Wed, 24 Mar 1999

Businessman turned hermit

On March 2, 1999, I received a visit from a distant relative who spent almost one year in a remote village near Pelabuhan Ratu, West Java, a renowned seaside resort where local and foreign tourists come to admire the beautiful scenery and the nearby pristine forests. However, some swimmers are said to have lost their lives in the treacherous undercurrents and whirlpools in the coastal waters. I remember my company's guest from Japan, who was a champion swimmer during his school years, dared to swim in the sea and almost lost his life when the treacherous currents nearly prevented him from reaching the shore. Only his exceptional strength and his excellent swimming technique saved his life.

My relative, fed up with the eternal bickering with his spouse over his alleged extramarital affairs, resolved to leave Jakarta for good and live in a remote village far from the hustle and bustle of the metropolitan city. In fact, he was quite a successful businessman. He worked in a travel bureau and owned a chicken farm. He renounced all his belongings in order to lead a hermit's life. But he made himself useful to the village cooperative as a lecturer and an English teacher for the secondary school, for which he asked only three meals and a cot to sleep on in the cooperative building. He said that only those people living far from our so-called civilization are good and honest and it never enters their mind to cheat their fellow men in business. They lead a frugal life and live mostly from what Mother Earth provides them.

This businessman turned hermit also asked the village cooperative to provide him with a 24-inch TV and parabola so the people in the village could get in touch with the outside world by watching CNN and CNBC. But life in a remote village can be quite inconvenient. There is no tap water and only the village well fills the demand for drinking water. This back to nature sort of life indeed has its positive and negative sides, joys and sorrows, as does any other human endeavor.