If I were to describe my relationship with Jakarta, it would be: “it’s complicated”.
You see, I have a love and hate relationship with Jakarta, a place where I have lived for almost all of my life, give or take several years that I spent living in Singapore, once during my childhood and my time now during my graduate studies.
Like many other Jakarta inhabitants, technically I don’t live in Jakarta but spend most of my time and daily activities there. I live just a bit south of Jakarta where you cross a bridge and administratively belong to the South Tangerang bureaucracy under the Banten Province. Others may live in Depok, Cibubur, Bekasi, and even Bogor, but still make their living in Jakarta.
Like many other Jakarta inhabitants, my daily routine starts by waking up early in the morning, bracing myself for the traffic congestion that I knowingly will endure when I go to my office. On a good day, it will take me 45 minutes; 1 hour for a realistic estimate and 2 hours for a worst-case scenario. However, you factor the time when you commute back to your house, on average you will spend 1,5-4 hours on the road in Jakarta, per day.
Unlike some select Jakarta inhabitants, I cannot afford housing near the city center, or a helicopter to transport me from one place to another.
Like many other Jakarta inhabitants, I socialize in malls. What used to be public parks and green spaces are now flashy concrete buildings filled with air conditioning, where we are pointlessly checked by security guards before we enter the premises.
Like many other Jakarta inhabitants, I feel that it’s very inconvenient to walk around the city. My pedestrian path are either used by food sellers or taken over by motorcyclists. My friends in Singapore are very lucky to have covered walkways to protect them from the rain and the sun, taking them from their bus stop to the MRT stations. In Jakarta, the walkways are in a pitiful condition and in some places, non-existent.
Unlike some unfortunate Jakarta inhabitants, I’m lucky that I at least have enough money to spend in malls and afford a car. I could be one of them who are alienated by fancy shopping centers and have to put my four-member family in one motorcycle, often without helmets.
Like many other Jakarta inhabitants, I experience electricity blackouts and water shortages every once in a while.
Unlike some unfortunate Jakarta inhabitants, at least I don’t have to steal electricity from the nearby grid or pump ground water, which are often polluted, for my daily hydrological needs.
Like many other Jakarta inhabitants, I was puzzled by this year’s city anniversary slogan, “Jakarta kian tertata kian dicinta” (the more Jakarta is planned, the more it is loved).
I’m sure Jakarta is not planned, but loved?
Perhaps I love the car-free day on Sundays. Perhaps I love the vibrant life Jakarta gives on the streets. Perhaps I love the variety of food and culinary delights that it offers me. Perhaps I love the history and culture that is rich within the city but are often forgotten. But perhaps I love Jakarta because I have my family and friends there – whereby the company of other Jakarta inhabitants makes it bearable to live in that city.
I have once thought that it would be nice to bring my loved ones to inhabit Singapore, but that would be very selfish of me and very unpleasant for the Singaporeans themselves to have additional population in this tiny city state.
If only Singapore’s urban planning – or at least parts of it – could be implemented in Jakarta, then my love for Jakarta would be sincere. If that happens, my relationship with Jakarta would have not been as complicated like what I’m feeling now.
Happy Birthday, Jakarta.
Your complicated inhabitant.