Huzun

I can feel sorrow in the air.

Can you feel it? It was a gloomy feeling, surrounding you and your environment. I tried to called it a ‘melancholy feeling’, for the words might be easier to us to comprehend. Although, it might be more than that. You’re not melancholic all the time. It was a state that come and go, depends on what is happening with you. Huzun, on the other hand, is something that you and other people feeling about a place, space or anything. Huzun is special because it is communal.

The word Huzun is Turkish. Derived from an Arabic word: Huzn, – which has a similar meaning: sorrow – it had been used by Orhan Pamuk to describe his beloved city Istanbul. Istanbul, Pamuk said, was once a center of the earth, the brightest star in Europe, the most beautiful ‘crescent’ of all, the most sophisticated city with a stunning civilization.

The Ottoman Empire used to rule Turkey and its colony, after they took it from their fellow Greece empire, Byzantium. Istanbul is Ottoman’s, and so do the entire Turkey. The Ottoman times is the days when Istanbul reached its supremacy, economically and culturally.

500 years since Sultan Mehmed II, whom they called the Conqueror, established Bosphorus as a place for Turkey, the empire was converted into republic. Everything had changed, from the intricate and beautiful form of calligraphy (changed into latin alphabet), to other things like the prohibition of harem and Darvishes.

According to Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul had lost its beauty and uniqueness ever since the republic era comes. It was still ‘unique’ for foreigners, of course. But there’s something missing. Something had been taken, and it changed everything. Can you imagine yourself, walking in a city full of an ancient buildings, grandeur architecture. You’re walking in the work of art. Yet, they reflect sadness and poor. Istanbul in Pamuk’s childhood time (c. 1970) is a city that is confused with its own identity. The era of Ottoman Empire has gone, now they’re living their modern times. Too bad, the so called ‘modern’ turned out to be another hard challenge.

So that’s it, the Huzun. The communal sadness everyone felt in Istanbul. Huzun formed a sorrow everywhere, anywhere. A constant melancholy every people feel in a ruined ancient city.

Weirdly, I feel it too.

I’m not an Istanbul citizen. I live in Jakarta, the city I used to call ‘a bloody town’. If you are familiar with Jakarta, physically and spiritually, there might not be any chance that you would address this city as ‘beautiful’, or ‘once was beautiful’. Jakarta is, well, Jakarta.

But it was something unusually beautiful about this city. So many little things that make you smile, laugh, think, or wonder. A beautiful sunset, a clear blue sky on an unexpected season, a breeze of summer wind between humidity, a children smiling and laughing when they flew their kites, a very bright afternoon sunlight that fallen through a train’s window. We can easily find a poetic moment in the middle of polluted air.

Maybe, just maybe, I love Jakarta so much it hurts me to see this city fallen apart. Maybe, unlike Pamuk’s huzun to Istanbul, my sorrow and sadness is not communal. But I believe that it can’t be only me, and so it isn’t melancholy. There’s a hidden huzun in this bloody town.

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Questions

How do you know yourself?

Are you the one your parents made you? Are you what your friends thought you should be? Who are you?

This might be improper for an adult to ask. Some people think that they find themselves easily. ‘I know who I am.’

‘We do not have time to think about this.’

But I do believe that to find yourself is harder than anyone thought it would be. People are too complex for their brain to understand, and we are not talking about ‘soul’ and our very existence yet.

Do you know yourself? Do you know and understand your surroundings? The air that you breathe, the colors you see, the texture that you feel, the joy that you savor, or the broken heart you cried over?

I have felt all of them before. I feel it, but I do not know if I know it, let alone understand it.

I am complex, so does you. I can feel myself, yet it so hard to make myself sure that I know or understand who I actually am.

See? I am rambling right now.

Stabbed

Morte di Giulio Cesare by Vicenzo Camuccini

Rome did not need a Caesar.

I am referring to the one and only Gaius Julius Caesar. The dictator has a strong influence and changed the history of the world. Without him Rome would not be the same. Thanks to him, the empire expanded their territory and supremacy across Western Europe, Asia, and North Africa on 50 BC. Rome was the greatest empire in the world at that time.

Nevertheless, Caesar was betrayed. Stabbed by a knife 23 times by his own followers, he met his death.

What happened when a country raised a supreme controller? A leaders or dictator? What was going on when an institution has a person who can not and will not accept a questions? I believe every one wants a leader. Someone who has an authority and could do something mandatory.

Yet, people tend to hate their leader. They might say they love the ‘dictator’, but it is only on the surface. They are going to put smile on their faces, while they curse the tyrant with hatred. A mask will put whenever he was around.

I hate hypocrisy. I hate pretension. But what I hate most is the fact that I am so good at pretending. Hence, I am a hypocrite who hates one.

A grandeur empire, large by its name, majestic by its history, has its emperor. I am the one whose tongue going to lick them, whose face is going to put the best smile ever, whose heart is always be disturbed.

Rome might not need Caesar. He was stabbed until he met his maker. It was ironic, because as the death of Caesar, Rome is not going to be the same ever again. There comes the day of another Caesars. Rome turned to be an Empire for good, for they killed their ‘democracy’ eras.

I also do not need any Caesars. Yet I do not have any courage to stab them.

To keep your happiness

When I was a little kid, my father used to teach me to draw. I always sit in the mattress with him, looking at his hands creating something interesting. A figure of a man, a woman, a child, a tree, a leaf, a monster, a face, a hero.

“It is all wonderful, dad! How can you draw like that?” as I always ask him.

He did not look at me, for he was concentrating on his works. But he always answered, “I can’t draw.”

He always answered that. Of course, I always thought that he was lying. Well, not lying. I mean, he was trying to be humble or anything. But something that always comes to my mind: why is he trying to be humble with me? He is my father. It is always be a pleasure to any son to have a father that master some skills.

“You have to stroke a line like this.” he was drawing a long line in the paper. The line was bold, and I could feel his bravery when he did that.

“Never be afraid to fail. You can always try it again. Just do what comes to your mind, and draw what you really see.”

But I always afraid. Somehow, deep inside my mind, the fear were always lurking. I always afraid to making any mistake. I was too afraid to do anything, I do not feel that I can draw any line without repeating it all over again.

“Don’t be afraid. Draw what you really see, know what it is, and you never be fail. That’s no such thing as ‘wrong’ on this thing.”

Somehow in a way, I was conquering my fear. I could draw, and I loved it. But it was not too long. I believe I did my last piece of ‘drawing’ when I was in Junior High School. That was the last time I painted something because I love it. There came my High School moment and I was nowhere near that thing. I was lost, literally. I did not know what to do, what do I like. That was the dullest times of my life.

“People can be happy, when they created something from they mind.” my father said to me just today.

“When they draw things, when they write, when they make a story, a movie. When they play music, when they dance. Dancing might be the greatest joy people can feel, you are very free when you dance.”

He stopped for a moment, and he said again, “but you can’t keep your dance. It was only for a moment. It was there, and then it disappear.”

I was stunned, of course. I was thinking about what he just said.

“But you can keep your drawing. You can look at it anytime you like. That’s why, son, I love it when you draw. Because you can create something that makes you happy. That you can savor when you look at it, anytime.”

“But why you always said that you can’t draw?” I asked him.

“Well, because… I can’t. I’m no good at it. I might be able to draw an object or something. But to create an ambiance, that is another thing.”

Then he asked me a question, or maybe a statement. “You. You can draw. You know that?”

I didn’t answer him. I just looked into his eyes. There are something there that never been changed. It was him, sit down with me. Teach me how to stroke a line, how to build a figure. It always him.

I just found himself again, and I found myself all over again. I can draw, yes. I can make a thing. I have skill, and I have something. I can keep my happiness.

It is a figure of hero that I found in him today. Again.

‘Cah Bagus’

My grandmother passed away last Wednesday.

When she was alive, I always love her. During her last years, she forgot a lot. She forgot almost everything, including her own children. But there was a time when she remembers, when she recognize my mother’s eyes, when she smiles every time she sees me. She used to rubs my hair and said, ‘good boy.’ Cah bagus…

She is the most amazing family member of mine, and I’m not exaggerating. Let me tell you a little bit of her story.

My grandmother never knew ‘love’, as the concept like we understood right now. She said it to me. When she was sixteen years old her older sister, Supini, dies at birth. Supini’s son, Sukirwan, ended up motherless. My grandmother love his only nephew very much, she took Supini’s side and marry her brother in law Girin – Supini’s husband – so Sukirwan would be hers.

‘I didn’t love your grandfather at that time. I love your uncle Sukirwan very much, I think it was the best for him.’ she said to me.

‘For me to marry him at sixteen years old, was weird. But at the end, I think I love your grandfather as well.’

From her marriage with my grandfather Giren, came four children. One of  them is my mother.

My grandfather passed away about 27 years ago, and my grandmother live her life regularly. I knew that her heart was crushed when her sisters left her alone in this world, one by one. My grandmother is the last of her generation in my family. It took so much of her life, sometimes she said to me that she doesn’t belong here anymore.

But I knew, deep down in her very heart, she loves her life. She might not pretentious, nor ambitious, but she keeps her hope. Her eyes would sparkling with joy every time she sees me, my brother and sister. On her last years, with her memory problems, she will asked me the same questions almost everyday.

‘You are big now.’

‘Where’s your brother? Your sister? Are they okay?’

‘How can you get so thin?’

It is weird that I missed her questions at these times. When she finally gone, her presence somehow still here. Her slender figure is not in her room anymore. Her voice, singing in Javanese, cannot be heard. I go downstairs and she might not be there, but somehow I was ready to answer her questions.

‘Yes, mbah. I am 25 now’

‘They are okay, mbah. They are in their room’

‘I used to be on diet, that’s why I’m thinner now, mbah

But she is not there anymore. Her room is empty, her bed is tidy.

I miss her. I know that it was the best for her, to leave all of us when we are ready. We are ready to let her go. I am ready. I should be.

I will always love you, grandma. I might not be the best person, except for you. I always be your good boy. Your cah bagus

For my beloved Grandmother: Supijah Giren

Ko Ayong’s Pi Oh

It always thrills me whenever I sketch in front a lot of people. When I came to Glodok – known as Jakarta’s China Town – I had a chance to draw one of pi oh station. I start to draw it immediately, and suddenly kids are getting curious and asking me questions.

“What are you doing?”

“What is it?”

“Can you draw? How?”

“Is it finished yet?”

I was overwhelmed, for it had been so long people getting excited and asking me questions regarding to my drawing. It was like journey to the past. Well, I kinda exaggerate it but it feels somehow like that.

Anyway, enjoy the meal.

Promise

Hi, my dear friend. I know I haven’t been able to show you my recent work. Well, that won’t be accurate, for I did show you one or two. You know, I actually feel that I made some progress here and there. It still won’t be perfect, though. Hell, I don’t think that they actually good.

But we’re free here, right? Nothing comes between us. There’s no judging, no hidden agenda. Here we are, far from that world. Far from anything that sickening. From any hatred.

From any confusion.

I fulfill my promise. This is for you.