That's Me

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A wanderer. A bon vivant. A movie aficionado. En amour avec 'A'. These four remain constant. New interests develop every day. Latest being photography. And mastering the French language. Training for the marathon. And blogging.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The future is bright, the future is Ojek.

Destination: A’s office, 15 minutes away from our home.
Itinerary: An Indian dinner, followed by ZNMD.

When you have kali daal and succulent kebabs in mind, followed by Farhan Akhtar for dessert, you want to start right away.

Yet, here I am, stuck in the infamous Jakarta traffic, inside a narrow lane, for the last 40 minutes. There are cars everywhere and motorcycles. They come in droves and my driver, though he’s been trying his best to maneuver his way through this nightmare, is looking quite hapless. A has already called twice and is already talking about cancelling the evening plan.

When I say narrow, I mean, really narrow. Narrower than the ‘gali’s of Calcutta or Benaras and one wonders how can they allow traffic, that too, both ways, to pass this bi-lane. I ask the driver, yet again, if I can abandon the car and walk to A’s office and his answer has not been very encouraging. And even if I were to walk, I wouldn’t know where to go. I am in an unknown back road, in the middle of a colossal mess and no GPS can guide me through these lanes and bi-lanes of Jakarta anyway - that I am sure of.

My driver, the enterprising guy that is, realises my frustration and calls his friend, a courier guy from A’s office, and explains the situation to him. A’s office is 5 minutes away from where we are stranded and his friend, who has a motorcycle, is asked to come down and escort us through this mess.

In another 5 minutes, our saviour is here, in his motorcycle. My driver assures me that we will now be able to make it to A’s office in another 30 minutes, perhaps (being the key word), with the help of our beacon.

But I have had enough sitting pretty in the AC, away from the dust and heat , watching the cars and counting the bikes and looking at my watch. Time for some action now. I ask my driver if it is possible to hitch a ride with his friend, instead of waiting. Even as I put forth the suggestion, I realise how crazy I sound. You see, the two wheelers, locally known as the Ojek, serve as the lifeline of Jakarta and by the look of it, seem quite dangerous. They dive and maneuver through the standstill traffic in what looks like a very menacing stunt. But between Farhan Akhtar and my limb, I would definitely go for the former. So yes, I am desperate.

Even before my driver can answer, I hop onto the bike, wave my driver goodbye and say my prayers. I can see, from the corner of my eyes, the bewildered look on my driver’s face - yes, he certainly did not expect this from me! But I am beyond care now - my patience has bid adieu to me a long while back.

So the ride starts. We zig and zag and make our way through the honking cars. We hit the main road and catch up with the rest of the traffic that is, at least, moving. We see a few inches of free space between a bus and the pavement and scrape through it. We honk our way through, threaten to run over a man trying to jaywalk through this crazy traffic and zip past the cars. All this while, with a grin plastered on my face. Yes, I am loving it. I am loving the wind that’s caressing my hair, I am loving the missed heartbeat as we make leeway between two vehicles, I am loving the thrill of the ride. But what I am loving most is the memories this ride is bringing back. Back in Calcutta, back when I was young, back when a bike was my preferred mode of transportation, back when I was foolhardy enough to throw all cautions to the wind and ride recklessly.

In 3 minutes flat, we approach A’s office. I can see A and our friends waiting impatiently at the car park, probably, cancelling the evening plans at that precise moment. I feel like asking my saviour to make a grand entry in his tiny two wheeler, screeching the brake right in front of them. But I am yet to pick up the local language and all I can manage is a Terima Kasi. My friends have spotted me by now, though from the look of it, they don’t believe that it’s actually me who’s getting off the two wheeler. A is amused and the other two friends are horrified. And me, I am ecstatic. My adventure for the day is done, I don’t need a Farhan Akhtar to make me feel alive.

Like a friend said, I have rode pillion on an Ojek, I have lived the true Betawi life. Jakarta, you can’t bring me down. Now I know how not to get intimidated by your traffic, now I know where there’s a pair of wheels, there’s a way.


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