Photo: Thomas Lehmen
Naturally enough, I underestimated how long a ride through rush hour Jakarta can take. No, I had little chance of reaching the theatre at the other end of the city within the next hour by taxi, explained my acquaintance at the end of our hour-long conversation – the local equivalent of a fleeting conversation.
Jakarta does not have a subway and my only hope of reaching the theatre on time was to travel by motorcycle. My hosts quickly ordered one and, after donning a helmet and clambering onto the pillion seat, I learnt that my driver was none other than the father of the choreographer whose work I was about to view. He delivered me to the theatre in a record-breaking 45 minutes...
We sped across the intersections, faster and more agile than the hundreds of other mopeds, hurtling past the trucks and cars as they hustled centimetre by centimetre along the city’s overcrowded thoroughfares. Here and there a police officer struggled to regulate the traffic, inevitably bringing everything to a standstill. I discovered that it is best not to think about matters of life and death in rush hour traffic.
If you want to understand how things work in Indonesia, then you should take a ride on one of the city’s many motorbike taxis at rush hour. There are obviously no rules except for one: use every opening that presents itself to you and adapt to the general flow. Nothing is definite; everything can change within the twinkling of an eye. You always have to reckon with the possibility that others might do something unpredictable. After thanking the choreographer’s father a thousand times for delivering me safely to my destination, I entered the theatre somewhat shaken from the experience and my head spinning from the exhaust fumes.