On inequality: Drivers of Progress / Kisah dua orang sopir

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Once upon a time…

Cast your mind back to Jakarta’s distant past, two or three years ago, when Go-Jek, Grab and Uber were novelties and Bluebird Taxi was really the only show in town. Sometime back then I happened to have two long chats with Bluebird drivers within the space of a week. These two men, both in their fifties, told me about their lives – stories that started a mere breath apart, but ended with miles between them.

Pak Yusuf

The first driver, Pak Yusuf, came to Jakarta fresh out of middle-school 30 years ago. He left his village in central Java, and arrived in the capital with nothing in his pockets but holes. He slept under bridges, working as an unskilled buruh on building sites, doing anything he could to earn money for food.

Pak Yusuf transitioned to working on local buses as a kenek, a cross between bus conductor and ticket-tout. The kenek is a Jakarta institution – hanging in the bus doorway, shouting for trade, running along beside the bus as they whisk passengers in and out of the doorway, communicating with the driver by rapping morse-code on the windows with a fistful of coins… They’re tough, sipping alternately on cigarettes and diesel fumes. And they’re tired –  I’ve seen keneks asleep on their perches in the doorways of their buses as their drivers wove maniacally through the traffic…

Slowly, Pak Yusuf built a life. Eventually he learned to drive and started working an angkot (minibus) route, which he did for years before switching to taxis and ending up with Bluebird. I asked him how he found it.

“It’s hard, Pak. I take home sixty-, ninety-, a hundred and fifty thousand rupiah (US$11) on a good day – it’s like minimum wage, and it’s not enough. I earn enough for rent and cigarettes, sure, but I’ve got three kids in school and it’s expensive. Money is always tight. Maybe it’ll be better when my oldest finishes high-school and starts working, but for now – continuous work.”

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Construction labourers today – the equipment changes, but not the story…

Om Hendra

The second Bluebird driver, Om Hendra, started out the same way. He, too, arrived from his village with an old t-shirt and a pair of jeans to his name, slept under flyovers and started off as a day-labourer. He would sit at the roadside waiting for someone to call him to jump into the back of a truck and go along to dig a foundation, or to carry bricks, cement and steel barefoot and bareheaded to wherever they were needed.

Slowly, he built a life. He drove a becak (bicycle-taxi) for a while – but as he did, he saved up money and sent it back to his brother in the kampung. The brother bought some goats, then sold them, and they bought a cow. When they sold the cow, Om Hendra used the money to learn to drive, and with his new wages they did it again, in time selling their cows to buy a bit of land. Eventually he got married, and his wife ran a little warung while they built a house, laid out with a spare room at the side that they rent out. He told me:

“Praise God, things are comfortable now. Bluebird pays a good wage. One of my kids has just graduated from university our youngest is studying for a degree in mathematics. We have the house, and land in our kampung. With this job I’m my own boss – I can work when I want, and I always meet interesting people. I like driving – the only downside is a sore backside!”

Both Pak Yusuf and Om Hendra have struggled up from zero, and if we visited them in their communities, I suspect we might not see a huge difference between their lifestyles – but one has relative comfort and security while the other remains just one shock from real poverty. Om Hendra’s kids will probably be middle class, while Pak Yusuf’s children – leaving school at 16 or 18 – are likely to get low-paid jobs and struggle on in their father’s footsteps.

It seems to me that the difference between these two men is the thirty-years-in-the-making fruit of a difference in vision and will, the presence or absence of the “first sight and second thoughts” that allowed Om Hendra to really see what he had, imagine a better future, work out how to get there and work steadily to build it.

Look: here are people. Here is inequality.

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“New Resident: there are no words as beautiful as prayer”

 

Pada masa silam…

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Melayangkan pikiranmu, mengingat masa silam Ibu Kota, entah dua apa tiga tahun yang lalu… Saat Go-Jek, Grab dan Uber baru mulai populer, dan Bluebird Taxi tetap berjabat sebagai mode transportasi umum unggulan. Pada masa itu, dalam jangka waktu satu minggu kebetulan saya ngobrol lama dengan dua orang sopir Bluebird. Kedua laki-laki ini, dua-duanya berumur lima puluhan, menceritakan pengalaman hidupnya – dua kisah nyata yang pada mulanya sangat mirip – beda kumis doang – tetapi berakhir terpisah jauh.

Pak Yusuf

Sopir pertama, Pak Yusuf, berasal dari Jawa Tengah, dan datang ke Jakarta saat baru lulus SMP, tiga puluh tahun yang lalu. Dia sampai ke Jakarta dengan kantong kering, terpaksa tidur di kolong jembatan dan bekerja sebagai buruh bangunan, apa saja asal dapat uang buat makan.

Lama-lama, Pak Yusuf menjadi kenek – hinggap di pintu metromini, berseru-seru merayu penumpang, lari di samping bis sambil menaikkan dan menurunkan orang dan barang, mengetuk sandi morse di jendela dengan gengaman uang logam – ketok magicnya sang Kenek! Mereka kuat, para kenek – menghisap asap dari rokok, dari knalpot. Mereka juga capek – saya pernah melihat bis-bis selip-selap melaju di jalan raya, membawa kenek berdiri di pintu ketiduran, bergoyang pelan-pelan ke kanan, ke kiri…

Langkah demi langkah, Pak Yusuf membangun hidup yang lebih makmur. Dia belajar menyetir dan membawa angkot selama beberapa tahun dan akhirnya menjadi sopir Bluebird. Saya bertanya kepada dia tentang pengalamannya.

“Susah, Pak. Sehari dapatnya enam puluh-, sembilan puluh-, seratus lima puluh rupiah per hari. Iya, kaya UMR doang, ngak cukup. Uang kontrakkan bisa, rokok bisa, tapi anak saya tiga, lagi di sekolah semua! Sekolah itu mahal – tapi mau gimana lagi? Selalu susah. Mudah-mudahan nanti, setelah yang pertama lulus SMA, dia bekerja, Insyallah lebih gampang jadinya.”

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Pekerja bangunan – perlengkapan lebih maju, kisahnya tetap sama…

Om Hendra

Sopir Bluebird yang kedua, Om Hendra, pada mulanya sama ceritanya. Dia datang dari kampung hanya membawa kaos luntur dan celana jeans, tidur di kolong flyover dan bekerja sebagai buruh lepas. Setiap hari dia jongkok di pinggir jalan menunggu panggilan untuk naik truk nyeker, dan pergi untuk menggali fondasi bangunan, angkat batu bata, semen dan besi.

Langkah demi langkah, Om Hendra membangun hidup yang lebih makmur. Dia menjadi tukang becak, dan setiap bulan dia mengirim uang kepada adiknya di kampung. Adik itu beli kambing, lalu menjualnya untuk beli sapi. Ketika sapi itu dijual, Om Hendra memakai uangnya untuk belajar mengemudi. Dia terus mengirim sebagian dari gaji ke adik: mereka beli sapi lagi, tapi kali ini sapi di jual untuk membeli tanah. Lama-lama Om Hendra menikah, dan istrinya jaga warung selama mereka membangun rumah – dengan kamar sebelah yang bisa disewakan kepada orang. Kata dia:

“Alhamdulillah, sekarang kami nyaman. Gaji dari Bluebird lumayan, sih. Anak pertama saya baru lulus kuliah, dan yang paling kecil sekarang kuliah matematika di UI. Kami punya rumah, punya tanah juga di kampung. Saya sopir, jadi bos sendiri – kerja semaunya, kalau capek ngak usah masuk. Setiap hari ketemu dengan orang baru. Saya suka mengemudi – masalahnya hanya pantat doang yang sakit…”

Pak Yusuf dan Om Hendra sama-sama memperjuangkan hidup mereka dari nol, dan kalau kita mampir ke rumah mereka, mungkin tidak ada perbedaan yang begitu nyata – padahal yang satu lumayan makmur, dan yang kedua selalu rawan jatuh miskin lagi. Kemungkinan besar, anak-anak Om Hendra akan masuk kelas menengah, jadi lebih makmur lagi dari orang tuanya. Anaknya Pak Yusuf, yang keluar dari dunia pendikan saat lulus SMA atau SMP, jauh lebih mungkin mengikuti jejak langkah ayah mereka, dan mengalami perjuangan – dan kesulitan – yang sama.

Menurut saya, perbedaan di antara kedua laki-laki ini merupakan buah dari perbedaan visi dan kehendak, yang bertumbuh besar selama tiga puluh tahun. Om Hendra memiliki kemampuan untuk melihat keadaan dia, membayangkan masa depan yang lebih cerah, membuat rencana untuk mencapai visinya, dan bekerja dengan gigih sehingga visi itu diwujudkan.

Lihatlah: di sini ada manusia. Di sini ketidaksetaraan.

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One thought on “On inequality: Drivers of Progress / Kisah dua orang sopir

  1. Pingback: UberX: Pak Ade dan ekonomi baru / Pak Ade and the new economy | JakartaLives

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