I was raised among the paddy fields. Once upon a time, i never imagined what life would be beyond the Sundanese environment. I also never imagined how does it feel to dealt with people different from my religious view. I only came to mind with what the television has offered me. Sesame Street becomes my daily teacher who taught me about the English language and the contexts i later found in life. Big Bird taught me that it’s okay to be different as long as you appreciate the differences as diversity rather than to dispute about it. In real life, spending my school break with my late grand father taught me about my family and cultural heritage. I learned that i come from a family grown out of agricultural background where we depend our living from nature, from the crops we sow on the farming lands and paddy fields. My grandfather was a farming instructor, and my grandmother was an elementary teacher, both of them are public servants who raised five of their children well, including my mother. I was raised on a diet of rice, cassava, yams, corn and coconuts. These diets helps me understand how to value natural resources especially water. We have grown less crops because lack of water, but i was puzzled how people treated rivers and streams as toilets and waste disposal rather than the source of life.
Religion shaped my thoughts about life. My parents and my grandparents went to the hajj pilgrimage in 1992, it was the same year when the Mina Tunnel incident occurred. My dad always tells the story of how it was a miracle that all of them, including their pilgrimage group can get out from the place alive or how some African man helped my mother by pulling her out of the stampede of pilgrims, saved her from being trampled to death. The concept of miraculous event, the divine intervention, the presence of God lead me to get to know about Islam and what does it takes to be a good Muslim. Taking after school courses about the religion never bothers me, i love reading the good book in Arabic. I was amazed by the stories my ustadz and ustadzah told me after reciting the good book. I was fascinated by the existence of the jinns, angels and demons. Until i encounter a jinn after the Maghrib prayer at my family’s mosque took a shock in my childhood. At that first time i don’t know what to do when i encounter such creature, once i only known from story told by my friends. It was a simple life where i based my assumptions from my religious belief or the belief that my parents taught me.
Finally i tasted “freedom.” After living with my parents for almost 18 years i finally got accepted to college, taking a major in English Literature. I don’t know where i was heading but since living with my parents were quite an ordeal, especially living by the standards of my father. He’s an hard boiled entrepreneur in the hospitality business trying to figure things out himself building a hotel he dreamed about since he went to the hospitality vocational school. I was fed up with who i am under his shadows, doing things under his point of views. As i said, i finally tasted freedom as a college student, meeting new people, expanding my horizons learning how to act in a diverse society, but i never liked the educational system there. I started to wonder what does it worth learning all of these things, instead i learn how to have fun and taking classes for fun also. I was once called “village boy”, they recognize me as a living Kabayan. He is one popular Sundanese folklore character, known for being naive and taking simple solutions at things. He hide his wisdom by showing his lazy nature. Maybe they were right all along, that’s who i am, i’m too easy going, like to take several small steps rather than to take one fast sprint on things.
How can i cope with new environments. I cope by observing. I never forget my roots, my actions always depends on how much my part is needed in a situation, i wasn’t very fond of taking everything under my control, instead i let i flow like the river in my hometown. I took silat, especially it’s philosophy very seriously. I never attack before someone attacked me first and i always take measurements in my steps. Taking too many measurements i suppose, my professor told my that i always over think at things, try to just do or just write what’s in your thought instead of thinking it over and over again. That was the time i learn about the philosophy of jeet kune do, a way without a way, my own way. I applied my own approach on silat and my life, but it turns out it was hard to make a change. Although, isn’t that what it takes to be an altruist?