RIP pak Muridan and the state of our regional autonomy

Image courtesy of Tempo
I guess I was too preoccupied on my life that I totally missed the passing away of Muridan Widjojo, one of Indonesia's finest researcher, specifically on regional autonomy in Papua. I remember writing this two analysis on regional autonomy in Papua (and oh how it has failed miserably) while clutching his book: the Papua Road Map, close to my heart.
Image courtesy of Yayasan Obor Indonesia

A reviewer in Goodreads likened this book to a "social science 'bible'", which is true. Muridan closely dissected the history and politics in Papua, a rare feat, considering the effort and resource he must have spent to complete his work.

I remembered that Muridan was very helpful during my own writing process. He even texted me when the story was finally put on print. And I took it as a major compliment.

Papua is like a black hole of state money compared to other "wasteful" regional administrations. Indonesian government spent Rp 28.1 trillion ($3.1 billion) in total between 2002 and 2010. And that is just Papua. A more recent study has brought to light the severity of overspending in local governments.

Thanks to the regional autonomy law that was issued in 1999 regions across the country are entitled to directly receive money from the state budget. In Indonesia this means as much as 40%. Indonesia has a state budget of RP 1,842.5 trillion in 2014, 592.6 trillion allocated for regional governments (32%). Indonesian Min. of Finance has a nice infographic here. (It kinda bugged me that the source link for it has the name 'advertorial' on it... huh?)
Image courtesy of Ind. Min. of Finance

What are the money for? Well according to the study, in average the highest fund still went to education (34%). Government "administration " however 30%, much higher than infrastructure (15%).

Compared them to US and UK, of which both received 3%, as well as Norway and Tanzania with 8% and 13%, respectively, ours does sound like a whopping lot.

The report mentioned lack of political accountability at the grassroots level responsible for the excessive spending.

“We regard administrative overspending as a manifestation of poor governance and thus, a lack of accountability at the local level,” it said.

Two proxies were used to test the “accountability level”: literacy rate and the direct election of district heads.

On the first proxy their findings showed that there was “weak evidence” that a population’s education level correlates to the region’s administrative expenditure, while of the latter the report said, “[It] did not have a significantly favorable effect on administrative spending for the entire sample.”
via Ameliaday

The revised decentralization law on regional autonomy which was issued in 2004 mandated that heads of local governments should be directly elected by the local population in order to increase electoral accountability at the local levels and thus improve local governance.

However, with the high effective barriers to entry and costly nominations, candidacy is limited to the local elites and major political parties.

“Despite these electoral reforms, rent-seeking behavior continued,” the report added.

Following the implementation of the 1999 regional autonomy law, Indonesia has seen an explosion of new districts. From 336 in 2001 the number almost doubled to 530 by end of 2013. Despite of a “moratorium” issued by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono three years before, the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) has already agreed in October last year to discuss a draft bill for the establishment of 65 new regional autonomies, justifying their decision based on “the people’s aspiration”.

“In principle, the proliferation of districts could be regarded as an enhancement of the homogeneity of the population within a district, allowing a better matching of public services with the preferences of the population,” the report said.

However, it also comes with a warning. When goes unchecked, it could become a vehicle for “rent-seeking local elites rather than a strive to enhance” government efficiency.

The establishment of new districts entailed large set-up costs for the new administration. However, using statistical models the researchers found that the setting up of new districts does not immediately explain the high administrative per capita expenditures.

via Geografika Nusantara
“The creation of new districts has led to a temporary shift in the sub-components of administrative spending but not to a sustained higher administrative spending per capita,” the report said. “[This left] the overall administrative expenditures rather unchanged in per capita terms.” 

The researchers also mentioned their qualitative approach in finding clues regarding regional budget misappropriations through web searches in popular news portals such as and it was not statistically correlative as regions farther from Jakarta received less media attention. There is however another statement made by our Minister of Home Affairs last month saying that more than half of Indonesia's district heads (320) have "legal troubles"

The research also looked into relative importance of political factors such as party concentration and composition of the local parliaments at 197 districts within their dataset that did not split up over the research’s time frame. 

“In districts with little political competition, as measured by party concentration or the existence of a dominant party in the local parliament, the waste of public resources is even worse,” the report said. 

It also found that regions with a higher vote share for Golkar, the dominant party in the “New Order” era, is significantly associated with higher administrative spending. 

However, the report refused to label decentralization and regional autonomy as failed policies, as the system has just put into place just a little more than a decade. 

“Even if our results may disappoint hopes for rapid improvement of governance quality through decentralization and democratization, […] it may be too early to hand down the final verdict on the success or failure of these reforms,” it concluded. 

Going back to Papua, Muridan noted that all things began to spiral downward when the Papuan governor failed to involve the actual parties in conflict  when drafting the special autonomy (Otsus) bill. 

“It was written by people from NGOs and Papuan academics", instead of pro-Independence groups sitting together with the Indonesian government.

We may also ask the same for other regions, has their representatives been really listening to the people's plight? (I can hear a loud NO somewhere). But yeah, one can always hope, right?

Remember Cikeusik?

I found recent stories of Islamic organisations launching hate campaigns against Shia moslems very disturbing. A quick google search on Anti Syiah came up with links to websites, blogs and facebook groups declaring "war" against the Shiite people. The feeling of hatred is familiar. It is almost similar to the ones incited towards Indonesian Ahmadis culminating with the massacre in Cikeusik in 2011. I was re-reading my original draft and decided to post it here. All 2,500 words of it. the edited version can be found here.

The opening trial for 12 men, part of around 1,500 lynch mob who killed 3 Ahmadis last February in Cikeusik, Banten, are facing charges at the Serang District Court. Now moving to its fourth week, the panel of judges will start hearing testimonies from witnesses.

Footages of the attack are still available on YouTube, in which semi-naked bodies of two men, later identified as Roni Pasaroni and Warsono from North Jakarta, were brutally pelted with stones. The perpetrators could face between 12 years in jail and death if convicted.

The Globe met with survivors of the attack Ahmad Masihuddin, 24, and Irwan, 29.

Masihuddin's survival could be attributed to his knowledge on martial arts. The Police had pronounced him dead when his muddy naked body was thrown into a police truck.

“I was dragged 500 meters by these people, along the way they beat me up with rocks, bamboo poles, and slashed me with their machetes, I lost consciousness and I thought I was dead already,” he told the Globe.

Irwan was deeply traumatized by the attack and almost refused to talk about the incident. Until now he has refused to be interrogated by the Police.

‘We were told it was only a demonstration’

Irwan and Masihuddin went to Cikeusik separately on Saturday night.

“I was at our regular Koran recital meeting in Petojo [Central Jakarta], Roni came to me and asked if I wanted to go with him to Cikeusik. I asked him what for, he told me to guard a demonstration,” he said.

Aroun 10 p.m., Irwan, Roni, and Warsono were picked up by Deden Sujana, head of security of the Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI). Deden almost lost his right arm when he used it to parry with a machete. He was later named as suspect under the allegation of triggering the attack.

Separately, Mashuddin was at his home in Kali Deres, West Jakarta, when he received a text message right before midnight from Eki.

“He’s on holiday and asked me to replace him to guard an Ahmadiyah asset in Cikeusik. Without thinking it over I agreed,” he said.

Masihuddin worked as an administration staff in JAI, while Eki and Tubagus work for the security department with Deden. However Masihuddin was well-trained in self-defence. He’s a taekwondo black belt holder when he was just 15, and became a Muay Thai kickboxing instructor when he was only 18 years old. Aside from that he also practiced yoga.

A 2008 decree restricted the Ahmadiyah's religious freedoms but stopped short of banning the sect outright. Even so, senior government officials say the Ahmadiyah should accept mainstream Islam or renounce their faith.

The sect claims 500,000 followers in Indonesia, where it has existed in relative peace since the 1920s.

Being the minority and frequently victimized by hardliners and fundamentalist group made Ahmadiyah communities stand for each other in times of need.

Irwan, who was a mobile phone credit seller, first met Roni, a motorcycle taxi driver during a protest in front of a small Ahmadiyah mosque inside a residential in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta in November.

Irwan’s family rooted from Manis Lor village in Kuningan district, West Java, where around 2,000 followers of the Ahmadiyah faith live, making it the largest Ahmadi community in Indonesia. He followed his father who had been living in Jakarta since the 1970s after he graduated high school.

Mashuddin also once guarded an Ahmadiyah school in Parung, Bogor when it was attacked in 2008, and together with Tubagus stood guard when an Ahmadiyah orphanage in Tasikmalaya, also in West Java, was sealed by local authorities in December.

“I was with the same car as [Tubagus] Chandra and Diaz [Ferdiaz Muhammad who also survived the incident]. Chandra was driving, we arrived at Serang at 3 a.m. and picked up 5 more Ahmadis,” Mashuddin continued.

As they arrived, Mashuddin saw about 200 police officers standing by at both road ends of local Ahmadiyah cleric Ismail Suparman residence.

“I texted my parents so that they didn’t have to worry. The Police were here,” he said.

But then the wife of Cikeusik village head Inayah came in screaming, telling them to leave because thousands of people will come to slaughter them.

“Deden told her, don’t worry, we have pak Hasan here [Cikeusik police chief of crime unit],” he added.

The convoy went to rest in another room but was soon awaken by loud chants of ‘Allahu Akbar’ or ‘God is great’, and ‘Ahmadiyah infidels’.

It was around 10.30 a.m.,when around 1,500 villagers descended to Ismail’s house. The rest can be seen from the videos that has been posted by various people to You Tube. Deden was seen to hit one of the defendants Idris Mahdani, 30, from Banyu Mundu village, Kadu Hejo subdistrict, 40 kilometers away from Cikeusik.

Idris was the one seen on the video with black leather jacket, leading the villagers while shouting “Out of the way Police! Infidels! Infidels!”

After he was hit by Deden, he retreated several steps back before taking out his machete and waved it on the air as the villagers pelted the Ahmadis with rocks.

Masihuddin said that at that time he went outside and started pelting the villagers with stones, but realizing that they were soon overwhelmed, he and a number of others tried to escape to the back of the house.

“But we were stuck in a knee-high mud at the paddy field. The drive to Cikeusik was taxing and we were exhausted,” he said.

The group parted, some ran towards a nearby jungle while some to the riverside. Irwan was already ahead of the group, when he climbed down the trench by the riverside and inched away from the mob. Marsihuddin followed him, but stumbled to the ground as the mob caught up with him.

“I had with me about Rp 2 million for food and accommodation, and my blackberry, they greedily took it. But it didn’t spare me from further beatings,” he added.

He also saw Roni who came back to tried to save Bebi who was kicked on the face before being hit with a rock. Bebi survived the attack. His jaw was displaced and until now he can only eat blended food through a straw. That heroic act was taken by the mob as a challenge and they began furiously hitting Roni.

“I saw Irwan slipped and fell to the river, in the meantime I had 10 men on top of me trying to hit me with sticks and stones and stabbed me with their machetes,” he said.

“They tried to stab me with a bamboo pole, I dodged, then I heard somebody said, ‘oh he knows martial arts’.”

Udin was dragged about 500 meter to Ismail’s house, on the way he was viciously beaten when they arrived in front of Parman’s house he saw somebody stabbed a bamboo pole on Roni’s body.

“They already stripped me and was about to cut my genitals, I shoved the man and shout ‘You guys have to have limits!’, another man hit me on the side but the impact also knocked the guy who tried to mutilate my genital,” he said.

Masihuddin said that he tried to focus, and keep calm, he controlled which muscle that he has to tighten to avoid fatal injuries, while protecting his head and neck.

“I turned on my side and let it take the beatings. I don’t want to give them my neck. Until now that part of my body went to sleep, as if a stroke,” he said.

A number of times he felt like his life is going to end when the machete slashed to close to head.

“The police thought I was dead, they threw me into the car just like that. But I gained consciousness and started to ask for water. I was extremely dehydrated,” he said.

The trip from Cikeusik to Malingping hospital, 10 kilometers away, took 1.5 hours and the Police only gave him a piece of shirt to stop the bleeding from a gash on his head.

“I met Deden in the hospital, he was holding his right hand, I saw Bebi vomiting blood, Ferdiaz put me on his lap and started giving me water, he was also injured,” he said.

The men were later moved to Serang hospital, which was another 6 hours drive, while Deden was immediately brought to Pertamina hospital in Jakarta. In Serang their stitches has to be removed since it was tainted by dirt, and has to be redone.

Irwan on the meantime was trying to stay afloat.

“I could barely swim, I was dragged by current as I tried to stay afloat, in the meantime the mob was still trying to hit me with rocks,” he said.

He had no idea how long he was under water, when he suddenly could breathe air again.

“At one point it’s all dark. But then I heard a voice calling me. It was Yadi,” he said.

Yadi swam against the current and drag him to the side.


Although Irwan did not sustain any critical injuries, he is now afraid of water and refused to remember of the February attack.

“I am undergoing counseling for my trauma. My therapist said that I had to think of water as my savior. If the river current didn’t carry me away, I might be one of the casualties,” he said.

Masihuddin found him in raging moods whenever he saw police officers or men in white robes.

“Once I wanted to go to Senen, I passed the National Monument and at that time there was a demonstration on Libya and Ahmadiyah. All of a sudden I started shouting to the driver, ‘Just hit them! Hit them! Why should they make a fuss over other country when their own is still in a mess!’,” he said.

Luckily he was with his sister who apologized for him and told everyone that her brother has a mental illness.

“At other time I was in Citraland and saw a police officer, I went to him and screamed at him, ‘What are you doing here? You’re doing nothing! Just like in Cikeusik! Officers only watches and do nothing!’,” he continued.

Masihuddin also suffered from vertigo and severe headache, which made him pop 6 to 7 pills several times a day. He had an infection on his right eye when the mob tried to stab it with a bamboo pole, his hearing, he said, had also decreased and his vocal chord has just recovered.

“Previously I almost can’t talk,” he said.

He had to see various doctors every day, from neurologists, ear specialist, and eye specialist.

Fair Trial?

A video taken by a sect member showed the crowd of more than 1,000 people push police aside and storm a local Ahmadiyah leader's house shouting "infidel" and "Allahu akbar" (God is great).

After a brief exchange of rocks, the mob overpowered the defenders and set upon them with sticks and stones. One man was filmed being stoned and clubbed to death as he knelt on the ground half naked. The bodies were then mutilated.

Police officers fled the scene once the violence began, but returned later to mill among the mob as it destroyed the sect's property and continued to beat the corpses of the three male victims.

A cleric, Ujang Mohammed Arif, 52, is charged with masterminding the attack by inciting others to commit violence.

Arif sent another defendant, Endang bin Sidik, a phone text message days before the attack reading "Please mobilise ulemas (Muslim scholars), clerics and Koranic school students to besiege Ahmadis in Cikeusik (village)," prosecutors said.

Endang forwarded the message to 62 people and asked them to gather at his house and wear blue ribbons on the day of the assault.

“It’s a difficult trial we are going to face with. There’s a possibility that we are going to take the blame,” Masihuddin said, he is due to testify in court at about three weeks.

Last week chief of crime unit for Cikeusik police First Insp. Hasanudin testified for defendant Ujang Muhammad who allegedly rounded the youths from neighboring villages for the attack.

He was amongst the police officers who tried to coax Deden and the others to get out from the house.

“The people came half an hour after the negotiation, when [the Ahmadiyah people] knew that they were coming, they took out their spears and catapult,” he told the panel of judges presided by Rasminto.

In the trial Hasanudin said that the mob shoved their bare hands to the air while citing God is great.

“I just found out that there were victims after the clash subsided,” he said. He denied that he saw defendant Ujang Muhammad on the scene.

Another defendant Endang bin Sidik also testified last week for Ujang, saying that he only brought a book on Ahmadiyah and hadits.

“We came there to have a discussion, but turned out they started to threw us with rocks and catapult. We fought back with the rocks and wooden poles lying around the area,” he said.

He denied that Ujang was giving orders to the people.

“He stood 20 meters away from the house,” he said.

Andreas Harsono from Human Rights Watch Asia who uploaded the video hoped that it would be considered as key evidence.

“The video maker has been questioned by the police, and we are hoping that he could use the video as evidence,” he said.

He was aware that fundamentalist groups will not like the fact that the video is on the net for public consumption.

Hasril Hertanto, legal expert from the University of Indonesia: believes that it is on the hands of the prosecutors and the judges.

“Our Criminal Procedure Code [Kuhap] does not acknowledge video materials as evidence, but this was updated by article 5 of the Information and Electronics Transaction Law. However, prosecutors or lawyers are the ones who has to submit the video to the trial and ask for the judges’ permission to use it as court evidence,” Hasril explained.

The Code, which was issued in 1981, only recognizes witnesses and experts testimonies, paper and object evidences, and the judge’s conclusions derived from the testimonies and evidences.

“I believe in order to pursue the material truth [the judges] should get with the times, and are willing to accept the video as a court evidence,” he said.

Firdaus Mubarik from Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI) feared that the threat for mistrial is so big, especially since not all major media are willing to covering it.

Together with several others they set up a twitter account @cikeusiktrial for live tweets during the trial and to provide the public with background information regarding the suspects and the event itself.

Endnote: To a lot of people's (people with their common sense and humanity intact anyway) dismay: in the end Deden was given a six-month prison term. Dani bin Misra, a 17-year-old, smashed a victim’s skull with a stone; was charged with manslaughter and got three months. Idris got convicted because of illegal possession of a machete and got five months and 15 days in jail. (see the discrepancy?)

Quoting Lin's op-ed piece:
In other words, murder — organized, premeditated and captured on video — is not much more of a crime than stealing a bunch of bananas. In Indonesia, it appears, you can get away with murder, as long as the killing is done in the name of religion.
Prosecutors actually recommended light sentences because they said Ahmadiyah members partly provoked the attack by being in the village and then compounded their error by filming and distributing videos of the attack. This is a bit like saying a woman is to blame for being raped because she wore a skirt.

I agree with one security analyst regarding the anti-shia gathering, on why now and why this theme, that it all has to do with the upcoming election. Find one enemy to wage war against and rally for alliance. Once you got an alliance big enough, and in fact becomes the majority, time to "sell-out". This guy couldn't be less obvious:

“We will support any candidate who wants to make an MOU to purge the Shiites from Indonesia," Muhammad Al Khaththath, secretary general of the Indonesian Ulema and Congregation Forum (FUUI).

Should journalists be activists as well?

This is a piece I wrote after meeting with Nepali senior writer, editor and publisher Kandu Dixit in a discussion held by Japan Foundation in July 2012. The interview with Dixit reminded me of an other post by media critic and NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen.

Anyhow, the debate on journalistic objectivity is as old as..journalism itself, i guess. Dixit argued that journalists in developing countries could not afford being "completely neutral", just being the passive reporter and publish whatever the officials are saying.

The original piece is below, edited version can be found here.

To the 57-year old Nepalese writer, editor and publisher Kandu Dixit, journalism is never limited to reporting events as it is, for him it has to mean something, act as an agent of change.

"In Western journalism school, they teach that you would loose your credibility if you become an activist. My argument is that, it's better for your credibility if you have a more active role in finding solution to your society's problem," Kunda told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.

Starting out his career as a microbiologist, Dixit's gradual shift to journalism might have more to do with his DNA. His mother, grandparents were writers and poets, Dixit had written for scientific journals at the same time he started writing for mainstream publications.

Eventually he was awarded with a Fulbright scholar to pursue journalism in Columbia University, before working for the BBC World Service at the UN Headquarters and later as Asia-Pacific director of news agency Inter Press Service, based in Manila.

Dixit returned to Nepal in 1997 after 10 years living abroad, a year later he co-founded Himal weekly magazine, and then in 2000 an english weekly tabloid Nepali Times.

"I want to come back to Nepal and be a journalist, try to change things and make democracy works," he said.

Nepal had always been an absolute monarchy mired with domestic conflicts and violence before finally declaring itself as a federal republic in 2008, making it the second youngest country after East Timor. In 1996, the communist party of Nepal (Maoist) had waged violent resistance against the royal parliamentary system causing a decade-long Civil War with more than 12,000 casualties.

But even after the war and a promise of democracy, the situation in Nepal is not improving, and this is where, according to Dixit, where media should take part.

"After the war, [it turns out the] political leaders who were elected were not accountable. We have revolutions but people who tried to change things became dictators who they replace, the same old story," he said.  "Media has to play a role in the reform and try to keep the revolution on track."

Dixit also viewed that media can prevent future wars by exposing injustice and promote inclusive agendas. "The seeds of conflicts are actually made during peace time: discrimination, exclusion, social injsutice, the rising gap between rich and poor, and intolerance," he continued.

On his book, Dateline Earth: Journalism as if the Planet Mattered

In 1997, Dixit had his first book published, a 185-page publication that not only looked into environmental journalism but also on how to hold on to the core values of journalism while being deeply involved and passionate for a cause.

Something he said that journalists in developing countries, such as Nepal and Indonesia, could not afford to ignore.

"The ["Western" journalism] rule was made by a society that already has a certain economic status, a history of democracy, and their freedom is not threatened, while our society is still struggling. We're still trying to make democracy work so we have to take much active role," Dixit said.

These values are what he tried to instill in both of his publications in Nepal.

"We believe in basic things like non-violence politics and tolerance and we're trying to protect that. We cant just [act like] we're just here to observe, you have to be involved and protecting that freedom otherwise there's no point," he continued.

And this is an extract from Rosen's post:
The once “safe” choice [we have no idea who is right] becomes the riskier option. That point is reached when enough people begin to mistrust viewlessness and demand to know what the writer thinks, even though they also know that they may not agree.

along came the baby..

So a new human being has come to join our little family
After much mulling...
I've decided to no longer update this blog and move here instead,
This blog has been a wonderful companion during my heydays.. my youth (*sobs),
And it's just time for me to accept that with the baby in tow, my life has significantly changed.. There is not so much "me" as an individual left.  At least until my baby's survival no longer depends on me 100%... Which may take a while.. *sigh*
So well..adieu for now. See you on the other side..
Update 29 Apr 2014: flash news! daycare! i'll be updating this blog with non-kid stuff! cheers!

A book review!

So it was the first couple of weeks after labor and I thought I needed a small writing exercise so I wrote this book review (in Bahasa Indonesia) for a friend's site called, a site about books, which was wonderful. But in the end we didn't quite resolve a petty issue: having a longer description of myself and what books mean to me xD I wanted to stay mysterious furthermore I always dislike having to explain myself, on anything.

It's a review on Crichton's posthumous novel "Micro", at the time it was the only book on my reading list that I finished.. well along with the Game of Thrones series..
Here goes..

Micro - Michael Crichton

Diskon seringkali menjadi alasan yang kuat untuk membeli sebuah buku. Begitu kuatnya sampai sering mengalahkan tekad diri untuk tidak membeli buku lagi sampai semua yang di rumah selesai dibaca.

Apalagi kalau yang sedang didiskon hasil karya pengarang favorit, atau buku tersebut pernah masuk 10 buku terbaik versi The New York Times kapan tahun.

Buku yang terakhir saya beli karena terkena rayuan diskon adalah 'Micro', karangan salah satu penulis favorit saya, Michael Crichton. Sebenarnya ada satu nama lagi yang dinisbahkan sebagai pengarang di novel tersebut: Richard Preston. Seperti Crichton, Preston juga seorang penulis fiksi ilmiah namun sayang belum ada dari karya beliau yang pernah saya baca.

Kekaguman saya pada Crichton sendiri berawal dari Jurassic Park yang saya baca ketika masih SD. Kalau tidak salah Ibu ketika itu membeli beberapa novel berbahasa Inggris dari garage sale tetangga.   

Sejak itu saya jadi tertarik berburu karya Crichton yang lain di perpustakaan. Setelah Jurassic Park saya juga melalap the Lost World, Andromeda Strain, Sphere dan Congo.

Perburuan terhenti ketika keluarga kami harus berpindah-pindah beberapa kali, selain itu hidup ngirit ala anak kos di jaman SMA dan kuliah juga merupakan kendala.

Karena itulah ketika beberapa waktu lalu saya melihat Crichton di tumpukan buku-buku yang sedang sale, saya seperti bernostalgia. Diskon-nya tidak seberapa, 10% saja. Membuat harga buku yang tadinya Rp 87,000 jadi Rp 79,000.

'Micro' bercerita tentang petualangan sekelompok mahasiswa PhD yang diundang untuk sebuah 'tur' fasilitas riset mikrobiologi di Hawaii.

Tentu saja something went wrong. Kalau tidak tentu tidak akan ada ceritanya.. Namun yang membuat saya agak kecewa adalah bagaimana simple-nya novel tersebut.

Alur cerita sangat bisa ditebak. Kalau boleh dibilang Micro adalah versi dewasa dari 'Honey, I Shrunk The Kids Sambil Belajar Biologi'.

Jujur, saya mengharapkan hidangan fiksi ilmiah yang bisa membuat saya deg-degan dan berdecak kagum akan logika sang pengarang.

Setengah jalan saya memutuskan untuk membaca Kata Pengantar novel tersebut dan barulah saya mengerti kenapa karya Crichton yang ini terasa hambar dan narasi ilmiah yang diberikan malah terasa seperti sang penulis sedang pamer pengetahuan, bukan untuk memperkaya cerita, serta mengapa ada nama Richard Preston.

Micro diterbitkan November tahun lalu sementara Crichton meninggal akibat penyakit kanker yang dideritanya tahun 2008. Ya, novel ini adalah karya "anumerta" Crichton yang belum selesai dan Preston ditunjuk oleh penerbit untuk menyelesaikannya.

Singkat kata, novel ini saya selesaikan dalam beberapa hari saja, tidak ada kesan yang tertinggal kecuali rasa kecewa karena karya terakhir yang seharusnya bisa jadi legacy sang pengarang favorit tidak mendapat perlakuan yang patut oleh rumah penerbit (yup saya menyalahkan mereka. Preston mungkin sudah berusaha sebisanya, tapi sekali lagi, dia bukan Crichton). Mungkin lebih baik bila penerbit membiarkan karya tersebut apa adanya, bahkan mungkin akan lebih menarik lagi apabila mereka mengadakan lomba terbuka, mengundang fans Crichton, penulis fiksi ilmiah, untuk menyelesaikan novel tersebut. Just my two cents.

Disclaimer: Resensi ini ditulis Mei 2012 namun karena satu dan lain hal baru bisa diselesaikan 7 bulan kemudian :p

'So, how is it like being a mother?'

Despite the occasional post-natal blues, the feeling that I'm physically stuck and professionally doomed, the realization that none of my old clothes fits except for some over-sized pajamas and nighties...and, you DON'T want to see what's underneath it,'s great thanks :)
(Words in italics means I only said them inside my head :p)

Now i understand why some new mothers obsessively taking pictures of their babies, because it's the only thing in their world that seems right *sigh*

Days Go By Unless You Put A Meaning To It

Last week was actually my birthday. We celebrated in a somewhat muted way. There was this weird self-discernment that once one is with a child, everything about one self does not matter anymore. Anyways, of course there was the midnight cake+candle blowing family ritual with my mom, sis, iko and navis (who for some weird reason was up crying 5 minutes to midnight). Also me and iko went to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert in the evening. It was not really birthday-related, the concert coincided with my birthday and we both love YYYs. The concert itself was nothing short of awesome. Karen O rocks!

Image courtesy of

Five days before my birthday we received a visit from a relative, a man whom we called mang Engkus. Actually I am not sure that I have seen him before. I remembered receiving a call from mom, who was away with dad and my other siblings, that mang Engkus was coming to see navis and mom and dad would be home soon.

I asked her who was he exactly and she said he was dad’s relative from West Java, I said okay (and, ‘meh..unknown relative’, I thought.)

He arrived with dad’s older sister, was very very quiet. Refused my invitation to come inside, but answered that he’d like to have black tea when I asked him what to drink (typical Sundanese).

I brought him his tea and a slice of pandan sponge cake, iko was with him trying to make conversation. Mang Engkus had mistaken me for some other relatives (maybe), he thought I went to Australia to study (no i didn’t go there, maybe you mistaken me with somebody else) said he last saw me in Batam when I was little (oh dear god i didn’t even remember I’d been to Batam).. yes, it was a painful conversation so I tried to keep it short.

Mom and dad arrived a few moments later but dad had to leave again. And then I didn’t see him again because I was busy with navis until they were about to leave.

Fast forward to last week Friday we received a surprising news: mang Engkus had committed suicide. We were shocked.

He was found hanged in a hotel room near Bandung, West Java. Police suspected suicide because they found his will, everything seemed to be prepared so deliberately and there were no signs of theft. He left his marriage certificate so they could quickly locate his widow, he also left his hotel room unlocked. That was how the room service people found him.

That was also when I “finally” found out that he was dad’s cousin. Not just some faraway relative. Mom admitted that I never heard, or rarely heard, about him and his family because they were rarely mentioned.

What makes it more sad was that there was a possibility that his suicidal motive was partially financial. Dad said in his will mang Engkus claimed that he had felt that his life burdens were too much to bear. I know that me and my cousins are not like BFF-close but I know that they can count on me and vice versa during difficult times.

Suicides, like other deaths, is devastating especially to those who are left behind. There were questions that would forever go unanswered like what could have been done? Did we miss the cue for help the last time he visited us? Had dad stayed a bit longer would he open up?

I know the phrase ‘everything happens for a reason’ is debatable. Aside from a self-promise to be nicer to strangers and ‘relatives’ his death also reminds me of the low days of my life and how the thought of suicide had crossed my mind. It stuck on me for days, I felt I was on a dead-end, helpless, there is no point to continue living, I prepared the how and when before at some point I gathered all my strength and decided to be braver.

Of course I have God to thank for the people I’ve met, the family I have if I had ever decided to take my life back then there would be no navis, I would not be married to iko, which i think was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life so far,..

So yeah, I was saddened by mang Engkus’ death. I wish he had not have seen his life that way, I wish he had believed that with enough courage and support things would eventually work out in the end.