Mar 7, 2020

Untuk Perempuan Biasa

Yang karirnya saat ini tersenggal-senggal,
tak jauh beda dengan percintaannya  

Yang masih tinggal dengan orangtua, atau mungkin bertetangga kos dengan yang usianya puluhan tahun lebih muda. Berisik tiap malam, katamu.
Tapi mau bagaimana? Mampunya bayar disitu walau usia hampir empat puluh. Kau menggerutu

Untuk perempuan yang sering tak masuk hitungan
Yang dari jaman sekolah, terseok paling akhir saat pertandingan
Yang walau tahu jawaban, kadang memilih untuk diam
Yang nilai 7 dicapai dengan belajar semalam suntuk, berikut tenggakan vitamin yang katanya menambah daya ingatan

Untuk perempuan yang kerja sedikit lebih keras
Dari yang lainnya
Yang lemak di perut kerap bertambah walau hanya makan nasi sesuap tambahan
Yang presentasinya di rapat perusahaan sering tak diunggulkan
Yang berharap ada keajaiban supaya orangtua, adik, bahkan kemenakan mungkin bisa masuk daftar tanggungan

Untuk perempuan yang memblokir nomor mantan
Lalu menyesal

Perempuan yang mendaftarkan diri di klub kesehatan, lalu alpa sampai tahun depan
Perempuan yang sering tak diundang ke perhelatan,
yang hasil blow rambutnya tak pernah sempurna, yang eye-liner nya sering luntur di bawah mata
Perempuan yang suaranya seperti tertahan
Karena memang, ditahan

Untuk perempuan biasa-biasa saja
Yang memutuskan untuk  tetap sendiri,
yang baru mengiyakan untuk menikah lagi. Yang ketiga kali? 
Edan! Kata orang

Perempuan yang memilih susu formula untuk sang bayi
Atau yang memijit payudaranya dengan ramuan khusus tiap malam 
supaya kencang lagi setelah memberi ASI
Itu juga kata orang... 

Dan juga,
Untuk perempuan yang baru menghabiskan seluruh upah satu bulan untuk sepasang sepatu baru
Demi mengobati sakit hati ditinggal teman kencan yang bahkan saat makan malam
mengajak patungan

Percayalah, banyak yang berdiri bersamamu
Seperti aku

Dan hari ini,
dunia yang sibuk, lelah, dan tua ini... 
sedang merayakan kita!

Kita semua...  
Perempuan yang biasa-biasa saja ini...

Oct 17, 2019

Joke's on Whom?

Have you seen Todd Phillips’ Joker movie? Have you recovered yet? 
Have you moved on from the piercing and delirious eyes of Joaquin Phoenix?

Joker has sparked many conversations about mental illness. But while the movie gets some things right, other parts seem lost in translation. According to psychiatry professor Dr Ziv Cohen, who specializes in violence and psychopathy, “Joker strengthens the incorrect stereotype that there is a link between mental illness and violence.”

There is not. Because studies show that people with mental illnesses are far more likely to hurt themselves than they are to hurt other people. Cohen says the Joker doesn't fall into the criteria for diagnoses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and is more likely to be a psychopath, but even that is reductive. But yes, Arthur Fleck is obviously mentally ill.

That said, I believe there are a few key takeaways from the movie that should be labeled Oscar worthy.

First, about being kind to those around you. Because as the old saying goes, everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. So be kind. Always.  Second, about being kind to ourselves. Spoiler alert!

Let’s look back. There are parts I loved about the movie as well as the genius soundtrack; how the mentally ill Joker is still capable of taking care of his mother, picturing himself having a relationship, and even holding on to a job despite the mocking and constant badgering from his colleagues.

Yours Truly cannot help but reflect, and be grateful. Although work may at some point take its toll now and then, most of us are still in a good state of mind.

And those who are not? Have we done enough for ourselves, or have we done too much, or too little? Have we managed our work/life balance to keep our general health intact? Have we as leaders in each of respective industries provided an outlet that supports a healthy working environment?

If you are looking for answers, join in our recent conversation with Marriott General Managers on work/life balance in promoting breast cancer awareness.
A fascinating article related to the recently held Mental Health Day, as well as October being Breast Cancer Awareness month.

A healthy body encourages a healthy mind, so on a daily basis, look for nearby activities in your neighborhood, such as these sporting events in Jakarta,  try these swimming pools if you are in Bandung, or maybe invest in these retreats the next time you are travelling to Bali.
Thrive to be well as mental health is not a joke.

If you want to know more about mental health and how to help, talk to some of these organisations in Bali and find a cause that you can support. Maybe their stories can help us believe that all the everyday hardships in life, work stress, and relationship strains, are better shared with people who care about us and we care about. All of life’s ups and downs are normal, so long as we know how to bounce back. And a supportive network helps even more.

As Sinatra would sing (with Arthur Fleck swaying in the background), “That’s life…”

Oct 6, 2019

A Six Year Old's version of Bali

Photo from Bali Soul

“Ibu, why is the Lord Ganesha statue carrying an axe?” a doe-eyed six-year-old asks me in all her innocence.

And like any other adult of my generation, the first thing that pops through my mind is to search online for the answer. But with no time to sneak away from this little curious one, I vaguely remember what I’ve learned and decide to go with, “It is to protect us from the bad”.

Luckily it was the right answer, as I found when I checked later.

If you are a Bali resident, guaranteed there will be times when you have to host family members coming over for the holidays.  As much as you love doing so, being overwhelmed by an over optimistic itinerary is quite likely. It happened to Yours Truly when playing fixer to her own family, with a six-year-old girl in tow.
But therein lies the difference. A young child in the group will run the show. And requests, wishes, plans, and questions are never ending. They don’t make it easy by only asking about the best restaurants in town, or which hotels have direct beach access.

While we like to think we know Bali is best known for its bright and rich cultural performances, festivals, and ceremonies, rarely do we notice the little details. We see it so often, but we never question why Kecak primarily performed by men, or why some statues are covered in black and white cloth, while others are in gold and red. Children do.

You can impress adults with your network by hooking them up with the best deals in Bali, and your knowledge of the most happening places, but children care about totally different things!

“So, the Garuda Wisnu Kencana is the second tallest statue in the world. Is that why you can see it from the Nusa Dua toll road? And you can also see it when you are in Seminyak? Is its location magic?” was the next question I got. While her first statement is logical, I did use that opportunity to tell her what an old Balinese man told me; that its location is perfectly strategic so that God Vishnu can see everything happening on the island.

Of course, we can try to find all the answers on the internet, or in books if you are a diligent reader, but the best way to understand Balinese culture is to talk to the people – the elderly especially - or visit a traditional village  where you see real Balinese people going about their daily lives. Children love that, and we have the opportunity to expose them better that way.

But just when I think every question is covered, a large group of lobster pink-coloured tourists walks past, beer bottle in one hand, cigarette in the other.
“Ibu, why are they not wearing shirts?” she asks me, instinctively knowing that walking around bare-chested just doesn’t seem right.
Lucky for me, her Dad was there to explain it in the most soft-spoken and diplomatic way, because I do not know how to.
“But why? They are not at the beach now!”, I hear her questioning her Dad at the back.
I know my little sweetheart, I know, I say in my heart as I try to keep my mouth shut. As Lord Ganesha reminds me to be wise.

Sep 22, 2019

On Dating. In Bali

Not once has Yours Truly ever been hit on in a club, been offered a parasol in exchange for my digits at the beach, or even experienced a bit of office romance since moving to Bali nine years ago. Not once.
Are the words “Go Away!” stamped on my forehead?
Photo from 2011, when celebrating one year in Bali

But we are talking about this why?

With its pristine beaches, captivating sunsets, cliff-side restaurants, and exotic spa getaways, Bali oozes romance. And being one of the world’s top wedding destinations, and a melting pot of people from around the world, one cannot help but dream. So does this make the dating scene better in Bali?

Wistfully, there are still stereotypes. More often than not, locals who date foreigners are labeled as gold diggers, if not bed-warmers in search of a meal ticket. When one of them truly strikes gold, they receive an “emotional” Chanel handbag every Christmas.

I am always asked by taxi drivers “Is your husband a white guy?” when dropping me off in front of my humble house. They do not mean to be rude, it is simply because our society forces people to accept only one scenario: only women married to an expat can afford their own home.

My answers to such questions vary. From lying to them by saying “yes” to cut the conversation short, to lecturing a driver, who happened to be a young woman. In my defence, we cannot let a young blood believe that is what Indonesian women are all about. Because it is not.

There are many stories confirming this prejudice, but there are many decent men and women who are well brought-up, financially independent, and who wouldn’t expect only material things from their lover.

People often come to Bali simply for a change in their work-life balance, that does not involve shopping malls, or over-spending their hard-earned money at coffee shops waiting for the traffic jam to ease.

It is a two-way street for sure as apparently men are being labeled too; backpackers, surfers, the new-age-raw-organic-hippie-with a man-bun, or the sleek, sophisticated and cultured looking expat.

Each and every stereotype follows a certain template. Which just like women, is often inaccurate.

The only way to deal with dating’s dilemmas, is to be open and discuss these topics before it becomes serious.

The good news is that Bali’s dating life is indeed interesting and varied. From young surfers to senior citizens, globetrotters to restaurant owners, and good-looking chefs to (nearly) famous DJs.

There is probably someone on the Island of the Gods that you can party with, witness sunsets at Bali’s famous beach clubs, or do off-the-beaten-track adventures 
with. Depending on your personality, hobbies and activities, and where you like to hang, you will eventually meet that one person you are comfortable being with.

I learned all of the above the hard way; people watching, and pretending to be a good agony aunt when friends’ romantic relationships go south.

Only one thing is for sure. Whether the dating turns into a serious relationship and that grows into a marriage you can never be certain. But the Island of the Gods will always have a special place in your heart for your next love story.

I swiped right for Bali and haven’t looked back.

May 20, 2019


Bukan purnama. Tapi langit entah kenapa begitu cerahnya malam itu. Pohon angsana kekar melentingkan ranting-rantingnya, memanfaatkan angin yang menderu-deru.
Dari balik pintu kayu reyot, terdengar suara perempuan tertawa. Dari seraknya, jelas ia sudah tua. Atau karena merokok saja kerjanya. 
Lalu, menyusul suara tangis bayi.

“Perempuan anakmu ini Lastriii!! Hahahah cantikkk diaaaa!”
Di tangan perempuan itu, seorang bayi. Merah, berkilat oleh cairan dari tubuh Ibunya yang sempat bersumpah “Mau mati saja akuuu!!” dalam sakit mengejan selama hampir lima jam selepas Maghrib.
“Heh, heh, Lastri. Jangan jadi mati! Cantik anakmu ini. “ Kata si tua lagi, sambil mulai sibuk membersihkan bayi cantik itu. Air dalam baskom sudah lima kali diganti. Kain pembungkus si bayi segera dililitkan setelah bagai ahli, si Ibu membersihkan ari-ari.

Tangis bayi masih menggelegar, mau menyaingi angin yang tetiba mulai ribut-ribut diluar.
Lastri, perempuan yang baru melahirkan tadi, berusaha duduk sekarang. Kelaminnya masih perih, keringat juga belum sempat terbasuh semua.
Ibu tua mulai mengayunkan si cantik dalam buaiannya yang renta, namun kokoh. Seperti pohon angsana diluar tadi.

“Namanya… Drupadi.” Bisik Lastri.
Tangannya yang ramping dan berwarna gading meraih sebatang rokok di meja kayu sebelah ranjangnya. Bokong Lastri bergerak-gerak diatas ranjang, menggeser alas tidurnya yang basah oleh darah, lalu menendangnya ke ubin kuning. Dengan tangan satunya, Lastri menarik sarung bersih yang disiapkan Ibu tua disisinya. Multi tasking. Perempuan ahlinya.

Ibu tua menoleh. Rambutnya yang berwarna perak tampak mengilap karena ia pun bermandi keringat. “He? Biar banyak suaminya, begitu?” terkekeh, diletakkannya si bayi dalam keranjang. Sudah diam dia sekarang.

Menyalakan rokok, Lastri mendengus. “Cuma empat, atau lima ya? Brengsek semua.”
Tanpa bicara, Ibu tua mengangkat baskom dan kain basah yang ditendang Lastri tadi. Keluar sebentar lalu kembali dengan segelas air yang segera disambar Lastri.
Jendela kayu dengan kaca buram bersuara berisik. Tiba-tiba  hujan. 
“Makin lamalah si bidan sampai…” Ibu tua bergumam, matanya melekat pada bayi cantik dalam-dalam. Menghirup baunya yang baru beberapa saat saja terkena udara bumi. Dan mungkin sedikit asap rokok Lastri.
“Sampai sini, tinggal menjahit sobekkanku dia. “ Lastri mengepulkan asap dari mulutnya, berbentuk lingkaran-lingkaran asap itu karena Lastri memonyongkan bibirnya yang selalu tampak seperti diberi gincu. Rambut hitam jelaganya digelung diatas tengkuk, menyisakan sedikit anak –anak rambut yang membuatnya semakin cantik.

“Tidak mau kau gendong dulu bayi ini?” Ibu bertanya.
Lastri diam. Memandangi hujan yang mulai pasang gigi.
“Apa warna matanya Bu?”
“Hitam, persis matamu. Tapi sedikit sipit.”
“Masih merah. Belum terlihat.”
“Heheh…lucu.” Lastri bergumam. Tapi tak kunjung menoleh pada si bayi.
Bayi cantik mengeluarkan suara kecil. Seperti anak anjing yang sedang mendengkur, lalu merasa tak nyaman. Mungkin tahu, sedang diperbincangkan.

“Oh, jangan Drupadi! Betsyeba! Namanya Bestyeba saja!” Lastri menegapkan duduknya, tetap tak beranjak dari ranjang.
Kali ini, Ibu tertawa. Bersamaan dengan hujan, yang dengan gagahnya mengundang petir.
“Kau ini! Supaya bisa menggoda Raja?”
Lastri ikut tertawa, bertepuk tangan gembira karena merasa idenya brilian.
“Hebat kan! Anakku menjatuhkan seorang Raja!” tangan Lastri terbentang di udara kamar yang dingin itu. Bangga sekali dia.

Diluar, terang yang tadi sudah benar-benar pergi diusir hujan. Buram sekali malam sekarang. Tapi, Angsana masih menari. Dahsyat goyangannya rantingnya kini. Seperti penari mabuk dalam sebuah pasar malam.
Lastri merintih kesakitan lagi, menyerapah karena bidan belum juga datang.
Lelah juga, melahirkan ditemani Ibu tua yang sibuk komat-kamit baca doa lintas agama. Karena tak satupun ada yang benar ia imani, doa si Ibu tak ada yang berujung amin.

“Atau… Mariam?” Lastri berbisik. Ia menggeserkan badannya mendekat pada Ibu yang duduk disisi ranjang. Seperti menyampaikan rahasia besar, alisnya diangkat perlahan.
Kali ini, Lastri tengah menikmati batang rokoknya yang kedua. Dadanya yang membuncah tampak basah. Ibu tua melirik.
“Kau coba susui dulu ya, Las? Sebelum bidan datang?” ada sedikit permohonan dalam suaranya yang biasa lantang. Entah lelah, bisa juga sedih.

Mata Lastri yang bulat nampak berkilatan “Benar kan! Mariam saja namanya. Supaya kelak, ia akan melahirkan juruselamat!”

Ibu mendekat. Mengusap kening Lastri.
“Drupadi, Betsyeba, atau Mariam… tak mau kau lihat dulu sebentar?”
Keduanya bertatapan dalam diam. Dua tangan Ibu kini memegangi kepala Lastri, memandangi mata indahnya dalam-dalam.
Lastri membalas pandangan itu. Sama tajamnya. Tapi sebelum Ibu bersuara lagi, ia mengepulkan asap rokoknya ke wajah Ibu. Lalu tertawa kecil.

Suara ketukkan di pintu menolehkan kepala keduanya. Bidan datang. Bersamanya, seorang wanita ramping berambut sebahu, dengan gincu merah jambu.
Tanpa banyak bicara karena sadar terlambat, Bidan mempersiapkan diri segera. Wanita bergincu, terpaku diujung kamar, dekat jendela.
 Lastri cepat mematikan rokok, lalu bersiap membuka kakinya, supaya diperiksa.

“Namanya siapa bayimu ini, Lastri?” Bidan bertubuh tinggi besar itu memecah kesunyian. Setelah memeriksa dan menjahit Lastri, perhatiannya kini jatuh penuh memeriksa si bayi.
Lastri diam sejenak. Memandangi bidan dan Ibu tua bergantian. Lalu pada wanita bergincu merah muda yang kini tampak sedikit gemetaran. Tatapan Lastri kadang seperti anak kecil, kadang dingin.
Dalam rintihan, tak nyaman karena pengaruh bius lokal dan lelah yang semakin mendera, Lastri mendesah, agak ketus. “Belum ada.”

Ibu meraih bayi, yang lalu sejenak dibuainya dengan penuh kelembutan.
“Biar, orangtuanya saja yang nanti memberikan.” Kata Ibu.
Hampir menangis kali ini, Ibu bergincu merah muda mendekat, meraih sang bayi yang disodorkan Ibu tua dengan gemetar…
“Tidak apa… saya mau, Lastri yang memberikan nama…” katanya.
Terpesona, dipandanginya sang bayi dengan penuh cinta. Cinta yang kepenuhan.
Betapa baiknya Tuhan! Kini ia memiliki seorang bayi, kini suaminya akan mencintainya, kini rumah tangganya tak akan pernah terancam hancur lagi!
“Lastri, jadi siapa nama bayi ini?” tanya Ibu tua sekali lagi.

Hujan berhenti. Angin masih berderu, walau lebih ramah kali ini.
Sambil berbalik badan, Lastri menarik kain menutupi tubuhnya sampai ke kepala.
“Mariam. Namanya Mariam.”

Semua sunyi. Hujan menyepi. Mungkin mau ikut mendengarkan.
Lastri, dari balik kain, bersuara lagi.
“Supaya sama sepertiku nanti. Hamil tiba-tiba tanpa disetubuhi lelaki!“ serunya. Yang siambut henyakan semua.

Sebelum Ibu angkat bicara, hendak keberatan, Lastri membuka kain dari bagian wajahnya dengan gerakan tiba-tiba. “Baaa!!”

Tertawa dia. Kuat sekali.
Matanya yang seperti telaga, kini berkilatan. Seperti petir yang sudah pergi tadi.
Tawanya tak kunjung berhenti kali ini. Geli, marah, membahana penuh gelora. Badannya berguncang disetiap lengkingan.

Ibu tua terpaku. Menghela napasnya yang tinggal segitu-segitu saja.
Ibu bergincu merah muda kembali merapatkan tubuhnya, dekat pintu dia sekarang, memeluk sang bayi erat-erat.

Bidan tetap bekerja dalam diam. Kali ini membasuh luka-luka pergelangan kaki Lastri yang terus menggelinjang karena tawanya. Memberikannya obat dan pelembab, sebelum esok, kaki jenjang itu kembali terbelenggu dalam pasungan.

Hujan sudah benar-benar berhenti.
Angsana tak menari lagi.

Oleh TBH. Senin 20 May.
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