Monday, August 28, 2006

The cost of freedom (apparently not that expensive)

How much money do you think you have to own (or is 'enough') to enable you to be 'free'? For Indra, an ex-taxi driver in Jakarta, it's 11 million rupiahs (~ USD 1,200). [Some of you may be saying... "hey, I have that kind of money!"]

Indra's story was told by Martinus, another taxi driver from the same company, whose taxi I rode in yesterday.

Martinus told that Indra is a fine, honest, very-likeable man. One day, a drunk got in to Indra's taxi and left a small luggage on the backseat. Later, Indra opened the luggage to look for an address or telephone number. He found it alright, but to his amazement, he also found 300 million rupiahs (~ USD 33,300) of cash. Being an honest person, Indra gave the luggage to the taxi 's management. The management then called the person who lost the luggage. In short, the person came, claimed his luggage, (maybe gave some money to the management), and gave 11 million rupiahs to Indra.

Indra was happy as hell. He immediately said goodbye to Jakarta, returned to his village in Kabupaten Semarang, and opened up a restaurant. Today (3-4 years later), he'd sometimes come to Jakarta to see his old cabby mates and tell stories of his successful restaurant and happy life. Sometimes he'd give money to those who are needing it.

Martinus was 'honest' as well. He told me, "if I found that kind of cash left on my backseat, I wouldn't give it to the management. I'd return the taxi to its pool, say goodbye to my cabby mates, and run away with the money."

"And what would you do?" I asked.

"I'd return to my village in the Kupang area (in NTT), and open a restaurant as well. My wife is a great cook!"

Wouldn't you be interested to know how many people are actually living & working in big cities ONLY because they have no other choice? Despite all the talk of how great cities are, its important role in the economy, and how we should support villagers/the poor who want to come to the city (and I do believe in these), it's heartwarming to hear stories like Indra's and Martinus'. They make me think again, and again: "am I doing /promoting the right thing?" They keep me in praxis.

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