Sunday, June 17, 2007

Love Ride

Since its first debut on the streets of Jakarta in 1961, the Bemo apparently still maintains its existence in the metropolitan. Its sleek curvy hood and its archetypal lamp case immediately sets the Bemo apart from any other means of transport in Jakarta. Its scintillating design still stands out amidst the wave of modern vehicle and the fact that the city's youngsters today prefer the angkot as their means of transports, while only the distinguished kind prefers this classic three-wheeled vehicle.

"It brings a lot of memories back to my mind. Me and my wife met in a Bemo in 1970. We fell in love at first sight when our knees touched," says Rokhidi, a loyal Bemo rider.

Dudung, a Bemo driver pointed out clearly why he still prefers to drive the antique transport: "Bemo is one vehicle that was NEVER produced in this country. The spareparts came all the way from Japan... or Germany... I don't quite remember. This is an ultra-exclusive vehicle that needs to be preserved."

The true origin of the now-decreasing-in-population Bemo remains a mystery. Some of the city's creme de la creme told Indonesia Prattler that Bemos arrived as a gift from the Japanese government to support the GANEFO (Games of New Emerging Forces) back in sixties, while some argued that the Indonesian government acquired them from German.

"It is not important where it came from. To me, the Bemo is like gold. I could never let anybody take this baby away from me," Dudung pats his Bemo affectionately. This bearded gentleman cruises the city everyday and aims at nothing but the pleasure of aiding people to get to their desired destination. "Riding the Bemo is truly a romantic experience. I couldn't remember how many lovebirds met on my Bemo. So to me it's not just hard labour. It's a labour of love," Dudung said with a smile.

The exclusivity of this stylish conveyance can be observed in its rareness. Dudung was utterly passionate when Indonesia Prattler inquired about this. "You see, nowadays the Bemo lovers exist only in some parts of the city. My friends and I are the Bemo afficionados from Bendungan Hilir. We maintain good contacts with our alliance at Northern Jakarta and Bogor as well. It's important for us, especially ones who are still very active in Bemo-transport business, to keep updated about the newest spareparts and other Bemo-related matters," he said.

Lovers like Rokhidi have their own opinions about Bemo. "Today's vehicles are impersonal. Aside from the knee-touching and the face-to-face seating arrangements, what I love about Bemo is its subtle rocking sensation. It is quite different from the Bajaj, as you can share this with six other persons in one sitting. C'est l'experience extraordinaire!" exclaimed Tukiman, a Bemo fanatic.

What about the government's aim of deleting Bemo?

"I do not recall there was any 'deletion' of Bemos. They were only trying to lessen the pollution caused by the Bemo's emition, and we Bemo enthusiasts are working on it as well. After all, if they can manage to discover new technology for the new gasoline-free Bajaj, then I think there should be no problem in inventing new technology for the Bemo. And it won't be long for people to start appreciating the Bemo's co-existence with the Busway, the Monorail and the Waterway ," Dudung said, with an optimistic look in his eyes.

We shall wait, then.

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