Life in General

I was enjoying my V60-ed Rwandan coffee and a copy of Penguin Classic book when a sixty-something lady stepped into the coffee shop carrying her beaten iPad. I had frequented this specialty coffee shop for the last year and had never seen this lady before. She looked kind of lost. She picked a comfortable seat, and a quick moment later realised that there would be no waiter to approach her. In this small coffee shop every customer simply had to approach the bar and place their order directly to the barista.

So she took two steps to the bar, bewildered with the chalk scribblings coffee drinks menu displayed at the back wall. She asked for a menu book instead and studied it behind a pair of thick glasses. After a long while trying to understand what had been written there in small letters she decided to go for the espresso.

A lone, sixty-something lady ordering a shot of espresso is not a common sight in Jakarta – a city where the previous generation is still wondering what in the world is “third wave coffee”. The unlikeliness of the scenes unfolding before me triggered my curiosity, and I started observing it closer from my quiet and comfortable corner.

As the barista handed her the demitasse cup of espresso, a sense of amusement came to her eyes; the sense of wondering was palpable as she tried to figure out what was in that very small volume of coffee beverage. Yet, she was polite enough to not say anything.

She sat and tried to sip the coffee. Predictably, she quickly asked for sugar. The barista did not hesitate to help her adding sugar to the supposedly already sweet – by the standard of a coffee snob, of course! – cup of coffee. She tried taking another sip, and immediately asked, “More sugar, please!”

I am pretty sure that most specialty coffee enthusiasts and connoisseurs would frown and mentally judge the old lady for being “uncivilized” and “uncool” with her repeated requests of sugar. Obviously, I was guilty of delivering that judgment myself too.

The old lady smiled as the coffee became as sweet as she liked it. She was happy. I was relieved that the coffee blasphemy scene was finally over though my disapproval on how she treated her espresso was still intact. It was her next statement to the barista that gave me the hardest nudge.

“I wonder why my son always drinks espresso with no sugar.”

It was then I realised what that old lady was actually doing in that coffee shop.

No, she wasn’t there for the free wifi. No, she wasn’t there to take pictures to parade on her Instagram account. And, no, she definitely wasn’t there for the espresso.

There she was, a lady from the previous, analog generation, trying to keep up in the digital era with her old iPad. Her son was probably already in his early thirties; someone who had built a career somewhere, and probably was quite successful. Someone who went from one coffee shop to another. Someone who might be thinking to quit his job to open his own coffee shop. Or, at least, someone who had been taking this new trend of third-wave coffee rather too enthusiastically. Someone whom this old lady is trying to understand and to connect.

So there she was, stranded in a small coffee shop that to her might as well be another planet, trying to understand her son as much as she tried to understand the iPad she was holding for no further purpose than chatting on WhatsApp in bigger screen with bigger font size.

There she was, an old lady trying to reconnect with his son, trying to stay relevant in his son’s life. It did not matter what the espresso tasted like. What mattered to her is to relate to her son and his lifestyle.

The old lady’s voice woke me from my thoughts. She handed her iPad to the barista, and said, “Please take a picture of me and my espresso. I want to send it to my son.”

Dear specialty coffee shops,

Every customer who walks into your place has a story. Let them pour sugar on the precious espresso that you have geeked yourself out for. Let them order iced lychee tea and ignore your urge to sell them Panama gesha. Let them use your wifi and isolate themselves from your enthusiastic coffee stories. You never actually know where they came from, what they have been through, and why they are there.

Editor: Dianthus Saputra


NOTE: Best read with an attitude of an Italian mob boss.

Yegor, listen to me, Yegor. Don’t you frown your face and think of me like making you my dog. Listen. I not push you around, Yegor. You got your freedom, you do what you wanna do. You got your freedom to choose. You’re my man, Yegor. Not my dog. You have what they call … “free will”.

But why you use that “free will” to make me sad, Yegor? You not following my rules. You disrespecting me. You not paying your dues. You making me lose my face in front of everybody.

So what you give me is no choice but to let my dog Diablo get you. Men who not please me, who not worship me, who not talk good things about me – I send them to Diablo.

You see, Yegor? No, I no pushing you around. You just got to make a decision. Make a conscious decision to make me happy. If you just make me happy because I ask you to then I won’t be happy because I can see that your heart is not true. I save you from the street so that you make me happy, Yegor. Make me happy with your true heart. It must come from you yourself. Your “free will”.

You see my son? My only son? I gave him as good, good example. I told him to come to you, to act like he no son of mine, then to become scapegoat, so that you all can put all the blame on him, and I see him as a mistake, and I send him to Diablo too. Because I wanna show you that I am fair, I am just, I am the boss.

Different is, my son can beat Diablo. Can escape from Diablo’s turf. No, he don’t kill Diablo. He cannot kill my man nor my top dog. But he beat him to pulp.

Now my son, my only son, sit right next to me.

Are you my son, Yegor? You believe you can beat Diablo? What is making you believe you can do what you want in this world I created?

You have your freedom from me, Yegor. Use it wisely. Use it to make me happy. And I make sure your business is secure and nobody giving you trouble.

I love you, Yegor. As long as you please me with all your heart.

Something like this:
Conversations with the Gatekeeper
A Conversation with the Gatekeeper
Caged Bunnies

You didn’t ask to be born. Your parents decided. (Or, in some cases, you’re an accident. Fine.)

You were born with free will. Your parents – if they’re properly educated – knew it.

As soon as you are mature enough – and I’ll say it’s 6-7 years old – you are geared to use your free will as much as you want.

What you want is above what your parents think you need.

You don’t belong to your parents. It doesn’t mean a thing if they think so and dictate what should you be, which idiotic religion you should or shouldn’t follow, or with whom you should have sex.

Once your parents do not show concern on your personal happiness then they have failed. You don’t need them. You don’t owe them a thing. (Remember: you did not ask to be born.)

There is no durhaka (“insubordination”, or many times interpreted as “rebellious towards parents”). There are only wrong decisions you’ll be responsible of, and great ones you’ll be proud of.

Something like this:
A Conversation with the Gatekeeper
Conversations with the Gatekeeper
The Rules of the Game

The Gatekeeper has this lovely job of waiting the gate that will bring the souls of the dead to the afterlife.

Dead Pious: So, Gatekeeper. You must be the one who is keeping the balance between my good deeds and – well – the things I did unintentionally.
The Gatekeeper: You’re definitely not the first one to think so, and – yes – you might think that way according to your belief, or religion. You want to know how is your performance during your life?
Dead Pious: I surely do.
The Gatekeeper: I can say that out of ten things you’ve done in all your life nine of them were praise-worthy. If their weight were measured, your good deeds and unselfish acts of charity will be around ninety kilograms, while your wrongdoings will be no more than a few hundred grams.
Dead Pious: Ha! So I will get to Heaven, right?
The Gatekeeper: Well, the thing is, there is no gravity here. We do not measure or scale your deeds.
Dead Pious: What? So?
The Gatekeeper: Whoever told you that your good deeds in your life will have any value here must be the stupidest and most moronic persons ever lived. No. Any of your deeds have no afterlife value. They are nothing. Even if you’ve raised a hundred orphans – no. It’s nothing. You’re dead now. None of them matters anymore.

Dead Martyr: They promised me Heaven if I blew myself in a shopping mall.
The Gatekeeper: Yeah, it’s like they promised that you would shit gold. Na’ah. Ain’t gonna happen.

Dead Recycle: So, what am I gonna be next? I’ve meditated in total silence for the last fifteen years in my life. I’m gonna be a dragon? Or, stars in the sky?
The Gatekeeper: Naaah. You’ve done nothing, so you’ll be nothing. Go on.
Dead Recycle: But, but, if I had done anything then it would be nothing to. So, what was the point of my existence?
The Gatekeeper: What made you think it had a point? You were just an accident.

Dead Sunday: Is my Savior your Big Boss? I am His disciple. I lived in and by His name. I will get to Heaven and rule with Him, right?
The Gatekeeper: Do I look like someone who works for a boss?
Dead Sunday: But, but, but … I’ve made so many other souls to believe in my Savior as well.
The Gatekeeper: Yeah. Stupidity is the main commodity in multi level marketing.

A Conversation with The Gatekeeper
The Rules of the Game
Caged Bunnies

Settling down is as idle as fitting in. It is a product of a long period of repression – a series of identity loss, peer pressure, the call for normalcy, the tiring years of rebellion with no clear direction that ends up in the comfort of taking the mainstream track. We think we are tricking it, but later on we realize that it is all a compromise.

The youth was so full of ideas, and brimming with dreams, and passion. We thought we needed some clear direction to make sure that those ideals would somehow land us in a better life. Yet, it is a better life in a universal definition: a property, a family, a long time investment, a cup of coffee every morning, and a good sleep every evening. We started wild, then slowly, and sometimes unconsciously, stripped off all the things that made us exceptional to join the crowds.

For generations the exceptions must follow the rules. For generations the rules have threatened us with the notion that defying them means a life of unhappiness. For generations we have believed, and have tried to convince the next generation, that happiness equals comfort, certainty, and security.

That happiness is a good status quo.

We have denied that evolution is part of human nature. We seem to be receptive to the idea that men should reinvent themselves and welcome changes. But we place all those wisdom inside a huge box of comfort zone. And, to break the boundaries of comfort zone is unwise.

A comfort zone that says that men should marry and settle in a family; men and wives, men and husbands, women and wives. A comfort zone that is principally built by what we should own as basic needs: a roof above our heads no matter how small, two or three meals a day no matter how humble, and people who pay us respect when we rest in peace no matter how few.

And based on those minimum requirements of a happy life we are encouraged and motivated to live happier and happier. To be happier than the person standing next to us. And, that means to have something more than just a proper roof above our heads, better and “healthier” two or three humble meals a day, and more people we call friends and families. These ideas are advertised in all their glory, and mold the basic pride of humanity.

Oh, the pride of being normal. The pride of being the fittest. The pride of settling down in the most comfortable way.

The pride that keeps on minimizing the essence of being evolutionary. Even kills it completely.

When did you first compromise your dreams for a monthly salary to pay for your studio apartment? When did you first see that the idea of being what you have always wanted to be will not end you in a happy life? When did you first push the exceptional you to fit the box that your parents, friends, families, and society design for you?

Thousands of years ago civilization was built on the grounds of savagery. We used to dance with the lions – well or not. And now we turn the mighty king’s head into a logo of a hand soap. We have lost our respect to the wild, and automatically to ourselves as part of it.

We are nothing but tamed beasts. Caged bunnies.

The standards of good and bad are our prison bars that we made ourselves.

It is once again time for us to question normalcy. When in doubt ask differently. Should you really find a good person to settle down with? Should you really secure your future by a piece of property? Is ownership a solid rock to build your life on?

Is good good, is bad bad?

It is once again time for us to reevaluate our daily thinking. Is it natural for men to repress his desire?

Roam wild. Evolve. Stay restless. Or, just rest in their definition of peace.

Something like this:
A Conversation with the Gatekeeper
Conversations with the Gatekeeper
The Rules of the Game


Pasti tidak sedikit yang pernah jalan-jalan ke pasar-pasar yang ada di Melbourne, Sydney, Amsterdam, atau kota-kota di Amerika, lalu berharap bukan dalam hati lagi, tapi diucapkan lugas, “Kalau saja pasar-pasar di Indonesia bisa seperti ini.”

“Bisa seperti ini” biasanya berarti menyenangkan untuk dikunjungi. Ada toko kelontong berdampingan dengan bakery. Ada lapak sayur-mayur yang berteman dengan kios produk-produk rancangan anak-anak muda kreatif. Ada toko kain yang berteman dengan toko t-shirt.

Pasti tidak sedikit yang pernah berharap bahwa kegiatan nge-mall setiap akhir pekan di Jakarta bisa diganti dengan sesuatu yang lain. Makan di restoran dengan harga mahal dan rasa yang begitu-begitu saja juga butuh alternatif.

Apakah itu artinya kita harus membangun sebuah gedung baru yang didisain khusus untuk jadi pasar jadi-jadian?

Pasar Santa sama sekali tidak dibangun dengan visi atau misi menjadi sebuah pasar seperti di Melbourne. Tidak ada infrastruktur fisik yang menunjukkan Pasar Santa direncanakan menjadi sebuah pasar yang bisa jadi objek wisata. Koridor-koridor sempit. Lahan parkir sangat terbatas. Sirkulasi udara tidak ideal.

Memang tidak sepatutnya Pasar Santa dipaksakan menjadi tempat nongkrong anak muda.

Namun, apakah sepatutnya lantai atas Pasar Santa menjadi mati selama tujuh tahun? Apakah sepatutnya ratusan kios terbengkalai tanpa ada yang menggubris? Apakah sepertiga dari potensi ekonomi kerakyatan di Pasar Santa patut dipadamkan begitu saja?

Selama tujuh tahun, baik Pengembang (Developer) maupun PD Pasar Jaya seolah tidak punya ide untuk menghidupkan potensi ini. Selama tujuh tahun, pemilik-pemilik kios di lantai atas melupakan investasi mereka begitu saja; listrik tidak dibayar, retribusi tidak dilunaskan, pajak tidak ditunaikan. Kios-kios tersebut menjadi kuburan bayi. Usahanya belum juga dimulai, tapi sudah divonis mati.

Padahal, Pasar Santa selalu bersih, selalu aman, dan selalu strategis. Kenapa tidak berkembang? Kenapa selama tujuh tahun PD Pasar Jaya dan Pengembang (Developer) buntu ide?

Ketika kopi dan piringan hitam menjadi daya tarik anak-anak muda dan kalangan kreatif untuk datang ke Pasar Santa, lantai atas ini jadi terlihat seksi. Anak-anak muda merasa bukan hanya tempat, tapi juga kesempatan buat memperkenalkan ide-ide kreatif mereka ke publik. Ide-ide kreatif yang akan terpaksa jadi komersil kala dibebani biaya sewa di shopping mall.

Dan, tiba-tiba saja – tanpa rencana, tanpa persiapan, tanpa perhitungan – Pasar Santa jadi wadah yang menampung banyak ide kreatif.

Ketika masyarakat semakin menerima wajah Pasar Santa yang baru, dan media selalu lalu-lalang di koridor-koridornya untuk mencari berita menarik, siapakah yang siap untuk mengelola hal yang baru ini? Tidak ada. Siapakah yang memahami dan mampu mengimplementasikan teori tentang bagaimana dinamika ekonomi kreatif dengan pedagang tradisional semestinya dibina? Tidak ada. Siapakah yang cukup berkuasa untuk menentukan batas-batas pengembangan? Tidak ada.

Lantas, siapakah yang kini sibuk menelaah berbagai kelemahan dan ketimpangan Pasar Santa? Banyak. Siapakah yang asyik menggarisbawahi kesalahan-kesalahan berbagai pihak – mulai dari anak-anak muda yang buka kios mewah, PD Pasar Jaya yang kurang tanggap, pihak Pengembang yang sibuk jualan – tanpa peduli untuk memahami situasi dan kondisi Pasar Santa secara menyeluruh? Banyak. Siapakah yang bangga karena merasa dirinya cukup pintar untuk berkomentar soal Pasar Santa tanpa merasa perlu berkunjung dan berbincang-bincang dengan para pedagang kecil, pihak Pengembang, pihak PD Pasar Jaya, dan para “penghuni baru” Pasar Santa? Banyak sekali.

Pasar Santa yang sekarang berubah secara organik. Pasar Santa yang sekarang ini adalah sebuah barang baru yang tidak ada buku manualnya. Bisa jadi banyak teori, tapi apakah teori-teori tersebut bisa diterapkan atau tidak hanyalah mereka yang benar-benar setiap hari ada di Pasar Santa yang tahu.

Berbagai langkah sudah mulai dicoba diambil sejak berbulan-bulan lalu. Penghuni-penghuni baru membentuk asosiasi yang tujuan utamanya adalah menjalin hubungan, bahkan melindungi pedagang-pedagang lama di Pasar Santa yang hidupnya sangat bergantung pada kios-kios yang mereka sewa. Advokasi dan diskusi dengan PD Pasar Jaya dan pihak Pengembang sudah dilakukan selama berbulan-bulan. Interaksi antara pedagang lama dan pedagang baru juga dijalin lewat transaksi, silaturahmi, dan acara-acara bersama.

Usaha untuk bertemu dan berdiskusi dengan Bapak Gubernur DKI pun sudah lama kami coba, tapi belum juga terwujud.

Daya tarik komersil Pasar Santa semakin mengalahkan daya tarik kreatif. Demikian banyak peminat yang mau buka usaha di Pasar Santa yang kini ramai dan hidup. Mereka bawa uang, berani bayar mahal untuk satu kios. Mungkin tanpa mereka sadari, mereka membeli kios yang minggu lalu masih ditempati pedagang baju batik untuk mereka ubah jadi toko yang menjual barang mewah.

Banyak sekali pihak yang bisa dituding bersalah. Ada yang mau mengaku, ada yang tidak. Tuding menuding ini tidak akan membawa solusi apa-apa, dan juga tidak menjadikan penudingnya tambah pintar ataupun tambah bermakna. Bukan berarti isyu ini dibiarkan saja berlalu. Karena, pada saat ini yang menjadi korban adalah pedagang kecil dan pedagang lama di Pasar Santa. Mereka yang menghidupi keluarga lewat kios berukuran 2×2 meter persegi saja.

Itu sebabnya gerakan #SustainableSanta diluncurkan. Pada saat ini, sementara menerima kritik bahkan cacian sinis dari publik, kami para usahawan baru di Pasar Santa masih berharap ada dukungan juga. Dukungan terutama untuk melindungi para pedagang kecil dan pedagang lama di Pasar Santa. Dukungan yang diawali dengan menandatangani Petisi kepada Pak Ahok untuk Melindungi Pedagang Pasar Santa ini.

Ini bukan petisi untuk menjadikan Pasar Santa sebuah pasar modern dan keren seperti di luar negeri. Ini bukan gerakan menciptakan tempat nongkrong anak gaul Jakarta. Ini bahkan lebih dari sekedar permohonan perlindungan atas sekelompok pedagang di Pasar Santa.

Ini adalah bagian dari pembelajaran bersama. Bahwa ternyata ekonomi pasar tradisional yang seharusnya menjadi fondasi kita dengan mudahnya tergerus oleh ekonomi gaya shopping mall. Ada yang memang posisinya menjadi penonton dan komentator saja. Ada yang menjadi pemerhati yang berwawasan jauh ke depan.

Apabila semua gagal, dan Pasar Santa kembali jadi lumpuh sebagian, atau jadi “shopping mall bukan, pasar juga bukan”, kami yang terlibat langsung di dalam kisah ini mungkin dirugikan secara materiil. Namun, usaha yang kami lakukan, dan pembelajaran yang kami dapatkan nilainya jauh lebih tinggi daripada sekedar adu pintar (bahkan adu lucu!) berkomentar.


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Among my favorite tenants in Pasar Santa is POST – a quirky and friendly corner tagged as “books, gatherings & all things creative”. POST is the creative mind of Pasar Santa. The clean cut space makes it versatile for new ideas. It is magical how the boxy POST can generate out of the box thinking.

POST displays neatly curated books by independent publishers. POST has been a space to launch new ideas; from a new discourse on feminism, to a showcase of musical talents, and from sketches of Jakarta’s transportation system, to visual documentation of the city’s awkward personalities. And, last night, POST transformed itself to become a writing corner.

taken from

taken from

I decided to join a gang of writers sitting together. There were eight of us, working on different things. We were given a challenge to finish our projects – whatever they were – in four hours. Project proposal, novel, short story, feature article, and – for me – treatment for a movie script.

The idea of this writing challenge might sound simple. Yet, when it was happening, and I became a part of it, there was this huge magical sense that I never thought I would experience.

From the inside, the communal writing activity with a clear goal boosted our focus and courage to achieve our objective. We wrote almost with no break. We were not even bothered by the noise coming from the people and other activities happening around us. And, yes, there were no walls to protect us from those noise.

From the outside, the view of a small, independent book shop transformed into a display of how “books” were done – the process of writing. It was a sight that you wouldn’t normally see every day.

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Every writer that was involved in this writing challenge were occupied and busy with their own world. There were worlds gathering inside POST that night, making the place felt like a borderless universe.

When one of us declared the task was completed we cheered and clapped together, making a genuine celebration of success. There were many small, genuince celebrations that night, creating a joyful spark inside the traditional market. And, yes, I also accomplished my goal, and finished drafting the treatment of my new movie script.

Thank you very much, Maesy, Teddy and Steve from POST for arranging and initiating this writing challenge! It was an experience I will never forget!

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