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Saturday, May 22, 2021

The Sadness In Her Eyes

Six years were quite a long time to be in other people's life. Our helper, Siti, had been with us few months before our second daughter was born. She was hard working, smart and honest, hence we had no problems like those stories of helper gone rogue that you might have heard before.

As far as I could remember, house chores were taken care of and the floor was never sticky. Siti was great with our daughters, too. She also cooked when my wife was busy and in doing so, she developed her signature recipe here: the crispy fried shallots, so delicious that it was loved by both sides of our families in Pontianak and Bandung. 

In short, she had been a fantastic help and her stay with us became life as we knew it. When she decided to go back for good, I was wondering how life was like before she came. I found later that there were a lot of washing, sweeping and mopping to be done by me, so frequent that I got a blister on my thumb, haha.

Siti with the kids and my wife...

Back to our story, then came the day when we had to say goodbye. It turned out to be especially hard for my eldest daughter. Linda hugged Siti many times, as if she didn't want to let go. Then it occurred to me that it was the first farewell for the eight-year-old. Even though they bickered from time to time, Siti was still a family-like figure that Linda knew and saw everyday for almost her entire life. At such a young age, she now tried to process the fact she might not see someone she knew dearly anymore. 

Saying goodbye was a raw emotion that she was not familiar with and the sadness only got worse when the reality sank in. When we reached home, Linda cried again and said she wanted her Mbak (auntie) back. We explained to her that Siti had moved on, but we'd probably see her again one day. 

Fast forward to Eid al-Fitr, Linda gave Siti a call and wish her a happy Eid. Linda sounded like her usual self, without a trace of sadness in her voice no more. As I sat in the living room, I couldn't help smiling when I heard how cheerful and cheeky she was. I always knew that she was kind and caring, but as a father, it was kind of assuring to learn that she was tough, too...

Last picture we took at Changi Airport...



Kesedihan Di Matanya

Enam tahun adalah waktu yang cukup lama untuk menjadi bagian dari hidup orang lain. Pembantu kami, Siti, sudah bekerja di rumah beberapa bulan sebelum putri bungsu kami lahir. Orangnya rajin, pintar dan jujur pula sehingga kami tidak memiliki beraneka masalah pembantu yang pernah anda dengar atau baca.  

Saya ingat bahwa selama ini tugas bersih-bersih rumah dikerjakan dengan baik dan lantai tidak terasa lengket. Siti dekat dengan anak-anak. Dia juga memasak bila istri saya sedang sibuk dan di rumah kita, dia menjadi pakar bawang goreng. Kelezatan bawang goreng buatannya bahkan disukai oleh keluarga besar dua belah pihak, baik yang di Pontianak maupun yang di Bandung.  

Singkata kata, keberadaannya sangat membantu dan membuat hidup menjadi lebih mudah. Sewaktu Siti memutuskan untuk berhenti kerja, saya jadi berusaha mengingat kembali, seperti apa kehidupan kami sebelum Siti datang. Jawabannya adalah banyaknya baju kotor yang harus saya cuci dan jemur sendiri. Demikian juga dengan tugas menyapu dan mengepel yang tiada habisnya sehingga jempol saya sampai menggelembung dan berair, haha... 

Audrey, Siti, Linda dan Yani...

Kembali ke cerita, kemudian tibalah harinya kami mengucapkan selamat berpisah. Ternyata ini tidak mudah bagi putri sulung saya. Linda memeluk Siti berulang kali di bandara, seakan-akan berat baginya untuk melepaskannya. Saya lantas menyadari bahwa ini adalah perpisahan pertama bagi anak yang baru berumur delapan tahun ini. Meski terkadang mereka cekcok karena hal yang sepele, bagaimanapun Siti masih merupakan sosok yang Linda kenal dan berinteraksi setiap hari selama enam tahun terakhir. Di usianya yang masih begitu muda, Linda kini berusaha untuk mengerti bahwa dia mungkin tidak akan bertemu lagi dengan orang yang ia kenal baik ini. 

Perpisahan seperti ini adalah sebuah emosi yang masih asing baginya. Ia kian bertambah sedih setelah perpisahan itu terjadi. Ketika kami sampai di rumah, Linda menangis lagi dan berkata bahwa dia mau mbaknya kembali ke sini. Kami jelaskan padanya bahwa Siti sudah berhenti untuk pulang ke tengah keluarganya, tapi suatu hari nanti kita mungkin akan bertemu dengannya lagi. 

Beberapa hari kemudian, ketika Idul Fitri tiba, Linda menelepon Siti untuk mengucapkan selamat hari raya. Suara Linda terdengar ceria seperti biasanya, tak lagi terdengar kesedihan dalam nada bicaranya. Saya yang sedang duduk tak jauh darinya pun jadi tersenyum sendiri saat mendengar kegembiraan dan keisengannya. Saya tahu bahwa Linda adalah anak yang baik hati dan peduli dengan orang lain, tapi sebagai ayah, saya jadi lega saat mengetahui bahwa dia pun ternyata cukup tangguh dalam menyikapi kesedihannya. Semoga dia tumbuh menjadi gadis yang tegar suatu hari nanti...

Foto bersama terakhir di Bandara Changi...


Friday, May 14, 2021

Pandemic: The New Nomal!

It's 2021 now and the last time I wrote something was in 2020. It's obvious that it took me roughly six months because there was not much to write during pandemic. I quietly saved money in order to have leisure time in Japan one day. Even though the shadow of pandemic is looming, whenever we live and work, we should be enjoying life. 

I personally enjoy the life of a shop keeper and a small time businessman in salted fish trading. I'm still a beginner in getting good salted fish, haha. I'm 42 this year, but still being scolded by my Mum so often that I'm used to it already. Life is up and down like a roller coaster.

Still my desire to go to Japan makes me more driven in earning money from salted fish trading. COVID-19 forces me to work out every morning. I clean the house and open shop, then do jogging and cardio in the afternoon. That aside, I also enjoy my time as a father of two.

We have gone through pandemic for about one year plus. I watch my Mum and Dad doing the same activities. They are old now and I wonder if they wish to travel just like me, but can't do it now. Mum also has a leg problem, like something is wrong with the joint. It hurts from time to time, but she still goes to our shop. She once said to the customer, "not working, no money," within my earshot. I just kept quiet when I heard that.      

My father is pretty stubborn as well. He goes out all the time despite repeated warning from my Mum. She doesn't want him to go out if it's not important, but Dad said he'd rather die. Mum was upset that she told him off, "die if you wish, but don't spread the virus to us!" 

Again I just kept quiet. I don't have the heart to get involved, especially when I still can't make them proud, even though I'm a father of two now. I'm Parno Bong, 42 years old and I can only put this on blog. The story of my life... 😁😁

I'm Parno Bong.




Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Muhammad Ali: A Memoir

I'm not sure about kids these days, but if you were my age, you couldn't be living on this planet and never heard of Muhammad Ali. He was that famous! The problem is, we were born at the end of his career. By the time we became aware of him, he was not even half the man he used to be. In fact, the first time I saw him on TV was during the opening of the Olympics in Atlanta. He was this slow-moving, middle aged man with shaky hands that lighted up the cauldron.

Then I listened to I'm the Greatest, a song written by John for Ringo. I learnt that the song title was inspired by Ali's catchphrase, but that was pretty much it. Many years later, Ali was the headline news on Time magazine when he passed away in 2016. I read about that, but I only became a fan after I watched a snippet of his first interview on Michael Parkinson's talk show. He was funny, charismatic and provocative at times. 

When the movie called Ali appeared on Netflix, I gave it a try. I liked what I saw and Will Smith was great, but it turned out that the real deal was even better. I was blown away when I watched What's My Name: Muhammad Ali on HBO. The documentary told the story from the beginning till the day he retired and suffered from Parkinson's disease. 

Ali was, to quote the man himself, the greatest. When he first started, the way he boxed was exactly the way he said it: "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." He kept his hands so low and danced around Sonny Liston. Outside the ring, he was a showman, ever entertaining. He talked big and rhymed, but he also walked the talk. Even when he lost, he was still as charming as ever. He beat the undefeated George Foreman when nobody thought he could do so. He was also the first boxer who won world heavyweight championship three times. Then the Parkinson's disease took almost everything away from him. It was really sad to see him shaking uncontrollably and losing his ability to speak. In a way, it was ironic.

As usual, after being inspired by a story, I often looked for the book. At first I wanted to read his autobiography, but the book was sort of doctored, so I chose the memoir by Michael Parkinson instead. The TV presenter looked back and reminisced the four interviews he had with Ali at different times of his life. It was like remembering an old friend, full of fondness, but also honest, bittersweet and poignant, a loving tribute for a man who was once known as the Greatest. Recommended for those who never saw Ali during his prime!

The Greatest.



Muhammad Ali: Sebuah Memoar 

Jika anda seumuran dengan saya, rasanya tidak mungkin bahwa anda tidak pernah mendengar nama Muhammad Ali. Yang problem itu, generasi kita lahir di penghujung karirnya. Ketika kita tahu ada orang yang namanya Muhammad Ali, dia sudah jauh berbeda dengan sosok di masa jayanya. Saya sendiri pertama kali melihatnya di televisi saat Olimpiade Atlanta. Dia adalah pria setengah baya yang bergetar tangannya dan berjalan pelan sambil membawa  obor di acara pembukaan olimpiade. 

Setelah itu saya mendengar lagu I'm the Greatest yang ditulis oleh John untuk Ringo. Saya pernah baca bahwa judul lagu ini berasal dari slogan Ali, namun hanya sebatas itu yang saya tahu. Bertahun-tahun kemudian, Ali muncul di sampul majalah Time tatkala dia meninggal di tahun 2016. Saya sempat baca artikelnya, tapi saya baru menjadi penggemar sesudah menonton cuplikan wawancaranya di acara Michael Parkinson. Ternyata Ali itu lucu, karismatik dan juga provokatif gaya bicaranya. 

Ketika film berjudul Ali muncul di Netflix, saya pun coba tonton. Saya suka ceritanya dan Will Smith cocok memerankan Ali, tapi siapa sangka orang aslinya lebih dahsyat lagi? Saya terkesan saat menonton dokumenter What's My Name: Muhammad Ali di HBO yang mengisahkan tentang asal-mula Ali sampai masa pensiunnya. Penyakit Parkinson yang dideritanya pun diceritakan di sini. 

Mengutip apa yang ia sendiri katakan, Ali adalah yang terhebat. Di awal karirnya, gayanya dalam bertinju persis seperti yang ia jabarkan: "lincah seperti kupu-kupu, menyengat seperti lebah." Tangannya senantiasa berada di bawah, seakan-akan ia menantang lawan untuk memukulnya. Gerak kakinya juga sangat gesit saat menghadapi Sonny Liston. Di luar ring, dia piawai dalam bertutur-kata. Dia membuat lawannya jengkel tapi membuat penonton tertawa. Dia berani sesumbar dan pandai pula berpantun meremehkan lawan, tapi dia memiliki kemampuan untuk membuktikan ucapannya. Bahkan di saat kalah pun dia masih terdengar hebat. George Foreman yang tak terkalahkan pun tumbang saat beradu jotos dengannya, padahal saat itu tidak ada yang yakin bahwa Ali yang lebih tua akan menang. Ali juga menjadi petinju pertama yang menjadi juara dunia kelas berat sebanyak tiga kali. Lalu penyakit Parkinson merenggut hampir semua kebanggaannya. Sedih rasanya melihat tangannya bergetar tak terkendali. Dia juga kehilangan kemampuannya dalam berbicara. Sungguh ironis. 

Seperti biasa, bilamana saya terinspirasi oleh suatu cerita, saya suka baca bukunya. Tadinya saya hendak membaca otobiografinya, tapi ulasan buku tersebut tidak terlalu bagus, bahkan ada pendapat bahwa Ali sendiri tidak terlibat dalam penulisannya. Akhirnya saya pilih memoar karangan Michael Parkinson. Pembawa acara TV ini mengenang kembali wawancara bersama Ali di empat masa yang berbeda dalam hidupnya. Tulisannya terasa seperti bercerita tentang seorang teman lama, kadang sedih dan kadang gembira, namun juga jujur dan apa adanya. Sungguh sebuah persembahan yang pantas untuk orang yang dulunya dikenal sebagai yang terhebat. Cocok bagi pembaca yang tidak pernah melihat kedashyatan sosok seorang Ali sebagai petinju!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

My Generation: Through The Lens

A while ago, I shared the story about the extensive photo collection I had. It's crazy how I actually had photos for every phase of my life, especially after moving house so many times. I mean, photos weren't essential stuff and could have lost a long the way. 

What's more crazy is the collection included not only pictures of me, but also photos of other high school friends with or without me, haha. There were so many of them accumulated throughout the years. When I moved them to the cloud, it occurred to me that perhaps it'd be interesting to see them in a chronological order. 

Through the lens.

The question now was, what would be the criteria for the pictures to be posted? I struggled with this, but after much consideration, I eventually decided to go with only the happiest memories we had. Those with big smiles, they couldn't go wrong, could they? They represented the best times we once went through. 

Thus began the unexpected journey that brought me back to 1996. The earliest pictures were of low quality. This was the time when pictures were taken using an analog camera, then the photos that survived the era were scanned using the technology that was available in early 2000s. 

Class 1996-1997!

Even though some were blurry and pixelated, I still could see clearly how young we were. High school was a simpler time, when smiles were genuine and innocent. College days gave us the first taste of freedom and you could tell from the hairstyle and fashion. Some of us also started holding mobile phones in our hands.

Next batch of pictures looked significantly better, but a closer look revealed that none actually came from year 2003. This was the time when I first used a secondhand Ericsson T10, before changing it to a more trendy looking Sony Ericsson T100. None of the phones had a camera, so that explained why there was no picture from that year. 

Taken with Sony Cyber-shot, 3.2 Megapixel!

The photos I had were from 2004 and they were taken using a digital camera. It showed a different time, when we started working and had a bit of money in our pockets. Not much, but enough to give us young adults to look decent for our age, haha. And we started traveling, too. From the pictures, I could see places like Kuching, Bali and Singapore

We still hung out together in mid 2000s, especially when all came back to Pontianak during Chinese New Year. However, as we grew older, some good friends started disappearing from the pictures. I felt sad when I noticed this. To think that we grew up together, we could have set any differences aside and remained friends, but when I voiced it out in our chat group, Eday put it bluntly that it was their choice. He was right, of course. 

A night at the wedding.

Despite the popularity of Blackberry, a smart phone with a camera that were used by many Indonesians during its heyday, not many pictures came from 2006-2013. If my life could be used as an indicator, it was the time when we were simply busy pursuing our career and settling down. As a result, we didn't keep in touch that much. 

In year 2014, I was already quite comfortable with my role as a husband and a father. Things were going great at work, too. There was some form of stability and I guess it turned out to be same for many of us. It suddenly felt like a right time to catch up again. That's when my friends and I organised a reunion party and for the first time ever in a really long while, we gathered in such a big group. We got to know each other again. 

And this was just a dinner. Imagine the reunion!

What happened next was the dawn of WhatsApp. That really changed the whole thing. Being in the same group on daily basis brought us much closer than before. We had fun, we discussed, we shared happy and sad news, we offended each other, we helped one another, we planned for next gathering or trip, but most importantly, we posted pictures. A lot of them. The quality was good as well!

These were happier times that pretty well documented. We tried new things such as watching concerts and a soccer match, but as we headed to the big 40, we started to stick with what we were familiar with. We hung out, we visited the same old eateries we knew and loved such as Nasi Campur Alu, Bakmi Alit or Bakso Ikan Telur Asin Ahan, we had a drink or two and of course we traveled, too.

The trip to Semarang.

The pattern repeated year after year, until COVID-19 put a stop to it. Thus began the new chapter of our lives. A rather strange one, I would say. Year 2020 started off quite well, but soon it became obvious that it was going to be a year like no other. We wore masks and we had an awkward meet up on Zoom. Only God knows how we're going to get out of this, but we had to be thankful that we'd been blessed with good health in the time of corona.

Anyway, when I first started posting them on our high school Facebook page, I thought the rightful owner would love to have their pictures back. But by the time I finished it, I realized that I was doing it not just for them. I enjoyed the process and had a great time looking back. We started from a humble beginning and we'd come so far. It's like riding a train together and I'm really proud to be part of my generation... 

The awkward Zoom session.



Dari Balik Lensa Kamera: Generasi Kita

Beberapa waktu yang lalu, saya menulis cerita tentang koleksi foto yang saya miliki. Takjub rasanya karena saya masih memiliki foto dari setiap jenjang kehidupan saya, terlebih lagi karena saya sering pindah rumah. Maksud saya, foto bukanlah sesuatu yang penting dan bisa saja hilang saat pindahan. 

Yang lebih mencengangkan lagi adalah cakupan koleksi tersebut. Ada banyak potret teman-teman SMA, baik dengan ataupun tanpa saya di foto, yang terkumpul selama puluhan tahun terakhir. Ketika saya memindahkan data ke cloud, saya jadi terpikir untuk melihat foto-foto ini secara kronologis. 

Lewat lensa kamera.

Pertanyaannya sekarang adalah, apa saja kriteria foto yang hendak saya unggah? Setelah saya pertimbangkan, saya putuskan bahwa sebaiknya foto-foto dari masa yang gembira saja. Foto dengan senyum lebar harusnya tidak akan menyinggung siapa pun, bukan? Koleksi ini seharusnya menampilkan saat-saat terbaik dalam hidup kita. 

Lantas mulailah sebuah perjalanan tak terduga yang membawa saya kembali ke tahun 1996. Foto dari zaman ini buruk kualitasnya. Ini adalah masa dimana foto diambil dengan kamera biasa dan apa yang tersisa dari masa ini pun dipindai dengan teknologi awal tahun 2000an.

Kelas II SMA. 1996-1997!

Meski buram dan pecah gambarnya, saya masih bisa melihat dengan cukup jelas, betapa mudanya kita pada saat itu. SMA adalah masa yang sederhana, saat dimana senyum terlihat tulus dan apa adanya. Masa kuliah memberikan kita kesempatan dalam mencicipi kebebasan berekspresi untuk pertama kalinya dan anda bisa lihat hasilnya dari gaya rambut dan pakaian. Beberapa di antara kita bahkan mulai menggunakan telepon genggam. 

Kualitas gambar koleksi berikutnya meningkat drastis, namun pengamatan lebih lanjut menunjukkan bahwa tak satu pun dari foto-foto tersebut yang berasal dari tahun 2003. Di kala itu, saya menggunakan Ericsson T10 bekas, yang kemudian saya ganti menjadi Sony Ericsson T100. Telepon genggam ini tidak memiliki kamera, jadi mungkin itu alasannya kenapa tidak ada foto dari tahun 2003.

Hasil jepretan kamera Sony Cyber-shot, 3,2 Megapixel!

Foto-foto dari tahun 2004 diambil dengan kamera digital. Hasil jepretan kamera menampilkan era dimana kita mulai produktif di dunia kerja dan memiliki uang di saku. Mungkin tidak banyak, tapi cukup bagi kita untuk tampil lebih modis dari sebelumnya, haha. Dan kita juga mulai berlibur! Dari foto, bisa dilihat bahwa kita mulai menjelajahi Kuching, Bali dan Singapura.

Kita masih berkumpul bersama di pertengahan tahun 2000an, terutama saat kita pulang merayakan Tahun Baru Cina. Namun seiring dengan bertambahnya usia, beberapa teman baik pun menghilang dari foto. Ada rasa sedih saat saya menyadari hal ini. Kita tumbuh bersama dan seharusnya bisa tetap saling kontak. Ketika saya menyuarakan pendapat ini di grup WhatsApp, Eday berkomentar bahwa itu adalah pilihan mereka. Benar juga katanya.

Para tamu di pernikahan teman.

Era berikutnya, 2006-2013, bertepatan dengan masa jaya BlackBerry, telepon genggam yang memilik kamera, namun anehnya tidak banyak foto yang berasal dari periode ini. Jika hidup saya bisa dijadikan referensi, saya rasa saat itu kita sibuk mengejar karir dan mulai membina rumah tangga. Alhasil kita tidak memiliki banyak waktu untuk berkumpul. 

Di tahun 2014, saya sudah cukup terbiasa dengan peran saya sebagai suami dan ayah. Urusan di kantor juga berjalan dengan baik sehingga hidup pun terasa stabil. Hal serupa juga terjadi pada sebagian besar teman seangkatan. Tiba-tiba saja rasanya seperti sudah waktunya untuk bertemu kembali. Saya dan beberapa teman lantas mengorganisir reuni dan untuk pertama kalinya setelah sekian lama, kita pun ramai-ramai berkumpul. 

Dan ini cuma makan malam. Reuninya lebih ramai lagi!

Apa yang terjadi selanjutnya erat hubungannya dengan perkembangan WhatsApp yang pesat. Kemunculan aplikasi ini mengubah dinamika persahabatan. Berada di satu grup setiap hari membuat kita lebih dekat dari sebelumnya. Kita tertawa, kita berdiskusi, kita berbagi kabar gembira dan cerita sedih, kita menyinggung dan tersinggung, kita membantu satu sama lain, kita membuat rencana berkumpul dan berlibur serta mewujudkannya, namun yang paling penting dalam konteks ini adalah, kita saling mengunggah foto. Banyak sekali. Bagus pula kualitasnya. 

Setiap peristiwa dan kejadian yang gembira pun terdokumentasikan dengan baik semenjak tahun 2015. Kita mencoba beberapa hal baru seperti menonton konser dan sepak bola, namun kita yang perlahan-lahan menjelang umur 40 tanpa sadar cenderung menjalani tradisi yang sudah ada: kita berkumpul dan bersantap di tempat di tempat teman, antara lain Nasi Campur Alu, Bakmi Alit dan Bakso Ikan Telur Asin Ahan. Kita minum alkohol sesekali dan juga berlibur bersama

Liburan bersama di Semarang.

Pola di atas berulang dari ke tahun tahun, sampai akhirnya COVID-19 muncul dan membuyarkan segalanya. Babak baru yang tidak lazim pun bermula. Awalnya tahun 2020 tidaklah terasa berbeda, namun dua bulan kemudian kita segera menyadari bahwa tahun ini tidak akan sama dengan apa yang pernah kita lalui. Kita mengenakan masker sepanjang tahun dan sempat bertemu dengan canggung pula di Zoom. Hanya Tuhan yang tahu kapan kita bisa keluar dari cobaan ini, tapi kita harus bersyukur bahwa semuanya sehat-sehat saja di musim korona

Ketika saya mulai mengunggah foto, saya hanya berpikir bahwa mungkin saja yang ada di foto akan merasa senang bisa melihat foto mereka lagi. Tapi sewaktu selesai, saya menyadari bahwa saya tidak cuma melakukan hal ini untuk mereka. Sesungguhnya saya pun menikmati prosesnya yang penuh nostalgia. Kalau dilihat kembali, kita semua memiliki permulaan yang sederhana di Pontianak. Begitu banyak yang sudah kita lalui semenjak kita lulus. Rasanya seperti menaiki kereta api bersama dan saya bangga menjadi bagian dari angkatan kita... 

Sesi Zoom yang canggung.