It wasn’t a typo. I typed ‘train’ and not ‘rain’ because I wasn’t referring to an old film (‘Singing in the rain’). Someone did sing in the train. We were making ourselves comfortable on the bench when I heard a soulful female voice singing an Indonesian Oldie. Then there was a male voice. It was a duet accompanied by simple strumming of a guitar. I couldn’t remember the title, it was a sad song.
Then I caught the sight of the couple at one end of the coach. A blind couple. The woman’s voice was great. I couldn’t help but think that if they have good looks, they could make good money singing instead of busking in the train. The blind couple walked on to the next coach (I did enjoyed their rendition of the song, hence I paid them when the passed me).
Passengers began to pack the coach. Mutiara sat on my right. A few feet on my left was the open door. I was really glad that there were some men between the open door and me. I didn’t think my heart could endure the pounding and the suspense from seating next to the open door. The funny thing is that some years ago (what now seemed to be a different lifetime), I used to have no problem standing at the open door of a speeding train with my little hands holding on the railing near the door.
The train had just left the station. While chatting with Mutiara, I noticed a guy across the isle, handing out small packets of what looked like shampoo. I thought he was handing out free sample as people normally do in Kuala Lumpur. But I was puzzled when the same man return to collect the ‘sample’ and passengers voluntarily returned the sample. Mutiara explained that passengers are free to examine the sample, and pay if they decided to keep the sample. To this I replied that in Kuala Lumpur, if people give (as in put in your hands) small ‘sample’ packets, most of the time it’s free.
At some point of the ride, two beautiful ladies stood in front of us. Both were impeccably dressed in black (or at least in that same tone). One was wearing pants and the other skirt – or more like a little black dress. Their fair skins were accentuated by their black clothes. The lady in the pants had a paper bag bearing the word ‘MANGO’
Nothing wrong with them, but among the ordinary looking people in the coach, the two “cakep” (that’s attractive in Indonesian) ladies looked out of place. They looked like they came out of a fashion magazine. Thanks to fashion and brand conscious friends, I know that ‘MANGO’ is the same with ‘MNG’ in Malaysia. I don’t buy anything from the shop, correction, boutique, but I do know that the clothes from the MNG probably cost one-month salary of some people in the coach.
Anyway, about the same time the “cakep” lady in skirt got off the train, a lady with a small girl boarded the train. They stood near the open door. The little girl practically clung to her mother. Fearing the safety of the little girl, I immediately stood up and surrender my seat to them.
It was while standing did I really look out of the window. It was sort of an assault to my senses. The houses were built very close to the railway track. So close that I thought the train could scrape off some roofs or walls. I was worried for the house dwellers. Again, Mutiara assured me thing were as normal as they should be.
The lady and the little girl got down. I got my seat back. A few stations later, we got off the train. I think it was at Pasar Minggu Station. After being disoriented for a few minutes at the station, Mutiara managed to lead the way to a busy road where we got on an “angkotan”.
Then we got off at a less busy road and waited for a “bajaj” (a three wheel motor taxi). We could have taken an “ojek” (a motorbike ‘taxi’) each as there were plenty waiting. But pillion-riding motorbike with a stranger is a strange (no pun intended) concept to me. So we patiently waited for a “bajaj”. Jakarta might have one of the best-connected networks of public transport because before we could break into sweats, a “bajaj” came along. And off I went with Mutiara on my first ride in a “bajaj”.