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Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Man Called Parno: Chapter 2 - Into The Society And Beyond

After reading the first part, what do you think about a man called Parno? For better or worse, he is really an interesting character, eh? Now that school days were done, what came next was a new phase for all of us. Things might be a bit hazy here for the fact that we weren't always together and, most of the time, we were worlds apart, literally. But you know what they said about a good friendship, it lasts! And I happened to be there when Parno began his working life so let's pick up where we left off.

Together with another guy called Jun Fui, the three of us took the first flight to Jakarta a day after my graduation ceremony in late 2002. Parno stayed at Kelapa Gading throughout his sojourn in Jakarta, the same place where Eday and I dropped him a few years earlier. He was employed by his relative, doing... alas, only God knows what he was doing. The only thing I remember about his work was how his Sundanese colleagues at work taught him some extremely naughty Sundanese words such as male ejaculation. That must be the highlight of his first job in Jakarta!

Parno and Soedjoko, posing at Gambir station.

Anyway, whatever the job was, it couldn't be that rosy, because Parno started dreaming of working in the USA. He could be quite adamant once he made up his mind on something and, for this particular moment, he kept muttering about this dodgy employment agency at Pasar Baru. In Parno's mind, he was convinced that he just had to be there, paid whatever amount that was requested and then got himself smuggled into America. My friend Soedjoko and I told him that it was too good to be true, but he wouldn't budge. Joko eventually gave up and drove him there. True enough, there wasn't any apparent result and his money was never to be seen again.

Wearing his Malpy uniform, the company he worked at in Brunei.

Realizing that he was going nowhere, Parno quit his job and left the capital city, ending his tenure in Jakarta. The next time he gave an update, he was already in Brunei, doing some menial jobs. A very hard working man, he lasted there for, perhaps, two years, surviving all oddities, including an accident where he got hit by a Mercedes-Benz.

By the time I migrated to Singapore in 2006, I heard him traveling to West Malaysia and Southernmost tip of Thailand. He was on another attempt to go to the USA, trying to fulfill his American dream. The trip itself was meant to be a camouflage and the passport stamps gathering was some sort of proof that he went places before he applied for his US visa. It was to become another failure and that, for all I know, was his last try.

Posing with Endrico at Kuching bus station.

Parno eventually settled in Pontianak, continuing the family business of selling salted fish and trading second hand oil containers. It was during this period he got to know his future wife. The wedding plan came afterwards and the four of us, Ardian, Endrico, Parno and I, spent time in Kuching for what was supposed to be our mild bachelor nights (Endrico was getting married, too, at that time).

He was a family man after that last trip together, but things would never be awfully quiet for Parno. There was a time when he protected his wife and got his neck chopped with a machete for his heroic act. He also had a near death experience when his boat capsized, almost drowning him in the process. Then I discovered the news (it was via BBM profile picture update, as he never told me until I asked) that his beloved younger brother had passed away due to a very rare viral infection.

Parno and Ardian at Melda.

Life was seldom easy for Parno, but he was stronger than anything that life threw at him. He always found his way to laugh, the best medicine to cast away all the sorrows. I remember that in the midst of all this, in one of my only handful visits to my hometown, he innocently blurted out a life lesson that I remember to this day. At that time, we were in Ardian's car and I was so pissed with the power failure that plagued Pontianak, so I asked them, why on earth they never thought of moving out from this horrible place.

Surianto, Endrico, Parno and Swiandy at Orchard.

His answer, said in a very calm tone that only Parno could, was because he already felt content. And I was stunned when I heard that. If it was said by other people, it could have meant anything, but I knew the man pretty well. Parno didn't mean to act smart. He was just being honest and his sincerity touched my heart. It got me thinking that it was never a matter of how far we went in life, because happiness came from within. Very zen, isn't it?

That is Parno for you, alright. He had his fair share of ups and downs, but for all the mistakes that he made, you'd end up laughing them off and forgive him instead, saying that, "well, it's only Parno." Of course he could be a pain in the ass, sometimes, like the time when he was again too stubborn to see that what he agreed to do in Hong Kong was wrong and, after we gave up persuading him, we actually wished to see him going to jail instead, haha.

Parno as Pakarporn in Hong Kong.

His shop had been demolished a while ago and he's into insurance these days. Out of sympathy, I bought the insurance for my parents from him. I'd say he was still going thru the learning curve at the moment, which could be troublesome for he was just too text book. There was at least one occasion where I lost my temper thanks to the difficulty in claiming and it was only resolved after our friend Andry, now his superior, stepped in.

Acting tough with Alvin, Muliady The and Muliady AW at the High School Reunion 2014.

By the end of the day, however, after all is said and done, there's no love lost between us. While I still fail to refrain from making him the butt of the jokes, I'm proud to say that he's a good friend of mine. More than that, he is a living reminder for our generation that life can actually be simple enough, so why complicates the matter? He had to be there at the High School Reunion 2014 because what kind of reunion would that be if our mascot wasn't there? Parno is well-loved not because of what he has, but simply because of who he is. Frankly speaking, not many people can achieve that in life...

Pria Bernama Parno: Bagian 2 - Terjun Ke Masyarakat

Setelah membaca bagian pertama, bagaimana pendapat anda tentang pria bernama Parno ini? Unik, bukan? Sekarang, setelah masa sekolah selesai, kita siap memasuki fase baru dalam kehidupan: dunia kerja. Ada beberapa bagian yang kurang jelas di masa ini karena saya dan Parno tidak lagi selalu bersama di satu daerah, melainkan berbeda kota dan negara. Akan tetapi persahabatan yang baik itu kekal adanya. Kebetulan saja saya juga bersama Parno ketika dia mulai terjun ke dunia kerja, jadi mari kita mulai kembali cerita kita.

Bersama seorang teman lain bernama Jun Fui, kita bertiga berangkat ke Jakarta dengan menaiki penerbangan pertama di pagi hari, sehari setelah saya diwisuda. Parno tinggal di rumah relasinya di Kelapa Gading, tempat yang sama dimana Eday dan saya mengantarnya beberapa tahun silam. Dia dipekerjakan oleh saudara ibunya. Entah apa pekerjaannya, yang saya ingat justru cerita Parno tentang bagaimana rekan kerjanya mengajari kata-kata kotor dalam bahasa Sunda. Hanya itu yang berkesan dari pekerjaan pertamanya di Jakarta!

Parno, Junaidi and Sudarman, di dalam kereta menuju Bandung.

Apa pun pekerjaan Parno saat itu, sepertinya ia tidak begitu berminat, sebab ia mulai bermimpi untuk kerja di Amerika. Parno bisa jadi kepala batu kalau dia sudah terpaku pada satu hal dan di kala itu, ia kerap kali berbicara tentang agen tenaga kerja di Pasar Baru. Di benaknya, ia cukup datang, bayar dan kemudian diberangkatkan ke Amerika. Soedjoko, seorang kenalan di Jakarta, dan saya sudah menasihatinya bahwa kenyataan tidaklah semulus itu, tapi Parno tetap bersikeras. Joko akhirnya menyerah dan mengantarnya ke sana. Benar saja, hasilnya tidak jelas dan uang pun tidak kembali.

Di kebun binatang Bandung.

Sadar bahwa karirnya tidak berkembang, Parno berhenti kerja dan mengakhiri perantauannya di Jakarta. Di kali berikutnya dia memberikan kabar, dia sudah bekerja di Brunei. Seorang pekerja keras, Parno berkelana di negeri orang kira-kira dua tahun lamanya dan mengalami berbagai cobaan hidup di sana, termasuk mengalami kecelakaan karena ditabrak oleh mobil Mercedes.

Ketika saya pindah ke Singapura di tahun 2006, terdengar kabar bahwa Parno berwisata ke Malaysia Barat dan Thailand Selatan. Setelah ditelusuri, ini adalah upayanya untuk hijrah ke Amerika. Sebelum ia memohon visa dari kedutaan Amerika, ia dinasehati untuk mengumpulkan beberapa cap paspor untuk menandakan bahwa dia sering berjalan-jalan sebelum ke Amerika. Upaya ini tidak berhasil dan, sejauh yang saya tahu, ini adalah kali terakhirnya mengadu nasib ke Amerika.

Parno akhirnya menetap di Pontianak dan melanjutkan bisnis keluarga. Ia berdagang ikan asin dan drum oli bekas. Di masa ini dia juga berkenalan dengan calon istrinya. Setelah ada rencana menikah, Parno, Endrico, Ardian dan saya berlibur ke Kuching sekaligus merayakan pelepasan masa lajang Parno dan Endrico.

Setelah menikah, kehidupan Parno sebagai kepala keluarga tetap saja diwarnai beraneka kejadian. Lehernya pernah dibacok dengan parang ketika melindungi istrinya dari penjambretan. Ia juga nyaris tenggelam ketika perahu yang ditumpanginya terbalik di sungai Kapuas. Sesudah itu, ada kabar bahwa adiknya meninggal karena terjangkit virus yang sangat langka.

Parno si pawang ular.

Hidup tidaklah mudah bagi Parno, tetapi dia lebih kuat dari segala macam terpaan hidup. Ia selalu bisa tertawa, cara terbaik untuk menghadapi kesulitan hidup. Di tengah berbagai kejadian ini, saya ingat pelajaran hidup yang tanpa sengaja ia ucapkan. Ini terjadi sewaktu saya pulang kampung. Saat itu kita berada di mobil Ardian dan saya sedang jengkel dengan kondisi Pontianak yang lagi-lagi mati lampu. Kemudian saya pun bertanya, kenapa mereka masih saja betah di tempat seperti ini.

Foto terakhir kunjungan Parno ke Singapura di tahun 2015.

Jawabannya, yang diucapkan dengan gaya khas Parno yang pelan dan polos, adalah karena dia sudah merasa bahagia dengan apa yang ada. Saya terpana saat mendengarnya. Jikalau diucapkan oleh orang lain, kalimat tersebut bisa berarti apa saja, tergantung penafsiran. Tapi ini Parno dan saya yakin dia tidak berpura-pura sok tahu. Dia hanya berkata dengan jujur dan kepolosannya sungguh menggugah. Perkataannya membuat saya merenung, bahwa hidup bukanlah tentang sejauh apa kita berada, sebab kegembiraan sebenarnya berasal dari dalam diri sendiri.

Bersama Lawrence Liew, orang Singapura, di A. Yani Mall.

Itulah Parno. Seperti halnya setiap orang, dia pun tidak luput dari masalah hidup. Kendati begitu, kesalahan apa pun yang ia lakukan, pada akhirnya kita akan tertawa dan memaafkannya sambil berkata, "ya, ini 'kan Parno. Mau bagaimana lagi?" Seringkali begitu, walau pun tidak dipungkiri bahwa ia terkadang benar-benar mengesalkan, misalnya saja ketika ia tetap berniat memberikan kesaksian palsu di Hong Kong, meski pun ia tahu bahwa itu perbuatan yang salah. Saat kita berhenti menasehatinya, sempat terpikir kalau mungkin sebaiknya dia masuk penjara saja, wahaha.

Oh ya, tokonya sudah dirobohkan beberapa waktu yang lalu dan dia sibuk dengan asuransi sekarang. Karena bersimpati, saya membeli asuransi darinya untuk kedua orang tua saya. Sebagai nasabah, saya merasa dia masih butuh banyak pengalaman karena terlalu kaku dalam sepak terjangnya sebagai agen. Paling tidak ada satu kejadian di mana saya dibuat marah karena merasa dipersulit dalam klaim. Hanya ketika teman kita Andry turun tangan, barulah masalah dapat ditangani.

Berpose lucu-lucuan bersama Endrico di Reuni 2014.

Pada akhirnya, setelah tawa, canda dan masalah yang datang silih berganti, teman tetaplah teman. Saya akui bahwa setelah puluhan tahun mengerjainya, tidak mudah bagi saya untuk berhenti begitu saja. Biar pun begitu, saya bangga bisa mengenal dan memanggilnya sebagai seorang sahabat. Lebih dari itu, Parno merupakan lambang bagi generasi kita yang akan selalu mengingatkan kita bahwa hidup sesungguhnya bisa dipermudah, lalu kenapa kita sering menyulitkan diri sendiri dengan hal-hal yang tidak perlu? Parno adalah maskot, karena itulah dia hadir di Reuni SMU 2014. Akhir kata, Parno disayang bukan karena apa yang dimilikinya, tetapi karena kelebihannya dalam menjadi diri sendiri. Dalam hidup ini, percayalah ketika saya berkata bahwa tidak banyak dari kita yang bisa tampil apa adanya seperti Parno...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Little Magic At The Singapore Philatelic Museum

Anybody has a stamp collecting hobby? I did it when I was a little kid, so when I read about A Little Magic Exhibition at the Singapore Philatelic Museum, I was interested to go there with my little kids. My eldest daughter likes to go to museum. She had visited National Gallery and National Museum during this Children Season and she liked them so much. A visit to Singapore Philatelic Museum will complete her experience.

Unlike National Gallery and National Museum, Singapore Philatelic Museum (SPM) is an old fashioned museum. The building looks like an old house. Not big but quite compact. We visited SPM when there was a special event, A Little Magic Sunday.

The first activity in this event was Little Red Riding Hood Activity Trail. My little girl must hunt for clues in the galleries and fill up the answers. It was fun! She had to find how many mermaid stamps she spotted in the gallery, matched the fairy tales to the correct stamp, etc. Among all stamps, I like cartoon stamps the most. We saw Beauty and the Beast stamps, Sleeping Beauty stamps, Snow White stamps, Alice in Wonderland stamps, etc. They were so cute and all were genuine stamps.

We visited many rooms to find the clues:
1. A Little Magic room
She explored her five senses while trying to find the answer to fill her activity map.

2. Precious Eggs; of Art, Beauty and Culture room
Enjoyed the beautifully decorated chicken, duck, goose, duck and ostrich eggs and also eggs crafted from materials such metal, glass, porcelain, wax and crystal that told stories about love, history, culture, art, faith and traditions. This collection mostly came from Liechtenstein National Museum.

3. Room of Rarities
The precious Singapore stamps were displayed in the Room of Rarities. We could learn Singapore's postal history here.

4. Heritage Room
It told the story of different migrant races who came to Singapore in the 19th century. The kids learnt about early tradition trades (mostly spices), traditional customs, musical instruments and different cultural festivals. Interesting!

My daughter had completed her activity map. But the exhibition had not yet been finished. We continued our journey to Chicken and Egg - A Fowl Tale exhibition. There were many educative activities for kids in this exhibition. In the middle of the room, there was the chicken house where they could see the artificial chicken and collect their egg. They also could press the button and listen to the sound of the rooster, hen and chick. There were many information related with chicken and egg provided through interactive play, such as information about the difference between rooster and hen, what chicken eats, what their predators are, the life cycle of a chicken and what food we can make from an egg.

In one of the corners there was a mini kitchen set where our kids could pretend to cook the egg or other food. There was also fun games where kids could match picture of eggs dishes to the way the eggs were cooked. The museum curator was really creative in providing the comprehensive information about chicken and egg in many attractive games and decoration. Kudos for them!

One more interesting stamp exhibition is Harry Potter exhibition ~ From Stamps to Wand. Harry Potter's fans must visit this exhibition. On our way to this room on level 2, we saw moving portraits wave to us as we walk edpast them. It reminded me of the moving portraits in Hogwart school. Magical.

Inside the room, beside Harry Potters stamp and post card, we also found many items and collectible related with Harry Potters such as the Hogwarts uniforms, scarf, gloves, the snitch ball, the figurine, etc. We also saw the door of Harry Potter's home at The Privet Drive where he received his letter from Hogwarts.

The most interesting part of the exhibition was the interactive wand section where we could wave a wand in front of the screen to conjure some spells and see the effect in the screen. It made me think it would be great if they also had an interactive play where the screen could mention which tower we belonged to when we put the the Sorting Hat on our head, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin?

And beside enjoying many Harry Potter's stamp collection from all over the world, we also could take some selfie at the replica of the infamous Platform 9 3/4 and flying over Hogwarts on a broomstick. Museums rock!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Man Called Parno: Chapter 1 - School Days

I've known Parno for 25 years, long and good enough to tell a story. The funny man of our generation, the beauty of Parno is, he doesn't even try to be funny. He's just naturally funny, even when he doesn't intend to. I first met him when he wanted to join our Boy Scout team. He was unwanted elsewhere and we were his last resort. To be frank, we were also a bunch of nerds, so our team was the right fit for him. After going through the informal audition where we realized he simply couldn't do anything (Morse code, flag Semaphore, scouting knots, whatever), we eventually figured out that he could be the victim that we placed on the stretcher. That's how he got to join the group, primarily just for laugh.

There's something in him that always turns him into a laughing stock. For some strange reasons, it seems like he is always followed by a series of unfortunate events. Some are self-inflicted, others can be genuine. I remember when he came to my house and told me about the firecracker transaction he would have with Sugendar on the following day, then on the very day itself he was raided by Pak Singlip (we were doing Junior High One then and Pak Singlip was his homeroom teacher). He soon found himself standing in front of the teacher office, sucking a firecracker that was ready to be lit anytime.

With such unlucky fate that, more often than not, made him the butt of the jokes, even his closest buddies would subconsciously end up as bullies sometimes. In Parno's case, I really don't see how we could actually avoid that. For example, in another occasion, when we had our lunch at Sunarto's kway teow stall (I think Surianto Landak was there, too), he accidentally poured the whole bottle of chilli sauce into his plate. What made it more hilarious was his spontaneous remark. He shouted in Teochew something like, "I'm so dead. How am I supposed to eat this now?" We just had to laugh and make fun of him, didn't we? Even Sunarto's father (he was trying his best not to laugh) took pity on him and gave him a free glass of ice tea as a moral support while he struggled to swallow his meal.

From the outsiders' point of view, we might look cruel, alright, but that was just how the mutual relationship was built. It was like a supply and demand thing, which meant bullies only existed because there was one to be bullied, so it was almost like a fair game with a win-win solution. Looking back, of course it's easy to say we shouldn't do what we did, but for the love of God, we were kids and none the wiser then! Anyway, once the laughter subsided, his so-called good friends-cum-bullies did really care about him. Despite the never-ending mockeries, we took care of him, hung out together and influenced each other in a good way. When we were in third grade, the only time we ever went to the same class, Parno picked up the hobby of drawing comics from me.

Thomas and James Boy, the updated version, many years later.
Photo by Parno.

I remember this because I started it first. He saw how I did it and decided to do one himself, then he came up with the story of Boys Brothers, James and Thomas Boy (only God knows why the surname was called Boy), with their best friend Akira, the king of karate, whom seemed to be very insecure about his own skills that he gotta carry a gun (true enough, he was killed early in the series). The comic was so awful that it was universally trashed by others, with Hendra (now known as Oppa) being the loudest. He was questioning why the protagonist needed to carry a suitcase-like equipment with a remark indicating that it was meant for weight lifting and Parno's immediate response was to apply the Tipp-Ex correction fluid, erasing the whole damn thing. Amusing, really. Nevertheless, do you know how Parno faced the harsh criticism? Where other would have given up, he just laughed it off and still continues drawing until today. That is one endearing quality from the man called Parno. He knows very well that he can’t stop people from saying what they want to say, so he let them be and he carries on doing what he always love to do.

When we went to High School, we kept in touch and hung out either at my Auntie's place right behind our school lab or at Endrico's house. Then came the day when we had our grand adventure to Jakarta, a three days two night voyage. We were waiting for Parno as he was requested to bring along his parents to collect his school report card. Apparently he got just enough to pass and was qualified to proceed to the third grade, so off he went with us to Jakarta. His parents gave him only IDR 30K, which was immediately used up to bribe the gate officer as Parno forgot his student card and was refused entry. With no money, he boarded the ship together with Eday, Hartono, Lisna and myself. Oh, I seemed to recall that we bumped into Tuty, too.

Throughout the journey, Parno was so seasick that he even started prophesying how many times more he would vomit (it turned out that he was a false prophet, as he threw out less than seven times). We parted ways with Hartono and Lisna once we reached Jakarta and three of us went to my parents' rented house in Bekasi. That was where Parno tripped over and elbowed the sleeping Eday on the back, causing him to wake up furiously in the middle of the night. Not long after the fateful night, we had a hunch that Parno was actually abandoned. No one seemed to be looking for him, so we sent him to his closest relative in Kelapa Gading. That's how the story of Parno owing Eday IDR 8K came about. 20 years later, the debt is still unpaid, haha.

Parno at Inti College's hostel.

The next big trip came few years later, when we were in college. We went to Kuching and, even though it had been planned, we arrived only to find that Endrico, our one and only contact, was nowhere to be seen. We were lucky that we happened to meet Hendry (Gullit) and Hermanto (Atie) at the bus station. They kindly brought us to their place and contacted Jimmy (Amoy) who came to fetch and bring us around. It was only at night time that our dear guide, Mr. Richard, appeared and smiled innocently. Very reliable, indeed, and he would pull the same stunt again a few years later.

Bumped into Surianto Landak at Saberkas.

The college days were shorter for Parno, for his course was only up to diploma. I was helping him with his thesis, typing and crafting whatever ideas he had into a decent dissertation. However, it was the presentation that was memorable. Yoviana was there and it was her who told me how Parno surprised the lecturers: Parno suddenly stopped in the midst of presentation, claiming that he forgot some English words and confidently requested to continue in French instead. And that he did! Now that was unprecedented!

Parno's birthday celebration at Aneka Rasa.

That was Parno through and through. He made mistakes that were unmistakably his. He is not, for the lack of better words, exactly bright, but he is always comfortable to be himself and he's very much loveable for that alone. I once told him that I really couldn't imagine the possibility of people going all the way to harm him, because he's already so harmless. No, with Parno, if you are patient enough to get past his antics, you'll care about him instead. That's what his inner circle did. We spent time with him, celebrating his birthday and so forth. On the night before his graduation ceremony, when we realized his parents were not attending, I was wondering if Hartono, who was on holiday, could go there so Parno wouldn't be alone and he made it there. As luck would have it, Ardian was there, too, because his sister also graduated at the same time. That's how it was. Everybody did their parts sincerely without asking anything in return.

Hartono attending Parno's graduation day.

The way I look at it, it's like a two way street. With us, Parno never walks alone. He knows that, but never intentionally exploits it. With him, I can say that he tends to humanize us without even knowing it. His happy-go-lucky manner, the way he laughs, I personally learn from him that happiness is from inside our heart, but more to that later. For now, since we already came to the part where he finally graduated, we were now ready for the next big thing in life: going to Jakarta together for job hunting! Into the society and beyond!

Pria Bernama Parno: Bagian 1 - Masa Sekolah

Saya sudah mengenal Parno selama 25 tahun, cukup lama dan akrab untuk bisa bercerita tentang dirinya. Sebagai pria lucu dari generasi kami, keunikan Parno adalah, dia bahkan tidak perlu melucu, karena ia sudah lucu dari sananya, bahkan ketika ia sedang tidak bermaksud untuk melucu. Awal persahabatan kami dimulai dari tim Pramuka. Setelah ditolak di mana-mana, grup kami adalah harapan terakhir baginya. Secara jujur, sebenarnya kami tidak lebih dari kumpulan anak-anak yang tidak pintar bergaul dan oleh karena itu cocok baginya. Setelah audisi apa adanya, kami sadar dia tidak bisa mengerjakan apa pun, mulai dari sandi Morse, tali-temali dan lain, tapi setidaknya dia bisa berpura-pura jadi korban dan berbaring di tandu. Parno akhirnya diterima untuk bergabung karena dia polos dan lucu.

Selalu saja ada hal yang membuat Parno menjadi bahan tertawaan. Rasanya tidak ada penjelasan rasional kenapa begini jadinya, tapi sepertinya Parno selalu dibuntuti oleh berbagai kejadian konyol. Kadang itu karena ulahnya sendiri, kadang juga karena murni ketidakberuntungan semata. Saya ingat tatkala ia bermain ke rumah dan bercerita bahwa ia akan membeli petasan dari Sugendar. Segera setelah transaksi terjadi, dia digerebek oleh Pak Singlip (ini kejadian kelas satu SMP dan wali kelasnya adalah Pak Singlip) dan barang bukti pun ditemukan. Parno pun berakhir di depan kantor guru, berdiri sambil mengulum petasan. 

Dengan nasib semalang itu, seringkali ia menjadi lelucon. Bahkan mereka yang paling dekat dengannya pun bisa dengan tidak sadar mengerjainya. Dalam kasus Parno, rasanya ini sama sekali tidak terelakkan. Sebagai contoh, suatu ketika, sewaktu kita makan siang di kwetiau Sunarto (sepertinya Surianto Landak juga ada di sana), Parno tidak sengaja menumpahkan sebotol sambal cabe ke piringnya. Yang membuat kejadian ini tambah lucu adalah teriakan spontannya dalam bahasa Tiociu yang kira-kira berbunyi seperti ini kalau diterjemahkan, "mati, deh, gua! Gimana makannya kalo begini?" Tentu saja kami tertawa geli dan menggodanya. Bahkan ayah Sunarto yang berusaha menahan tawa pun jadi menaruh belas kasihan dan menyuguhkannya secangkir teh es lagi sebagai dukungan moral bagi Parno yang kepedasan dalam menghabiskan makanannya.

Dari sudut pandang orang luar, kita jadi terlihat kejam, tapi persahabatan dengan Parno memang terjalin seperti itu. Seperti hukum suplai dan permintaan, orang tergerak untuk mengerjai Parno karena dia memang enak untuk dikerjai, jadi ini sebetulnya solusi yang menguntungkan dua belah pihak. Kalau kita lihat kembali, mudah bagi kita sekarang untuk mengatakan, seharusnya dulu tidak begitu, namun saat semua itu terjadi, kita hanyalah anak-anak yang baru tumbuh dan berkembang, jadi harap maklum. Lagipula, setelah tawa berhenti, yang tersisa di sekitarnya adalah para sahabat yang benar-benar peduli. Meski kita tidak pernah berhenti mengejek, kita juga menerima dia apa adanya, berteman dengan tulus dan saling memberikan pengaruh yang baik. Ketika kita duduk di kelas tiga SMP, sekali-kalinya Parno pernah sekelas dengan saya, Parno mulai menekuni hobi menggambar komik.

Parno melukis Yen Susanti
Photo by Ayen and Parno

Kenangan ini masih sangat jelas sekali karena saya yang memulai hobi ini. Parno terinspirasi oleh apa yang saya kerjakan dan dia pun menulis ceritanya sendiri, sebuah kisah tentang Thomas dan James, kakak beradik bermarga Boy, dan teman baik mereka, Akira, si Raja Karate yang disinyalir tidak jago karena masih perlu membawa pistol (dan benar saja, Akira dengan cepat terbunuh di awal cerita). Karya Parno ini luar biasa konyol sehingga dikritik habis-habisan terutama oleh Hendra (yang sekarang dipanggil Oppa). Dia bertanya kenapa tokoh utamanya harus membawa pemberat berbentuk koper dan, karena tidak bisa menjawab, pemberat itu pun di-Tipp-Ex habis dan hilang pada keesokan harinya. Kocak nian. Akan tetapi, yang menarik untuk diingat di sini adalah bagaimana Parno menanggapi bombardir kritikan pedas ini. Di kala orang lain mungkin sudah menyerah, Parno tidak pernah berhenti menggambar. Ini satu kualitas yang patut dikagumi darinya. Dia paham orang lain tidak akan berhenti mencibir, jadi ia mengabaikan mereka dan terus mengerjakan apa yang disukainya.

Endrico membaca "Pedang Hitam"

Ketika kita memasuki jenjang SMU, persahabatan masih terus berlanjut walau berbeda kelas dan waktu. Di kala senggang, kita berkumpul di rumah tante saya yang berada di belakang laboratorium sekolah atau di rumah Endrico. Di liburan panjang tahun kedua, kita bertualang menaiki kapal Lawit menuju Jakarta selama tiga hari dua malam. Di hari keberangkatan, kita semua menanti Parno yang harus membawa orang tuanya dalam mengambil rapor. Ternyata nilainya pas-pasan untuk naik ke kelas tiga, maka jadilah ia berangkat bersama kita. Oleh orang tuanya, Parno dibekali Rp. 30000 yang segera habis terpakai untuk menyogok petugas di pelabuhan (Parno tidak membawa kartu pelajar sehingga ditolak masuk). Tanpa uang di saku, dia akhirnya berlayar bersama Eday, Lisna, Hartono dan saya. Kalau tidak keliru, kita juga bertemu Tuty di kapal yang sama.

Selama perjalanan, Parno mabuk laut dan muntah habis-habisan (makan es krim, keluar es krim. Makan Indomie, keluar Indomie), namun untunglah dia tidak muntah lebih dari tujuh kali seperti yang ia prediksikan sendiri. Setibanya di Jakarta, kita berpisah dengan Hartono dan Lisna dan melanjutkan perjalanan ke rumah sewaan orang tua saya di Bekasi. Suatu malam, Parno bangun dan melangkah pelan ke pintu kamar, tetapi ia terjerembab dan jatuh menyikut Eday yang sedang tertidur. Hampir saja mereka bergaduh malam itu jika bukan karena alasan Parno yang lucu. Beberapa hari kemudian, kita mulai berfirasat kalau Parno ini mungkin dibiarkan terlantar sendiri. Tidak ada yang mencarinya, jadi kita berinisiatif mengantarnya pulang ke rumah pamannya di Kelapa Gading. Dari situlah bermula cerita Parno berhutang Rp. 8000 pada Eday. 20 tahun kemudian, hutang itu belum lunas juga, haha.

Berpose atau berkarya?

Petualangan besar berikutnya terjadi beberapa tahun kemudian, ketika kita sudah menjadi mahasiswa. Kali ini kita keluar negeri menuju Kuching. Meski sudah direncanakan dengan matang, kita ternyata dibiarkan terlantar di terminal bis Kuching oleh Endrico. Nasib baik menyertai kita karena Hendry (Gullit) dan Hermanto (Atie) kebetulan berada di sana. Kita diajak ke tempat tinggal mereka dan Jimmy (Amoy) pun dihubungi. Dia datang membawa kita keliling Kuching. Ketika malam tiba, barulah pemandu kita, Endrico, muncul sambil cengar-cengir. Sangat bisa diandalkan, tentu saja, dan dia akan mengulangi aksi yang sama beberapa tahun kemudian.

Parno, Endrico dan Alvin Virgianto di Kuching

Hari-hari kuliah lebih singkat bagi Parno karena dia hanya mengambil diploma. Semester terakhirnya diisi dengan kunjungan ke rumah dan saya membantunya mengetik serta menuangkan ide-idenya menjadi makalah. Jika ada yang menarik untuk dikenang dari saat-saat ini, maka itu adalah presentasinya. Menurut Yoviana, Parno mendadak berhenti di tengah presentasinya. Ia mengaku lupa cara menyampaikan gagasannya dalam bahasa Inggris, oleh karena itu ia meminta izin kepada dosen untuk melanjutkan dalam bahasa Perancis. Kontan saja seisi ruang sidang pun gempar. Hanya Parno yang bisa melakukan trik seaneh itu. Ini pasti belum pernah terjadi sebelumnya dan tidak akan terjadi lagi selanjutnya.

Eday, Andy William, Teng Lai, Parno, Muliady AW dan Hendri Muliadi di Dangau.

Inilah uniknya Parno. Apa pun yang ia perbuat, itu khas dirinya. Meski jauh dari jenius, Parno memiliki pembawaan yang santai dan merasa nyaman dengan jati dirinya. Dia mudah bersahabat karena kelebihannya ini. Pernah sekali saya sampaikan bahwa saya tidak bisa membayangkan kalau ada orang yang ingin menjegalnya, sebab tidak ada yang perlu dijegal dari seorang Parno yang sudah sangat sederhana. Ketika seseorang cukup sabar untuk meladeni Parno, orang itu pasti akan bersimpati padanya. Itu yang dilakukan para sahabatnya. Kita meluangkan waktu untuk merayakan ulang tahunnya dan lain-lain. Di malam sebelum dia diwisuda, ketika kita mengetahui bahwa orang tuanya tidak akan hadir, saya berbincang dengan Hartono yang kebetulan sedang liburan kuliah, apakah bisa ia menemani Parno di hari besarnya. Hartono langsung menyanggupinya. Ardian, yang adiknya juga diwisuda bersamaan, turut hadir juga. Seperti itulah teman-teman dekatnya, tidak pernah meminta imbalan apa pun.

Foto atas, dari atas kiri searah jarum jam:
Riomarco, Andry, Hendri Muliadi, Budi Hendra, Anthony, Parno dan Hengki Muliadi di perayaan ultah Parno yang ke-20.
Foto bawah, dari kiri:
Sylvia Chen, Suhana, Yoviana, Andry dan Riomarco 
di perayaan ultah Parno yang ke-20.

Secara pribadi, saya selalu berpikir ini adalah pertemanan dua arah. Karena keberadaan kita, Parno tahu ia tidak menghadapi masalahnya seorang diri. Dia tahu teman-temannya bisa diandalkan, tapi selagi dia bisa, dia tidak akan berpangku tangan dan berharap ditolong setiap waktu. Di sisi lain, keberadaan seorang Parno membuat teman-temannya menjadi lebih manusiawi. Gayanya yang selalu riang dan cara dia tertawa, terus-terang semua itu membuat saya belajar bahwa kegembiraan itu berasal dari dalam hati. Tapi itu cerita untuk lain waktu. Sekarang, setelah lulus dari kuliah, akhirnya kita siap untuk terjun ke dalam masyakarat. Berikutnya adalah ke Jakarta dan mencari kerja!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Best Instant Noodles Ever

I once saw the Amazon reviews of Indomie on Facebook and they were so hilarious. I mean, it's easy for Indonesians to take it for granted because Indomie has always been there for almost half a century, but to read those comments from whom I could only guess as Americans, they were amusingly funny, innocent and refreshing at the same time. The reviews were written as if it was a revelation to them, that an instant ramen (yeah, more often than not, they called it ramen) could taste this good. And the converts warn pre-believers that there is no turning back. Once you have a bite, you'll get addicted for life!

It brought me to my personal experience, back in the early 80s. I remember that there were two flavors, chicken and prawn, but the latter one didn't last, which was too bad, because I kind of liked it. These noodles were served with soup. Later on, the dry version, Indomie Goreng, appeared. Almost 50 years later, it still reigns supreme. Indomie Goreng is simply the best, easily one of the very few good things that are done right in Indonesia. The name Indomie, which stands for Indonesia and Mie (or noodles in English), says it all and it doesn't disappoint.

Fast forward to many years later, I visited the Cupnoodles museum, (and, yes, for some strange reason, the name was actually spelled as one word) in Yokohama. There was a documentary shown here, explaining how Momofuku Ando invented the instant chicken ramen. He was there when his wife fried tempura and it suddenly dawned on him that he could preserve the ramen in a similar way. Nissin was born afterwards, but Ando wasn't done yet. After observing how the Americans would always be on the go, he got an idea of noodles in a styrofoam cup, complete with the foldable plastic fork: the cup noodles.

Indomie was also found on the display at the museum. I'm not sure if I should, but I remember feeling proud when I saw it. I had come so far and yet I saw something that was so familiar. If I recall correctly, there was also some sort of information saying that Indonesia was in the top ten list of the instant noodles business and dominated the market share, especially in Africa. Quite an achievement, isn't it?

Back to Indomie itself, how good it is if we compare it with other brands, be it domestic of overseas? Well, I wasn't kidding when I wrote about Indomie Goreng. It is so good that it's in a league of its own. The soupy ramen category may be slightly competitive, but if you put Nissin, Myojo, Maggi, Supermi and Indomie on the table, I would still pick and cook Indomie. Call me biased or what, but to me, Indomie beats the rest. No questions asked.

Indomie Goreng, my style!

I think it's safe to say that every Indonesian grows up eating Indomie. Back in the days, I ate it so often that my Mum knew which style of cooking that I like the most from a plate of Indomie Goreng. The key ingredient of our family recipe is the egg. The noodles shouldn't be cooked too long so it will still be chewy. Once the noodles are strained, then it's time to put the egg in and stir it up together with the noodles. Mum would have the egg boiled up to 75% done whereas if I did it myself, I would leave it half done, creating a foamy and sticky effect on the noodles. Both are equally tasty! For the soupy version, normally I'd ask my wife to do it as her cooking style comes with boiled egg that blends perfectly fine with the soup, some veggies and, if I got lucky, there'll be slices of meatballs, too.

Now I let you in for a big secret. I've been holding back from introducing Indomie to my daughters. You know, it's me trying to be a good parent, blah, blah, blah, but when we were in Bintan recently, there weren't really many choices of food as my elder daughter is a picky eater. She's always fond of Ajisen Ramen, so I was actually curious about her reaction on Indomie. Against my better judgment, I prepared Indomie cup noodles for her to try and, as expected, she loved it. I smiled, but I wasn't proud, really! Parents, don't do the same! There's no turning back! You've been warned!

Mie Instan Terbaik Di Dunia

Suatu ketika, ketika saya sedang melihat Facebook, ada yang iseng menampilkan review para pembeli yang berbelanja Indomie online lewat Amazon. Saya tergelak ketika membacanya karena geli dengan kesaksian orang-orang bule ini tentang Indomie. Terkadang, sebagai orang Indonesia, gampang bagi kita untuk melupakan bagaimana rasa ketika kita pertama kali mencicipi Indomie karena mie instan ini sudah hampir 50 tahun lamanya berada di pasaran. Komentar orang-orang Amerika ini memberikan sudut pandang berbeda, polos dan lucu, terlebih lagi karena kesannya seperti keberhasilan dalam membongkar rahasia besar yang selama ini tidak pernah terungkap di dunia Barat. Mereka seakan tidak percaya bahwa mie instan bisa seenak ini. Testimoni yang ada bagaikan memperingatkan mereka yang belum pernah mencoba, bahwa tidak ada jalan untuk bertobat. Sekali dicicipi, yang makan akan terjerumus seumur hidup!

Bacaan ini mengingatkan saya kembali akan pengalaman pribadi saya di awal tahun 80an. Saya ingat bahwa ketika itu hanya dua rasa, ayam dan udang, namun rasa udang tidak diproduksi lagi sekarang. Sayang juga, karena saya suka yang rasa ini. Indomie versi awal ini dimasak dan disajikan dengan kuah. Indomie Goreng, versi kering tanpa kuah, muncul setelah itu dan sampai hari ini popularitasnya tidak pernah pudar. Indomie Goreng adalah yang terbaik dan salah satu dari sedikit hal baik yang sukses dan mengharumkan nama Indonesia. Nama Indomie, yang terdiri dari kata Indonesia dan Mie, jelas tidak mengecewakan.

Bertahun-tahun kemudian, saya mengunjungi museum Cupnoodles di Yokohama. Yang menarik di sana adalah dokumentasi pendek dimana Momofuku Ando menemukan cara membuat mie ayam instan. Ternyata dia mendapatkan inspirasi dari istrinya yang sedang menggoreng tempura dan tiba-tiba ia tersadar bahwa ia bisa membuat ramen menjadi lebih awet dengan cara yang sama. Nissin akhirnya lahir setelah itu, namun Ando belum selesai berkiprah. Setelah mengamati bagaimana orang Amerika selalu makan sambil berjalan dan beraktivitas, dia mendapatkan ide tentang mie dalam gelas styrofoam, lengkap dengan garpu plastik yang bisa dilipat: mie gelas. 

Indomie juga dipajang di museum tersebut. Saya merasa bangga ketika saya melihatnya. Saya datang dari jauh dan sesuatu yang saya kenal baik menunggu saya di situ. Jika saya tidak salah ingat, di museum juga tertera informasi bahwa Indonesia termasuk dalam peringkat 10 besar di dunia bisnis mie instan dan menguasai pangsa pasar, terutama di Afrika. Prestasi yang lumayan, bukan? 

Kembali ke Indomie itu sendiri, seberapa enak mie instan ini jika kita bandingkan dengan merek lain yang tersedia di dalam dan luar negeri? Saya jelas tidak sedang bercanda sewaktu menulis tentang Indomie Goreng. Yang satu ini benar-benar enak sehingga tiada banding. Kompetisi di kategori kuah mungkin lebih memiliki banyak penantang, tapi jika anda menaruh Nissin, Myojo, Maggi, Supermi dan Indomie di atas meja, saya masih tetap akan mengambil dan memasak Indomie. Mungkin saya bias, tapi bagi saya, tidak dapat dipungkiri bahwa Indomie masih lebih lezat dari yang lain.

Indomie kuah dengan telur dan bakso.

Saya rasa tidak berlebihan jika saya berkata bahwa setiap orang Indonesia menikmati Indomie dalam setiap fase hidupnya. Ketika saya masih kecil, Mama saya sering membuatkan Indomie Goreng dengan cara yang paling saya sukai. Kuncinya adalah telur. Agar masih terasa kenyal saat digigit, mie tidak boleh direbus terlalu lama. Setelah airnya ditiriskan, masukkan telur dan kocok sampai merata dengan mie. Kalau Mama yang masak, hasilnya adalah mie bercampur telur yang sudah 75% matang, tapi saya sendiri cenderung memasak yang versi setengah matang, sehingga hasilnya seperti berbusa dan lengket. Dua-duanya sedap untuk disantap! Untuk versi sup, saya suka masakan istri saya, karena dia biasanya dia menambahkan telur yang direbus bersama kuah, sayur dan beberapa butir bakso. 

Sekarang saya beritahukan anda sebuah rahasia besar. Selama ini saya tidak pernah memperkenalkan Indomie pada anak-anak saya. Ya, karena konon Indomie itu kurang sehat, tidak bergizi dan lain-lain, tapi ketika kami mengunjungi Bintan baru-baru ini, tidak banyak makanan yang tersedia di resort dan putri saya yang sulung juga sangat pemilih dalam soal makanan. Dia selalu menggemari Ajisen Ramen, jadi saya sebenarnya penasaran juga dengan reaksinya terhadap Indomie. Saya akhirnya menyiapkan Popmie untuk dia coba dan, seperti yang saya duga, dia menyukainya. Saya tersenyum, tapi sebagai orang tua, saya tidak merasa bangga. Tidak ada jalan untuk bertobat baginya. Dia sekarang menjadi penggemar Indomie!

Di pelabuhan Bintan, sambil menunggu feri ke Singapura, dia menikmati pop mie keduanya.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tissue Issues

The Four Essential Tissues

What tissues? Kleenex? Puffs? No, Honey, it is the tissues found in your body. Tissues are a group of similar cells linked together doing the same job. “So, what are the four, exactly?” They are epithelial tissue, connective tissue, muscle tissue and nervous tissue.

We’ll start off with epithelial tissues that can be found in various part in your body such as pharynx, salivary glands and skin. Now these tissues are differentiated by firstly the shape and then the number of layers. There are three basic shapes for these tissues, columnar, cuboidal and finally squamous. For one layer, we call it simple. For multiple layers, we call it stratified. Now that you know the very basics, we can go in depth to the purpose of the different shapes.

Columnar, because it is more long (rectangular) than it is wide, hence it has more surface area in which it is excellent in absorption. You can find simple columnar epithelial tissues at the duodenum (microvilli) and stratified columnar epithelial tissues at the pharynx for protection.

Cuboidal, as the name suggests, it is more cube-like, hence it has more volume for storage, for example the kidney for secretion or salivary glands, stratified cuboidal epithelial tissues.

Last of all squamous, it is spindle shaped, hence can be thin enough to provide rapid exchange of gases. Simple squamous epithelial tissues can be found at the alveoli while the stratified squamous epithelial tissue can be found at the skin for protection.

We’ve still got three more special type of epithelial tissues such as transitional, pseudostratified and glandular epithelial.

For transitional, as the name suggests, trans means change shape. This transitional epithelial tissue can be found at your bladder. So make sure you don't keep your pee in for too long! There might be nasty bacteria in there, that can increase the risk of bladder infection.

Pseudostratified, pseudo meaning “fake” and stratified meaning “multiple layers”. Pseudostratified columnar can be found along your trachea.

Finally, glandular epithelial which can be found in exocrine and endocrine.

Congratulations to you if you’ve made it this far to connective tissues. What are connective tissues? Yes, yes, they are like wires. These tissues give strength, flexibility, structure. It is shock absorbent, also it acts like a medium for transport. There are two categories of the connective tissue, proper and specialized. Under proper, there’s loose and dense. Loose connective tissues are areolar, adipose and reticular. While for dense, we have regular, irregular and elastic. Under specialized, there are the bones, blood and cartilage section. And those were just the tip of the iceberg.

Get a little stretch! Here comes the muscle tissues! The initial thought of muscles leads to movement, right?! Well, muscles allow us to move be it involuntary or voluntary. For example, our hearts never stops beating, "bedok bedok" (unless you're immortal). This such movement is involuntary. While voluntary means that we have the control of our movement. We have three types of muscle tissues. The first is skeletal muscle tissue, whereby these tissues moves bones. The second one is smooth muscles, which provide movement in the hollow organs like the oesophagus, ie. pushing the food down mechanically. Lastly, we have our cardiac muscle tissue.

Nervous tissues. Oh, don't freak out just yet! Neurons! These are like your wiring in the house that transmits electricity. There are several types of neurons in our body that are for different functions. As for example, the multi-polar myelinated neuron basically has a distinct cell body, nucleus and dendrites (branched out structure), axon (one long branch that is stretched out from the cell body to the axon terminals).

Now how amazing is our body ? It feel like it is similar to a house! Epithelial tissues could be like the bricks of the house. Connective tissues are like the composites used, steel (reinforcement) and cement (matrix). Muscle tissues are the power source while nervous tissues are the electrical wires all around the house. So let us appreciate the components that makes up our body and eat healthy to keep our house strong!


Transitional Epithelium:
Pseudostratified Epithelium:
Glandular Epithelium:

Connective tissue mindmap: 

Diagram of Arm: