The Old Man from Bandung, West Java, Indonesia
STORY: During my last expedition to Java, the biggest island of Indonesia, i found myself so enamored and bewildered by Bandung. Strangely enough, it's my most favorite city in the the region. It has that cosmopolitan flair that's not too commercialized, and the historical alleyways and side streets are enough lesson for me to know that the Dutch once ruled this side of the planet.
But this story is not about the history of the Dutch East India Company, nor the magnificent structures still standing in Bandung. It's about the side streets i chanced upon on my walking tour of the city.
You see, Bandung isn't as popular as Surabaya or Jogjakarta. Yet, there's something about this place that i can't seem to forget.
It was a very humid afternoon when i checked in at my hotel in the heart of Bandung. After hitting the shower, and delivering my soiled clothes to laundry, it was time for me to stroll around and discover Bandung.
You know the feeling when you just can't move anymore - when you just have to stop because your heart started beating so fast. It's this one.
So, there i was, obviously unfamiliar to the place, sitting on a bench together with a merchant, a street sweeper and this old man from Bandung. Up until now, i still can't explain why i gravitate towards the old man from Bandung. When i started chatting with him, he won't answer me in complete. He would nod, and smile but never answer. I am guessing he doesn't understand English as he looks friendly enough to welcome a stranger in his small space. He puffs a smoke from his cigarette. He would watch people pass by him. He would take a sip from his water, which he asked from the merchant. He would not look at me.
While seeing people hurry going somewhere, i was there nonchalant and trying to figure out why i suddenly stopped from my exploration and sat beside this man. For the love of God, i don't know why.
My memories of tall buildings and quaint cafes around Bandung may fade but this old man from Bandung will remain in my heart forever. Later on, i gave him the remaining cigarette from my pack. I wanted to hug the old man from Bandung. But that would look really weird, and i am guessing he would be weirded out, too. I am still trying to figure out my fascination for this man.
I wanted to ask him so many questions. Where is your family? Are you alone? Where do you live? What are you doing? But none of that is really important during that moment. All i could ever think of was making sure this man feels taken cared of.
I didn't chicken out and asked the man if i could take his photo. Not because of anything, but simply so i could remember his face forever. He was still quiet, and reserved. He puffed his cigarette again, as i slowly fade from his vision. I told myself not to look back once i left. I looked back, and he's still looking at people passing by.
Later that day, i called home and talked to my family, especially my father. The man from Bandung may not have shared with me his story. But this story i am sharing with my old man.