No, it’s not a typo. I did mean “Asia-Afrika”, not “Asia-Africa”. Because this is not about the much-hyped 60th anniversary of a certain conference held here this week, but about the street named after the conference that many of us pass every week. Or maybe it’s about the conference, after all. We shall see.
Indonesia’s most famous streets named Asia-Afrika can be found on the better part of Jakarta and Bandung, the capital and one of its most prominent cities. The one in Jakarta is a busy 2-way long street in Senayan known as the home of the country’s national TV station and largest sports complex, one of the capital’s oldest convention centers and the capital’s closest semblance to city’s lungs in the form of an 18-hole golf course. Within the last decade it has also housed bustling shopping malls, fancy hotels and office buildings. The Parliament stood nearby.
You would think that with all those big names dotting its path, Jakarta’s Asia-Afrika street would be one of the city’s best boulevards. Well, it really is not. Just like most streets and roads in the city, it’s bumpy on some patches and losing street marks on others. A large part of the sidewalks have long been occupied by semi-permanent stalls offering overpriced plants and garden decoration knickknacks—on weekend nights, stalls selling food and drinks would spring up on the street itself, where many teens would misspend another night watching their buddies racing in daddy’s cars.
Garbage, they’ve got more than a few. After a mass rally, major sports event, stadium-filled concert and gathering, or your garden variety of exhibition, trash would pile up even higher and make the plant pots look shabbier.
Traffic? Forget event as star-studded as the Asia-Africa Conference, a concert or footie match might just produce roadblocks and flow redirects that typically would end with everyone in almost a standstill. If the city football team Persija has a match fans will park their buses on the street, sometimes throwing a brawl right there and then for a good measure. And we’re not even talking about when one of those merriments concurring with seasonal sale at the malls– driving on Asia-Afrika street would often feel literally like traveling from Asia to Africa.
Yet of course, all of these are often hidden behind the bold banners, colorful confetti, fancy facades and glitzy getups that would inundate Asia-Afrika street once a fanfare begins. Sometimes you’ll even see helicopters buzzing around, just like the military issue flying low earlier this week to land on the football stadium, zombie-apocalypse-movie style.
Pledges of future will be offered, nostalgia of past will be made. Sometimes a world record will be pursued. Everyone will be sucked into the arresting visuals, sleek surfaces, stump speeches, and hysteria that come with those—cheering, toasting, applauding, and generally forgetting the hellish chaos paving their way in and waiting on their way out. Often also forgetting how momentarily the rush may last after what is often felt like a watershed moment in the midst of full-fledged hurrah, let alone leaving meaningful imprints on life.
But what is life but a series of moment that makes you alive, the ever optimist would ask. Too, too true. So it goes, like a cycle of Caesar-decreed circus at Colosseum, the general merriments along the famous, yet not necessarily fine, street of Asia-Afrika. Some are bigger than other, some are organized more often than other, some squeeze more budget than other, and some inflate some people’s ego more successfully than other. Like borrowed oxygen, sustaining breath just about enough until the next bash is unfurled along this long, winding, and loaded street of Asia-Afrika.