Friday, June 27, 2014

Jakarta Diaries : 2 : First Impression

I took off from Mumbai to Jakarta, in a Malaysian Airlines flight. With the recent incident of MH 370 flight of this airline, the name scares a lot of people. Many warned me casually. I was concerned too. But then, such incidents keep happening, but you can not stop doing things because of it. CST was attacked in Mumbai, but people can't stop going there, JM/FC road was attacked in Pune, and still it is crowded and popular shopping destination. And MH 370 is still a mystery. Luckily, my onward journey was safe and pleasant. 

My first flight was from Mumbai to Kuala Lumpur in midnight. I slept for sometime, watched LOTR for some time, nothing to watch outside the window. But to my delight, I was awake at the time of sun rise, and it was fantastic. Watching sun rise from such a height is a memorable experience for lifetime. 

The second flight was from KL to Jakarta early in the morning. This was a shorter one, and I was awake throughout, observing the scenic landscapes from my window. At one point, the flight was tilted, we were over sea, and there was only water in sight. The line of horizon was almost invisible, it seemed like the blue sky and sea had merged into each other. Only one boat, it could be a big ship also, was visible over a distance. I will never forget that beautiful scene.

I landed in Jakarta, and went through the immigration and customs check. The immigration guy took little longer to process my case than other passengers. May be, every passenger feels the same. I changed the USD into Indonesian Rupiah, and came outside. I hired one cab to go to hotel. The cabbie was a very pleasant and talkative person. I had the same experience almost everywhere, Indonesians in general are pleasant, smiling and friendly people.

I read somewhere that, Indonesia had mostly Hindu people in history, a lot of centuries ago. Later, a lot of population converted to Islam over time, but there are still some Hindus in places like Bali Islands. The influence of Sanskrit, and Hindu culture is still visible in their language, and gestures. To greet, Indonesians also fold their hands like Indians do Namaste. The words like putra and putri for son and daughter respectively are exactly like Sanskrit.

The driver's name was Gunwaan, again a Sanskrit name. He started talking and immediately guessed that I am from India, and then started sharing his knowledge about India. Ofcourse it was related to films and television only. :D He said, mabarat, meaning Mahabharata, he started naming all the characters, bima, arjun, udishtir. Very few Indian channels air in Indonesia, and Mahabharat airs on one of them. So it seemed popular there, since traditional Indonesian drama and plays also have stories of Ramayana, Mahabharata. After that, he started with bollywood, sharuk kan, meaning Shahrukh Khan. SRK is very popular in Indonesia, and his Kuch Kuch Hota Hai has a cult following. They say it like Kuchi Kuchi Hota Hai.

Later when I started roaming in Indonesian markets, I could hear SRK songs playing in shops, at least twice or thrice. I also noticed pirated DVDs of Mahabharata tele-series, and many Indian movies in DVD shops. 

The Soekarno Hatta Airport is in outskirts of Jakarta. Once we left the airport premises, we were stuck in traffic. The driver told me that its like that most of the time, and advised me that when returning to airport, leave at least 2 hours before from the hotel, which I followed a month later. My hotel Somerset Grand Citra, was around 35-40 kms from airport, and it took us 2 hrs to reach through that traffic. 

While talking to driver, I was observing the roads, bridges, buildings, etc. on the way. The infrastructure in Jakarta is awesome, huge bridges, 4 lane roads, giant towers, marvelous pieces of architecture. But despite all this, we were stuck in traffic. 

From what I learnt from that driver, reading articles about Jakarta is, Jakarta is both Mumbai and Delhi of Indonesia, i.e. formal capital, industrial capital, and financial capital. So the population is dense and concentrated in Jakarta region, so even though they have developed all this infra, it is still insufficient for the population that keeps increasing in Jakarta (just like Mumbai), and that is the reason of this traffic.

I saw many malls on highway, all the big brands, retail chains, food chains made their presence felt in Jakarta. And when the driver took a short cut through small lanes, I noticed small food joints, tea stalls just like on Indian streets. And one more common thing was, many office going people were having a tea break on those stalls with a cigarette. 

Have a look on these few pictures I took on the way to Hotel.

I reached hotel around lunch time, and checked into my room. It was a spacious 1BHK serviced apartment actually. A well equipped kitchen was all I needed to survive, since an Indian like me cant stay away from Indian food for long. And in foreign land, you have to cook if you want your kind of food. I was happy to see the apartment. The journey was over. My office was waiting for me.