Indonesia: Working Abroad
The warmth of greeting and the ready smile is what charms you first. People are always polite and wish you the time of day whether you interact on the telephone or personally. Even the police officer, who nabs you for a traffic violation, will smile. When you grease his palm he will say, 'thank you, sir'.
Land of Rising Sun
Norwegian New Year
Jakarta has a large number of four wheelers and traffic jams are normal. The same journey can take 15 minutes on one day and an hour on another. I was amused to see three wheeler Bajaj scooters, imported from India in 1965, still running.
The country has more then 100 volcanoes, a number of them still active. Earthquakes are therefore common and I recall a tremor while I was at work on the 27th floor. It appeared as if some force had gripped the building and was shaking it violently.
We were witness to a momentous event when the first democratic election took place after almost 50 years. Flags of all political parties were displayed at important crossings by the Govt. and each party was allocated a particular day (by draw of lots) for their election rallies. These were very orderly with participants wearing T- shirts emblazoned with images of the leader or election symbol of the party. There were no loudspeakers blaring nor posters and banners on display.
The country is liberal in its religion and attitudes. The majority of the population follow a very liberal and modern form of Islam and one can spot churches, temples and gurudwaras. There is equality of the sexes and equal opportunity in the work place. I also did not come upon any incidents of eve teasing.
People are generally punctual and take pride in their work. Most employees wear uniforms displaying the logo of their company and there is great dignity of labour. A salesperson in a store sporting a tie will not hesitate to mop the floor if necessary. Tipping is a way of life and everyone expects tips, even the guy wearing a tie. Tea and coffee are savoured sans milk and in mild strength. Both are sipped so slowly that it may take up to an hour to finish a cup of tea.
Indian culture has greatly influenced the local culture. The Rupiah 20,000 currency note has a picture of Lord Ganesha printed on it. There is a huge Arjuna Rath built in the centre of Jakarta and names of Hindu gods like Gayatri, Sanjaya, Lakshmi and Laksamana are common. Indian philosophy recommends detachment from material things and also the inevitability of death and rebirth, but this still leaves Indians amongst the most worried people in the world. I noticed Indonesian's follow the Indian philosophy of detachment and do not weep when someone dies.
The Indonesian language, called Bahasa Indonesia, contains a number of Sanskrit words. Incidentally, the word Bhasha in India means language. Local TV channels and many movie theatres show either dubbed or sub titled Hindi movies. 'Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hai', the title of a movie, is a frequently used greeting towards an Indian. The beautiful woodcarvings made here with skilled hands, often depict scenes from the Hindu epics of Ramayana and Mahabharat. Indonesians have a tremendous sense of art and aesthetics and the flower decorations, gift wrappings and cut fruit displays are exquisite.
You will wonder what the irritants of living here are. A guest is not expected to criticise his host. I love the country and its people. What I possibly value most about my stay here, is that I learnt a great deal about how to enjoy life.
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.