Tag Archives: Jakarta

Irish Conflict

26 Aug

Going back to corporate life in the late 90’s, partner meetings were very popular. One such meet was held at a resort on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia. Since the company was on a budget drive we were asked to share rooms.

Dermott and Tony were from our Irish office and became roomies. They were best friends but as different as chalk and cheese. Dermott was a chain smoker, liked his beer and Tony was a practitioner of Yoga, more of a wine person. Personality wise both were outgoing and friendly to everyone.

The internal team (including Tony and Dermott) arrived a few days earlier to prepare and set up the event. In a couple of days we observed that they started snapping at everyone in general and at each other in particular. Having known them for years it was quite odd.

Things came to a head one day when a group of us were hunched around the bar when both started making snide remarks at each other, their habits… it then got personal when they started accusing each other of questionable genetics… several beers later ancestry was being discussed… the climax came when morals of their mothers and grandmothers started to get discussed…they had to be physically separated…

Finally we found out why…

Tony liked to go to bed early… but Dermott stayed awake till 3-3.30 AM, smoking and playing games on his computer. Obviously pissed Tony off.

On the other hand Tony got up bright and early at 4.30 AM and stared pottering around the room… doing Yoga for an hour the going for a quick swim and then coming back to take a shower and fixing himself with a health drink using a mini blender that he carried… all before 6 AM. Dermott who would have just gone to sleep was pissed at Tony.

Net net both of them were not getting any sleep… the anger was slowly building up.

Finally we convinced someone else to room with Dermott..

An Irish “Odd Couple”


Dateline Jakarta – Lastest Part

25 Jun

The airport was a mess. Looked like everyone wanted to leave. Long queues, desparate queries. Yet in all this there were no frayed tempers. Meanwhile we had been on the phones with our respective travel agents the previous evening trying to get seats out of Jakarta but without any success.

People were on their mobiles. Several of the fleeing locals were getting minute by minute updates about their houses. A woman close to me broke down on learning that their house had been set on fire. I left it to CB to bulldoze his way through the crowd to get information. I was content to guard the luggage.

To cut a long story short we managed to get onto a 6:30 AM flight to Bali and then a flight from Bali to Singapore. The Mobile that CB had given me was God sent and helped me keep in touch with the family and more importantly the travel agent..

( Oh ya.. talking of the travel agent… she kept looking for business class tickets till my wife called her up and told her to get me out even if it meant sitting in the baggage hold… so much for priorities.)

There was one problem though… none of the pilots could make it to the airport.. there were passengers, there were planes BUT NO ONE TO FLY THEM !!!

As one can imagine, food and water were at a premium as in there werent any. Our mini bar raids came in very handy. A combination of Vodka and Orange juice at 10 AM was quite interesting. We kept waiting…. and imbibing…

Out in the city, things were calming down. The army had bought things under control and things were limping back to normal. SBK called us and said the rioting had stopped.

Finally at 3:45 PM.. the 6:30 AM flight to Bali was ready to leave.. compared to the chaos of Jakarta, Bali was calm and quiet. Obviously the trouble was local to the capital city. Our luggage we were told would follow later… we really didnt care… we had no time to appreciate the beauty there as we were running to catch our connecting flight…

CB boarded a flight back to Germany and I made my way to Singapore. On reaching there, I stumbled into the Airline lounge, found myself a nice corner and slept. It was 10 PM and my flight back to India was at 8’ish the next evening…

In the meantime things at our offices in Dublin Ireland, and the USA were in a tizzy. “Employees Missing” was the general word. I would learn later from my wife that she was more worried when she got calls from the office (we had already moved to Bangalore by the way).

That couch in the corner became my refuge for the next 24 hours (though to call a Business Class Singapore Airline lounge a refuge is to demean it). I was well looked after… learnt from TV that Suharto had returned and Jakarta was back to normal… but it was the beginning of the end for him.


What happened to everyone? Nothing… life went on…

I ran into SBK a year later. He was none the worse for the wear. Family was doing well and kids were headed off to the states. Last time I saw him in 2004 he was semi-retired and enjoying his hard earned money.

CB left our company to pursue teaching full time at the University of Bremen. He still teaches there…and yes I returned his Mobile.

And me? Well…. I am here aren’t I?

I did go back to Jakarta several times afterwards… but never to Bali except for that hurried visit…

Oh ya and the luggage made it as well.

Dateline Jakarta

23 Jun

Places bring back old memories some good some bad. Events that make you appreciate the things you have. I Walked into the Singapore Airlines lounge at Singapore last week and the couch in the corner took me back to a tumultous two days a decade ago. Before anyone gets any ideas… read on…
It was a long business trip way back in May 1998. My first stop was Singapore, followed by Hong Kong (heard the news there about the Pokhran blasts and the US embargo on India), and then Indonesia. In all this I was accompanied by a German Colleague Dr. CB. We were together in Singapore and HK and I left for Indonesia on an earlier flight. Those days CB was one of the few people who carried mobile phones with International roaming.. multiple ones at that. He was (and still is) a well known figure in the Mobile Industry and operators used to actually GIVE him phones.

So as I left he gives me a mobile and says to me “Keep this phone. It might be useful. I’ll take it back when I see you in Jakarta”. International roaming for my India mobile phone was still not active.

So anyhow, I get to Jakarta without any problem. Check into a very nice hotel (owned by one of Suharto’s sons).

Indonesia was in turmoil. Suharto was getting unpopular and there was a popular uprising against him. Daily processions were commonplace. The army was having a hard time controlling the crowds. Suharto was also out of the country at that time. The place was boiling and about to explode.

First day passes by without any problem. On day two, at around 11 AM, our local partner (and CEO of the company) SBK suddenly rushes into the meeting room. “Pack your bags. Theres trouble”. CB who was in another meeting is already in the car. The streets were eeriely quiet. I could see smoke on the horizon.

The protests against Suharto had turned to violence against the ethnic Chinese.They were being targeted and their houses burnt. Our partner SBK was of Chinese origin (7th Generation) and was in grave personal danger. Yet he took the trouble of taking responsibility for CB and me. SBK was an extremely successful and powerful businessman. It was people like him that were being lynched.

Going back to the hotel was impossible as there was trouble on the streets. SBK took us to his house. Inside his wife and children were all packed ready to leave their house at a moments notice. It was there that we spent several hours waiting for the violence to abate. All the while SBK’s house was being guarded by his men and he’d get reports from the police control room. We could also hear mobs in the distance. Smoke from burning buildings was getting closer.

Sometime around 9 PM SBK told us that his driver would take us back to the hotel. “Pack up and be ready to leave any time. I will get you to the airport. Thats the safest place. You people will HAVE to leave Indonesia. No sleep he told me. Be awake”. CB and I go back to the hotel and wait. On the way we see entire shopping malls charred. From our rooms, we could see buildings catching fire one by one. CB suggested that we “take” the Mini-bar with us so we emptied both rooms (would be a lifesaver later on) including the little booze bottles.

At around 3AM, SBK calls and says “Go down. The driver is waiting for you”. He disconnected the phone before I could ask him how he and his family were. The driver was waiting at the lobby. We checked out of the hotel… paid for the mini-bar as well. We then started going through the side streets of Jakarta trying to find a safe passage to the airport. By now burning buildings were a common sight as were armymen checking each and every vehicle. I dont know what strings SBK had pulled but our car was waved through every checkpoint and soon we were on the highway heading towards the airport. We had to  get there and then find a way out of the country.

When we got to the airport an hour later.. it was chaos… it was going to be a looooong day.

To be continued