Author: Seno Gumira Ajidarma
Length: 207 pages
Penerbit Mizan 2015
Seno Gumira Ajidarma (SGA) has been my favorite author since I was in junior high school. I enjoyed reading his works that ranged from literary journalism, magical realism, essays on sociopolitics and urban lifestyle, to adaptations of classic epochs such as Kitab Omong Kosong (Ramayana) and Nagabumi. He has been working on the latter, which usually resulted with super thick books that will keep us occupied for days to weeks.
Tiada Ojek Di Paris is the collection of his essays on urban lifestyle in Jakarta (not Paris, actually). Most of the essays were originally published in Djakarta! magazine, a lifestyle magazine that is usually provided for free at coffee shops in Jakarta, for the exchange of tons of ads. OOT speaking, the magazine used to be sold. It was when the magazine had much more interesting articles that we do not usually get in average lifestyle magazine. Ayu Utami, Nova Riyanti Yusuf, and Wimar Witoelar also used to contribute in the magazine. But the era keeps changing, I guess. Anyway. SGA’s essay is always the reason why I keep looking forward to pick up and read Djakarta! at fancy coffee shops in the city. Unfortunately, I do not hang out in the city every so often since I got a job just 15 minutes away from my home. I missed so many essays of him, and always looking forward to this kind of book where he put his essays altogether.
This book contains 44 essays that are mostly 3-4 pages long. In some essays, he provided some insights behind the urban social phenomena, analyze them using some theories on sociology; postmodern and cultural studies, or simply provided some social commentaries. In his other essays, he wrote about some prominent figures such as Pramoedya Ananta Toer and interpret some literary works related to Jakarta. He usually refer the people who reside in Jakarta as Homo jakartensis. I find a lot of his essays about the behavior of Homo jakartensis interesting, as how writings about urban life often have their charms for some poeple. However, there are also some essays that require us to read in cultural studies mind-frame, of which may not really easily “digested” by some readers. Having not read much about cultural studies for a long time, I found myself having to read some paragraphs a few times before getting the gist of them. There are also essays that sound pure grumpy (nyinyir, as how many Indonesian social media activists would put it), such as the one about how Homo jakartensis tend to spend their weekends and how we often ask people on where they came from in terms of area of origin/birthplace. In my opinion, those phenomena are not only happened in Jakarta.
Anyway, I like how SGA expressed his concern on how Homo jakartensis are so fixated with morning news and celebrity gossips (which are often packed in those so-called “infotainment” shows). For many Homo jakartensis, morning news is one vital part of their dailies. Heck, let alone morning news, many of them still believe that it is vital to know every single thing that were portrayed as “important issues” by the mass media. In the last essay, he also warned us that we should not fully trust the mass media. Their increasingly commercial framework has sacrificed the readers’ rights to access actual news by magnifying the less-important news that can be more engaging, while neglecting the actually important news. For example, we can see that there is an increasing number of news covering the so-called celebrities’ private life and sensational scenes from social media such as Twitter; Facebook and Path. What do we gain from from following and paying attention to those trashy news? Well apparently, reading online news sites such as detik.com news can raise your prestige as a well-informed one. I find myself relating to this concern in this front, as I find this phenomena constantly occurring in my social circle. I also shared his concern with the notion of car ownership as the symbol of success in Indonesia.
There are some citations inserted to credit the source of theories SGA used for his analysis. Unfortunately, there is no bibliography/daftar pustaka page that would be useful if we want to look up further to the sources. SGA most likely had inserted the bibliography at the end of each corresponding essay on its initial publishing at Djakarta!, but the published seemed to had cut and overlooked it. Which is quite a shame for Mizan, as the publisher; and risky for SGA, as an intellectual who should have been familiar with the ethics on quoting and citing. Should this book gets any reprint, I hope Mizan and SGA will consider to address this error.