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jeudi 6 février 2014


Pleasant things in Life
QR 857 CGK to DOH
After a farewell lunch at the office of my friend HP in Bogor, we took the precaution to leave early for the airport. It is not the distance to the airport, which is worrisome, but the unpredictability of the traffic jams which are notorious.
The traffic flowed smoothly; HP reminded us that because of recent floods in Jakarta, many of the commuters were using other methods than driving their cars to work or leisure.
Go to Jakarta only when it is absolutely necessary, he warned.
We arrived at the Terminal 2 and within minutes I was taken to the Premium Lounge and check in. A counter with agents awaited and then a lone immigration officer guarded the entrance to the lounge where she could check your passport and boarding pass.
She had a distinct Melanesian look, which attested to the diversity of this empire of the east, as Norman Lewis had called Indonesia.
Which part of Indonesia are you from? I politely enquired
I thought so, and then we talked about the Melanesian geography.
You have relatives in New Guinea, down to Solomon Islands and Fiji Islands, all the way down to New Caledonia.
She smiled, at the recognition of her unique identity within the second most linguistically diverse country, only second to Papua-New Guinea with its thousands of languages.

The lunch was sitting heavy, so the food offerings at the Premiere Lounge were of little interest. Felt very grateful to be able to travel with this sort of comfort, which eases the wariness of long distance travel
At the departure gate, majority of the passengers waiting were dressed theatrically for their pilgrimage to Mecca. For reasons unknown to me, they all seem to wear some sort of uniform, batik shirts, baggy pants and slippers for men, women covering themselves up except their faces, with some adornment on their head cover as an exception to the modesty this dress brings.
I will have a safe flight, I said to myself, noting the power of the collective prayers that will metaphorically lift this aircraft through the skies.
The first surprise was waiting when I entered the aircraft
I was organizing my overhead storage space, when a Flight Attendant said; there are just two of you in this cabin today
It gives you a sensation of a flying castle, appropriate analogy for this aircraft owned by the Emir of Qatar!
Now joined by another Flight attendant they introduced themselves, T was from Thailand and J was from Indonesia.
What a coincidence, I thought to myself, to my query which part of Indonesia she was from and was pleasantly surprised to hear that she had grown up in Pontianak and had moved to Jakarta.
Ha, my good friends who were at the farewell lunch in Bogor, who were from Pontianak and are Chinese and speak Teo Chew
I am also Chinese and I speak Teo Chew as well as Ka, which I remember being a lingua franca variety of Chinese spoken to communicate between the merchants and the populace of Malay and Dayak people.
At this point, my fellow passenger arrived and immediately we began to joke with the flight attendants, why don't you take rest and we will serve you.
I was seated in 1 A and he was at 1K on the other side and soon we began talking in which I was able to get an idea of life of this Chinese Indonesian gentleman who looked younger than his stated age. In fact he was the same age as my good friend HP of Bogor.
By listening carefully, and piecing together the information I had before about the life of the Chinese in Indonesia, his story was indeed a nice addition about this cultural group in this multitudinous country.
One gets a feeling just before the flight whether or not the ensuing hours would be a pleasant one, mainly calming your mind and not creating any conflicts. This was to be one of those flights.
But the little delights of life, given as surprise gifts were waiting around the corner.
Because of the sparse passenger load in this cabin, two of the four attendants assigned had gone to help their colleagues (usually the senior attendants like to help more often, J was to say later) and my traveling companion from Jakarta, Mr S, had gone in search of some cognac as he felt that would calm his nerves on this long flight. I was digesting his story when J appeared and for the next hour and half, what followed was one of the most interesting conversations I have ever had during my flying career as a passenger.
Normally I would have prepared myself psychologically for the long flight, calming myself down and getting the reading and writing material within reach.
Somehow a levelheaded conversation, away from the quotidian worries of travel and lifestyle, began with J
There were things about J, which was very conducive to the good conversation to follow
Her mannerism was beyond the professionalism we expect of the flight attendants from the Middle Eastern giants of aviation.
She spoke English well, without betraying any deep cultural origins of her schooling in Jakarta.
A conversation such as this also teaches you about the Tibetan Buddhist concept of “removing the obscurations” of the true nature of the mind. Interestingly enough, this corresponds well to the reduction of Kleishas, the structural defects of the mind in the Yogic Philosophy.
A conversation such as this should take you back to the innocence of childhood rather than the capriciousness of our collected experiences or the planned desires, thus increasing the defects in our mind.
What was most important about the conversation that one must use such an occasion to cultivate wholesome qualities while discovering inherent purity of ones mind.
One cannot convert this purity or the sensations created by chemicals secreted by the brain into desires or attachment, both of which can increase the Kleishas or the structural defects in your mind and put impediment on your progress as a person.
I learned this as a child when people visiting our home would leave and I would feel that my entire life was at an end, because the desire to continue the pleasant time of being with my friends and family. If that desire becomes intense or become a longing or an attachment, then one looses purity of thought and the capacity of creation in the mind of ideas.

I like to see my good friend HP in Bogor, but never plan or long for my next meeting, but it happens, without much planning. It is not the desire that leads to that, but many other inherent qualities we share that make us come together.
It would be nice to see J again, but planning for it is not beneficial, apart from the pleasure of planning but if you do run into friends again and again, as American Indians would say, it was meant to happen. As the poet Thiago de Mello said:
Artigo XII   
Decreta-se que nada será obligado  
nem proibido, 
tudo será permitido,  
inclusive brincar com os rinocerontes  
e caminhar pelas tardes  
com uma imensa begônia na lapela. 
Nothing is obligatory nor Prohibited, everything should be possible, including playing with the Rhinoceros and walking each afternoon with an immense begonia in your lapel  (my translation)
 Parágrafo único:  Só uma coisa fica proibida:  amar sem amor. 
There is only one thing that is prohibited: To love without Love

While searching for the above poem, I was attracted by the following that has something to do with the conversation among friends that I am writing above

Fica decretado que o homem 
não precisará nunca mais 
duvidar do homem. 
Que o homem confiará no homem 
como a palmeira confia no vento, 
como o vento confia no ar, 
como o ar confia no campo azul do céu. 
  Parágrafo único: O homem, confiará no homem 

como um menino confia em outro menino
It is decreed that
Men should never doubt another
Men (and women) should trust each other
Like the palm tree trusts the wind
The wind trusts the air, and the air trusts the clear blue skies
Men and Women trust each other as Children trust each other! (My translation)

On this recent visit to Bogor and talking to the daughters of my good friend HP, I realized that, one must not think with the brain, but the mind, and feel with the heart.
The western culture, in which I grew up, teaches us to be logical and think with the brain. It may be efficient but so much beauty of life is lost.
I will try to write about how thinking with the brain narrows your vision of the world, and using your mind to impress the brain would open up multitudes of new thoughts and feelings and experiences to enter your life.

My UmonHon Indian teacher, Pierre Merrick said to me:
Be happy with what you have, do not be unhappy with what you do not have!

I would like to thank my two recent friends, from Pontianak and Manila, for the inspiration to write this piece.