Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Guest Blog : About Indonesia by Shailendra Halbe

Thoughts and observations about Indonesia, by Shailendra Halbe

People, sorry for the borrowed images. I would update the blog with my own images as soon as I find what I click acceptable!

It may be interesting to know that by population, Indonesia has 88% muslims and 6% christians. Hindus account for 4% of the total population of 245 million. This is world's 4th largest country by population.

The country has more than 13000 islands out of which about 5000 islands are inhabited. This country is spread horizontally and has 3 time zones ! On west, it is just 60 miles from Andaman and Nicobar while the southern point is just 100 miles from Australia. On North, it extends beyond Malaysia and on west, it reaches upto Philippines. To keep these 13000 islands united as a country and run efficient govt administration for such a widely spread, multi cultural, multi religious country is really a difficult task.

Indonesia had visionary leaders during 60s and 70s, who have built excellent infrastructure, which proved to be capable of handling the increased population till 2008. It’s only now that the roads of Jakarta, where we have 8.3 million two wheelers and 3.8 million 4 wheelers for a population of over 10 million, are proving to be incapable of handling the traffic. But this is when we have 3 lanes of main road on each side, then a 5 feet wide patch of garden separating the 2 lane service street on left and a BRT lane on the right (just like in Pune).

Jakarta Skyline Part 2

The center of the road has excellent garden with flower plants like Lily, “kardal” etc, which is approx 3 mtr wide. In whatever little national and international travel I have undertaken, I have not seen a airport, where, within 10 meters after you get out of the aircraft (I am not talking about exiting the airport), you have fantastic natural greenery with lawns and trees !! and believe it or not, this airport was operational in 1982 and was then built to handle 22 million people every year. It is after the rise of low cost airlines in recent 2 – 3 years, that the airport handled 37 million people in 2009 !! Talking about the airlines, the names of the airlines here are Garuda Indonesia (the national carrier), Mandiri airlines, Mandala Airlines, Sriwijaya airlines etc, which are Sanskrit based whereas we, the motherland of Sanskrit, have Kingfisher, Jet, SpiceJet, Air India, Indigo etc etc…

The autocratic leader (Suharto) who ruled Indonesia for almost 30 years in a sort of dictatorship, has built a lot of national monuments during his tenure. These include… a grand statue of Krishna and Arjuna on a chariot pulled by 13 horses. This statue is called “Arjuna Wijaya” and is installed in the largest square of Jakarta, just opposite their national monument and the presidential palace.
 Photo Credits : Gunawan Kartapranata

Photo credits : Shailendra Halbe

In their main stadium they have central statue of Rama with a bow and Arrow ! Try to imagine, in a country where they have more than 88% muslims, they have statues of Ramayana and Mahabharata in Java Island, which is home to 60% of the Indonesian population and which is predominantly muslim population. We can assume these statues in Bali, where still 85 % population is Hindu !! DO you remember any national monument built in Delhi / Mumbai which is constructed after independence ?? I failed to recollect any. We have India Gate, Gateway of India, Tajmahal, Kutubminar, Askok stambh, Flora fountain, a lot of Nehru stadiums, a lot of MG Roads and ancient temples and churches, but where is a national monument constructed for any reason, after independence ? Can they not afford to build a Rama statue (not a temple !! ) in Gujrat or a Krishna – Arjuna statue in say Delhi ? Our imagination is limited to build only Mayawati statues !!

In Indonesia, they have Bank Ganesha as well. And for that matter, Suharto, during 1998 crisis of South East Asia, printed Rp. 20,000 currency notes with Ganapati photo printed on it, hoping that ganapati is wighna harta and will pull the coutry and economy out of the crisis then !! can you believe ???? These notes are not in use after 2008, when they came up with new series, but this is the kind of secularism they really show. On the secularism note, when we were busy demolishing the Babri Masjid in 1992, this country of 88% muslims rebuilt, South East Asia’s second largest Hindu temple of Prambanan ( a brahma temple), which was damaged during an earth quake in JogJakarta (600 km from Jakarta). This was built with tax payers’ money and without any gung ho and advertisements of secularism !

Sanskrit words are very widely used in the local language (called Bahasa Indonesia), and names like, Chandra, Wijaya, Sri, Krishna etc are common in Muslims as well as Christians. I have met a lady named Indriya Brahmana, who is daughter of muslim mother and catholic father ! Shailendra was a King here in Sumatra, so though the Indians find my name difficult, these people are very comfortable with my name. In fact, the food court of JW Marriot in Jakarta (which is very popular place for bombings – they had 2 blasts in last 7 years !) is named after me !!

In short, this is place where you get to hear “Selamat Pagi (Good morning)” from your security fellow, every morning, when you leave your apartment complex, or when you enter your office building or even when you get in or out of taxi….Overall cleanliness is extremely good and public hygiene is excellent. In the last 4 months, I have not seen even a single person spitting on the street or peeing in the corners !!


  1. Thank you for sharing this info. Just a suggestion - some pictures might have made this post even better :)

  2. Mayuresh,

    Yup have that in mind. Right now, at the time of upload, blogger image upload is down. So maybe in a few days, I'll put in a few images

  3. Nice post Shailendra! Keep up the writing..looking forward to more posts from you.


  4. Aah Good one and a lot of pleasant surprises!!!!

  5. Excellent post. Just imagining those Rama/Krishna statues. Pls upload pics.
    I had seen a 'Samudra Manthan' statue in some Indonesian airport (in pic), It was majestic.