Jakarta, the city equiv­a­lent of Robert Downey Jr?

The Jakarta Post - JPlus - - Between The Lines - — Tessa Wi­jaya

JAKARTA IM­ME­DI­ATELY AF­TER the post-fast­ing month Idul Fitri hol­i­day is like the rekin­dling of an old re­la­tion­ship. For one charmed week, the skies clear, the roads empty, you re­mem­ber when things were good years ago, and you wish it could stay like it for­ever. Where to­day spon­tane­ity has been killed and get­ting from point A to B re­quires plan­ning and cal­cu­la­tion that even Google still can’t quite fig­ure out, it re­turns, at least for the one week be­fore ev­ery­one else is back in town.

With fam­i­lies with chil­dren still on hol­i­day and the ma­jor­ity of the work­force back in their home­towns cel­e­brat­ing, you see not only the past, but the po­ten­tial of what Jakarta could be­come: live­able, breath­able, a func­tion­ing city one can en­joy liv­ing in. The sky turns blue once again, and some­times at night you can even see stars.

In the mid­dle of the week, I was able to mes­sage a friend, send­ing a univer­sal call of dis­tress of “I need a drink!” of 30-some­thing young pro­fes­sion­als, and within a few hours there we were, in the same place, do­ing some­thing that was un­planned, an af­ter work catch-up by two peo­ple work­ing in dif­fer­ent cor­ners of the golden tri­an­gle, an im­pos­si­bil­ity at other times of the year.

Things have cer­tainly changed in this soon to be megapoli­tan. The Jakarta I ar­rived in was a young city on the verge of a growth spurt, where it re­mained for so many years that peo­ple were con­cerned that the spurt was not hap­pen­ing af­ter all. I felt for the city a lit­tle bit then, be­cause my own tiny growth spurt oc­curred when I was in fifth grade for about a month, then it sort of stopped, and no mat­ter how many chi­ro­prac­tic ses­sions my fa­ther sent me to my spine could only stretch so far; ev­ery­one had to ac­cept that many fu­ture 12 year olds would sur­pass me in height in no time. For­tu­nately, it looks like that was not the case for the city.

To­day, Jakarta to me is a pim­ply teenager mess trail­ing at the edge of adult­hood. This awk­ward stage where every­thing is dis­pro­por­tion­ate and things could ei­ther go in­cred­i­bly right or in­cred­i­bly wrong is painful for ev­ery­one, but it is some­thing the city needs to go through to be live­able again. Neigh­bor­hood roads have turned into mas­sive con­struc­tion sites, and gi­gan­tic pil­lars have spurted out of the ground overnight to sup­port the nev­erend­ing stretches of over­passes. You feel the rush to beat the pre­mo­ni­tion of stand­still traf­fic that is to oc­cur in a year or two.

I would say 99.9 per­cent of Jakarta’s pop­u­la­tion has a love-hate re­la­tion­ship with the city. An ac­quain­tance once said that for him it can be com­pared to an abu­sive cou­ple’s re­la­tion­ship, in which he is con­stantly tor­tured but al­ways comes back for more. I like to think that it is more than that for me, be­cause, de­spite of all of its short­com­ings, Jakarta is a city of pos­si­bil­i­ties, a mini land of op­por­tu­nity that breeds cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion, where overnight suc­cess sto­ries can still hap­pen and un­der­dogs can come out on top. I still dream of be­ing one of those with a suc­cess story and it is why I am still here.

See­ing how things are go­ing right now, it looks ob­vi­ous that the city may not grow up to be a Brad Pitt, per­fectly chis­elled with Ken doll pro­por­tions, with spot­less sparkling white teeth and smol­der­ing good looks. There has been too much grit and grime for that sort of unattain­able per­fec­tion. There is hope, though, that it can be a fu­ture Robert Downey Jr, a lit­tle rough around the edges with some very pub­li­cally broad­casted down­falls.

Peo­ple were un­sure the ac­tor could get out of his rut, but he man­aged to stage a come­back with a bang as a dark and hand­some hero, bat­tle scars and all, with se­quels and pre­quels and five-year mega block­buster movie deals. I shall spon­ta­neously drink to your come­back, Jakarta!

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