leaving the rest far behind us.

Suddenly there was no more rock for us to jump onto. The rocky beach ended there, leaving us with no options but to jump into the sea, the idea that scared the shit out of me. I remember staring at the waves that kept coming and slamming the rock beneath me. I was pretty sure I didn't sign up for this. However, it was getting dark and we had not much time to waste. One by one, they leaped into the sea. Eday yelled at me afterwards, encouraging me to jump. The more I hesitated, the more they looked pissed. What was started as encouragement swiftly turned into cursing. They said the sea level was only up to their waist and they'd catch me before the waves pulled me away, so I eventually made my jump.

That's when Ali's sweater, which was tied loosely to my waist, floated away as I plunged into the water. In a way, it was kind of a joke that eased up the tension. Once I realized that it wasn't that deep, I gained the confidence that I could handle this. As luck would have it, we were very near to a gulf and we just had to go in to reach the land. The sun had set and as I looked at the dark clouds, I could see the lightning from afar. For a split second, it dawned on me that if I ever saw a shark fin approaching us at that moment, we would be dead very soon.

Parno, taking a selfie in Temajo.

There was no shark, of course, but there was a villager welcoming us as we stepped out from the sea. Much to our surprise, he was actually asking if we were human while pointing his torchlight on us. Once we confirmed our answers, he was kind enough to help us. He gave us shelter, dry clothes and food. I had two plates of steamed rice with plain soup, one of the best meals in my life, right after 7 hours of walking, hiking, jumping and crossing the sea. Once we finished eating, I asked him what his question earlier really meant. He smiled and told me that he asked because sometimes it wasn't human that came out from the sea.

The next morning, as we went to the beach, I was limping. Apparently my feet had been badly cut by the corals that I passed by as I approached the shore. We stood there, but Jimmy felt like he had to check out how the rest were doing, so he went alone to look for them. Unlike us, they didn't make it to the hut. Later we learnt that they slept on the rock and even though they tried to call the boat that they saw, they weren't heard.

Around noon, we saw a boat heading to our direction. Teddy appeared and immediately swore at us, saying that our lives were as cheap as IDR 10K each. When it was apparent that we weren't returning the day before, Teddy and Ivan were panic. They flipped through our belongings to find as much money as they could, then they crossed back to the mainland to look for a shaman to pinpoint our location (yeah, before Google, there was a shaman). Once our coordinates were obtained, they went back with a boat on the next day to fetch us and true enough, we were exactly where the shaman said. Pure luck or a magic based accuracy? To these days, I really have no idea. And oh, the IDR 10K was the round-up amount after the gathered money was divided by the number of the missing people.

That was the first and the last time I ever went to Temajo. Almost two decades had passed since then, but I still remember that it was drizzling when we left the island. We were wet and we could have sunk anytime, if the sea went wild and the boat capsized...

The rocky beach at Temajo island
Photo :

Pulau Berhantu

Liburan bersama teman-teman di masa sekolah seringkali menjadi petualangan pertama yang tidak terlupakan dalam hidup.  Jangan lupa kalau masa-masa ini adalah saat dimana sekumpulan remaja yang baru tumbuh dewasa merasakan kebebasan berkelana tanpa supervisi orang tua, seakan-akan sudah siap menaklukkan dunia. Keberanian dan rasa percaya diri waktu itu melambung tinggi, setara dengan kesombongan dan kebodohan masa muda. Hanya dengan sedikit uang di saku, kita mewujudkan impian. Tawa dan canda kita sangat lugu dan konyol. Beberapa keputusan kita tidaklah bijak, tapi tiada penyesalan. Semua itu menjadi kisah hidup yang membuat kita tersenyum dan bercerita kembali.

Saya cukup beruntung karena memiliki beberapa pengalaman yang sesuai dengan deskripsi di atas. Kendati begitu, tidak ada yang mengalahkan kisah yang terjadi di awal tahun 1998 ini. Begitu hebohnya petualangan ini sehingga cukup terjadi sekali saja dalam seumur hidup. Secara pribadi, percaya atau tidak percaya, ini juga sekali-kalinya saya berpapasan dengan sesuatu yang luar biasa gaib. Mungkin ini karena perjalanan ini sudah tidak begitu direstui dari sejak awal (beberapa teman bahkan tidak mendapat ijin dari orang tua mereka untuk turut serta). Selagi kita berlibur, terjadi sesuatu yang tidak dikehendaki, namun syukurlah tidak ada yang meninggal. Sayang sekali perjalanan tersebut tidak diabadikan lewat foto, namun saya tidak akan pernah melupakannya. Sebagai ilustrasi, kita akan gunakan foto-foto Parno karena dia baru saja ke sana. 

Kisah ini dimulai ketika Jimmy bercerita tentang pulau bernama Temajo. Pulau yang belum dikenal luas ini masih alami. Lautnya begitu jernih sehingga kita bisa melihat ikan-ikan berenang melewati kita. Karena banyak yang tertarik, rencana pun disusun dan teman-teman pun diundang. Saya sebenarnya agak enggan karena saya tipe anak kota, tapi dibujuk untuk turut serta. Dari teman-teman yang ikut, kebanyakan dari mereka bukanlah teman sepermainan sehari-hari, jadi sepertinya saya turut bergabung karena ajakan teman baik saya Eday. Saya ingat bahwa Mul AW dan Endrico tidak diizinkan oleh orang tua mereka. Bahkan Susanto Phang yang terkenal heboh pun tidak diperbolehkan ikut, jadi keberadaan saya di dalam rombongan sesungguhnya agak janggal dan di luar karakter saya.

Eday dan saya bermalam di rumah Jimmy dan bertemu dengan teman-teman lain keesokan paginya untuk berangkat bersama. Kita berangkat ke Sungai Kunyit, kota kecil yang berkisar 100km jauhnya dari Pontianak, lalu naik perahu kayu menyeberangi lautan. Saya ingat bahwa kala itu saya agak kebingungan melihat perahu yang hanya mengapung sedikit lebih tinggi dari permukaan laut. Kalau saya pikirkan kembali lagi sekarang, sepertinya perahu itu kelebihan beban dan beresiko tenggelam, padahal sama sekali tidak terlihat pelampung di perahu! Akan tetapi kita bernasib baik, perahunya tidak karam dan kita mendarat dengan selamat di pulau, haha.

Perahu mulai mendekati Temajo.
(Semua foto di bawah ini adalah karya Parno)

Temajo terlihat persis seperti yang apa Jimmy deskripsikan. Air lautnya sangat bening. Kita menyewa vila (yang lantainya selalu berpasir selama kita tinggal di sana) dan di depannya ada kolam renang kecil. Tidak jauh dari vila, ada rangkaian tulang-belulang raksasa, mungkin saja dari paus yang terdampar di sana (atau hanya buatan manusia, karena sepertinya tidak ada paus di perairan Temajo, haha). Beberapa teman membangun tenda di luar vila dan tidur di sana, walau akhirnya masuk juga ke dalam karena kedinginan. Seorang teman sekolah bernama Ali bahkan membawa senapan angin, walau dia sepertinya tidak berhasil menembak apa pun hingga liburan usai. Yang lebih berguna justru parang yang dibawa Jimmy. Kita akan berbicara lebih lanjut tentang parang ini nanti. 

Liburan tersebut pada awalnya berlangsung aman sentosa. Kita hanya bermalas-malasan dan sibuk menikmati kelapa yang tumbuh di sepanjang pantai (beberapa teman sangat jago memanjat dan mereka inilah yang memetik kelapa). Untuk makanan, selain apa yang kita bawa, saya ingat bahwa kita menikmati sotong segar yang baru ditangkap. Ada satu di antara kita yang berujar bahwa sotong tertarik pada sinar lampu di malam hari, jadi bisa kita tangkap sendiri. Akan tetapi, meski kita berbicara panjang lebar tentang cara menangkap sotong, adalah Ivan yang akhirnya membeli sotong dari nelayan. Jimmy lantas memasaknya. Ada kejadian lucu dimana Ivan meminta sotong paling besar, namun Jimmy segera menimpali bahwa semuanya akan terlihat sama setelah dipotong, jadi tidak ada yang paling besar.

Kemudian ada yang tiba-tiba mengusulkan acara eksplorasi pulau. Karena terdengar seru, hampir semua menyetujuinya. Hanya Ivan dan Teddy yang memilih untuk tinggal di vila. Kita akhirnya meninggalkan mereka dan berangkat di siang hari dengan membawa parang dan senapan angin, tapi saya tidak melihat adanya kompas. Kita membentuk satu barisan yang memanjang ke belakang dan masuk hutan. Saya seringkali berteriak untuk memastikan bahwa tidak ada yang tertinggal di belakang dan cara ini cukup efisien, sampai akhirnya tiba-tiba saya mendengar suara Teddy yang menjawab panggilan saya.

Saya langsung tertegun. Saat itu kita sudah cukup jauh berjalan di dalam hutan dan Teddy tidak pernah ikut serta, jadi bagaimana mungkin dia bisa menjawab panggilan saya? Saya bergegas menghampiri Jimmy yang memimpin di depan dan bertanya, apakah dia mendengar apa yang saya dengar. Dia mengiyakan dan sebelum saya bertanya bagaimana ini bisa terjadi, dia meyakinkan saya untuk diam dan tidak bertanya lebih lanjut tentang hal ini.

Pemandangan dari Pulau Temajo.

Bagi para pembaca yang belum mengenal Jimmy, dia adalah pemuda yang agak kurus dan tergolong kecil posturnya, namun memiliki kharisma yang bisa membuat orang yang lebih tinggi dan besar darinya menjadi segan. Saya telah mengenalnya dari sejak SD atau bahkan TK. Integritasnya tidak diragukan dan dia merupakan tipe orang yang menepati perkataannya. Secara singkat, dia memiliki karakter yang unik dan sebagai teman, saya menghormati pandangannya. 

Dan di saat itu, sang pemimpin sudah memberikan sarannya, jadi saya pun patuh dan diam. Perjalanan pun berlanjut, tapi semakin kita jauh dari vila, semakin terasa ada yang tidak beres. Hutannya semakin rimbun dan sulit diterobos. Parang Jimmy adalah satu-satunya harapan kita, jadi mereka yang berada di depan bergantian mengayunkan parang untuk membuka jalan. Ketika kita mencapai tempat terbuka, jalan di depan terasa menanjak dan membawa kita ke atas bukit. Kita beristirahat sejenak di sana dan parang pun kembali berayun, kali ini memecahkan kelapa untuk diminum sementara kita mengamati alam sekitar dan mempertimbangkan langkah selanjutnya. 

Seharusnya kita berputar balik, tapi hanya Tuhan yang tahu apa yang kita pikirkan saat itu. Kita justru turun ke arah yang bertolak belakang dari arah kedatangan, kali ini melewati tanah berlumpur sedalam pergelangan kaki dan rumput-rumput tajam yang tingginya melebihi kita. Selagi kita berjalan, saya melihat sesuatu berkelebat di depan, tapi terlalu cepat untuk dilihat dengan jelas. Setelah itu, kita tiba di pantai berpasir dan hari pun sudah sore. Saya mengira bahwa perjalanan kita akan berakhir dan vila kita pasti sudah dekat, namun saya ternyata salah besar. Selagi kita menyusuri tepi laut, mendadak pantai berpasir berganti menjadi pantai berbatu. Kita jadinya harus memanjat dan melompat dari satu bongkahan batu ke batu lainnya. Jimmy, Rubiansyah, Eday dan saya bergerak gesit, tanpa sadar meninggalkan yang lain jauh di belakang.

Setelah separuh jalan, batu-batu besar yang kita lompati itu hilang dan tergantikan dengan laut yang bergelora. Jalan darat berakhir sampai di situ dan satu-satunya pilihan adalah terjun ke laut. Saya terkesima memandang ombak yang terus-terusan menghempas dinding karang. Hari kian gelap dan kita tidak mempunyai banyak waktu lagi. Teman-teman pun nekat mencemplungkan diri. Eday berseru, menyemangati saya untuk meloncat juga. Semakin saya ragu, semakin mereka terlihat kesal. Mereka berkata bahwa dalamnya laut hanya sepinggang dan mereka akan menangkap saya sebelum saya ditarik ombak. Akhirnya saya pun melompat. 

Parno selfie di pulau Temajo.

Ketika saya menceburkan diri, sweater Ali yang terikat longgar di pinggang saya langsung mengapung dan hanyut. Saya tergelak oleh kejadian spontan itu dan merasa lebih santai karenanya. Tatkala saya sadar bahwa laut di pinggir pantai tidak terlalu dalam, saya merasa baik-baik saja. Saat itu kita sudah berada di mulut teluk dan hanya perlu mencapai daratan yang tidak terlalu jauh dari tempat kita berada. Matahari mulai terbenam dan di kejauhan, saya melihat halilintar menyambar. Tiba-tiba terbayang oleh saya, kalau saja ada hiu mendekati kita saat itu, tamatlah riwayat kita.

Ketika kita keluar dari laut, seorang penduduk menyorotkan senter dan bertanya apakah kita ini manusia. Setelah kita iyakan, dia dengan senang hati menolong. Kita dipersilahkan beristirahat di pondoknya, dipinjami pakaian kering serta diajak makan. Saya menghabiskan dua piring nasi dengan sup seadanya. Setelah menempuh perjalanan selama tujuh jam, makanan sederhana ini terasa luar biasa enaknya. Seusai makan, saya lantas bertanya, apa maksud pertanyaannya tadi. Bapak itu tersenyum dan bergumam bahwa terkadang yang keluar dari laut setelah magrib itu bukanlah manusia.

Keesokan paginya, selagi kita berjalan di pantai, saya merasa pincang dan perih. Ternyata tapak kaki saya habis dikoyak oleh koral dan karang yang saya lintasi sewaktu saya naik ke pantai. Kita berempat berdiri memandang laut, namun Jimmy merasa dia harus mencari tahu apa yang terjadi dengan teman-teman lain, jadi dia berangkat lagi. Setelah kita berkumpul, baru saya ketahui bahwa mereka akhirnya bermalam di atas batu. Di tengah malam, mereka sempat melihat kapal dan meminta pertolongan, namun kapal tersebut tidak melihat mereka.

Menjelang siang, kita melihat sebuah kapal yang melaju ke arah kita. Teddy muncul dan segera mengumpat dengan kesal bahwa nyawa kita hanyalah seharga 10 ribu rupiah per orang. Di malam sebelumnya, saat mereka menyadari bahwa kita sepertinya tidak kembali, Teddy dan Ivan menjadi panik. Mereka membongkar tas kita untuk mencari uang sebanyak mungkin sebagai cadangan dana, lalu menyeberang kembali ke Sungai Kunyit dan meminta bantuan dukun untuk melacak keberadaan kita (ya, sebelum Google, kita bertanya ke dukun). Ketika posisi kita telah terdeteksi, mereka kembali dengan kapal untuk menjemput. Kita persis berada di lokasi yang diberitahukan oleh dukun. Kebetulan atau ilmu hitam? Saya tidak tahu. Oh ya, 10 ribu yang dimaksud oleh Teddy itu adalah jumlah uang yang terkumpul dan dibagi dengan jumlah orang yang hilang.

Itu adalah pertama dan terakhir kalinya saya ke Temajo. 19 tahun sudah berlalu sejak hari itu, tapi saya masih ingat dengan rintik hujan saat kita pulang. Kita basah dan bisa tenggelam kapan saja, jika laut mengamuk dan kapal terbalik. Selamat tinggal, Temajo. Semoga tidak bertemu lagi... 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Wheat Cartoonist

I once had a glance at the name kartunis gandum and mistook it as an artist that drew Gundam, but then I realized I never saw him drawing that Japanese mecha. That prompted me to take a look again one day. As I'm an Indonesian, I am able to translate those words. The meaning is the wheat cartoonist, which I find it very intriguing. I had a chat with him earlier today and here's the story of a talented illustrator with a very odd moniker.

His name is Ariff Ahmad. A colleague of mine, we normally call him Ariff in office. He is known for his rather unusual but commendable hobby (it's amusing that one would go all the way to build the Wolverine claws or parts of Iron-Man costume). He was also the guy that the previous CIO approached for the Family Day event poster last year. Ariff clearly loves his craft and is good at what he's doing.

The talent manifested at very young age. Born to a mother who was a voice actress and a father who could draw, here was a five years old boy who would draw on the corner of the whiteboard in his mother's office every time he tagged along to pick up his Mum. The raw skill was then influenced by those comic strips he read at his aunt's house, from the drawing style to the brief storytelling in just few panels. With the support and encouragement from the parents, the young boy figured out that he could do a cartoon, so perhaps he could be a cartoonist someday.

Ariff and the first magazine that he contributed.
Photo owned by Ariff.

As the young boy turned into young man, an opportunity knocked. It started with a Hari Raya greeting card that he received. It came from a place not very far from where he stayed, so he thought of paying the sender a visit to say thanks. Much to his surprise (and delight), the office he visited turned out to be a publishing company of a cartoon magazine. The moment the publisher granted him a so-called interview session, without further ado, he ran back home to grab the stuff he'd been doing so far and the rest is history. He was a published cartoonist since then and, thanks to his habit of referring himself and others in English (I reckon it would be something like this: "I nak pergi dulu."), he was soon to be known as Ariff Eye Ahmad, with Eye being a word play from I.

And you may wonder why he hadn't become kartunis gandum. That is because it was his second pseudonym, adopted only after he moved onto another magazine called Ujang. The publisher was fond of naming his artists padi, jagung and our man here was nicknamed as gandum, hence he was the wheat cartoonist from that moment on.

Image credit: Kartunis Gandum
(If you are on a mobile browser, click the image for high resolution)

The art of making people laugh with only few panels of drawing looks deceptively simple for those who read it, but it can be a tricky business for the one who does it. Ariff makes it look easy, but he had paid his dues long before this. It's years of hard work exchanged with experience. After the learning curve, he understands that the inspiration comes from whatever that is going on around him. Once decided, he'll convey his message within few panels. It has to be concise, with the last panel delivering the ultimate punchline. The one above, for example, is easily an instant classic.

All good things must come to an end, though. Those days as a published cartoonist are now behind him. He still has some fun with his weapons of choice (the markers, brushes and water colors), but that's either as a freelance or just to get it off his chest (that's what artists do when they have ideas). Does he miss his heyday? Perhaps, but then again, now he got his biggest fans at home following his footsteps: his two children. Well done, kartunis gandum!

The man and the art.
Photo owned by Ariff.

Kartunis Gandum

Ketika saya pertama kali membaca nama kartunis gandum, saya sempat keliru dan mengira bahwa ini adalah seniman yang suka menggambar Gundam. Kendati begitu, saya tidak pernah melihat gambar robot Jepang darinya. Saya lantas perhatikan lebih lanjut lagi dan barulah saya sadari bahwa yang tertulis itu gandum, bukan Gundam. Karena heran, saya pun berbincang dengannya. Berikut ini adalah cerita tentang seorang seniman berbakat dengan julukan yang tidak lazim. 

Namanya adalah Ariff Ahmad, seorang rekan kerja saya. Dia dikenal dengan hobinya yang unik, misalnya membuat cakar Wolverine atau bagian dari kostum Iron-Man. Karena kreativitasnya, dia juga diajak kepala departemen kita untuk merancang poster acara kantor tahun lalu. Ariff jelas menyukai seni dan berbakat dalam bidang yang ia geluti ini. 

Talenta Ariff sudah terlihat sejak dini. Lahir dari seorang ibu yang mengisi suara lakon dan ayah yang bisa menggambar, Ariff kecil senang melukis di papan tulis kantor ibunya saat ia main ke sana. Karunia yang ada pada dirinya ini lantas dipengaruhi lagi oleh komik-komik yang ia baca di rumah bibinya. Berkat dukungan orang tuanya, bocah ini lambat-laun menyadari bahwa dia mungkin saja bisa menjadi seorang kartunis suatu hari nanti.

Ariff di ruang kerjanya. 

Saat beranjak dewasa, kesempatan pun tiba. Semuanya bermula dengan sebuah kartu ucapan Lebaran yang ia terima. Karena kartu tersebut berasal dari alamat yang tidak jauh dari rumahnya, ia pun berpikir untuk menyambangi pengirim kartu dan mengucapkan terima kasih. Ternyata tempat yang dikunjunginya itu adalah kantor majalah bergambar. Ketika penerbit bercakap-cakap dengannya, dia pun berlari pulang ke rumah untuk mengambil dan menunjukkan karyanya. Singkat cerita, dia menjadi seorang kartunis majalah sejak itu. Karena kebiasaannya dalam menggunakan bahasa Inggris saat mengacu pada dirinya (seperti I nak pergi dulu), akhirnya dia pun dikenal sebagai Ariff Eye Ahmad, dimana Eye merupakan kata yang sama bunyinya dengan kata  I.

Dan anda mungkin membayangkan kenapa dia belum menjadi kartunis gandum. Ini karena julukan yang kedua ini baru dipakai ketika dia pindah ke majalah lain yang bernama Ujang. Penerbit majalah ini senang memberikan nama tumbuhan pada para kartunisnya seperti padi, jagung dan Ariff pun mendapat nama gandum, maka jadilah dia kartunis gandum.

Seni membuat orang tertawa dengan hanya sedikit panel bergambar dalam satu halaman kesannya mudah, tapi dibutuhkan kreativitas yang luar biasa dari penciptanya. Ariff bisa mengerjakannya dengan gampang karena dia sudah berkecimpung di dalam bidang ini bertahun-tahun lamanya. Berbekal pengalaman yang telah dijalaninya, dia paham bahwa inspirasi datang dari sekitarnya. Setelah tahu apa yang ia ingin tuangkan, dia pun mulai menggambar. Kartun seperti ini bukan saja harus singkat, jelas dan padat, tetapi juga harus dituntaskan lewat gambar terakhir, seperti cerita di bawah ini: 

Jika anda ikut apa yang terjadi di Malaysia, anda akan paham satirnya.
Karya Kartunis Gandum.

(Klik gambarnya bila kurang jelas)

Akan tetapi semuanya mesti berakhir. Hari-harinya sebagai kartunis majalah sudah berlalu. Meski begitu, dia masih tetap menggambar, baik sebagai seniman bayaran atau hanya sekedar iseng dan ingin berkarya. Apakah dia merasa rindu dengan kehidupannya sebagai kartunis gandum? Ya, ada kalanya dia terkenang masa lalu, namun yang terpenting sekarang adalah dua anaknya pun mulai mengikuti jejaknya. Semoga sukses, Ariff! 

Senantiasa melangkah maju menuju sukses.