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English Jakarta, Stopover and Hope for Newcomers
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Jakarta, Stopover and Hope for Newcomers

Oleh J GALUH BIMANTARA
KOMPAS/JOHANES GALUH BIMANTARA
Sulaeman (60), sells meatballs near Sunter Lake in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, Monday (10/6/2019).

For many street vendors, Jakarta is never truly home. The capital is merely a stopver for making a living.

Toyo (50) carefully placed small pieces of banana leaves into a small plastic receptacle on Monday (10/6/2019). In the small rented house on Jl. Swasembada Timur IV in Kebon Bawang subdistrict of Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, he was preparing the molds for his rice cakes to finish the ketoprak (rice cake with vegetables and peanut sauce) he would be selling later that day.

Surrounding Toyo’s vending cart were five other ketoprak carts and more than a dozen carts selling gorengan (fried snacks) and cilok (fried tapioca skewers) and batagor (fried fish dumplings).

Just like the gorengan sellers, Toyo is not from Jakarta. He is a native of Cirebon, West Java, and his wife and children live in Datarnangka village, Sagaranten district, Sukabumi, West Java.

Toyo did not spend much time in his place of residence during Idul Fitri this year. He traveled to Sukabumi on Friday (30/5) and had returned to Jakarta by Thursday (6/6).

Toyo is not alone. Two younger brothers, a nephew and his brothers-in-law also sell ketoprak. The five ketoprak carts are “family” with his cart. “It does not feel like I’m in Jakarta. It feels like home because I have relatives here,” said one of Toyo’s brothers.

Toyo first came to Jakarta in 1988. Before that, he lived in Mandala village, Cirebon. He said that jobs were not hard to find in Cirebon back then, particularly for those who were hard workers. However, the types of jobs available were limited and offered only mediocre earnings. Many of the jobs were farm work.

KOMPAS/JOHANES GALUH BIMANTARA
Toyo (50), prepares to make lontong (rice cake wrapped in a banana leaf) on Monday (10/6/2019) on Jl. Swasembada Timur IV in Kebon Bawang subdistrict, Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta.

Seeing that many of his peers had achieved success in Jakarta, Toyo went to the capital. “At that time, you could earn Rp 2,000-Rp 3,000 a day in Jakarta. As farm workers in the village, you could earn only Rp 700 for a day’s work, from 7 a.m. to the afternoon,” he explained.

At first, Toyo sold gorengan in Jakarta. He switched to selling ketoprak in 1994. He has always lived in a rented house in the city. He has lived since 1996 in his current residence, a 16-square-meter house with wooden walls and an asbestos roof, where he lives with his brothers and nephew.

They sleep together, sharing one thin mattress. A rope is suspended in the middle of the room to hang their clothes and prayer mats.

The four split the monthly rent of Rp 500,000 (US$35.12), which includes electricity and water. Despite the small space, they can save on their expenses and send more money to their families back home. Toyo send about Rp 3.5 million per month for his wife and two dependent children back home. His third child is grown.

Toyo usually works selling ketoprak from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. for one month. Then, he goes back to Sukabumi to spend one week recuperating before returning to Jakarta to work for another month.

Sulaeman (60), also works in Jakarta, leaving his wife and children back in his hometown. He sells bakwan Malang (Malang meatball soup) near Lake Sunter in North Jakarta.

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He has worked in Jakarta since the 1980s. At first, he sold cigarettes at the Kramatjati Central Market in East Jakarta. In 1991, he sold roasted corn in Sunter and Kemayoran. He has sold bakwan Malang in the same spot since 2008.

The father of seven hails from Chinatown in Kalilangkap, Bumiayu, Brebes regency, Central Java. He said that jobs were available in Brebes. He could work as a coolie transporting sand, earning around Rp 40,000 from his employer.

However, due to his age and physique, he thought twice about taking the job, in which he would have to compete with much younger workers. He decided that selling bakwan Malang in Jakarta made more sense.

He makes a net income of Rp 100,000 in a single day. In a month, he earns around Rp 3 million. He usually sends the money to his family by a bank transfer every week or two. His wife uses the money to pay for school for their two youngest children.

Sulaeman usually starts working at 10 a.m. and finishes at midnight. He needs to avoid the public order officers (Satpol PP), who are tasked with keeping the sidewalks of Sunter Lake clear of street vendors.

KOMPAS/JOHANES GALUH BIMANTARA
Sulaeman (60), sells meatballs near Sunter Lake in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, Monday (10/6/2019).

Jakarta’s pull

The capital remains undeniably attractive for people looking to make a living. Pandu, 26, arrived in Jakarta for the first time on Monday evening (10/6).

Carrying a backpack and a cardboard box, Pandu waited for his brother and sister-in-law to pick him up.

The man from Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta, said that he would follow in the footsteps of his brother Toni, 32, who had been a ride-hailing ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver for five years. Pandu said his brother earned up to Rp 4 million a month.

Toni’s wife Anisa, 30, earns around Rp 2 million a month as a nanny. Their incomes were much higher than the Rp 1 million a month Pandu had earned as an innkeeper in his hometown.

His brother’s experience convinced Pandu to try and make a living in Jakarta. He hopes that the busy capital will bring him luck.

(BENEDIKTUS KRISNA YOGATAMA/NIKOLAUS HARBOWO)

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