Understanding A Home
A love letter to Yogyakarta.
What is a home to you? Is it a place where you spend most of your life in? A place you turn to for solace? Or a place that significantly moulds you?
Coming from a person who was born, raised, and is still living in the same city, it’s kind of impossible to picture myself leaving it. As much as I mostly want to, but the idea of letting my roots loose and the possibility of putting them down in another place seems rather unfamiliar. Not that unfamiliarity is bad, because, hey, everything good usually comes from out of our comfort zones, right?
However, being in the same place your whole life seems to overshadow everything that makes it so special, knowing that you must’ve known even the tiniest dents on the bricks that build it. When people recognise where I come from, they often chime in with this specific idea they love most about the city: how cheap everything is. It’s ironic that the affordability of the commodities here often blinds the fact that we have one of the lowest minimum wages in the country and that the two compliment each other to coexist — of course it has to be cheap, unless how could the majority manage to live if it’s not? Though, maybe that’s why the people embody stoicism so well here because most of us have no choice but to accept and carry on despite of the gruelling economic dilemmas. On that note, when one over-romanticises the concept of ‘modest living’ that this city routinely practices, remember that it’s actually a coping mechanism that’s originated from an unfortunate systemic circumstance.
Interestingly, on the other side of the coin, the art of living modestly has actually allowed me to engrave a sense of humility from within. There’s a proverb that goes as,“The mature rice plant bends its head low,” and I think no other city personifies it better than mine does. Here, the parameter of wealth expands beyond financial means. Having filled with enriching culture, history, knowledge, and many other things that are more valuable than a currency could ever buy only makes this city more priceless. This conscience then produces sincerity and camaraderie, where people just come together without a calculated expectation of one another and enjoy each other’s wisdoms and companies. That genuine exchange becomes fulfilling enough that any validation or approval end up appearing trivial, hence making it the perfect soil for humility to bloom. When being surrounded by this instance, how could one not feel lucky?
There’s something about this city that is able to make ordinariness magical. Instead of being dull and worn out, tradition is considered to be enlightening and alluring. Instead of being fragile and naive, kindness is portrayed as honesty and devotion. Instead of signifying weakness and rumble, the post-earthquake hairline cracks on many of its buildings are made into signs of strength and character. These dualities open opportunities for nostalgia and novelty to collide, creating a space that makes everyone feels seen and understood. No wonder why the poets praise this place.
Most of the time, living in this city feels exactly like listening to Bon Iver’s Holocene while sitting by the window pane, overlooking the afternoon rain. It’s serene, but it’s also complexed with the crowded sound of raindrops and train of thoughts — one of them being the realisation of the fact that I have never given this city much credit for nurturing little old me. Not only that I owe it to this city for sheltering my morals and guiding my curiosities, but also for making me find profound respect and appreciation for simplicity.
So, when being asked with the questions in the very beginning of this piece regarding ‘what a home is’, my answers would be yes, yes, and yes.