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A Floating City – Part 4: Voluntary Exile

by on December 30, 2009

Dody, 51 years old, was a migrant from Pontianak – which successfully evolved to a white collar in Jakarta – with two grandchildren that returned to his native land after more than 15 years working for a better life in the metropolis. “It is different with Bandung or Jakarta, if you are respectfully willing to be familiar and acquainted with Pontianak people, they would also try to understand you”, Dody opened the conversation and later on explained about the uniqueness of Pontianak.

Dody and his wife, together with Shiva her beloved granddaughter, had choosen this cruiser due to skyrocketing ticket price during the long holiday of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. “We have tried to book airplane ticket and end up with a ticket price of IDR 1.1 millions. Therefore, we decided to take waterway to go back and introduce our beautiful granddaughter to my family”. Fortunately the prices in Pontianak was more affordable rather than its neighbor, East Kalimantan, which had abundant coal resources and charmed the businessmen. (Either formal businessmen with a legal company label or informal businessmen with a la mafia operations. I took a trip to Balikpapan, Samarinda, up to Sangatta in 2007 and observed this phenomenon).

“Cities would never be free from prostitution and coffee”, Dody argued. Like a rare cooked metropolis, Pontianak offered prostitution services that was veiled by coffee shop business called kopi pangku (pangku is an action of plopping someone into our lap). In this context, kopi pangku was colloquially equal to ‘lap-coffee’, a coffee that was offered by women who would sit on consumer’s lap. Another form of coffee that was more respectable was kopi pancung, a glass of coffee that was filled half full. Kopi pancung was a social interaction medium and chatting friends for people who loved to stay for hours in a coffee shop (of course, this time with no lap-girls). The price of kopi pancung, according to its name, was half of glass full of coffee. Although essentially it has no special coffee bean, kopi pancung was a cultural identity and part of the pride of Pontianak people.

For Dody, only small part of him that was remained in the festivity and simplicity of Pontianak. He was born from a reputable family of which he shared the bloodlines of Pontianak sultanate and his grandfather was a respected fish tycoon in the traditional market. After a family conflict, Dody however chose to voluntarily exile himself – migrated to Jakarta, married with a Betawi woman (the native of Jakarta), and raised and left his children to be the urbanites. “I have never thought of going back to Pontianak. All my children got their work in Jakarta. Today, I am a Jakarta people”.

It is unfeigned that Dody still romanticized kopi pancung, the sultanate bloodlines, and details of Pontianak. That romanticism however did not passed to his descendents. Except for an intermittent homecoming for once every couple of years, the city only rendered a slowly faded memories.

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