By Mairi Nandarson
“”Jakarta is so unfriendly,”” Tambi grumbled.
His first encounter in the big city was one of pain instead of pleasure. He sat on the ground wiping sweat off his face, and grimaced from the new bruises he received on his elbows and legs.
He had only just gotten off the bus after arriving in the capital when he had to fend off several muggers. His limited ability in silat* helped him pull off a few moves to save himself.
With another sigh, the 50-year-old man picked himself up and walked to a nearby bus stop with his plastic bag and leather case. His face showed the exhaustion he felt from the long journey he took from his hometown in Sumatra. Jakarta was too hot for Tambi, who was used to his small town with a cool climate.
Tambi sat on a long concrete bench to rest and put down his bags. After a few minutes, he stood up and his backbone cracked as he stretched himself.
He became suddenly aware that his bags had moved from his side. At that same moment, a sturdy, coarse young man approached him. He felt a pointed object press into his waist and heard a whisper warning him not to shout.
While holding the sharp blade at Tambi’s waist with his right hand and gripping Tambi’s shoulder with his left, the man said: “”Just arrived, have you?”” His left hand quickly worked through Tambi’s pockets, pulling out its contents, including his wallet.
Tambi turned pale. “”I’ll lose all my money,”” he thought desperately. When he tried to move, he felt the blade digging in deeper and beginning to hurt.
“”Stay calm if you want to be safe,”” the man said sarcastically.
Tambi realized that nobody around him knew what was going on.
“”There’s nothing in these bags but sweet potato chips and some clothes,”” another voice said behind him.
“”Let the old man keep his luggage for his family here,”” the other man said.
The rudeness coupled with the pain from the blade pressing into his waist was enough to send Tambi into action. While the man behind him showed the contents of his bags to the one who was holding him, Tambi took advantage of the distraction to bring his left foot down as hard as he could on the man’s right foot. The man cried in pain and released his hold on Tambi.
Tambi quickly turned around and kicked the man in the chest, causing him to fall headfirst into the ground. The man got up quickly and ran away with his companion.
Tambi tried to chase the pair and shouted thief several times, but no one stopped to help him catch the men. He gave up in the end and returned to the bus stop.
Tambi found his bags still there, but the contents were spread all over the ground. Feeling a stab of pain again in his waist, he lifted the back of his shirt and saw droplets of blood seeping out of a small cut. He wiped the blood away, tucked in his shirt and walked calmly away.
He spotted a mosque and took time out to pray and rest. He was feeling better and the expression eased on his face. He had hidden a small amount of money in his pant pockets, and after recounting it he realized he had enough for five days in the city.
A kind man in the mosque, Darul, also gave him a few thousand rupiah after he told him his story. Darul told him to be careful in the city, and gave him directions to find his son’s home.
He had decided to take a taxi to his son’s home. He was very eager to meet his grandson, and was sure his arrival would surprise his son. He tried hailing several taxis, but the drivers ignored him even though there were no passengers inside.
“”What a mistake I’ve made,”” Tambi thought. Finally, a taxi stopped in front of him, but there was a woman in the backseat.
“”Where do you want to go?”” the taxi driver asked him. “”Get in, it’s OK, everybody shares taxis in Jakarta.””
The young woman in the taxi smiled at Tambi and asked him:
“”Are you a newcomer to Jakarta?”” Tambi felt he had no other choice but to get in. He reluctantly entered the taxi and sat beside the woman. He took out the paper with his son’s address on it and showed it to the driver.
“”Oh, that’s easy, I know where that is,”” the driver said while throwing a side glance to the woman, who slid closer to Tambi. He didn’t show a reaction to her move, but thought it impolite to sit close to a woman who was not his wife or relative.
“”When did you arrive in Jakarta, sir?”” the woman asked Tambi, her eyes probing his face.
“”I just arrived this morning.””
“”Visiting a relative?””
“”Yes,”” he nodded.
“”Have you been to Jakarta before?””
Tambi shook his head warily.
The woman smiled and clasped Tambi’s right hand. Tambi was startled and cried out.
“”What’s the matter?”” the woman asked.
“”My hand was injured,”” he replied, as he felt suspicion wash over him. Something was wrong, very wrong.
Still smiling, the woman tried to lay her head on his shoulder, but he tensed up and moved away. He suddenly felt that the taxi trip was taking too long. His watch said more than half an hour had passed. He was told before he left home that it would take no more than 15 minutes to reach his son’s house by taxi from the bus terminal.
The woman dozed off, with her head leaning against his shoulder. Tambi finally relented. He couldn’t move any further away; he had nowhere now to go on the seat. Besides, the woman’s warm body reminded him of his wife at home.
“”Hey, where are you taking me?”” Tambi shouted.
“”You’re going to this address, aren’t you? Quit your complaining!”” the driver snapped, his left hand still clutching the address of Tambi’s son.
“”But this ride’s been too long, it’s supposed to be only 15 minutes from the terminal to my son’s house,”” Tambi argued.
Suddenly, the driver braked the vehicle, and the woman beside Tambi awoke. “”What’s happening?”” she asked.
“”This old man is too much,”” the driver said.
“”Take it easy, sir, just listen to the driver,”” she said.
“”But I’m …””
“”Stop being such a pain in the ass. If you know where your son’s house is, why don’t you get another taxi?”” the driver said angrily.
“”Get out of my cab and get lost.””
Tambi’s mouth flew open in astonishment at the driver’s rudeness. He got out with his luggage and the taxi, with the woman still inside, sped off.
He had no idea where he was or how far he was from his son’s house. He went to buy cigarettes at a stall and asked for directions to his son’s house. But when he dug into his pockets for some change, he was shocked to find the last of his money was gone.
“”Do you know why you were treated so badly?”” asked Damhur, a friend of Tambi’s who was listening to him tell his tale later to several friends at a food stall upon his return home to Sumatra.
“”You should follow Jakartans’ behavior with their elegant ways, instead of becoming dazzled by the extravagance of metropolitan Jakarta,”” Damhur said.
“”If you stop a taxi, you should use your left hand, although that would be impolite here,”” he went on.
“”Jakarta is really unfriendly,”” he said, adding that prices were too high, violence was rife and the people were neglected, with most having miserable lives.
“”Yes, Jakarta is unfriendly,”” the others chorused in agreement, although they were not quite sure why he had said it. (*)
Silat: traditional martial arts
- The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sun, 06/02/2002 7:33 AM | Life
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