Kuningan Cowbow: free range Jakarta

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They call Jakarta the “Big Durian.”  There’s no fruit in the world that turns off the average Joe like a Durian. But sometimes you find a guy — and here I’m talkin’ about the fellow pictured below, who  . . .

Well, let’s just say that sometimes there’s a man who just kind of fits in there: he’s the right man for his time and place. He’s the dude.

Looking chipper and smelling only faintly of cow dung, the dude recounted how he’d spent spent several decades herding out there (approximately, counting a few years herding around Mampang, too) — the lonely life of an Javanese cowboy.

Just holler and I can swing by his camp in the wee hours when Stadium waxes and BATS wanes to see if he’s really out there on the prairies behind ANTV at all hours and in all types of weather. But with no hired hand and his wife and kids just a stone’s throw away (roughly behind KPK), I think maybe he is.  As I reckon criminal and civil mayhem would hunt him down forthwith if he were to leave the animals unattended (any more than they are at present ;  )

I snapped a couple shots of Jakarta folk soaking up the pastoral/urban anomaly as a convoy of cement mixers rumbled by en route to a construction project visible on the horizon in Meteng Atas.  Exposed now, this vacant lot was formerly where Jakarta hid the unwashed and unwashable — like this guy  approaching now, pedaling a vast block of melting along on his bike, his head bundled in rags like  a true peasant. And this kid  — whoa, missed him, no photo  — wandering aimlessly and then exiting stage left, wearing a big ol’ smile but no pants.  Nothing. And the men and women hunker atop a pile of rubbish, sorting it, just on the other side of the wall from the garbage staging area shown dozens of times in the recent  BBC’s video special “Jakarta: Worst Place in the World to be a Bin Man.”

I asked Djoko about how his herding operation had changed over the years, as banks and law firms slowly and unsteadily replaced squatters, in line with the conventional wisdom that trying to get the kampung out of Jakarta makes about as much sense as filling the holes in Swiss cheese.

With a twinkle in his eye he let on that the relevant folks —  real estate developers, facilities managers and building security, I’d guess — aren’t always thrilled to see just how at home he and his herd are, ranging out there between Menara Imperium and Taman Rasuna in search of grazing options, which he says are now much harder to find. As personable and chatty as the next guy,  the lone ranger intimated that he didn’t take bullsh*t from new kids on the block, either. (Although, in fairness, he does provide a little now and then ; )

So I don’t know about the Cohen Brothers, but I take comfort that the Kuningan Cowboy’s out there “takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners.”


So I started blogging because I wanted to extend the shelf life of a book review I wrote and published about a  Leonard Lueras coffee table book on Jak.  (Mr. Leonard was actually staying at the Sharehouse while working on the book.) And so in the book Irfan Kortschak has a chapter about the Betawi that envisions somewhere, “thirty-some floors down” in a “soon-to-be-developed” patch of green a guy is herding goats and smoking a kretek. 

And I really like the zoominess. Plus he invoked MC Escher. Anyway, since the patch still isn’t developed and the cows aren’t going anywhere — well, except for occasionally down to the Bakrie ranch for a little line dancing and so on — if I could take pictures, I’d eventually have something kinda trippy. ]


One response »

  1. So this guy was on Indonesian TV a couple weeks after I blogged him. he said that for all the people who’ve reported on his urban ranching activities, he doesn’t have even a single snapshot to show for it. . .. which reminds me : /

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