In 2015, after spending time between January and April in my grandmother’s house in Mysore I decided to go to Indonesia. While I was traveling through Indonesia, I was enamored by its green rice paddies, the shadow puppetry, the batik, and above all, the mixture of Indian, Islamic, and Pacific culture embedded in its spirit. Out of all of the cities I had seen in Indonesia, I felt most like returning to Jogjakarta, the cultural and educational capital of the island of Java. It only took me a week of staying there to feel like I could live there a year. I lasted from April until about September of that year.
What struck me as I returned to Jogjakarta was how much art mattered to this city. Art was everywhere, in the batik the people made for the tourists, in the signs people chipped by their houses, in the green and white shimmers of the fences, in the pulled rickshaws and street malls. I might have also been influenced and biased by the place I lived in, the second floor of an art studio. I was always in the company of the best artists of the city, and we often chatted about our ideas of the world while drinking tea. I only paid about 300 dollars to stay there, a fortune by Indonesian standards, but I had enough space and beauty around me to live like a king.
Yogyakarta is quite small. It is composed of three cities running into themselves. The north of the city is a large suburb, whereas the south is full of green fields and spacious bungalows. It is the center in which most of the historic sites are found, centered on Malboro Street, the old Dutch town. Yogyakarta was one of the important trade centers for the Dutch during colonial times, and it is very visible in the architecture, but one can also see the cultural impact of the locals, in the Water Palace or the ancient Hindu site of Prambanan, but the true Jogja is found on the streets of its city center and in the laughs and lives of its people.
Yogyakarta, being one of the art centers of Southeast Asia, has plenty of great art. A small art gallery can be a gateway to see a young impressionable artist doing his best to make a mark on the world. Once a year the city hosts a big art exhibition in which much international art comes to the city. Being an artist, I found myself learning a lot in Yogyakarta.
Namely, that I should not put my feelings of insecurity and loneliness over the production of art. This is the true meaning of karma, that I should be willing to be alone, willing to take emotional risks, so long as it means that I produce something of value later on.