My Jakarta: Fried-Rice Seller Kumis

Photo: JG
Kumis sells fried rice from dusk till midnight.

He came to Jakarta from Madura, East Java, 18 years ago to build a better life, but has settled for selling fried rice and dodging ghosts. While the 38-year-old father of two has accepted his lot, he’s doing everything in his power to give his children chances he never had.

Do you work for someone or do you run the business on your own?

I run this business on my own. I’m my own boss.

Did you come to Jakarta intending to sell fried rice?

No. I worked at a restaurant for two months but I was never paid. I also used to sell fried rice in Bogor and Tangerang, and now I’m here in Jakarta.

Why did you move to Jakarta?

I used to work in a village in Tangerang that was very dark and haunted. I had to run most of the time to get away from sundel bolong [ghosts]. Besides having more customers here, there are no kuntilanak [ghosts who appear in white dresses].

Are the job prospects in Madura so bad that you have to work here?

There are no job prospects there to speak of. The young people usually go to other cities like Surabaya, Jakarta or Bandung to find work.

Why did you choose this type of work? Is selling fried rice something you’re familiar with?

I just learned about selling rice here in Jakarta. In fact, the fried rice I was selling early on didn’t really taste good because, I must admit, I was still learning the right way to cook it. I remember my customers weren’t too pleased with how my rice tasted. I even had one customer throw out his rice because he didn’t like it. His wife got angry at him for that and the next day she apologized to me. Ever since, she’s been buying rice from me.

After that, did you ask someone to teach you to cook?

No. I learned to cook by myself.

Because you sell fried rice, don’t you have the urge to look for other food to eat?

Sometimes I actually want the fried rice for myself. When I cook for customers, I take half of the rice and keep it for myself.

How often do you usually visit your family in Madura?

Once a year, during Maulid [the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday], not Idul Fitri.

What were your past jobs?

Before I came to Jakarta, I was a bus kenek [assistant to the driver] in Surabaya. When I was still a kid, I was expelled by my elementary school teacher because I didn’t behave well in class. After that, I didn’t do anything for a while.

I baby-sat for my cousin in Madura before I became a cigarette vendor. I also worked as a ticket scalper serving passengers who wanted to go to Banjarmasin, or from Surabaya to Jakarta.

In Jakarta, I sold sandals in Pasar Minggu. There were times I couldn’t sell a pair and the money I earned was just enough to buy me nasi padang .

Tell us about your family.

I have four children, but two of them died while they were still babies. My girl has already graduated from a madrassa. Next year, my son will graduate from elementary school and he will continue his studies at junior high school. Hopefully, he will be able to enter university.

Do you want your son to follow in your footsteps?

I won’t allow him. I want him to work in an office so he won’t get wet on rainy days. I’m not able to cook when it rains, and if the weather is really bad, I can’t even put up my tarpaulin. It’s difficult and it’s exhausting.

Is there anything you dislike about Jakarta?

The flooding. The water rises up everywhere, even if it hasn’t rained for that long. The first time a flood hit my house, the water nearly reached the roof of the house. I stayed on the roof until the water subsided. I slept on the rooftop and even ate there. There’s not a time that my house isn’t flooded during the rainy season.

What do you do in your free time?

I usually stay at home and sleep.

If you had a wish, what would that be?

I wish my son won’t have to earn a living the way I do. I want him to have another job, whatever that is and no matter what the salary is, as long as it’s not this job. (Erika Febriani Indra)

Sumber: The Jakarta Globe, 31/08/2009

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